31 Aug 2017

August reads: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

A review of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed.

If she deviates, she will be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Before you ask, no I haven’t watched the television adaptation of this yet. I had to read the book first!

It’s hard to know what to say about this classic piece of feminist fiction because I want to implore you to read it whilst giving as little away as possible.

The Handmaid's Tale is a horrific portrayal of a future that, alarmingly, feels like it could possibly happen. It’s a dystopian reality, oddly quiet, yet digs deep into your soul. The author unfolds the story gradually, subtly painting an image of stifling oppression through the main character of Offred.

There are many themes to be taken from this book, and each reader will interpret it differently. But I can guarantee you will find yourself hanging on to every word.

Honestly? The Handmaid's Tale is terrifying. It doesn’t feel dated or far-fetched and that’s what makes it all the more disturbing. I’m a few pages from the end but I can already tell you it’s a book I’ll never forget.

And now for the TV show...

30 Aug 2017

New Job, New Blog

An introduction into my new blog design

I imagine it stems from the back-to-school vibe but I always associate the beginning of September with a fresh start. So it seems appropriate that G and I are having the last week of August off before he starts a new job and I start a new role at work. It’s been an uncertain couple of months but we’re looking forward to new things. I mean sure, I’m slightly alarmed that I suddenly have a lot more responsibility for things at work. I forget to brush my hair sometimes but that doesn’t mean I can’t project manage stuff right? Also it feels slightly weird that G won’t be working in London anymore (he no longer has to get on a Thameslink train and I’m not jealous AT ALL…) but I imagine our routine will adjust in no time.

With this new-start vibe in mind, it also made sense for this week to be the one to give the blog a bit of a jazz up. So yes, welcome to the new blog design! I’ve given my little corner of the internet a little spring clean, an ironing out of the niggles if you like.

I wanted it to be more streamlined but with a touch more of ‘me’, of some fun and creativity, and I really like the end result. Every time I open the blog at the mo, I get that satisfied feeling like when you’ve just cleared out the bathroom cupboards.

The template is more minimal and I’ve also re-touched my ‘about’ page. My favourite thing though, is my new blog header. It was designed by Alohalola Cards and if you’re looking for a personal logo/greeting card/caricature or other digital designs, I would really recommend working with Claire. She makes a lot of effort to establish what you want and works really closely with you until you’re happy. I was impressed at the level of detail she went into for such a reasonable price!

The header includes a lot of my favourite things/hobbies and brings that aspect of fun/creativity to go with the minimalist vibe. Plus it’s cute and makes me smile. Look at my cats!

So, yeah, hope ya like. I’m off for a pedicure on a Wednesday afternoon and yup, I am just a teensy bit smug about it. I would very much recommend this holidaying at home malarkey.

An introduction into my new blog design

An introduction into my new blog design

28 Aug 2017

British Tapas at Number 23, St Albans

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

G and I have an ever-growing to-do list of St Albans restaurants; for a small city, it sure does have a seemingly endless supply of places providing good grub.

Number 23 is a stone’s throw from the cathedral and set back from the street; down a quaint little alleyway decorated with plants and fairy lights. Through the bold red door is a handful of cosy, low-beamed rooms filled with an excellent playlist and plenty of atmosphere.

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

They recommend 3-4 tapas dishes per person, and so we picked out 7 different plates between us.

In my opinion, the pulled pork wasn’t anything to write home about. Nice, don’t get me wrong, but fairly standard.

Everything else though, I’d order again in a heartbeat. Particularly the sugar and spice chorizo, soaked in a touch of merlot and drizzled with manchego cheese; we practically licked the bowl.

The Cumberland sausage & duck egg scotch egg went down a storm with my scotch-egg-loving companion, although I only had a small portion of it as I was distracted by the cheese. The warm honeyed goat’s cheese served with beetroot and sautéed peppers & onions was a thing of beauty and the deep fried brie served with cranberry sauce went down a treat.

The haddock and ginger fishcake was soft with just a touch of crunch from the breadcrumbs, and so very tasty. The ginger was subtle, adding just the right amount of ‘zing’, and it came with a garlic mayonnaise that went perfectly with the triple cooked chips, which were utterly dreamy. Perfectly crunchy (just how I like them) and cooked in salt, pepper, garlic and red onion; I’m hankering to go back just for these guys alone.

We were full to bursting by the time we’d finished, but couldn’t resist trying some of the tapas puddings. We went for the tiramisu, amaretto chocolate mousse and blueberry pana cotta. G and I firmly agreed that the blueberry pana cotta stood out by a mile (not to discredit the tiramisu & chocolate mousse which were fine indeed).

