Monday, 31 August 2015

Read this now: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

I try not to judge books by their covers, but when Station Eleven caught my eye as I was having a browse for a new read I kind of knew it was for me. The bold title, the gorgeous artwork, the strategically placed peer review quote, I was sold. I'm a sucker for a post-apocalyptic tale as it is, but there was something about this that sucked me in. What was Station Eleven, and why was it so important?

The timeline of this novel stretches from the 'present day', as a pandemic outbreak of a deadly and uncontrollable flu virus brings about the collapse of life as we know it worldwide, to two decades after this point. Throughout we switch between the before, during and after through a set of characters that are connected through their encounters with a famous actor, who dies on stage during a performance of King Lear in the tale's opening scene, and a comic book written by his ex wife. The balance between past and present scenes is pretty 50-50 within Station Eleven and this helps to build the pace as well as fill in any blanks. I found it very hard to put the thing down. Everything comes full-circle in a way you probably won't be able to predict.

I appreciated the use of Shakespeare as a motif throughout the story on so many levels - after the collapse, a band of misfit survivors travel between remaining settlements performing Shakespeare for the communities. Little survived the collapse in the way of technology, culture as we knew it was gone for good, but good stories like those of the bard himself still resonate. The Travelling Symphony's trailer is painted with the words 'Survival is insufficient' (a Star Trek quote, would you believe), and this really struck a chord. We can always carry on in life, no matter what hits us, but as human beings our souls need more. Music, poetry, entertainment, love, purpose. It gives the Symphony members a reason to carry on other than merely surviving.

Something that really stuck out for me when reading this was Emily St John Mandel's deep understanding of the human condition. The way her characters react and interact with the events that unfold is so incredibly realistic, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were really there yourself. To write a global catastrophe that is so unprecedented but keep the reader focused on the individual protagonists immediate fate is a real achievement and part of what makes this such a haunting read. Every thought a character has, every action they take, is so considered, so laden with meaning and detail that there is no need to waste paragraphs describing the post-apocalyptic setting.

This is the best book I've read so far this year. It moved me, it surprised me, it made me think and most importantly it really, really entertained me.

What have you been reading lately?


Saturday, 29 August 2015

The British 10k - fundraising update!

You might remember this post from a few months ago where I talked about having signed up to run the British 10k to raise money for Alzheimer's Society. Well, that was six weeks ago now and I thought I'd give a little update for you all on how much you've helped me raise. The target I pledged to raise for the charity was £250, but I was so blown away by the response from friends and family - the final figure now that everything's in is just shy of £600! I couldn't be more grateful and am so chuffed that everyone dug so deep for such a personal and important cause.

The race itself went a lot, lot better than I expected. I struggled with cramps towards the end of my training but on the day the adrenaline seemed to keep this at bay. I was a whole 14 minutes faster than I was projecting my time to be too having never attempted a full 10k with no pit-stops before. I got into a weirdly superhuman state of mind and seemed to be going faster and faster every time I checked my tracking app. I swear the buzz really is addictive, even if you don't enjoy actual running that much!

It was also a huge boost to see the Alzheimer's Society cheer gang waiting at the top of a hill about two thirds of the way round. Thank you guys for coming out to support us! The route itself is just amazing, starting this year by Green Park and ending just around the corner from Big Ben. I kept getting distracted by all the iconic landmarks like the screens at Piccadilly Circus and St Paul's Cathedral. The weather spared us too and a welcome drizzle began just after I crossed the finish line.

If you've ever thought about getting involved in a sporting event for charity I would highly recommend it. Whether you go it alone or get yourself a team together it's such an exciting thing to get involved in - I got so caught up in the mentality of it all. What's more is that there are so many events like the British 10k that allow you to choose and take part for whatever charity you choose. I saw such an array of charity running shirts and it was definitely a 'faith in humanity restored' kind of day.

If you'd like to donate to Alzheimer's Society then my Just Giving page will be up-and-running for a another month or so. You can sign yourself up for the 2016 British 10k event here. Visit the Alzheimer's Society website to find out about all the brilliant work they do.

