What I’ve Discovered / Fresh Flowers, Lucy Fleming’s Illustrations & Who Gives a Crap

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This is a new feature dedicated to all the things I’ve discovered, loved or enjoyed most recently!

Pretty Vases and Fresh Flowers

I used to think that fresh flowers were a waste of money (they die so quickly), but that was before the realisation that they were an easy way to brighten my day. Now I have a fresh bunch on my desk every week and yellow daffodils are my current favourite. A little vase of joy is a really easy way to make me feel happy in the mornings. I’ve also enjoyed buying them for birthdays and Mother’s Day – and people seem to like getting them!

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Lucy Fleming’s Illustrations

Last year I visited my friend Kat’s home for the first time and noticed she had lots of lovely framed drawings on the wall. I thought this was such a lovely idea. I’ve never been one to buy art, but recently I picked up two stunning prints of Edinburgh (one of my favourite places in the world) and prints by Lucy Fleming, a book illustrator that I discovered on Twitter (she also runs a beautiful Instagram account). I bought two beautiful illustrations from her website: Orionid and Flying, a couple of frames, and put up one in my living room and one in my bedroom. Perfect.

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Who Gives a Crap

No, sadly I haven’t stopped worrying about what other people think about me just yet. I want to talk to you about 🚽’s. I came across Australian brand Who Gives a Crap on Instagram and thought they were pretty awesome. They produce toilet paper, tissue boxes, kitchen roll, etc. made from recycled (“forest friendly”) paper, and 50% of their profits are donated to help build toilets for those who need them – they’ve donated more than £650k so far. I thought that was pretty cool, so I ordered tissues and kitchen roll to last me a year (!). I adore my pretty new tissue boxes and they’re super soft, so I thought I’d share the love.

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2018 Goals

I don’t particularly enjoy making New Year’s Resolutions. I hate the way it makes me feel if I don’t accomplish them, but this year I’ve set a few goals that are super achievable and will make me feel great at the end of the year.

My TBR

    • Read 52 books and save £1 for every book read

Like most booklovers, I’m doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge, as I’ve done every year since 2011. Back then, I read 100 books but these days I aim to read 52, one per week. But it’s less about the number for me and more about the joy of seeing all the books I’ve read over the year (it also aids my terrible memory!). I saw people tweet about Aoife’s idea to save £1 for every book read, so I’m going to pop a coin into my ‘What happens in book club, stays in book club’ mug for every book I finish.

    • Visit two new countries

I’ve travelled a little over the past couple of years (and I hope to blog more about my travels, both around the UK and abroad) and this year I’d love to visit at least two new countries: Hungary, the Czech Republic, USA, Norway, Australia… or somewhere else!

    • Visit 10 new places in London

I’ve lived in London most of my life but there’s still so much left to explore. Whether a new museum, borough, coffee shop or park, I want to visit at least 10 new places in London this year. I really enjoyed doing this last year, from visiting Highgate Cemetery for the first time to discovering amazing new brunch places to go to with friends.

Stockholm, Sweden

    • Acquire fewer material things and reduce the amount of stuff I own

This is something I tried to do in 2017 and would love to continue this year. Last year, I decided that I wanted to spend my money on experiences, rather than on stuff. This includes buying fewer but higher quality clothes, frequent book-culling, frequent spring cleaning, buying new toiletries only when others are empty, and being aware of eco-friendly packaging.

    • Go to exercise classes every week and complete Couch to 5k

At the end of 2017, I joined the gym for a 6-week trial and really enjoyed how motivated it made me feel. I plan to renew my membership once my awful chest and throat infection disappears. I loved doing Body Combat (a mix of yoga, tai-chi and pilates) classes and I was also training for Couch to 5k until I suffered from ankle pain. Once I get myself proper running shoes, back onto the treadmill I go!

    • Make lunch and buy fewer lunches/hot drinks

I’m guilty of spending a lot of money on food. It’s probably my biggest expense after rent. I love eating out, but I know that it’s not necessary to buy lunch and a hot drink every day, so I’d like to limit those to once per week. Even so, I’ve swapped to a KeepCup to be more environmentally friendly, which does make it tricky (I get 25-50p off each drink when I use it!). It’ll also encourage me to get back into cooking and being organised with my food shop.

Berlin, Germany

    • Learn to crochet

I bought a little crochet set a while ago, but fear of failure is stopping me from giving it a shot. I’ve been told that crochet is super easy, so I need to just give it a go and make that damn bunny.

    • Take driving lessons and pass the theory test

As a lifelong Londoner, I can’t drive because I’ve never needed to. But a chat with a friend recently spurred me on to try. I’d love to acquire a new skill in 2018 and learning to drive is a big one. I passed my theory test nearly 10 years ago now, so it’s back to square one, but if I pass my driving test this year it’ll be a huge accomplishment. I love the idea of the independence that being able to drive gives someone.

    • Learn to be kinder to myself

And finally, it’s an important one. 2016-17 were tough years for me, in different ways, and I didn’t help much by not being kind to myself. I’m not perfect, but I don’t deserve some of the things that happened, and I need to stop being so hard on myself. If I’m kinder to myself, I’ll have more confidence and energy to do what makes me happy… learning, new experiences, exploring, spending time with friends, and making new ones.

Are any of these your 2018 goals?

Adventures in Adversity

Over the past year, give or take a couple of weeks, I’ve adventured solo to Stockholm, journeyed to Berlin and Barcelona for the first time with two of my favourite travel buddies, explored beautiful English countryside and dreamy Scottish cities, and escaped busy London for the day.

Late last week, I stumbled across Inkifi and, without too much thought, ordered 20 of my favourite travel snaps, all taken from my Instagram. They arrived this week and I’m happy to see that they turned out brilliantly (who knew that Instagram photos were actually excellent quality?!). I’ve enjoyed scattering them around my room, filling up blank, empty spaces with memories of my explorations.

