August Playlist

1. River- Ibeyi Ibeyi are a duo made up of twenty year old twins Lisa and Naomi. Being of French-Cuban birth, but pulling inspiration from their Nigerian ancestry and late fathers cuban percussion, their music is unique and original. I first heard them perform this song, River, live at Glastonbury, and I was hooked, bought the album next day, and listened to it on repeat. I love the somewhat tribal and yet electronic feel their music has, and look forward to seeing whats to come after the release of their debut album, Ibeyi.
2. Black Skinhead- Kanye I may get more than a few dislikes for this one, but whether you love him or hate him, this controversial star sure knows how to make the perfect workout music. I'm pretty sure that's not his intention when producing, but after recently becoming exercise mad, I have found that this song has the perfect beat to do jumping obliques to (who would have thought that I would ever even know where my obliques are, never mind know how to tone them...)
3. Hounds of Love- The Futureheads A song that reminds me of my tween years, this version of Hounds of Love was one that was often played on my journeys to school, both by my Dad and the person we lift-shared with. This song is just perfect to dance to, so get up and get your air-guitar jive on!!
4. Green, Green Rocky Road- Oscar Isaac I was having a bad week, I was lonely and sad and had been crying myself to sleep. Then one day whilst tidying the kitchen (whilst simultaneously crying) I decided to open up my iTunes and via family sharing check out if my Dad or sister had bought any albums that could cheer me up, as all my music was associated with specific memories I didn't want to think about. And an album my Dad bought "Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of 'Inside Llewyn Davies" featured this song by one of the cast members. At first I just ignored it and carried on with my jobs, but as the song progressed I found myself perking up, just relaxing and letting a feeling of calm wash over me, and all I have to say is thanks Dad for buying this album and introducing me to this song.
5. Skin- Charlie Dancer It always amazes me when you see people you knew when you when you were younger doing amazing things, like becoming an MP, or a successful lawyer, when to you they were just that quiet guy at the back of chemistry, or the popular girl who got all the days. I'm not yet 20, so friends I went to school with aren't quite becoming MPs yet, but one guy I went to school with has recently been doing some amazing things in terms of music. I just can't see how he manages to tour, write and record music, and have time to work, when I can barely keep up with my degree alone! But his talent and dedication is sure paying off, and I thought it was about time I featured him on one of my monthly playlists. Charlie's track Skins has a somewhat folky, singer songwriter vibe and with a soft tranquil melody that creates the perfect atmosphere for a relaxed summer day or cozy evening in.

JULY READ: LIMERENCE- LOSING YOU SAVING ME|| M.C. Browne


July's book feature is a little bit different to my usual type of book, and was actually something which was emailed to me via a press release. I usually don't go for a lot of the books that I read through press releases, but something about M.C. Browne's "Limerence: Losing You Saving Me"* grabbed my attention.

Centred around Juliet, a beautiful and accomplished women in her mid 20s, Limerence follows Juliet's struggle with her self-esteem, entangled love life, and the voices she's hears in her head, mainly belonging to her dead twin sister, Grace.

The first few chapters give us an insight into Juliet's life B.L. (before Luka), painting the picture of her difficult childhood, and the troubling events that shaped the career driven Juliet we get to know. It also gives us an insight into the reasons why Juliet falls for Luka, her first true love, and someone we're not sure she'll ever let go of.

A large part of the book is devoted to Juliet's attempts to discover herself, as she takes the ever stereotypical around the world trip. At times this section of the book can be quite monotonous and tedious, with a lack of action or an aspect of the "psychological thriller" described in the synopsis. However, the following chapters do provide us with plenty of details about the characters that are to crop up again and again in the rest of the novel, from the ever present Luka, girlfriends Olivia and Michaela, and the lesser, yet still important characters of Chris, Craig and Angie.

As stated above, a large proportion of the book seems to be devoted to Juliet's travels, and her relationships with people in Sydney, where she meets and dates Luka. But upon returning to London the book begins to pick up in pace, as we are introduced to Mark, creating the love triangle promised in the blurb. Juliet's behaviour also becomes erratic and we begin to get a feel of the psychological thriller we have been promised.

