Sunday, 29 November 2015

November Favourites 2015 | The Small Desk

The beginning of this month was normal, I was doing just average things, following my daily routine; and whilst not much has changed to my day-to-day life during the end of the month, a lot seems to have happened.

Firstly, I worked until 9.30pm one night. The big project I've been working on since April in my day job is starting to come to an end, and the deadlines are now appearing thick and fast. This may not sound late to many, but it is the latest I've ever worked!

Secondly, my Grandma unexpectedly went into hospital. I'm not entirely sure what the prognosis is yet, but it sounds like they have everything under control. She has four children, so she has lots of support. It's been nice to look over the beginning of this month again and see the positives, as the end of the month hasn't felt that great.

1. Starting Feed Your Soul
As you will probably already know from many of my tweets and my recent blog post, I started the Feed Your Soul newsletter this month. You can read the first one here, and subscribe to it here. I would really, really appreciate the support! I'm hoping it'll be a newsletter you look forward to reading, rather than immediately deleting!

2. Going to my grandparents for dinner
My granddad cooked us pasta and sauce and then we had apple crumble for dinner. It was delicious. I think apple crumble has to be my all time favourite dessert, or maybe apple pie...

3. Sister over for lunch
I had my sister over for lunch, and we chatted and chatted away for over three hours straight.

4. Haircut
I only get my haircut about every six months, as it's so bloody expensive! So when I do get my haircut it's such a treat, and a luxury, that there's no way it would be excluded from my favourites!

5. Boyf's parents in London
The boyf's parents are from Oxfordshire and rarely come to London. I think they've maybe been twice, or three times in the four years we've been living together now. I don't blame them though, as London is a pretty stressful place!

Anyway, this month they came down for the day and we went to Marylebone High Street for lunch, and then showed them the sights of London. The boyf's Dad has never been to Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square before, so we took them there. It's so nice seeing how excited people get about London, having lived here all my life, I forget that it is actually a treat for people to come here!

6. Craft Fair in Teddington
This wasn't a particularly good craft fair, but it was nice to hang out with @colouredskies and the boyf for the afternoon. Also, Teddington is such a nice place to wander around.

7. Fitmas
I've put this in my Favourites to make myself even more accountable for actually following through with this! I heard about it via. Lou from Naturally Beige blog. Basically it is all about getting fit before Christmas. So far I've been trying to work out twice a week, and walk where I would normally get the bus. I've been running so far, but today it's not great weather so I'm going to try an indoor workout.

8. Sort flat day
Sometimes you need those days where you have a mega clean of your home. This weekend we did just that. We cleaned the mould off the bathroom ceiling, defrosted the freezer and re-newed our home insurance. I know it sounds really boring, but I feel so much better when it's all done.

9. Black Friday deals
I love a bargain and there's no better place to grab a bargain than on Black Friday. I bought some Christmas presents from Asos and Amazon at rock bottom prices. Can't wait to get them delivered next week.

10. Making Apple Fritters
I saw Natasha Corrett from Honestly Healthy post the recipe to some apple fritters she had made. I love trying out new recipes when I have the time. These ones were particularly tasty, but are a bit of a faff to make. I was simply happy that I managed to make something a bit different for once!

11. Romeo and Juliet the ballet
I went to see Romeo and Juliet the ballet at the Royal Opera House this month. I took my friend who had never seen it before and she loved it! If you've never seen it, but you've seen the Apprentice, you might recognise this:

12. Getting my first finished pot back from pottery
You can see it above in the photos. I've been doing pottery for about ten weeks now, and I have had a finished mug, but nothing from the wheel. This pot is my first from the wheel, and I'm pretty happy with it! All I need now is a cactus...

13. Wahaca with the boyf
I don't often go out for dinner with the boyf, as we are trying to save money for a deposit, but this month on pay day I thought I'd treat him to a dinner date! If you regularly read my blog, you will know I am obsessed with Wahaca!

14. Girls over
This hasn't actually happened yet, but I am having my school friends over for dinner tomorrow night, and I'm cooking Deliciously Ella lunch bowl.

