Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Resolutions: 2016 | The Small Desk

Reviewing 2015 New Year's Resolutions

1. Get a pension
I got one! Huzzah! I save a very small amount a month, but at least I have one set up!

2. Save for a flat
I have started saving for a flat, but only started in June of this year... and I haven't saved very much, but it's a start!

3. Write in a diary everyday for 2015
I pretty much kept this up for the whole of January, and then life got in the way! I wrote in it once a month until June, and then once in October. I hope to write in it a bit in 2016, but I'm not going to make it a resolution.

4. Read more
I did this! I read so much more that it warranted a Book Review section on my blog! I've read 8 books this year, and hope to finish my ninth by the end of the year. Considering I don't think I read one single non-academic book for the past two years, I think I can definitely say I stuck to this New Year's Resolution! And I've asked for lots of books for Christmas. I'm enjoying reading again! So happy!

5. Get fit
Well, yeah... I did go swimming once a week for a while, but no, I really can't say I 'got fit'. I like exercising, I am just terrible for finding the time.

6. Go on a Scandinavian holiday
This happened! We went for two weeks inter-railing across Denmark and Sweden. It was amazing! I blogged about Copenhagen, Stockholm and Gothenburg, we also stayed in a little town called Linkoping. We had amazing food in CopenhagenStockholm and Gothenburg. And I also blogged about the houses in the Gothenburg archipelago. Basically that trip gave me content for 7 blog posts! Well worth it, hehe!

7. Go to Billingsgate Fish Market
I managed to get the photography consent form to go there, but I have still not been able to force myself out of bed before 6am... It also doesn't appeal to me to go there so much anymore. I'm not sure I could handle it! Maybe one day!

8. Write on my blog more
I did the opposite of this! In 2014 I wrote 134 posts and so far in 2015 I have only written 82. I have really tried for quality over quantity this year, so hopefully it has showed!

9. Socialise more
I think I have definitely done more of this in 2015 than in 2014. Well, for one I spent a whole week in Cornwall with friends!

10. Save for 2016 to go to California and Yosemite
Yeah, no... This did not happen. I do not earn nearly enough to save for this and for a flat! One day I'll go there!

2016 New Year's Resolutions

1. Only eat one sweet thing a day
I eat way, way, way too much chocolate. I can often have chocolate at lunch and dinner, and sometimes even have a sweat treat before lunch! I know I need to cut down for my health! I'm not overweight, but I am addicted to sugar.

2. Get a bike
This is basically the same as that 'Get fit' goal. Although I figured it might be more achievable for me to get a bike than get fit... We'll see!

3. See more of the UK
I've been to New Zealand, New York, Australia, Bermuda, yet I've still not been to places like Bath, Glasgow, or Norfolk. I would love to explore more of the UK in 2016, as it's also a much cheaper place to visit for me!

4. Earn more
Isn't this everyone's resolution!?

5. Buy a house
Fingers crossed! I say house, it might be a flat!

6. Experiment with new recipes
I don't know about you, but I get stuck eating the same old recipes. I learnt some new recipes at the beginning of this year, and have basically eaten the same few dishes every week since! I want to try more new recipes in 2016, and in return hopefully improve my diet.

7. Go to more shows, exhibitions, talks, gigs, etc.
I honestly believe that one of the best ways to get perspective in life is to go to arts events. Whether this is a gig, an art exhibition or a lecture, I think they are invaluable experiences that feed your creative juices. Luckily, I've already got tickets for one gig... Macklemore 2016 here I come!

8. Learn a new skill
As I wrote in my recent post about my pottery course, I am obsessed with learning new things. I don't know what new skill I will learn in 2016, but I'm sure there will be something!

What are your New Year's Resolutions? Have you blogged about them?

