Monday, 8 December 2014

Instagram #29:

1. A stunning sunset from the WOW247 office window. No photo does the view justice - on a clear day you can see all the way from Fife to the top of Calton Hill, it's insane.
2. A Throwback Thursday photo with my wee pal Nicola (in honour of her birthday) as we got ready to see The Reflektors (AKA Arcade Fire) in Glasgow last year.
3. Waiting to interview the charming Jonnie Common while drinking an amazing orange hot chocolate at Mary's Milk Bar. Go have one!

4. An amazing rainbow I spotted on the walk to work that apparently ended in my office building... (No pot of gold, though.)
5. A wintery weekend face of the day, complete with fuzzy earmuffs. It wasn't even properly cold then - it's freezing now!
6. Tipsy shopping in Waitrose after a boozy Sunday lunch with my irresponsible family...

7. Two un-Christmassy dogs for our Christmas tree. They go perfectly with our Christmas ballerina alligator decoration.
8. Trying the daily special at Burger Meats Bun Edinburgh. It was the first time I have ever eaten something other than their Big Cheese burger. Not bad!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

'Hey life, I am still here':

I've been incredibly rubbish at getting blog posts written lately, and that's partly due to currently working two jobs, but - let's be real for a second - it's mostly a result of my own laziness. I'm definitely guilty of writing endless to do lists and then never completing (or usually barely even starting) any of them. This very blog post has taken over a week to finally get around to. Anyway, here's what I've been up to since I essentially fell off the face of the blogosphere back in October.

Here I am looking like a dork on my second graduation day, but smiling because I've finally escaped education forever. (Although I almost definitely said that last time around too...) Graduating with my MA journalism buddies was good fun, but the whole experience felt a little rushed and kind of surreal. I knew this would happen, but as quickly as it started (and very quickly totally overwhelmed me) my postgrad is over and done with.

Source: here

After graduation, normally the next task is to find a job. Lucky for me, I had actually already started a three month internship with WOW247 before officially graduating and I'll be there until January. I'm still working at my old job every other weekend so that means the occasional 12 day stint without a day off (just as fun as it sounds, let me tell you) but I'm really enjoying the opportunity I've been given.

I've been writing a lot of articles for the website (which you can feel free to browse through here) and I've also had the chance to do a bit of filming and editing, which I really love. I've interviewed Jonnie Common about his new album and Neil Pennycook about his new music pseudonym. I've discovered facts about two of my favourite movies - Ghostbusters and Ferris Bueller's Day Off - that even I didn't know. I got to write a piece about visiting Centralia, PA and include my own photos, which is lovely because I thought those pictures were kind of beautiful (in their own way) and deserved to be seen. It's great fun when you can draw on your life experiences in your work. I especially enjoyed choosing 13 films that perfectly portray what it's like to work in a crappy job - very therapeutic.

Weirdly I've found myself choosing washing up or laundry over blogging of late - simply because it means I get a break from staring at my computer screen. A hazard of the job, I suppose. Housework aside, I haven't really had the time or energy to do much outside of my two jobs, but I did manage to get some time off to celebrate Craig's birthday with him last month. We saw Nightcrawler at The Cameo (so good, but such a moral minefield for any journalist viewers!) and went for a lovely dinner at Rafael's in Stockbridge - highly recommended.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Counting down to Christmas:

Whether you like it or not, Christmas is now officially just over a month away.  Some very organised people will have already made a start on their seasonal shopping, and a select few seriously ill individuals will have completed the task (wrapping and all) back in August.  

For the majority of us, though - despite all the good intentions in the world - the 25th of December will creep up far too quickly.  Before you know it, you'll be the person tearing your hair out in the middle of M&S, or fiercely wrestling a fellow shopper for the last Downton Abbey box set.  Usually, that person is me.  But not this year, friends, not this year.

Thanks to the (admittedly quite early) John Lewis Christmas launch night last month, I've been brainstorming gift ideas for my family and friends for a while now.  Like last year, I met Gillian and Lianne (and also the lovely Laura for the first time) at the Edinburgh branch to see what John Lewis have got in store for Christmas 2014.  We were all greeted with a special cocoa infused gin and tonic and tasty canapés from the in store Hotel Chocolat Café - something which I'm sure would make the everyday Christmas shopping experience infinitely better.

