A dab at painting

I haven’t posted in ages! But I have been filling my spare time up with lots of things, including trips away, a new job and farming! I’ve also started painting, after always having a love of art, I finally went out and bought some cheap watercolours and it all went from there, now I have an easel and a big set of paints, and the practice is starting to pay off.

Enjoy!

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Port Lympne and Paignton: A weekend of zoo trips

I haven’t posted anything here in what feels like forever, but I did recently spent a week in by the Kent coast and I thought I’d share some photos. Here I lived a childhood dream – inspired by the child TV show Roar – of visiting Port Lympne zoo and safari park. Once returning to the south west I also visited Paignton Zoo. My family has always visited Paignton zoo, and we’ve always arrived before it opens, in the sunshine or horrible rain, and it’s always nice to return to this familiar and wonderful place. I took possibly far too many photographs of the countless animals.

My highlights include the safari park in Port Lympne, a huge expense of Kent wilderness reflective of the African Savannah, as well as getting up close to a baby gibbon and some cheetahs.

At Paignton I was lucky enough to see some baby lions that played in a pond very close to the viewing window, and two very adorable and cheeky baby orangutans. Paignton is also home to some beautiful giraffes.

If you ever go on a national tour of zoos, or visit either Devon or Kent for your summer holiday, definately check out these wonderful zoos. And not only are they wonderful days out, both contribute to the breeding and conservation of many vulnerable and endangered animals, including Langurs, Przewalski horses and Gorillas.

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The Land of Aus’

Australia. The land down-under. The land of sunshine and beaches. Australia was absolutely stunning and burning hot. I visited Australia for a couple of weeks as part of a longer adventure, and I would love to go back. I stayed mainly within Sydney, and ventured up the Gold Coast to Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay. To be honest, the entire coast of Australia was a surfers paradise, and I burnt to a crisp!

Sydney was a stunning city and filled with things to do and places to visit, though I managed to walk around the whole city in my first day, going through the Botanical Gardens to the Opera House, to the sky tower and down to Darling Harbour. I was completely spent. Which probably explains why I spent most of the following days on the beach! On the next day I walked a beautiful coastal walk from Coogee beach (possibly the best name for a beach I’ve ever heard) to Bondi beach (my friends at home screaming at me for not getting a photo with the famous lifeguards or pretending to drown in order to be saved by one of them). It was a stunning coastline, but my favourite place was this beautiful cove along the way that was wonderful for swimming and cooling off for the rest of the walk (this is pictured below, but I don’t know the name).

The following days were full with a trip to Manly, a wonderful little town visited my boat (what more could you want than a boat bus!) where I ate A LOT of gelato, a trip to the aquarium and Taronga zoo (again, via boat).


To complete the trip I booked a flight up to the Gold Coast, and stayed with a friend’s friend’s family (that barbecued everything and had an amazing outdoor water bed because it is just always sunshine). Byron Bay was by far my favourite place, the beaches were just as beautiful and accompanied with a lovely, laid-like vibe. There were kite festivals, food markets and parades galore. In the end though, I had to make my way back to Sydney in time for my flight over to New Zealand!

And, Australia is full of parrots!

Lady Chatterley’s Layer Cake

As an ode to a wonderful baking book I was recently given, I’ve been baking foods inspired by novels. This novel bake is in reference to Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and was delish.

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If you want to give it a go, here is what you would need:

7 ounces each of self-raising flour, sugar and softened butter
3 or 4 eggs, whatever weighs the closest to 7 ounces
Tsp of baking powder
That’s it! If you want to add a little vanilla, a tsp would do and it would taste great

For the icing and decoration, you’d need:

300/ 400ml of double or whipping cream
A couple tablespoons of icing sugar
A load of jam, at least 6 tablespoons, and lots of berries (I defrosted a bag of summer fruits)
I used raspberry jam but any jam, like strawberry or blackberry, would be delicious as well

Here’s what I did:

To begin, I took the butter out of the fridge to soften, preheated the oven to about 190degrees and greased and lined my cake (8 inches)
I first, like any standard cake, mixed together the sugar and butter until nice and fluffy
Then whisked the eggs and added them in bit by bit whilst whisking, with a bit flour
Then, I sifted the remaining flour and baking powder into the bowl and folded in until just combined

I had to bake my cakes individually as I only have one tin but if you have two tins, go ahead and put them both in at the same time

I split the mixture (though I didn’t do a great job) in half and baked the first for 20 minutes until the sponge was springing back and had come away from the tin
The next was a little larger, and baked for about 25 minutes

The icing I whipped up and left in the fridge to keep cool

After letting each sponge cool completely I cut one cake in half to give me 3 layers, and spread each with jam
Each layer got a good amount of the whipped cream, and a generous helping of berries
This cake would pretty easily make a 4 layered cake too!

