Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions: 2015 | The Small Desk

I’ll start by reviewing my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014:

1. Eat less chocolate
I think this sort of happened at the beginning of the year. I bought a few sugar-free sweets and tried to not eat chocolate at lunchtime but as the stress piled on at work I inevitably reached for the chocolate again!

2. Do more exercise
Doing the 10k Race for Life counts as doing more exercise, so I think I definitely achieved this resolution. 

3. Make my new blog amazing
These were the words I wrote in my diary! I’m not sure I’d say it is amazing but I am very happy with how it has progressed.

4. Get a new job
I set this goal as my job was really unstable. I haven’t got a new job but my job is now stable, so there is less need for this now.

5. Go to Australia
Success! As I said in my previous post you can read those blog posts here:

6. Start saving for a mortgage
Yeah, this didn’t happen. I think going to Australia and saving for a mortgage was a bit ambitious!

So overall, I don’t think I did too badly with those resolutions; the one I should carry over into next year that I didn’t achieve at all is saving for a mortgage.

2015 New Year’s Resolutions
1. Get a pension
In 2015 I will be 27, apparently you’re meant to start a pension at 25…

2. Save for a flat
This is the same resolution as last year, save for a mortgage… must try… but I find it difficult not just to live in the here and now!

3. Write in a diary everyday for 2015
On 8th January in my current diary I wrote ‘Sadly I only wrote three times in here in 2013’ but then I ended up only writing in it 3 times in 2014! Although I did write a diary every day when I was in Australia. This year I want to try harder with my diary. It is different from my blog as it is often just me venting my frustrations!

4. Read more
In my old diary I have a ‘Books I’ve read’ section and it is just 2010 and 2011, I think I’ve hardly read in 2012, 2013 and 2014! I can blame my MA for not reading in 2012 and 2013 but what happened this year?! Maybe my blog can be blamed?! I have lots of books that I’ve read the first two or three chapters; I just need to finish them!

5. Get fit
This year I want to get fit by doing lots of different types of exercise. I want to swim, cycle, run, and hike. I think all of those are achievable apart from cycle, as I don’t yet have a bike… another thing to save for!

6. Go on a Scandinavian holiday
Go to Stockholm, Gothenburg and the Norwegian Fjords in May for 2 weeks. Apparently May is the best time of year to see the Fjords. This resolution is dependant on money… not sure how much this trip will cost.

7. Go to Billingsgate Fish Market
I have always wanted to go and take photos in this market. This resolution includes exploring London more; maybe even take a week off work to do a ‘London’ holiday.

8. Write on my blog more
This year I turn 27… only 3 more years until I hit 30! I feel a ‘30 things to do before I’m 30’ post coming on… I would also like to do more ‘general articles’, articles that might be written in a columnist style.

9. Socialise more
Last year I didn’t socialise as much due to saving so heavily for Australia but this year hopefully I will have a little bit more spare money for dinner and drinks. It is very important for me to do this often otherwise I just lose my confidence and dread it.

10. Save for 2016 to go to California and Yosemite
Haha, another saving resolution! Well, it’s always good to have goals, isn’t it?!

Would love to know what your resolutions are for 2015, please let me know in the comments or leave a link to your blog post on New Year’s Resolutions.

Finally… HAPPY NEW YEAR!
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Monday, 29 December 2014

My Year in Review: 2014 | The Small Desk

As I started to write my New Year’s Resolution post I remembered that before making plans for the future it is always good to look to the past for life lessons. I often think politicians should do more of this! Therefore I decided to have a look through my day-to-day diary (the one I use for planning) plus my personal diary/journal and write up a Year in Review post. There is a lot I have forgotten about, the main thing being how hard I worked at the beginning of the year! If you get to the end of this post you’ll see a nice ‘overall’ paragraph that sums it up. You can also skip to this part if you want!

January 2014
As a ballet-obsessed woman I had an excellent start to 2014 by going to see the most festive ballet of them all, the Nutcracker, and not any Nutcracker production, but the best: the Royal Opera House.

The middle of January saw a heavy month at work with the beginning of the end of the first project I managed by myself.

February 2014
This month was another work heavy month. Looking through my diary I am impressed I got through that month without time off! There are lots of lists in my diary during this month of things I wanted to buy for the flat, I was clearly craving some retail therapy!

I also celebrated six years with my boyfriend by going to Gilbert Scott. This is a beautiful restaurant set within St Pancras hotel.

March 2014
Again this was a work heavy month, this time I had an unplanned last minute day off. I was very stressed after completing a major project at work that I’d been working on since October the previous year. I also seem to have ‘clothes shopping’ scheduled in this month – this is probably the last time I actively went clothes shopping!

