Tuesday, 29 August 2017

101 in 1001

Since becoming a teacher, a really good work life balance has been one of my priorities. It is so easy to focus on the workload and not much else (as I found out during my first two terms in the job). I'm sure anyone with a stressful job that requires a lot of your attention will agree that sometimes self-care and self-enjoyment just goes right out of the window. Now is my time to change it. I do enjoy my job a lot, but I'm taking weekends and evenings back.
101in1001

I thought a good way to kick-start this and keep on track of just how much time I'm taking for myself would be to start the 101 things in 1001 days challenge. Let's go!


Start date: 29/08/2017
End date: 26/05/2020


TRAVEL
1. Tour around Italy - post coming soon!
2. Visit Macchu Pichu
3. Visit Iceland (again!)
4. Visit New York
5. Visit Lisbon, Portugal
6. Take a day trip to the Warner Bros Studio Tour
7. Visit Brighton
8. Take Bob to Whitby
9. Spend a night in a caravan
10. See the Northern Lights
11. Go on a family holiday (mum, dad and Rebecca)
12. Visit Northern Ireland
13. Visit Ireland
14. Go glamping
15. Visit the west coast of the US
16. Go on a beach holiday
17. Visit Stonehenge
18. Go on a hiking holiday to the Lake District
19. Visit Santorini
20. Visit Copenhagen
21. Watch the sun rise somewhere beautiful

CRAFT
22. Make more throw cushions
23. Set up an Etsy shop to sell throw cushions
24. Sew my own dress
25. Create photo albums of every holiday I've been on with Bob
26. Decorate my own mug at Emma Bridgewater
27. Learn how to crochet
28. Throw my own pot
29. Take a calligraphy class
30. Knit a jumper
31. Bake a tiered birthday cake
32. Knit a throw blanket
33. Knit another scarf

BUY
34. Buy some Gianvito Rossi Plexi pumps
35. Get my Mulberry Alexa cleaned/fixed
36. Buy a new car
37. Buy some Chanel sunglasses
38. Buy an iMac
39. Buy a Chloe handbag
40. Buy a new camera
41. Buy a new camera lens
42. Buy a bike
43. Buy a year's Trentham Gardens pass
44. Buy a KitchenAid mixer

HOUSE
45. Buy new carpets throughout the house
46. Get the kitchen floor retiled
47. Redecorate the hallway
48. Buy patio furniture
49. Create a gallery wall for the hallway stairs
50. Meal plan (& stick to it) for a week
51. Organise my bookshelves
52. Buy new interior doors (that actually close)
53. Buy a new bathroom
54. Make my own curtains for the spare room
55. Buy flowerpots for the back garden
56. Buy a log-burning stove
57. Get the living room re-plastered (again!)
58. Buy new windows (that don't let a draught in)

LIFE
59. Get laser eye surgery
60. Have a baby
61. Get engaged
62. Run a 10k
63. Have a spa day
64. Take a cake decorating class
65. Get a second tattoo
66. Write an address book (& keep it updated)
67. Record a second every day for a year
68. Attend a fitness class
69. Speak to my grandparents once a week
70. Pass my NQT year
71. Become a subject leader
72. Host a Come Dine With Me dinner party
73. Don't wear black for a whole week
74. Write a letter to myself to open in 10 years
75. Donate blood
76. Complete a 365 day photo challenge
77. Complete the 30 day shred
78. Get 1,000 Twitter followers
79. Follow a blogging schedule for a month (tough one!)
80. Wear every item of clothing in my wardrobe (or donate it to charity)
81. Go a month without ordering takeaway/eating out
82. Sell at a carboot sale

ENTERTAINMENT
83. See Alt-J again
84. See Arcade Fire
85. See Lady Gaga again
86. See Vampire Weekend again
87. Go to a Danny Wallace book signing
88. Read 100 books
89. Read 5 more Murakami books
90. Go to another music festival
91. Have a skiing lesson
92. Read all my books currently on the bookshelf (mine, not Bob's!)
93. Go to a test cricket match with the family
94. See Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the theatre
95. Watch 10 new (to me) films
96. Visit the Smiths Disco in Manchester
97. Learn a full song on the ukulele
98. Watch 5 films at the cinema
99. Go to 10 gigs
100. Go to the theatre 3 times - 5/8/17 - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

101. Complete this list
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Monday, 17 April 2017

10 Albums That Everyone Must Hear

Apologies for not posting since September (!) but teaching has REALLY got in the way of life. I swear it's not just a career - it's a whole new lifestyle. I have greatly missed blogging but this is my attempt at getting back in to the swing of it. Let's see how it goes.

