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16 August 2017

What I'm Reading: My Favourite Blog Posts

I've fallen back in love with blogging. You've probably noticed from the absolute FLURRY of blog posts at the moment, but I've just decided, why not put out as much content as I want to. So at the moment, it's 5x a week, Monday to Friday. I'm not working, and this is basically the best job in the world.

But part of blogging, is obviously reading what others put out. It's not even competition, it's just because I bloody love reading blog posts, and I've read so many absolute delights recently, that I wanted to share some of them with you.

A lot of people who read my blog, solely read my blog. I know this because I know how much wonderful support I get from my friends and family. But if you do decide to expand your reading, I URGE you to click on one of these links, you absolutely won't be disappointed and there's been some 10/10 stuff put out there in the last couple of weeks. 

The first stand out beauty post, is this one by Beauty and the Blog, about her guide to glowing skin. I'm going through some problems with my own skin at the moment, and am looking to change/invest in some products. The advice was honest, and didn't throw loads of information or products at you, which I think is so important. 

Staying within the skin-realm, but moving away from care and more into beauty itself, is Emmy's post about Radiant Glowing Skin for All Skin Types. I am all about the glow. Give me highlight, give me dewiness, give me anything which avoids a matte skin finish. This blog post is fantastic for an insight into achieving glowing skin, but it may harm your bank account (the Laura Geller Baked Body Frosting is already in my basket).

I don't think I could possibly write a blog post about my fashion without What Olivia Did being in there. I am so in love with her effortless style, and this blog post, The Spotted Midi, has actually made me put a huge range of midi dresses into my asos basket. I just love spotted patterns, it reminds me so much of the 50s and a midi dress is a great, summery way to flatter almost any body shape.

The hardest thing I found, when starting work, was what to wear. It's so difficult to find smart-casual outfits every day of the week. I think the secret was having a few key pieces to mix and match, but as I didn't work there for too long, I never really lived out this idea of mine. If only I'd had this guide by Media Marmalade when I'd originally started, 

This extremely dark peanut butter protein cups  from Simply TaraLynn recipe may just be my dream come true. I'm making a huge effort to get back into my fitness at the moment, doing HIIT and LIIS on alternative days and trying to get my exercise in before the day is started. I've saved this recipe for when I come back from France as a great way to get extra protein, and filled with dark chocolate, what's not to love? 

On the other side of the health spectrum, is this Plum Gin Fizz recipe from Heroine in Heels (bonus points for the plums though, right)?! Gin is always my drink of choice and there's not much more to say with this than that it sounds absolutely delicious, and I'm very excited to try it out - I'm also sure it could work with other fruits too so the gin world is our oyster!

Blogging goddess of the world, Hannah Gale, knocked it out of the park only today with her blog post on her relationship with alcohol. It's raw, honest, and it made me think a lot today about why I drink, what makes me drink, and my own relationship with alcohol. Definitely give it a read.

This blog post by James of Bleu Bird made me want to jump up and start my day over. As I mentioned, I'm having a health and fitness do-over at the moment. And this blog post gave some realistic advice for how to start a wellness journey. In complete honesty, I'm not all about the 'wellness' hype. I think a lot of the time it sends counter-productive messages to very impressionable young adults. However, this blog post was quick and honest and thorough, and I needed to read it. 

After revealing how I've quit my London job to move home and travel the world, travel is currently top of the list of blogs I'm reading at the moment. This one about the train which takes you down the West Coast of America made me yearn to pack up and go travelling tomorrow. 

World of Wanderlust's guide to Mykonos is probably an interesting choice for me, because I've actually been to Mykonos. However, I find it so interesting seeing places from other people's perspectives and she mentioned things I didn't do and I did things she hadn't done either. But the photos in this blog post were beautiful and made me want to go back so much. 

Please do let me know anything you're enjoying reading at the moment!

Love, Alice x 

15 August 2017

Why Everyone Should Work Abroad In Their 20s

Since starting Alice's Antics, I've done my fair share of time abroad, and although a lot of this was holidays and weekend breaks, I also worked in Italy for nearly 8 months as an au pair, in France for nearly 4 months on a holiday campsite, and on Friday, I'm heading back out to France to do the end of the season with the same company.

