Monday, 26 August 2013

What I'm watching #3:

Source: here

A few weeks ago I was off work with a sickness bug, and needed something to take my mind off feeling rubbish.  I decided to give the Netflix original series Orange is the new Black a try after hearing some good reviews, and I'm so glad I did!  I was immediately addicted (and got Craig hooked too!) and we watched the whole first season in less than a week.  Based on a true story, the show follows middle class good girl, Piper Chapman, as she goes to prison for a crime she naively committed more than ten years earlier.  The back story of each supporting character is slowly unfolded throughout the course of the series, which is both frustrating and fascinating.  It's very dark, but also very funny, and that's a winning combination for me.  I can't wait for the second series!

Source: here
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia was actually Craig's latest TV discovery.  I watched the first episode with him and didn't think much of it, but he persevered, and by the time I dipped back into the show (somewhere in season two) I found it much more enjoyable.  

The basic premise is that four friends own an unpopular Irish pub in Philadelphia, and they get up to some mischief whilst trying to drum up business, get famous and generally pass the time.  This makes It's Always Sunny sound like a carbon copy of every other US sitcom in existence, and that's all I originally thought it was, but the show has since changed my opinion.  First of all, the cast are actually very funny (my favourite is Kaitlin Olson as Dee) and the addition of Danny Devito to the line up in season two is a bit of a curveball that ends up paying off.  Most importantly, the subject matter of the jokes is extremely unconventional, and generally quite taboo.  Some episodes are a little hit or miss - and if you're easily offended this might not be the program for you - but in general I'd say It's Always Sunny is a witty and unique take on the dry sitcom we've all seen a thousand times.

Source: here

Even though I probably would have been too young to get most of the jokes back in 2001 when Teachers was first shown on Channel 4, through the wonders of Netflix I have now started watching it from the beginning.  The show is definitely of its time, and looking a little dated now, but the writing is great and it makes me quite nostalgic for school (which proves they've done it right!).  Hats off to the creators, as some of the camera work is extremely clever and creative, setting Teachers apart from other Britcoms.  Following the life of one young English teacher and his colleagues, the program has a funny premise, and there's the added bonus of seeing Andrew Lincoln as a cheeky, youthful British whippersnapper, long before The Walking Dead.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Back to school stationery haul:

Following on from last week's academic planner guide, I'm continuing the back to school theme with a little stationery haul.  As I've already mentioned, I absolutely love stationery, and I especially love shopping for it and buying it, even if I never actually get around to using it...  This time, I think I've been quite sensible with my choices and hopefully I will get good use out of everything I've bought when I'm back at uni.  The only mistake I made was buying more notebooks.  I already have more than I think I could ever use in my entire lifetime, but I can't help falling under their spell...

These brightly coloured, geometric design notebooks are lined inside (or else my writing would end up all wonky) and were purchased from the Urban Outfitters sale a few months ago.  They don't seem to be available online, but have a check in store if you're passing by, just in case there are some still hiding on the shelves!  I think they were around £3 each in the sale.

I spied this neon chevron beauty out of the corner of my eye when buying some cards in Scribbler and couldn't deny myself the joy of owning it.  It's a little smaller in size than the Urban Outfitters notebooks, but still ruled inside, so great for days when I don't want to carry a lot with me to class. (£3.99)

I managed to go a little Sharpie mad on a spontaneous stationery binge in Asda (who knew they would have so much AWESOME back to school stuff there?!) but please bear with me.  The Sharpie 0.3mm fine tip pens (above) come in a pack of four colours, which will be great for colour coding lecture notes or tasks in my planner, and write both smoothly and precisely. (£2 at Asda)

I've had my eye on these Sharpie highlighters for a long time, and I was so happy to finally find an excuse to buy them!  The angled tips are quite fine, which makes highlighting a lot less messy, and owning a blue highlighter is quite the novelty for me. (£2.75 at Asda)

PASTEL COLOURED SHARPIES.  Look at them.  Just look at them.  I actually found these babies at Paperchase but - like most of the items in this haul, it turns out - they don't seem to be available on the website, so some high street hunting may be in order to source them.  Nonetheless, I'm excited to draw up some pretty mind maps in candy colours with the help of these bad boys. (£4.75)

Everyone loves a bit of Hello Kitty, and everyone loves those pens that have four colours in one, so why not combine the two?  I picked one up (from Asda again) along with a pack of four seperate Hello Kitty biros (both £2).  For me, even just having cute and cheerful pens is enough to motivate me to keep going and get some work done.

