Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March Favourites 2015 | The Small Desk

I seem to be making a bit of a habit of doing a monthly favourites post! I find it almost therapeutic. It makes me think about how busy I was in the month, whether I would like to do more or less in the next month and helps me to accept that another month has passed! I am looking forward to April as it is my birthday, Easter and I'm taking some time off work, but for now here is a little review of my March.

1. Dinner with one of my old school friends
Having a tight knit group of old friends is great, but sometimes it is nice to hang out one-on-one, and to have some quality time with just one person from the group. I did this this month and loved it, I felt we had a more intense conversation than we would have had otherwise.

2. Sloane Square market with my sister
One of my favourite things to do generally in life is to mooch with my sister, to wander and chat about anything and everything. This month we mooched in Sloane Square and took up the five cookies for £5 deal. It was worth it!

3. Shopping with my relatively new friend
I say 'relatively new' as most of my close friends I have known for about 15 years now and this friend I have known for seven years, but been close friends with in the last three or four years. It is so nice to find someone you get on so well with especially outside of education and work. We are friends through our partners and so it is also good for double dates!

4. Richard Cork talk at Tate Britain
I blogged about this talk. First things first, I went with my best friend from Uni, which always makes an event better, and then secondly it went way beyond my expectations. It was a completely absorbing talk, I was so immersed in their discussion that I didn't realise they'd been talking for an hour and a half.

5. Ercol desk
Ercol outlet store had a sale on, and were selling the Ercol Treviso desk at half price! I rang up at 9am on the dot and was really lucky to be the first to request to buy it. I have been looking for a new desk for a while now and this piece is a classic. When I went to pick it up from the store they told me that they could have sold it five times over, it was that popular. Thankfully I am now sitting at it and it is in my home. It feels like a piece I will have forever, and hopefully will be the first piece of more classic long-lasting furniture collection.

6. Boyf's cousin's 21st 
This year I want to make more of an effort to see the boyf's family. Last year I think I only made it to see them in Oxfordshire twice! I went to his cousin's 21st birthday meal and it is in my favourites purely because I got to spend a bit of time with his family. The food was also really good!

7. Karaoke
Now I'm not saying karaoke is my favourite, but I went out with my school friends and their partners and it was hanging out with them that I enjoyed. I have to say though I had had an awful day at work that day and it definitely helped me to take my mind off things!

8. Walk in the park with the boyf and cannoli
"We're nowhere nears ready!" Anyone know that quote? It's from 'Cake Boss'! And yes it is 'nears'. 'Cake Boss' is an American TV show and one of the main things they bake is cannoli. I've never ever tasted them before but on our way to the park we stopped at a delicatessen and picked some up. I enjoyed the fact that we tried them out but they are far too sweet for me! I love walking in the park with the boyf as it is the one time where we are not tempted by the TV, computer or phones.

9. Station Eleven
This is the fourth book I've read this year! My New Year's Resolution is going well so far! I also posted a review on it.

10. Food shopping online
This sounds like an incredibly boring favourite, but I am so pleased that I have now given up going to the shop to do the weekly shop. I no longer have to carry heavy bags back, online shopping is the future! It has given me so much more free time.

What have you been up to this month? Have you posted your monthly favourites?
Other monthly favourites posts:
February 2015
January 2015
November 2014

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Station Eleven: Book Review | The Small Desk

Every time I went into any bookshop I kept seeing this book: it was in the charts section, the recommended reading, in the window, everywhere. Then I bought it on a whim because I couldn't stand not knowing what 'Station Eleven' was. Turns out knowing what 'Station Eleven' is isn't some great mystery, and by telling you I won't be ruining the story. It is the title of a comic book that joins the dots throughout the entire novel.

When I read the blurb for this book I felt none the wiser, and when I re-read the blurb I am still not sure if it is a good enough overview: it doesn't exactly sell the book to me. It was the continuous promotion and the fact that it is a New York Times bestseller that sold it to me. The blurb states: 'If civilisation was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?' Now that I re-read it, I'm not sure this is really what the book is about. The reason I liked reading this novel is that I wanted to see how the lives of every character overlapped: which characters' lives would be the next to overlap and how each characters' life would evolve from pre-collapse to what seemed like the beginning of the next chapter of the collapse.