As always, we were spoiled rotten by both John Lewis and the Stripe team, and I had a lovely time catching up with some of my favourite Edinburgh bloggers.  Hopefully the snaps I took at the event will help you get into the Christmas spirit if you aren't already - is anyone else getting excited about putting up their tree way too early?

Have a look below at my John Lewis Christmas gift guide which I've split up into a few different categories.  Maybe it will inspire you on your Christmas shopping quest, or maybe it will just make your own wish list longer...

Food & Drink:

1. Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label NV Champagne with Ice Jacket Carry Pack: If I'm ever taking a bottle of white or fizzy wine to a friend's house, I like it to arrive chilled and ready to drink. Now, this might be the most first world problem you've ever heard, but carting a bottle with a cooling jacket on it around is always a pain and obviously the John Lewis buyers think so too! Personally I think a carry handle on an ice jacket is a genius idea, and this one comes with a bottle of Champers too (worth over £35 on its own) - bonus!  (£48)

2. Hotel Chocolat Classic Christmas H-Box: If you're going to give a box of chocolates as a Christmas present, you'd better make sure they're something special. Pretty much anything from Hotel Chocolat is guaranteed to taste great, but doesn't this special Christmas box look amazing too? (£12)

3. Edinburgh Gin Cocktail Set: I'm a big fan of Edinburgh Gin (as any regular readers/friends and family members will already know!) and I also love a good cocktail. This cocktail making set comes with everything you'll need to come up with your own concoctions at home. I particularly like the little Edinburgh Gin bottle stopper. (£45)

4. Natalie Chocolates Fondant Sugar Mice Stick Pack: My Mum (err... I mean Santa) always used to put a sugar mouse in my stocking, so I still always associate them with Christmas. These ones are a soft fondant, so will save any cracked teeth dramas on Christmas morning! (£2.50)

5. Build Your Own Gingerbread Train: We're big train fans in my family, so I had to include this cute alternative to a traditional gingerbread house. (£15)

6. Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb & Ginger Liqueur: Edinburgh Gin usually come out with a new flavoured liqueur around Christmas time, and this year it's rhubarb and ginger. These taste great in cocktails, or with some prosecco and I'm curious to taste the new flavour for myself. (£18)

Comfort & Beauty:

1. Barts Maria Beanie Hat: I have a strange relationship with hats. I kind of have too much hair to really stand a chance at making them look good on me, but I still always find myself hankering after woolly bobble hats at this time of year - especially when they're as cute as this one. (£19.99)

2. Benefit Pretty Parfait Gift Set: As a total make up novice, I've always been intrigued by what Benefit has to offer, but could never justify shelling out money on expensive products that might not work for me.  This gift set comes with four famous Benefit items that I haven't tried, one of which - the Benetint lip and cheek stain - is worth £24.50 on its own!   (£29.50)

3. MAVALA Nail Polish Bauble in Rouge Rubis: Despite being an amateur when it comes to make up, I do have a soft spot for nail varnish.  (I've barely had my natural nail colour for more than 24 hours in the last five years, and that's not an exaggeration!)  I've never tried the MAVALA brand before, so buying a single polish like this seems like a good way to try it out, and the fact that it's encased in a Christmas tree bauble is just an added bonus. (£5)

4. OPI Nails - Gwen Mini Christmas Holiday Stars Gift Set: OPI have a great reputation, but up until recently their nail varnishes were pretty difficult to get your hands on in the UK.  This special Christmas set has four festive colours (with amazing names like 'What's Your Point-Settia?') and the mini sized bottles will last longer than you think.  Bargain! (£14.50)

5. John Lewis Christmas Tree Duvet Cover and Pillowcase Set: Some people might think decorating your bedroom for Christmas is over the top, but I am not one of those people. Last year I bought a snuggly, tartan flannel duvet cover for the winter months, but I'd be willing to take it one step further with this pretty Christmas tree number.  (£40-£50)

6. Fat Face Reindeer Jersey Pyjama Pants: If I'm going to be properly cosy under my Christmas themed duvet, I obviously need the appropriate reindeer pyjama bottoms to wear. I usually get a new pair as a present every Christmas and wear them to death throughout the year. As long as you get the size right, it's an ideal gift idea for anyone!  (£28)