Today I wanted to write about music. In my daily life I feel like I frequently recommend a range albums to my friends and family, but they pay no attention to me! Just as a side note, this is how Bob probably feels about me - always recommending things to me but I never pay attention because I'm stuck in my own little music bubble. I promise I'll start listening to him. Anyway, seeing as the people I know in real life don't listen to me, maybe the one person who reads this blog will instead. Here are 10 albums that I think are so great, everyone must hear them.
10 albums

1. Complete Surrender by Slow Club
If anyone REALLY knows me, they shouldn't be surprised that this is number one on the list. This is my favourite, favourite album and has been ever since I saw Slow Club at the Sugarmill in 2014. Slow Club are a male/female duo from Sheffield and so far have released four fantastic albums. I discovered them on Sunday Brunch one weekend and decided I needed to hear their albums. They're so fantastic, Richard Osman (the guy from Pointless) says they're his favourite band.

I love Complete Surrender so much because of the fantastic vocals: I can belt out Rebecca's songs at the top of my lungs or softly sing along to Charles' acoustic numbers. Every song is fantastic. It is the perfect blend of soul-meets-pop. The lyrics are beautiful and heart-breaking, the melodies are catchy and the horn sections just make me want to dance.

Favourite song: The Pieces

2. Trouble in Paradise by La Roux
Usually when I mention La Roux's latest album to anyone, they don't even realise she released a new one. People know her for singing 'Bulletproof' and 'In for the Kill' (and also having a quiffed hairstyle) but in 2014 she released her second album full of absolute pop bangers. Trouble in Paradise still has an 80s synth sound, but it's more funky and upbeat than her debut album. If you've seen the 'Absolutely Fabulous Movie' you might recognise some of the songs - La Roux actually had a cameo where she performed during the magazine launch scene. You know, the one where THAT happened to Kate Moss.

Favourite song: Sexotheque

3. I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now by Got A Girl
Got a Girl is a collaboration between Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim) and Dan 'The Automator' Nakamura (the guy who wrote the score for the film). They bonded over their love of French singers and as a result created an album that sounds very much like 60s French pop with hip-hop elements. I feel very sophisticated when I listen to this album and get the urge to style my hair in to a beehive, put on a shift dress and drink a martini. 'There's a Revolution' is very upbeat whereas 'Heavenly' is slower and more melodic.

Favourite song: There's a Revolution

4. We Slept at Last by Marika Hackman
I'm beginning to notice that all of these albums feature female vocals.. it's not intentional I swear. When I'm feeling moody I love to listen to Marika Hackman as I find it's the perfect music to listen to when you want to feel calm and relaxed. The album is subtle and understated; the lyrics are poetic and enchanting. She has a new album coming out later this year and I'm so excited to see what else she has to offer.

Favourite song: Animal Fear

5. Policy by Will Butler
Policy is the first solo album from Arcade Fire's Will Butler. I'm struggling to describe the album as a whole because each individual song has its own sound ranging from energetic rock songs to slow-paced piano ballads. 'Finish What I Started' and 'Sing to Me' are on the slower end of the spectrum whereas 'Son of God' and 'What I Want' make me want to dance around the room with an air guitar (and I do, regularly). If you're a fan of Arcade Fire, I'd really recommend giving this album a listen.

Favourite song: Son of God

6. Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance by Belle & Sebastian
This release has been around for a while, but my love for it is still as strong as that first time I listened. I'd always been aware of Belle & Sebastian because of 'The Boy With the Arab Strap' (yes, I've seen (500) Days of Summer) but I'd never actually sat and listened to any of their albums. This one was greatly recommended and hyped by numerous review sites so I had to see what the deal was. The opening track is 'Nobody's Empire' and it hooked me immediately. This album is just as sensitive and personal as their previous releases, but with added synthesizers and dance grooves. If you're looking for beautiful song lyrics to put on your Instagram, look no further. "If I had a camera, I'd snap you now 'cause there's beauty in every stumble."

