Wednesday, 6 July 2016

What I've Been Watching #1

I wrote a post last year called What I've Been Reading #1 (there will be another one eventually). It went down really well so I figured I'd do one about what I've been watching lately. I've been meaning to write this for quite a few months so I now have too many programmes to talk about in one post - expect more of these in the future!

Also, this post will give a brief description of each programme and why I love it, but I'll make sure it's 100% spoiler free!

Master of None
I watched this as per Hannah Witton's recommendation in one of her monthly favourites videos. It's an American comedy-drama series created by and starring Aziz Ansari, which follows the life and work of his character, Dev. It's funny, it's mature, and it explores lots of different themes. Definitely worth a watch.

Making a Murderer
If you haven't watched, or at least heard of, this, where on earth have you been hiding for the last 6 months?! This is a documentary exploring the story of Steven Avery, a man who served 18 years in prison for sexual assault (and attempted murder), before being exonerated. 2 years after his release, he was then arrested in connection with a murder, and he was convicted a further 2 years later. The series covers his arrest, prosecution, and conviction, along with that of his nephew. This series is extremely controversial. Of course, we as viewers will form our opinions based on what we hear and see, despite the fact that we personally do not know exactly what happened. Whatever the truth behind this story, the series highlights some serious flaws in the US criminal justice system.

Freaks & Geeks
A friend recommended this to me and I'm so glad she did. It's an American teen comedy-drama series that aired in 1999/2000. Sadly, it was cancelled before the entire series was even aired and thus was not renewed. It stars lots of familiar faces, such as Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, and plenty more. It's a classic "coming of age" teen drama type series and I really enjoyed it.

Orphan Black
This is hands down one of my favourite TV shows ever. The lead actress, Tatiana Maslany, spectacularly plays the role of several identical people who are clones. The series raises lots of issues surrounding the moral and ethical implications of human cloning. I apologise that this is a little vague and sketchy but I really don't want to give too much away so you'll just have to go and watch it for yourself.

That's it for part 1 of "what I've been watching" and I'm sure the next part will come soon enough. Do let me know in the comments what you've been watching and loving!

- L x

Thursday, 30 June 2016

June Music Favourites

My "keeping to a schedule" thing lasted for all of about 2 weeks. What a surprise.
I think I knew deep down that committing myself to a schedule was a terrible idea, no matter how inspired I was feeling. My current excuses are that I am currently unwell (nothing dramatic, just a cold), and that I had an essay due in today. However, I've decided I'm not going to commit to any kind of schedule again. Although I still hope to keep up with posting more regularly, the only thing a schedule does is make me feel guilty when I don't/can't stick to it. This is something I want to continue to enjoy doing, and having a rigid schedule is not sustainable for me.

I have to be honest here and say that this won't be the most varied, musically diverse playlist you've ever come across. However, this is an extremely accurate representation of what I've been listening to most this month, and I guess that's what this post it all about. Go wild!

If you saw my May music favourites post, you'll know that I've started including my top 5 songs from the month's playlist and a little explanation as to why I love them so much. Without further ado (as per, I've done lots of waffling in this post), here are my top 5 songs from June. (spoiler: it was really hard to choose just 5)

1. The Love We're Hoping For - Jake Bugg
This is taken from Jake Bugg's latest album On My One, released on 17th June. I love this. It's definitely a very dark song, so if you're in the mood for something upbeat and jolly I'd save it for another day. It's quite a simple song - reasonably stripped back and understated - but it certainly packs a punch. I've listened through the whole album a handful of times now, and this is a firm favourite.

2. Better Love - Hozier
Oh my. Hozier wrote this song for the soundtrack of the new The Legend of Tarzan film and I am so in love. Despite having to fit the plot and themes of a film, this songs feels extremely passionate, like it's been ripped straight from his heart and crafted into this gorgeous song. The tone of his voice is divine as always - pure yet husky and intense. It's just as good as any other Hozier release and now I'm desperate for more.