1. Lumie Bodyclock Go 75 Wake-up Light: I've hankered after one of these alarm clocks that simulate a sunrise for a long time because I have real difficulty waking up in the morning. The idea is that the gradual light will wake you up naturally, rather than jolting you out of bed. I'm not sure if it would work, but I really like the idea! (£75)

2. Joby GripTight GorillaPod Tripod for Smartphones: My Dad has a GorillaPod, so I've seen firsthand how cool and useful they are. I've wanted a tripod for my iPhone for a while (more for filming than taking photos, but it could come in handy for that too!) and having the bendable legs means you can wrap it around anything to get your shot, rather than carting around a bulky, tall tripod. (£25)

3. Nespresso Inissia Coffee Machine by KRUPS in Red: I never thought I would be a coffee (or tea) drinker, but apparently adulthood requires a lot of caffeine. We had a Nespresso coffee maker in one of our USA hotel rooms, and it was really easy to use. Buying a machine like this might be a bit pricey, but at around 30p per Nespresso pod I would save a lot of money on coffee in the long run! (£62.99-£80)

4. Apple Wireless Remote: Having a remote for my laptop (and phone) is a bit of an extravagance really, but it could come in handy while watching movies in bed or listening to music around the house. I don't think the Apple remote is compatible with third party programs - like Netflix - but that's not the end of the world when it's not overly expensive. (£15)

What's on your Christmas list this year?

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Instagram #28:

1. Well these photos feel like part of a distant (beautiful) dream now, but Craig and I had these much needed cocktails at The Cheesecake Factory in Boston after a terrifying drive into the city during rush hour.  (You can watch Craig's traumatised reaction to that journey in our travel vlog here...)
2. I loved these coloured lanterns in Boston's Chinatown.
3. Autumn leaves (and my Doc Martens) on a rainy day in Harvard Yard.

4. Extremely strong cocktails in glasses made of ice at the amazing Frost Ice Bar in Boston.
5. Here I am eating a McDonald's in Times Square on our last day in NYC - the quintessential American experience, right?
6. Back in Blighty and having a lovely time at the John Lewis Christmas launch event.

7. Our flat was spookified for Halloween (just because I'm a saddo, not because we were having a party...).
8. £2.50 frozen margaritas at Paradise Palms on a school night.
9. There's nothing like a seasonal window display at Lovecrumbs to make a person feel festive.

10. I can finally buy knitwear again after we got a new washing machine, so to celebrate I treated myself to this amazing orange jumper with quilted pleather shoulders from H&M.
11. I snapped this moody sunset on my way home from work a couple of weeks ago.  Not bad, Edinburgh, not bad.
12. The lovely Nicola and I on our graduation day.

13. Last but not least, here's my (not so) wee Craig on his birthday on Friday.  Isn't he cute?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Inferior Book Group #10:

I would never call reading a chore, but I'm a fairly slow reader compared to a lot of other people - especially people who also have English literature degrees.  That being said, I absolutely tore through Orange is the New Black during October.  I actually only started reading it on our flight home from America on the 13th, and I was finished by the end of the month, which - for me - is the equivalent of lightning speed.

Those of you who read my occasional 'What I'm watching' posts will already know that I'm a big fan of the Orange is the New Black TV adaptation, so I was intrigued to read Piper Kerman's original 2010 memoir about life in a women's prison.  Piper was incarcerated for just over a year in 2004, after pleading guilty to money laundering and drug trafficking ten years before, although that charge makes her crime sound a lot more cold and calculating than it actually was.

Orange is the New Black follows Kerman's prison journey from start to finish, and she doesn't spare any of the gory details either.  I was surprised to learn that there was truth behind the majority of the TV adaptation's story lines, although (funnily enough) the Hollywood version adds a lot of extra drama into the mix. 

Source: here 

For the most part, the real Piper has a fairly painless prison experience, but generally thanks to her fellow prisoners and not the state.  The book might not be as raunchy a thrill ride as the Netflix series, but Kerman is a witty and skilled narrator, and her writing style made me feel like I was listening to an old friend or 'bunkie' reminisce instead of reading a memoir.  Now and again the surreal 'normality' of it all lulled me into a false sense of security, which made occasional instances of cruelty at the hands of prison staff or other inmates all the more unsettling.

