Monday, 27 April 2015

April Favourites 2015 | The Small Desk

I can't believe it's the end of April already! Where has the time gone!? This month I turned 27... do you think I can still legitimately still call myself a young adult? There's something about turning 27 that makes you panic ever so slightly...

It's the age where you thought you'd be well on the way to having everything an adult should have sorted; like a pension, a mortgage, savings, etc. Instead I've spent every penny going to New Zealand, New York and Australia. I can tell you one thing: getting older doesn't make you anymore responsible, it just means you have the choice to spend your money on whatever you like, which can result in some irresponsible decisions. I am also looking to put together a '30 before I'm 30' post, so if you have any ideas for that please do leave a comment below.

Anyway, despite the shock of getting ever closer to the big 3-0, I've had a pretty good April and here are some of my favourites.

1. Mum graduation
At the beginning of this month my Mum graduated from Alexander Technique school after a 3 and a half year course. She studied whilst working, meaning some weeks she would be working 7 days a week straight! It was so inspirational to see my Mum start a new career and a new chapter of her life. It reminded me that it is never too late to change your career and that you can definitely have more than one career in your lifetime.

2. Afternoon tea with the girls
For my birthday this year I wanted to spend quality time with my friends, so I decided to have lots of little birthday meet ups rather than one big one. Sometimes having a big drinks get together means you don't have time to talk to everyone who came. With my school friends we went for afternoon tea at the Gore hotel in Kensington. The cakes and sandwiches were ok, but it was the company that made it!

3. Charleston
I've always wanted to visit Charleston. It is the family home of artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. I'd heard that they had painted scenes and patterns over ever surface of the house and it was true! I loved it so much I blogged about it!

4. My birthday!
Despite the age I turned, I had a lovely birthday. For lunch I went to a National Trust property with my Mum and the boyf, and for dinner I went for Chinese with my Dad and sister. I always think it is so important to celebrate your birthday with the people who brought you up; who helped you get to where you are and kept you alive!

5. Brighton
I had a week off work in April and went to Brighton for the day with the boyf. I love going to Brighton as it is so easy to get to from London and you get to see the sea! I also love the amount of vegetarian restaurants they have and the cute little homeware shops. I need to go with more money next time, I could buy everything there!

6. Barbican
Another place I've wanted to go for a long time is the Barbican centre. I saw an Essie Button vlog where they went to the Barbican and I think her boyf explained the architecture. After that I looked it up more and realised what an important piece of London architecture it is. The art gallery also had a fascinating exhibition on about the collections of artists.

7. Boat race
Another birthday meet up was with my bestie from Uni, and we decided to go to the Oxbridge boat race. Despite living in London my whole life, I have never been to the boat race. We took a picnic and headed to Putney riverside. We watched both the women's and men's boat race; it was absolutely heaving! But luckily, we saw the one and only, Clare Balding. If you're not from the UK, you may not have a clue who that is, she is a British sports commentator, but probably the most famous in the UK!

8. Boyf's Grandma's 80th
I have this in my favourites as it was the only time this month I saw the boyf's family. His parents gave me an Anthropologie voucher for my birthday and an art therapy colouring in book! Very exciting. You can see what I bought with the voucher on my Instagram.

9. Franco Manca's
For one of my school friend's birthdays we went to the pizza chain, Franco Manca. Everyone has been raving about this pizza place, and I had still yet to go, but OMG I should have gone sooner! It is amazing. I hardly ever eat a whole pizza, but I wolfed this one down and didn't even feel bloated afterwards. I will definitely be going there again very soon, plus the margarita is only £5.90, which in London is a bargain!

10. Meeting my colleague's new baby
In October last year one of my best friends from work left to have her second baby. I was really sad to see her go for another year, but was obviously over the moon that she was going to give her daughter a little brother! Incredibly, this month she made it into central London with her 4 month year old, and it was so nice to see her and meet her beautiful son. She really does have the most beautiful babies, and makes it look easy! (I know it isn't!)

11. Ballet with my oldest friend
My final favourite of the month is going to the ballet with my oldest friend. We've known each other since I was born and always used to dance in front of the TV to the ballet. So it was so nice to go to the ballet with her and relive our childhood!

I was going to post 12 favourites to make it even, but then remembered my blogging pledge: quality over quantity! My ultimate favourite this month was seeing my mum graduate, what has been your ultimate favourite this month?
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Saturday, 25 April 2015

My type | The Small Desk

My type

Does anyone else ever get lost in the internet? You look for one thing and by a process of many, many clicks you end up somewhere entirely different and completely irrelevant to what you had first intended to find. This is how you discover some of the most unique things on the internet and the things that stay with you.

