Wednesday, 2 December 2015

This Is Where I'm At | December

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

Are you? I'm currently sat next to my Christmas tree with a festive Spotify playlist on loop and a delicious, only slightly cinnamon-y candle burning nearby. It's that time of year again.

First, let's step back from the tinsel and look all the way back to November. A month that started quietly with jogging and winter coat shopping and enjoying the final days of having Brian around. I watched Jingle All The Way for the first time, which is baffling. Both the movie and the fact I'd never seen it before. I believe there was also a viewing of Home Alone and an entire box of Roses were consumed because those are activities we usually reserve for December, but unfortunately that wasn't an option this year.

Six weeks is the longest my husband and I have ever spent apart. Which is why we didn't go through with it! Some records are there to be broken: six weeks without smoking/drinking coffee/a bout of road rage, all great. Six weeks of eating dinner alone and talking to yourself? Not so cool. I do quite like being alone - something I have reiterated to many people over the last few weeks - some weird solitary instinct that comes from both my mother and my father, so I never really stood a chance. It's been nice to dedicate my weekends entirely to my parents, even if all I do at their house is drink coffee and invent new nicknames for their cat. I went to a couple of gigs this month and dragged my mum along to one, and spent the following day shivering in Belfast's Christmas market, buying copious amounts of fruit tarts. My family often lean more on the side of Grinch than Whos, but days spent like that are little treasures. I even got to drive through the first snowfall of the season.

Can we talk aimlessly about things I watched in November? I finally caved and viewed Saving Mr Banks on Netflix. I say caved, because there were so many stories that came out about how much truth was in this 'based on a true story' tale during its theatrical release period. I hate to think of Disney continuing to make money out of a woman who hated Disney... but there's a cynical part of me that knows that when you sign a contract, you lose your voice. I love Mary Poppins. I loved Saving Mr Banks. I love both Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks. It's just good to keep a critical eye open.
I made the very stupid decision of going to see Brooklyn in the cinema, on my own, after work on a rainy Wednesday. I can't remember the last time I was so deeply affected by a film. I urge you to go and see it for a bunch of reasons: it's based on a Colm Tóibín novel; a lot of it is filmed in Ireland and produced by the Irish Film Board... it's just flawless. If Saoirse Ronan doesn't get a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her beautiful, nuanced portrayal, I'll be pretty miffed. As the person I married is thousands of miles away and would happily live in Los Angeles, Brooklyn reminded me how inextricably linked I am to where I grew up. Watch it. 
In LA (whoops, spoiler) I completed the Hunger Games series in the beautiful Arclight multiplex in Hollywood. It's a nice little companion to Brooklyn actually, because both films have moments where this incredible female lead has to make a choice between two men. Except, wait. No they don't. In Brooklyn, it's about love, pure love, love in a time where young Catholic women were supposed to get married and have kids and love didn't really come into it. And in Mockingjay Part 2, I have no idea what the writers were thinking, but I'm pretty sure most people could've done without a constant return to 'who will she choose!?' amidst a young woman's life and country being torn apart. Ugh. J-Law is great, though. And I think it's only ever a good thing for me to watch as many of these female driven dramas as I can afford to, because even if I get frustrated, I have to ask myself WHY I'm frustrated, and my whole vocabulary on these topics grows and grows. *air punch*
[ETA: if I was 16, you would be reading some terrible/fantastic Katniss & Haymitch fanfiction. Just saying.]

So, I ended up in LAX. I got to spend four days embracing Thanksgiving and sunshine and THE ONE I LOVE. Aw yeah. The United States is a place that makes my head hurt if I think about it too much. If we dig into the archives of Terrible Candice Poetry, we can find this and this, two 'poems' written on my first and second visits to the USA. Neither are particularly optimistic. Anyway, I had a wonderful weekend and didn't write any poems, I promise.

And now I'm home, attempting to Christmas shop on a budget and fill the next two weeks with plans so I can be reunited with the stripy one and eat all the Christmas chocolate. I appear to have glossed over the fact that the reason he is away is to record a flipping debut album and that just fills my heart and, again, I could write about this all day so I'll spare us all that.
I'm also putting effort into doing things that won't come into being until the new year. Maybe the life hack for New Year's Resolutions is to enforce them at this time of year so your mindset is still one of looking back on the current year and reflecting, as opposed to the panic that comes with a new, empty 2016. Hmm.

Apologies for the long post; I haven't had much human contact today. I have been listening to Adele, because I am unashamedly predictable like that. The live versions of When We Were Young is all my neighbours have heard through the walls for the past week. I also always return to Bright Eyes' Christmas record at this time of year.

The next time I write, the buzz of Christmas will be over. (Is there anything worse than that feeling you get at about 5pm on Christmas Day?) I hope you all have a nice, safe festive period. And I know Christmas (and its non-Christian counterparts) can be a really difficult time of year if you don't have the security and the love that are pushed in your face as the norm from all directions throughout December. Thinking of all of you.

Yours, desiring pasta,

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

This Is Where I'm At | November

So, for the first time since I started documenting my months like this, I completely forgot/didn't realise we were in a new month. Perhaps November is shy and unassuming, wandering in without making a fuss, or perhaps the temperature has been so peculiarly lovely outside that I forgot it's not late summer anymore.

Weather small talk over. October has been and gone. It's a long old month, October. Maybe because the focus is all on the latter end of it and I'm not a big Halloween fan so the whole month just consists of me hoping it never arrives. It did arrive and it was fine, more on that in a second.

