30 Jun 2015

June was...all about getting the band back together

And I don't mean a literal band (the only band I was ever part of was back when I was 17 - we were called the Broken Barbies (cringe) and played Blondie and No Doubt songs, we rehearsed a lot but never did a single gig, most definitely for the best). No, the band I'm talking about is figurative and actually refers to a number of occassions this month when my friends all came together and had a bloody good time. The first being on our trip to Scotland, the second was my friends' 1920s themed wedding (the bride of which was actually the drummer in the Broken Barbies in case you were wondering). I also enjoyed dinner dates, curry nights, beer garden catch-ups, park lunches, a father's day dinner aaaand I finally got around to skyping one of my best friends who moved to Australia (god knows why I kept putting it off it wasn't weird, mordern tech is awesome).

So yes, it was a v.good month indeed, a bit of a boozy one with plenty of good food - again Scotland and the wedding but also a visit to Hawksmoor in Spitalfields. You see, it was also Mitch's birthday this month so I took him to the famous steakhouse, and good lord, the food was incredible. I'm not entirely sure how we managed it but not only did we go for starters (crab on toast, how was I to say no?), as well as the steaks (natch) with sides of spinache and mac'n'cheese (obvs), PLUS dessert of peanutbutter shortbread with salted caramel icecream (it was as good as it sounds). Our waitress even guessed it was Mitch's birthday and put a candle in the icecream, wrote happy birthday in chocoalte sauce on the plate AND gave us free glasses of dessert wine. Yup, it was aces. Obviously Hawksmoor isn't a great place for vegetarians but meat eaters, get yourselves there asap!

June was an expensive month which means my July will be pretty quiet, save from my week's holiday to Ireland in 5 days time (!!!! so v.excited). But before that I've still got a few days of figuring out what I can possibly wear that is work appropriate in this glorious heat wave... In other news this, blogger informs me, is my 500th post - craaaay-zee ;) Happy Tuesday all!

28 Jun 2015

Reading & Seeing 24

Jurassic World
FYI Jurassic Park was one of my favourite films as a child (I was really into my dinosaurs) so I confess I was v.sceptical about this, especially as I'd been epically disappointed with The Lost World and Jurassic Park III (what a shit name might I add). Anyway, then I saw the trailer and almost all my doubts fizzled away. Last weekend Mitch and I went to watch it in 3D at the new Picturehouse cinema in the west end (which is lush btw) and...it was brilliant! It's action packed, well scripted with an excellent cast (Chris Pratt - can that man do no wrong!). There's quite a few nods to the original film (including that music!) but it's done well and thankfully there's no hint of the 2nd and 3rd films. Yes there are some v.silly bits (the veloceraptor parts especially) and it's severely lacking main female characters but I can forgive it, I was certainly entertained for all 131 minutes. The park is open, go and get your ticket!

We Need New Names
A sort of coming of age story set in Zimbabwe. At the centre of the novel is Darling a young girl growing up in a shanty town in Zimbabwe who then moves to America to live with her aunty. A friend gave me this about a year and a half ago and I put off reading it because it's really not my thing but I'm glad I relented. It was actually a really interesting, not to mention eye-opening, read - I really have lead a v.sheltered life.

Death and the Penguin
A v.understated story, set in the Ukraine, about Viktor who writes obituaries for a newspaper and owns a pet penguin called Misha. It's written quite matter of factly and although there's some sinister bits (lots of deaths for a start, deaths that coincide with the obituaries that Viktor is commissioned to write), it's rather amusing in places, mostly thanks to the penguin. A short but v.enjoyable read.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society
Ella, a twenty-something aspiring author is invited to join the exclusive and mysterious Rabbit Back Literature Society, set up by acclaimed (if a little strange) children's author, Laura White. A lot of supernatural stuff happens in the Finnish town of Rabbit Back - book plauges, haunted gardens, disappearances - which all are v.intriguing but unfortunately not much is made of them. The blurb and review quotes made the book sound amazing but for me, they set it up to be something it wasn't. Yes the supernatural stuff was cool but it was somewhat sidelined. I'm not saying I need everything explained to me but I can't help feeling that it could've been so much better if the creepy surreal stuff was explored or even connected together in some way. Also, the ending was pretty lame. Anticlimactic is how I'd describe this one.