3. The Longest Wave - Red Hot Chili Peppers
I am in love with this song. It's taken from RHCP's latest album, The Getaway, also released on 17th June.  The song is fairly mellow, much like a lot of the album. I'm not good enough with words, or music, to properly describe what I mean, but I have always loved the tone of lead-singer Anthony Kiedis' voice, and everything I love about it is out in full force on this track. Something about this song just feels so very "right." (i'll stop now, ha)

4. Oxygen - Catfish and the Bottlemen
Taken from their latest album The Ride, I've been listening to this song an awful lot. It's a classic no-fuss, no messing about Catfish song that is the reason so many people love them in the first place. Melodic, catchy, and relatable, there's nothing to dislike about Oxygen.

5. Outside - Catfish and the Bottlemen
In a similar vein to Oxygen, Outside screams classic Catfish. It's brash and catchy and relatable and the sort of thing you'd have fun chanting back to them at a massive gig. What you see is what you get with this band and it's perfect for easy, stress-free listening. It's there to be enjoyed, and to give you a break from the usual day-to-day stuff, and it does what it's supposed to. No fuss, no frills, just good music.

As usual, let me know what you've been loving this month!

- L x

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Am I My Own Niche?

The word "niche" gets thrown around an awful lot in the blogging world.

What's your niche?
You need a niche!
Your blog will never be successful without a clear, well-defined niche!

The term is batted around so frequently and so boldly that, after 2-and-a-half years of blogging, I'm finally finding it difficult to ignore.

I do not have this clear, well-defined niche that the masses preach about on a daily basis. Sometimes I blog about music, and sometimes about books. Sometimes I blog about travel and my year abroad, and sometimes about beauty and lifestyle. Often I write about whatever's on my mind - much like I'm doing now - spilling my thoughts onto a page, and hoping that someone, somewhere, will read them and resonate - and also to clear my cluttered mind a little bit. Added to the aforementioned range of topics I write about, these little (read: usually not little) rambles can be about anything and everything, from language learning, to mental health, to allegations and the internet.

What I've been thinking lately is, does any of this actually matter at all? For someone who has been blogging for over 2 years, I have neither a strong readership, nor booming statistics. I make absolutely no money from blogging, and I never get selected to work with anyone.

The thing is, though, I don't blog for the numbers. I'm not trying to make money from blogging. So, yes, my blog is a mish-mash of all sorts of different topics, but does it really matter?

If you re-read and remind yourself of the title of this post, you will once again realise that I have a knack for waffling. It really is a skill. I've been thinking about this whole niche thing a lot recently, and about how I don't fit into one category of blogging. In the midst of all this, another thought that's crossed my mind is: Am I my own niche?

My blog is not strongly defined by a certain theme or topic, but one common thing you get with each post is me. My writing style, my poorly-attempted humour, my beliefs, my take on things, the things that interest and are important to me, my experiences.

Is that enough?

- L x

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

A Visit From A Friend #1

This post is long overdue, but, as I said, I'm way behind with my travel/year abroad related posts and so they will be continuing for a little while longer.

This dates back to the week I had off work for the Easter holidays in March. My lovely friend Amy, who also studies French and German at York, came to visit me in Innsbruck for 4 days. Despite some minor (read: major) stressful situations, we had the loveliest time and it was so refreshing to see such a familiar face. The afternoon of her arrival was super chill and we caught up, ate out, and went to Tribaun, this amazing craft beer place in Innsbruck.

The next day, we got up very late and very slowly, and decided to go to the Swarovski Kristallwelten exhibition in a nearby town. After a 30 minute bus ride with lots of extremely tourist-y looking people (I don't count us as a part of that group because I lived there), we arrived somewhere that looks nothing like the online photos.

Above is a photograph I took. Below is a photo taken from the website.
Need I say anything else?
We paid, took photos, and then realised that everything was inside, underneath that face in the hills. We tentatively wandered inside and the exhibition was actually bigger than it looked, spanning several interconnected rooms. We had a good laugh and the experience was fun, however the main word I'd use to describe it would have to be 'trippy.' After perusing the huge Swarovski shop at the end of the exhibition, and every so often gasping in unison at the price of some items, we had time to kill before the bus back to Innsbruck. Naturally, we saw this as the perfect opportunity for cake, so we went to the cafĂ©/restaurant they have there and had Linzer Torte. We then got the bus back to Innsbruck, went to the 360° bar which offers such a gorgeous view of the city, returned to my accommodation, and watched Netflix in bed.