On October 1st I was on a plane. Bry and I flew to Thessaloniki in Greece, then spent a couple of days travelling in Macedonia and Kosovo. We mainly stuck to cities, but travelling by land meant we took in a lot of great scenery on the way. On our return home, I had to spend the night in Gatwick airport on my own; doing so always reminds me that in the great 'Which Tom Hanks Movie Are You?' quiz of life, I am not The Terminal. [Funny sidenote: a song by The Castaways came on the radio the second I typed that.]

The following weekend was spent a little bit closer to home, in a cottage in Leitrim, Ireland, with our favourite couple, Gary and Jen. Self-catering accommodation somewhere in Ireland is how all my childhood holidays played out, so I felt very at home. I didn't tweet for the entire weekend, but we took some beautiful photos purely for the purpose of posting them on Instagram and stuck to our strict YouTube upload time. However, we didn't turn on the TV for the whole weekend and exhausted every question card of not one but two board games. It's about balance, right?

I got to spend some time with my parents; something I'll be prioritising over travel for the rest of the year. I turned back clocks in their car and on their phones and wondered if I really do have my dad's seasonal affective disorder, or if I just hate leaving my bed on cold, dark mornings.
I completed the second month of my internship in Belfast, and in doing so am also slowly compiling a mental list of the best soups in the city.

And so October exits in flames; flames in the sky, flames on the ground, flames on a sparkler at the end of my hand for the first time in a long time. Jen made us look like mimes, and I did my best to hide the cold/flu thing I picked up a couple of days before. I don't usually get sick, and I don't usually wear face paint. Onward to Christmas, I say!

November will largely be a solo month, one of those where I get to pretend I live alone and I never make the bed and I sometimes use the same plate, mug and glass so I only ever wash up the same three items. There are sometimes TV adverts reminding you to check on elderly neighbours when winter rolls around. Do that, but also check on the strange girls who blare Irish folk music and only use three dishes.

Yours, fluffy-haired,

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Feminist Non-Fiction Week

Hello, bookish people!

Posting about books on this blog is new to me! I'm excited that my first foray into writing about writing is to celebrate four books by women, detailing their four very different stories in different ways.


I Am Malala How One Girl Stood Up For Education and Changed the World - Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick.

Bit of a publishing history, first. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban was published in 2013, just one year after Malala made headlines all over the world. That book was written with Christina Lamb. A young reader's edition (the one I have) was published one year later. This edition is a re-release which promotes the upcoming film - 'He Named Me Malala'. It includes an epilogue which details Malala's life and work in the period after the first book, and as it is intended for young people, has a great Q&A and some discussion points at the end. 
I read this book in one sitting and it was clear, sad, inspiring and triumphant. Full review on my channel soon! [x]

#GIRLBOSS - Sophia Amoruso

Hmm, an author who proclaims very early on in this book that it is not a feminist manifesto. '#GIRLBOSS is a feminist book, and Nasty Gal is a feminist company in the sense that I encourage you, as a girl, to be who you want and do what you want. But I'm not here calling us "womyn" and blaming men for any of my struggles along the way'. Amoruso is the founder and CEO of clothing company Nasty Gal, and admittedly, I was a little disappointed that her attitude seems to be 'women can do anything if they work hard enough', a la Taylor Swift before she met Lena Dunham. I am about a third of the way through this book, and would have appreciated a little nod to America's wage-gap, or some acknowledgement of privilege, perhaps? HOWEVER, this book is still all about empowering women. Young women; those of us too young for 'Lean In' (it has a hashtag in the title, for goodness' sake.) So far, I'm enjoying Amoruso's honesty and coolness, but as far as serious career advice and inspiration go, I was hoping it would dig a little deeper. [x

Not That Kind of Girl - Lena Dunham

This garnered such a Marmite reaction from most of my friends that I was a little hesitant going into it. I have never watched Girls. I don't know anything about Lena Dunham. I read a memoir of a complete stranger. And it was funny, highly competently written, and absolutely unapologetically confessional. People have issues with this book, mainly to do with race - and those I can get behind- and then another odd one regarding a scene in the book about child Dunham and her little sister and some pebbles. That one was completely innocent. I was a bit indifferent to this, if I'm honest. I didn't really understand why I was reading Dunham's past food diary, a 'secret and humiliating document' that was actually neither to an outside eye. I have a lot of respect for Lena Dunham as an actress and a writer, but perhaps if I was more in touch with her work, I would feel more connected to her and therefore more connected to this book. [x]

In Order To Live - Yeonmi Park

The only one of these books I haven't started! 
'I wasn't dreaming of freedom when I escaped from North Korea. I didn't even know what it meant to be free. All I knew was that if my family stayed behind, we would probably die'. 
Park Yeon-mi is a human right's activist who escaped her native North Korea when she was just a teenager. This hardback is her story, and I hope I find it as inspiring and educating as I found Malala's book. [x]

That's your lot! Thanks to Penguin for sending over the Park and Amoruso books, and to Hachette for I Am Malala. Not That Kind of Girl was purchased by me. Click on the little Xs if you want to purchase any of the books. 


Friday, 2 October 2015

This Is Where I'm At | October

Another late one this month, apologies!

I write from a hotel room in Kosovo, kitted out to look like some sort of lavish palace from the past with fittings that are far too flimsy to be in my company. It kind of reminds me of old Disney movies where luxury could be created with a few brushstrokes.

We are back in Balkan Europe for a long weekend of trying to see lots of countries but ultimately feeling permanently tired, a bit confused and longing for our own bed. We've taken some beautiful train journeys and had some delicious yet outrageously inexpensive meals. These trips are always GO GO GO GO GO, and it's so nice to have a minute to do some writing and internet catch upping before another 6.30am alarm.

