Monday, 29 June 2015

Spotlight on Pinterest: Style // glasses

I am a very big fan of Pinterest, I had to uninstall it from my phone recently because I would spend hours every evening pinning and pinning bits and bobs from the internet that I love.  I'm actually pretty proud of my Pinterest boards so I thought I would start a weekly Monday feature sharing my favourite ones with you starting with: Style // glasses.

I have four eyes

You may have noticed I'm a wearer of glasses.  They first entered by life aged 14 and I wasn't too chuffed about it, like most teenagers I hated anything that would draw attention to me.  It's fair to say I have a different opinion about statement glasses now and try to get ones that stand out.  I hate glasses with big logos on the arms but seem to favour large Coronation Street style frames at the moment.  Take a look at some of the glasses I've pinned to my Style // glasses board and send me any pins you think I might like I love receiving pins from Pinterest folks!

Follow Anna's board Style // glasses on Pinterest.

Sunday, 28 June 2015


Taking an holistic approach

I've been pondering this health and fitness thing recently, specifically my reluctance to diet.  My first thoughts were that I had to take a mind over matter approach to my own laziness and that my reluctance to diet was weak willed.  Upon reflection I think my reluctance stems from the knowledge that diets are short term, you shed the weight, you feel amazing, you tell yourself you will never go back to how you were before and yet... Diets are often event orientated (slimming for a wedding or holiday) but once those events pass it is easy to slip back into old habits.

This is why step five is going to be so key, mindfulness.  Being mindful of the long term goal of a healthy and fit lifestyle, knowing that you're not aiming for a short term fix but a lifelong change in habits.  

Lightbulb moment

At work a couple of weeks ago as part of a staff festival event Sally Gunnell came to give a presentation about healthy eating and I had a real light bulb moment.  For years I would reach for the weight watchers cereal bars or bottled smoothies thinking I was making healthy choices, and don't get me wrong in comparison to eating a Mars bar usually you are making a healthier choice but the simple answer is to try and eat food that has not been processed at all.  PING!  Oh yeah, I can't believe that hadn't sunk in until now.  So instead of pasta or gnocchi have rice or sweet potatoes (not all carbs are the devil), instead of fruit leather just eat the fresh fruit!  Duh.

Calorie crew?  Fitness friends?  

Whatever term best suits, but basically surrounding yourself with people who will challenge your choices and keep you on track.  I have a friend at work who when she sees me reach for a snack or contemplate a biscuit she will challenge me on it. Because of her actions (and my own willpower of course) I am building a habit around questioning each food choice rather than mindlessly grabbing the free pastry or biscuit just because it's there.  My friend Sarah and I keep one another on track at the gym pushing one another to attend when we might be wavering, it helps that on a Friday before yoga we get there early and take stupid photos and selfies to track progress!

What habits or tips work well for you I would love to know? 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Mewster: Master of Humans

I realised the other day that I 'introduced' Mewster back in March but hadn't actually written any further posts about the furry little loon cat, so lets remedy that here.

Who owns who?

It is safe to say that Mewster owns us and not the other way round.  When we first got her she was a quiet little rescue cat, we could barely get a peep out of her but over the years she has found her voice and uses it to manipulate us daily.

She has comic timing and knows when she is being spoken about, she will meep or meow at just the right time in a conversation and has a range of cat sounds to indicate what she wishes us to provide for her (usually food).

Cuteness is a tool of manipulation

Her thing at the moment it to dig around in the ashes of our neighbours BBQs for meaty scraps, she then comes home and walks over the sofa or any light coloured surface.  You can see that she has white paws so struggles to hide the evidence of her misdemeanour's but will then give you a little kiss on the arm or nuzzle up against you and of course all is forgiven.

She has learnt simple tricks like giving high fives, and on command jumping on your shoulder to become parrot cat.  She patrols the garden and house, strutting back in proudly when she has chased a neighbour cat off our patch and has protected her humans from this terrible invasion.