Linzer Torte
The next day entailed a visit to Schloss Ambras, a Renaissance castle and palace tucked away in the hills above the city. GoogleMaps had told us to get the tram, and then walk for about 15 minutes. Fine. Except, it wasn't that straightforward because it never quite is. We got off the tram at the correct stop and saw a sign for Schloss Ambras, however it was of course pointing in the opposite direction from where GoogleMaps was telling us to go (these were screenshots of the route because I had no internet unless I was in a wifi zone). Great. We began to follow the actual sign, hoping it would be more reliable than GoogleMaps (I've been let down one too many times by that thing), but got hugely confused. We turned back around and tried to follow the instructions given by GoogleMaps. Once again, we got confused (I'm giving you permission to laugh at us), so we turned around again and re-attempted to follow the sign. This time, we persisted and finally found what we were looking for, after fighting our way up a steep hill. Obviously I was dying at this point. Luckily, Schloss Ambras looks like something out of a fairytale, the weather was quite pleasant, and it's surrounded by gorgeous parks and greenery.

I hand-wrote the previous parts of this post weeks and weeks ago, when the visit was much more fresh in my mind, yet I'm having to write this part from memory and I'm struggling. I think we spent the rest of this next day just chilling in the centre of Innsbruck. We went for a walk along the river, visited a church or two, browsed the Easter market in the old town, and ate cake instead of proper meals. I also had chai for the first time that day, and, oh, what a wonderful day that was. I had it again when I visited in Amy in Regensburg (more on that to come another day) and I am so in love. I think the evening continued in a similar way to the previous one and we went to a bar for bit before retiring to mine and watching Netflix.

I ordered a mocktail and got a slap in the face. Was the sparkly thing really all that necessary?!
We didn't have much time before Amy's departure on her final day so we had a slow morning and went for a cute breakfast in the city centre. We had such a lovely time and having a visitor gave me an extra excuse to do lots of touristy things.

- L x

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Weekly Roundup #2

It's that time again!

I've been home back in England for just over a week now. I really do hate to use such a clichĂ© but, my oh my, how time is flying. A few days ago on Facebook, I noticed that it's been (just over) a year since I found out I was going to be somewhere in Tirol for my British Council assistantship. This was for the second half of my year abroad and now the whole thing is over and I'm right back to life in England. Crazy.

This week has been largely uneventful. I've written lots of emails and dealt with a few random tasks requiring my attention, but all-in-all it's been a pretty chill week.

On Thursday I went into town to get a new phone and sort out a new contract now I'm back in England for the foreseeable future. I got the iPhone SE in rose gold and I am so in love. I've been acting like a young child at Christmastime ever since I got it and I'm almost too scared to leave the house with it. I need to get a pretty case sorted out for it asap because I just don't trust myself.

Yesterday I saw a good friend of mine for the first time since Christmas, and then visited lots of family in the afternoon and had a lovely day.

Today has also been pretty chilled. I got up late, did some house-y jobs for my mum, skyped a friend, and now I'm writing this post.

From tomorrow, I need to get my arse into gear and write an essay that's due in sooner than I care to disclose. That'll be the main thing I spend my time on for the rest of this month, but on Wednesday I'm going back to York for a night to visit a friend, so that should be fun and will break up my essay researching/writing.

I hope you've all had a lovely week, and that the next week is equally as lovely.

- L x

Thursday, 9 June 2016

'Emily Coxhead' Order

Before I even get going with this post properly, I want to put a disclaimer out there making it clear that this post is not sponsored. I paid for the products I’m going to mention with my own money* and I’m not being paid to say any of the things I’m about to say.

Recently (by recently I mean early April), I placed an order with Emily Coxhead and I was just so pleased with all aspects that I wanted to dedicate a whole post to it.