September started with a JOB, a REAL JOB. Okay, an internship, but a serious adult move if ever there was one. Some of you have followed this Twitter to see what my job entails but if you'd rather skip that, know I'm permanently surrounded by lots of CDs and lots of witty banter.

I said goodbye to summer with Electric Picnic, a music festival in Ireland that had miraculously beautiful weather and some beautiful music. Also a particularly handsome stripy singer who I happen to be married to. Bry's set was great and we just had a very lovely evening. More of those, please.

I then spent a solid week getting incredibly nervous about a wedding I had agreed to sing at, and roped Gary in to help me out by playing guitar. I can't even explain the nerves that come along with performing music in front of people, and I don't know if it's because that's just a really scary thing to do, or if it's a lasting effect of mean figures of musical authority in the past being nothing but discouraging. If you've ever got through a piano exam without bursting into tears, I applaud you. Anyway, no tears at the wedding (from me anyway) but never again!

I received a colouring book for adults this month and it got me thinking about mindfulness. I think it's been a mindful month where I've been more aware of my surroundings - working in Belfast and absorbing Culture Night helped - there have also been things on my mind; I'm always a bit half-present with my head somewhere else these days. And my beautiful 15 year old ginger sass cat, Tango, passed away, which is honestly more a peace of mind than anything, because I was worried she was in constant pain.

We wrapped up the month with a weekend in Dublin, where Gary got a tattoo and I felt ready to hand myself over to autumn and the inevitable Christmas countdown. I clocked too many miles last weekend, deciding to surprise my parents with my company for a Sunday afternoon before disappearing into the Blood moon a few hours later. (That sounds oddly supernatural but we'll go with it).

In September, I saw Everest and bawled but I would highly recommend it regardless, though the first half felt a bit oddly paced. I read a few books, Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl and James' Dashner's The Maze Runner are the two that stand out, hopefully I'll get proper reviews up somewhere soon.

Time difference is not on my side, so I'll wrap this up. More blog posts in October, I promise.

Yours, lasagne-filled,

Thursday, 3 September 2015

This Is Where I'm At | September

Hello. I've never been as late at writing one of these posts which probably means I've been in a state of denial about 2015 giving us September already. I could use a final heatwave before the world turns shades of orange and red once more.

August, August.

I worked in a call centre for the first couple of weeks of this month, a job that was nowhere near as terrible as the imaginary sitcom I penned in my head which took place there. One of my dearest friends had a conversation with me a few years ago, in which we decided the less-fun aspects of our lives are important for gaining the life experience needed to write really good novels.

A brief hiatus from my swivel chair and headset took me to Romania (and Bulgaria). I wrote an entire blog post about the weekend and I suppose the only thing I have to add is that I really enjoyed our tour guide giving us a history of what it was like growing up in a country that stumbled its way into Capitalism after a long history with Communism. Dozing in the back of a car which crosses the Danube at sunset whilst listening to Keane and actually learning something is a really glorious way to spend time.

After triumphantly handing in my notice at the call centre, I made my way to London for Summer in the City with a synth on my back. Quite literally. Summer in the City was good. I think I've finally gotten used to the fact that the only interaction I will have with friends whilst there is a quick hug and an apologetic "I have to go!" and that's okay. We met so many people over the two days and I think my back is still recovering (do I blame the synth or the hugging?).

Upon returning to Belfast, someone very near to me received some bad news which in turn becomes my bad news. [Sidenote: the language we use to talk about 'bad news' is so strange. All softened at the edges.] I can't really elaborate beyond that but I've been angry and sad and zoned out at various points over the past couple of weeks and I know those emotions will continue to edge their way into the coming months. My friends, most without even knowing it, have been so there and they are just ineffably fab. This sort of rolls into my 22nd birthday, which consisted of a solitary day and a populated evening (the food population outweighed the human one, as it should). I did not receive a single tangible gift on my birthday, which sounds very like a complaint but I assure you it isn't!! The things I received were weightless and that helped me to feel lighter during a heavy week.
I also treated a Belsonic show as a belated, personal birthday party. It was such a wonderful night; feeling proud of my husband and feeling inspired and weirdly moved by the performance given by twenty one pilots.

As youngsters returned to school across the country on Monday, I started a 12 week internship at Third Bar Artist Development in Belfast. (You are more than welcome to like that Facebook page *wink*). Expect to hear lots about that in next month's installment.

I am on a First Aid Kit buzz this evening, and I can't finish this post without mentioning The Gift, which Bry and I went to see in early August. It blew my little mind and although I truly value acting, directing and writing as totally separate and really difficult jobs, the fact that Joel Edgerton did all three at once is so impressive. Finally, I finished reading The Commitments by Roddy Doyle which felt like a very fitting read before starting a job in the music industry.

The minutes of daylight are running out so I will stop rambling. Perhaps that's a good life motto.

Yours, cardiganed,

Saturday, 29 August 2015

21 Things I Learned Aged 21

Tuesday was my 22nd birthday, and that means very little to my life apart from allowing me to sing along to Taylor's '22' in whole new, passionate ways. 21 is regarded as an important age by most people, and it was certainly an eventful one for me. Here are 21 things I've learned over the past 12 months:

- If there's something you don't want to do and every part of you wants to put it off for as long as possible; don't. It'll be better for everyone if you do it right away.

- Primark's £2.50 t-shirt bras are a blessing to this world.

- Friendships where you're afraid to be yourself and speak honest thoughts aren't really friendships.

- Friendships with people who support the creative endeavours you find yourself in whilst having a bunch of creative goals of their own are the best and should be cherished always.