As mine was only 3 layers, I had cream left over so topped the cake with cream and berries and finished with some icing sugar

I think this novel inspired cake would make a great addition to any summer party!

 

 

My Best Summer Reads

One of my favourite things about long, hot summer days is whiling away the hours in the blissful sun with a good book. If you are scouring the shelves for a book this summer but you can’t find one that just screams ‘Read me!’ then this list may help. It’s only short, and I realise it is basically made up of books by the same author (I just couldn’t pick one), but I loved each book and they were each so different.

Book Number One

The Goldfinch

 

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This is sort of a biography about Theo, a young boy living in New York city who absolutely adores his mother. However, in the wake of a tragedy Theo ends up with two prize possessions that ultimately shape his life. I don’t want to give much more away, but this is a huge book that follows Theo through his life, travels, friendships and love. This novel is written absolutely beautifully, everything is described in such rich, intricate ways to really absorb you into Theo’s entire world. It’s long, and a book filled with countless story lines of Theo’s life. I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Book Number Two

The Little Friend

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The Goldfinch set me on a road of determination, I just had to read Donna Tartt’s other novels, and I’m sure if you read just one you’ll understand why. The novel is wonderful, and follows Harriet. Much like Theo, Harriet has experienced her share of tragedy, but in a different way to Theo. Whilst Theo was a seemingly isolated and almost frustrating character, I really rooted for Harriet. She is surrounded by a mix of wonderful, hilarious female characters and is such an adventurous and strong-minded character. The Little Friend follows several separate characters and their stories along the way, that ultimately shape Harriet’s story. Again, with great credit to Donna Tartt, this novel is beautifully written. The characters are themselves people and their world completely becomes yours. It’s exciting and mysterious, and would make a great novel for your summer read.

Book Number Three

Me Before You

If you are looking for a more romantic novel, I very recently read Me Before You, written my Jojo Moyes. You may have heard of it as it is about to become a film (all the more reason to read it!). It’s a lovely story that follows Lou. Lou is bouncing between jobs to support her family, and ultimately ends up working with Will Traynor. Will was unfortunately paralysed, and has a very cynical, pessimistic view on the world. In comparison, Lou is this enthusiast, quirky woman who you can’t help but love. This book is truly heart-warming, and has made me very excited for the film release.

Book Number Four

The Secret History

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This is the last Donna Tartt novel (she has only written three, sadly). This is again very different to her previous two books and is told my Richard. Richard recounts his life as a Classics student in Vermont. The story begins with Richard recounting, briefly, a terrible event in his past, and the rest of the novel unwraps and tries to decipher why this terrible event ever happened in the first place. This novel is filled with sharp, beautiful and intelligent characters, with a lot of sexual and narcotic exploration. The most provoking thing about this novel is that, given it’s almost confessional, guilty approach, you leave the story almost completely understanding why such a terrible thing happened. You question yourself, like if I was Richard, would I do the same? If you love a murder mystery, and want to read something that is not at all a traditional ‘whodunit’ novel, this is definately the one for you.

Book Number Five

Sharp Objects

Now this is a more traditional mystery novel. Written by Gillian Flynn, it follows Camille, a journalist in Chicago who is sent back to her tiny and ultimately strange and isolated town to follow the mystery of an abducted little girl. Camille lives here with her family, and ends up trying to solve the mystery of who took the little girl, rather than just writing about it. It is filled with very interesting and some very strange characters. It’s quick, and fast-paced and to be honest, once I was about half way through I just didn’t want to stop reading. I had to find out!