Both of these experiences were extremely different - in Italy, I was thrown head first into the culture. I had Italian friends, my host family were Italian, I even dated an Italian. I was immersed fully into the culture, and I was encouraged to learn the language and adapt into Italian life. In France, on the other hand, I work for a British company, with mostly British customers, and the majority of my friends were (last year) British. 

Working in a foreign country, especially one where you don't know the language, can be terrifying. I cried my way through customs as an 18 year old, flying out to live with a foreign family in Italy. It's a huge upheaval of everything you know and a lot of the time you can scarcely believe you've done it yourself, but it is without a doubt, the best thing you could possibly do to yourself for a huge number of reasons. 

I would never say I 'found myself' in Italy. God knows, that's still a work-in-progress. But I did come back a different person, and I approached my first year of university more sure of myself than ever before. The likelihood is, you will have to spend a lot of time alone if working abroad, which gives you a lot of time to think about solely yourself, probably for the first time ever. You'll be faced with challenges in everyday life, from communication issues to navigating the foreign town, and although daunting, it sets you up fan-bloody-tastically for later in life when you're thrown head first into the deep end.

Obviously personal growth was going to feature in here at some point, but also, working abroad just gives you a break from the ordinary. The reason I chose to spend the last month of my summer in France was (except for the sun) because I wanted a break from the 9-5 I knew I'd be doing to save up for full time travelling. I've just finished my London job, and am job hunting for another one in the south of England, and I wanted to be doing something, rather than just be sat around applying for jobs from my bedroom. At uni, it's the perfect way to break up terms, or between uni and the real-world, because nobody can just ease their way into a 6am wakeup alarm. 

One of my biggest pet-hates, is when people tarnish a whole country of people with the same brunch. You can only imagine the stereotypes I've heard about the Italians and French. And yes, some Italians are sleazy (just like some British) and some French are rude (just like some British). But working abroad means you get to experience it yourself, first hand, and make up your own mind. Rather than based on a couple of weeks holiday, or that one Italian person you might know at university. The people are always going to be what defines your experience the most, whatever nationality, and working abroad is such a great way to meet a whole range of people you would never have met otherwise, whether colleagues or friends. The friends I made from my time in France last year are still some of my closest friends who I speak to ALL the time. 

Deciding to spend my summers and gap year working abroad, rather than saving up and then going travelling, is still one of my favourite life choices. I feel like I know more about the countries and the people than you could ever learn backpacking through one for a week. If you're still not sure, my final reason for working abroad, is because it can remind you of how much you appreciate home. I know that doing a month in France now, will make me so much more appreciative of coming back home, especially when, if you read my latest blog post, moving back home was a hard life choice to make in the first place.

I'm having a bit of a 'f**k it and go' attitude to life at the moment which may or may not (definitely is) be coming through on my blog. But honestly, working abroad has been up there with the best decisions of my life so far. The people, the countries and the immersive experience is just incomparable. Whether you're thinking about Camp America, or au pairing like I did, it's a unique way to experience life in a country without upheaving your whole life. If you can't do it now, when can you do it? 

Love, Alice x

14 August 2017

5 Happy Things This Week #2

Last week I started this blog series, '5 Happy Things'. I've decided to start writing a blog Monday - Friday, and although that's a huge task when you're also working, I want to start taking my blog more seriously. Although there aren't any other weekly series, I felt like having my Monday post planned every single week gets the ball rolling. At the moment, I'm also feeling all of the feelings ever and feeling very overwhelmed in life and my life choices. I've chosen happiness over practicality recently (you can read about it here), and although I have no regrets, it is a very daunting prospect. As I explained last week, this weekly dose of reflection on the week past pulls out all the bright spots.

Last week was, quite frankly, bizarre. I felt like I hardly knew myself and between being ill, having panic attacks and having a near death experience (I may be being a little over dramatic there...), my head has been going 10000 miles an hour. But I'm at home in Dorset now, with my labradoodle Elvis by my side, and it means I can reflect properly on the week I've had.

1) On Wednesday, I went to see Alvaro and Ryan for the last time until probably around October. We just bonded and Alvaro cooked dinner for me and to be honest, it was just delightful.

