Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Review)


Now it's no shock to anyone who knows me that I'm a massive, ginormous, ridiculous fan of The Hunger Games books, and that the film adaptations so far have really impressed me. They are everything book-to-screen transformations should be and the writers really respect the source text, which these days is a rare thing indeed. I have all too often seen books I love bastardised on the big screen, and it doesn't feel good.

Perhaps my favourite thing about the third instalment is that we are taken out of the Games format and into the wider world of a real-life war zone. The main focus of both the first half of the novel and the first live action instalment of Mockingjay is Katniss's experience with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and director Francis Lawrence devotes pretty much his entire film to this. Many would present it superficially or glaze right over it, but this hits hard. Jennifer Lawrence does an amazing job portraying this and it wasn't long into the film before I had a sizeable lump in my throat. She has that effect on me as it is but hearing her sing the haunting Hanging Tree song from the novels just about did me in.

The cast was, as usual, a tad hit and miss, but some new faces helped refresh things. I wasn't sure about the introduction of Natalie Dormer as Capitol camerawoman Cressida, but she really impressed me in the end and ended up a more three-dimensional character than she is in the novel.

Julianne Moore seemed at first an odd choice for the part of President Coin - I had pictured her stockier, more steadfast - however her rousing delivery of many a speech to the people of District Thirteen and her attention to detail in the performance meant I warmed to her eventually. The late Seymour Phillip Hoffman also shone in his own understated way. He could say more with the raise of an eyebrow than many could in an entire scene.

Nods should also be given to the film's cinematography and musical score. Scenes are at once both horrifying and beautiful, with the characteristic use of claustrophobic shots and awe-inspiring landscapes neatly linking visual style to both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire respectively. As usual the soundtrack was beautiful, and I would also highly recommend checking out the songs Lorde put together to accompany this. The whole CD gives me chills.

Where this film fell down for me slightly was the sheer amount of added material. It felt like the writers were so set on the exact moment they wanted to split the Mockingjay narrative that they were left with a lot of time to fill. The extras they added and the stories they expanded on were, luckily, very well thought out and as I'm led to believe also involved author Suzanne Collins to ensure their authenticity and faithfulness to her universe. 

Parts of the story that we don't see through Katniss's eyes in the novel, such as the rescue of Peeta, Joanna and Annie from the Capitol, are played out well and conveyed that terrifying sense of suspense and anticipation we know all too well from the first two films. Scenes from President Snow's office and across the other rebelling districts are also added but are so carefully considered that I was less offended by their presence and more grateful. They brought a lot more depth to the story and took us away from Katniss's insular point of view to present the bigger picture.

My only real gripe with this instalment is something that I could also apply to the other two - if you haven't read the books you might have a couple of questions at the end. District Thirteen is brought onto the scene with very little explanation and I feel more time could have been given to explaining this as it's fairly important to the narrative. Some of the novels' terminology is also thrown in with little elaboration leaving some bewildered. This is the price paid for condensing hundreds and hundreds of pages into a film.

All in all the Hunger Games films continue to impress and while it was difficult to ignore that the added footage and 123 minute run time have turned the franchise into a bit of a cash cow, I can't bring myself not to love it.

***

Image credit: Lionsgate Films



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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Gift Ideas: Books!



I'm a firm believer that there's a book out there for everyone, even if you don't like reading that much! Whether it's fiction, a cookbook, an autobiography or something else entirely, a well selected title can make the perfect Christmas present. It shows you know someone and gives them something they can get hours of enjoyment from. Here are some of my top book picks for giving this Christmas:

If someone in your life loves to indulge in a bit of girl power, Lena Dunham's newly released and much talked about 'Not That Kind of Girl' is just perfect. Advice, anecdotes and some feminist thinking make this the perfect gift for a sister or lady friend.

From Alice in Wonderland and Wuthering Heights to Dracula and Frankenstein, the Waterstones Clothbound Classics range is ideal for the book lover in your life. The cover designs are just gorgeous and if you know a bookworm whose copy of Great Expectations is a little worse for wear this will give their favourite story a new lease of life.

For the cooks among us there is a lot to choose from this year. Great British Bake-Off books are everywhere, but I always find myself particularly drawn to books like Jamie's Comfort Food - these books have a little of everything, cover a range of ability levels and are really accessible. For someone who wishes they could cook but wants it made easy for them, Lorraine Pascale's How to be a Better Cook is here to save the day. Plus there's always the hope the recipient will want you to sample their creations!

If there's a fitness fanatic in the family then this year they're spoilt for choice. Run or Die by Kilian Jornet is a great choice for a runner. Motivating and awe inspiring, this book is the autobiography of the world's most famous ultra-marathon runner. Bike Fit is also ideal for a cycling fanatic, with input from the one and only Chris Hoy on how to get the most out of your bike.