Book Number Six

Uprooted

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I’ve just started the novel but I love it so much I couldn’t leave it off the list. It is a fantasy novel filled with magic. It follows Agnieszka, who lives in this sweet little village that is surrounded by a dangerous and mysterious wood. Anyone lost to the wood is either lost forever or changed. To protect themselves from the wood they are overlooked by a powerful wizard, known as The Dragon. However, they must pay the price for his protection, and this price is one girl taken every 10 years. Though he returns the girls, and never touches them, it is believed that this fate is even worse that being taken by the wood. I won’t say much more, but I already love Agnieszka who already like a brave and caring character. This story is so engrossing, and if you love fantasy this really is the one for you.

I hope this list has inspired you, and if you have any recommendations of your own I’d love to hear them!

Handing in a Dissertation

Today marked the day that I handed in my research project for my degree. Having spent a great deal of time (more like blood, sweat and tears) on this piece of work and finally getting to hand it over felt like such a momentous occasion.

13076928_1174596379217942_2744325303734330556_nI guess everyone can relate, you work hard on something that at the start may not have felt like much but in the end feels like your handing over your own child. This process is made even more difficult when you know how important this, relatively small, piece of work is for your entire degree classification. That even though you have spent 3 years working, this is what counts. But reaching the end of anything that you work so hard on deserves a bit of celebration! For me, it was a Costa date where I indulged in a delicious mint choc chip cooler and raspberry and white chocolate muffin – I highly recommend

 

 

Pick-Me-Ups for a bad day

Having a bad day, here’s a list of things I do to brighten things up

Have a sing along
Make your own playlist, find one online, it’s up to you. As long as you can sing along you’ll be smiling in no time

Take a shower
You could even take your playlist because shower acoustics are top-notch
Wash your hair, or shave those legs, or use your favourite smelling shower gels to indulge all senses

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Sit down, smile and apply some make-up
Might not work everyone but for me I feel much more confident with make-up on, and if you do to I can certainly recommend this
Maybe even accompany your routine with some chocolate and tell yourself how amazing you are in the mirror

Physical activity
Anything from dancing to your playlist, to a run or some at-home yoga it will get your blood pumping and make your body feel good

Go outside
Anywhere beautiful and green with flowers or swans is my favourite (or the beach if you live close enough). The fresh air will feel great and you can see how wonderful it is to be a part of a beautiful world

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Read a book
Need to escape? Want to go on an adventure? The only answer to me. Best taken with blankets, candles and a cuppa

12338996_995496860493242_1182677725_n(1)Talk to someone
Ring a friend, grab a coffee, call your Grandma, talking to someone about their day will make you feel better for sure and if you’ve been waiting to meet up with that friend for ages then that’s something ticked off your list too

Watch something funny
Friends, Parks and Recreation and Gilmore Girls are my personal favourites but if I really want to laugh I love youtube videos and Whose Line Is It Anyway

Do something you’re good at
Whatever it is, it will remind you how great you are

Remember, you are kind, you are smart, you are important!

Anything I’ve missed that you think helps?

Life is a Beach

What more would you want than a 3 day weekend sipping cocktails and eating pancakes under the beautiful sun. Sri Lanka has gorgeous white sand beaches and an ocean filled with turtles and whales.

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A statue built depicting the height of the tsunami

Day One: Turtles. Spent the day travelling around in the bus all the way to a town named Hikaduwa, home to a wonderful turtle sanctuary. These guys have dedicated their life to saving injured turtles, hatching babies safely and releasing them into the wild. First though, I took a trip to a ladies house where she had set up this wonderful tribute to the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami. Though harrowing, with walls covered floor to ceiling in children’s depictions of the big wave, photographs and chilling, upsetting stories from those who survived, if you ever find yourself in the South of Sri Lanka, this is worth a visit. But plan to go to the turtle sanctuary afterwards, because it really does cheer you up.

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Day Two: Today was more or less a beach today, lounging around reading and drinking a lot of milkshakes. I also visited a lovely town called Galle, a completely walled town much like York or Canterbury. Absolutely beautiful. In the evening me and the friends I was with wondered  along the shore that was littered with bars and restaurants. Sri Lanka’s Ararak (much like whiskey or rum) was great in cocktails.

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Day Three: A very early start for me because I had booked myself onto a whale tour! I wasDSCN1737
extremely tired and I think I remember someone waking me up when we got out far enough into the ocean. Before long we saw pods of small of dolphins and got pretty close to some wonderful blue whales. I had always dreamed of seeing whales, though the experience was a little marred by being extremely seasick. Though it really was great, and I got some well-deserved pancakes and a pot of tea upon my return to the beach.

 

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