Station Eleven
This was blookclub's June read and, despite trying to make it last as long as possible, I essentially inhaled it . I do like my 'end of the world'/dystopian future stories and this was a good 'un. The reason for humanity's collapse in this story is thanks to a highly contagious air born flu virus that kills its victims within 48 hours. Unsurprisingly, 99% of the population don't make it. One of the cool things about this book was the focus on the the arts (music, theatre, books) and how these not only survive but provide a common ground between small communities re-building their lives in the aftermath of the pandemic but also between the present and past. I particularly liked the fact the story moved between interlinked characters in the present (20 years after the pandemic started), the recent past (the first few days following the outbreak) and the distant past (when the world was as we know it). Highly recommended :)

Rodriguez @ the Albert Hall
For those of you not familiar with Sixto Rodriguez, focal point of the 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man, he's a songwriter and musician who made a record in Detroit in the 70s which, despite his songwriting skillz and v.lovely voice, record sales were low. His label dropped him and he went back to his day job (in demolition). Unbeknownst to him, his record was picked up in South Africa where gradually, Rodriguez's music became a HUGE hit. Some years later, two mega fans decided to try and find Rodriguez who, still slogging away in Detroit, had absolutely no idea that he was a massive star in South Africa. It's a really great documentary and we decided to get tickets to see Rodriguez perform off the back of it. He's now 72 (!) and still very much kicking it :) His voice was a little shaky but damn, he was cool - strumming his guitar, cracking jokes with the audience, playing his songs plus a few covers. And to top it all off, it was my first ever visit to the Albert Hall - it really is one hell of a venue *swoon*

26 Jun 2015

pictures from a Great Gatsby-esque wedding

A couple of Saturdays ago my friend got married in the former home of Mr Selfridge (yup, as in Selfridges) Mayfair's Lansdown Club. To go along with all the art deco fabulousness, my friend suggested a 1920s dress code for all the guests. Now, my inital reaction was horror. I'd look about as elgant as a potato in a sock if I had to wear a flapper dress. However, once I actually did some internet searching, my worries were quashed. People DO make 1920's-ish dresses for larger ladies - huzzah! And, having arrived at the venue, I was so glad I made the effort because, sorry to gush, but everyone looked f-ing amazing as well as right at home in the spectacular Lansdown Club. 

Dress is from ASOS and just for a bit of fun I made a v.simple headband complete with lace, feathers and shiny buttons :)

Been to any good weddings of late?

22 Jun 2015

Ben Nevis + the Isle of Skye

At the start of the month a bunch of us spent 4 days in beautiful Scotland. It was exciting for a number of reasons - we were planning to take on Ben Nevis, do a bit of camping and spend a couple of days on the Isle of Skye - but to top it all off, it was my first ever visit to Scotland!

We took the Caledonian Sleeper which, although the part between Edinburgh and Fort William was v.cool (absolutely stunning scenery), I wouldn't do it again. All the berths were sold out - and stupidly expensive - so we took the 'reclining seats' option which was, to be honest, a bit shit. I can't say that any of us felt rested or got more than an couple of hours sleep. I am glad we did it though, but next time, flying might be a better option. 

We camped the first night (in the shadow of Glen Nevis I believe) after walking to the incredible Steall Falls. The next morning we rose early and started our Ben Nevis ascent at about 9am. Unfortunately for us the weather was absolutely horrendous. After about an hour of walking it started to pour with rain and continued to do so for the next 6 hours. To cut a long story short, most of us didn't make it to the summit - visability was incredibly poor (I'm talking 8 metres at most, which, on a mountain isn't particularly great) and there was tonnes of snow! 6 of us turned back at around 300 vertical metres from the top (that's about an hour's walking) as this is where the snow got really bad, I'm talking up to our knees! Two of my friends did in fact make it to the summit and another of my friends completed the three peaks that weekend (we were actually on Ben Nevis at the same time). I cannot tell you how impressed I am with the three of them! The truth is, I was massively ill-equipped - none of us had a map or gps - which was very very stupid. People were v.friendly and informative on the climb, we bumped into a number of people who advised us to go as far where the snow got really bad and, although it was gutting to miss the summit, I am glad we listened to them. The walk itself was actually alright, Ben Nevis isn't as steep as Scafell Pike and nowhere near as scrappy as Snowdon, it's just a pity that the weather was so bad. Annoyingly I also manged to twist my ankle on the descent - only about 15 minutes from the bottom thankfully - but it swelled something rotton and  put a stop to any long walks for me for the rest of the holiday.