- Having a bank balance of £0.00 isn't as bad as it sounds. You'll be surprised at how resourceful you can be (and how many 10p coins are inside your sofa).

- Freelance writing and blogging and making YouTube videos for money is something that requires a full time commitment and a lot of luck. There is no 'easy option' when it comes to earning a living.

- It is completely possible to organise a wedding, write a first class dissertation, complete two third year university modules and remain a sane human being all at the same time. I probably wouldn't recommend it, though.

- University is great. But it changed how I think, and in some ways that's not a good thing. Suddenly I'm guilty for not applying for graduate jobs the second I completed my degree. Suddenly I'm too critical of literature to ever confidently write anything.

- Reaching the end of Gilmore Girls after spending a year watching every single episode was more emotional than reaching the end of university.

- Something I thought I had learned before but this time I have fully grasped it: DO NOT cut your own hair.

- If you are lying awake at night thinking everything is absolutely falling apart, wait until morning. Everything will feel a bit better.

- Collecting Nectar points and Boots Advantage points is a very boring but very important aspect of my life.

- When you're feeling a bit lost in the adult world, send a message to your childhood best friend.

- Busking in the street is so much harder than it looks.

- Sensory Overload is a real symptom of anxiety, not just me feeling like a brat when there are too many sounds going on around me.

- I can drive a left-hand drive car on the right side of the road. Level up.

- Icelandic sunsets are a whole other kind of beautiful.

- I generally hate spending money, but there are two things worth investing in: winter boots and dentists.

- Flower emojis are a good substitute for when you want to send someone flowers but can't afford to.

- Take multivitamins.

- There is no quota for terrible things that can happen in your life. However, I believe the support and positivity family and friends can muster is equally limitless.

Here's to 22.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Travel at 21: 48 Hours in Romania

Hello! We are having a very rainy summer here in Belfast, so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Romania gets very hot at this time of year. We booked flights to Bucharest a little while ago, with the intention of flying there then travelling around without actually staying in the city itself. That didn't quite go to plan. Here's how our weekend unfolded!

1.30pm - Land in Bucharest after a 3 hour and 45 minute flight from Dublin. It served as a great reminder that I need to visit a dentist this week because I got severe toothache and mouth numbness due to cabin pressure. Whoops.

2pm - We discover there are no rental cars in the entire airport. Our original plan had been to rent a car and drive immediately to Varna in Bulgaria, then try to drive to Moldova the following day, so we had to hastily reconsider. We get some lunch and eventually decide a taxi is the best way to get into Bucharest.

2.30pm - Starbucks. Okay, not the best way to have a cultural experience in a new city, but they're comforting and familiar and they always have WiFi. We use the internet to find a nearby hotel and decide that once we're cooled down we can make a new plan. It was about 30 degrees and I was wearing a jumper.

3pm - We check into the Europa Royale which is right around the corner from Starbucks, and set us back €75 a night. Sweet, sweet air conditioning.

5pm - New plan with the help of the internet and a couple of patient receptionists. We make a plan for Saturday and finally feel like we can relax in Bucharest.

6pm - Dinner in a street of the Old City/Old Town, I can't remember the name of the place but we had a lot of pasta.

8pm - A sunset walk to the Palace of the Parliament and the beautiful fountains which centre the boulevard it looks over. I get a good sense of the 'Little Paris' nickname Bucharest used to answer to.

10pm - BED despite it being only 8pm in the UK. Heat is tiring.


7.45am - We meet our tour guide for the day, and learn that we are not going on a day trip with other tourists, but alone with our tour guide in the back of his Renault Megane.

8am - We set off for the border with Bulgaria. I visited Bulgaria 7 years ago in winter, but I looked forward to seeing it through the eyes of an adult in summer.

10.30am - We visit the Ivanovo Rock Churches; ancient cave-based churches dating back to the 12th century. The sun wasn't too high or hot yet, so we had a lot of fun climbing our way to stunning panoramic views.

12pm - After a nap in the car, we make it to Veliko Tarnovo, and sit down for lunch at Shtastliveca. We had two courses each and a lot of water and it cost around £10. If you've ever wanted to feel like you've been shrunken down to dine in a doll's house, this restaurant is the answer.

carrot and apple salad oh yeah

2pm - After lunch we explore this beautiful city, which is most famous for its fortress and views of the Yantra river. We did quite a lot of walking and got ourselves a little bit sunburned.

4pm - A short drive out of the city brings us to the village of Arbanassi, where we stop for some ice cream cake (consumed too quickly to be photographed) and drinks.

4.30pm - Still in Arbanassi, we take a tour of Konstantzalieva house, built in the 17th century and decorated to mimic its original style. I became quite obsessed with the idea of a giant bed. 

5pm - We skip the offer of tours of a church and another city, and set off on the journey home

7pm - Due to roadworks, we get very delayed at the bridge which crosses the Danube River, connecting Romania and Bulgaria. The sun is going down so most people abandon their cars and take some sweet photos.

9pm - We get back to our hotel and avail of snacks and WiFi.

8am - There's nothing I love more than a hotel breakfast. The novelty has yet to wear off.

9.30am - Our hotel room is filled with a choir singing at mass at the nearby Biserica Sfântul Anton, but eventually we go out and take a final walk through the city and end up trying on clothes at H&M and Pull and Bear. Typical. 

12pm - After checking out and ordering a taxi, we are back at Otopeni Airport. There's just time for some falafel and grapefruit juice (new obsession) before we have to board a noisy flight back to Dublin. On the flight I finish Stoner by John Williams and I really enjoyed it. A little bleak for travel reading, but I'd thoroughly recommend it. 