So there you have it. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the huge range of books out there that would make the perfect Christmas gift, but I hope I've managed to give some of you some inspiration!

Happy Shopping!



Image taken from Google.
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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Does wearing makeup make me less of a feminist?


The answer to the question I've used to title this post is both complicated and not - I really don't think wearing make up could ever make you any less of a woman, any less real, any less anything. There is no set criteria for what makes someone a feminist other than wanting equality and harmony between the sexes. The real issue lies in why we would ever have made such a ridiculous claim to begin with. There's been a lot of talk over the last couple of weeks over the relationship between make up and feminism, and while I really don't care to write an evidenced-based essay on which side of the fence I fall, I thought I'd talk a little about what it means to me.

As a twelve year old with a very, very oily T-Zone and a monobrow to rival a werewolves, I found myself purchasing cheap W7 powder and lipgloss from a local market stall. My friends and I would sneak this on during lunch at school. It made us feel a little more comfortable, just a little more grown up.Prior to this I only really had those cheap, sort of pretend make up sets that I would apply strictly at home and pretend to be a Spice Girl or a member of S Club 7. Cool, huh?

During my early teens I got a little wacky with make up thanks to a gothy stage, with white face powder (I know, ridiculous), black and red eyeshadow a la My Chemical Romance and as much chipped black nail varnish as I could get my hands on. I also finally tackled the wolf brows and embarked on a MySpace selfie series to rival all others. I enjoyed using make up more like face paint and yeah I was a tad weird but I feel like that period of self expression is something I needed to go through. It helped me identify with a culture.

I mostly moved on from this once I hit year 11 and Sixth Form, and actually went really minimal for a while in terms of not really bothering with eyes and lips. Even in my first year of uni I didn't go particularly overboard and always stuck to cheap brands like 17 and Rimmel, which a few years ago weren't exactly game changing with their products.

The rest of uni was spent too wrapped up in books to be wholly bothered by make up, but I did develop a signature look involving winged eyeliner that made me feel like I'd at least made half an effort and kept a little of my former edginess.

These days make up is partly about making my skin look its best - the stress of working and moving as well as some baaaaad eating habits have not been kind to me and I have to admit I long for the virtually spot free if slightly shiny skin of my late teens. I do enjoy experimenting with different looks though and have been investing more in quality products but I don't ever take make up too seriously.

I know there are probably are people out there whose relationship with make up is a little unhealthy, but what that has to do with feminism is totally beyond me. Wear make up for you, nobody else. If you do that you really can't go wrong!

How do you feel about your relationship with make up?
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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Feeling the Burn: How to Make Your Candles Last Longer



Candles can be expensive, but with the dark nights creeping in they feel like the perfect way to snuggle up and keep the home feeling nice and warm. Whether your candles cost you £2 in Primark or £40 in Jo Malone, it can be hard to get the most from then and it's disappointing when burn times don't live up to their claims (insert joke about getting on your wick here). Since investing in the to die for Melt Autumn candle however I've picked up a few tips and tricks to avoid disappointment.

The first burn is the deepest - Literally. The first time you burn a candle creates the indentation that future burns will follow. The first time you light a new candle try and burn it for as long as possible - a good couple of hours if it's a big candle.

Trim ya wick - Every time you burn your candle, trim the wick before you light it. A long wick causes the wax to burn away too fast so cut it down to 4-5mm to slow things down. Don't cut too short though, or the wick will drown and the flame will whither away!

Avoid a breeze - Drafts can cause an uneven burn and eventually lead to the collapse of the candle. Try to burn candles away from windows and doorways, and rotate them a quarter turn each time you light.

Go it alone - Putting candles side by side may make your space look like a magical fairy grotto, but the heat from a neighbouring flame can cause the candle to become unstable on one side and lead to collapse. If you must burn more than one, try to space them out as much as you can.

Now go forth and enjoy a snuggly, candlelit evening or two!
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Friday, 10 October 2014

York in a Nutshell

Our anniversary trip to York could not have come at a better time as my new job has been quite demanding and sometimes stressful. We gave ourselves from Sunday morning until Tuesday evening to make sure we got the most out of the city. We didn't have to rush, and staying at the beginning of the week meant things were a lot less crowded and we didn't have to queue for the main attractions.



One thing I will say is that most museums and attractions charge a fair amount for entry. We paid anything between £4-10 each for things like castle towers, the Yorvik Centre, York Minster etc. Some things were better value than others. Luckily we got our train tickets fairly cheap due to booking in advance, and there is a lovely new Travelodge on Picadilly very close to the centre of York so we saved on that side of things!