Written by Emily Mandel, a Canadian dancer, this novel speculates as to what it would be like if the majority of the population on earth was wiped out by a flu virus. It is a dystopian novel. I was worried that I wouldn't like the novel as I like to read things that are feasible. I don't like Sci-fi or fantasy-fiction, and I can assure you that this novel is neither of these genres.

Mandel makes it relatable by detailing how long the electricity lasts, how the internet is lost, and how the iPhone becomes a relic in a museum. The novel is incredibly detailed and descriptive, to the point where you start believing this is really what the next era in the earth's history could be like. The first few years after the collapse are terrifying, people who would never kill, kill to survive, but after 15 years or so it starts to become a bit more civilised and hope is not lost for humanity.

The whole story starts with the death of a famous actor, Arthur Leander, and despite him not particularly enjoying the fame towards the end of his life, his name is remembered throughout the novel and helps the reader to string together the numerous plot lines. The novel jumps across different timezones, time periods and lifetimes. I'm not sure I know exactly what the core message of the book is, or if there is one, but I can tell you one thing, it is definitely a book that helps you escape the daily grind, but also to appreciate the daily grind, as there is no daily grind for the people of the collapse, there is no normality.
This is the third book review on The Small Desk, the other two are: Elizabeth is Missing and The Miniaturist.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

An ode to my dressing gown | The Small Desk

Recently I noticed these tweets...
...and I decided to write a post about 'fuck all', but tried to write really well. So here it is... fuck all.

Let's start small. Let's talk about dressing gowns. Let's talk about my love for the dressing gown. Every evening when I come home from work I head straight to the kitchen and start preparing whatever it is that takes the longest to cook, 99% of the time it's those bloody potatoes. Cutting them into all shapes and sizes – and I mean all shapes and sizes, sometimes I go crazy and cut them into circles (!) – all I can think about is how quickly I can prepare the food before putting on my dressing gown and relaxing. 

There is something about the dressing gown that instantly relaxes me. I place it over my shoulders, pull down the collar, feeling the soft pink cotton as I straighten it, pushing the sleeves out with my arms; it feels like I've put on my safety blanket. I secure it with the matching belt and slide my hands into the pockets of old tissues and sweet wrappers. Perhaps this is only a few steps away from the feelings those obsessive hoarders on the TV have with their old and manky possessions, the security of what you know and having it wrapped around you like swaddling. 

I can feel my shoulders instantly dropping when I put on my dressing gown. It also transitions me from a work mindset to a home mindset. I would never wear my dressing gown at work and therefore it places me firmly in my home, a place I can be myself and don't have to be the grown up that work requires of me. 

It also has numerous purposes, other than a piece of clothing. It is a napkin: I can spill food over it and pat it in. It is a hand towel: I can dry my hands on it. It is mop: I can spill water on the table and slide my dressing gown sleeve over it and it's gone. It is a tissue... ok I'll stop. Basically I love my dressing gown and I can be as gross as I want in it because it's nice to take your foot off the accelerator at home and to be who you really are.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Face to Face: Richard Cork in Conversation with Morgan Quaintance | The Small Desk

A video that shows both Quaintance and Cork, but they've not met yet!

It's not often an interviewer is interviewed. You have to be a pretty big-time interviewer to be interviewed; for people to want to know who you are and not just who the people you interview are. Richard Cork is pretty big-time when it comes to the 'art world'.

The first artist he met was Picasso in the 1960s with his best friend Tim Curry. Cork and Curry (not a comedy duo!) were in Cannes on their Gap Year and spotted Picasso having lunch. Cork was simply grateful for seeing Picasso, but Curry pushed him to go and speak to him. Cork wandered over and spoke through Picasso's American friend and got Picasso's signature, Curry then told him he had to do more and so Cork went over and started to draw Picasso's portrait. At which point Picasso decided to start pulling funny faces but eventually asked to see the portrait. Unbelievably he then decided to draw Cork's portrait. An incredible first encounter with an artist and an experience that no doubt gave Cork the motivation and the fire in his belly, if you like, to become an art critic.

