Friday, 30 August 2013

August | Just a minute

Just time for me to fit in a quick post before September (!) arrives. My August was spent...

Seeing David Byrne and St Vincent play live at Birmingham Symphony Hall - such an amazing gig!

Eating butternut squash and feta cheese tart, mmm..

Buying favourite albums on vinyl as a treat. (See above, plus also just bought a copy of Sufjan Stevens's Illinoise from eBay, it's so purdy.)

Watching Orange is the New Black (great), Mad Men season 6 (great, though I'm halfway through the season and so far it seems a little sombre), The Great British Bake Off (it's back! Who's your favourite this year?!)

Selling my old red bicyle.. it was sad to see her go, but she went to a happy new owner which was made me feel better.

Feeling excited about a new film that Bret McKenzie is working on, which sounds like a cross between two of my fave films, The Princess Bride and Labyrinth! Yesss.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Hello vintage caravan (and goodbye car..)

This month marks four years since Tom and I first got together, so to celebrate we decided to drive up to Yorkshire to spend the weekend in this pretty vintage caravan that Tom spotted on Airbnb. It's located in a pretty rambling garden in the small village of Helperby, a few miles outside of York.

After we arrived at the caravan on Saturday we decided to drive to York for the day, but weren't prepared for just how flooded some of the country lanes would be! Our poor old car couldn't cope with a particularly deep one, and the engine became flooded with water and we spluttered to a halt. After half an hour or so it started up again after a little drying out, but after a check-in at the garage today it sadly looks as if it may have to be put to rest. RIP car..

Anyway, we had a good weekend nonetheless and instead of road tripping to the seaside as planned we spent a relaxing evening in the caravan with just a game of scrabble and the radio for company. It was a lovely chance to unwind, and the rain on the tin roof made us feel all the more cosy!

It was a shame that the rain prevented us from trying the outdoor bath though, so another weekend up there some time may be in order. The owners of the caravan, Margie & Humph (and their friendly dogs) were ever so welcoming and they even left us a selection of breakfast goodies to cook in the morning (handy when you're feeling a little stranded in the remote countryside!).

On Sunday we finally made it to York and had a wonderful walk around the Minster, which was beautiful in the sunshine. We also had some scrummy food at a veggie cafe called Goji, which I'd heartily recommend if you are ever in York. I had a butternut squash & goat's cheese wrap and Tom had a veggie hot-dog with all the trimmings! Yum. It was a lovely getaway and, despite the car mishaps it was great to have a break from city life for a couple of days. How was your Bank Holiday?


Friday, 23 August 2013

Film Friday: Catfish

I remember my workmate telling me about Catfish a few years ago, and not wanting to spoil the plot too much, she told me to give it a watch. This week we finally got round to watching it, and really enjoyed it! I don't want to give too much away to those who haven't seen it, but the documentary begins when a New York photographer called Nev gets a package from a young girl who has made some of her paintings for him. More follow and gradually he gets to know her and her family via Facebook. Nev's friends decide to document the correspondence that grows between them... but things turn out to be slightly different than first expected. The documentary explores just how much we can know about other people via the internet,and there is now an MTV series that has been made out of the premise of the film. If you've seen it let me know what you made of it!

Friday, 16 August 2013

Film Friday - Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Hurray, it's Friday again! This week I saw the new Alan Partridge film, Alpha Papa. The premise is the Alan is working at North Norfolk Digital which is being taken over to become known as 'Shape'. Consequently his colleague gets fired and decides to get his own back by holding the rest of the team hostage. It's always a bit of an unknown whether comedy series will translate well into feature length films, but I really enjoyed this one - my only gripe is that Alan was decidedly less 'Partridge' than before. Would Alan Partridge have an iPhone? Maybe.. he just seemed a little bit cooler than before, which was a shame! But I still enjoyed it a lot more than The World's End!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Wanderlust Q and A

After reading first Janet's and then B's answers to the Wanderlust questionnaire, I thought I'd give it a go myself..

1. Which airport would you like to never see again?
Atlanta, Georgia. Tom & I had to change here on our way home from Chicago - one, it's the wrong direction and two, our wait was SEVEN hours. Luckily we had stocked up on comics and I had this one to plow through which helped.

2. What is your travel nightmare? 
Long delays on the way home, losing tickets. I sometimes have bad dreams about getting to airports without my passport which has never happened to me yet.. touch wood!

3. Would your rather stay in a fancy hotel and do less activities or stay in a hostel and do more activities?
In general it's the latter. I haven't stayed in that many fancy hotels but it can be nice for a treat. 