Related posts: New Year's Resolutions: 2015

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

December Favourites 2015 | The Small Desk

It feels a little odd doing a December Favourites after I've done my Year in Review post, however I feel that my 2015 Favourites series wouldn't be complete unless I wrote the December edition. This is also more detailed than my Year in Review post, and has a few extra things I wanted to share with you. We still have New Year's Eve to go, which I'm sure would feature in my Favourites as well, but let's face it, there's no way I'm going to be writing a blog post on New Year's Day! If you're interested, I'm going to a friend's flat party to eat Italian food! I really need to get on a diet or take up a regular form of exercise after this festive period! Anyway, without any further ramble, here are my December Favourites...

1. Renewing The Small Desk domain domain ran out this month, but do not fear, I have renewed it, which commits me to blogging for another whole year, which makes me very happy.

2. Friend's birthday party
I went for 'Burger and Bubbles' at the Grand Union bar in Clapham for a friend's birthday. It was really nice, as I got to see most of the people I went to Perranporth with.

3. Noodles with the family
We used to go for noodles more often, but the price has gone up a fair bit, so when we go now it feels more like a treat, hence it's entry into my December Favourites.

4. Last pottery lesson
This month I finished my 12 week pottery course. I wrote a whole blog post on what I learnt during the course. On the last day we had a little Christmas shindig, where everyone brought snacks and drinks and we chatted about what we were going to do for Christmas.

5. Early Christmas gift exchange with the boyf's family
I saw there were very cheap train tickets to where the boyf's family live in early December, so I celebrated with them at the start of the month. Don't worry though, I saved opening my presents until 20th December!

6. Viewed a whole house
We've been viewing flats to buy in London, but we decided to have a look and see what we could afford just outside of the zones, and it turns out we could afford a whole house! It ended up going for £20k over the asking price, so we were outbid, but it was exciting to see how much more our money could get us outside of London.

7. Lunch with an old work colleague
One of my old work colleague's moved to Berlin this year, so it was lovely to see him for lunch this month, as he was back for the festive season.

8. Lunch with my old school friend
I have a school friend who has ended up going into a very similar career to mine. It was nice to meet up with her and discuss all the woes in our line of work, mostly funding!

9. Franco Manca and Strictly final for @colouredskies birthday
If anyone has been to Franco Manca they will understand why this is on my favourites! It was also lovely to go to @colouredskies' flat to celebrate her birthday and ask her a million questions during the Strictly final, which I'm sure she really appreciated. Hehe!

10. Richmond with a friend
I love going to Richmond. I arrogantly went to finish off my Christmas shopping with a friend the weekend before Christmas, however it was surprisingly quiet! We thought perhaps everyone was so rich who lives in Richmond that they've all already gone away to their ski resorts!

11. Korean restaurant with the family
This was mostly hilarious because my Mum set a napkin on fire, you had to be there...

12. Christmas meal at the Gate with school friends
We booked this way back in November, and had the Christmas menu. I would highly recommend the Gate if you are looking for an affordable veggie restaurant.

13. The Nutcracker
I saw The Nutcracker on Christmas Eve... enough said.

14. Christmas Day
I had such a lovely Christmas this year; we ate amazing food, played games and my Grandma made it!

15. Boxing Day
This year on Boxing Day we went for lunch at a National Trust property, and went for a little walk.

16. 27th December
On the 27th we went for another lunch in another National Trust property, and I was reunited with the boyf.

17. Lunches out with the boyf
I was treated to Wahaca and Carluccio's!

18. Watching Berlin 36
You have to watch this film. My Dad bought it for me on DVD for Christmas. It is about the Berlin Olympics in 1936. You can watch the trailer here.

19. Christmas cards
It was lovely to receive over 20 Christmas cards this year for me and the boyf. See photo above! I love giving everyone Christmas cards too!

20. Christmas tree
I've loved having a Christmas tree up this year and also adding to my Christmas tree decorations with a couple of additions from the sales.

I hope you've all had an excellent December, and I hope you have an even better New Year!


Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Best blog posts from 2015 | The Small Desk

I have now been blogging for two years, and I can honestly say that the blogging community is one of the most supportive, honest and damn right talented bunch of people I've ever come across. Many bloggers simply write as a hobby, sharing advice and personal stories without creating any form of income from it. 

To celebrate the dedication and pure hard work of bloggers I decided to share my favourite posts, written by fellow bloggers, from 2015. 

January 2015
1. Cardboard Cities, Beating Anorexia

2. Naturally Beige, Let's Talk Career: It's ok to quit and start again

May 2015
3. Little Winter, An Honest Post

June 2015
4. A Few of My Favourite Things, Welcome to the World, Jenson

July 2015
5. Girl Lost in the City, I've Got a Book Deal

August 2015
6. Honey and Ricotta, LDN to NYC

September 2015
7. Vix Meldrew, I'm Not the Girl Who

November 2015
8. Diary of a Teachaholic, The Hidden Truth, Lets Talk Anxiety

November 2015
9. Dorkface, Dead of Night

December 2015
10. KassiElla, Those Who Don't Believe in Magic Will Never Find it

I blog, but I also read blogs; like any form of writing you must read what your peers are writing to draw inspiration, improve your own writing and to show solidarity. If you like what you see, then go follow them, and show them that they are wanted. As this community grows we have to remember to maintain quality in blogging, and these lovely ladies are a showcase of blogging talent.


Monday, 28 December 2015

My Year in Review: 2015 | The Small Desk

2015 has been the year of strong women in my family. It was the year my Grandma defeated a life-threatening illness aged 86, and the year both my mum and my sister graduated. My mum graduated to become an Alexander Technique teacher, and my sister graduated from a two year intensive Masters degree on the French Horn. It has been the year I've been very proud of the women in my family.

For me 2015 has been about exploring new restaurants in London with friends. I tucked into some exquisite samosas at the legendary vegetarian, Mildred's, chowed down on sour dough pizza at Franco Manca, and gorged on curry at the mythical Dishoom. It was also, unintentionally the year of ballet, unbelievably I was able to see all four of my favourite ballets: Onegin, La fe mal gardee, Romeo and Juliet, and The Nutcracker. I also managed to complete a project management qualification and feel slightly more grounded in terms of career.

This 'Year in Review' post is mostly a weird therapeutic thing for me to come to terms with the fact that another year has flown past, and another is quickly descending upon us. It is a way for me to look back at the year and to see how I haven't really been a lazy TV slob all year round, even though it feels like I have!

January 2015
It's always odd to look back to January in a 'Year in Review' post, as it's the furthest you can go back, and the closest month to arrive in the new year. This January I enjoyed a couple of new restaurants: Pizza Pilgrims and Dishoom, and we celebrated the boyf's 27th birthday. I also started reading more and swimming. I wrote 10 blog posts, which apart from March, is the most I've written in a month in 2015. It seems like I didn't do that much this month, but looking back on blog posts I appeared to do a lot of thinking.

February 2015
The month of love... this month I celebrated seven years with the boyf. Instead of a slap up meal we went to the most amazing Dolls House shop in north London where he bought me a mini cactus and mini porcelain cat. Talking of love, I went to see my favourite ballet of all time, Onegin, with my oldest friend who I've known since I was born. I also decided on a new person to join the company I work for, went to a Christie's auction, learnt how to be a First Aider, and caused a leak, which caused the flat downstairs's ceiling to collapse. All in all it was a month of two halves!

March 2015
March was the month I collected one of my most prized possessions, my Ercol Treviso desk, from the Ercol Outlet. I was star struck when I watched the art critic Richard Cork talk about his encounter with Picasso at Tate Britain. This is also the month I discovered the life-changing magic of online food shopping. Never again have I carried bottles of squash, washing tablets and toilet roll all in one bag.