Friday, 28 August 2015

My favourite jewellery

I'm not the kind of person who owns boxes and boxes of jewellery and accessories, but there are a few statement pieces I unfailingly turn to just to add a little something extra to an outfit, whether for work or a social outing. I thought I'd share some of my favourites with you all.

Rings - Generally speaking I don't wear a lot of rings. I struggle to find anything that fits my fingers properly as they puff up and shrink down on what seems like an hourly basis! My wreath ring from Pandora however fits me perfectly and is something I wear nearly every day. I think Pandora are amazing for rings as there's such a big range and they're great quality.

Bracelets - I've calmed down on the bracelet front in the last few years. I used to wear stacks of them and it was probably a tad OTT. These days I favour something a bit more minimal. Primark have a fab range of bracelets for every day wear (the gold one pictured is from a multipack), and I also picked up a few hamsa bracelets for myself and friends in the souks in Marrakech. One of my more 'fancier' favourites is a Links of London heart bracelet which was a present from my parents for graduating, but that mainly comes out for special occasions.

Earrings - I have slightly stretched ears (no regrets though, before anyone says anything!) and two holes per ear above these, so I have to be creative if I want to dress them up. You can get some really lovely plugs over on Etsy that look just like earrings - perfect for weddings, work or if you just feel like wearing them. I also tend to wear hoops or drop earrings in the second hole as there are some from my pre-stretch days I just can't part with.

Watches - I was never a watch wearer until I started full-time work after uni. Then I realised it's so much easier than rifling around in your bag for your phone just to check the time on the way to a meeting. I absolutely love Olivia Burton watches - the designs are so delicate and timeless.

Necklaces - Probably the piece I always neglect! I have a few simple necklaces, but usually only add them if my outfit is looking pretty plain. I love the trend at the moment for big stone pendants though so will probably end up collecting a few. The one pictured was only £1.50 in the Topshop sale.

What are your go-to jewellery pieces?

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Wimpole Hall Estate

This post is long overdue and somehow doesn't quite fit in with the drizzle that's coming down outside my window, but a few weeks ago Mat and I headed up to Wimpole Hall Estate for a day out. We get two free family passes to National Trust sites a year with our Natwest Select bank account but had yet to use either, so a 31 degree sunny Saturday seemed the perfect opportunity. We packed up a picnic, slapped on a bit of sun tan lotion and were on our way. Living in Cambridge this place is a mere 15 minutes down the road in the direction of our hometown, Royston, and while I'd been here a few times as a kid it's been a very long time! 

There's so much to do at Wimpole. Outdoors, you can take a hike around the extensive open grounds, enjoy the beautifully kept gardens, or for a small extra fee take little ones onto the farm to see the animals. If you head over in less than perfect weather or out of season, the hall itself is open to visitors as a museum of sorts, plus there's a lovely cafe and some shops selling local wares to browse.

We spent the entire day plodding around, taking in the beauty of the place. There are even the ruins of a very old (I want to say Medieval but I risk being wrong) tower over past the lakes and on top of a hill, but we found the walk a bit tough for such a hot day!

If you live anywhere near Wimpole I'd highly recommend a visit!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

When you really, really can't sleep

When you're a kid, lack of sleep is not the end of the world. You'll get ratty and throw a tantrum, maybe fall asleep in the car, probably manage to squeeze an afternoon nap into your schedule. Then you're a student and anything goes. Twenty-four hour libraries, red bull, skipping breakfast and probably lunch for some valuable Zs. Nobody ever tells you just how real things get when you're a working adult with one of those full-time job things everyone's so crazy about and struggling to get your 8 hours in. Nobody ever tells you that the more stressed you get, the harder it is to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Lately I've been having a lot of trouble with my sleep. I tend go go through phases with it and every few months there will be a week or two when it just. ain't. happening. Currently I'm at the ten-day mark of tossing and turning until two, three and sometimes even 4 o'clock in the morning and it's wearing mighty thin. I have however realised that in my tired, stressed haze I've neglected most of my usual failsafe ways to ease these bouts of insomnia and get into a better pattern.