2) I started two new things this week. One was a new book, The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and it's bloody great. Highly recommended - I'm halfway through and loving every word. I also, *drum roll please* started watching Game of Thrones. I KNOW. Talk about late to the party. But after 6 years of getting slight-fomo, I finally decided now's my time.  Somehow I've missed a lot of the spoilers bar Jon Snow and the Starks, although I have no idea when these happen or what happens, so I've still got a lot to look forward to. I'm only on S1 E9 but so far so good (I'm also in love with Khalessi).

3) I was reunited with one of my favourite people, Kate, for a bitter sweet reunion. It was wonderful to see her after over a month, but it was also a sad occasion as we are both moving out of uni house, so were there to clean up and say goodbye to the end of an era. After a long day of cleaning we all settled down with a take away on Saturday night to watch Catch Me If You Can and I was just so happy to be reunited.

4) Tying into this, was meeting up with Molly for coffee. Molly is one of my best friends from uni, and arguably the person who dragged me through to achieving a 2.1 and graduating. We met in a lecture in second year and to be honest, it's probably the closest I've ever come to love at first sight - she had a Slytherin notebook and I just knew we'd hit it off. So this was again happy and sad, because I'm moving back home and far away from where we both live now, but seeing her is always a joyous occasion.

5) My biggest happiness is, to be honest, sharing my blog post on 'Why I've Quit My London Job to Move Home'. I've had the biggest weight on my shoulders about the whole thing and I was inundated with messages from people who understood, it was honestly such a relief and just bloody lovely to hear from people confirming I'm not alone! 

Let me know any happiness in your week! 

Love, Alice 

11 August 2017

Why I've Quit My London Job to Move Home

If you read Wednesday's blog post, you may have figured there was a little something going on in my life. I talked a lot about how happy I thought I would be in London, following that corporate dream of reaching for the stars in a job which I'd spent 3 years at university working to achieve. 

I then said, how after experiencing that life for the last 3 months - I'd realised it was time to slow down.

If you'd asked me on my first day of work what I'd be doing in September, I would've laughed at you, and said how I'll be living in Clapham, with some of my friends from uni.

Well, it turns out that's not quite what's happening. 

Today is my last official day at the Public Relations company I work for. For the last 3 months I've been a digital marketing executive, a role I've enjoyed, in a work place I've enjoyed. But it's not what I want to be doing. 

For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to travel. Not just 3 days here and 3 days there, or a prolonged holiday. I've wanted to get out and explore and see the world. I'm pretty sure a lot of people reading this will also have this feeling, but the difference is, I've decided I'm actually going to do it. 

Obviously I don't have the money to just hop on a jet plane tomorrow - so what does this entail? 

Well, at the beginning of July, I asked my parents if, after 4 years of living abroad and at university, they'd let me move back in with them. The last time I lived with them for longer than 4 weeks, was in 2013, so it's going to be a pretty big change for all of us. But, they were kind enough to agree. 

The main reason I'm moving back home is to save money on rent. My commuting + rent costs right now, come to £800. And my income does not allow for me to save in anyway, if anything, it hardly allows me to live. So I'll be working to save up. I've given myself some goals - don't take a step back in my career, find a job which I can feasibly save on, and book a flight out of here for January 2019. 

I'll be moving home for a little more than a year. Arguably, the most terrifying aspect of this whole ideal. I'm not the biggest fan of my home town, or home county for that matter. But I figure if I have a goal, my friends in London, and a job to save up with, I'll be okay. I'll also be dedicating a lot more time to Alice's Antics (if you haven't noticed, that's started already) in both blog and Youtube form. I've been lucky enough to have worked in Digital Marketing and Social Media for the last 3 months, which I know is a great area for freelancers and backpackers, looking to make money on the road, something I'll be hoping to do once I've gone.

I am 99% sure the only reason I was lucky enough to be employed straight out of uni, was due to my sheer determination to never relocate back to Dorset again (woops). But the truth is, there's nothing wrong with moving home after university. It's actually inevitable for a lot of people, and it's a life choice I've decided to make. 

I will be working in a corporate job for the next 40 to 50 years. If my career starts at 25 instead of at 22, because I've decided to go travelling instead, then I'm more than prepared to go into that job at 25 on a lower salary, but with a lot of my bucket list checked off. 