Facts and Figures
We took a Ryanair flight from Dublin Airport to Otopeni International, Bucharest. Flight time is under 4 hours.
The currency in Romania is Lei and £1 = 6.24RON. 
The currency in Bulgaria is Lev and £1 = 2.76BGN. 
The average August temperature for Bucharest is 21°C but we turned up in a heatwave. 
The day trip to Bulgaria lasted 12 hours and was arranged by our hotel at a cost of €100 per person. 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

This Is Where I'm At | August

Take a breath and count the stars, let the world go round without you.

AUGUST. What are you doing here!?
August is the month of my birth but a month I never enjoyed greeting because it meant summer holidays from school were as good as over. I don't have that problem anymore, but I still can't believe I'm almost ready to age-level-up once more, feeling like the infinite possibility summer brings is slowing pouring out of a sand-filled egg timer somewhere.

Okay, July.
We got back from tour right as this month kicked off, and jetlag affected me weirdly, making my body enjoy going to bed very early, and waking up with the sun. It lasted for a while but it's safe to say I am back to my old routine of going to bed very early, and waking up with my second or third alarm. Graduation rolled around and I haven't quite talked about this, but I was really disappointed with the marks I got when I finished my degree. I came very very close to getting the grade I wanted, but just missed it. For this reason, graduation was not something I was looking forward to, but I got my dress taken in (ASOS size charts melt my brain) and bought some shoes and attended. I harp on about education so much but GOSH I am grateful that I got a chance to study, often more for pleasure than for purpose. My parents never had that option when they were my age, yet they're right there encouraging me to return next year for a Masters degree, and just happy that I'm happy. FAVES. So graduation was weird and sad and happy and underwhelming and too much all at once.

It was approximately 12 hours after graduation that I realised I was too broke to make it through the rest of July, so I did what had to be done and I got a boring full time job. It's a weird one, because it's not a space where I can talk about Youtube or any of my actual interests, so I lead a bizarre second life where I just tell people half-stories and talk in half-conversations and I very much feel like a teeny tiny fraction of myself. But it is only temporary, do not fear.

August's plans include a little trip to Romania and some of its neighbouring countries, and also my fifth Summer In The City. I'm excited for both of those weekends because it feels like a return to normality after these past few weeks. (Okay, reality check: my life is very cool when normalcy involves flights and fun.)

I'm currently thinking about the wonderful Rudderless soundtrack, whilst trying to finalise merchandise designs for SITC and penning a long but completely fantastical shopping basket on the aforementioned ASOS. In July I really tried, and I know I'll continue to reap the rewards of that effort for a while to come. For some strange reason I find myself thinking of my star sign (something to do with the lyric I opened this post with) and how you can make a horoscope applicable to yourself if you try hard enough and clutch at straws. August will be AMAZING.*
*clutching may be required.

Yours, -38.75 hours a week,

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Making Strawberry Ice Cream with Irma

I can't believe my opening sentence is about the weather but what the HECK, July? It's been so rainy here, but I invited my friend and fellow blogger Irma over to have a go at making some summery ice cream. You should know that I am a disaster when it comes to baking, and honestly I was relieved I'd have someone to share the blame with if this went terribly wrong.

We looked at lots of recipes online, but settled on a pretty basic no-eggs strawberry ice cream recipe. I was given a small ice cream maker as a wedding gift, and this was its debut! It went pretty well - the flavour was good and the texture was okay after some additional freezer time. I think we both liked it more than anyone else who has tasted it, so there is an aspect of pride at play here. There was also a failed attempt at making some edible bowls but the less said about that the better.

I'm gonna paste in the ingredients and then just leave you with photos of how we got on. Also, Irma's puggle Humphrey tagged along and shredded the contents of our recycling bin. Check out her lovely blog for more of both of them and a proper step-by-step of ice cream making!

  • 500ml full fat milk
  • 500ml double cream
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 475g mashed fresh strawberries

ice cream recipe

homemade ice cream

If you want us to attempt more ice cream recipes (or general recipes!), let me know! 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

My Favourite Internet-Based Yoga

...because humans in the outside world do not need to see me attempting downward-facing dog. Nope.

Hello! It's summer and in summer I go through little phases of eating lots of foods that start life in the mud and drinking copious amounts of water and rekindling a spark with my old friend yoga.

I got into yoga a couple of years ago when I was feeling a bit BLEH (a word that is not yet in the dictionary but one day it will be) and TKMaxx had a sale on yoga mats.

As of last week, I have a full time job that involves a lot of sitting down and staring at a screen (which sounds very like I've become a full time Youtuber but that is not the case). I sort of subconsciously visited my old favourite yoga workout last night in an attempt to stretch out my poor back. I guess the warning that should come here is that if you do any sort of fitness at home, you could be doing it very wrong and doing more harm than good. Please be careful and research proper 'form' before you become a yoga queen or king. Here are my favourite places to find yoga online:

Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown Level 1

I love this video. It's just over half an hour long and if you commit to doing it, it's an absolute killer for a weak sprout like myself. I enjoy the repertoire between the three women, and Jillian delivers a couple of funny moments that I have heard at least half a dozen times, but I still chuckle. This is a workout, so it combines yoga with movement and repetitions in order to burn fat and make you all sweaty, but she's good at constantly reminding you to breathe, which is a big old aspect of yoga. This was the first video of this kind I ever found, and I can remember how rewarding it was to do it three days a row and feel how much stronger I was becoming.