April 2014
Finally I had a prolonged period off work. I headed off to Majorca for a week with my parents, sister and boyfriend. This was the first time my boyfriend had been on holiday with my family and it worked out really well. We celebrated both mine and my sister’s birthdays out there. I also wrote a blog post on that holiday.

We also went to see two of my boyf’s friends run the London Marathon and I had a reunion with old work people in Wahaca.

May 2014
I went to see the Matisse exhibition at the Tate with a friend whose favourite artist is Matisse! It was a fantastic show and I wrote a post on it too

One of my old school friends had a Cinco de Mayo party at her flat, and I made Mexican cookies for it!

I was quite sociable this month! I also went to my friend’s birthday picnic, another friend’s housewarming drinks and to the same friend’s law firm’s networking event. I was pretty proud of myself for having the courage to go to that, can’t say the free food didn’t persuade me!

June 2014
I have been an acquaintance of the Curator at the Guildhall Art Gallery for a while now and this month she took me on an ‘after hours’ private tour of their Tower Bridge exhibition. I wish I could see every exhibition this way; you learn so much more and see so much more! I also went to the Art Car Boot sale and had an interview for a job at the Tate, which I unfortunately did not get.

This month also brought feelings of worry about my job and I thought about becoming a volunteer reading assistant in order to become a teacher. I thought it would be a more stable job with a better salary but thinking about it in more detail and speaking to qualified teachers I wasn’t sure it was quite me, and I wasn’t ready to give up working in the arts.

On 21st of this month me and the boyf booked Australia and went to the Gate for the dinner that I won on Instagram. That was probably one of the best days of the year, we walked back along the river after dinner and saw the sun set. This was the month I also started training for the 10k Race for Life.

July 2014
I had some crazy idea this month that I would run during my lunch break, thankfully this never happened. I went to the cinema for the first time in years to see the 100 Year Old Man.

During this month I was feverishly trying to save more for our Australia trip and I have notes in my diary telling me to only spend £10 a week. One of the boyf’s best mates moved to London, which has been brilliant. It brought a serious increase in pub quizzes! On 27th of this month I ran the 10k Race for Life in 1 and a half hours. I cried at the end, and I blogged about it.

August 2014
This is the month where my diary starts to become packed with things to remember to do before going to Australia. This is also the month my cousin got married in Devon and my geekish aim of going to the Museum of London Docklands came true. 

September 2014
I did a little bit of travelling the south of the country this month, enjoying a trip to the Seven Sisters and to Brighton for a conference for work (also ended up in an amazing homeware shop).

I ticked some things off my Australia ‘to do’ list such as get my top-up injections, without fainting! I also went to my first press event, which was a disaster and made me reconsider what I blog about.

At the end of the month I went to the Handmade Festival where I saw lots of lovely crafty people.

October 2014
This was the Australia month. At the beginning I went to see the comedian John Richardson in concert, which was a birthday present from the boyf. He was hilarious, always love watching him on ‘8 out of 10 Cats’.

On 11th October we left for Australia for three weeks. You can read all the blog posts from it here:

Whilst I was away one of my best friends at work left for Maternity leave, so it was sad coming back seeing her empty desk. She left me a beautiful package of presents to say bye. They were all wrapped so carefully and with such thought, I was quite overwhelmed!

November 2014
Going back to work after a three week holiday isn’t ever easy! However my friend from Uni who used to live in London but then moved back to Cornwall came back to live in London again, so that was a nice surprise. It ended up not being such a bad month to come back to as we also got major funding at work and I was put back on a permanent contract. I can’t tell you what a relief that was! I spent a lot of this month showing people Australia photos.

This was also the month that Brown Paper Roses became The Small Desk. I am so pleased with the rebrand

December 2014
This month was spent planning for Christmas, making plans to see people and buying presents. Also the boyf was very sick this month, as was I, but not as bad as his stomach bug.

I was interviewed for TV for my job, which went ok, but I had been ill the day before so had to force myself to go in! I also had one of the busiest socialising weeks of my life this month. 

Then obviously there was Christmas and Boxing Day. I also went to see the Imitation Game in the cinema, which I would highly recommend seeing. I hope Cumberbatch wins an Oscar for his performance. Finally, today I went swimming with the boyf, I am hoping that this continues as a regular fitness activity!