I know this isn't for everyone, and a lot of people are more than happy going straight into work. Doctors, lawyers - I have friends who simply have incredible business acumen - and it's bloody fantastic, in many ways I'm envious of that drive and determination to succeed. But with every day I sit at my desk, not working towards or saving towards what I actually love, I know I'm just resenting my job more and more, which is ridiculous because marketing is a sector I really enjoy.

It's all very Eat, Pray, Love, isn't it? 

My content won't change much on here (except as we grow closer to my departure), but there will be a lot less London cityscapes and a lot more countryside views, as I move back home on Monday, and to be honest, I'm just excited. It's all bloody terrifying, but I'm excited for this next step. And obviously Alice's Antics will be coming with me every step of the way.

Love, Alice x 

10 August 2017

5 Places On My Travel Bucket List

Despite the date being August 9th, it is currently raining. Britain isn't known for its great summers, but even for us, the weather this August has been absolutely abysmal. From tornadoes on the south coast, to rain storms across the country - I just had to run to this little café and ask for their most glorious hot chocolate to compromise my soaked face and steamed up glasses from the weather outside.

As a form of escapism, I've spent the afternoon looking up some of my must-do travel destinations and experiences. And thought I'd share them with you to help you escape the weather wherever you are (unless you're an abroad reader - in which case, please prepare for a visitor)..
Hot Air Ballooning in Bagan, Myanmar
This is in my top 3 bucket list activities by far. Myanmar is a country embedded in culture and after an extremely unstable history, it's becoming safer for tourists to visit. I'm desperate to spend time in Myanmar as a whole, but the pull of the hot air balloons over the temples definitely brings it to the top of my list. 

Elephant Sanctuaries in Sri Lanka
If you read my post on What I Read in July, you may have seen how elephants are my favourite animal. I will never ever ride an elephant, however, in Sri Lanka, visitors are offered the chance to visit elephants in giant national parks. Professionals deal with them and the money you pay goes towards making the sanctuary a safer, stronger home for the elephants and to pay for their upkeep. I could never bring myself to visit somewhere like the Elephant Temple in Thailand, even with the pull of being able to feed them and to be up close - the Sri Lankan sanctuaries may not give  you a one to one experience, but I'd personally rather watch a herd of happy elephants from afar than one chained to the ground as I feed it. 

Oh my GOD just get me to FIJI. I cannot explain the hours I've spent pouring over photos and blog posts and videos in Fiji, it's my latest fascination. I'd always wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand, but Fiji was never really on my radar until about Christmas time. White sand and clear seas... if I don't manage to get around to it alone, it is my Number 1 honeymoon destination. I'm actually getting quite sad as I look from this photo to the view of the grey main road infront of me. 

For so long, Iran has been associated and involved in the unrest of the Middle East. I think a lot of westerners have a very warped opinion of the whole area, and although there is still risk in visiting at the moment and visiting may not be an option as a lone-traveler in the near-future,  nowhere can be classed as 'safe' anymore. It's still on my bucket list for one day.

I am obsessed with Canada. The difference with this 'travel destination' is that it's actually somewhere I'd love to live - in fact, there was a time not so long ago where I very almost accepted a job there. (Kept that one quiet from you didn't I)! Canada has to be up there as one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and for me it just has the perfect balance between nature and city. I am absolutely desperate to spend some time there and visit the national parks. And it's right at the top of my travel bucket list. 

As you can see, I have absolutely no 'type' when it comes to countries and places I want to visit. From the beautiful sandy beaches in the South Pacific, to the sub-temperatures of Canada, I just want to see it all! It's so easy to sit here on my lunch break daydreaming about these incredible places, I'm hoping in the not-too-far future I'll be able to cross a couple off the list. 

Where do you want to go travelling? 

Love, Alice x 


9 August 2017

Why It's Important To Slow Down

Do you ever do that thing where you blink, and you realise we're almost halfway through August? You feel like you closed your eyes at the beginning of 2017 and suddenly it's 'X' many Monday's until Christmas.

It's a feeling almost all of us experience - judging from the tweets filling my timeline on the first day of every month. And although it's a bit of a laugh, it's also the truth, life is going incredibly bloody quickly.

At the age I'm in right now, there's a lot of pressure. Find a great job, meet a great partner, maybe even start looking at buying a great house or having great children.

These life choices, as we all know, are greats which are bloody FAR away for me.