Work-wise, I was lucky enough to collaborate with the most incredible branding agency, never have I worked with such creative, innovative and vivacious people. Being wrapped up in art, and awe-inspiring design, it was a bit of a shock to the system when I attended the first church wedding I've ever been to!

April 2015
The month I turned 27, and my younger sister turned 24 (what?!?). In April my mum graduated from her Alexander Technique school, we went to Charleston, the family home of Vanessa Bell, and I took a week off in work. During my week off I visited Brighton, the Barbican, and watched the Oxbridge boat race. I also tried Franco Manca for the first time, and went to see the ballet, La fe mal gardee, again with my oldest friend!

May 2015
This was the month of a two week Interrailing trip around Denmark and Sweden. A trip I will never forget. I did about seven blog posts about this trip! This was also the month I got addicted to Pretty Little Liars TV show, reunited with an old Uni friend, and my sister finished her Masters degree.

June 2015
In June I became a qualified Prince2 project manager, and gave a talk at my old University about my work project. It was a month I felt very well established in my career. We went rowing for my mum's birthday on a canal, I went to Broadway market for the first time, and after 15 years I changed my current account.

July 2015
Looking back at the photos from July makes me excited for summer again. Those long days where you can leisurely stroll home in the light, and where you can picnic in the park, are absolutely glorious. One of my fondest memories from July of this year was taking a picnic to Richmond Park. We sat on a hill and watched over the park, whilst intermittently reading our books and nibbling on bread and dips.

July also had the hottest day of the year, with a whopping 35 degrees. I found a note in my diary telling myself to work from home that day; commuting plus heat does not equal a good result!

This was also the month that one of my good friends from work left to become a teacher, and we had our work summer party, which the boyf attended.

My sister graduated this month from her two year Masters degree, and I started Travel Bloggers Chat, which I just have not had the energy to keep going with. I think it might be right to close it down. I enjoyed watching the Wimbledon final, and an outing to see the Barbara Hepworth exhibition at Tate with my Mum.

August 2015
For a week in August I escaped with some friends to the seaside town of Perranporth in Cornwall. We had glorious weather for the first few days and I enjoyed bodyboarding for the first time since I was a child. We ate out almost every day and inhaled countless ice creams. I even went for a run on the beach, I think that despite the ice creams this was the healthiest week of my life!

August saw the return of the Great British Bake Off, and this was the last time I got my hair dyed.

September 2015
September saw the glorious summer days drift away, the clouds pull in and the daylight fade. It always feels like a new year in September, probably because my entire life has been dictated by the academic calendar. A cold took over my body for half of the month. I saw the film Marshland at the Electric Cinema, started my twelve week pottery course, and my cousin got married. It was also the month that the joy that is the heated drying rack came into my life.

October 2015
This is the month I started looking for flats to buy. I took a few days holiday from work, and went to Arundel Castle with my Dad. I also went to the Seven Sisters, Ai WeiWei's exhibition at the RA, and Mildred's veggie restaurant. I felt like a teenager again at a Halloween party, and felt sick in the YellowBluePink haze at the Wellcome Collection. At the end of the month we took my sister to Brighton and watched the waves roll in and out of the beach.

November 2015
This was the month my Grandma went into hospital with meningitis bacteria. She survived and even came to Christmas this year, which was incredibly inspirational.

The boyfriend's parents came to London, and enjoyed fish and chips at a fancy Marylebone pub. I got to see my third ballet of the year, Romeo and Juliet, and saw my work project go to beta. We made an offer on a flat that was rejected, and I started the Feed Your Soul newsletter, which you can subscribe to here.

December 2015
This is the month we moved offices at work. It was very disorientating, but everyone came together and helped each other out with the move. I enjoyed a couple of local meals out with the family, had catch up lunches with a few old friends, finished my pottery course, made an offer on a whole house, went to Banbury, celebrated @colouredskies birthday and had a Christmas meal with my school friends at the Gate! Phew!

