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Happy Birthday Harry

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

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!

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?

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?

A Sonisphere Festival Friday!

Knebworth Park, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AX, UK
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.


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.