But since graduating uni and starting a job myself, they're also the hot conversation topic between myself and my housemates. A couple of them will be moving in with boyfriends, others are finding forever-jobs. It's a huge part of your life.

And I, meanwhile, am freaking out.

I was lucky enough to land myself a job straight out of university. I beat all of the statistics and should really have been walking on cloud nine about the whole thing - and for a while I was. I could picture myself moving to London, building my way up in this job, making my own new social network in PR, and... working for the rest of my life.

Literally, until I'm 70 (according to the experts).

I've had a lot of pep talks with myself recently. And the most important one I'm living through right now, is how important it is to just slow down.

Take you time finding your footing. Do things you won't be able to do at any other age, and make adult life start that little bit older. Fill your time with the things which matter, because if not you'll never realise they mattered until it's far too late.

I was always a bit worried about my sister, she decided college and university weren't for her, and got a full time job whilst living at home with my parents. I thought she was mad - why would  you not want to start renting, or move out? But the truth is, my sister is only 19.

I'm not saying stay living at home forever. But it's absolutely, 100% okay to take the time you need to figure things out before you make drastic life plans. Life really is what happens when you're making other plans. So stop those plans. Pause. Take a breather. And make sure it's what you really want to do. Whether you're 4 or 40, 16 or 36. Or in your 20s and just trying to find your feet in adult life. Make sure life is happening, make sure you're experiencing everything and grasping every single opportunity. It's perfectly okay for life to slow down, just so long as it doesn't stop.

Love, Alice x

8 August 2017

How I Manage a Blog AND a Full Time Job

One of the most common questions I'm asked, by friends, family and readers, is how I possibly have time to blog alongside my job. If you didn't know, blogging is my bit on the side. Well, in actual fact my job is my bit on the side because Alice's Antics is the absolute love of my life. But for now, I'm squeezing blogging around my 3 hours of commute, and 7.5 hour work days. 

The truth is, whilst it takes organisation,  I don't actually find fitting blogging around my life too hard. It's not a chore for me - if anything it's an escape. And that's probably the key to being able to fit blogging around your life, you have to want to do it.

I mean, I could probably use that time to do something like go to the gym - but that is definitely not my first love. 

I try to fill my time so I have nothing 'spare'. My commute takes up 15 hours of my week at least, so I jot down ideas in my notebook, or write out full blog posts. I read my book, or listen to Harry Potter, but I don't ever spend it just sat mindlessly on my phone. The most important way to maintain a blog alongside your job, is to use up as much time as you can in your day. A lot of us want to switch off when we get home and that's completely fine, I hardly touch my laptop when I get home from work unless it's to actually post something. But it means I have to morph my 'traditional' work day into my 'blogging' work day. On my lunch break (where I am right now) I never fail to leave the office. Whether that's going off to sit in a park when the sun is shining, or popping into a cafe like today, I use my lunch breaks to create content for Alice's Antics or alternatively, I switch off so I'm willing to pick up my laptop when I'm home to write a blog. 

The biggest thing you'll have to accept when managing both a blog and a job, is that you're not always going to get content out in the same way full time bloggers do. We just don't have the time to polish tweets and schedule 7 posts a week. It's not feasible and it's how you'll fall out of love with blogging. Little, often and 10/10 content is what you need to focus on. As you start to get into a pattern with your work you might find yourself more able to manage your time (HOLLA 3 blogs in 3 days on Alice's Antics)! 

One day, I do hope to turn Alice's Antics until my full time job. I've always been quite clear about this, but to become a full time blogger you need to dedicate hours and money into your blog - money which ultimately, you'll need to get from another job. It is difficult, and it does take time and hours out of your day. If you want to write a blog purely for money, I'd advise you to look elsewhere as it's it's bloody hard and you'll grow bored if you aren't passionate about writing yourself. But if you are willing to put in the time, you'll reap the benefits. Don't let having a full time job put you off starting a blog! 

Good luck and happy blogging! 

Love, Alice x

7 August 2017

5 Happy Things This Week #1

I'm in a bit of a limbo at the moment as I progress into adulthood. I'm not at the stage, as of yet, where I think of myself as an actual, functioning adult. But I probably should. In the words of Britney, I'm not a girl, not yet a woman (amen). And although I'm not quite 2006 Britney, my brain does feel like it's all over the place. So to document this time in my life, I thought I'd create a 5 Happy Things weekly list, detailing some of the happy moments of the week. 