Overall… I forgot how work heavy the beginning of the year was and how much socialising I missed out on due to saving for Australia. However it was completely worth it as I got to swim in the Great Barrier Reef, which has been one of my life goals. Talking of goals… I better get writing those New Year’s Resolutions!
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Saturday, 27 December 2014

Boxing Day Walk | The Small Desk

Welcome back to normality! Christmas is over and we're all getting fat, so what better way to start burning off those Quality Street than to go for a Boxing Day walk! My family are keen walkers so it is not out of the norm for us to go on a walk. This time I thought I would take my good camera and get some shots to share with you. Unfortunately the weather wasn't great, the sky was actually completely white, it's not just my photography skills! We walked from Ham to Richmond along the River Thames and stopped off for a cup of tea and cake along the way. I would love to know what you got up to over Christmas and what your plans are for New Year's Eve. Please tell me in the comments! I'm planning on writing a Review and Resolutions post next to sum up 2014 and look to 2015, so watch this space. If you're not already following me on Bloglovin' please do here. Thank you.










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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Remember there are 364 other days to enjoy yourself. I hope you all at least have a rest from work over the next few days. At this time of year I'll be thinking of all of those who are spending Christmas alone and without their loved ones. Now is a time for feeling grateful for however little or lot you have.
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Sunday, 21 December 2014

A week of festivities | The Small Desk

This past week I have been super busy socialising and seeing everyone before Christmas. I particularly wanted to write this post as this time last year I had just finished my Masters degree and had found it really hard to get back into socialising and just generally enjoying myself guilt-free. I was working on my Masters degree part-time from 2011 to 2013 and working full-time, which didn’t give me much time to see anyone or have any leisure time. You might think that as soon as I finished it I would be partying every night, but I got so used to not socialising a lot over those two years it took me a while to get my confidence back. This past week has been the most socialising I’ve done in a while and I sort of wanted to document it so that I can look back on this week if I loose my confidence again.

So here’s what I’ve been up to:

Friday 12th December
In the evening I went ice-skating with two of my girlfriends from Uni. We skated on the ice rink outside the London Eye.

Saturday 13th December
Me and the boyf got up early this day and headed to Banbury to see his parents for a pub lunch and to exchange gifts.

Sunday 14th December
Every year since I’ve lived with the boyf we have had a Christmas drinks shindig for some of our friends. This year we just invited his friends and their girlfriends, as I think sometimes it can be nicer to have a smaller group/less stressful! We had mince pies with brandy cream, mulled cider, guacamole and pizzas.

Monday 15th December
In the evening it was my work Christmas party. A few of us ordered in some takeaway pizzas before we went and had a pre-party with some champagne. The party is always at our Director’s house; the only negative is that it takes me an hour and 20 minutes to get home.

Tuesday 16th December
I feel very lucky to still be in contact with the girls I went to secondary school with, they are some of my closest friends and those sort of people you belly-laugh with. As a Christmas get together we went to a tapas bar called Brindisa in Soho. Afterwards we headed to a nearby pub.

Wednesday 17th December
This was my down day, the boyf was out and so I just stayed in and watched TV and went to bed at 10:30pm. It was a much needed early night!

Thursday 18th December
I hadn’t seen my sister for a while as we have both been so busy, so after work I headed to my parent’s house where she lives to hang out for a bit.

Friday 19th December
Recently one of my friends I know through the boyf had to have his appendix taken out, so we went round after work to his flat and played Scrabble with him and his girlfriend. Before we went to see them we also went to one of my favourite restaurants, Wahaca.

Saturday 20th December
Well, this was a really busy day! At 12ish we headed into to town to finish off our Christmas shopping and then at 1pm we met a couple who live in the same town as us for lunch at Pret. Later on in the afternoon I met my friend, Holly, from Uni, to celebrate her birthday. And in the evening we went to my parents house for a home-cooked meal and for the boyf and my parents to exchange gifts.

Sunday 21st December
Today is mine and the boyf’s fake Christmas as we are not spending it together. We had a hot lunch, exchanged presents and watched festive films. Along with cleaning the flat and doing the washing, as we are grown ups now and have to look after ourselves, boo!

And… BREATHE!

Anyways, this is also the reason I haven’t had time to blog much, so apologies on that front, and I hope to post more regularly from hereon in.
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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Eight ways to enjoy the festive season | The Small Desk

For many people the festive season brings feelings of dread, stress and pressure. Not for me, I absolutely love Christmas time. One of the main reasons I love this period is it is a great excuse to see more of your friends and family and to shop! I am obsessively organised (my Mum used to call me 'Miss Clipboard') and this time of year is a great excuse for me to get planning, budgeting and list-making. However as I said, many people do not find this time of year fun, and I want to help change that. I think far too much pressure is put on people to have the 'perfect Christmas'. One of the main things you should focus on over this festive period is to relax: take advantage of ready-made pastry, shop-bought canapes, and all the Christmas TV. Put it this way – if you're not enjoying yourself, no-one else will, so was it really worth spending all day making that fresh mincemeat? Unless you enjoy making it of course!