Finally, I picked up one of my most used stationery items in my fourth year of uni: page markers.  These ones are adorable and look like pencils (stating the obvious...), whilst still doing their practical and boring job of keeping your place.  Something no student should be without! (£0.50 at Asda)

What are your stationery or back to school must haves?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Academic planner guide 2013/2014:

As some of you already know, in September I'm delving back into the world of further education and starting a year long postgraduate degree at Edinburgh Napier Unversity.  As well as giving me the opportunity to better myself as a human being, my postgrad comes with the need for purchasing new stationery and (joy of all joys) a brand new academic planner.

I should stress that my last statement wasn't sarcastic whatsoever.  I genuinely love buying stationery, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.  I've been obsessive about keeping a planner since the days of homework diaries in high school.  I'm a queen of procrastination, but having all of the tasks I'm avoiding laid out neatly in my diary makes me feel a lot better, for some reason.  I'm kind of a connoisseur of academic planners (even if I do say so myself) so if you're in the market for a new one, let me present you with the crème de la crème.

Source: here

The Moleskine large soft cover weekly academic planner in black (what a mouthful!) was probably my favourite university planner.  I'm a list maker, especially when I get stressed, and the lined page next to every week is perfect for writing to do lists, or jotting down notes relevant to that week's tasks.  The Moleskine is slimline, hardwearing on the outside and has an elastic closure to keep the pages clean and neat when not in use.  It also has a ribbon to keep your place in the correct week, which is a must for me.  My current (non-academic) diary doesn't have one, and it drives me mad!

My only issue with the Moleskine planner is the lack of space given for each day (particularly weekends), but bigger days would mean losing the ruled page that I found so useful.  It's also quite pricey (around £10 online, and up to £20 in shops) but the quality is good.  Unfortunately, you are mostly paying for an established brand name who can get away with charging so much because of their popularity!

Source: here

The Dodo Acad-Pad is a much more whimsical and lighthearted weekly planner than the serious and sombre Moleskine.  It has coloured pages, little drawings and (normally made up) facts to read and keep you amused whilst pretending to study.  Somewhat unusually, the Acad-Pad has five columns for each day, which you can use however you please to plan your academic year.  Being quite unoriginal, I used the columns as they suggested in the sample page  of the planner (below), splitting my days into a 'To do' column, then 'Morning', 'Afternoon', 'Evening' and 'Dates & deadlines'.  This set up worked quite well, but again I just didn't feel I had enough space to fit everything in, especially on days when there was a lot to accomplish!  Still, being able to split my day up into morning, afternoon and evening was more helpful for planning my time.  

Source: here

The Dodo Acad-Pad comes in more formats than I could ever have imagined (large desk diary, small pocket diary, wall calendar, loose leaf, the list goes on!) and retails for around £9 to £15, depending on where you buy it and which one you choose.

Source: here

It's safe to assume that an individual with a fondness for stationery also loves Paperchase.  The place is a treasure trove of cuteness that could make anyone want to live at their desk, and it's a great place to pick up a cheap and cheerful weekly academic planner.  They tend to be a little bit smaller in size, but if you're not into to do lists and just need a place to note down deadlines then this is the planner for you.  The Paperchase diaries average at around £7 each, and you can choose from loads of cute designs!

So which of my recommended academic planners have I bought this year?  The answer is none of them!  This time around, I've decided to go for my very first day to day view planner, which will give me much more space to plan out each day (and for my beloved lists!).  

I discovered the striped diary in the photo above from Asda (£4), and it's perfect!  Obviously with more pages it's a little chunkier than my previous week to week planners, but this bargain find just goes to show that you don't have to spend a fortune to find your perfect planner.  There's even room to fill in my brand new timetable when I get it.  Exciting!  I love the stripes and colour scheme, it reminds me of a deckchair!

Are you heading back to school or uni soon (and have a disturbing love for stationery products like me)?  If so, pop back soon for a big stationery haul post!  Undeniably the best part of going back to school.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Fringe first impressions:

I did something unheard of this year.  I made it to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe early.  I even saw two shows on their first day!  If you read my Festival post from last year you'll remember that I don't normally get very excited about the hoards of tourists that flock to Edinburgh every summer, or about having approximately four million flyers shoved in my face over the course of an afternoon, but for some reason I'm quite pumped about it all this year.  It might have something to do with working far away from the city centre these days, and also it isn't weeing it down with rain like it did last year (and the year before).  In any case, I thought I'd share my first impressions of the Fringe with you nice and early, so that you can go and enjoy the same brilliant shows I have, if you fancy them!

Source: here
We've Become Mango: Talking Limbo
Southsider (venue 148), West Richmond Street
3rd to 24th August (excluding Wednesdays)

Some of you might remember a past review I posted here of the sketch comedy group, We've Become Mango.  I'm glad to say that the trio are back and stronger than ever for this year's Fringe.  After a remarkably slick preview show in the basement of The Tron pub last month, I was very much looking forward to seeing the Mango family's Fringe offering, and it didn't disappoint.