He has been an art critic for various newspapers including the Evening Standard and The Times, he is a curator, author of many books including The Healing Power of Art and has been a Turner Prize judge. His passion is finding new artists and giving them the space to be heard. His new book Face to Face: Interviews with Artists is published by Tate Publishing and so naturally this talk was held at Tate Britain in the Clore Gallery, right next to their offices. I must admit I have never been to the Clore Galleries and didn't even realise they existed! It holds the Turner Collection: the Collection and the artist that give their name to the biggest art prize in the UK, the Turner Prize, again very fitting for this event! What was really interesting was that three of the artists whose interviews feature in the book attended the talk: Richard Deacon and Langlands & Bell. This shows real success when the people you have interviewed come to your talk about your book to hear you being interviewed.

The interviewer was Morgan Quaintance, a name I had not heard of before, but one I will no doubt now hear more of. At first I thought he was struggling a bit with the interview and was cutting Richard Cork off during stories he was telling, but I quickly realised that he was doing the job of the interviewer and bringing the interview back to the initial question, 'what is it like to interview an artist?', not just what are the artists like. Towards the end of the interview Quaintance asked a brilliant question, it was something along the lines of: 'Many say that every painting an artist paints is a portrait of themselves, do you think the same can be said for interviews, that they are a self portrait of the interviewer?'. I had never thought about this before but naturally the questions you ask, the way you interpret them and the way you write up the interview are all a reflection of who you are as much as who the interviewee is.

The whole interview had such an energy and you can see why they are both so good at being interviewers: they put people at ease and have such magnetic personalities. I could have listened to the conversation all day, astounded by the amount of experience and fascinating stories Cork had to tell and the terrific questions that Quaintance put to him. Quaintance admitted that Cork was one of his boyhood heroes and that he used to watch his shows as a kid. This was a perfect meeting of one great critic meeting the person who could become his successor. Watch this space.
Face to Face: Interviews with Artists is out on 31st March, 2015

Monday, 16 March 2015

Believe in yourself, even if nobody else does | The Small Desk

This is sort of a follow on post from the last post I wrote about ‘Good for me, not for you’. I want to motivate you all to believe in yourself, even if nobody else does. Whatever it is that you are trying to pursue in your life that you believe will bring you success, keep going!

I want to highlight a few successful people who have overcome difficult obstacles in their lives or who have had numerous rejections before becoming wildly successful. They have proven that if you follow your goals and believe in yourself then you can achieve what you want in life. Some have even become names taught in history lessons!

I am in no way saying that you should be anticipating the great success these people have achieved, but by believing in yourself and being true to yourself trying to pursue something you believe in, rather than something you feel half-hearted about, will bring you greater joy plus success in some shape or form. 

J. K. Rowling
One of the bestselling books of all time; Rowling’s Harry Potter was rejected by numerous publishers before hitting the big time.

Van Gogh
He only sold one painting during his lifetime. Along with commanding some of the highest prices for art in the world, he now has a whole museum dedicated to his works in Amsterdam.

Bill Gates
Ever heard of Traf-O-Data? Thought not, that was Gates’s failed business.

Charles Darwin
He failed to finish medical school, and his father called him a disgrace!

Oprah Winfrey
She was fired from her first television job where she faced sexism and harassment.

Charlize Theron
Unbelievably, according to this Oprah interview, Theron saw her mother shoot dead her alcoholic father.

I also want to share with you some quotes about being true to yourself…

You can be true to the character all you want but you've got to go home with yourself.
Julia Roberts

Find out who you are and do it on purpose.
Dolly Parton

…some quotes about failure…

Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.
Donald Trump

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might has well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.
J. K. Rowling

Mistakes are the portals of discovery.
James Joyce

…and finally about believing in yourself.