Once we'd all re-grouped in the cafe at the foot of Ben Nevis we got into the car and drove to the Isle of Skye. It might sound odd but this drive was probably one of my favourite parts of the holiday. The views were just incredible. We stayed in a cottage by the coast on the north west of the island - surrounded by hundreds of sheep, cattle and views of a giant waterfall. The Isle of Skye was very different to the mainland, more Scandi than Scottish I thought, it reminded me a lot of Iceland - crazy changeable weather, mountains everywhere, black sand beaches, little houses dotted about the wind swept land - I bloody loved it and could've quite happily stayed for a week! We saw a lot of v.moody and atmospheric weather throughtout the trip (which is not actually a bad thing) but as is sod's law, the best weather was on the day we left, so good we actaually saw the outer hebridies. Along with Edinbugh and Glasgow, that might be somewhere I need to visit next! Scotland, you beauty, you can be damn sure I'll be back!

14 Jun 2015

the last two weeks in numbers

Hello! Long time no blog ;) Just thought I'd check in. It's been a SUPER busy couple of weeks - social-wise, holiday-wise, work-wise. I really wouldn't be lying if I told you that I've had just one empty evening over the last 14 days...

8 - members of my family Mitch and I cooked for to celebrate a fleeting visit from my auntie and uncle over from New Zealand.

3/6/15 - date of the most stressful day I've had at work so far. Trying to plan for two events before going on holiday with v.little help: not fun.

13 - hours spent on the sleeper train from London to Euston.

4 - glorious, albeit knackering, days in Scotland :) (more on this soon, once I sort out the pics, but that above is a sneaky peak of what to expect).

1st - work event attended at Birmingham university last Thursday. I didn't really know what to expect but it was really interesting. I missed out on all the talks but I did get to go on a lab tour to see where (and how) the scientists carry out their research into blood cancer - I even got a chance to extract DNA from a kiwi fruit (for ethical reasons we couldn't use a person's but the process is exactly the same)!

1:45 am - the time I got home this morning after a friend's fabulous wedding. Currently feeling a little worse for wear. Certainly not ready for Monday tomorrow, where has the weekend gone?! Le sigh.

1 Jun 2015

making the most of my weekends

I've only been back in full-time employment for six weeks but good lord, do I look forward to my weekends. Whilst I was umemployed there wasn't really any distinction, weekends just merged into the rest of the week, but now, now I feel like I've really earned them! I've had a run of some particularly excellent weekends and, truthfully, each of these Saturdays started out as an attempt at 'photo an hour' - hence why there's a lot of pics - but I failed at that, repeatedly. Instead, I present to you a mish mash of the best bits of my May weekeends.

A video posted by _annie_h (@_annie_h) on
A trip to the cutesy town of Leigh-on-Sea to see my friend and her gorgeous bubba, the day before his 1st Birthday (cue lots of talk of how quickly time is passing - I swear it's speeding up!). I baked a lemon and bluebuerry cake for the occassion (which I fully intend to make again) and we ended the day walking through the old bit of town, eating cockels and icecream (not together obvs). On returning back to London that evening we headed to a friends' brithday dinner and drinks wherein I drank v.good beer AND made friends with a man and his sausage dog, the latter who happily sat in his owners bag with his head poking out. Cuteness overload. Sunday was mostly spent in the garden (here's our latest progress), general mooching about and a bit of sewing :)

The following weekend was my friend's hen party. Her bridesmaid had organised a 50s pin-up style photoshoot for us - complete with outfits, props, hair and make-up - which was A-MAZING. I went for a more modest outfit but I absolutely loved getting my hair styled. Truthfully, I don't really wear much make-up and spend, on average, 5mins on my hair so the shoot was a real treat. You'd be hard pushed to recognise me in the final pictures. Again, Sunday was super chilled which included giving our bedroom a huge spring clean whilst listening to Cerys Matthews on BBC 6 (she has the most soothing voice). On the bank holday Monday we had ourselves a mini London adventure featuring a visit to the beautiful Barbican Centre to see a v.cool exhibition about artists' collections, a mooch around the v.interesting Museum of London (which I'd highly recommend - even to Londoners) before dropping in on The Joint for some well deserved (we'd done SO much walking) beers and a BBQ pulled pork bun :)

Which brings me to last weekend wherein we had dinner at a friends' and admired the stunning views of London from the rooftop garden. The rest of the weekend revolved around preping for our impending trip to Scotland - buying a tent, sleeping bags and other camping paraphernalia as well as testing out said tent in the garden (it's all good). And one constant throughout all these most excellent weekends? Cuddles with Moriarty of course :)
A video posted by _annie_h (@_annie_h) on
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