The latter quarter of the book is where we see most of the action, from a psychotic breakdown, to Juliet's persistent sabotage to her own and Luka's lives. The reader can't help but feel sympathy towards characters such as Mark and even to a certain extent Luka, and unlike a lot of protagonists, Juliet is someone who you can easily dislike. Yet she is also highly relatable, particularly if you live in a modern relationship. We may not all hear voices in our head like Juliet, but each of us can admit to stalking or clinging onto an ex, not recognising a good thing when it happens and being career crazy. That is partly why Juliet can be so easily disliked, we can recognise a part of ourselves in her that we wish wasn't there, that we don't wish to acknowledge.

If you are looking for a light and easy read, perhaps to read on the beach or when you just want to relax and switch off after work then I would definitely give Limerence: Losing You Saving Me a look, you'd be surprised at how often you'll find yourself shouting at Juliet's stupidity and self-destructing nature.

Embracing My Inner Boho



















(Dress: H&M (similar), Boots: Kurt Geiger (similar), Bag: New Look (similar), Earrings: Vintage)

One of the great things about living in the North East is the amount of large country houses that are around to visit. Since I was a little girl I have explored a wide range of exciting homes with huge manicured lawns and beautiful antique furniture and ornaments. Wellington Hall, located in Northumberland, is one such place, with colourful kitchen gardens and an amazing range of old fashioned kitchenware, books, and a wealth of family history.

Wallington Hall, as well as being a fantastic day out, also provided the perfect backdrop for my new favourite dress. I recently picked up this dress in the H&M sale for a mere £10, as I just couldn't resist the slightly 70s pattern. The shift style of the dress makes it a key transitional piece, enabling you to keep cool and free flowing during hot summer sticky days, and paired with tights, enabling you to look chic whilst carrying you through towards those colder winter months. The shape is also perfect for hiding the food baby you get from eating too much ice cream!!

Keeping with the 70s "boho" vibe I paired the dress with my trusty Kurt Geiger boots and favourite New Look bag. The Kurt Geiger style cowboy boots were extremely comfy, and allowed me to walk and run around all day, making them the ideal investment piece for any active lady.

If you are ever in the North East, I highly recommend a visit to Wellington, steeped in history and beauty, its such a wonderful place to visit.

Being Brave

I'm always afraid. Fear is something which bares down on me constantly. Every day a new fear presents itself and becomes an obstacle for me to overcome.

I never thought of myself as brave or strong, in fact I'm pretty sure that if you asked most people who knew me they would tell you that I was a big ol' scaredy cat, and I would agree. I've always thought of myself as weak, and not just physically. I'm afraid of a lot of things, from the dark and the sea to eyes and melon seeds. But these aren't the fears that control me, that have plagued me from around the age of twelve, if anything, these fears are trivial. It just means that if I'm alone and want melon, I can't cut it. It just means that I don't often walk on piers or go on boats unless forced. But my real fears, the fears that live deep within the pit of my belly, that make my heart race, my palms sweat, and even make me throw up, are much more difficult to bare.

My real fears, the fears that plague me everyday are that of crowds, rejection, socialising and one to one confrontation, along with someone leaving me. I don't fear people dying, I don't fear people leaving me in that way, although it sounds horrible to say, if someone close to me dies, I can reassure myself that they are not choosing to leave me, that they didn't want to. Someone choosing to walk out of my life, now that's a constant fear.

My fear of people, of rejection and crowds has caused problems throughout my teens. It makes me scared to talk to people, let alone have friendships, it makes me scared to ask for anything or ask anyone to hang out in case they say no. For in my head that no isn't a 'No I'm generally busy' or a 'I really wish I could but I have a family commitment' it's a 'No I hate you' or 'No you're worthless'.

The fact is I very rarely get to this stage. I struggle to be in a crowded place without being drunk. On my Open Day at University I lasted two minutes on campus before I had to leave for open spaces. My heart beats faster and my palms get sweaty every time  I go to a seminar or lecture, its as if the people in my classes are right next to me, pushing against me, not on the other side of the room, unaware I exist. 

It wasn't as if my fears weren't unjustified. I'd had friends ditch me for no reason, the excuse 'Oh no I''m busy' turning out to be a lie and genuinely being 'I don't want to go christmas shopping with you but I'm going to go on the exact same day with the same people, just not you'. I've got my hopes up and been rejected so many time that during my teenage years I really had no greater fear, I still don't. And I still can't take the plunge when it comes to friendships and relationships.