Recently I found this neat little quiz by the branding agency, Pentagram. It is called What Type are You? It is a font geek's perfect quiz.

I took the quiz and found that I am 'Archer Hairline' (see font above). It is "emotional, understated, progressive, and disciplined."

They describe it as follows:

"Designed by Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, archer hairline a modern typeface with a straight forward appearance, but one that has tiny outbreaks of elegance, and tiny dots of emotion only apparent on closer examination.

If you are someone who is outwardly composed but will occasionally run into the bathroom for a quick laugh or quiet cry before emerging to the world outwardly composed again then archer hairline is your type."

I am quite flattered by that description of my personality, plus it is true in a way; I try my very hardest to appear outwardly composed, especially at work!

Interestingly it is the second most common "type" in this quiz: meaning there are lots of people with the same attributes. Or more likely, this is the sort of personality font lovers have!

What type are you? Do you love fonts? What is your favourite? And more importantly... how do you feel about Comic Sans?
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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The right to vote | The Small Desk

Here in the UK the general election is almost upon us: you can't turn on the TV without seeing an electoral candidate holding a baby! Whilst many of us feel ambivalent about who to vote for and are not convinced an individual vote makes a difference, we must remember that we are lucky to have a choice, especially us women! I thought it might be interesting to share with you some twentieth and twenty-first century info on just how recently certain sections of the population have been allowed to vote, to remind you how lucky we are to have the right to vote.

The last place specifically* women CANNOT vote: 
  • Saudi Arabia
Women have still not had the right to vote in Saudi Arabia; however they are meant to be allowed to vote in this year's municipal elections (date to be determined). Some women fear there may be an excuse made not to let this happen, but here's hoping.

Countries that surprised me were so late to give women the vote:
  • Switzerland didn't give women the vote until 1971.
  • Portugal was even later and didn't give women the vote until 1976. (Made possible by the Revolution of 1974).

Was Britain the first to give women the right to vote?
  • No! New Zealand, Australia, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Canada, Austria, Germany, Poland, Russia, Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States all gave women the vote before Britain did.
  • Britain granted women the vote in 1928**. This means that my great aunt Edna, who was born in 1907, would have been one of the youngest women in Britain ever to have the vote! 
Edna, possibly aged 21, and my Grandfather, possibly aged 18

Who gave women the vote first and when?
  • New Zealand in 1893.

(Shocking) Right to vote based on ethnic origins: 
  • Australia did not grant the aborigines the right to vote until 1962.
  • Black South Africans did not gain the right to vote until 1994.

These are the people who cannot vote in the UK in this election:
  • members of the House of Lords
  • EU citizens resident in the UK
  • prisoners
For more information, click here.

Finally: if you live in the UK and you still don't know who to vote for this website can help you decide:

I realise many of my readers are not based in the UK, therefore will not be having to make this decision, but when you have the opportunity to vote in your country please do so, as it is a privilege that so many have fought for.

This post is dedicated to my great aunt Edna (1907–2008)

*Brunei, the UAE and Vatican City have restrictions on both genders.
** In 1918 women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification were allowed to vote, but it was very restrictive.
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Thursday, 16 April 2015

To PhD or not to PhD? | The Small Desk

Working on my MA dissertation

Since finishing my Masters degree I've been toying with the idea of doing a PhD. Whilst writing my dissertation for my MA I remember clearly telling the boyf to never let me do a PhD. It's like a lot of things: I remember the good things about it and forget the struggles. This post is a way for me to jot down the pros and cons of doing a PhD and hopefully come to some sort of decision. I am not expecting this to be something everyone wants to read, but I hope it is of use to some of you. It might be helpful to those considering a first degree as well.

Pros
  • Would allow me to do writing and research; both of which are my main passions in life
  • Would be called Dr Alice!
  • Could enable me to be a lecturer or a tutor
  • Allows you to go into detail on a subject
  • Could enable me to write a book
  • Huge sense of achievement
  • Sense of purpose

  • Cons
  • Loneliness
  • Does not guarantee you a job
  • You don't get paid much
  • Could prevent getting a mortgage
  • Could delay having children (would finish it by 31 if part-time)
  • Could prevent from moving, as bound by where the Uni is

  • Considerations
    1. Would I do it full-time or part-time?
    2. Would I do distance learning?

    I don't think this has actually made me reach a decision! I need your help! Can you think of any other pros and cons for doing a PhD? Have you done a PhD? If so, I would love to hear your experiences.
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    Tuesday, 14 April 2015

    How to enjoy a Homecation | The Small Desk

    Last week I enjoyed my first Homecation. I thought I'd coined this word but looked it up and it is now regularly used, turns out it is the new Staycation. Typically a Staycation involves staying in the country you live in for a holiday, but a Homecation is about having a holiday at home... literally, your house. 