I’m not feeling positive about 2018. 2017 has been a tough year, possibly one of the hardest yet, but these Polaroids fill me with hope. They make me excited to plan adventures for the new year. They remind me that this year hasn’t been all bad, even if the negative constantly tries to push it way to the front. They help make my (rented, regrettably) room my own.

It’s true what they say, about that travel bug.

This was originally posted as a shorter Instagram post.

5 Things to Do in Barcelona

In November, I visited Barcelona for the first time with my friend Sarah before she left London for Australia (😭😭). It has taken me a little while to write this post, but here are five things to do in the city!

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Visit… the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Park Güell

Gaudí is everywhere in Barcelona. The Catalan architect’s work is unusual, for this Londoner, and a delight. These spots are pretty standard for any traveller to Barcelona. I particularly enjoyed the stained glass windows (spring, summer, autumn and winter-inspired) of the Sagrada. It’s worth checking out the audio guide and taking a trip up the spire. Casa Batlló was stunning – so much blue and green and turquoise! – and my favourite out of the three, whilst Park Güell is perfect for a sunny day. Don’t forget to book your tickets for all three in advance!

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Go on… The Shadow of the Wind walking tour

Sarah loves Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s popular series for bookworms and so we booked places on The Shadow of the Wind walking tour. It was fascinating to visit places mentioned in the book (such as the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books). As we weren’t in tourist season, we were the only two on the tour and so could ask plenty of questions. Our guide kindly kept it spoiler-free for me, too, seeing as I was only halfway through the book (silly, silly Stacey).

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Eat brunch at… Federal Café

We visited this Australian café in Barcelona twice because we loved it so much – and I had avocado and poached egg on toast both times. It’s certainly a ‘hipster coffee shop’ but, honestly, those are my favourites.

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Drink gin cocktails at… Dux

After dinner, we stumbled across this gorgeous, elegant cocktail bar and it was the perfect spot to sit and chat. I enjoy fruity cocktails (although they don’t love me…) and hanging out at Dux was a great way to spend our evening. In Spain, people eat and drink very, very late and so everywhere you go is super quiet and you can always get a table! Dux had a lovely piano in the corner, the tables were candlelit, and the menu offered pop culture-inspired cocktails.

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Browse… Barcelona’s many bookshops

Barcelona is a haven for bibliophiles and I was fortunate to go on holiday with a fellow book industry friend, so bookshops were at the top of our list. One of my favourites was Altaïr. This travel bookshop was cosy, homely and had a little café with sofas. I buy a copy of Le Petit Prince every time I visit a new country and I bought El Principito in La Central. We drank coffee outside and I enjoy playing around on the swing seat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to Gigamesh, the popular sci-fi bookshop – next time! (I used a handy Guardian article to plan our bookish adventure).

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We only tried churros twice so I wouldn’t dare recommend the best place to eat them! But a few places on our list to go to were Xurreria Dels Banys Nous, Chok – The Chocolate Kitchen, Granja M Viader, and La Nena.

5 Places to Eat in Edinburgh

In July, I visited Edinburgh for the second time… and fell in love with it all over again. If I could move my job to Scotland, I wouldn’t hesitate to rent a (much-cheaper-than-I-currently-pay) flat in one of Edinburgh’s beautiful buildings. It felt like a little piece of east and north London, but with much fewer people. To me, holidays mean food + friends. Lots and lots of food, so here’s five particularly yummy places I went to in this stunning literary city.

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Ice Cream at… Mary’s Milk Bar

I love ice cream. I normally opt for Italian gelato, but Mary’s Milk Bar serves some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. I had a tricky time picking flavours (as always) because they all sounded amazing. I chose dark chocolate & cinnamon and raspberry ripple, and Cathy had dark chocolate & orange and poppy seed. It was so delicious. We promised to come back… but didn’t get time! Cathy and I are planning a wintry Edinburgh trip, so we’ll be heading to Mary’s for more ice cream and hot chocolate.

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Brunch and Lunch at… Loudons

I also really, really love brunch. If it were up to me, I’d happily eat breakfast all day, every day. For our first day in the city, we went to Loudons. I had a yummy bowl of rice, poached egg, avocado and chorizo. We shared haggis bonbons – haggis balls rolled in breadcrumbs – and they were surprisingly delicious. I’d always thought that eating haggis would be a strange experience, but it tastes like herby sausages. I am a fan.

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Brunch at… Spoon

Spoon was recommended to us on our Harry Potter walking tour – it was technically the place where J.K. Rowling wrote chunks of the series, but back then it was known as Nicolson’s Cafe. You may have heard of The Elephant Cafe (the ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter), but I’d personally pick Spoon, which has much fewer tourists. We had the mixed grill: bacon, sausage, black pudding, haggis (again!), beans, and a fried egg. Yum!

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Meze at… Meze Meze

Meze Meze was one of the first places I came across whilst holiday planning. We got there at 8pm, but as we hadn’t reserved, we had to wait another hour for a table (totally fine with us as we were still full from brunch!). Meze Meze does the most amazing Mediterranean food – we had the chef’s selection of 5 cold and 5 hot dishes served with warm pitta bread. We loved it.

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Coffee at… Brew Lab

Edinburgh has so many pretty coffee shops, it’s quite unfair. We were never surrounded by Prets (we counted three, which is quite impressive since I’m within a few minutes’ walk from five) and from what we could see, indies far outnumbered Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero. Brew Lab serves strong coffee, although my Aussie travel buddy would disagree, and was perfectly cosy. I could see myself blogging here every weekend.

And don’t forget to try Scotland’s tap water!

Which foodie places should I add to my list for next time?