The staff were friendly and attentive, and the bill came in a mini chest full of sweets which I thought was a cute touch.

The cherry on top was the music played throughout the rooms (and for the tables outside). We both commented several times during the meal that the play list was on point. It was a mixture of funk & soul, old school ‘proper R&B’ (G’s words) and, towards the end of the night, the Rolling Stones. As G put it: ‘any restaurant that plays a Rolling Stones album gets a thumbs up in my book’.

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

Restaurant review of Number 23 (British Tapas) in St Albans, UK

26 Aug 2017

Video | Adventures in the Brecon Beacons

B A N K  H O L I D A Y.

I'm currently lazing around with un-brushed hair, no make up and no bra and if that's not a crackin' start to a bank holiday weekend, then I dunno what is.

G and I are are 'hosting' a St Albans pub crawl this afternoon with some of our favourite people so I probably should make myself look half decent are some point, but it the mean time, here's the video from the famous we-saved-a-sheep weekend in rural Wales (read more here).

Have a wonderful bank holiday weekend!

23 Aug 2017

That time we got stranded in Brussels

Back in October last year, G and I were travelling back from Holland and, as the title of this post suggests, the journey went a tad wrong.

I kept a sort of diary during the bizarre 24 hours we were stuck in Brussels and here it is for your reading pleasure…

Sunday 18 October 2016

It’s happened again. Yet another one of my journeys (previous incidents here and here) has descended into chaos and I’m starting to question whether the one constant factor in all of these incidents is yours truly.

So this time we're stranded in Brussels. Overnight. With work in the morning. I know; your heart bleeds for me.

G and I have been visiting family in Holland and were on our way home. We took a gentle stroll between platforms, getting off our train from Rotterdam at Brussels and followed the Channel Tunnel signs through Brussels station to get our next train to London. I'd had a nap on the first train and a snazzy goat's cheese sandwich to enjoy on the next. We were aiming to be home by 8ish. All was dandy.

And then we turned a corner and there was a queue longer than the list of Donald Trump's inappropriate remarks spilling out of the Eurostar check-in desk entrance. Five minutes after joining the queue, word gets around that there's been a power failure and all trains are cancelled.

Um, say what now?

Fast forward through fragmented information from Eurostar staff, a hotel hunt and a fair amount of swearing; I'm sat on a hotel bed in Brussels when I should have been home three hours ago.

I mean I don't WANT to go to work but it really is kinda awkward trying to explain you're 'stuck' in Brussels. No seriously, it is a pain. IT IS.

No one seems to believe me when I try and explain that we’re not exactly wandering around stuffing our faces with chocolate and seeing the sights. So far, my extent of Brussels includes the station, a hotel attached to the station and a bar opposite the station (where I had a very strong Malibu and coke). We haven't soaked up much culture, I tell ya.

I’m also not that sympathetic towards Eurostar. You can say 'power failure' as much as you like guys; you're talking to a Thameslink commuter. It's like the boy who cried wolf. I DON'T BELIEVE WHAT TRAIN COMPANIES SAY ANYMORE.

We've requested our tickets to be rescheduled via the Eurostar website (as told to do at the station) and received an email saying they'd contact us soon with details of our new train. That was four hours ago. Have they got in touch? Have they heck.

The real crux of the matter, however, is that I am currently carrying my weight in cheese back to the UK (Holland does good cheese okay) and I have now been forced to check into a hotel where my cheese will be deprived of a fridge for God-knows-how-many-hours longer than intended. So now I'm really pissed.

Monday 19 October 2016

This morning started along the same lines. Our alarm went off at 6:50 (5:50 UK time, let it be noted) just in case we'd been scheduled onto the 8am train back to London. G checked his emails and there was still nothing. He tried to talk to someone on Eurostar's live chat before realising it didn’t start until 7am GMT time.

Back to sleep for an hour.

At 8:01, we sit and wait for G to connect to a Eurostar employee. After an age, we get through to someone and the convo pretty much goes like this:

Eurostar guy: Did you receive an error email?

Us: Noooo, we received an email telling us you'd be in touch with our new train time.

Eurostar guy: Oh. Right. Um, hang on.

Us: ......

Eurostar guy: It looks like your tickets have been rescheduled but I can't access the booking. I'll pass it on and someone will ring you within an hour.

Us: Can you at least tell us what time train we'll be on?

Eurostar guy: No, I can't access the booking.


We wait an hour whilst watching BBC News. Naturally, no one phones us back. There's only one more train left in the morning which would mean I could get back to London in time to be in the office for the afternoon. It's in an hour and a half and I'm starting to see it trickling away from us.