    This is a particularly good idea if you have just moved house and want to feel more settled. I decided to have a Homecation to give myself time to regroup and think about my future. With a busy job and a long commute I often find myself very short of time, and with little time to think and gain perspective. 

    Whilst I was on my Homecation I decided that I really want my career to involve more writing and if possible to make this blog part of my career. I'm not entirely sure how to do this, but all I know is that I need to invest more of my time into this blog and keep writing. The more I write and the more I read, surely the better I'll get at it?!

    On that note, here are my tips on how to enjoy a Homecation and a bit about what I did on my Homecation! 

    1. Try out new recipes
    As you have seen from my previous post I have been a little obsessed with trying out Deliciously Ella's recipes. It is a great time to test out and practice new recipes, as it doesn't matter if it goes wrong, you have all the time in the world!

    2. Visit your local restaurants
    How often do you go to the local restaurants near you? If you're like me, then the answer is not enough! There are lots of great independent places near me, and it is great to support your local community. Plus, your Homecation is going to be the cheapest holiday you ever have, so why not splash out on a meal out?!

    3. See new places in your area
    Chances are you've seen more of other countries than you have of your own. Try researching the things tourists might do in your area and go and see them! I live in London, so there is a wealth of new places for me to visit on my doorstep. I did travel an hour or so to new places in London, but in the grand scheme of travelling and holidays this is nothing.

    4. Go on day trips 
    Try going a bit further afield; pack a picnic and head out to the countryside or seaside near where you live. On my Homecation I travelled to Brighton. It is so nice to go to these often touristy destinations without the crowds. Make the most of the fact that it is not the weekend!

    5. Attend events or exhibitions in your local area
    Again, if you attend events or exhibitions in the week, they are much less crowded and far more enjoyable.

    6. Sort your life out
    This is NOT an order! It is a phrase I use to mean organise, tidy, file, basically all the boring things you don't make time to do, but need to in order to keep everything in check. Spend time sorting through your cupboards, donating clothes to charity shops and just having a good old clear out! You won't regret it when you come back after work to a more organised life.

    7. Get fit
    You know how you always say you don't have time to exercise? With a Homecation you don't have that excuse! But it also means you can do the exercise you enjoy. I can never be bothered to get up at 6am to go for a swim before work and am very short on time in the evening, but my Homecation gave me time to go swimming and in turn, relax.

    8. Spend quality time with your family and friends
    This is obviously dependent on whether or not they have the time off too! But so often you work so hard you don't leave enough time for your family and friends. This is a great opportunity to spend lots of time with them.

    Do you think you'll be enjoying a Homecation any time soon? Or have you already had one? I would love to know!
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    Friday, 10 April 2015

    Healthy Week | The Small Desk

    I don't know about you but I go through phases of being really healthy, then not so healthy and then eating every chocolate in sight. This week I've had the week off work and thought it would be the perfect time to try out some new recipes. It has also been my birthday, therefore I haven't been healthy every day! 

    I've been aware of the Deliciously Ella blog for a while now, but have never tried to make anything from it as it all looked too complicated or time consuming. However if you look carefully there are many really simple recipes with few ingredients. One of my pet peeves is looking at a recipe that has a huge long list of ingredients of which most cannot be found in your local supermarket... mentioning no names (Ottolenghi). 

    One of the reasons I wanted to try making Deliciously Ella food was that I wanted to see if it made me feel better. Often after eating you can feel sluggish, tired or bloated and her recipes claim that they make you feel amazing. I can now confidently say that these recipes do make you feel healthier, brighter and even more awake! 

    Day 1
    Baked salmon, basmati rice and runner beans
    This meal was a bit of a hack job; I bought some salmon and runner beans and then went home to realise I didn't have any potatoes like I thought, so had to have rice. After eating this meal I felt a lot better than I would have done if I'd had potatoes and this is what inspired me to start looking at Deliciously Ella's recipes.

    Day 2
    I think this was probably my favourite of all the recipes. The baked chickpeas really work and are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Absolutely delicious!

    Day 3
    For this one I would half the portions, the portion size for the rice is far too much. Also perhaps short grain brown rice would be less bloating. This wasn't my favourite, but it did taste good, I just needed a lot less of it.

    Day 4
    These are amazing. They are really quick to make and taste incredible. I think it is probably the combination of sweet potato, coriander and lime... mmm... mmm... I didn't have any of the fancy flours that Ella suggests, so used oil instead and it worked fine!