Master of derp

She isn't all sleek cat though, she is a clumsy little thing, when you're sat in the living room and she is running about upstairs it sounds like you have a rouge pony jumping around up there.  She can be super creepy as well, you'll get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, switch the light on and she'll be sat in the sink watching you.  She stares at Sam for ten minutes or so at a time never pulling her gaze away, thank goodness she doesn't do it to me because it looks like she is reading his thoughts which are most likely 'why is that damn cat staring at me?'.

So that's Mewster, we wouldn't be without her.  When I was on holiday I missed her little face a lot, when she became super clingy on my return I was not so secretly pleased that she had missed me as much as I had missed her.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Wardrobe wishlist

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7

The allotment edition

Internal monologue whilst choosing items for this post: *don't pick a smock, don't pick a smock* so what do I do - I only go and pick a bloody smock!  Damn it.

I used to wear mostly jeans and ratty old t-shirts to the allotment but over the years have moved more towards dresses.  This is not in an attempt to be glamorous on the plot or anything but dresses allow more freedom of movement which when you're digging and weeding is really useful.  Pockets are a bonus and for the summer months anything that covers your shoulders to protect from sunburn (how old do I sound?).

Essential attire
  • A decent pair of sunglasses are a must, the ones above are made of wood I NEED them!
  • Wellies are another essential, I've actually got a pair that I've had for over ten years that only cost me £3.50 in the first place and despite wearing them all year round on the plot there is no sign of them giving up on me which is great!  If they were to give up on me I think I would need to fuel my addiction to stripes with these wellibobs, the ankle height appeals as you're not shifting the extra weight of a full sized boot around (after four or more hours working on the plot you feel that extra weight!).
  • Although I haven't included them in this wishlist a hat and a decent pair of gloves are a must.  I wear a soft leather pair of gloves as they are sturdy and allow me to get in amongst the brambles without damaging myself, if you're not keen on leather sturdy cotton are also good but might restrict your movement if you get too big a pair.
Essential extras
  • Is a mug an essential extra?  Personally I think this spaceman mug is :)
  • Anyone who has worked outside during those cold winter months will know that you need to take care of your hands, I don't think I will ever grow out of loving the satsuma range at The Body Shop.  I've loved it since I was a teenager and still love it now.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The view from 39a

Oh hello again nature

Whilst I enjoyed my time away in Boston and NYC immensely returning to the Shire and to the allotment was truly awesome.  I'd only been away two weeks and the grass had shot up to about hip height I couldn't believe it!

Rather than get demoralised by it we got the strimmers out and cut it all back, I've laid the grass out on pallets in the sun to dry out, the hope is I will be able to use it for mulching the strawberries next year.  It will probably have to be stored in the polytunnel over winter to keep it dry but that is a potential saving right there (I know hay isn't expensive but it's an experiment in recycling and re-purposing.... I'll let you know how it goes).

Here are a few more updates from the plot:

Neighbours become good friends?

No.  Our plot neighbours are a pain in the arse, they haven't done anything on their side of the plot since May, the sad little broad beans they put in have been abandoned and the spinach they left in the plot is taller than me and has gone to seed (I look forward to having spinach pop up on our side of the plot next year then).  It seems such a shame that there are people on the waiting list champing at the bit to get a plot and there are people like our plot neighbours who are stopping them from using the land to it's full advantage.  If the council think they can claw back unprofitable allotment land due to lack of use they will and then we all lose out.  (Rant over.)

The plot as the classroom

Every single year the plot teaches us what we can do better and how to manage what we grow a little more efficiently, this year has been no different.  Here are a few things we have learnt:
  • Strawberries: every year put a new plant or two in to ensure a continuous crop.  We shoved some plants in three years ago they fruited wonderfully and we carried home bags and bags of strawberries to make into jam but of course the little plants have a three year fruiting life span.  We've put new plants in this year but won't have the crop levels we've enjoyed in the past which is a real shame because in previous years we've made enough jam to see us through until the next strawberry season with enough to spare to give away as presents.  Each year the plants will give off runners which will in turn form new plants we've had mixed success with these, I would recommend placing the runners in pots of compost whilst they're still attached to the mother plant, then when they're strong enough cutting them off and over wintering them in a polytunnel or greenhouse.
  • Corn: I tried growing corn out on the plot the first couple of years we had an allotment and they just didn't fruit very well.  This year however I thought I would give it one more try, of the nine seeds I tried to germinate only three made it but I've put them into the polytunnel and they seem to be doing well.  Plant them close together so they can pollinate one another and water generously everyday if you can.  I'll let you know how I get on with these...
  • Hoe: The hoe is your best friend.  Once you've done all of that back breaking work digging out weeds just spend ten minutes or so every single visit to the plot giving the soil a quick hoe to keep the weeds down, if you don't they'll come back in no time!  Plus hoeing is a lot less effort than digging in the long run. 
Do you ever have the feeling you're being watched?

