Saturday, 31 May 2014

Inferior Book Group #8:

I'm sure you'll be hugely relieved to see that the Inferior Book Group is back after a month's hiatus!  Not really, but it did feel good to tick another book off my list after slacking last month.  It's nearly getting to the point where I've got through enough of my existing stash that I can even think about buying new books (woo!) but I do have a few classics to read before I can justify it.

During May I finally read the copy of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest I've had on my shelf for the last four years.  Someone at work noticed me reading it and asked: 'Is that one of those books you should read before you die?'  And, yeah, it kind of is.  But that doesn't mean (as I usually assume about those kind of books) that it's boring or a chore to read.  In fact, I loved every minute of this novel, and raced through it in record time, but that doesn't mean it was an 'easy' read.

Source: here

Although Kesey was an accomplished author, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (published in 1962) is undoubtedly his most famous piece of work.  As you probably already know, the story follows the events inside a psychiatric hospital as a new and unusual patient arrives to shake things up.  The book's narrator (an endearing Native American friendly giant) is believed to be a deaf mute by everyone around him, but is actually the insightful eyes, ears and voice of  the ward.  Through him, Kesey delivers an impressive combination of humour and emotion whilst constantly asking the novel's most important question - what exactly constitutes 'crazy'?

There is a constant battle going on between the ward's patients and its staff, particularly one tyrannical nurse.  I definitely understood and sympathised with this type of frustrating power struggle which, ultimately, the patients never had a chance of winning.  Everyone has felt this way, whether it's at home, at work, or even in terms of government - so much injustice going on around you and no way whatsoever to change it.

While One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was enthralling and also very funny in places, I did find some of its subject matter hard to stomach.  The staff at the hospital still administer shock treatment and lobotomy in order to 'cure' their patients - barbaric methods that Kesey's narrator points out were old fashioned even at that time.  I found it particularly upsetting to read about the after effects of the treatments, especially knowing that so many real people suffered in this way in the past.  I wouldn't wish that on anybody.

The novel is melancholy in nature, but I came away from it feeling strangely uplifted and  I would definitely urge anyone who hasn't read it to give it a go.

For June it will be the turn of another bucket list classic: On the Road by Jack Kerouac.  Hopefully I can live vicariously through this story and escape while I'm stuck in front of a computer screen writing my dissertation!

Read April's review here: The Great Gatsby

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Mademoiselle Macaron, Edinburgh:

Where did macarons come from?  There we were just a few years ago, quite content with our Penguin biscuits and fairy cakes (remember when they weren't 'cupcakes'?), and suddenly this new 'must have' delicacy was blowing up blogs and Instagram feeds.  Macarons really are the most photogenic of sweet treats, aren't they?  Is it a biscuit?  Is it a cake?  Is it a meringue?  Whatever it is, the macaron is essentially the Chanel handbag of the bakery world: French, timeless and in high demand.

Source: here

Undoubtedly the first person to seriously bring macarons to my attention would have been my oldest friend, Emily.  As well as being a hugely talented artist, she is also an amazing self taught chef and baker who has actually mastered the making of delicious macarons - something that not all that many professionals can say!  In fact, those beauties in the photo above are Emily's handiwork.

On a trip to Paris a few years ago she took me to the famous luxury bakery, Ladurée, and that was where I officially jumped on the bandwagon and purchased some eyewateringly expensive macarons of my very own.  I have since discovered that the much cheaper McCafé macarons sold at McDonald's over there aren't bad either...

But there isn't a McCafé in Edinburgh, and there isn't a Ladurée either, so where does one go for a macaron fix in Scotland's capital?  As of this month, Mademoiselle Macaron on Grindlay Street is your answer.

After first learning about Mademoiselle Macaron through a uni pal (Melissa) Craig and I trotted along to the newly opened premises earlier this week to check it out.  The shop is adorable, both outside and in.  There are little Parisian touches everywhere, and being served by the lovely Caroline (of La Robe á Caro) with a genuine French accent made the experience feel all the more authentic.  Caroline's beautiful dresses are on display in the shop too, giving visitors endless pretty things to gawk at.