Dining



We ate a cheap and cheerful breakfast at Wetherspoon's each morning as it was literally attached to our hotel, but opted to indulge a little more where lunch and dinner were concerned. On the first night we chose the Hollywood Bar and Grill on a whim and were not disappointed! A fairly priced menu, yummy food and funky cocktails helped us gear up for our ghost walk. The second night we ate at The Golden Fleece, the most haunted pub in York. Our meals were hearty and huge even if the place did give me the heebie jeebies a bit!


A trip to York is also not complete without a trip to Betty's Tea Rooms. It's pricey and a little snobby as it's a 'phone free zone' but we just couldn't resist! Another hotspot is the Trembling Madness off-licence, which boasts a truly hipster-worthy pub upstairs. The Shambles Kitchen also do some kick-ass pulled pork rolls that carry less guilt than a giant Yorkshire pudding.

Shopping

York boasts a great mixture of highstreet, designer and boutique shops, and while they were by no means the centre of our trip we definitely enjoyed exploring.



My absolute favourite store was The Imaginarium, a crazy trinket and home store with faux stuffed animals, bizzare portraits and amazing scented goodies. We took home this Autumn scented Melt candle and dang is it good. The shop was an offshoot of it's neighbouring parent store, the Yorkshire Soap Company. Think Lush but quintessentially British. 

Sights

A little bit of tourism never hurt anybody, and having never visited another British city for fun apart from London I was keen to explore. The city is enclosed within an ancient wall first built by the Romans, and the buildings are a hodgepodge of ancient, Tudor, Victorian and modern architecture. The result looks pretty impressive and a stroll across the city walls is not only a must but totally free of charge. You can also walk up The Shambles, the oldest shopping street in Europe, which was probably JK Rowling's inspiration for Diagon Alley.


I can also thoroughly recommend a walk around York Minster - the place is huge and absolutely beautiful. We spent about two and a half hours here while the rain came down.in sheets. The Yorvik Centre was a short experience so a little disappointing, but still one to tick off the list!



Two free attractions I would highly recommend are the castle gardens, home to the very creepy remains of St Mary's Abbey, and the National Railway Museum, which is impressively huge and surprisingly interesting.

The Ghost Walk




By far the coolest thing we did on the trip was a ghost walk. There are loads run by different operators around the city but we were recommended the original and best. Our ghost hunt guide meets the public every night at the top of the Shambles for 7.30pm and the tour lasts about an hour and a half. He never leaves character and operates come rain or shine which is pretty impressive! It was more hilarious than scary thanks to his little jokes and tricks, but the stories told are all bonafide York ghost legends and as the most haunted city in the country you can't help but get sucked in!

If you're looking for a traditional city break that won't break the bank as much as Paris or Rome but packs in character and style, York should be at the top of your list!
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Thursday, 25 September 2014

Books that Changed My Perspective


It's no secret that I'm something of a book worm, but my English degree (which feels like forever ago despite the fact that I graduated a little over a year ago!) has helped me encounter some novels that I probably otherwise wouldn't have even glanced at in a bookshop. I thought I'd take some time to share a small selection of books that left a lasting impression on me and changed the way I think, in the hope that some of you will pick them up and have the same experience.

George Orwell, 1984 (1949) - A 20th Century classic if there ever was one. To me this novel is one of the greatest works in existence. Not because of it's literary prowess (the language is fairly simple and easy to understand, for good reason), but because of its revolutionary content. The first time I sat down to read this I thought I was in for a boring few hours, but I quickly became absolutely hooked. The story itself is exciting and sinister, as Winston Smith quietly rebels against a futuristic totalitarian regime and ends up exposed, captured and tortured. The work Orwell puts into constructing this future is astounding and really made me think about the government, the reliability of information and just how much we are watched and monitored. I think we could all use a wakeup call where that's concerned. This is a must read for everyone ever.

Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning (1958) - If you're an Arctic Monkeys fan you'll have already heard a direct quote from this 1950s classic. The album 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' quotes protagonist Arthur Seaton directly. And rightly so. This book explores the humdrum existence of a northern factory worker in a very working class Britain. The novel is widely cited as being part of the 'Angry Young Men' movement of the 50s and is a tale of affairs, fist fights and drunken shenanigans. For the most part it's really entertaining and quite funny, but it is also touching in it's portrayal of a working class divided by submissiveness and anger, as well as the plight of the women of this world. If you have grandparents who were young adults in this era this might make you see them in a whole new light.

Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) - This book eventually became the cult classic film Blade Runner and is one of the most popular sci-fi novels of all time. It's kind of hard to sum up the plot without explaining the whole thing but it really made me think about our relationship with technology and the way television, phones etc have turned us into zombies. It's a fairly short book and well worth a read on the train to work!

Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho (1991) - If you've never read Bret Easton Ellis before, be prepared. This is not material for the faint of heart. This novel is one of my all time favourites and is very heavy going but makes some hard hitting points about modern life that make it totally worth trudging through. If you've seen the watered-down screen adaptation starring Christian Bale you'll be familiar with his character, Patrick Bateman. Patrick is a sophisticated, affluent wall street psychopath, who adores designer products, is rather off the rails and loves nothing more than to chop up the odd prostitute on the weekend while high on cocaine. Yep. You heard me right. It isn't an easy read but American Psycho presents an amazing criticism of the accelerated lifestyle of the American professional and the relationship between sex, drugs and violence. Again, not for the faint hearted!


Which books have left a lasting impression on you?




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Friday, 5 September 2014

8 reasons being a pessimist is secretly awesome


Let me start this post by saying that I myself am a natural pessimist. I see my glass as half empty far more often than half full. That's not to say I'm never positive or happy, or that I'm unfriendly or horrible to be around (hopefully). It can sometimes make things a struggle but there are some hidden benefits to being a naturally negative person. Not that us pessimists will ever admit this because that would be far too jubilant!

8. You will never be disappointed with a rubbish gift because you were expecting it.

7. You probably injure yourself less.

6. You may actually live longer than your happy-go-lucky friends.

5. You will always exceed your own expectations.

4. People are much less likely to notice when you're actually feeling pretty miserable.

3. You have carefully played out every potential apocalyptic end-of-world scenario in your head for 'when the time comes'.

2. Your friends will always come to you for a good old whinge and moan.

1. You have these weird moments where you actually totally enjoy life and everything is hilarious, and that makes those moments all the more memorable.

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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Review: Fujifilm Instax Mini 8


I've been sitting on this review for a while because I wanted to get a good feel for the camera before I passed judgement, but I have to say it was love at first sight. Mat bought me the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 for my birthday back in May and it did not disappoint. For years I had lusted after an old Polaroid camera, but a mint condition oldie didn't come cheap. At £69 Fujifilm's modern offering has more than made up for this.

The first thing that struck me about this camera was that it's vertical, not horizontal like its retro counterparts. This means that it looks a little different but that ultimately it's easier to carry. This coupled with the chunky hand grip means it's a dream to use.

The camera is battery powered and fairly basic, but the lens slider automatically senses a range of shooting options for different lighting conditions to ensure your images aren't overexposed. You have to turn it to the setting that's lit up, but it's a small price to pay for the perfect shot. There's even a high exposure option for super 80s looking snaps. Films are very easy to replace but my are the pricey. Check out eBay and Amazon for the best multipack deals.


Even if you purchase a film and camera bundle, it doesn't come with a case. This is something you will want to invest in to stop the case from scratching, and is especially important if you opt for one of the pastel coloured cameras to stop them from getting dirty! I found a great one here on eBay that arrived quickly from China and was pretty cheap! I usually shove the photos into my purse once developed to protect them until I get home as they're credit card sized.

Here are my favourite images from the last couple of months! I've been a bit conservative with film and there were one or two accidental failures (I forgot to set the lighting settings before shooting!) but I'm really pleased with how they came out!


Have you tried the Instax Mini 8?

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Friday, 29 August 2014

The Harry Potter Tag (!!)

Image Copyright Kelly Anne Rist 2011

I saw this tag over on A Little Boat Sailing the other day and jumped at the chance to have a go! It's awesome seeing how my answers compare to everyone else's and I could never miss a chance to talk about good old HP!

1. What is your favourite book?
For me I would say Prisoner of Azkaban. It was the first of the books where I felt things taking a real dark turn, and like many I adored the Marauders tales. I remember reading through it over and over with friends at school, each taking the character we loved the most and saying their bits out loud! It was the first time I got myself totally lost in a book.

2. What is your favourite film?
I am an enormous fan of the films. They aren't perfect but I found myself growing up alongside the cast and the way they bring out both the humour and the darkness of Harry's world really made me love them. If I had to pick I would probably say the final two films (Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2) because I found watching the end on the screen so damn emotional.Having said this I always go back to Prisoner of Azkaban for a one-off watch.

3. What is your least favourite book?
Probably Order of the Phoenix. I feel like it was far too long for a children's book and while as an adult I can appreciate it a lot more, I found the excessive back story made this instalment drag on a bit when I was younger.

4. What is your least favourite film?
I don't think my opinions of this book helped but Order of the Phoenix received a shockingly bad adaptation treatment if you ask me. I found the script very awkward, I never enjoyed the Harry x Cho relationship debacle and all that blue light gives me a headache. 

5. Which parts of the books/films made you cry?
Unlike most people I didn't feel very strongly about Sirius's death, but Dumbledore's and Dobby's both really got to me. I mean really. It's embarrassing how attached I can get to fictional characters and I've spent many a tear on these two over the years.

6. If you could hook up with any character who would it be?
I'm a Weasley girl through and through. I think it was the jumpers that did it.