Without digressing from her story, Kerman uses Orange is the New Black as a platform to highlight the many injustices and flaws within the US prison system, and probably many others across the world.  I did find myself sympathising with Piper and her friends on the inside, despite the fact that they are criminals.  As the author points out, many of the women locked up with her in FCI Danbury had received long sentences for committing - or sometimes just being aware of - minor crimes, purely as a result of poor representation in court.  Piper, who could afford a first class lawyer, got off lightly for what is considered a fairly serious offence.

Rather than give the whole tale away (which I nearly have about forty times whilst writing this review) I'll just say this: I haven't enjoyed a book this much in a long, long time.  I would highly recommend giving Orange is the New Black a read, even if you've already watched the TV show to death.  No matter how tough those actresses might look, Kerman's account is the real, scary, warts-and-all deal.  I spent nearly every minute of reading this book feeling thankful for the most mundane luxuries in my life, including hot water, conditioner and vegetables.  If you know anyone considering a life of crime, buy them Orange is the New Black for Christmas.

You can follow the Piper Kerman on Twitter here, and check out her website here, for more information about her story.

Throughout November I'll be reading Paul Auster's 'meta detective fiction' work, The New York Trilogy.  I was actually meant to read this book three years ago for a module on my undergrad English lit. uni course, but more on that next time...

Read September's review here: On the Road

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Inferior Inspiration #15: Halloween food edition!

Although my (fairly minimal) Halloween decorations are up again this year, they haven't changed one bit from last year's Halloween decor post.  Writing a feature for WOW247 about the 5 best Halloween inspired sweet treats on offer in Edinburgh last week inspired me to trawl Pinterest and compile a list of the most creative and cutesy Halloween party food I could find for this year's themed blog post.

Source: 1 / 2 / 3

It's pretty much unheard of for me to choose the healthy option when it comes to snacking, but I have to admit that these are some awesome looking fruits and vegetables.  At least the fruit kebabs have marshmallows on them (which, as far as I'm aware, haven't yet been classed as a fruit) along with the melon pumpkins and kiwi Frankensteins.  I also think the idea of hollowing out a pumpkin and using it to serve dip with vegetable crudités was genius and definitely worth a mention.  And I'm not sure who could really find the time to dye rice orange using carrot juice to make the jack o' lantern rice balls, but don't they look adorable?

Source: 1 / 2 / 3

I think these poison toffee apples look so cool, even if their blackest black colour makes me a little bit nervous.  (If you're wondering, the secret is black food colouring, presumably in industrial quantities!)  The eerie eyeball cocktails are actually just lemonade with green sweets to give the colour and a floating eyeball cake topper, but I bet they would benefit from adding some alcohol for a 'grown up' party.  Marshmallow pops coated with festive coloured sprinkles look great and also seem pretty easy to make!

Source: 1 / 2 / 3

How blooming cute are these chocolate owl cupcakes, decorated with a separated Oreo biscuit and M&Ms?  Again, they look fantastic but probably wouldn't take too long to put together, especially if you cheated and used store bought cupcakes - I promise I won't tell if you don't.  Everyone loves a donut, so who wouldn't want to include some monster donuts on their Halloween party buffet table?  Just be sure to remind everyone that the plastic vampire teeth are not edible...  Last, but certainly not least, the ingredients for spooky boo brownie bites - chocolate brownie and marshmallows - are an unbeatable combination, and these wee ghostly faces prompted screams (of delight) from me on first sight.

Sadly I won't have time to try my hand at making any of these terrifying treats for myself in the next few days, although Craig and I will be having friends round for a traditional scarefest movie marathon over the weekend.  Are you baking anything for a Halloween party this weekend?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

USA holiday haul:

I wholeheartedly promise that I will shut up and stop posting blog posts and YouTube videos about our America trip very soon, but first I wanted to share a few things I bought while we were away.  Craig and I were both more interested in spending our money on nice food and memorable experiences than on shopping during this holiday, but I did end up buying one or two keepsakes to bring home.

I may not be the girliest of girls, but I do still get excited about the prospect of being able to buy make up and skin care products that you can't easily get hold of in the UK.  The (nearly) spherical EOS lip balms hold something of a celebrity status in the online beauty world, so I picked one up in the Strawberry Sorbet scent at Target to give it a go.  While the lip balm smells and tastes great and I really like the novelty of its unique shape and design, I don't actually find the product itself very moisturising or long lasting, which was a bit of a disappointment.  Luckily, it didn't cost an arm and a leg, so I don't feel too cheated!  