 You can choose to either sit in and savour your macarons with a drink, or take them to go (there are even special take away coffee cups that can house a couple of macarons on top - so cute!).  We snagged eight delicious macarons to take away - and promptly scarfed them about ten minutes later - but choosing flavours was tricky.  There are a lot to choose from!  I will definitely be back in the future for some coffee and to spend more time in Edinburgh's little slice of Paris.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Mi-Pac Cosmos rucksack:

I followed through on my recent wish list post and bought myself a new rucksack for my dissertation and documentary travels.  Of course, the bag I chose in the end wasn't on my wish list at all.  Not long after writing that post I stumbled upon the Mi-Pac backpack in the cosmos print on the Urban Outfitters website and instantly fell in love.  I ended up purchasing it on Amazon (and saved myself a couple of pence) but at £30ish this rucksack was among the cheapest I've seen that matched my needs.

As I've already mentioned previously, I was specifically looking for something that had a secure and protected space for my laptop, as well as plenty of space for books, cables, bits and bobs of camera equipment and even clothes if I need to stay overnight somewhere during filming.  This backpack has all of that, and I'm really happy with the quality and the pretty print - it's perfect!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Crazy plate lady:

Today I (gingerly) made the first step back onto the interior improvement bandwagon.  I still have plenty of fairly big projects I want to carry out in our flat over the summer - including rejigging the spare bedroom and FINALLY covering the bloomin' sofa - but I thought I'd start small, just to ease myself in gently.

So, since I seem to have become the kind of person that collects decorative plates, I hung them on our living room wall for the world to see.  I'll admit they look a little odd in the photo below, dwarfed by that big, wonky frame collage on a huge expanse of white wall, but they look good in person (I promise) and I'm sure they will soon be joined by some other ceramic friends.

You will probably recognise the chameleon plate from when it used to hang above the fireplace, but it has since been replaced by my wooden stag head.  The plate is still available from Anthropologie (it's part of the Natural World Dessert Plate line) and I would love to buy a few more from the same collection at some point.

The Jimbob Art bear plate was a lovely Christmas gift from my best friend, and I think she'll be happy to see that it's finally out of the box!  The designer does all sorts of other ceramics, and they are available to buy in his online shop.

As the more observant among you might have already noticed, one of these things is not quite like the others.  That's because one of the items I hung on my plate wall is actually a miniature horse's head, made by my very talented friend!  Fans of Parks and Recreation may recognise him as wonder horse Li'l Sebastian, isn't he cute?

I used my trusty adhesive plate hangers to hang both plates and Li'l Sebastian, and they worked perfectly, as always! 

Finally, I added a black and white chevron Urban Outfitters photo frame I've had lying around for a while (which sadly isn't on the website anymore) to the frame collage, and popped an adorable little print from The Grey Earl inside.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

What I'm watching #5:

Source: here

Apologies in advance, because I have been watching a LOT of documentaries recently.  Who better to kick off with than the modern day king of documentary, Louis Theroux?  Man, I love him.  I love him so much that I even shut down Netflix and dusted off my actual television set to watch his most recent BBC series, Louis Theroux's LA Stories.  It's a brief but brilliant trio of documentaries set in LA exploring (as Louis does so well) the human side to some pretty messed up stuff that goes on in this world.  Stray dogs, terminal illness, sex offenders: all the bases are covered.  I'm being flippant, but I appreciate now more than ever that the man is a brilliant journalist, and I spent the majority of these three episodes on the verge of tears.  Powerful, controversial and thought provoking stuff that everyone should watch if they can.

Source: here

I'm not too proud to admit that when I stumbled upon The Queen of Versailles in Netflix's documentary section (a weird and wonderful place) I was expecting something along the lines of the Real Housewives... series.  You know - that particular brand of questionable yet addictive 'reality' TV that makes your brain dribble out of your ears.  What I had actually discovered was a compelling and brutally honest (not to mention award winning) documentary, made by Lauren Greenfield in 2012.  It follows the story of the mind bogglingly rich Siegel family and their plan to build the largest and most expensive family home in America (modelled on the Palace of Versailles, hence the title).  Everything goes a bit wrong when the economy begins to suffer and the Seigels start running out of money.