All this left me thinking that I was worthless, someone weak and scared who didn't try enough, and then I met this guy at Uni. This guy who had never met anyone like me before, and not in the corny way it sounds. He'd gone to an all boys boarding school for the rich and privileged. The boys there had the world at their fingertips, were confident, and knew how to command a room. Sure he had other friends, but again these were friends he'd known from pre prep, friends who'd gone to private school and had socialising go getter London parents and siblings. Their confidence is everything you'd expect from a Made in Chelsea, Cameron esque upbringing.

Even when he came to Uni his flatmates, although not as extravert as he was, still knew how to socialise, to talk to people and have a laugh. Then he met me. The girl he'd been thrown together with  for a presentation in our first ever seminar of Uni. It had happened that way because we'd both been late, and therefore hadn't had the chance to say hello at the door whilst waiting for the professor like everyone else had. He'd been severely hung over, and therefore quiet, in fact other than his name he hadn't said a word to me, nor I to he, and as soon as we were dismissed he got up and left. I followed him out, and plucked up the courage to say hi, sweaty palms, sickly feeling and all.

As you've probably guessed one thing led to another, a few drunken club nights, and the rest they say is history. Now that he really knows me, now that he knows all my fears and struggles, has seen me try to socialise then run to hide in the toilet, he knows how big of a thing it was for me to say hi to him that first day. 

He's watched my social anxiety and fear of rejection leave me a crumpled crying mess on the floor. He's watched me cry as if in agony at the rejection I've recently experienced from someone I never thought I'd loose. He's watched me throw stuff around my room in anger and frustration at myself. And yet when we go to sleep at night, or in the morning before we head out to those lectures and seminars that are such a struggle for me, he tells me how brave I am. When I'm feeling dejected, for instance if I've tried to go on a night out and lasted all but five minutes before the crowds were too much, he'll remind me that it was I who said hi to him first, and that I've already done so many things that I'm scared of.

And do you know what? I'm starting to believe him. I'm starting to see that although I don't fight lions or jump off buildings, that I am brave. Everyday I overcome my fears. Just going outside and being around lots of people, or talking to someone is an achievement. And the more and more I do it, the more and more I'm starting to see it for myself. He's made me see just how brave I am, and made me realise that although compared to others what I have achieved seems small, in comparison to my life last year, or even last month, I've done something I never could of dreamed of. 

I'm determined to keep battling my fears, to try each and everyday to overcome them, to not let them dictate my life. I won't always succeed, but at least now I realise what I can overcome. 

I am brave. 

I am strong.

And Jasper, if you're reading this, thanks for making me realise it. 

Love, Life and all the Sucky Bits Inbetween

None of us ever feel completely in control. That's a fact. People may look in control, they may look as if they have the world at their feet, as if life is perfect, and as if they know exactly where they are headed, but that is never the case.

Each of us struggles to hold on, struggles to grasp onto to the good, to let go of the bad, to control our emotions, even to control time. I used to think that life was about planning. Life was about sticking to one grand narrative, finding romance, finding a fulfilling job that pays the bills and living in perfect bliss. But I've come to realise that that is not life. That's a story, that's imagination, but its not real, it can never be real. Life is messy. No matter how hard you try you can't control what happens, the only thing you truly have control over is yourself.

Take love for example. You can't make people love you, no matter how hard you try. You can be the nicest, sweetest kindest person in the world, the kind of person who is always there for someone and doing things for others, but that doesn't mean that everyone will love you. Some people just won't love you, no matter what you do, and the harsh reality is that often enough those people won't deserve your love either. Be it friendships, relationships or family ties, love is messy. Sure love can be something that lights you up from the inside, makes you float ever so slightly above the ground and adds a sparkle to everything and anything, but its also makes you doubt yourself, makes you jealous and sometimes turns you into something you're not. Love always has two sides, you can't have the good without the bad, which also means that you can't have the ecstasy and joy without the pain, without the loneliness.

I used to think that if I was good enough, if I tried hard enough and pleased those around me enough, that they'd love me back. I was terrified to be alone, for people to dislike me, even hate me, and to be honest, I am still terrified of all those things. Like I said in my previous post (which you can read here) this fear has made me spend almost all of my nineteen years on this planet with an inability to let go, a desperate need to fix things, and in a constant effort to please others. I'm only just starting to realise, that like so much in life, you can't control love. You have to let the good in with the bad, love is about getting hurt, otherwise you wouldn't recognise those moments of true bliss even if they smacked you in the face.