I'm not a huge fan of anything slimey, or scaley so frogs and slow worms freak me out but I have to recognise the benefits of having them around the plot as they eat the slugs and snails that destroy our crops.  I was in the polytunnel yesterday potting on our sunflowers, moved a bag of compost and had this little fella leap out at me, happily there was no one else in the polytunnel to hear the litany of uncouth language that poured out of me.  I popped the bag of compost back and when I was watering the veg gave the patch I found him in a little sprinkle to encourage him to stick around. 

Well I'm off to a car boot sale this afternoon, then a bit of time on the plot followed by an evening celebrating my friend's birthday.  Not too shabby a Saturday, what are you up to this weekend?

Friday, 12 June 2015

Wayfaring the World

I won't wibble on too much longer about my time in New York, I'm having to resist the temptation to post every steak and milkshake photo I took whilst I was there (seriously good food at every turn).

Next on my New York list was Coney Island.....


I think I was looking forward to Coney Island the most out of the day trips we had planned, I anticipated lots of kitsch and man alive it delivered!

Check out the hamburger man and the Wonder Wheel!  I couldn't find a penny squasher machine (I started collecting them last year when we were in San Diego and now I'm obsessed with finding the machines!) which was disappointing but the tat shops were golden!

Whoa you're not getting me on THAT!

The spectacle of the place was amazing, so much colour and noise, my brother and I were snapping photos every second step but some of those rides were looking russssssssssty, there was no way you were going to get me on one of those especially following the very recent news of the rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers.  

Sad sharks

A short walk along the beach from Coney Island was the New York Aquarium so we thought we would pay a visit (plus Clare had visited a couple of days beforehand and told me there was a penny squasher there so I had to go).  Usually I love aquariums but this one didn't quite hit the mark, in fairness to them a lot of the exhibits were closed for refurbishment so there wasn't an awful lot to see but the sharks were in a murky looking tank making it tricky to see them, is it just me or does the shark in the photo below look kinda fed up?

  • Don't bother going to Coney Island if it's raining they won't open the rides and you just won't have the same experience
  • Leave plenty of time to explore, it takes about an hour from Manhattan to get to Coney Island via subway (take the Aquarium stop rather than the Coney Island stop it's more straightforward to get to the park from the Aquarium station).  We didn't leave enough time. I would have liked a whole day to explore in full the Broadwalk and area surrounding Coney Island,
  • The Aquarium was being refurbished when we went there so not a lot of it was open so I don't think we got the best impression of it.  That said it was very small and for the entry price is unlikely to keep the kids entertained for an afternoon.
  • Visit the Brooklyn Beach Shop it has the BEST Coney Island stuff, really great clothing and gifts, not just tat either stuff you really want to buy for people (and yourself or course!)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Wayfaring the World

And playtime begins!

That glorious moment at the end of a conference when you've completed your last meeting, you're dead on your feet, you've been working long days and you have a week of holiday in New York ahead of you.  Yeeeeeeeah it's wine time!

I took the Amtrak from Boston down to New York where I met my brother for a week of theatre going, steak eating, cocktail drinking, sight-seeing goodness!  We stayed just off 8th Avenue near Madison Square gardens, a three block walk from Penn Station where the Amtrak came in so that was perfect!  The area was a little rough around the edges but still very touristy with loads of really great places to eat and a main shopping street just around the corner (perfect for me).