The Queen of Versailles really stood out for me because Greenfield doesn't portray David Siegel and his wife Jackie as billionaire Bond villains, the way I think a lot of filmmakers would.  She captures their good qualities as well as their flaws, and makes the viewer realise that the Siegels are human and (very occasionally) are even capable of being humble. Over the course of the documentary, you can see the physical and mental strain all that money puts on a person, a family and a marriage.  You may even end up glad you aren't a billionaire.  Maybe...

Source: here

Okay, okay, this is the last documentary, I promise.  Now, I'm sure this isn't normal behaviour, but I find learning about serial killers and other scary things absolutely fascinating, despite being a huge scaredy cat.  So (again, on Netflix) I found Cropsey and decided it sounded like my kind of thing.  Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio went back to their hometown of Staten Island in 2009 to investigate the urban legend of 'Cropsey' (the name given to the local 'boogeyman' when they were growing up) and whether there was any truth to the stories.  Thankfully, I didn't find this documentary all that scary (apart from the bit where the filmmakers decided to go for a walk in an abandoned asylum at night... why?!) but it was certainly captivating and, at times, quite sad.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the writers of American Horror Story: Asylum may have taken some inspiration from this documentary and its story, so if you're a fan this might be for you!

Source: here

Craig and I seriously only just started watching Suits on Sunday, and we've already finished the first season.  I'd heard a lot of good things about this show so (after finishing The Office US yet again) we thought we'd give it a try.  To be honest, the first episode didn't sell it to me.  The writing seemed kind of cheesy and the acting wooden, but somehow it managed to redeem itself, and now I am totally hooked.

Suits follows the story of the brilliant but misguided Mike Ross, who (through a strange series of events) is employed at a top Manhattan law firm by a pretentious (but actually quite cool and successful) lawyer called Harvey Specter.  It isn't a laugh a minute affair, but if you give this show a chance it will reward you with engaging plot lines and the occasional genuine guffaw.  (Mike does have a seriously unrealistic number of love interests though, I'm just saying...)

What have you been watching lately?

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Instagram #22:

1. I finally had time for a haircut and chopped off my dead, blonde ends.
2. Caught in the act of being antisocial on the way to the SurGE magazine launch.
3. My lovely award from the evening (which someone spilled a drink on...).  I'm not sure how much use I would actually be on a desert island, but it's a very nice thought!

4. The amazing light up dance floor at The Voodoo Rooms where we celebrate our launch.  You can read more about the magazine and the launch night here if you are intrigued!
5. Outside the Barrowland Ballroom before we saw the ever amazing Brand New.
6. A very special trip to Lovecrumbs.  I had requested the brownie meringue pie in advance on Twitter, and it was waiting for me when I arrived!  I love that place.

7. Basking in Edinburgh's Botanic Garden on a beautifully sunny day with my sister.  Come back, sun!
8. I discovered the American food section in our local Tesco, and treated myself to a peanut butter Snickers.
9. Almost an identical photo to last year from another Easter egg hunt in my parents' back garden.  You're never too old!

10. Erm, remember that sunny day...?  Here's the rain clinging to the window on a gloomy morning at work.
11. I finally took my mammoth penny jar to the bank and got over £20 out of it - not bad!
12. Craig and I continued our crusade to find Edinburgh's (nay, Scotland's) best burger and hit up the newly opened Burger. just down the road in Fountainbridge.  Their burgers (and fries) were delicious, and I was really impressed!

13. Just horsing around with two of my favourite lads.
14. This is an ironic selfie, I promise, just to illustrate that I am pretty much always wearing the same top, make up and hair when I take selfies...
15. Deep in the depths of despair only a week ago as I tried to cram for exams.  My neon stationery kept me cheery(ish).

16. Re-reading my undergrad dissertation for inspiration/procrastination purposes and finding a fair bit of it quite funny.  I'm not sure if that was the point of the exercise, mind you.
17. A motley crew after an exam, drowning our sorrows!
18. My closing interest on a savings account.  I had to laugh when they handed it to me...