7. Who is your favourite character?
Growing up I was Hermione Granger. I remember plaiting my hair overnight and unravelling it in the morning for maximum bushiness and pretending to carry my Hogwarts books around. I was ever so slightly to young to audition but I totally would have! Something about the way she made being intelligent cool (ish) and overcame bullying helped me come to terms with the fact that I was a little bit different at school.

8. Who is your least favourite character?
Rita Skeeter. Dolores Umbridge. Enough said.

9. What is your least favourite line?
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” - If you don't recognise this, I don't know who you are! Such a wonderful, stand out way to start her legacy.

10. What would your Patronus be?
I'd like to think it would be a bird of some description.

11. If you could have the invisibility cloak, resurrection stone or elder wand, which would you choose?The invisibility cloak. Not for mischief though, just to go unobserved for a time.

12. What house would you be in?
Ravenclaw through and through. I don't think I've ever taken a house quiz that's said otherwise. I've even got the scarf hanging above my bed thanks to WWoHP!

13. If you could meet any member of the cast who would it be?
Probably either Dan Rad or Rupert because they seem like awfully nice chappies! I think Dan would be a great conversationalist!

14. If you were on the Quidditch team, what position would you play?
Probably a chaser. I love to run and this is totally the same thing, right?

15. Were you happy with the ending?
Yes and no. I wasn't pleased with the changes to the treatment of Voldemort's death made from book to film and I don't think the flashfoward scene was produced very tastefully, but overall they gave it the epic conclusion it deserved,

16. How much does Harry Potter mean to you?So very much. I don't think anyone could ever understand. I have a Deathly Hallows tattoo to remind me that I would not be where I am if it were not for these books. They taught me so much growing up and they were the reason I became such a prolific reader and ended up doing a literature degree. I'd even go as far as saying Hermione's character inspired me to be astute and proud of it, and that this is how I ended up with a first class degree result.

You're all tagged! Please do let me know if you do this as I would truly love to read your answers.

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Thursday, 14 August 2014

A message to students on A Level results day


This (interesting) picture is of me on A Level results day in 2010. Aside from the fact that this was a whopping four years ago and that alone makes me feel like crying, I can confirm that not hitting your traget grades is not that big of a deal.

I remember being 17/18 and the nerves that came with those dreaded AS and A Level results days. Would I make the grade for my first choice university? What the hell would I do if I didn't?! It was testing to say the least. I never liked those days. The night before my GCSE results I fainted in the bathroom because I'd been up half the night worrying about them. But guess what? The world didn't end the next morning and it didn't end two years later at college either.

I did pretty great in my GCSEs. A nice handful of As and the rest where healthy Bs. I missed most of original target grades but I didn't care as I did great on all the subjects I loved and had always been academic.

I screwed up my A Levels a bit though. Somewhere along the line I lost enthusiasm and got tangled up in having a social life and a relationship or two. I came out with all Bs in the end after retaking a couple of exams including my English AS written exam (THREE times) and dropping a subject that was giving me anxiety attacks.

Again, this wasn't my ideal outcome. We all have our own standards and goals and expectations and when we don't reach them it can be disheartening. HOWEVER I got into the university of my choice, my grades were good enough to earn me a small scholarship that alongside my loan got me through three years of student living and I worked my butt off to end up with a 1st class degree in English Literature that I couldn't be more proud of.

Not only this but I have friends who really did do horribly on their A Levels, took university places through clearing and never looked back. You can still do something you love and do well at it even if this one set of results doesn't turn out so good.

I also have friends and family who didn't bother going to uni and are doing absolutely fine and are very happy with their decisions, so if you're not picking up results today, don't think about how you're missing out - you're just carving a different path and that's fine.

The bottom line on A Level results? They do not define your potential for achievement nor should they be your basis for self worth. Life will go on and there are so many options available. If you do feel disappointed today, talk to a tutor or careers advisor straight away about your possible avenues and do not let shame take over. Embrace the fact that maybe you had a bad day or that subject wasn't quite right for you, then move on!

***




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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

5 awesome blogs I read every day



I feel like it's time to share the blog love! I don't see enough of posts like this and I enjoy seeing what other people are into, so here are 5 blogs I read every single time I hit my bloglovin' feed!

Jennypurr - This freelance blogger and editor of A Little Opulent magazine (another favourite read) posts a mixture of lifestyle, beauty and some seriously helpful advice on blogging, finding inspiration, and life in general. Check out her latest post about living on a budget! That's certainly something I can relate to!

Vivianna Does Makeup - Chances are that if you're into beauty blogs, you've read Vivanna's blog or seen her great quality YouTube vids before. I try not to exclusively read just beauty blogs as it can have me getting carried away and building a shopping list WAY out of my budget, but Vivianna presents things in an honest, interesting way so she will always be a favourite.