Namaste Yoga

My pal Melanie featured this channel in a video of hers a few months ago, and I really like watching the videos, even if I don't partake in any yoga whatsoever. It's more of a calm, relaxed, namaste vibe, with beautifully recorded videos and a whispery voiceover. When my job becomes more stressful, I will probably be frequenting this channel a lot more.

Yoga With Adriene

This channel is my newest find. It feels a lot more like watching a Youtuber than watching a fitness tape. The video I've linked is the first of a 30 Day Yoga Challenge which I am definitely going to try... although maybe not thirty consecutive days. She references The Simpsons within the first 42 seconds of that video, what a gal.

Also, in this video I am aware it seems like I have ZERO YOGA SKILLS but I do, I swear! Let me know if you ever use Youtube for fitness inspiration.

Have a lovely week!


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Out of Print Clothing

this giveaway has now ended

Hello! And a special welcome to anyone who is new to my blog but got here because of my new video. In it, I unboxed a lovely parcel from Out of Print Clothing. As promised in the video, I am giving away one of the tote bags. Either the Library Card or the Punk Rock Authors bag. All you have to do is leave a comment saying which one you would like (you can see them both in the video) and I'll pick a comment at random. It would be nice if you could leave your email address and of course, know that if you win I'll need to ask for your address so make sure that's okay. The giveaway will end in one week, at midnight on the 23rd. 

As promised, here's some photos of what I unboxed!

Good luck!


Thursday, 2 July 2015

This Is Where I'm At | July

It's not one thing or the other, it's all things all at once.


I am couch-bound, a day late with this post because yesterday we arrived back in Dublin at midday but my brain and possibly part of my body were in a different timezone. Making the drive back to Belfast last night felt like - and I borrow this sentence - driving a marshmallow. You know those nights where you can't remember anything after your head hits the pillow? As someone whose mind panics most at night, I truly savour such nights.

Anyway, June.
Here's the thing about travel. We sort of force ourselves and other people to make it this huge, life-changing, forever treasured experience. And though being able to travel is a big old privilege, especially when you're young, sometimes you can't find that kind of experience. Sometimes you don't have time to get into the wilderness of a country and see its true beauty. Sometimes you're exhausted and you spend an entire day in a hotel room. Sometimes being a vegetarian is such a pain in the arse that you end up eating at Chili's. And I think these things are fine, travelling is a personal thing and is often put in a weird category of rhetoric. And I do feel a huge responsibility to represent countries well when we make videos, to show us having fun and going off the beaten track and smiling. It's a thinker, friends, maybe I'll get to talk about it on a panel at a big Youtube event soon...

18 flights, 8 countries and 6 shows. I loved Singapore. I loved Sydney. I loved meeting people who live THOUSANDS of miles away and have such interesting lives and plans for their futures. I loved returning to sharing hotel rooms with Dodie, and seeing people react to songs that have so much life poured into them. I had long overdue meetings with some wonderful friends, and I also met a koala and a kangaroo, which also felt kind of overdue.

When I spend time in other cities, I'm always amazed that no matter where you go, everyone is just doing their thing. No matter how beautiful the surrounding, there will always be someone working at the ticket desk, tapping the meter on a taxi, propping up a hotel reception. Living your life for yourself and for your needs is universal. I'm not sure why this is note-worthy, but it strikes me in big, overwhelming waves every time I am on a rush hour train but not partaking in the rushing.

This month I graduate. I get to experience a summer that is not an in-between from education, but the first page of Absolutely Everything Else. On the first flight I took last month, I watched a movie called Laggies which came out last year. I watched it because I love Keira Knightley and I love Chloë Grace Moretz, but also because it was directed and written by women. It reminded me that you don't have to be just a teenager or just an adult. There's a big blurry middle space and I think we all live there.

Have a wonderful summer, or if you are in a different hemisphere (look at me with my newfound respect for that), have a great July.


Thursday, 11 June 2015

An Update from Asia

Phew. I am currently in Bangkok, Thailand. Since leaving Dublin on Sunday, I've been to Dubai and Hong Kong, before sweating our way here. I don't really want this to be a travel post, because it's not really fair to judge a place on a two day stay (is it ever fair to judge a place as a tourist? Hmm.) Instead, let's have a little catch up! I have a hotel room brewed Nescafe in my hand, and Avengers playing quietly in the background.

It is HOT. Dubai was around 40 degrees, which is by far the hottest temperature my pasty Celtic skin has ever felt. Hong Kong was only a little colder, and the sun here in Bangkok is relentless. It makes it very hard to do anything, and yesterday we spent a really lazy day walking around the Wat Saket Temple, swimming, and watching movies in our room. We are spending our third night at Mandarin Hotel tonight, and it's the fanciest lodgings I have ever had, all for the price of a UK Travelodge.

Celery, pineapple, carrot and lemon. Getting some vitamins.

spinach pizza
Spinach more like TWINach!!

I think all of the cities so far have fulfilled my expectations, with beautiful natural countryside and frantic, humid city centres. Though we are managing public transport quite nicely, (and constantly feeling spoiled to speak and read English) I'm glad we're not doing week-long stints in each place.

