Sunday, 31 January 2016

January Favourites 2016 | The Small Desk

This month has been a busy old month! Work-wise I've been trying to wrap up the biggest project of my entire (albeit short) career, and life-wise it's been the boyfriend's birthday. I always think birthdays should be as special as you can make them, because they only happen once a year! It's a little bit annoying that my boyfriend's birthday is straight after Christmas, as I've usually spent way too much and want to be scrimping by January. This did not happen, as you can see...

1. Chelsea walk
I've added this into my favourites because it was during the time that I had off in between Christmas and New Year. It's one of my favourite times of year, because I have no plans, no agenda and no goals, and feel like I can just do aimless things. Walking from Battersea to Sloane Square was one of those aimless, non-planned things. We were in Battersea to go to the Loaf interiors showroom, turns out it was crap, and so we were bored and decided to walk to Chelsea. It's actually a pretty cool route as you get to peek into all the rich people's houses!

2. Boyfriend's bday
As I mentioned earlier I spent a lot of this month celebrating the boyf's birthday! On the Saturday before we went to The Portman in Marylebone with a group of twelve friends. We had lunch there and then headed to a nearby pub and played Werewolf.

Then on the Sunday we went for lunch with my family to Cote, and then on his actual birthday we went to our local Wagamamas. I mentioned it was his birthday and they gave him a free piece of cake! Top tip for anyone who wants a free cake!

3. Meeting Natasha
This month I met my first blogger friend IRL! I've been following Natasha on Twitter for over a year now, and when I saw she had a new job just around the corner from where I worked I thought it would be silly not to meet up! She now works as a Newsletter Editor for BuzzFeed! How cool is that?! We went for tea at a local cafe and ended up sharing life stories. I love meeting new people!

4. Boyf's cousin's 18th
During the middle of the month we travelled to Oxfordshire to celebrate the boyf's cousin's 18th birthday. It's so weird that he's 18 now, as I first met him when he was 10!! Madness! We went to a local country pub and had a three course meal. I was absolutely stuffed but it was a great evening with great company.

5. Crazy flat viewings
Ah god, the month of crazy flat viewings. We've started to ramp up our flat searching, and this month have viewed a flat almost every weekend. I've been out to the suburbs of Guildford and been stopped in my tracks by insane access to a flat in Surbiton. The only entrance to the flat was up three flights of very steep fire escape stairs on the OUTSIDE of the building. Needless to say I was not impressed. It's in my favourites purely because each of these crazy viewings I've gone to with my parents and we've had quite a laugh!

6. Revenant at the Electric Cinema
I did a review of this last week on the blog, so I won't bang on about this!

7. Mum and the Alexander Technique
It's been a very stressful month for me at work, and one day I woke up with terrible cramp in my arm. So much so that I ended up working from home that day. I think it must have been a weird muscle spasm, it hurt so bad! Anyway, my Mum is now a trained Alexander Technique teacher, and she came round and worked her magic, and my arm is fine again now! I bloody love the Alexander Technique!

8. Spending time with my sister
I've spent a fair amount of time with my sister this month, and I've loved reconnecting. We went for brunch in Richmond early on the month, I went over for a takeaway mid-month and then just last Thursday she popped over for dinner.

9. Dinner with friends
Last night I went to Balls and Company in Soho with my old school friends. Take a look at my Instagram to see what I had!

10. Barbican exhibition
I will do a blog post on this at some point. The exhibition was called The World of Charles and Ray Eames. Just Google Eames chairs and I'm sure you'll recognise them. I'm pretty sure this will be one of the most talked about exhibitions of the year. It is on until 14th February, so there's still time to go and let me know what you think!

How has your January been? Any recommendations of things for me to do/watch/read in February?

Other posts you might like:
January Favourites 2015

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Revenant at the Electric Cinema: Film Review | The Small Desk

It's starting to become a tradition that we go to the Electric Cinema as the boyf's birthday present from me. Last year we went to the Electric Cinema in Shoreditch to see Marshland, and this year we went to the one in Portobello Road and saw The Revenant.

It is a fair bit more expensive to go to the Electric Cinema than your average Odeon, but the whole thing is much more of an experience. You can decide whether you want a sofa, an armchair, or even a bed! Each seat has a foot rest with a cashmere blanket to hand, and the cinema food isn't your average popcorn either. There is a bar where you can order alcoholic beverages, brownies and bar snacks. We had nachos delivered to us during the film! I would definitely recommend booking in advance if you wanted to take anyone there as a birthday treat.

Anyway, on with the film review!

I was a little hesitant to see this film as I had told it was very violent, and that there were some pretty harrowing scenes with a bear. It was very violent, and there is an awful scene of a bear attacking the main character, Hugh, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, but the scene isn't quite as awful as some have reported. I was worried about watching it, but you see the bear running towards him before it attacks so at this point you can look away, which I did!