Distract yourself - If you're in bed and can't sleep, or feel too wired to even get into your PJs in the first place, find something to do that will take your mind of the anxiety of trying to get to sleep. It's vital that whatever you do doesn't involve screens as the bright lights will wake you up even more, so try something like colouring, reading a book, a puzzle. Before you know if you'll be feeling sleepier.

Don't nap unless you absolutely have to - I'm a bad napper anyway and usually struggle to fall asleep during the day, but taking long afternoon naps when you aren't sleeping well at night can mess up your schedule. Sure if you're heading out on the town and really feeling it an old-school disco nap is vital, but ploughing through and just trying for an earlier bedtime instead is probably better for you on any other night.

Make your bed a haven - Recently I've been chillier at night so I picked up some new bedding and PJs, but you can also do things like add more pillows, light candles (blow them out before light's out!!) and invest in a pillow spray. Boots do a nice one for about £6 so it doesn't have to be expensive!! When your sleep is suffering your bed can be a massive source of stress, so make it a place you want to be.

Talk about it - With a doctor, your partner, a colleague, friend, anyone. Not getting enough sleep can make me really grouchy and unfocused, but I find that letting people know I'm having trouble with it lifts that weight of feeling like you have to be running at 150% like everyone else. The last episode I had ended after I had a very tearful talk with my mum on the phone about the stress I was under at work. I got it all out in the open, she reassured me and I slept so well when I got home that night.

Remember it will end - Episodes of insomnia are tough, and if you have prolonged difficulty with sleep it's definitely something you should get professional help with, but for most of us it's important to remember that while you can't sleep now, things will rectify themselves eventually and you'll start to feel human again after a good night or two. It can feel like you'll never sleep again but I promise that you will!

What are your top solutions for when you can't sleep?

Image source

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Wherever you are, don't forget to look up

We spend so much of our lives looking down. At our phones when we need to zone out, at our feet when we're down, at computer screens for work, blogging, shopping and more. The realisation that I a) totally forgot about and b) consequently then missed the Perseid meteor shower last week really made me stop and think about that. I've never seen a shooting star. Not once.

Beautiful architecture, birds flying high, sunsets, amazing landscapes, the little crack you never noticed was there on your ceiling. There's a world above us that is too often ignored, snubbed for bright screens and Pinterest and Twitter, endless scrolling that fails to inspire. I often feel most connected to the world around me when looking up, wondering if anyone else might be gazing upon the same sun, moon and stars from their own little world.

Wherever you are, don't forget to look up. You could be missing an awful lot. 


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

My all time favourite films

I talk a lot on here about books, beauty bits and general life stuff, but I don't really talk about films, which is weird because I watch a lot of them. I love a good film almost as much as a good book, so I thought I'd share with you some of my absolute favourites. The definitive list is a very long one but these always stand out as movies I can watch again and again.

Donnie Darko - I remember not really getting the hype on this film when it first came out, I think I was kind of missing the point. After a few years I re-watched it, fell in love with Jake Gyllenhaal and with the weird and wonderful story and it's now a firm favourite. 

Jurassic Park - This and Jumanji were my absolute favourites growing up. I'd watch them over and over! It's still a great Sunday afternoon watch and the recently released Jurassic World was just brilliant. So many dinosaurs, so much fun.

Pulp Fiction - I probably watched this a little earlier in life than I really should have but Pulp Fiction is by far my favourite Tarantino film and is really up there in this selection. It's equal parts ridiculous, violent and stylish and Uma Thurman is fabulous.

Anchorman - I don't know anyone who wouldn't enjoy Anchorman. It's the ultimate feel-good comedy and Will Ferrell is among my favourite humans.The sequel was an interesting move and didn't hit the mark for me but this will always be a classic. Perfect for a duvet day.

Harry Potter - You know it was coming, didn't you? Good old Hazza P features on my 'most read books in the history of ever' list, and the films are equally as loved in my household. At uni when I was going through a bad time I just escaped to the wizarding world by having the DVDs on repeat for a week straight. 

What are your all-time favourite films?