Favourite song: Play For Today

7. Northern Powerhouse by Sandra's Wedding
Sandra's Wedding is a Yorkshire-based band whose music reflects modern life in northern Britain. Their brilliantly named album - Northern Powerhouse - has already been approved by the actual Minister for the Northern Powerhouse. I've been listening to this album for a few months now and am greatly enjoying the catchy melodies and witty, relatable lyrics. I'm always up for backing a new Yorkshire band, especially one that my good friend Jonny is in! He plays the guitar for the band and is an incredible musician. He's also a really, really good egg so I'm sure he'd appreciate it if you went and gave this album a listen!

Favourite song: No Wonder

8. Howlin' by Jagwar Ma
"I say 'Jagwar', you say 'Ma'." Bob and I went to see Jagwar Ma in Manchester some time last year. Wow, they are an energetic live band. They had the whole audience bopping side to side in unison at one point. It was such a fun gig. Jagwar Ma are an Australian band who have released two awesome albums. My favourite record of theirs is their first album, Howlin'. This record is a perfect fusion of dance and guitar music, and is the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon of spring cleaning (which is what I was doing when I first heard this album in full). It has a retro, psychedelic sound which is also very modern and with its time. The repetitive lyrics mean these songs will be your next earworms.

Favourite song: Come Save Me

9. Zaba by Glass Animals
Not long after Bob and I saw Jagwar Ma, we also went to see Glass Animals. Their record Zaba is amazing and seeing them perform it live was incredible. The frontman, Dave, is so full of energy and crazy dancing that I find myself having to YouTube live performances so I can relive it! Zaba is a record full of synths, weird lyrics and percussion that just makes me want to move. I think the majority of these mini reviews mention me dancing at some point - but what would be the point in music if it didn't get you off your feet? I can honestly say that when I first heard Glass Animals I felt like I'd never heard anything like this before. It blew my mind. Their second record is great too and their single Life Itself has been my obsession for a few months now.

Favourite song: Gooey

10. Oh Wonder by Oh Wonder
This album has been a very recent addition to my Spotify library but it's one that I'm really excited I discovered. Oh Wonder are a boy-girl duo from London who write and sing catchy, alt-pop songs. They actually recorded and released one song per month to create their debut, self-titled album. Every song on this album is beautiful, up-beat and just so damn cool. They have a new album coming out later in 2017 and I'm already really excited for it!

Favourite song: Drive
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Saturday, 10 September 2016

Travel: Visiting the Gardens in Kanazawa

My last post focused on staying in a traditional Japanese inn in Kanazawa, which was such a fun experience. It really made our stay in Kanazawa truly memorable. Kanazawa is a city in the Ishikawa prefecture, and can almost rival Kyoto and Tokyo in terms of culture! It is full of history as it was one of the largest cities to escape being bombed during the second World War - therefore its geisha district, old castle town and samurai district are still fully intact. However, Kanazawa's main attraction is the Kenrokuen garden - one of Japan's best landscape gardens.
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
We stayed in the Higashi Chaya geisha district which is a little way out of the city, but we used the city's bicycles to get around easily. The bicycles are like London's Boris bikes and you can pay for them with your IC cards (the cards are available in almost every town/city and allow you to pay for transport and even vending machines). It's not too far to walk around the city, but we loved the novelty of the bikes and it meant we could explore further afield in our short time there.
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
Just a small part of the Kenrokuen gardens
Top of our list of things to see in Kanazawa was the Kenrokuen gardens. The gardens are adjacent to the Kanazawa Castle Park and are in the centre of the city, so on our first full day we decided to kill two birds with one stone and explore both. I thought this would only take a few hours, but the Kenrokuen gardens are so huge that we found ourselves still wandering around the picturesque gardens for much longer than anticipated. Just look at the above photo - it doesn't look like a real garden!
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
The view of Kanazawa from the gardens
Kanazawa, Japan
Apparently the garden is designed to look completely different depending on which season you visit. We visited it in spring and it was very green, with the contrasting pale pink and white cherry blossoms. I would love to see it in autumn, as I can imagine it would look just as beautiful with oranges and reds. The gardens were very serene and peaceful to walk around, despite there being hundreds of visitors. They were so vast that you could always manage to find a secluded area to relax in. There were also many tea-rooms dotted around the gardens so you could always make sure you were hydrated and well fed. There is even a street of restaurants and shops that connects the two main entrances. When we visited, we stumbled upon an outdoor food market which sold some delicious food.
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
I'm not sure if the street food market is a permanent feature, but it definitely should be! I had some delicious corn on the cob and Bob bought himself something that resembled a cabbage, potato and egg omelette with some sort of sauce on top. He's desperate to find out what it was because he said it was amazing! Whilst we were enjoying our tasty snacks and deciding which cartoon character lollipop to buy, we spotted some lovely ladies wearing traditional Japanese dress. I couldn't resist taking a few sneaky photos.
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
This post is getting very photo-heavy now, so I think I might have to split it in to two posts - these gardens are just too beautiful I can't resist sharing the photos. If you're thinking of touring Japan and want to visit some truly breathtaking, traditional Japanese gardens, you shouldn't skip Kanazawa. It was one of the highlights of my trips and there was just so much to see. I haven't even scratched the surface with this post. We also visited the castle, the samurai district, geisha district and another temple. I'll write about these in another post!
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
Come back soon to hear about what else we got up to in Kanazawa!