15. Seeing my work project go to a Beta phase
As I mentioned before it's been a particularly stressful month at work, but it has been worth it as I've seen the first version of the working website that I've been project managing since April of this year. It's very rewarding to finally see it.

16. Subscribing to the London Review of Books
I mentioned the London Review of Books blog in my newsletter this month, but I've also subscribed to their publication. I've been feverishly reading the articles in the paper, and am constantly amazed by how much I'm learning from each article. I would highly recommend subscribing.

That's all for now for my November favourites. What's been your favourite of the month, and what struggles have you had to overcome this month?

Also, I'm hoping to put up my New Year's Resolutions in December, so please do link me any of your 2015 New Year's Resolution posts down below, as I need lots of inspiration!


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Introducing... Feed Your Soul | The Small Desk

I try not to lead a vacuous life: I try to make sure every choice I make is good for my soul. From deciding whether to get on a packed train or waiting for the next one, to staying at a job that doesn't pay for a London lifestyle, but gives me food for my soul; these decisions impact my state of mind, and state of mind is something that so often none of us consider enough. We all get bombarded with messages of how to get your body fit and healthy, but so few of how to get your mind fit and healthy.

Sometimes I get these choices wrong, sometimes I have little control over these choices, and sometimes you have to get on that packed train to get to work in order to keep your job! But when I don't feed my soul enough I start to look further towards the vacuous life. My mind starts to wonder and wonder what could I BUY that would help me to feel better.

So often it is not the case that buying something helps you feel better. It is expanding your mind that will make you feel better, or provide you with real escapism. Reading that book about a parallel world, or watching that film about an inspirational person, not only takes you on a journey but it broadens your outlook on life, and provides you with stimulating conversation. Become the interesting person, not the person with the best products.

And so, I present to you my newsletter, Feed Your Soul. At the end of each month it will present you with my book of the month, film of the month, artist of the month, blog of the month and recipe of the month. These things will feed your soul and hopefully enrich your life. I won't be recommending the latest chick flick or beauty blog, unless they have some valuable messages.

I decided to go with book, film and blog of the month for obvious reasons, but you may be wondering about artist of the month and recipe of the month. I added artist of the month, because I honestly believe artists provide one of the most carefully thought out perspectives of humanity, and I added recipe of the month because I felt it was the only crafty thing that everyone can do. Craft is probably one of the most effective ways of feeding your soul.

The November edition is already here waiting for you to read:

If you like what you see please sign up using the form on the side bar of my blog, or here: The first newsletter you will receive will be the December edition. If you REALLY like what you see, please share this post!

I'm so excited to start this newsletter, and I will now constantly be on the look out for amazing books, films, artists, blogs and recipes, so please comment below with any of these!


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Explore: Arundel Castle, Sussex | The Small Desk

A couple of weeks ago I went on a day trip with my Dad to Arundel Castle in Sussex. The highest ticket price is £19.80, and the lowest, which only allows you into the gardens, chapel and cafe, is £9. You can get trains to Arundel station from London Victoria, and then it is only a ten minute walk to the Castle. 

The Castle is owned by the Duke of Norfolk, and there are a few photographs of him and the family around the castle. The first thing we did when we got to the castle was walk up to the Castle Keep. They told us it was a lot of steps to climb, but it really didn't feel that bad, and we were up the top of the tower in no time at all. The photo below is the view from the top of the Keep.

Afterwards we walked around all of the rooms in the house and up to the Castle bedrooms. You have to pay an extra £2 to see the bedrooms but it is definitely worth it, as you get to see the room Queen Victoria stayed in and the impressive gold bed they made for her in advance of her arrival. You're not allowed to take photos anywhere inside the Castle, so I don't have any to show you, which is a shame. But if you Google the Library and the bedrooms you'll see how impressive these rooms are. The Library is drenched in dark red fabrics, with curtains separating sections of the library. It is filled with old books locked behind caged bookcases, and even has a very morbid death warrant from Elizabeth I for the fourth Duke of Norfolk. 

Built in the 11th century, this castle is steeped in history, and has a phenomenal art collection including a few van Dycks and Canalettos that were commissioned by the family themselves!