4. Do you have any pre-travel rituals?

List writing is a must. Downloading lots of podcasts to listen to on the way. Rolling up my clothes so that they fit into my teeny suitcase!

5. What is your favourite airline to fly with?
Anyone but Ryanair who I vowed never to fly with again!

6. If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

For some reason Hawaii sprang to mind, (perhaps as I just watched a Mad Men episode set there?) but usually I'd go with Japan.

7. How do you survive long haul flights?
Podcasts, film watching, trying not to go too mad. I'm not a huge fan of long flights.

8. What is your favourite stamp in your passport and why?
The Turkey stamp is cool, except for the fact that it signifies the loss of a crisp ten pound note on arrival..

9. What are your top 3 necessary items for travel?
Cameras, sun lotion, sketchbook.

10. What's your favourite holiday photograph of all time?
I like the photos I took in Iceland (above) and there are some great ones of our trip to Chicago too (below).

11.  What top 5 cities have you visited?
Stockholm, Amsterdam, Chicago, Barcelona, Berlin.

12. And now time for me to throw another question in - which city could you see yourself living happily in?
Berlin seemed to have such a nice laid back vibe to it when we went in June. If I improved my German a bit it would be a very cool city to live in. The beers helped too! I also love all the places we have visited in Holland.

[Do join in if you fancy answering the Q&A & let me know on the comments so i can read yours!]

Monday, 12 August 2013

8 Happy August Moments

August 2006
A trip to Primrose Hill, London with my friend Laura (when I had very short hair)

August 2007
In Neal's Yard, London on a drizzly day 

August 2008
A trip to Paris, with Robbie and Ele who had never visited before

August 2009
On a sunny beach in Woolacombe

August 2010
On the WINDIEST beach in Norfolk

August 2011
A very wet camping trip in Wales, cheered by ukulele singalongs and a roaring fire

August 2012
Trying to take a perfect self-timer shot of all of us in Gerdien's flat in Holland (but Coco the cat kept moving)

August 2013
A delicious sushi night at Lorna's followed by a viewing of Samurai Cop.

I like August.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Film Friday - The Goonies (at Bristol Zoo!)

Last weekend we made a trip down to Bristol to visit some friends and to make a trip to Bristol Zoo where they were screening The Goonies, as part of a series of outdoor summer movie nights. We were worried that it would be rained off as there was a huge downpour that afternoon, but luckily by the evening the sky had cleared and we were able to set up our picnic blanket and enjoy the 80s classic in the lovely open surroundings. I always seem to catch The Goonies when it's halfway through, so it was nice to watch it all the way from the start. The film stars one of my favourite 80s icons too, Corey Feldman and it was really fun watching it in a happy crowd of people as birds (and later bats) flew overhead. Altogether now: Goonies NEVER SAY DIE!


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Now We Are 60 - A Memory Book for my Dad's birthday

As well as marking my 30th birthday back in May, this year also marked my Dad's 60th. He really wasn't keen on the idea of having a party (despite my bounding enthusiasm - balloons! ice cream! what's not to love?!) So instead I decided to make a special gift for him with a little help from his friends. I'd seen this project a while ago, and wanted to do something similar so I decided to write to all my Dad's friends and relations, asking them to doodle on a postcard for his birthday, and post it back to me so that I could compile them in a book for him.

Some of my Dad's friends were handily on Facebook so easily contactable, but most weren't so I sent out letters to about twenty people, explaining the idea and asking if they'd have time to pop something in the post to me before his birthday. It was a pretty open brief, I left it up to everyone to choose whether to write a funny memory, draw a picture or send photos. 

I wasn't sure who'd write back but got my first reply a few days afterwards, from my Dad's old boss when he'd worked for the Museums service back in the 80s. He'd written a sweet and funny poem and sent a photo along with it.

There's my dad beaming, with little me looking a bit unsure!

As the weeks went by I got more replies. Some were very funny and some included photos of my Dad that I'd never seen, from when I was a child. I learnt that he'd once painted a mural on his friend's wall and that once he'd had his hand bitten by my auntie's naughty dog. I even got an email from a long lost friend who hadn't seen him in years. I pasted them all into this album for him and drew some of my Dad's favourite book characters from his childhood on the cover, and gave it to him on his birthday on Tuesday.