Thinking you can control love is like walking down the street with a blindfold over your eyes, eventually you are going to walk into a lamppost, and its going to hurt. And that's a good thing. You can't control who you love, and you can't control who loves you back, but what you can control is who you are in these relationships, and most importantly you can control when to let go. And that's something that I am only just starting to realise. That I can let go, that that's what I'm in control of, that nothing is perfect, no matter who you compare yourself too, each relationship and friendship has its problems, and that some aren't worth the fight, some aren't worth the pain, some you have to let go. And just like life, love doesn't follow a grand plan, its doesn't stick to the grand narrative you imagined, and that's ok.

I used to think the same things about life, that if I planned enough and stuck to that plan that the hurt couldn't get in. Things couldn't get messy. I begun planning my days out, doing hours of exercise in the morning, house work in the afternoon and searching for work experience and internships, seemingly bettering myself and in control. Yet even with this control in my daily routine, with a plan that contributes to my imagined grand narrative, I still cry myself to sleep every night. The misery is still getting in, and no amount of planning has stopped it from breaking down my carefully constructed barriers. Life is just the same as love, no matter how structured your day is, and how much you plan, the bad is still going to get in with the good, and you have to let it. I have to start letting it.

Today was the first time in three or four weeks that I didn't stick to my plan. I just sat on the sofa snuggled under a blanket, watching films and drinking green tea. And sure, I may have originally sat down to watch films because I was miserable, but about half an hour into my first movie I felt myself beginning to relax, I stopped crying and drooling snot all over my face, and just let go.

I find myself writing this post (another mug of green tea in hand) feeling somewhat at peace with myself. The past few days, all the hurt that I had experienced, the endless tramplings I felt I had gotten just floated away. I just decided to let them go, to accept them and move on. I'm going to be letting go of those people who have been walking all over me, and hurting me for too long. And I'm going to be happy. I can't control what happens next, and that's ok, I'm just going to do what makes me happy, control my own happiness, and fuck the rest. Because you know what, love, life and all the sucky bits in-between are decidedly short, and they aren't about controlling every last detail and protecting yourself, they are about living. They are about being vulnerable. They are about taking a stance for yourself. Cheering for your corner, for yourself, and living in the moment. And from now on that is what I am going to do, for me, not some plan, not some grand narrative, and certainly not in a desperate attempt to avoid the bad.

So come at me, I'm ready for you, both the good and the bad.

What I've Learnt From My First Year At University

It's getting round to that time of year again when a lot of you will be preparing for your first year at University, so I thought there was no better time to write a post all about my experiences during my first year at the University of York. Hopefully reading this post will give you a few tips and tricks on what to expect when arriving at Uni.

The first, and one of the most important things that I can not reiterate enough is socialise!! I know that University is also about the degree, I mean you're not paying £9,000 pounds a year just to socialise, but getting involved and putting yourself out there, is in my opinion, vital during your first term and first year at University.

When I started Uni I was very shy, largely due to having social anxiety, and rather than push myself out there and get involved, I decided to stay in my room and study. I ended up taking studying too seriously. I've been left feeling alone and isolated after my first year, and although I ended up getting good grades, I have little friends, and I didn't take up any of the vast opportunities that were offered to me. So go out during freshers week, if you're not the kind of person who's into parties your Uni will have other events for you and other like minded people, or you could even just invite your flat out for a quiet drink at the pub.

The second piece of advice I would give all the soon to be Freshers out there is related to the first, and that is get involved! Make the most of your Freshers Fair and sign up to as many societies and clubs as you can. The majority of societies will offer a free taster session within the first two weeks, which can allow you to whittle down all those clubs you signed up to to the ones you really ended up enjoying. Not only are societies a great way to meet lifelong friends who have similar interests, but getting involved in the committee or in societies such as volunteering societies will look great on your CV!

That leads me on to my third piece of advice, and that is find your thing, your groove, something that you really love. Don't just stick with something because you have a FOMO (yes, I used FOMO). You're much more likely to find lifelong friends, and people you really get on with if they truly share things your passionate about. Sure, University is all about trying new things and meeting vastly different people and and experiencing new cultures, but don't stick at something you hate just because you don't want to miss out on anything, or you think it'll look impressive.