I email my dad every day. Growing up, I didn't leave the UK until I was a teenager on school trips. I suppose my parents held the belief that if you can't afford to travel securely, you don't travel. (That and my dad's fear of flying!) That collides head-on with the 'get up and leave it all behind' mantra that propels many of my favourite films. It's the gap year attitude, the budget on a shoestring, the hostel anecdotes. And as much as I do think travelling can be done on a budget, my own mindset and anxieties rely on knowing that a taxi can be taken from the airport when it's 1am. That I can be picky about the restaurants I eat at (I am finding this trip very not vegetarian friendly argghgh.) I suppose I've just been thinking a lot about how money talks, and how you have to be a certain type of person to tackle the haggling of taxi fares that's required here, to not be taken advantage of. Also, this isn't to say I am free to be frivolous with money, believe me when I say I have edited my CV and applied for jobs whilst here. There's also the pressure of what am I supposed to be getting out of this? whilst in a culture-shock place, because I don't ever buy anything when I travel. No souvenirs, no new clothes... so it leaves you feeling like you have to do the expensive tourist activities to see a place through the eyes it wants to be seen. My God, I can ramble when I'm jetlagged.
Finding Buddha
Clearly thinking about how he has to spend a WHOLE MONTH with me

Our meet ups have been lovely, and there will be a wonderful (hopefully) video on Sunday.

I'm currently reading Stoner by John Williams and I haven't made my way through too many pages because my eyes are always sleepy, but I really like it so far.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of this!


Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Thoughts from a 'Gilmore Girls' Obsessive

As many of you may know, I dedicated a year of my life to watching every single episode of Gilmore Girls, start to finish. The show, which I'd previously seen in disjointed order over the years, got me through countless essay deadlines, wedding planning, and lazy Friday nights. I've been meaning to curate some of my feels since finishing the show a couple of months ago. This will contain a few spoilers so tread carefully!

gilmore girls

1. There will always be someone out there who drinks more coffee than I do. The first ever line spoken in the show is Lorelai Gilmore begging Luke for more coffee. Way to establish your running themes, guys.

2. An OTP will find you in the end. Anyone who actually supports any of Rory Gilmore's relationships is someone to be very dubious of indeed. But, eventually, I realised that *spoiler* Lane and Zack's relationship was the main one I was invested in. They supported each other, accepted each other and dealt with whatever life threw them. And they were also carefree, creative types and I love that.

3. But if I had to choose... I always disliked Dean. He didn't respect Rory and her interests and later, his whole marriage plot and all its repercussions didn't sit right with me. As for Jess... he had issues and that relationship was both manipulative and abusive. Logan? When Logan drops that line about Rory not having to pay for anything because she lives with him, I noped so hard I rolled off my couch. HOWEVER. The glimpse we get into the life of 'adult' Jess and his hip bookstore is so positive. If Rory had to end up with one of the three, it would be Jess. All uncomplicated and prioritised and bookish.

4. Melissa McCarthy, forever and always. If you watch Gilmore Girls late, it's easy to forget the first season aired in 2000. YEARS before 'Bridesmaids' and the reign of Melissa McCarthy. But watch her throughout the seasons as Sookie and find someone with sharper comic timing or more charisma. I am so pleased with every new movie I see her face in. Sookie is the character I most relate to, believe it or not.

5. Watching interviews of Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel is a disastrous idea. Because they are not the Gilmore girls. I once watched an interview in which they admit to having no idea what most of the references they speak in mean. Accepting them as real-life people is totally illusion shattering and just plain bad.

6. As is reading criticism of the show. Watching things critically is an excellent skill to have. But so many of the anti-GG articles on the internet are just over the top, craving views and provoking fans. The main one that gets under my skin is that Rory is too clean-cut, too mindlessly worshipped by the people of Stars Hollow, too perfect. I see that, to an extent, but I think anyone who has watched every single episode can plot her flaws and her imperfections. I think the shared history of Lorelai and Stars Hollow is given in just enough detail (without any dodgy flashbacks) and someone like me who grew up in a tiny town can appreciate that if a young, hardworking, caring mother turns up with a kid and no money, you as a community are going to become their family. The people of Stars Hollow adore Rory. But you know what? They also adore Lane. My favourite moment in the WHOLE show is when Rory is saying goodbye to Lane on Lane's porch, and they give each other the support they always have. One: white, career woman, college graduate. The other: Korean, a wife, a mother. Neither of their lifestyles is shown as the 'better' option. They're both flawed and perfect and anxious.

7. I want to meet Amy Sherman-Palladino. Amy created the show. She wrote, produced, directed and did so much more. When the last season rolled around, she made certain requests from their network and they refused to fulfil them, so she left. David S. Rosenthal replaced she and her husband Daniel for the last season. I want to meet her and thank her for such incredible television, but also find out what her vision for the last episode was. This is one of the main reasons fans want some sort of reunion to happen; we need to know how the true heart and mind of Gilmore Girls had planned.

8. Spot-the-cameo is a very rewarding game to play whilst watching Gilmore Girls. Community's Danny Pudi shows up in Yale's newsroom all fresh-faced later on in the show. Seth MacFarlane ruins a perfectly good episode in Season Two. Victoria Justice, Jane Lynch, Norman flipping Mailer... the list goes on.

9. I want to be Paris and Emily combined. The one liners those two came out with over the years. I think Paris is so underrated, and a solid representation of a college student. Remember when she cuts Logan down: 'You offer nothing to women or the world in general'. GOLD. As for Emily, what a brilliantly etched character. I once had to pause the show and cry with laughter because Emily said the following:
Richard: Only prostitutes have two glasses of wine at lunch!
Emily: Well then buy me a boa and drive me to Reno because I am open for business.

10. It never ends. No, not in a JK Rowling throwing a new plot twist in every 2 months way. But in a 'hear Carole King on the radio and tear up' kinda way. The entire cast (almost) and Amy are getting together THIS MONTH for a panel in Texas. LOOK. I honestly don't think there will be a time I can resist going back to this show. And don't be surprised if I name my kids after its characters. Seriously.