Becky Bedbug - Becky's blog is tonnes of fun and is a mixture of lifestyle, beauty, book reviews and hilarious musings. She's also currently jetted off to Florida to get hitched at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - What's not to love?!

From Roses - Rebecca's blog is one of those that just oozes style. Also co-editor of A Little Opulent magazine, I only stumbled on her blog recently but it ticks all the right boxes. A perfect mix of post subjects and great photography.

Free People - Fashion brand Free People's blog is all about simple, clean and ethical living. I'm trying to clean up my act in a variety of ways at the moment, mainly through finding the right routine throughout the day, eating better and embracing life as much as I can, and these guys have been a great help so far!

***
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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Apologies for the dodgy instagram pic - I had to lend this to my sister so I had someone to gush about it to!

As Young Adult writers go, Meg Rosoff has quite a reputation. Having never read anything by her before I chose How I Live Now as a starting point. It tells the story of a fifteen year old american teen named Daisy who is sent to live with her Aunt in the English countryside as the modern world breaks into a full-scale war.

Cool storyline aside, the writing itself has an incredibly refreshing style. It follows Daisy's chain of thoughts and has little punctuation. At first I found that a bit jarring but after a few chapters you get well and truly sucked into the character's head. Luckily that's a good thing as her thoughts are witty, funny and written in a frank, realistic tone.

The narrative doesn't focus, and in fact hardly mentions, why the war is happening and who 'they' are, but it gives a startlingly realistic idea of how something like that might impact the modern world. Closed borders leave Daisy's Aunt stuck abroad and the children must fend for themselves in a country house while bombings, food shortages and invading troops reek havoc in the UK.

There was of course a romantic sub-plot, which weirdly involved Daisy and her cousin and was frankly a bit uncomfortable, but their connection was presented carefully and powerfully and drives Daisy through the very worst of times when the two become separated.

By far my favourite character of the novel was Piper, a captivating blue-eyed young girl to whom Daisy becomes an unexpected guardian of when the cousins are split up. Having said this, each of Rosoff's characters is perfectly formed and individual.

This is a novel that doesn't shy away from the realities a modern day war might pose, but focuses on a normal girl's experience of being on the fringe of it. It's a refreshing read in contrast to the Divergent and Hunger Games series' in which conflict happens in the distant future and is far removed from everything we know.

The ending left me feeling a little bewildered as it is somewhat rushed, but the resolution was touching nonetheless. Well worth the read.

What have you been reading lately?
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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Happy Birthday Harry

Source
Today is good old HP's 34th birthday, and the birthday of our good queen, JK Rowling. To celebrate I've decided to dedicate a post to what the Wizarding World means to me.

Since the age of about 8, when my parents bought me the first couple of books for Christmas, I've been hooked on Potter. It was an escape from a world where I didn't really fit in, where I was considered bookish and strange and most people didn't really want to hang out with me in the playground. I latched on to Hermione's character. She was smart and that made her indispensable to the group. It gave me hope even throughout my teens that I could be dorky but also a bit cool and pretty useful!

I followed the Golden Trio all the way to the end in book and film, and over the last few years have also ended up visiting both the Studio Tour here in the UK and the amazing Wizarding World park in Universal Orlando. OK, so apparently Orlando was actually three years ago. Thanks Timehop.

I also ended up getting a Deathly Hallows tattoo on my back when I was 19. I love it and wouldn't change it for the world because it's such a conversation starter. I love books and writing, and I have Harry's world and Rowling's wonderful stories to thank for that. I wouldn't have taken my literature degree or tackled it with the Granger-like attitude that I did if it weren't for HP. I also have a house littered with memorabilia - I'm sure one day that magic wand on my bookshelf will kick into action. And don't even tell me you didn't wait for your Hogwarts letter to arrive on your 11th birthday...

Everyone has that one thing, whether it's a book, film, band or whatever, that they hold so close to their heart that it will always be a part of them. What's yours? I'll leave you with some pics of my Harry Potter experiences below! I cannot recommend them enough to fellow fans!














All images copyright to Kelly Anne Rist 2011-12


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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Recipe: Seriously Easy Oat Cookies

Confession: I am a hopeless baker. I love cooking, but when it comes to desserts and sweets I just can't quite get things right! This little recipe however is totally stress-free and a sure crowd pleaser if you've got visitors. It also uses basic ingredients you've almost definitely already got on hand so is pretty cost effective. They have a wonderfully soft, doughy consistency, hence being a cookie rather than a biscuit! I make them almost every weekend and keep them fresh in a glass jar.



The original recipe, the location of which has escaped me since scribbling it down, suggested adding raisins. I am a raisin hater, so while I'm told that this works perfectly well I have opted for straight up chocolate chip. I've also made different versions using shredded coconut, chopped almonds and white chocolate chunks.