Birthday card
I ordered a couple of bits for a friend’s birthday and fancied something a bit nicer and more thoughtful than a bog-standard card from the local chain shop. I already knew about and loved Emily’s work, plus I’m a big advocate of supporting small businesses and creators, so I ordered a birthday card and some “for when you’re having a not so great day” notes. I was also lucky enough to be sent a copy of issue #1 of The Happy Newspaper, a wonderful project of Emily’s (*I didn’t pay for this, however I wasn’t sent it because I blog and I didn’t know I was going to receive it, it really was just a lovely gesture and I’m super grateful for it).

The Happy Newspaper
I ordered these products later than I probably should have done, bearing in mind the date I needed them by (my fault). Despite this and the fact that I was living in Austria at the time (it was being shipped from the UK), I received my order extremely promptly, and also in time for when I needed it. Everything was well packaged and presented in such a beautiful way and I really couldn’t have been happier with the service I received.

The products were all of an extremely high quality and I also received a cute little “thank you” note – everything just felt a bit more personal and I was definitely made to feel appreciated and valued as a customer.

The cutest lil' notes
I would seriously recommend checking out Emily’s website and Etsy page; I cannot speak highly enough about her, her products, and her projects.

- L x

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

End of My Year Abroad: What I've Learned

As I mentioned briefly in this post on Sunday, my year abroad is now officially over and I am back home for the summer. In September, I’ll move back to York for my final year of university gaaaaah, after which I’ll be expected to go out into the real world and be the adult I supposedly am. I will still be writing year abroad/travel related posts for the foreseeable future (there are a lot of trips/visitors I haven’t written about yet), but seeing as this chapter of my life is technically over, I thought I’d list some of the things I’ve learned throughout the year – some serious, some not so. 

- The “Tipex Phase” (people of my age, you get me) does not wear off in the early teenage years in Austria; most every single one of my pupils (aged mostly between 14 and 19, with a few in their 20s) still used it. I got hit with a strong wave of nostalgia every single time one of them whipped out their Tipex tape.

- The novelty of seeing fully grown adults dressed head-to-toe in business wear riding around on rollerblades or a scooter (the non-motorised sort you’d have as a kid) never did quite wear off. I still had a little giggle to myself every time it happened, right up to the end.

- A lot of my Matura (A-Level) students had a better grasp of English than I do of German and it destroyed a little bit more of my soul on a regular basis.

- When I wanted to/had no choice, I got pretty good at faking confidence and making my pupils think I had my shit together. (if only that were true)

gonna miss this shit x
- In terms of my German language studies, I had lived an incredibly sheltered life up until the year abroad. Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the range of spoken dialects and accents that actually exist in real-life German.

- I used to be good at getting up early in a morning, and now I suck at it.

- I really need to sort out my sleeping pattern.

- I love being in and around the mountains, but I am less fond of being at the top of them.

This is me, refusing to go any further up the big scary mountain

- Teaching can both suck any remaining life, soul, and joy out of you, and also inspire and motivate you like nothing else.

- I like brie a bit too much and I think it’s becoming a problem.

- Most aspects of the transport systems in mainland Europe are infinitely better than they are here in the UK.

- There are not many things in this world as petrifying as looking out into a sea of teenagers and knowing that they’re waiting for and hanging on your every word.

- Successfully navigating your way through day-to-day life in another language is one of the most rewarding feelings ever.

- Spending 4 months with pretty much the same 2 people and then suddenly not knowing when you're going to see them again is a very strange feeling.

- Sparkling water is a thing of the devil.

- I’ve learned how to be more flexible and go with the flow a bit more – sometimes things don’t always go to plan, but that’s okay.

- People are generally very willing to help you if you have a problem, you just have to ask!

- Being abroad teaches you a lot of things about other cultures, but also a lot about your own culture.

- Self-reliance. I’ve always considered myself to be quite independent, but, after moving to two different cities where I didn’t know a single person, being abroad has increased this even more. Sometimes you just have to put on your big girl pants and figure something out for yourself.

There we have a little roundup of some of the things I’ve learned and taken away from the year abroad. It’s definitely not an easy thing to do, and there were lots of ups and downs and bumps along the way, but I don’t regret it and I’m so proud of myself for going and making it through.

- L x