On the same trip to Target I also felt the need to replace my mascara.  Maybelline seem to have around four million different types of mascara in their range over here, and there are even more to choose from in the US!  I settled on Volum' Express Colossal Pumped Up! Waterproof (always waterproof) which doesn't seem to be available in the UK as of yet.  I'm happy with the results of this one, but the brush is a little larger and more unwieldy than what I'm used to (cue an increase in the number of times I poke myself in the eye each morning).

I was very restrained and only made one homeware purchase (again, at Target - seriously, I could have spent many, many more happy hours browsing in there) throughout the whole two weeks, despite a lot of temptation.  It was love at first sight between me and this 20oz Mason Tumbler by Aladdin, with a burnt orange lid and straw.  The tumbler is made of plastic, as well as being reusable and insulated, so I can use it to keep drinks cold.  Probably just water though, as it's a little on the large size for iced coffee!

I made sure we fitted a visit to Bath & Bodyworks into our itinerary so that I could buy some miniature scented candles that are rumoured to be the best around.  Again, a lot of these scents have been made famous by bloggers and YouTubers but are impossible to source at home.  Unfortunately, there definitely wasn't room in my suitcase for their large, three wick candles, so I settled for three miniatures for $10.  The scents I chose were Autumn, Marshmallow Fireside and Leaves (probably the one most raved about by YouTubers!) and I'm looking forward to savouring them during the autumn and winter months.

Last, but definitely not least, I nabbed a bargain pyjama top in the Old Navy sale that perfectly sums up my feelings about running on a treadmill!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Instagram #27:

1. Facetiming our Texan buddy from the Grassmarket.  Ain't technology wonderful?
2. I discovered these amazing burger Converse in Schuh and now desperately want them in my life.
3. A Throwback Thursday post of my sister and me sporting some chic late '90s fashion while on holiday in the USA.

4. Breaking in my Doc Martens and embracing the turned up jean.
5. We managed to make my final bottle of birthday fizz last for a whole three weeks before popping the cork!
6. Our first stop on arrival in New York was Five Guys for burgers.  Pretty sure I'm a proper burger addict now...

7. You know you're having an American hotel breakfast when Froot Loops are on endless supply!
8. Here I am pricking my finger on the top of the Empire State Building.
9. Fanta in the US is reeeeeally orange.  It makes me nervous (even though I'll happily drink Irn Bru without thinking at home).

10. One of many plates at Nori Nori - an amazing sushi buffet restaurant in Flushing, Queens.  I would definitely recommend it if you ever happen to be in the area!
11. We nabbed half price tickets for Matilda the Musical on Broadway and it was an unbelievably good show.
12. Florals, stripes and leopard spots all in one outfit.  Call the fashion police.

13. Delicious Tex Mex food at Cowgirl NYC and (more importantly) incredible $5 frozen margaritas.
14. I spotted this pretty fire escape in the Flatiron District and wished I could live in the building!
15. This eerily accurate pyjama top was reduced in Old Navy, and I knew I had to have it.

16. Today we road tripped to 'Silent Hill' (actually called Centralia, PA) and walked on its abandoned highway, which was surreal and amazing.
17. Our final destination for tonight was Scranton, PA - home of The Office US and also known as the Electric City.

(Remember, you can follow my American adventures via our travel vlogs!  Just click here to see them all or subscribe through YouTube.)

Monday, 6 October 2014

A sleepy Sunday in NYC:

Like most big city breaks, this holiday has been great fun but also a little hectic and tiring.  A combination of jet lag, late nights, early starts and miles of walking really takes it out of you!  Craig and I decided to take yesterday (Sunday) at a slower pace to give ourselves a bit of a rest.  Unfortunately we managed to get horrendously lost once or twice, but aside from that it was an enjoyable, stress free day!

Our first and most anticipated stop was brunch (we intended to go for breakfast, but by the time we made it there it was after 12pm...) at a restaurant called Pies 'n' Thighs in Brooklyn.  Unsurprisingly, this place specialises in sweet pies and fried chicken, but they're also famous for their biscuits (kind of like a flaky, savoury scone) and their donuts.