    I hope you're all enjoying the sunshine this week if you're living in the UK. Do let me know if you try any of these recipes or are trying to be more healthy. Ella is right though, it is a lifestyle choice not a diet! Knowing me, I'll probably be back on the chips next week!
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    Wednesday, 8 April 2015

    The Barbican Centre | The Small Desk

    The Barbican Centre: a Brutalist piece of architecture, a sight for sore eyes to some, yet I've heard so many people talking about it recently that I decided I had to make a visit. 

    During the Second World War this part of London was very heavily bombed; it needed to be rebuilt and repopulated. It became the perfect opportunity for London to prove to the rest of the world that it was not only following leading scholarly research on architecture, but it was able to provide a utopian city for its population. The proposal for the site was first submitted in 1955, construction work began in 1971, and it was opened by the Queen in 1982. 

    The Centre is a mini city within a city: it has its own schools, doctors, dentist, childcare centre, arts centre, conference centre and green spaces. The whole Centre has strict rules and regulations to ensure a peaceful existence, such as no pets and uniformity of the exterior. It is now a Grade II listed building, which means every effort should be made to protect it, and that it is of special architectural interest. It really does feel like a secluded, special part of London, that despite being open to all, feels like an 'invite-only' type of place.

    When we first arrived we spent ages simply walking around and marvelling at the architecture. We peered into people's gardens...

    ... walked along the highwalk...

    ... and thought about what it would be like to live in the flats here.

    I drooled over the cake at the Food Court...

    ... and then we had lunch. I had a potato and chickpea soup and the boyf had a smoked salmon bagel.

    Once we'd got our energy levels up we headed to the art gallery. The Gallery is quite famous and they often have some really interesting and unique shows on. Whilst we were there we went to see the exhibition, 'Magnificent Obsessions: The Artist as Collector'. It showcased the collections of some very famous artists, such as Damien Hirst and Martin Parr. My favourite collection was that of Martin Parr as he collects hilarious postcards, but also old photographs from past news stories. We also saw the actual hare with amber eyes netsuke from the book by Edmund de Waal.

    Afterwards we had a wander around the rest of the site and I took a few more photos to share with you.






    I hope you enjoyed this almost tour around the Barbican Centre, and whether or not you like the architecture there is no doubting it is a vital piece of London's rich and diverse history. Any recommendations on where I should explore next in London would be gratefully received, as despite living here my whole life, there is still so much of it I haven't seen!
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    Monday, 6 April 2015

    Easter Sunday Day Trip to Charleston and Alfriston | The Small Desk

    Ever since my friend pulled out a leaflet about Charleston from a brochure stand at the National Portrait Gallery a few years ago, I have kept the leaflet on constant view, hoping that one day I would be able to visit this seemingly magical time capsule. On Easter Sunday my parents made this happen. I was so excited, especially as I had heard they painted everything, they left no surface unpainted. 

    Charleston was the home of Vanessa Bell, Clive Bell and Duncan Grant. They rented the house from 1916 and moved in more permanently during the war to escape London. These three people were part of the Bloomsbury Group. Vanessa Bell is also the sister of Virginia Woolf, a name you might be more familiar with. Vanessa and Clive were married, but later split, and Duncan and Vanessa became lovers. The more you read into this family, the more extraordinary it becomes. For example, I recently read that Duncan was in fact more interested in men, had an affair with David Garnett, who later married Angelica, Duncan's daughter!

    Duncan was the last remaining member of the group to stay in the house; he lived there until his death in 1978. Shortly after this the house was purchased and The Charleston Trust was set up.

    When we arrived at the house we decided to have a picnic first, however either the picnic area is terrible or it just hasn't been completed yet! It was a space of land about 6ft by 6ft and with no picnic benches or anything to sit on, so we had our picnic out of the boot of the car. It was delicious nonetheless! My mum sure knows how to do a good picnic!

    Tickets for the house are sold for allocated times. We got the 1:30pm slot. The good thing is that you don't have to be out by a certain time. We spent about one hour wandering through the house, talking to the attendants, and trying to look at everything. The house is absolutely freezing, and is flaking away. They do have a team of conservationists, but it is not just that it is a large house but there are so many elements to it and so much painting. It is true what they say, no surface is left unpainted! When I say painted, I mean still life, patterns, portraits, and copies of famous paintings. The fireplaces are painted, the baths are painted and even the dining room table. They had an insatiable appetite when it came to art and painting. 

    The studio was my favourite room in the house. You could really feel the energy in the room. The pottery studio was not far away either and you could imagine Quentin Bell (Vanessa and Clive's son) working away in his studio and bringing his pottery in for Bell and Grant to paint. The whole house felt energetic but at the same time relaxing. It really was a place where people felt they could express themselves without anyone judging or pigeonholing them. 