Some people say I have attitude – maybe I do... but I think you have to. You have to believe in yourself when no one else does - that makes you a winner right there.
Venus Williams

You know, you do need mentors, but in the end, you really just need to believe in yourself.
Diana Ross

It's no good being too easily swayed by people's opinions. You have to believe in yourself.
Donatella Versace

You’ve heard the rest, now hear the best
My Dad (relating to interviews and auditions)

Which quote is your favourite and do you have any more that would be helpful to this post? Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Good for you, not for me | The Small Desk

I watched an Essie Button video a while back where she reviewed Yes Please by Amy Poehler: I haven't read Amy's book and maybe I should, but a quote Essie read from the book stuck with me. As you can probably already guess from the title of this blog, the quote is: 'Good for you, not for me'.

I've been trying to remind myself of it recently. It can be hard when other people around you are succeeding or finding enjoyment from something you are not. The best thing about the quote is that you can relate it to anything and it helps you to feel and behave more positively to other people's successes or happiness.

For example, beauty bloggers are probably now the most successful bloggers. I could turn this blog into a beauty blog and would probably gain more readers or followers, however I just don't feel a connection to beauty products like other people do and I don't feel it is a passion or something I would enjoy writing about. Therefore it is better for me to enjoy reading them now and then, and appreciate that the people who write them are more passionate about this category than I am.

Another example might be how people plan or don't plan their lives. I struggle with the idea of wanting to live abroad at some point and I see how amazing the life of those who do this becomes, but I cannot get my head around not being close to my family and friends for more than a month! Although I do find it difficult to really believe myself when saying 'Good for you, not for me' on this subject.

One final example on how to use this phrase is in relationships. You may find yourself judging how quickly a couple ties the knot, take Cheryl Cole for example, another case of 'Good for you, not for me'. Everyone is different and everyone has different environmental and biological factors that make them the person they are.

To bring this blog post to a somewhat unintentionally intense close, I want to mention an article I read the other day called 'Top five regrets of the dying'. It is one of the Guardian's most read articles. One of the regrets is 'I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.' This gives incredible weight to the quote, 'Good for you, not for me'. I particularly like the last part of the Guardian quote, 'not the life others expected of me', this can be one of the easiest things to do, yet at the same time one of the hardest.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Homeware lusting | The Small Desk

When I first started this blog I wrote a lot more about homeware. I used to post about homeware at least once a week and was constantly keeping up-to-date with all the trends. As I'm growing up and my taste is evolving I'm starting to look at more classic pieces and pieces that will last. 

I love Ikea, but so many of their pieces start to fall apart after about three or four years. My focus has moved to John Lewis, classic brands, iconic pieces of design and timeless patterns. At the moment I am in love with the mid-century modern trend, but trying to look to more classic designers such as ercol and furniture that will compliment it. 

The House range at John Lewis is a bit cheaper than ercol but still appears to be good quality and perhaps will become iconic pieces in the future! I am also obsessed with William Morris and Liberty print. Anyway, enough of the ramble, these are the pieces I am currently lusting over! Let me know what you think!

Tall Grid Basket, Medium, Copper, Darkroom, £42 (20% off if you sign up to their newsletter)

ercol Chiltern Dining Chair, John Lewis, £199 (lots of second-hand ones on eBay)

Liberty London Pillow, Grønlykke Pillows, £33 (I'm off to Copenhagen soon!)

Steel Magazine Racks, An Artful Life, £24 each

House 1 Drawer Bedside Table, Oak, John Lewis, £175

Mini Oval Art Deco Mirror, Oliver Bonas, £10 (there are other Art Deco mirrors so you could make a feature wall)

If you're interested in my taste in homeware follow me on Pinterest as I pin a lot of homeware to my blog Pinterest account! Thank you for reading, it means a lot to me.

Other posts you may be interested in:


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Education and Entertainment Recommendations | The Small Desk

Whilst finishing my MA back in 2013 all I kept thinking about is how I wanted time to discover new things by myself; how I wanted to learn about everything and to broaden my horizons. For a while I just felt so tired after my MA, especially as I had worked full-time throughout it. I didn't do much other than slob out a lot of the time, plus my job wasn't secure and I kept having to apply for new jobs and go to interviews. Now that I've finished my MA and that my job is secure I feel more able to do what I so badly wanted to do and to educate myself and to do what I love.