When Craig and I arrived at Pies 'n' Thighs there were around twenty people standing outside, with a waitress occasionally popping her head out to call out names from a list.  I knew from online research that the place was very popular, so I had been expecting a long wait, or maybe even to be turned away.  We were told it would be about half an hour's wait for a table, so we shuffled off in search of takeaway coffee as getting lost for so long had left us dead on our feet!  True to their word, when we arrived back at Pies 'n' Thighs about thirty minutes later, we were quickly called and escorted to a little table in the middle of the restaurant.

I chose fried chicken (two pieces) and buckwheat waffles, which came with cinnamon butter and baked apples on the top.  This might sound like an odd combination, but it was actually really tasty!  The chicken had an especially lovely flavour.  Craig had fried chicken, a biscuit and home fries, and we both sipped on mimosas (bucks fizz) because I hear that's the done thing to do at brunch.

After eating we were both stuffed, but I wanted to try a donut, which are rumoured to be the best in New York City.  We ordered a couple to go (caramel apple for Craig and pecan butter crunch for me) and headed off in search of the Williamsburg Bridge.  Halfway across, I tucked in to what was undoubtedly the best (and biggest) donut I've ever eaten while enjoying the Manhattan skyline in the sunshine.

The Williamsburg Bridge runs between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and you can drive, cycle or walk over it, depending on how the mood takes you.  It only took us around half an hour to walk across - including time spent admiring the view - and it made a nice change from the subway.

Our next stop indulged Craig's nerdy science side.  Roasting Plant Coffee in Greenwich Village uses a system called the 'Javabot' (designed by their founder) to select and grind coffee beans fresh for you, depending on how you would like your coffee to taste.  All along one wall there are loads of different canisters full of different types of bean, and the Javabot will suck out different kinds to make a completely personalised coffee for you.  As a novice, I opted for the house blend, but I would love to create my own perfect coffee.  Maybe if we were staying longer!

Most relaxing Sundays involve a stroll in the park, and not far from Roasting Plant Coffee there is one of the most unusual parks I think I've ever seen.  The High Line is a disused railway bridge (nearly one and a half miles long) that has been converted into a linear park.  The last section of the High Line was only opened to the public in September, so it was very busy and crowded, but I still really enjoyed visiting a rare slice of greenery within New York city centre.  There are plenty of places to sit (and even eat and drink) along the path, and I can imagine it would be a really lovely way to spend a few hours with a  book on a slightly quieter day.

We rounded off our sleepy Sunday with a movie at the Regal Cinema in Union Square.  We saw the stop motion animation Boxtrolls, which was super cute, before catching the subway back to our hotel.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Food 'n' Stuff:

Hello from New York City!

We've been having an amazing time on our holiday so far, and are slowly getting used to the time difference!  As I mentioned briefly in one of my Hello, Holidays posts, Craig and I have been filming our exploits (also known as 'vlogging') and our first video went up on YouTube today.  You can watch it below (and subscribe to our channel, if you like) to see our first couple of days in NYC, which consisted of a lot of travelling, a fair bit of eating and even some sightseeing!

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Inferior Book Group #9:

Well, well, well - it's been a little while since the official Inferior Design Book Group last met, hasn't it?  Life (well, mostly uni, if I'm honest) definitely got in the way of my reading time between May and August, but since I've had more time to myself this month I've finally managed to finish what should have been June's book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

While I've read all of On the Road, I'm not sure I've exactly processed it yet.  For anyone who might not know, Jack Kerouac was a member of the 'Beat Generation', along with writers like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, and his style tends to lean more towards dense poetry than straightforward story telling.

Based on Kerouac's own life and travels, On the Road (which is set over the course of several years) follows narrator Sal Paradise and a whole host of supporting characters as they repeatedly travel from one side of 1950s America to the other.

Source: here

When I first started reading On the Road, I was surprised by the number of people who told me how much they disliked it.  In fact, I don’t think a single one of my friends or family had a good word to say about this book!  Their collective grievance seemed to lie with the novel’s ‘stream of thought’ narration, but Kerouac’s 'spontaneous prose' writing style didn’t really bother me.  In the beginning, at least, I actually found the story fairly easy to follow and understand, despite the occasional philosophical tangent and a few unfamiliar turns of phrase.  (Amusingly, Kerouac uses the phrase 'hipster' quite a lot, but apparently 1950s hipsters are slightly different to today's equivalent!)