1) On Monday, myself and my colleague-turned-friend Hannah, decided to go to a coffee shop on our lunch break, and just read in companionable silence together. This was an absolute mile stone because you just know someone's a pal for life when you can sit in silence together, and it was a delightful hour (although too short). 

2)  On Wednesday, I had an adult sleepover with my friend Charlotte in her swanky London house. Adult sleepovers include wine instead of (or as well as) hot chocolate. And the conversations you have are about the not-so-distant future as opposed to when you're 15. Otherwise, it still very much includes sitting in bed watching chick flicks. 

3) On Thursday, I came home to Saffron who'd prepared dinner for us. After receiving some not-so-happy news, all I needed was to come home to love, food and wine. And Saffron provided all three. 

4) On Saturday, I went into central London for a camden picnic with one of my bestest friends Emily. We wandered around Camden and bought some delicious Greek food. We walked along the canal and up to the top of Primrose Hill, where we sat eating our cronut desserts over the London skyline. It was one of those surreal 'omg we are adulting and we live here' moments - and then the heavens opened. But it was so worth it. 

5) Last night, I had a real 'me' evening. Living in a house of 6, it can be hard to get a moment to yourself (which, don't get me wrong, I do love 99% of the time). So on Sunday, with only one housemate and her boyfriend in, I took myself upstairs, had a long shower, did a hair AND face mask (the ultimate treat), stuck on My Best Friends Wedding and had a slice of cake made by said housemate and boyfriend. It was a dream. 

Let me know what your 5 happy things were this week! 

Love, Alice x 

6 August 2017

What I've Read in July

There isn't much I enjoy about my commute. Standing for 3 hours (that is not a typo) a day as my train flies through the south west London landscape. Knowing, at least 3 days a week one of my trains will be delayed. Sometimes not even making it onto a train because there's only so many bodies which can fit on a carriage. BUT there is one fantastic aspect of my commute, and that, is the 3 hours a day I dedicate to reading (and... sometimes doing my make up). This month, I've read 6 books and listened to the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince audio book on the days when maneuvering a book between sweaty bodies just isn't possible. 

In light of this, I thought I'd give you the DL on the books I've read this month: 

Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult
The two books by Jodi Picoult on my list are no mere coincidence. Picoult is, without a doubt my favourite author, and Leaving Time was not a disappointment in any way. It's a mystery with a sixth-sense style twist at the end, and it literally kept me hooked. I read during my lunch breaks, when I came home from work, I just couldn't keep my hands off it. It follows Jenna Metcalfe, a 13 year old searching for her mother who enlists the help of a psychic and the ex-detective from her mother's missing persons case. One of the reasons I love Picoult's books, is the attention to character detail, with many of her main characters having a quirk, speciality or fixation which educates you as you read the book. This book, revolved around elephants (which also happen to be my favourite animal), and the flood of information I received on my favourite creature absolutely warmed my heart and taught me SO much about elephants I had absolutely no idea about. It was a 10/10 read. 

The Beekeeper's Daughter, Santa Montefiore
I picked up The Beekeeper's Daughter a year ago, when I worked in France, and I just never managed to get into it properly. But there's no excuse when you're commuting, and finally I managed to get involved a bit more with the book. It was a classic love story which floated between eras and revolved around quite a lot of adultery (which I wasn't really feeling tbh). I always plough through and finish books, but to be honest, this was not the one for me. The characters threw the word 'love' around a lot, and it was a little bit smutty. If you're looking for a holiday read, this might be for you, but it wasn't for me. 

Second Glance, Jodi Picoult
Second Glance has honestly been sat on my bookshelf at home for years. I think my mum may have got it before I even knew who Jodi Picoult was (and became obsessed with her - woops). Second Glance wasn't one of my favourite Picoult books, as I felt there were so many characters involved I lost track of who was who a lot. By the end of the book, I'd found my footing and recognised each character by their name, but by then it was too late. The premise of the book was excellent though, based on the supernatural, and how the past will come back to haunt you. Although I enjoyed it, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to a first-time reader of one of her books, as it doesn't do her writing justice at all.