My Dad was so happy looking through the book, and told me he couldn't have wished for a better present! I'd definitely recommend it as a personal present for someone celebrating a special birthday - it was such fun gathering the responses I had through the post and putting it all together. My Dad said it made him feel lucky to have such nice friends.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The highs and lows of Air BnB (or travelling on a budget)

I discovered Airbnb a few years ago and since then it has come in handy on quite a few trips I've made abroad. The idea is that anyone around the world can open up their homes for people to stay in, for a fee. You can either stay in one room or a whole house, and browsing the places on offer is pretty addictive! Airbnb can be a good alternative to staying in samey hotels, and often works out lots cheaper than other options if you are on a budget. Another bonus of staying in an apartment rather than a hotel is the fact you can do your own cooking there if you choose to, saving money on breakfasts and lunches. But sometimes it can be hard to know whether the place you are staying in matches up to the description or not.

The first trip I did using Airbnb was to stay in an apartment in Montmartre, Paris. We stayed in the apartment above, which was really beautiful, but what we didn't realise when booking was that the owner was on a work trip during our stay and her Dad would be there to look after the flat in her absence. He was very welcoming and friendly, but spoke only French, and as Tom and I lack the required skills in this language it was quite tricky to communicate. He also tended to walk around topless which I found a bit disconcerting! So we often felt a little awkward staying in the flat, and next time vowed to stay somewhere where we had full reign of the place instead of just one room.

Our second Airbnb excursion was to Apartment Ziggy in Dubrovnik. Yes, it was the name that grabbed us! Each apartment was themed to a different rock star, so of course we chose the Bowie one. The flat was really nice and had an a-may-zing view of the city and sea from its balcony (you can read more about our trip in this travel zine.) Plus the owner of the building, Zlatan was very friendly and interesting to talk to which was a bonus.

More recently we took a short trip to Berlin for Tom's birthday in June and I found a cheap apartment in Kreuzberg to stay in. It was actually my second choice as the owner of the previous apartment cancelled a few weeks before our stay (beware of this!) so I had to quickly find an alternative. The flat looked small but pretty so I thought it would be fine for a few days away. When we arrived though, the owner was quite flippant about the fact that 'the bathroom's a bit shit' and we found that the bed seemed to be partly broken too. As there was no ventilation in the tiny bathroom it had a really bad smell which had made all the towels smell too, not very nice!

So you never really know what you're getting with Airbnb but that definitely hasn't put me off going with them again. Tom and I have just booked ourselves a couple of nights in a little caravan in the woods in Yorkshire in a few weeks time which I'm excited about. Have you ever taken an Airbnb trip that was better or worse than expected? 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Film Friday: Clue

I first watched Clue when I was about 8 years old, and when I discovered it on Netflix I decided it was time for a rewatch! In case you're unfamiliar with it, Clue is based on the Cludeo board game and stars Tim Curry as a butler who organises a dinner party for Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum... you get the picture. Murder and silliness ensue. What I didn't expect was for the film to have three different alternate endings - after some IMDB research I found out that when it was screened the ending would differ depending on which cinema you saw it at which is pretty cool. Good film for a Sunday afternoon! But three endings in one go is way too much.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

How to Make a Rag Rug

Last Christmas my auntie gave me this wonderful rag rug she'd made for me. She assured me that making the rugs was really quite simple, so I asked her to teach me the basics last weekend. It's a craft that anyone can do, and as it's quite an 'imperfect' art it doesn't really matter if you go wrong. So it's perfect to do while you're relaxing in front of a film after work. Hurrah! If you'd like to give it a go here is a simple tutorial.

What you'll need
Stretchy strips of fabric in several colours of your choice (t-shirt material is good)
A bodger tool (for prodding the fabric pieces through the hessian)
Some hessian fabric to use for the base (in a size of your choice)
Sharp scissors
Needle & thread (to finish the edges)

The supplies above should be available from craft supply shops but can all be ordered online if not.

1. Firstly you'll need to decide on the shape and size of your rug. The circular one my auntie made me is about 4ft across, but as I'm a beginner I started with a smaller heart shaped piece that can be hung on the wall when finished. (You can also make some nice looking seat covers using this method as well should you wish!)

2. Draw your shape on to the hessian with some chalk or a marker pen. Cut the shape out with some sharp scissors.

3. Cut up your different fabric pieces (or recycled t-shirts) into rectangle rectangles roughly 10cm x 3cm - you'll need to make a batch of each colour you'll be using.



4. Using your bodger push a piece of fabric through a hole in the hessian and pull it through the other side as in the pictures above. Make sure to leave roughly an inch gap round the edges of the rug (as the edge will be sewn round at the end).

5. Continue in a row. If you wish to use another colour switch fabrics, and continue until the rug is filled with different colours!

6. Sew around the edge of your rug using strong thread, as above. Then you're done! The back of your rug should look like the picture above, pretty neat in itself!

This is my heart shaped piece so far - I better get on with finishing it now!
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