Read the rest of my Japan travel posts.

Rachael Amy 


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Monday, 22 August 2016

Travel: Staying in a Traditional Japanese Inn in Kanazawa, Japan

After a lovely overnight stay in Takayama, we headed northwest out of the Gifu Prefecture in to the Ishikawa Prefecture. We visited the absolutely stunning and historic city of Kanazawa. Kanazawa is famous for its preserved streets from the Edo period and the large castle (and its gardens) that sits in the very centre of the city.
Visiting Kanazawa, Japan
As Kanazawa is known for being full of history, we decided this would be the perfect place to try out a tradition Japanese inn, also known as a ryokan. I was a little nervous about this as I usually like the anonymity you can have when staying in a hotel - you can go undetected and nobody cares what you get up to. Ryokans are usually owned by a family and as Japanese people are so polite and friendly, they really want to make sure you have a great stay so tend to be very attentive. As it turns out, I had no reason to be nervous about this as the family were so lovely despite speaking very little English (although their English was better than our Japanese).
Kanazawa, Japan

Me, stood on one of the old streets in the Higashi Chaya geisha district
Kanazawa, Japan
The slippers we had to wear in the ryokan
We stayed in Kanazawa for two nights, but struggled to find accommodation for the two nights. We ended up staying at the Nakayasu Ryokan for one night, and Minshuku Ginmatsu for the other night. They were very close to each other, so it was no bother! We opted for the traditional Japanese rooms each time, but decided against ordering the traditional Japanese food (that would come later in the trip). Upon arrival at both of the ryokans, we were greeted by lovely Japanese women who showed us where to put our shoes and which slippers to change in to. Remember, you can't wear your own shoes inside Japanese buildings - they offer slippers to wear instead. These lovely women then carried our VERY heavy backpacks up stairs in to our rooms - I felt so bad but they wouldn't let us carry them at all. It was also very awkward walking to our rooms. They insisted on following us but as Bob has size 10 feet and the slippers only went up to around a size 6, every time he lifted his foot up to the next step the slippers would fall off his feet - meaning the short trip took twice as long and meant the very small women had to hold our bags for longer!
Kanazawa, Japan
Kanazawa, Japan
A totally natural, not staged at all photo of me and Bob drinking our green tea

When we got to our rooms, I was a little surprised at just how basic they were - there weren't even any beds! It was a plain room with tatami mat floor, a little table and two leg-less chairs. There was a kettle and some green tea for a refreshment. As it turns out, the beds are rolled up and hidden away during the day and are brought out at night time before bed. A little bit like a turn down service. The bed consisted of a very thin mattress, a pillow and a duvet cover. It's quite comfortable at first, but I can confirm after two nights I was looking forward to a proper mattress.
Kanazawa, Japan