    When we'd been round the house we went to the shop and I purchased a DVD called 'A Painter's Paradise'. I watched it as soon as I got back! I am so pleased I bought it as I can't find any copies of it on Amazon and am unsure where else you would buy it. The DVD documents the restoration of the house in the 1980s. It is mostly narrated by Bell and Grant's daughter Angelica Garnett. She tells of how she didn't know that Duncan Grant was her father until she was 17, but that going back to Charleston was like going "back into the womb". This is a somewhat unexpected phrase coming from Angelica as it sounds like a very odd family upbringing, but I can relate to it in terms of what it feels like to go back to your childhood home. I can also understand what she means in terms of Charleston, as it does feel like a hugely well-loved home that despite the cold hugs you when you walk in.

    Quentin Bell is also in the documentary and it is fascinating to hear what it was like to live in the house by both Angelica and Quentin.

    Interestingly Angelica notes that Vanessa was taught by Sargent at the Royal Academy, therefore she had a much more formal background as a painter than Duncan. I am actually hoping to go and see the Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery this week, so will definitely be looking for comparisons and influences! Angelica is very poetic in her language throughout the documentary and my favourite quote of hers is her description of Vanessa and Duncan's move away from sombre tones, she says they "came out like a flock of parakeets".

    During this documentary Angelica also speaks of the three servants they had in the house and mentions Grace, the servant who stayed the longest and looked after Duncan until the end. I thought the name Grace rang a bell in terms of the Bloomsbury Group and later realised that I have been to a talk at the NPG where the author Stewart MacKay spoke about his book about the letters of Grace at Charleston!

    After we'd finished at Charleston we headed to the small town of Alfriston, which is only a ten minute drive away. It is a beautifully quaint town in the heart of Sussex, not far from Brighton. We had tea and cake in a local teashop and then went on a short walk around the town. I had an elderflower and gooseberry Victoria sponge, it was amazing. They said you could ask for your money back if the sponge wasn't light, unfortunately it was and we had to pay. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day and advise you all to experience Charleston.



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    Thursday, 2 April 2015

    The Tutor: First Impressions Book Review and Giveaway! | The Small Desk

    There is something special about the first time you pick up and start to read a brand new book. As you slowly open the untouched, pristine cover and breath in the smell of freshly cut paper, your expectations rise and you are excited about the journey you are about to embark on. You want to be instantly transported to another world, you want to forget your worries and escape in the descriptive words of a fantastic wordsmith. This book does exactly that; you feel totally transported to the late sixteenth century, you smell the smells, encounter the numerous sufferings and the enjoyments of a non-digital age.

    Katharine de L'Isle is the main character and is one of the most relatable characters I have recently encountered. Her main passions in life are reading and writing, which is often the case for those reading novels! Katharine is a widower at just thirty-one years of age and has lost her immediate family to a house fire. She now lives with her extended family at the Lufanwal estate: this is where her story begins.

    The novel opens with the discovery of the family's Catholic priest dead in the grounds of the estate. Katharine was close to the priest and it is suggested that the priest perhaps had feelings for her, but Katharine's feelings are quickly diverted to the arrival of Will Shakespeare. This is where I start to get a little confused, I am pretty sure that the whole story is fictional and that there was no 'Katharine de L'Isle', however I am still not completely sure. Either way I find it easier to read this as completely fictional. 

    Will and Katharine share their love of reading and writing and exchange quotes from various texts. Their love for the spoken and written word is totally awe-inspiring and makes you want to be surrounded by books and to aspire to your own library.

    There are also other characters that dart in and out of the novel and give it another dimension, other than purely a romantic novel. 

    I am now halfway through the book and am always excited to read more and to shadow Katharine's life at Lufanwal Hall. I have just reached the point where the witches are about to arrive. I'm curious as to what new direction the book will take, and how Will and Katharine's relationship will develop. Now I read those two names together I wonder whether Chapin, the author, was inspired by the Royal couple!

    It's interesting that the previous book I read, Station Eleven, also has a focus on Shakespeare! It makes me want to read his plays, for I was certainly too young to understand them in school.

    Finally, you might be wondering why I wrote my first impressions and not a full review and this was so that I could be part of Andrea Chapin's blog tour and to give you, my amazing readers, the opportunity to win a copy of the book. I will be writing a full review later in the month. Apologies to my international readers, but the giveaway from Penguin is only open to the UK. To enter the giveaway all you have to do is to follow me on Bloglovin and leave a comment about why you like to read. The deadline is 4th April, good luck!
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