G gets back on live chat and this time we're told just to phone the customer service number. So G sits on hold whilst I send borderline abusive tweets to Eurostar and make a couple of Twitter friends with people who are also stranded.

After 20 mins on hold and just as I'm about to get outright abusive on Twitter, an email drops in G's inbox. We've been put on a train at 5pm.


A whole 24 hours after we were supposed to travel.

We grumble and rant and then spend a few mins getting in touch with work. Eventually it dawns on us that it's getting on 11 and we've yet to eat anything. WHAT EVEN IS THIS. We check out the hotel, store our luggage and go in search of food before we become hangry maniacs.

It's only really at this point that we realise we have an afternoon to fill. And that we're in Brussels.

This should be exciting. We should be relishing that we've suddenly found ourselves not at work and in the middle of an unexplored European city. But we're sleep deprived, stressed, low on euros and there's this drab greyness pressing down on the city, with drizzle slowly soaking into our clothes.

I try and remember my own rule that cities should never be judged by what they look like when you first step out the station, but I'm struggling and G names a fair few cities that do actually have quite pretty stations so that really helps the situation.

We trudge on, with the rain getting harder and the city getting greyer.

Apart from spying a couple of mediocre crepe places, nothing jumps out at me as we walk for twenty minutes and I'm just debating whether to remove Brussels from our hypothetical Europe trip when we round a corner into Grand Place.


I don’t know a lot about architecture but I know that this is beautiful and intricate and I’m pretty blown away.

I don't know what each of the buildings are in this crazy gorgeous square (I'm lacking my usual pre-trip research) but I don't particularly care. All I know is that it has finally clicked that I should be sat in the office, catching up on post-holiday emails right now and instead I'm swivelling my head between the dark, gothic building on my left and the immensely grand building on my right; and all of the smaller gold-decorated buildings in between. I no longer care that it's drizzling or that I've been tired and grumpy all morning. I’ve suddenly been reminded that this is an experience that I wasn't supposed to have.

G spies a cafe in the corner advertising coffee and Belgian waffles and we hop right in. It’s a bit rough and ready but we sit by the window munching on brie & honey bagels and waffles covered in strawberries, ice cream & real, thick chocolate sauce. We learn that there are two different types of Belgian waffles and that the buildings around the square were built across two centuries.

We brave the heavy rain after we're finished and head back out. I accidentally fall into a chocolate shop in the square, where we're given free samples and end up buying a slab of sexy Belgian hazelnut milk choc.

We shelter from the rain by wandering through a covered shopping street where we note that the main things on sale in Brussels are chocolate, beer, lace, fries and watches. But mainly chocolate. ALL THE CHOCOLATE. We wander in and out of the rows and rows of chocolate shops, happy to just look at the endless different types and all the colourful macarons (and imagine what we'll buy when we come back to Brussels, deliberately next time).

The rain stops by the time we're done and we wander a bit more, finding ourselves outside the enormous St Michael and St Gudula cathedral; I have to tilt my head all the way back to take it all in. We head in and learn that it took 300 years to build and talk to a guy who tells us which members of the Belgian royal family were married and/or buried there.

As we meander through the cobbled streets, I can perfectly visualise how gorgeous this city will be in the summer; how these streets will light up under the sun and be full of people sitting outside the cafes.

Unfortunately, this is when it decides to literally rain on my parade. We get a quick glimpse of the famous Manneken Pis before the rain starts bouncing off my shoulders and we accept it's probably time to head back.

By the time we make it back to the hotel to collect our bags, you can wring out my jeans, there's water dripping off my nose and my shoes are squelching. We have to go change our jeans and shoes in the hotel toilets and try and pack our wet stuff in a way that it won't soak everything else in the suitcase (harder than it looks). I'm back to my former grumpiness but this time it is significantly improved by the Belgian chocolate in my bag.

Until next time Brussels...

20 Aug 2017

Life after graduation: comparison, making it up & the fear of failing

Life after graduation: comparison, making it up & the fear of failing

I have this memory from my childhood. I think it may be a combination of a few all blurred into one. It takes place on the landing in a house; either the rented house I lived in with my mum and sister the year my parents split up or the house we lived in after that, that my mum and step-dad still live in now. I can never quite work out which house it is. Anyway, I remember being told one day, if I wanted, I could go to university to study writing. I feel like I was probably clutching a Harry Potter book (I’ve done that for most of my life tbh) and probably talking about my desire to write (I’ve also done that for most of my life).

I remember being fixated with the idea that one day I could go to a ‘school’ where I would be allowed to write and nothing else. No science (nah), religious studies (snooze), maths (ew) or PE (double ew). Just write.