After you've seen all the rooms in the castle, you can walk around the gardens, including very well maintained and manicured gardens. When we were walking around the castle there was a gate that you weren't allowed to go through, and I've now found out by finding an aerial photo of the castle that behind that gate is a swimming pool and a tennis court! 

The gardens are overlooked by the incredibly impressive and beautiful Arundel cathedral, which you can see above. 

They have a variety of fruit and vegetables growing in the gardens and you can buy a selection of them in one of the green houses by putting money into an honesty box.

I would definitely recommend visiting Arundel Castle, and if you do, or already have, please do let me know! Are there any other castles in the UK I should visit?


Saturday, 14 November 2015

Hanging Man, The Arrest of Ai Weiwei: Book Review | The Small Desk

I was lucky enough to go to the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Royal Academy this month, and it inspired me to write a blog post explaining who he is. You may want to read that blog post first, if you haven't already.

After I visited the exhibition I was going to buy the catalogue, but instead ended up buying Hanging Man by Barnaby Martin about the arrest of Ai Weiwei. I am incredibly glad that I did, as it is one of the best books I've read in a long while.

Barnaby Martin is a journalist, and used to write for The Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times. I did a quick Google of him, and apparently he has written many bestselling novels under a pseudonym. I'm not that surprised this isn't his debut book, as the writing is effortless and reads like a dream. I would say this book is definitely a page-turner, as it only took me two weeks to read, which is super speedy for me.

Hanging Man was published in 2013, and is said to be the most detailed book on what happens nowadays to Chinese prisoners. The book is named after one of Ai Weiwei's early works where he took a coat-hanger and transformed it into the profile of artist, Duchamp.

In the first few pages Martin justifies why he is writing this book and one of his reasons is: "For most non-Chinese people... knowledge of China is very limited indeed", which I wholeheartedly agree with, and am grateful to him for writing this book, as I now feel 100x more educated on China and its history!

The book starts out with a history of Chinese politics, which I have to say I did struggle to get through. It's an incredibly long history, and pretty complicated with lots of unfamiliar names. However it is completely necessary to make sure you can follow the conversations with Ai Weiwei later on in the book.

Martin first meets Ai Weiwei in a London hotel in 2010 to interview him about his now infamous Sunflower Seeds exhibition at the Tate Modern. When he hears of his arrest and later of his release in 2011, he immediately decides to fly to China and interview Weiwei, who was still under house arrest in Beijing. This means that the conversations they have are very detailed and fresh. There are funny anecdotal stories mixed in with troubling and harrowing descriptions of his time under arrest, and of his life story. We learn that his father, poet Ai Qing, was in Mao's close circle, but was later banished to the Gobi desert where they were forced to live in a hole in the ground. It is almost a biography of Ai Weiwei.

Weiwei was born in 1957, and so grew up during the Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution is a topic that is discussed at length, and is something which very much shaped Ai Weiwei's work. In 1966 Chairman Mao launched what is now known as the Cultural Revolution, which lasted for ten years until Mao's death in 1976. During this time Mao closed down schools and universities, intellectuals were attacked, physically and verbally, and many were killed. The one book that was distributed in its millions across China, was the Little Red Book of Mao's quotations. Indeed, Weiwei left China in 1981, as it was still difficult to get any books on Western art. Ironically, in the exhibition at the RA they have a recently published book on display showing the Western edition with Ai Weiwei listed and the Chinese edition where he has been removed.

Weiwei was also part of the 'Stars' artist group, who Barnaby Martin credits as the first group who "first lit up the darkness of Chinese art after the Cultural Revolution and it was the Stars who took the first major risks and broke new ground".

I don't want to go into much more detail, as I think Martin is much better at explaining everything, along with the words of Ai Weiwei himself. I urge you to read this book, as it is so brilliantly written and incredibly insightful.


Saturday, 7 November 2015

October Favourites 2015 | The Small Desk

I know, I know, it's like the 7th of November, but I've had SUCH a busy week that I haven't had time to post my October favourites! But I've finally got around to it, and looking over the month I have to say I've had a pretty good one. Work is about to ramp up, so I took 3 days holiday in the middle of the month, so that I could cope with the next two months. That is obviously my main favourite of this month, mostly because I got a lie in for 3 days straight. Bliss! This month I've also been looking at flats to buy, and learning all about the buying process. Why can't it be simpler?! Anyway, let's get on with my October favourites!