  • 50g butter/margarine (it really doesn't matter what brand or if you go in for a low fat option like me.
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp honey
  • 1 egg
  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • 1tsp baking power
  • 80g porridge oats
  • 50g of your chosen additive (I used plain chocolate chips for this batch)
  1. Heat your oven to 180c/160c (fan assisted) or Gas Mark 4 and grease yourself a large baking tray.
  2. Mix margarine/butter with sugar in a large bowl, then stir in the honey. I let my butter get to room temperature first to make it easier, but you could also use an electric whisk.
  3. Add the egg and cinnamon and mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl combine oats, flour, baking powder and chocolate chips and mix thoroughly. Add to butter mixture and fold in to ensure evenness.
  5. Pop onto the tray using a dessert spoon and gently flatten the dollops slightly.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies start to turn golden.
  7. Let 'em cool on the tray for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack, then store in an airtight container if you can resist gobbling them all up!
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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Alternative Summer Reads



Summer often sees reams of 'holiday reads' posts, and while I love a good recommendation, these posts often feature heavily in Chick Lit, comedy blunders and tear jerkers - genres I really don't get on with! If you're looking for something a bit different to read on your travels this summer, check out my top picks:

1. How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff - How it has taken me so long to buy this book I have no idea! Set during a modern-day war, fifteen year old Daisy is sent to live with her Aunt in England and promptly falls in love with her cousin. The bubble is soon broken, the cousins are separated and we are taken on a whirlwind tour of modern conflict. The narration is witty, sarcastic and imaginative and I challenge anyone not to be touched by Rosoff's beautifully simplistic writing.

2. A Summer of Drowning, John Burnside - Mystery, Norse mythology and a little teenage angst thrown in for good measure. Set against a dreamy Norwegian landscape, with tales of drowning and sinister undertones, this book won't be for everyone and can get a little claustrophobic. I'd definitely recommend it if you aren't into your 'typical' summery reads!

3. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier - An oldie but a goodie. I always find myself picking this up again in the summer months. An early example of 20th Century popular fiction, this is an easy read that never fauls to entertain me. Rebecca tells the story of an ordinary girl caught up in a whirlwind romance, taken to live in a grand hall in the English countryside. From the outset she feels the presence of the previous Mrs de Winter, and begins to question both her new husband and her own soundness of mind.

What are you reading this summer?
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Saturday, 19 July 2014

5 ways to clean up your sleep hygiene



Sleep. So many of us just don't get enough of it. Every day we are confronted with health warnings and depressing statistics linked to lack of Zs, and it's definitely time to change that!

At one point or another we have all been guilty of depriving our bodies of much needed recovery time, and it's harder than ever to truly switch off in the digital age. 'Sleep hygiene' is the practice of a properly structured routine that helps you wind down and maximise shut-eye. It isn't always easy, especially for those of us that work full time and blog on the side, but we do ourselves a massive disservice by not putting sleep first on our list of priorities. Here are my top tips for settling down for a good night's sleep:

1. The cut-off point
Whatever you do for a living, whether you work from home or spend 9-5 in the office, you need to be able to acknowledge when enough is enough.Maybe you can set an alarm to tell yourself it's time to stop working now, or change into your trackies when you get home to bring yourself back into the comfort zone. However you do it, let your body know at a regular point each day that it's time to step out of work mode.

2. Ditch the screens
Electronic screens give out blue light that mimics the dawn sends signals of wakefulness to the brain. Avoid trouble sleeping by putting down your phone and switching off the TV an hour before bed. Instead, try reading a book under warm light, meditating or some gentle yoga. It might be hard to break the habit at first but eventually you'll come to love this time. We're connected 24 hours a day these days so allowing yourself to just 'be' and forget the rest of the world can be extremely beneficial.

3. Drink some sleepy tea
Caffeine is an absolute no-no in the evenings as it can take up to 8 hours for it to work its way out of your system. Instead try a relaxing herbal tea such as camomile or a cinnamon blend. There are loads available but my current favourite is Clipper Sleep Easy Infusion, which also contains Valerian, a great herbal sleep aid. Not keen? Try some warm milk.

4. Take a bath
Not only will it have you feeling squeaky clean and relaxed, but when you climb out of the tub it mimics the natural drop in temperature that happens to our bodies when we fall into sleep. It should leave you feeling ready to snooze!

5. Candles
I've mentioned ditching the screens and bright lights already, but a scented candle (think warm, sweet tones or lavender fragrances) can enhance the room and create a sense of calm. Just remember to blow them out before actually going to sleep!

What do you do to switch off before bed?

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Monday, 7 July 2014

A Sonisphere Festival Friday!