I've split my New York trip into a few posts as there is a lot to write about.  To start with?  Sleep No More, an immersive theatre experience by theatre company Punchdrunk, I wrote about their London based production The Drowned Man here on my old blog.  Anyone that knows me will know what a game changer The Drowned Man was for me so I was really excited to see Sleep No More which is based on Macbeth.  (By the way this post does not contain spoilers so you're safe to read on.)

Side note: Immersive theatre takes many different forms including free roaming theatre like Sleep No More where you can drift about the building and sets as you wish following actors and storylines or just having a look around the various sets.  Promenade theatre is where you are led around the action but it usually takes place over several different rooms, I'm sure there are many, many other variations as well but they're the two types I have experienced.

Gallow Green

Sleep No More is run by a separate company to Punchdrunk who originally set it up, they've made it a commercial enterprise by adding a rooftop bar - Gallow Green and a restaurant - The Heath to the same building as the play.  Needless to say each location was achingly cool, on Sunday we went to Gallow Green for brunch, the food was amazing and the location as you can see was stunning.  It was such a hot day but sitting up there with a breeze and a cocktail really took the edge off the jetlag for my brother and the post conference energy slump I was experiencing.

Gallow Green was accessed via an old wooden elevator past this display, up the steps to the roof, how perfect is that?  I love the rails and having greenery all around in the middle of the city.

Manderley Bar

You start and end your Sleep No More experience in the Manderley Bar.  The bar is all red velvet curtains, champagne and actors drifting about in stunning costume, at the end of the evening there would be a band playing it had a very speak-easy vibe to it.  On the first night we got caught in one of the most epic thunderstorms I have ever experienced we were soaked from head to toe so when I was offered a champagne cocktail in the Manderley Bar I readily handed over my money, grateful for the fizzy goodness.  

The play

I tried to avoid any spoiler groups before the show as I remembered how the unknown element of The Drowned Man had been one of the best parts.  My friend Charlotte had been to see Sleep No More a couple of weeks before me and she loved it, despite being soaked through following the thunderstorm and there being a pushy crowd it was a great show.  We went back three more times during the course of the week each show having a completely different atmosphere to the previous one, the crowd being the biggest influence on whether or not you had a good show.  During the show you are sometimes chosen for a one-to-one performance, over the course of the week I had three one-to-ones with different characters, my favourite being with the red witch (whose name I have been told on more than one occasion but I cant' remember!).

The Heath

So on our last night we headed to The Heath for dinner after the play.  Decked out in a similar fashion to the Manderley Bar there was a dark, smoky atmosphere with taxidermy crows hanging from the ceiling and a live band playing in the background.  One down side was we were put by the kitchen (obviously the comfy clothes that are required for running around a five floor building weren't quite up to scratch for the classiness of The Heath!) but the food and wine were really good and it was definitely the perfect way to round off our trip.


  • If you have time see Sleep No More, if you have a little extra time see it more than once.  The action takes place all over the building and even the most athletic audience member will never be able to see everything.  By visit four I was still seeing new things and finding new rooms
  • Go for brunch at Gallow Green, I believe it's only available on Sundays, we walked in and got a table but I think booking is recommended.  It is pricey but the location and atmosphere make it worth it, plus it's the perfect location to dress up a bit if you enjoy that kind of thing (I turned up in trainers and felt like a total loser!)
  • During the play don't always go with the crowd, I frequently tried to get away from the hordes and found action taking place with few or no other audience members around.
  • Don't be shy at the bar, I was typically British and expected to be served in order but the squeeky wheel gets the oil, make yourself known!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Wayfaring the world


Oh hey!  I haven't been around for a while because I've had the immense privilege of doing some travelling for work and pleasure over the last couple of weeks, my places of destination?  Boston and New York!  As you may have guessed this post covers Boston, we'll get to New York later in the week.

First impressions?

Boston architecture is something else, there is clearly a strong European influence but with American scale thrown in for good measure.  Red brick and intricate detail are the go-to architectural features, you spend a lot of your time with your neck craned looking up at the roofs, door and window edging, brickwork and elaborate window box displays.  