Here are eight ways to enjoy the festive season and to not stress about the things that really don't matter!

1. Go to the cinema or stick on a DVD
There are some great releases out this Christmas such as Paddington Bear and the re-make of Annie, produced by Jay Z and Will Smith!

2. Take a walk in the park or nearby countryside
The best thing for me about Christmas is having time off work, and the best way to de-stress is to get out there, get some fresh air and exercise whilst enjoying views that are not of other office buildings.

3. Have a mini Christmas
If you are not looking forward to spending time with your relatives have a mini Christmas with those you do enjoy spending time with. Remember – many, many people work on Christmas Day and have Christmas on a different day.

4. Book your friends in for some Christmas drinks
The festive season is always a good excuse for mulled cider, mulled wine and hot chocolate. Mmm... Mmm...

5. Look to the New Year
Remember the New Year is only just around the corner and the best way to combat any regrets or disasters of 2014 is to look to 2015 and plan some exciting stuff to look forward to.

6. Have a pub lunch
To me there is something more festive about a lunch out than a dinner. My last post was about lunch in a countryside pub!

7. Put on some Christmas music and have a dance
Whether that is classical, carols, pop or 80s... which is your favourite?

8. Play 'guess the Quality Street'
This is a game I am hoping to implement this Christmas. One person gets blindfolded and then picks a Quality Street (or any other chocolate box) and guesses what it is! Ha! Basically I just want to eat lots of Quality Street! Reckon this game will work?!

And finally... Merry Christmas! Whether you are spending it with family, on your own, or with friends, I hope that you have a nice day and remember Christmas doesn't have to be the best time of the year, there are 364 other days you can have fun!
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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Lunch in a country pub | The Small Desk

On Saturday me and the boyf headed up to his hometown of Banbury to see his parents. The train ride from London to Banbury is only an hour and, as long as you get your tickets early, it is very affordable. I always like to see his parents before Christmas so that we can exchange gifts plus their home is really Christmassy with a perfectly dressed tree. This time they decided to take us out to one of the oldest pubs in the country in Oxfordshire. It's called The Falkland Arms and dates back to the sixteenth century. It is situated in a really quaint little village where all the houses have that classic Cotswold stone. Here are some photos from our lunch and around the village. I had a lovely day and we even visited a local brewery too. Hope you like the photos, sorry they were just taken with my iPhone as I forgot my camera.




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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Idea versus craft | The Small Desk

At the end of the day it's all about taste

Recently there has been some controversy about a certain online star’s novel due to it being ‘ghost written’. As there has been so much discussion around this topic I wanted to talk about this further in terms of the distinction between ideas and craft. It comes down to one question: what do you think is more important, the idea or the craft? Would you prefer to see a well-written book about a dull topic or a poorly written book about a fascinating topic? I think most people would argue, neither. Therefore when you can put idea and craft together you really have the perfect combination. Some people are excellent at both craft and idea, and for some the craft is the only thing that matters. However some people are better at ideas and some people are better at craft, so sometimes it can produce a higher quality product if people work together.

I want to highlight a great example of where idea meets craft in a really successful way. Everywhere the press write ‘tapestries created by Grayson Perry’, yet he does not physically make the tapestries, they are sketched out and then made elsewhere by someone else. I cannot even find out by a Google search who actually makes them. However in Grayson Perry’s case no-one cares if he made the tapestry, stitched it piece by piece, but what we really care about is how he is making us think, think differently, openly and more deeply.

Let us take Damien Hirst. The spot paintings: how deep can they really make you think? What is the ‘idea’ behind these? I fear, not much. So in this case, is this a case of someone being better at the craft rather than the idea? Sadly not, as most of Hirst’s spot paintings are made by ‘assistants’, paid a low wage. This is a case where idea and craft are not complimenting each other.

Therefore I am asking you to think about whether it really matters who crafted what, as long as the idea is making you think, that the craft is of a high standard and that all involved are credited?