Fast forward to 2010 and there I was, 18 years old and about to start a 3-year-degree in Creative Writing with English Literature. It was three years of writing and tequila shots and the best times a girl could wish for.

However, I think it’s fair to say I lived in a state of denial about what I was going to do next. I paid no attention to ‘afterwards’ because I didn’t know what post-graduation life was supposed to entail. And when I eventually got there, to the ‘real world’, I didn’t particularly take to it. The real world was an unpaid internship. The 7:30 train into London. The real world was living in the bedroom I had as a teenager. An empty bank account with none of the perks of being a student.

It was all consuming, and not necessarily in a good way. I lost sight of me for a while, and I missed being carefree and happy. There was an enormous pressure to have a plan, to make a decision and I wanted to. I just didn’t know what that plan or decision was. I had no conviction in anything because I had doubts in every idea or option. Knowing I wanted to write gave me no comfort. I’d always known I wanted to write. But knowing you want to write isn’t a career plan; it’s just my life. A basic need or instinct. Like sleep or sex or food. Basic need doesn’t help you decide which GCSEs to pick or what you should do for the next 30 years.

From the moment we enter the education system, we always know what the next ‘stage’ is going to be. For me, it was nursery, then primary school, then middle school, then upper school, then sixth form, then university.

And then, you’re just kinda left to it. Which is exciting but also equally alarming. Because if you don’t have a plan, or even just an idea, then it gets confusing pretty darn quickly.

(Particularly if you’re someone who really loves a good planning sesh.)

But that, in case you are unfamiliar with this revolutionary concept, is OKAY.

Confusing, yes, but okay.

Some people have a life plan. Some people know what they want in five years time, whether that’s travelling the world or becoming a director, and work towards it.

You do not need to be that person. You really don’t have to have it all figured out. You’re allowed to feel a little bit lost. You’re allowed to feel like you’re the only person who hasn’t got their shit together. As long as you realise that you’re not alone in this feeling.

So. Many. People. Feel. Like. This. So stop partaking in the hellish game that is comparison. There is no point in comparing yourself to someone else. Zero. Zilch. It’s like putting a giraffe and a flamingo next to each other and asking why the flamingo can’t reach the top of the tree or the giraffe can’t be, er, pink.

That was a weird metaphor.

You can only do you is what I’m trying to say and freaking out because you feel like you’re just making it up as you go a long or putting unnecessary expectation on yourself or comparing your life to others; well, that just stops you from enjoying the ride.

There have been times since I finished university in 2013 where I’ve deemed myself to be ‘failing’, essentially because I wasn’t where I imagined I would/could be. Like when I was working for free (the joy of internships), or doing temp work, or being made redundant or taking a pay cut. But I wasn’t failing, I was just making my way through life as best as I can. I know that now, I think I knew that at the time yet I felt under a lot of pressure to know what I wanted, what I should ‘do’ with my life. It was very easy to scroll through social media or look at my friends and decide I was the only one who wasn’t extremely successful.  It’s weird that we’ve all done this at some point. You’d think we’d realise that if we’re not uploading Instagram photos of ourselves crying into a bowl of pasta pesto, then other people probably aren’t either.

Most of the time, I think the pressure was simply coming from myself. I’ve improved massively in this department of my life since being a shiny new graduate but it takes work and the weirdness of your twenties doesn’t make it easier. I’m sure there are many other people who feel the same way.

Give yourself a break. See being a new graduate as exciting, rather than scary. Get off effing social media. And remember it’s absolutely okay to not have a clue what you’re doing. You may be someone who has to re-learn that every day (*waves*), just as long as you always remember that it’s about the journey, and not the end game.

You’re gonna be fine kid.

13 Aug 2017

Easy like Sunday morning

Easy like Sunday morning

I’ve been feeling pretty content recently. I spend a lot of my time planning things, planning for the future. I’ll always be a planning, mainly because I genuinely really enjoy it. But, recently, I’ve been feeling chilled and happy with our little life here in St Albans and, although the where-to-buy-a-house saga continues (and shall do for a while I imagine), I’m so appreciative of where we are right now.

This morning, I woke up, pulled on a pair of shorts, grabbed my sunglasses and headed out with un-brushed hair and no make-up. It just looked so glorious outside that I wanted to get out there asap. The sun was beaming, the cathedral bells were chiming and the monthly Sunday farmers market was bustling away.

I took a wander around it all, taking the time to lazily look at the stalls. I came home with a bunch of sunflowers and a really big and really sexy almond croissant which I ate whilst listening to the new Imagine Dragons album (it’s a good’un; go listen).