Recent: 'Watching The Entirety of 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt' in a Day'

Monday, 1 June 2015

This Is Where I'm At | June

June used to be spent waiting, waiting. And though I remember doing absolutely nothing during childhood summers, and actually really enjoying going to school, the feeling of winding down and spending entire days watching movies with your newly-chilled teacher remains so nearby. And then June became a month of 'study leave', a time where I perfected the art of coffee breaks and played The Beatles' 'Don't Let Me Down' on repeat. During my last year of high school, my final exam was on May 22nd, and I flew to the USA on May 25th. I got away. One of my favourite places on the internet, Rookie, has an apt theme of 'Getaway' for this month. Editor Tavi Gevinson published her ever-inspiring monthly editor's letter today, and she talks about all sorts of inspiring things, mainly getting rid of suppressive people in your life.

I continue my getaway tradition this year, heading to SE Asia, Australia and New Zealand later this week.

Except, this year, summer is not a temporary break from education but it's the beginning of SOMETHING ELSE. I can feel my heart rate start to quicken so I'm going to reflect on May.

A month of votes. I voted for the first time in the place I live now in the General Election, and two weeks later waited anxiously as my dear neighbour Ireland voted in a Marriage Referendum. Waiting for results is something that perhaps doesn't end when you finish university.

I spent a huge majority of this month in a library, or hunched over a desk searching for a sentence, a page, something that I didn't bother to note down eight months ago. I felt exasperated at how the education system works, but blessed that I've always ended up on the 'right' side of it. I finished my dissertation and dedicated it to the thoughtful, original and creative. I aspire to be all of those things.

I took final study breaks to Brighton and Belfast's Heroes of Youth Awards. And at both, thought about how inspiring it is to be surrounded by inspiring people. People who exude kindness. People who are good at their jobs.

And my final class EVER rolled around and I tried to absorb every sight, smell and sentence, but as I was warned, it ended quietly and humbly, each person scuttling back to their respective corners of study. I have learned so much. But May has reminded me that I will never be content with having one thing. And maybe all my previous getaways were conversational ammo so that when I can't talk about what books I'm studying, I can talk about the places I've been. In May, I decided I still have so much (maybe too much) faith in the internet, and that I'll invest here for as long as you'll have me. I resolved to upload weekly videos. I fixed this blog and joined new communities because of it. I launched a Patreon because I believe creating is valuable, somehow.

I think the next few months will be difficult at times, and the temptation to getaway will always be there but the opportunity mightn't always be so available. I feel strangely nervous about this trip - I've never travelled so far for so long, and there's the little voice in my head that knows how much money I could earn if I knuckled down to a 9-5 job for the summer. Ew.

I usually like to wrap these up with some sort of conclusion, but I am all concluded out, friends. Writing and packaging a piece of writing in the exact way that the person reading it wants gets really draining. So let's just leave this one a little up in the air. June. The month of my mother, the strongest person I know.

Currently listening to awful, terrible country music that I won't even name. I saw Mad Max and Age of Adaline in May, both were bloody brilliant. Perfect for £3, 2 hour getaways.

Yours, tired


Recent: 'This Is Where I'm At | May'

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Travel at 21: Iceland

Iceland has been on top of my travel list for years, and a recent viewing of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty sealed the deal. Our three night trip covered Reykjavik, Akureyri, and hundreds of kilometres in between.


'Aparthotels' or just short term apartment rentals are appearing more and more on hotel sites, and they were a much cheaper option for last minute bookings than hotels. Our city centre one in Reykjavik cost about £49 for a night. 

Reykjavik as a city is certainly different. It's small and somewhat old-fashioned, yet lacking in the period architecture most of our recent European adventures have been noteworthy for. 

But when you look up at the mountains that surround the city, you kind of wonder why anyone built anything in Iceland. Why they disrupted the dominating nature of the place. The capital city was always going to be overshadowed by the breathtaking panorama. 

And so we set off! We hired a left hand drive car (gasp gasp horror) and headed North, driving through weather that varied from snow storms to a sweaty summer's day. At this time of year, Iceland experiences about 20 hours of daylight. And even when the sun goes down, it's never pitch black outside. This makes sleeping difficult, but driving late at night very pleasant indeed. 

We went whale watching in Eyjafjörður fjord and didn't see a single whale, which was rather disappointing. Our other tourist activities included visiting the geysers in the Golden Circle (I recommend doing this at night where there are only patient, passionate photographers and no tourists in sight) and the Blue Lagoon. Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa, and although expensive, it was SO lovely. You can stay for as many hours as you want, but we were melting and shrivelled up after an hour, but feeling refreshed. They have a really accessible website and it was well sign posted (located about 45 minutes outside of Reykjavik). 

As someone who grew up in some of the most picturesque places my little island has to offer, scenery really has to go the extra mile to wow me. Iceland reminded me of a snow-covered Donegal, and if we had stopped to take a photo every time the sky looked incredible, we would never have made any progress with driving. 

I definitely recommend a summer visit, though it means you definitely won't see any of the Northern Lights, it's blissful to have so many hours of light, and driving feels a lot safer with little snow on the ground.

Facts and Figures

Iceland's time zone is GMT -1 hour and the currency is Icelandic Krona. £1 = 205 ISK.
We flew into Keflavik International Airport, which is about 45 minutes from Reykjavik city centre. 
Iceland's water smells really sulphuric. This may not be a useful fact, but it's a fact nonetheless.


Travel at 21 is a series on my blog where I talk about the places I visit in the hope it'll help and inspire people of my age/income. If you want to talk travel, drop me an email at