I've written about purpose in another blog post and about the feeling of guilt if you do not feel as though you are working towards a purpose. Luckily I feel I am doing that a lot in my day job now and am starting to feel less guilty about enjoying myself and catching up on all those recommendations. I thought it might be nice for me to share my recommendations for educating and enjoying yourself outside of work!

1. Serial
This is the much talked about podcast about a real life murder case. It is narrated by a journalist who is thoroughly engaging. She is trying to work out whether or not the guy who is now locked up in jail for the murder is guilty. The trial took place in 1999. Whatever you do – if you want to listen to it – do NOT Google it. I did and I really regret it! To give you an idea of how addictive it is, I started listening to it on Monday night and I'm on episode 9. Listening to the podcast has also made me realise what a great idea podcasts are – late to the party, I know!

2. Mr Selfridge
My Masters degree focussed on the Parisian department store and how it was represented in art. I watched some of the TV adaptation of Zola's Ladies' Paradise but I have become far more addicted to Mr Selfridge. I watched it at first because of the link to my dissertation but am now in love with the characters, costume and storyline. It is on ITV every Sunday at 9pm GMT.

3. YouTube
Nothing new, I have been watching YouTubers now for the past two years or so. Some are more educational than others. These are my favourites at the moment:
Cut Video
Essie Button
In the Frow
Casey Neistat
Jacks Gap

4. Lorraine Pascale recipes
I don't know about you but I often get stuck in a rut with evening meals. Sometimes we have the same meals every week for about three or four weeks running. One evening I decided enough was enough and that I really wanted to be a bit more creative! I flicked through my random collection of recipe books and found that Lorraine Pascale's Fast, Fresh and Easy Food book. It has some great vegetarian and fish recipes. I made the spicy bean burgers and they were absolutely delicious! You need to have the pan very hot, but apart from that the recipe, amounts, instructions, everything, is perfect.

5. Ideal home on Pinterest
I've been building up this Pinterest board for a while now. Basically I am addicted to beautiful furniture and homeware, so in order to prevent myself from spending all my income on it I have a Pinterest board where I collect all the photos of the homeware and furniture I would like in my ideal home! I've been learning about a few classic designers such as Ercol through this process.

6. Twitter 
I love Twitter. You can follow such a diverse range of people, newspapers, blogs, authors and influencers. It is such a unique platform in this respect and I can't get enough of it. News breaks on Twitter first, so if you want to be the first to know, Twitter is your guy.

7. Travel planning
What is more fun and educational than planning a holiday? Every time I try and book a relaxing holiday I end up trying to fit in trips to galleries, museums and heritage sites – I can't help myself – I find the best way to learn is to travel.

8. Socialising
As I've mentioned in numerous blog posts I am really trying to be as sociable as possible (for me). Even if it means just having lunch with my colleagues in the work kitchen. The more sociable you are, the easier you will find it.

9. Storyville
There are seven episodes of Storyville up on BBC iPlayer right now. Sorry any non-Brits! Storyville is a series of documentaries looking at some really hard-hitting material. You can also buy some of these documentaries on DVD. Definitely worth looking up.

10. Photography
If you follow me on Instagram you may or may not have noticed that I'm trying really hard to get out there and take more photos and to really think more about composition. I have an A in A-level photography for God's sake, I need to up my game! It is my passion, and I have to remember what joy it gives me to take a good photograph.

That's all my recommendations for education type things and entertainment things for now. I hope you try some of them out and let me know if you have any recommendations too.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Wedding guest outfit | The Small Desk

For years I never went to any weddings; I think the only one I went to was when I was five and I can't even remember that! As you get older you get invited to more weddings, and now I'm going to the first one of someone my age. It feels really weird to write that! I still feel like I'm 18! Anyway, I've been really struggling to find an appropriate outfit as I've only been to family weddings and to weddings in the summer. First I went onto the Coast website and bought a jumper and skirt combination in their sale. However when they arrived the skirt was too long and the jumper not exactly what I had imagined. Therefore my first tip when buying an outfit you are worried about is to go to the high street and try it on! 