Fierce Kingdom, Gin Phillips (great name)
The wonderful Ryan, who has been featured in a number of my recent blog posts, recently interned at Penguin Random House (the DREAM, I know). And was basically presented his run of whichever books he wanted. This book was absolutely raved about, so he lent it to me to read after him, and to be honest, our feelings were much the same. Fierce Kingdom is set over about 2 hours, and each chapter is a time within those two hours. In the first few 'minutes' Joan and her son are finishing up a day at the zoo, but as she approaches the exit, she sees bodies, and a man with a gun. Because of the books premise, I have to admit, I could not put it down. But, at the end, I felt a bit flat. I didn't expect gore or horror, but, to be honest, not much happens. It's probably an accurate portrayal of what would happen if you really were in this situation, but doesn't necessarily do the storyline justice for a book. 

My Not-So Perfect Life, Sophie Kinsella
Sophie Kinsella is a bit of a queen isn't she? Yes, it's a holiday-read, but there is such an art to that, I still loved every second. Maybe it's because I HUGELY resonated with the main character Katie, (a west country girl who moves to London into a low-paying job and uses social media as an escape - say what?), but also because, to be honest, it just makes me feel warm and fuzzy. It's funny, relatable and makes you feel sorry for her God-awful boss, so really, it's a work of art. 

(Audible) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K Rowling read by Stephen Fry
If you didn't know, I'm a serial Harry-Potter-listener. For the last two years, I've pretty much always had one on the go (in order of course). When I  used to go long distance running, I would find after the first half-hour, listening to an audio book was more bearable than listening to music continuously. When I went through a phase of waking up from panic attacks, they stopped when I started listening to the audio books before I went to sleep. I've tried other audio books, but to be honest, nobody reads a book like Stephen Fry. And by the time I've finished book 7, it's been six months since I started them, so I feel like I can go back to book 1. If you haven't ever experienced audible, I'd highly recommend it. 

Swing Time, Zadie Smith
I feel like this book is EVERYWHERE. And to be honest, for good reason. Zadie Smith has written a modern classic, about two girls growing up on the wrong side of town. Starting in the modern day before going back to the roots of the main narrator, who remains unnamed throughout. Following the relationship between herself and the tortured, talented Tracey, it follows the narrators journey out of the dodgy back streets of London into the global spotlight and then back again. It's a humbling, moving read with irrevocable themes which will be reverberating through you as you go about your daily life, and it is excellent. 

Please do let me know if you enjoy this style of blog post. I've never really done it before, but if you enjoy it and it goes down a treat, I might make it a regular monthly addition! 

Love, A x 


1 August 2017

A Day at Blenheim Palace

If working a full time job has taught me anything, it's that making the most of your time outside the office is a must. However tempting it is to laze around - and those days are totally okay too - the reality is, a day out often trumps a duvet day in. 

This weekend, I put my new-found mantra to the ultimate test as I left the house at 8am on Saturday, was home by 10pm and back on the road at 11am the next morning, for a road trip in celebration of my friend Ryan's birthday.

A queen deserves only the best kind of surprise, which is why I was in charge of the sat nav, and he cluelessly and unknowingly drove us towards Blenheim Palace, where I'd booked for us to have afternoon tea.

We were shown to our seats in the magnificent Orangery, where we were served our pots of tea and a magnificent array of sandwiches, scones and cakes. 

Surely afternoon tea is up there with the best form of British tradition? 

Feeling ridiculously full, it was time to explore the palace gardens. 

Because of the vastness of the gardens, we only bought a pass for the gardens. However, we were there all day (even in the rain) and I can safely say I do not regret it in the slightest.

The gardens go on for miles, covering lakes, formal gardens, a cascade and a rose garden.

Some of us (me) may have taken on the role of Belle in the rose garden too seriously and swept through it as if I owned the place.

Winding our way along one of the many paths onto the gardens, we found ourselves walking through archways of greenery, visiting the Winston Churchill memorial and trying to shelter from the rain. Until we finally made it to the cascade.

Just as we reached our final destination, the heavens opened and it was time to run for cover.

We had the best day, I could've spent hours more wandering around, and the the grounds make for a perfect place to have a picnic if you want to save a bit of money! 

All in all, it was a 10/10 day with one of my favourite people in the world! 

Love, A x

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