Sunday, 16 August 2015

5 happy things

Lately I've been making a conscious effort to enjoy the little things in life - yummy treats, seeing friends, seeking out new tunes to listen to. A few weeks ago I got so busy with work I didn't have time to breath, let alone indulge, so now things are back under control I thought I'd share a few happy things with you all.

Pancakes for breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) - I mean, why not?! We've been treating ourselves to some yummy, slightly fancier home-cooked breakfasts lately on weekends. It saves money instead of going out for a bite and you don't even have to get dressed. Beats bran flakes that's for sure.

Sunny afternoons watching boats at Camden lock with friends. While the temperature has dropped a little in recent weeks when the sun comes out it's just glorious outside. Lana and I had a fab day mooching around London yesterday, with a visit to Portabello Road followed by shopping in Camden and cocktails!

Gelato is having something of a moment lately and I for one can't get enough of it. For some reason the stuff is really overpriced in Cambridge so when we stumbled upon a branch of Gelato Mio in the Notting Hill area this weekend while in London I had to indulge. This one was a mix of a chocolate and hazelnut flavour and biscotti cookie dough. Bliss.

New in for Vans this autumn is their Death Bloom collection. Most of it is menswear but I couldn't resist the print so ordered a backpack which will be coming with me to Paris next month. Check out the rest of their new arrivals here.

New music for Bring Me the Horizon - These guys have been a favourite of mine for quite a few years now. They've definitely grown up a lot and I'm actually loving their slightly more mainstream sound. Things are still pretty dark and heavy though, don't worry. Their album That's the Spirit will be out on 11th September and hopefully a UK tour will follow!

What's been making you happy lately?


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

What to wear when visiting Marrakech

One thing I keep getting asked since visiting Marrakech is what to wear. As a western woman visiting an Islamic/Arab country, I found there were confusing and conflicting messages out there about what is/isn't acceptable in terms of clothing. I thought I'd write about my experience and what I found worked for me, just to shed some light for anyone thinking of travelling there.

I'll start by saying that Morocco is a very different place to the UK! While at home you might think it ridiculous that women are expected to dress modestly, in destinations such as this it is something deeply ingrained in the local culture. I would never deliberately cover up in this country, but I do think it's important to respect local norms when abroad so as not to offend or encroach on another way of life. 

When out there we saw a real mixture of dress among both tourists and locals. While many Muslim women donned head scarves, veils etc, some, including most tourists, did not. While locals were mostly quite covered with long skirts, trousers, scarves etc, some were quite happy in t-shirts, cropped trousers and even vests. Don't be scared to wear normal Western attire so long as it doesn't bare all. It's also important to remember that hotel staff are quite used to holiday makers and that walking around the pool in a bikini is perfectly fine!

As a young woman I was worried about going out into the city and souks as I had heard stories about people being harassed or even groped, however I experienced no such thing. On one evening I wore a fairly fitted dress which came down to the mid-calf so left me quite covered, and this was the only time I ever experienced anything remotely 'dodgy'. Even that was just a market stall holder saying he'd have a girl like me back any time - I hardly batted an eyelid. On one occasion I saw one African-American woman being whistled and jeered at a bit by a group of excitable young men (she wasn't alone and was quite safe) as she had on a tight, busty zebra-print dress - something the locals would not have been used to and would associate with promiscuity - but after a couple of minutes they left her well alone.

With this in mind, I've put together a few tips for planning a Marrakech wardrobe:

Ditch the short shorts - When out and about in Marrakech you won't see many tourists rockin' the booty shorts. Opt for  knee-length shorts or cropped trousers in a light material so that your legs aren't too obviously on-show. Personally I lived in patterned harem-style trousers all week long - so lightweight and comfy. New Look have a fab selection.

The maxi and midi are your friend - Look no further than the humble maxi-dress and midi skirt for all your modest but stylish needs. This pleated number from ASOS came with me, as did the camel version which might be sold out at the mo (sorry!).

Go for loose and comfy in the top department - I found some lovely loose-fitting t-shirts in the H&M range, which offer more coverage than spaghetti strap vests. They also saved me from the dreaded burnt shoulders! This one and this one from H&M would be great tucked into shorts or a skirt.