And if you are still thinking about ghost writing, you might be interested to read about the ‘confessions of a ghost writer’.
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Sunday, 7 December 2014

Christmas tree decorations | The Small Desk

Candy canes: local department store
Bird: National Gallery, London
Bauble: Liberty of London

It's the 7th December so I decided to put up my Christmas tree! Plus, I was bored as my boyfriend has been sick all day. I thought I would share with you some snapshots of the decorations I have. The tree I have is a fake tree from Argos. If I had a bigger house and lived on the ground floor I would probably  get a real tree. Also fake trees are more cost effective but I know they are not as beautiful as the real thing. Some of my decorations are new and others are two years old, so I'll just write where they are from rather than give links. Hope you like! Have you put up your tree yet? Am I too early?!

Wooden decoration: National Gallery, London
Koala bear: Sydney Opera House

Pear: National Gallery, London
Star: Sass and Belle

Angel: Sass and Belle
Bauble: Liberty of London

Rocking horse: National Gallery, London
Angel: my Mum's!
Holly: my Grandma's!

Alice in Wonderland: Ideal Home Show
Fluffy white owl: Paperchase

Angel: Selfridges
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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Why you need to blog | The Small Desk

Since setting up The Small Desk I have started to realise how valuable having a blog has become. I've been to many a meeting at work where 'tech' people tell us about the importance of social media today and why designing a website for mobile first is key. As they mention terms such as 'disqus' and 'embedding', I realise the only reason I'm the only one not looking blankly at them is because of my blog.

I have learnt so much from creating this site, not only in terms of technology but also in terms of how people use social media, what is on trend, and what products are fashionable in the market place.

For example, in terms of social media, I know that scheduled weekly chats on Twitter can bring hundreds of people together at one time. This benefits the host but also provides everyone else involved the opportunity to network. At the moment I know that if I add a tweet that included a 'bbloggers' hashtag rather than an 'lbloggers' hashtag it will get more views; posting on a Sunday evening seems to get me the most hits; and that photos with a tweet get more retweets. I could go on.

Then there's the community, other bloggers, other vloggers. I smile smugly when I hear people shocked at the surprise of Zoella's debut novel, having watched her videos for a year and knowing my friends have been watching her for as long as she has been a YouTuber. This blogging thing, they say, it's about to really take off... well guess what, it has, its here, and the party has already started. But don't worry if you haven't arrived yet, the door is always open and the party goes on late into the night with people welcoming you in at all hours. Small bloggers, big bloggers, short bloggers, tall bloggers, they've all got something to say and there's always going to be someone reading, with online your audience is international and someone is always awake.
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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Dream Heal's living room | The Small Desk

I've held off writing a post about Heal's, even though they are one of my favourite homeware and furniture stores, mainly because of the prices. I didn't want to alienate any readers. The reason I have decided to write a post on them is because I am addicted to interiors and Heal's are, and always have been, leading the way when it comes to interior design. I also noticed that the cushion prices are affordable, and they are an easy way of getting a touch of the chic Heal's brand into your home. Like Liberty of London, Heal's is part of British culture and even a scatter cushion from the store will impress your guests.

Heal's have been selling furniture since 1810, the same year Sweden declared war on the United Kingdom, luckily this war was short-lived with Sweden seeking peace in 1812, and becoming arguably the most influential countries when it comes to furniture design. Although an English brand, Heal's still references Sweden and the surrounding countries as a way to sell its products, for example the Novak dining table pictured above is described as having a 'clean Scandinavian look'. The dream living room look I have put together blends together very classic British designs with more mid-century Scandinavian inspired pieces.

The cushions and sofa are the British half of my dream living room. The 1810 Cushion, which is the cushion with a tree design, is named after the year Heal's was born, and by British textile designer Cressida Bell. Interestingly Bell is also known for cake decorating skills and has some really impressive designs on her website. I particularly like the design of this cushion as it reminds me of a Scandinavian forest with the colours used so often by textile legend William Morris. The Mohair cushion looks like it could be straight out of a Scottish cabin in the Highlands. Both these cushions would compliment the beautiful shade of green in the tufted sofa, which looks like it has a good depth to it. The sideboard is by another classic British brand, Ercol, and has the right balance between being able to have objects on show and having cupboard space to hide your junk or unsightly items.

Finally, you may be wondering why I have added a table and chair to a dream living room but nowadays so many people's living rooms are open plan and merge with their dining rooms that I added it in. Plus, I am obsessed with round dining tables and this is the most beautiful example of any that I have seen. The table and chair are great mid-century-style pieces. To balance out the darkness of the wood I would add the bright Hexa rug underneath the table. The shape of the rug would create a nice juxtaposition against the round table. Do let me know what your favourite pieces are and if you'll be taking a browse at their scatter cushions!

Mistral Medium Sofa, £1,895
Natural Multi Mohair Cushion, £45
Ercol Svelto Storage Cabinet, £1,535
Novak Dining Chair, £395
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