As for Christmas, well sometimes you don't realise how good a time you're having until it's finished. I stayed at my parents for four nights from 23rd. On the 24th me and my sister went to watch The Nutcracker. On Christmas Day my grandparents and my auntie and her partner came over and my Mum made the most spectacular Christmas dinner. It was a dream day, there were no arguments whatsoever! When everyone had gone we played games and then on Boxing Day we went out for lunch at a local National Trust property and had leftovers for dinner. Then on the 27th we went to another National Trust property for lunch and a walk. I've loved being back with my family. It's such a weird feeling – you feel like a child again, and then you're thrust back into adulthood again after Christmas. I guess until you have children this will always be what happens.

Overall, as usual the most important things to me are family, friends, travel and career. It is also very important to me to document my life, albeit in an anonymous way, through my blog. I've not treated my blog in quite the same way that other bloggers do, and don't post as often as I would like, so thank you for sticking with me this year and for reading The Small Desk!

Please leave your links to any Christmas or New Year blog posts, and farewell to 2015!

Related posts: My Year in Review: 2014
2015 Favourites

Friday, 11 December 2015

Explore: Sloane Square at Christmas | The Small Desk

There is something so magical about Sloane Square at Christmas. It's an area sometimes overlooked by tourists, but is so festive at this time of year. It is only around the corner from Knightsbridge and South Kensington, and it plays host to one of the most famous galleries in the world: the Saatchi Gallery. Granted, it is full of filthy rich people, and some of the shops are selling jewellery as expensive as a deposit on a house, but if you know where to look you can enjoy it without spending a penny. The Christmas lights in the main square outside the tube station are free to look at for example! Here are my top six places to visit in Sloane Square at Christmas.

1. Duke of York Square
This square plays host to some of our favourite high street brands such as Zara and Cos. It also has an array of restaurants, and even a Liz Earle shop. You might recognise one of the restaurants there from when the headlines were awash with Charles Saatchi and Nigella's infamous argument.

2. Partridges
I'd always seen the sign for Partridges in Sloane Square, but had always thought it was a restaurant. I was delighted when I discovered that it is a luxury food shop. It is probably THE most Christmassy shop I've been in all year. You couldn't hope for more festive food for sale! I even heard a kid in there tell his Dad that this is what all shops should be like at Christmas!

3. Peter Jones
Peter Jones, ah, how I love you. It is basically John Lewis, but with a different name. I have no idea why it has a different name in Sloane Square, as they seem to sell all the same stuff. Every year they cover the whole building in lights and it looks really special. They also sell a huge variety of Christmas food gifts.

4. Saatchi Gallery
How could I not mention the Saatchi Gallery!? For one, it is FREE! They always have some pretty wacky exhibitions on. Plus, they have a great selection of Christmas cards from museums and galleries across the country.

5. Anthropologie
This is probably the prettiest Anthropologie building of all the Anthropologies I've seen. It is a huge space, with an excellent selection of pretty homeware and clothing.

6. Christmas market
Finally, the Christmas market. It is nestled in the corner of a square just off the main high street. They sell everything from mulled wine to mince pies, specialist chocolates, and fancy cakes. It's a market where you can purchase 'treat yourself' type foods.

Have you been to Sloane Square? Would you like to go this Christmas? Where would you recommend to visit during this festive period?


Sunday, 6 December 2015

Twelve things I've learnt from my pottery course | The Small Desk

My final pieces!

Next week will be my twelfth, and final pottery lesson. To mark this occasion I thought I would share with you twelve things I've learnt from the course.
I made a gif!

1. Patience
When I first started the course I had no idea how many processes are involved in created a piece of pottery. This is a summary of the process:

a) Firstly you have to 'wedge up' the clay. This involves cutting a piece of clay into half and hitting it with the other half to get the air out.
b) Then you shape it on the wheel.
c) After the wheel you have to let it dry a bit.
d) Once it's a bit drier, you can 'turn' the pot, basically make it neater.
e) Then it has to dry out completely.
f) After this it can go in the kiln for 'firing'.
g) Once it is out of the kiln you can glaze it.
h) Finally, it needs to go for a second 'firing', and then it's done!