I hope you like parties, because We've Become Mango are throwing one nearly every day of August at the Southsider on West Richmond Street in your honour.  Greeted by James at the door with a plate of biscuits (apologies if the group have used up all of their biscuit budget by the time you make it to the show and you don't get one) we filed into the intimate back room of the Southsider, sat in the front row and only got mildly picked on.

Marianne, Richard and James kept us entertained with sketches punctuated by party games, throwing in some polished versions of old jokes that I was quite happy to see again among some brand new material.  As long as you can understand Twitter, are comfortable with men breastfeeding and enjoy a few rude jokes, I would recommend that you check We've Become Mango out.  After all, it's FREE to attend, and you can purchase alcohol nearby.  Just don't go with your parents, okay?

Source: here
Scroobius Pip: Words
Pleasance Dome (venue 23), Bristo Square
7th to 26th August (excluding 19th)

First of all, before I get into this review, I just want to let you all know that the Pleasance Dome is not in the Pleasance.  And for all of you shaking your heads in dismay, I live here and I didn't know that.  It doesn't make sense.  So, in case you're visiting for the Fringe (or are just clueless, like me) I thought I'd better share that important piece of information.  Luckily, we had plenty of time to leg it across to Bristo Square where the venue actually is...

Scroobius Pip became well known for his work with DJ and music producer Dan Le Sac, and if you've heard any of their music before, it will probably be Thou Shalt Always Kill, their first single.  I've loved the duo from the minute Craig first played me that song back in 2010, but if you know me, you know that I am all about the lyrics.  You might be surprised that someone with such indie rock leanings would be excited by rap, but it's got so many words.  And, if Scroobius Pip is writing them, they are clever, calculated and meaningful words, too.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Pip's solo spoken word tour, but I knew that it wasn't an experience I should miss.  Clearly, a large number of other people thought so too, as the opening night's show was sold out!  The set list was eclectic, with some older and some newer pieces mixed in together.  Some have since been put to music by Dan Le Sac, whilst some were only ever meant to be spoken word poems.  A number of serious social themes are covered, some of which are deemed 'disturbing' - suicide, self harm, abusive relationships, etc. - but should really be talked about more often.  There is also a lot of swearing.  It's great.  The show was broken up by Scroobius Pip's charming and witty musings about the Festival, Edinburgh and life in general.  I won't spoil anything for you, but his stage entrance was a stroke of genius too, and I hope he does it every night.

Near the end of his set, Pip jokingly warned any reviewers in the audience to concentrate on the funny and heartwarming moments of the night in order to convince others to buy a ticket, but in my opinion it is far easier to make people laugh than to make them feel.  Sobs from around the room during The Magician's Assistant, the lump in my own throat during Angles (it gets me every time) and roars of indignant agreement and understanding during Rat Race - they all made me realise that Scroobius Pip's true talent lies in capturing and articulating raw human emotion.

After the show, Pip stayed behind to sell his own merch and chat to anyone and everyone who wanted to meet him.  Craig and I hogged him for a little while, and he was such a genuinely lovely guy.  I was thrilled to meet one of my lyrical heroes, and if he's one of yours too (or you are just looking for some new ones) then don't miss this show.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Instagram #13:

1. A very welcome ice lolly from a nice colleague  2. Fish, chips, gin and tonic after work in the Meadows  3. Inferior Design's first birthday cake

4. You can't catch the gingerbread man (because I ate him...)  5. A grumpy, fat cat chilling on the railway  6. Off out in the sunshine

7. Cupcakes made by my talented cousin, and cupcakes from Mimi's new takeaway bakery on the Royal Mile  8. Finally found this cereal after weeks of hunting, but was sorely disappointed with it  9. Craig's new look

10. Some beautiful poppies in an abandoned building site (see more photos here)  11. My Dad blowing out his birthday candles on the aw(ful)esome cake I made  12. Posh coffee in matching initial mugs makes sick Saturday mornings better

13. Craig doing his best Dwight Schrute impression after I dared him to tell the Starbucks guy Dwight was his name

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Satchel lot of space:

I bought a set of decorative hooks in the Debenhams sale quite a while ago with the intention of using them to store jewellery on.  Typically, the hooks sat in the corner of the room gathering dust for a few months after I purchased them, and in that time I developed a slight obsession with satchels.  Ergo, my jewellery hooks became satchel hooks.  I've been switching between bags a lot more frequently lately, and it makes sense to have them easily accessible.  I also think they look quite nice on display instead of stuffed in a cupboard, although I'm not sure Craig agrees...

I used easy to remove, adhesive command hooks this time, rather than hammering big holes into the bedroom wall.  This style of bag is generally quite light, so I'm not worried about hanging a few of them up together.  It's a good job, really, as I'm pretty sure the size of my satchel collection will only grow over time!