Being the free spirits that we are, Rhian and I decided to book last minute day tickets to the Friday of Knebworth Park's Sonisphere Festival. We don't live far away and it was so, so nice to be able to flop into my own bed at the end of the night instead of trying to keep warm and worrying that someone might be peeing up the side of our tent. We're Download fest regulars but I couldn't go because it was mine and Mat's moving weekend! This went some way to making up for it. Here's what we saw:


So the day obviously couldn't begin until we'd been to the Hall's Dorset Smokery stand. These guys seem to be at every major festival across the UK and make everything from smoked salmon bagels to steak sarnies cooked to order. I got myself a brie and bacon bap and let me tell you it was worth queuing for.


I cannot believe how lucky we were with the weather! It was sun cream all round - your average rock festival clientèle don't do sunbathing. We saw some seriously red skin by the end of the day but thankfully we came prepared.

Gary Numan

Kicking the day of were UK rising stars The Defiled. I've had a glimpse of their live prowess before but seeing them open the festival was great. It makes sense that a kickass British band would open Sonisphere after it's brief hiatus due to dwindling ticket sales and the ongoing struggle to book headliners that offer something different to rival festival Download.

Following on from this were Anti-Flag. Their performances are always pumped full of energy and this was no exception. Even though their lyrics are highly political and pretty darn angry, the band were so happy to be there and so kind to the audience that positive vibes and unity were rife. If you've never given punk/pop punk a try these guys are a great place to start. Check out their most popular tunes on Last FM - they always get me bouncing around! Gary Numan was also a pleasant surprise. His stuff is pretty niche with lots of electronic sounds thrown in but is pretty catchy and had everyone grooving. He also played Cars for an awesome 80s throwback.


We then had a little wait before the other bands we wanted to see so attempted to find some "shade" behind a barrier. I burnt my scalp and as you can see my hair is not happy from all the sun it's been having - a sign to invest in a hat? Outfit wise I went for a New Look tartan dress teamed with my trusty Primark sunnies and some leopard print wellies purchased from a festival stall in a muddy moment of crisis many moons ago. Gotta keep it simple in the heat!


The best shade we found ended up being behind a line of balding men in their mid-thirties who kept asking me to get on their shoulders and spilling dribbles of beer on our heads. Good job beer is good for the hair! 

We also briefly dropped in on Bam Margera's Fuckface Unstoppable who were playing in one of the tents. It was interesting. There were unexpected testicles. We'll leave that there.

HIM

When our music viewing resumed it was time for some teenage nostalgia with the ever dark and gorgeous HIM The Finnish rockers are really on their game lately, since frontman Ville Valo overcame his drinking and smoking problems and serious illness a few years back. I must say it's nice when artists remember the words to their songs and remain upright for the performance. So many rockers get too out of it to give a good show. The band looked absolutely in awe of the huge turnout and it became a real sing-along for us all.

Limp Bizkit

Oh Limp Bizkit, how I love thee. Whether your into metal, pop, rap or otherwise this band have a tune for everyone's taste. The set was typical of past festival offerings, with their greatest hits and classic covers fired off with absolute precision. They transformed the festival into one big party and we all sang our hearts out while the sun went down. My weird crush on Fred Durst is also still going strong.

The Prodigy

The headline slot fell to one of the most established non-metal British bands out there, The Prodigy. Aggressive, powerful and inventive, the band revelled in the moment, interacting with the crowd and giving a seriously brilliant strobe light display as per usual. I saw them a couple of years ago and I would say it was on par - their rockin' brand of hardcore techno big beat wonderfulness is still going strong. With the promise of new material in the works we'll hopefully see a sixth studio album soon!

The Prodigy's awesome lighting!


We had an awesome day. It was nice to visit a festival just for the day, and to do it with my oldest friend and longterm festival buddy Rhian who is buggering off to university in a couple of months! 

Are you going to any festivals this summer? Have you been already? Let me know in the comments!


All band images taken from the official Sonisphere Facebook page because little iPhones cannot cope with sunset lighting conditions and uberzoom.
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Sunday, 22 June 2014

Currently reading: I Wrote This For You (Just the words), Iain Thomas



I don't really read romantic poetry or novels. At least not modern ones. I find them cheesy and clunky and generally unrealistic. I stumbled upon the I Wrote This For You project through tumblr though and instantly fell in love.

Began through a blog and eventually compiled into a book, I Wrote This For You is a series of poems that details the ups, downs, mundanes and extraordiniaries of an intense relationship between the writer and his love.

The book is available with accompanying photograph prompts by the wonderful Jon Ellis for those who also want something visual, as it appears on the original blog, or with just the words.

I don't sit and pour over the pages, but I often read a few passages before bed. It reminds me how important bonds between ourselves and others really are, and the words themselves are so beautifully written that particular poems have reduced me to tears.

If 'romance' or 'the love stuff' doesn't feature in your usual reading, I'd thoroughly suggest giving this a try. It's tender and genuine, but without the sugar coating that normally puts me off.
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© kelly anne rist

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