1. Dinner at my friends' flat
A couple of my old school friends now live together, and they invited a few of us around for dinner. We had pizza and garlic bread, and fruit and meringues for dessert. It was great to catch up with everyone and chat about everything and anything.

2. Seven Sisters
You may remember back in September 2014 I took a trip to the Seven Sisters and blogged about it here. Well this month we decided to make this trip again. I couldn't believe it has been over a year since we last went. It is such a beautiful part of the world. Also, this time, we bumped into our old neighbours! So random!

3. Ai Wei Wei exhibition
Probably the most anticipated exhibition of the year, Ai WeiWei at the Royal Academy was well worth the wait. It's open until 13th December, but pre-book and go early as the queues are long. I was lucky enough to queue jump and get in for free with work! Before you go, or if you have any interest in learning more about Ai WeiWei I wrote a blog post about him this month here.

4. Mildred's
Finally I went to what some call, London's Best Vegetarian restaurant. One of my friends turned vegetarian recently and was desperate to try it out. I have wanted to go for a while, but wasn't sure if I could face the queue. I'd heard rumours of 2 hour queues. I think we ended up queuing for an hour and a half, but it was damn good food. I had a burrito, and we had some delicious potato and pea samosas to start. The one I went to was in Soho, but they are opening another one in Camden very soon.

5. Seeing boyfriend's family
The boyf had to go back home this month to collect some gig tickets, so we combined it with a Sunday lunch. It's always so nice to see them, and I heard all about his sister's Art History essay, which reminds me I need to read it!

6. Brighton
One sunny Sunday this month me and the boyf took my sister to Brighton for the day. We saw the sea, had a nice lunch, and browsed the shops. This trip inspired my recent blog post on Brighton. I love that I can hang out with my sis and boyf, it makes me very happy.

7. Friends over
A couple who live pretty much round the corner from us, and who we've know for years now, came over and I cooked the Deliciously Ella lunch bowl for everyone!

8. Halloween party
The same friends I mentioned at the top of the post hosted a Halloween party at their flat. I was feeling a bit low during the day, and wasn't really feeling it, but then I ended up having such a good time! I went as a cat... I'm not sure if I've ever dressed as anything else for Halloween! Even when I was a child!!!

9. Time off work
As I said earlier, I had 3 whole days off work! This is clearly obvious as to why it is a favourite!

10. Ai Wei Wei book, The Hanging Man
One of my New Year's Resolutions was to read more. It was going well at the beginning of the year, but then I started to fail. However, I'm now reading again and am currently enjoying The Hanging Man about artist, Ai WeiWei's arrest. I think the last book I read was The Psychopath Test. I'm keeping a list on my About page.

11. Pottery
I'm still doing the pottery lessons! I think we only have a month left now, which is sad, because it's been so enjoyable! I've loved being all crafty, and learning a new skill.

12. Arundel Castle
If you live in Sussex, or near Sussex, you NEED to visit this Castle. It's a private estate, but open to the public. It's owned by the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk, and is absolutely huge. I learnt so much wandering around the grounds and through the rooms of the castle. They also have a very impressive collection of artworks. I went with my Dad on one of my days off and had such a great day out! I would highly recommend it! I think Zoella did a photoshoot in their gardens!

13. Yellow Blue Pink exhibition, Wellcome Collection
This is in my favourites because I got to spend some time with my Mum, but I'm not sure how much I liked the exhibition. It is a room filled with dry ice and then coloured lights above. It is not advisable if you are claustrophobic, as you can only see your hand in front of you and not much else. People appear out of the dry ice, and I found it a bit unsettling! I also went to see the Frank Auerbach exhibition at the Tate, which was good, but I didn't like the exhibition enough for it to go in my favourites.

14. Buying an Aloe Vera plant
My final favourite might seem like a bit of a weird one, but I bought an Aloe Vera plant! I really love having living plants in my flat and this one is one that hopefully won't die quickly, like every other house plant I have!

I would love to know how your month was, and did you dress up for Halloween this year? Is 27 too old be dressing up!?!

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