Be prepared for this lengthy process!

2. Get that air out
As I said before, you have to prepare the clay, which involves 'wedging' it to get the air out. If you don't get all the air out it can completely ruin your pot later down the line. Air bubbles can make your pot difficult to centre on the wheel, and they can also cause pots to crack in the kiln. Basically, you do NOT want any air in your clay!

3. All is not lost if you suck at the wheel
I briefly mentioned 'turning' in the summary above. This is the part where you can neaten up a messy pot. I am terrible at the wheel, but I have transformed pots through turning. It involves taking some tools, putting your pot on the wheel, using no water, and smoothing the wonky parts of your pot. You will probably also find you are able to take a lot of clay off and make a thiner pot. For some reason newbies always tend to make very thick and heavy pots.

4. Slab making is way easier
This is where you simply roll out the clay and cut it into shapes and stick it together. It is much easier than turning. If you want to make anything square – this is the process you would use. It is still very much a professional technique, so don't worry if this is the only way you want to make pottery.

5. Slurry is your best friend
I have no idea what slurry is made from, but basically if you want to stick anything to another piece of clay you are going to need some slurry. It is a potter's glue. Thinking of adding a handle to a mug? You're going to need slurry. It is often applied with a toothbrush!

6. Lots of water
The amount of time I've heard 'now, lot's of water' during my course is too many to count! When you are throwing a pot on the wheel you need so much water! I had no idea! If your hands aren't really wet they can stick to the pot, which in turn can mean you end up causing the pot to collapse. You will also need a never ending supply of sponges. In a beautiful way the clay picks up every imprint, but then again you don't really want finger marks all over your pot, so a sponge is the best way to smooth everything out.

7. Spin the wheel fast
I'm not very good at this! I get scared the clay is going to fly off the wheel! But, if you watch any of the best potters on YouTube you will see how fast they spin the wheel. It is very important in order to get a nice, neat pot, that hopefully doesn't need turning!

8. Glaze is evil
I don't know if you would feel this way if you made your own glaze, but I find it impossible to know what the glaze will turn out like. You can make the best pot in the world, but then the glaze can completely ruin it.

9. Cross your fingers for the kiln
You can only cross your fingers once it is in the kiln. This terrifies me, but as long as you've done all the right preparation, you should be ok. I don't know one person who doesn't do a little prayer before their pot goes in the kiln!

10. Do not wear your best clothes
Pottery is a messy process! I now have a pair of shoes I call my pottery shoes, because they are covered in clay!

11. Clay is recyclable
If your pot totally collapses on the wheel you can chuck it in a bin full of clay and water that the teacher provides, and start again!

12. Centre your clay
Centreing your clay is the hardest part. If you don't centre it on the wheel, then you end up with a wonky pot. After twelve weeks I am still yet to centre the clay by myself! It sounds so easy, but it's really difficult!

Overall I've really enjoyed my pottery course, and it's been great doing it with my bestie from Uni. I'm not sure if I'll do the course again, because it's been quite a commitment to rush to it after work every Tuesday, and sometimes the results can be very frustrating. Watch this space!

What I have loved the most is learning a new skill, and appreciating the way that pottery is made. Even if I don't do the course again, I'm sure I'll not doubt find myself on another course!

From 1999 to 2006 I went to school. From 2006 to 2009 I went to University. From 2009 to 2010 I worked at getting on the career ladder. From 2010 to 2011 I did a Graduate Course in the History of Art and Architecture. From 2011 to 2013 I did a part-time Masters degree in the History of Art. In 2014 I worked hard on my blog, and saved hard to go to Australia. In 2015 I did the Prince 2 project management course and a pottery course! So, you can see I love to learn!

Have you tried pottery? Or would you like to?

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