Ironically, much like during a real road trip, the further I got through On the Road, the more bored and irritated I grew with it.  Sal’s travel stories became repetitive and his confusing, abstract metaphors longer, while I found his partner in crime, Dean Moriarty, to be a fairly insufferable character throughout.  To be frank, Dean is a terrible friend and a fairly awful human being - I can’t understand why Sal would hang on his every word for so long!

That being said, I did really enjoy the majority of On the Road, and it was fun to read about Sal’s USA road trips in the run up to my own.  Kerouac's endless descriptions of bustling cities and peaceful countryside (even in a different time period) made me really excited to experience parts of it for myself, and may even have encouraged me to commit to road tripping between New York and Boston in the first place!

The next book on my list (which I've had ready and waiting for months now!) is the true story of Orange is the New Black.  The TV show is based on this book, so I'm excited to find out how many events really happened.

Read May's review here: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Hello, Holidays | Packing for a two week trip:

Source: here

You can all breathe a collective sigh of relief: this is my last post in the Hello, Holidays series.  (However, I will no doubt be writing a little about the trip while we're there and after we get back, so apologies if the subject bores you to death!)  We leave for New York City in THREE DAYS and (as I'm sure you can guess) I'm very excited!  

My last but somewhat mammoth task before we jet off is to finish packing and (while I'm certainly not an expert) I've put together my own personal survival guide for anyone packing for a fortnight.  Hopefully it will help you with your own travel organisation in the future, or at least spark some ideas!

1. Write a list: I'm the type of person who makes to do and reminder lists constantly, but they are especially helpful tools when packing.  Over the last week or so I've slowly started putting clothes and accessories into my suitcase, so - although it might sound trivial - having a list to hand with everything down to the number of pairs of socks I need for the whole trip has been useful.  There's a lot to take for two weeks away, so I've used my list to keep track of what has and hasn't been packed.  If you are likely to forget anything important, write it down and tick it off once it's in your case.  Problem solved!

2. Try before you fly: A few years ago I started attempting to plan full outfits for each day of a trip in advance, rather than just throwing in the right number of tops and jeans and hoping I would look okay when the time came.  It might be slightly more time consuming to organise your packing by outfit, but this way works better for me because it stops me from overpacking (and also from tearing my hair out when I don't like any of the clothes I brought to wear on my holiday!).  Obviously outfits are weather dependent, and sometimes plans or activities change at the last minute, but for the most part it has made my life so much easier. For this trip, I will probably try most of my outfits on before we go to avoid any style related meltdowns when we're stateside.

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3. Embrace 'bagception': Another way to make packing (and living out of a suitcase at the other end) much easier is to use smaller packing bags or pouches to organise your clothes within your larger travel bag.  I bought two sets of the UPPTÄCKA packing bags from IKEA (which come in a set of four different sizes for £7.50) and they have already proved themselves to be very useful for both short and longer trips.  Store all of your tops in one travel pouch, your trousers in another and so on or, alternatively, you could pack by full outfit.  Either way, the need to rake around in the bottom of your suitcase is eliminated.

4. Be a nervous Nellie: I already mentioned this in my hand luggage Hello, Holidays post, but I'm doing my best not to pack any valuables in my suitcase as I'm totally paranoid my luggage will go missing.  Yes, it would be a huge pain if I lost all of my clothes and shoes, but they are covered by our travel insurance and I would be much more upset if more sentimental things (like photos on my laptop, or my diary) were never to be seen again.  Anything that I want to keep an eye on will be going with me in my rucksack on the plane.  Better to be safe than sorry!

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5. Weigh it up: Again, this is probably my inner Girl Scout talking, but I like to be sure that my suitcase is the right weight before leaving for the airport.  For our USA trip the baggage allowance is a hefty 23kg, so it's highly unlikely that we'll go over the limit, but I still picked up an inexpensive Rolson luggage scale (£2.99 from TK Maxx) so we can weigh our bags prior to leaving and also before we come home again.  When travelling with just a small suitcase as hand luggage it's much easier to go over an airline's weight limit, so I would definitely recommend buying a scale for trips like that.

Do you have any top packing tips of your own?