Take a light scarf - You'll find more traditional dress around the various religious sites than you will outside the old city walls out in the new town. I carried a lightweight Primark scarf with me and wrapped it around my shoulders whenever I felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb. While nobody batted an eyelid anyway it made me feel less self-conscious!

I hope this post helps ease any worries you might have about travelling to Marrakech - get building that perfect holiday wardrobe!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

To be read

Slowly but surely I'm getting back into a reading rhythm (by which I mean I'm trying to curb my Netflix addiction!), and there are a few books I've got lined up to help. 

Ken Follett, The Pillars of the Earth - As you can probably see by the ragged post-it note bookmark, I first picked this up just over a year ago. While I liked what I managed to read before Mat and I moved it's a very long book and I didn't have the time or energy to pick it up again after that! I only got about 80 pages in before so I'll be making a conscious effort to get it finished. The story is looking to be a good one even though it's not my usual genre of choice.

Emma Healey, Elizabeth is Missing - This has been on my radar since it graced every shortlist possible last year! Again this isn't my usual kind of novel, but something about the story appeals to me.

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Is it wrong to pick up a book purely because of the title? I've heard so many good things about Gaiman's storytelling, not least thanks to the popularity of his comics and graphic novels, but this was the book that convinced me to try his stuff. From what I can see there's quite a darkness to Gaiman's stuff and I can't think of anything more up my street.

I'll be reporting back on these over the next month or two so stay tuned! What have you got lined up to read this summer?

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Easy(ish) ways to get yourself out of a motivational funk

Whether you work from home or in an office, whether your job is creative or administrative (or anything else really) there are times that no matter how much you like what you do you just can't seem to find your 'get up and go'. We've all been there. If like me, you've only been in the post-uni working world for a couple of years, it can be easy to feel like your job/career is swallowing you up and that you're not advancing fast enough! Here are some little things you can do that will make all the difference to your motivation.

Get a new diary or planner - I always manage to miss the boat on a new diary in January, but this time of year is also great for picking up pretty and practical stationery (I see you, Back to School section in Paperchase). Try and pick something that has a day to a page, or weekly pages you can tear off. That way you can start a fresh page after a short period of time. Staring at weeks and months worth of hectically scrawled notes can be overwhelming.

Refresh your work wardrobe - Even if you work from home it can be good to have a selection of staples on-hand to help get you into work mode each day. It also helps if these outfits make you feel pretty damn sassy. Think boyfriend blazers, statement blouses, cropped trousers/culottes. Zara have some lovely stuff in the sale and H&M always have stylish smart-casual clothing that's affordable.

Read a book - I know what you're thinking. Who really wants to read a book about work when you're feeling pretty 'meh' about it as it is? Hear me out guys. Lately there are some books around that could reawaken your drive to succeed and make you fall back in love with the daily grind. This post by the ladies at Career Girl Daily is a good place to start, and I would also recommend #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso for a motivational boost.

Be realistic - It can be easy to fall into a pattern of disappointment when it comes to your profession and career if you haven't been out in the working world that long. The internet is full of overnight success stories and can make getting to the top seem easy as pie, which often leaves me wondering why I haven't achieved global domination yet at the tender age of 23. What's the deal with that? Accept that it's going to take a good few years of hard work before you start seeing things like big promotions and pay rises. Knuckle down, stay passionate and eventually things will fall into place.

Remember the golden rule - Like many people I'm sure, I was very unhappy in my first job after uni. I took it because it was vaguely related to what I wanted to do but it just wasn't right for me. The pay was way below average for the job and level, the culture was non-existent and the environment offered no chance for development. It took me far too long to realise that ultimately you don't have to do something if it doesn't make you happy. Eventually I found another job that's much more 'me' and while it isn't always perfect, real-life work rarely is. You won't always find yourself dying to get to work in the morning and it won't always be easy, but you have a right to be in a job that you enjoy most days and that provides you with opportunities to grow and develop in your chosen direction.

What are your top tips for getting yourself out of a motivational funk?
© kelly anne rist

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