I felt so lucky to be able to do that, to just pop out and be in the middle of a farmers market within seconds; buying flowers and pastries like I’m on holiday or summin’.

There’s changes coming at both me and G in the world of work at the moment. G is starting a new job in September and I’m taking on a new aspect to my job in a couple of weeks which will mean a lot more responsibility. I don’t write too much about the ins and outs of work on here for obvious reasons but, whilst this is obviously good news for both of us, the logistics and details haven’t made it an easy ride.

So it’s nice to just take the weekends slow, be calm and appreciate the small things. Things like the utterly divine smell of the ‘cheer up buttercup’ Lush bath bomb and a tiny little BBQ on our tiny little terrace.

Happy Sunday <3

Easy like Sunday morning

12 Aug 2017

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

That white fluffy slice of heaven below is my cousin’s cat, Luna. AIN’T SHE GORGEOUS?

Last weekend, she needed looking after whilst her parents were away and so G and I headed over to Berkhamsted for a spot of cat/house sitting.

We didn’t really have any plans for the weekend other than ‘show up and feed Luna’ but do ya know what? It was freakin’ GLORIOUS.

It was slow and peaceful and made me feel all calm and actually like I was prepped to do battle with Monday. Which is a good job, cos it’s been a hell of a week.

So I thought I’d detail all the domestic beauty so that next time I’m all like I NEED TO GET AWAY, I don’t cripple my bank account by attempting to get back to NYC, and remember that it’s just as restful to take time out in your local surroundings.

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire


As per our usual routine, I woke up in an empty bed because G always gets up about an hour before me despite the fact that Saturday morning is lie-in time you cretin. We had breakfast, ran some errands, hoovered the flat and packed our overnight bags. 

On the drive over to Berkhamsted, it rained so hard that I actually voiced my fears that the rain was going to crack the car windscreen. It was raining that hard okay. 

I insisted we stop at Aldi on the way because I absolutely had to get my mitts on those Jo Malone-copycat candles (G still does not understand why these are so exciting). We actually split up when we got inside the shop because Aldi is chaotic and I was not leaving without those candles. We found them eventually and I came out with all 3 flavours, as well as stocking up on Aldi’s chocolate cos sorry, it’s actually my favourite chocolate ever and who even needs Hotel Chocolat? We also came out with 3 pots of hummus, crisps, cheese, ham and sausage rolls cos snacks.


We arrived at the house and, yes, I immediately scooped Luna up for a fluffy cuddle because cats are basically the best thing in this world. She smacked me on the nose and licked my hair so that’s love, right? 

We dived head first into the pots of different-flavoured hummus, discussed how we would decorate our house when the time comes, marvelled at how quiet it was and then relocated to the sofa where we played with Luna, read the paper and blogged. And ate chocolate of course. It was so nice to not feel distracted by life admin or chores, and like we were allowed to laze the time away. 

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire


  We took a wander into town via the canal path and it was so picturesque and cute, even with the rail tracks being right there. I liked that, one second, we were walking past the lock and the canal boats, and then suddenly we emerged right in the centre of town. 

We were going to try out one of the local, independent restaurants but we didn’t organise ourselves to book a table so we ended up in Ask instead and the food was actually super dreamy. We had these dough balls full of mozzarella and chilli and pepperoni and oh mumma, I’m still thinking about them. Although not as much as the pistachio and olive oil cake which I am 100% going to try at home. 

We wandered back down the canal, watched a film on the telly and tried to persuade Luna that she wanted to come sit on my lap (she was having none of it). 

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire


I woke up far too early because I’d forgotten my sleeping mask but G let Luna in and I spent a good couple of hours allowing her to jump on me in bed (she seemed to mistake my feet for a mouse or summin’). She also thought it was very entertaining to attempt to catch my ponytail when I was tying my hair up and then try and chase the runners on the TV when G was watching the world championships. 

Can I get a kitten pleeeease? 


We headed off to nearby town Tring because we’re still on a hunt for places-we-might-want-to-live-in-Hertfordshire. It kind of only occurred to me after we’d been there a while and decided we liked it, that it would be a bitch of a commute for G’s new job. Sigh. 

We wandered round the park, down the side streets and into a homeware shop (I managed not to buy anything) before stumbling upon this quirky café called Black Goo; we had slices of cold pizza and an enormous slice of lemon and pistachio cake (it was aaaall about the pistachios that weekend).

And then we went back to play with Luna some more before giving her lots of treats and saying goodbye. 

AND THAT WAS OUR WEEKEND. No exotic locations or plane journeys; just a twenty-minute drive down the road. But a mini holiday all the same.

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire

A mini staycation in Hertfordshire