University is also great for those long summer holidays, where you will often have 4-5 months off between May and September, and it can be tempting after a year of studying and partying just to kick back and catch up on all that Jeremy Kyle you've been missing. But I urge you to resist (I still haven't seen a single episode of Jeremy since returning from Uni, its been tough, but I've held strong), and look for internships/work experience. It may seem a bit early to be looking for internships or work experience whilst in your first few month to March. Getting an internship or work experience will not only help you occupy your time during those long summer months, but will also help you keep up with the competition when you eventually get round to applying for those sought after graduate jobs. Take it from someone who left it too late, no matter how hard you study at Uni, there are others just like you, who also happen to have 2 months work experience in a top law firm in London, have climbed Mount Everest, and have a famous Aunt in the media industry, and if you want to compete with these lucky and gifted people when your three years at Uni are up, you're going to need some solid work experience under your belt.

Finally, have fun! University, although about learning and getting a degree, is also about discovering yourself, who you are and who you want to be. University is a whole life experience, not just an academic experience, so live it and love it, don't stay inside studying like me, or you'll end up with little to show for it. So good luck! I know you will all have a wonderful time whatever you end up doing.

Chocolate and Raspberry Cake




Baking is something I have always loved to do, and now that the summer holidays have arrived, and I have four long months stretching in front of me, I find myself baking up to three times a week (often with little success). What I love about this recipe is that its really simple to make, and depending on who you are baking for, you can easily make it more sophisticated and polished looking, or if like me you get the help of a younger sister to decorate it, you can dress it up to look like a princess cake!

YOU WILL NEED:


  • 4 eggs (medium to large)
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 6oz self raising flour (if you want a more chocolatey sponge, reduce this to 5oz)
  • 8oz butter or margarine
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract/essence
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 oz cocoa powder (if you desire a more chocolatey sponge increase this to 3oz)
METHOD:

I use an electric mixer for this recipe, but you can also do it by hand

  1. Preheat the oven at 180C/160C for fan, and grease two medium sized non-stick cake tins
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy
  3. In a separate jug, beat together the eggs and vanilla extract
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla extract slowly, a little bit at a time, occasionally stopping and wiping down the sides to make sure all the mixture is incorporated
  5. Whilst slowly incorporating the eggs and vanilla extract, sift the flour and cocoa powder together into a bowl
  6. Add the sifted flour and cocoa powder slowly, adding a little bit at a time, again stopping every so often to scrape down the sides, making sure all the mixture is incorporated.
  7. Split the mixture evenly between the two cake tins and bake for around 25 minutes or the sponge bounces back when touched.
Whilst the cake its cooling, its time to prepare the frosting. I am using a recipe from Baking Part Time, as I feel its really light and fresh, making it perfect for hot summer days. 

YOU WILL NEED:

  • 8oz of cream cheese
  • 25 grams of raspberry jam (if you are looking for a more polished look, use seedless jam, I personally prefer the look you get when using regular jam)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
  • Pinch of salt
  • 169 grams of unsalted butter
  • Start with 350 grams of icing sugar, and then add more until you get your desired thickness. I ended up using around 450 grams of icing sugar and the mixture is still quite gloopy
  • A handful of fresh raspberries
METHOD:

  1. Mix together the jam, cream cheese and butter until everything is smooth and an even pale pink colour
  2. Sift the icing sugar
  3. Add the icing sugar slowly, until the desired thickness is acquired and the frosting has a smooth, thick texture
  4. At this point I also chucked in a handful of fresh raspberries and blitzed them into the mixture, as I wanted add a fresher taste to my icing. 
  5. Cool in the fridge for around half an hour
You can ice this cake however you want, if like me, you are going for a girly theme to match the pink frosting, add a hell of a lot of pink sugar, sugar stars, and raspberry flavoured fudge bits. If you are going for a more polished look, add fresh raspberries around the top of the cake, or drizzle dark chocolate over the sides.


You can also switch up the cake mixture, creating a raspberry and white chocolate sponge by adding 8oz of self raising flour and ignoring the cocoa powder. Then once all the flour is incorporated gently fold in a handful of fresh raspberries and white chocolate chips. Like I said above, the great thing about this recipe is how versatile it is, so get creative!