Boston common where the above swan boats can be found is a treat, to take a ride on one of these bad boys was only a couple of dollars and remarkably they are propelled by just one person pedalling... typically a teenage girl who looked as if she had never seen carbs let alone ever eaten any.  Impressive.

Uniquely Boston

Boston has a lot of energy to it, street performances bring a lot of colour and music to the atmosphere especially around Quincy Market, support for baseball team the Red Sox is clear which ever way you turn as every third person is wearing some item of clothing with their logo on it.  

The Christmas shop in Quincy Market was a find, from the outside it doesn't look like much but upstairs it goes on for miles around corner after corner.  Pictured above is the Cocoa Cola section (yes you read that right) my other favourites included the LGBT ornaments and the American snacks sections.  I ended buying a hotdog, packet of fries and gherkin ornaments for our tree I can't wait to have them take pride of place.

The Seaport District was an area I didn't have time to explore too much but I've heard the seafood restaurants are immense (I'm not a fan of seafood so you'll have to take my friend Clare's word for it), what I did love in the area was the turquoise colour of the water and the hundreds upon hundreds of jellyfish bobbing about.  If we hadn't had meetings to get to I would have stood there watching them for hours, they're not stingers apparently but I'm not sure I would want to get in the water with them.


We had to go to Salem, the prospect of witch related tourist tat was too great an opportunity for us to miss out on.  Following some Trip Advisor reviews we decided to take the ferry rather than the bus, the cost was an eye-watering $45 but it was a nice day so we thought we would give it a whirl.

Salem was a touch disappointing to be perfectly honest with you.  It was like a very low budget Totnes or Glastonbury without any good tat and a lot of completely vague, over-hyped museums.  As seems to be the way in America one of the dungeons that had actually held the accused witches got concreted over and an office block was built over the top of it so there are no remaining artefacts of the era of witch trials. I say that but we were invited to touch a 300 year old beam that had come from the dungeon.  300 year old beams don't have quite the same gravitas when you come from a city that has a Roman wall running through it but hey ho it was a good effort.

Good things about Salem?  The shop sign below was pretty good and we found a cafe called Life Alive which sold the best vegan food I have ever tasted, if I could eat there every day I would totally convert to veganism and I wouldn't look back.


The thrift shopping was pretty good, I didn't but should have purchased the photo above, because lets be honest that is Sam and I in twenty or thirty years (perhaps not even that long...).

The tat shopping game was strong, with plenty of lobster themed items to buy.  My favourite would have to be this lobster claw oven glove, but the lobster claw pens I bought were also a highlight.  Clare was blown away by the sale on in the Yankee Candle shop, so much so she had to by another suitcase to accommodate her buys, airport security must have freaked out when they saw that bag go through the x-ray!


There is a lot to recommend about Boston and I realise this post has been rambling on for some time now so here is a summary:

  • Visit Quincy Market to soak up the atmosphere, do some shopping and have a beer, you can also pick up the freedom trail here which takes you on a walking tour around the city.  I didn't get time to do this but if I ever go back it will be one of the first things I do
  • Get a 7-day Charlie Ticket for the subway even if you're just there for a couple of days it will save you a lot of money
  • Visit Harvard University, it's only a few stops away on the red line from the centre of Boston and it's quite nice to poke around where the world's brightest and best go to learn.  A word of warning however, there is a statue which tourists take their photo with touching the foot of it for good luck.  Don't touch that foot, students wee on it as a prank.
  • On your way to Harvard University get off the subway at Central and grab food or a smoothie from Life Alive (not the chai one though, Clare got it to try and be healthy and it tasted rough, any of the others are fine though)
  • Go to Salem but don't have high expectations, if budget is an issue get the bus with your Charlie ticket rather than shelling out for the ferry
  • Go up the Prudential Tower (accessed via the Prudential Mall) to see views like the one below.  We watched a rain storm move towards us which was followed by an amazing sunset.

So that was my trip to Boston in a nutshell, it was my first visit to the East Coast of America and I liked it a lot.  I suspect I'm more of a West Coast girl but perhaps I should go back to California to double check...

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