Eventually I decided that there was no point me spending money on an outfit that I saw simply for a wedding, but to buy an outfit I could wear with other pieces and for work. To make it a bit special I thought about the shop I normally don't go in, but most want to buy pieces in, and came up with Cos. It meant that I was spending to treat myself to a nice outfit for this wedding but essentially saving as I was more likely to wear the pieces more than once. I ended up buying the following combination:

(All can be seen in the photo above)

Now I need your help! What bag and what shoes?! Ideally I'm looking to borrow these pieces! Oh and do I need a hat or a hair piece?

Sunday, 1 March 2015

February favourites 2015 | The Small Desk

How is it March already!?! Firstly, it feels like yesterday that I was on a plane back from Australia, which was in October, and secondly, it was only New Year's Eve the other day! Time definitely goes faster the older you get. These past two months feel as though they've dragged in some ways but gone so quickly in others.

Work has been a bit of a mixed bag; it's the commute that drags me down, if only I could walk to work or get a train that had fewer people on, it would improve the quality of my life tenfold. To balance the dread of the commute I work with a fantastic bunch of people, so in that respect work has been good.

Life-wise I've had a pretty regular month. We've been booking more Scandi hotels for our trip, along with the Interrail pass. Very excited about that! Anyway, let's get into this month's favourites post! These are in order of when they happened. Enjoy!

1. Take away with old uni friends
Sometimes there is nothing better than a good old catch up with good food in the comfort of your own home. When I first moved out I really wanted to host dinner parties and cook for people, but I did it a couple of times and quickly realised what a huge effort it is and you don't get to spend much time with the people you invited round! After leaving Uni I thought I'd stay in contact with way more people than I actually have done. I suppose life just happens and people move on, and that Uni experience will never be recreated. Luckily I've been able to stay in contact with two of them and they came to my flat at the beginning of the month for takeaway, which was fun and we should do it more!

2. Onegin
As you may or may not know I am a little bit in love with the ballet, and my favourite ballet is Onegin. It's not always on, I've only seen it three times, but I was lucky enough to see it this month and it was just as good as every other time I've seen it. The dancer was Natalia Osipova, who is a newbie at the Royal Opera House and she was... I can't believe I'm saying this... as good as Alina Cojocaru.

After the ballet I met up with my oldest friend, as in who I've known the longest, we've known each other since I was born (she was born first!). She now lives in Ireland but was over for an engagement party and kindly made the time to see me whilst she was over. We went for some lemonade and shared a biscuit (living life to the max!) and caught up on loads of stuff, and I tried to convince her to move to London, maybe one day!

3. Birthday drinks in Southwark
I can't remember what the bar was called, but it was the boyf's best mate's birthday and so the whole crew came out for drinks. This is in my favourites because it is the only time the whole group of the boyf's friends and girlfriends went out this month!

4. Celebrating seven years
In the middle of this month I hit the SEVEN year mark with the boyf. Crazy times! We met in the second year of Uni and have been living together for the past three years and I can safely say..#no regrets

We went for afternoon tea in a cafe near where we live and a walk in the park. Basically just chatted and had some quality time, which is needed as we both have pretty hectic jobs.

5. Dolls House Shop 
I did a blog post all about this, if you want to read more about this insane little shop click here.

6. Finding Sia
It's not very often that I find a new music artist that I become obsessed with, the last one was Macklemore, who I still love, but this month I found Sia. Not only do I love her songs but she also features an incredible young dancer, Maddie Ziegler, in her videos. I find it difficult just to listen to her music because I also want to watch this amazing dancer! My favourite song is Elastic Heart, which I've embedded here for you:

7. First Aid course
I went on this with work, but it is something I can put to use in my everyday life. I learnt so much on this course, including CPR, how to put someone in the recovery position and how to help someone if they are choking. It was also really nice to have a day not sitting in front of the computer!

8. Pancake day with old school friends
Very kindly one of my old school friends invited three of us over to hers for pancakes on pancake day. This is in here as it was the only time this month that all four us met up! It's so hard to get everyone together these days!

9. Theory of Everything 
I did a whole blog post on this; click here if you want to read more!

10. Saturday night in
My final favourite this month was last night where we had two friends over to watch the Voice, eat crisps and sweets and drink gin! Need I say more?!
For photos of many of these events follow my Instagram.
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