The highlights of staying in a ryokan were hands down: the traditional Japanese outfit and the traditional Japanese bath. The two go hand in hand. The Japanese outfit is essentially a big dressing gown with a patterned belt, you wear it when in your room and when visiting the Japanese baths. There is a really attractive photo of me demonstrating how to wear it. I had my underwear on underneath as I wasn't really sure of the etiquette. Do you go nude or not? If you were a man, you'd wear the belt on your hips whereas women wear it on their waist. You also get a pair of super sexy socks to wear. You know the kind with the gap between your big toe and the others, so you look like you have an actual camel toe? I brought them back with me and they are so funny! There is also a cute little jacket to wear, in case you decide to go out in public in this outfit.
Kanazawa, Japan
The Japanese baths are basically just a big spa room with a huge heated swimming pool in it. You have to go in naked, which scared me a bit but as this ryokan was so small I risked it and ended up being the only one in there. Yes, they're for separate genders so if you're with someone of the opposite sex you won't be able to go in together. Also, if you have tattoos you might not be able to go in as they're hugely frowned upon in Japan. I have a tiny one on my wrist and managed to get away with it. So, what do you do in a Japanese bath? Well first you have a shower to make sure you're clean before getting in the water. You wouldn't want to bathe in the same water as a smelly person so it's the same the other way. After you're showered, just get in the bath. It's heated water and you usually get a beautiful view of a Japanese garden to look at. They're very simple, but I found it so relaxing to just sit and chill in a huge bath. Plus the excitement of being naked in a public room added to the fun! I didn't get a photo of the Japanese bath, but a quick Google search will show you what I mean. 
 
Come back soon to hear about what we got up to in Kanazawa!

Read the rest of my Japan travel posts.

Rachael Amy 


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Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Blog Tour & Review: The Summer That Melted Everything

THE SUMMER THAT MELTED EVERYTHING BY TIFFANY MCDANIEL

PAGES: 310
PUBLISHER: SCRIBE

FIRST LINE: 'The heat came with the devil.'

"Fielding Bliss has never forgotten the summer of 1984: the year a heatwave scorched the small town of Breathed, Ohio. The year he became friends with the devil.
When local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes an invitation to the devil to come to the country town of Breathed, Ohio, nobody quite expects that he will turn up. They especially don't expect him to turn up as a tattered and bruised thirteen-year-old boy.
Fielding, the son of Autopsy, finds the boy outside the courtroom and brings him home, and he is welcomed in to the Bliss family. The Blisses believe the boy, who calls himself Sal, is a runaway from a nearby farm town. Then, as a series of strange incidents implicate Sal - and riled by the feverish heatwave baking the town from the inside out - there are some around town who start to believe that maybe Sal is exactly who he claims to be.
But whether he's a traumatised child or the devil incarnate, Sal is certainly one strange fruit: he talks in riddles, his uncanny knowledge and understanding reaches far outside the realm of a normal child - and ultimately his eerily affecting stories of Heaven, Hell, and earth will mesmerise and enflame the entire town."

WOW. Just look at the front of that book cover! Isn't is a beauty? I would definitely pick this up in a bookshop if I saw it! But the question is - after reading it - would I be glad I picked it up? The answer is... yes! When Scribe emailed and asked if I would like a copy of this book and to join in with the blog tour, they said that if I enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird, I would like this book. Well, you only have to mention that book title and I am SOLD. After reading the blurb, I knew this was going to be a special book. TKAM mixed with the devil? Add in some awesome names like Autopsy and Fielding and it makes for a very interesting read!

The story is set in a small town in Ohio named Breathed. It's pronounced 'Breath' (to take a breath) with 'ed' on the end (like Ed Balls), for anyone who was unsure. The protagonist is a young boy named Fielding Bliss, who lives with his father (Autopsy), his mother (Stella) and Grand, his older brother. The story starts when Autopsy publishes an invitation to the devil in the local newspaper. When a young boy appears in the town, people become suspicious of him. Is he the devil, or is he the runaway farm boy from the next town over?
I'm not lying when I say I haven't read anything like this before. Yes, it has similarities to TKAM: it covers racism and homophobia; it's set in a small town in the US, the father has an awesome name and works in law etc., but it's also completely different in the fact that most of it reads like poetry. The writing is exceptionally beautiful and I just know I'm going to go back through and copy down pages of beautiful quotes from it. The characters are deep and relatable, and Sal's depiction of both Heaven and Hell are hauntingly beautiful.

This is a truly beautifully written, thought provoking, deeply moving and original novel and I would recommend it to anyone. Especially if you're a fan of TKAM!

4/5

Now, visit the other blogs on the blog tour to read more about this wonderful novel!



Rachael Amy

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