I'll start with what I didn't like about this film and end on what I did like. Firstly, if you haven't done any research before you go to see the film (like me) you will be very confused as to what is going on; it wasn't clear when or where it was set. It felt very abstract at the beginning. Now that I have researched it I can tell you that it is set in 1823 in North America, following a fur-trading mission. Also, through a bit of research, I found out that this is 'loosely' based on the true story, basically the ending didn't actually happen. It would have made a nice 'moral of the story' ending if they had used the real story.

I was intrigued to see if DiCaprio's performance was Oscar-worthy. I'm no actor or film expert, so this is just my opinion, but I felt that he only really acted the physical pain well, and not the emotional pain. During the film DiCaprio's character suffers so many physical injuries that I ended up laughing when he survived what felt like the 100th near-death experience! No-one would have survived falling off the edge of a cliff through a 100 foot tree!

The person who definitely deserves an Oscar though is Tom Hardy. He played the character, Fitzgerald, who leaves DiCaprio for dead. I didn't even realise it was Tom Hardy at first; he was utterly believable and his performances of intense emotion were amazing. I would be surprised if he didn't win.

There has been a lot of talk about the cinematography, and whilst at times it was epic and beautiful, other times it felt a bit cheesy and you were reminded it was a Hollywood blockbuster. For some reason I had hoped for more of a world cinema vibe.

The positives were that it did keep me gripped, at no point did I lose interest, and it made me think. It made me think about the fragility of life, and how far humanity has and hasn't progressed, and for that I would say it is worth seeing. But maybe only once.


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Cringe | The Small Desk

I spend a lot of my life cringing. I cringe at myself, I cringe at other people, I cringe at YouTube videos, but mostly I cringe at myself.

I'm one of those people who just cannot face anything to do with performing, but when I see other people performing I see them as the ones with all the success. I look at famous actors and actresses as having it all, those YouTubers who put themselves on camera as winning at life, and don't start me on live bands: well Muse just make me feel like I've already failed at life. But then the problem is that I cannot bring myself to speak to a camera, to even pretend that I'm acting in a mirror, or God forbid play an instrument in front of an audience.

I just find the idea of performing cringe. I don't always watch other people and cringe, and even if I didn't watch myself back I would still cringe at the process. I do not know how people get over it.

I'm pretty happy with my voice, and am definitely considering doing a podcast, but even saying that makes me cringe. Being even the tiniest bit happy with one part of myself makes me cringe a little bit inside. But why!?

I love to write, but even then I sometimes cringe at what I write. I sort of want a disclaimer alongside me all the time, saying – I'll probably cringe at some point today at what I just said to you, it'll probably be a second after I said it.

But then sometimes I think you just have to put yourself out there, and accept the cringe. Accept that I will cringe after I've spoken to my boss like I'm his boss; accept that I will cringe after I've spoken about a big project at a industry-wide meeting; and accept that I will cringe when I put up a more personal blog post.

At the end of the day if you don't do cringe-inducing things you'll never get where you want to get, you'll never feel like you're winning, and let's face it, everyone fakes it to make it. So here's to 2016, and accepting the cringe.

Do you cringe? Do you believe in the phrase 'fake it to make it'?


Monday, 11 January 2016

Best places for birthday meals in London | The Small Desk

Recently it was the boyfriend's birthday, and we were tirelessly looking for places in London to celebrate with our friends. We searched and searched and eventually found somewhere, but the experience made me realise that the Internet is really lacking in a good list of affordable places to go for birthday meals in London. I've been to a fair few restaurants in London for people's birthdays and I thought it would be useful to you guys to share these with you, so that you don't have the same problem I did!

All of these places can accommodate large groups of people, and all of them have mains on their menus under £10. I've also had very good service in all of them.

1. The Portman, Marylebone
This is where we celebrated the boyf's birthday this year. We booked a table for eleven for a Saturday lunch time, and basically had the whole of the dining area to ourselves. The dinner area is very smart, and the service is impeccable. We stayed there for over three hours and at no point did we feel we had overstayed our welcome.

2. Wahaca, Covent Garden
I am recommending the Covent Garden branch in particular, as it has the most space for large gatherings. This is also the first Wahaca branch ever, and I feel it has the best atmosphere and quality of food. I am a huge Wahaca fan, and I would eat in any of their restaurants anyway!

3. Cote, Soho
Cote is another chain, and has restaurants dotted across the country. The one in Soho is the one where I have been with a large group of people and it worked out really well. They do an excellent chocolate fondant.

4. Grand Union, Clapham
I celebrated one of my friend's birthdays here with the Burger and Bubbles experience. You pay £25 for a burger and unlimited prosecco for 90 minutes. The service was very good, but you have to keep an eye on how many times the waiters top up your glass otherwise it can get out of hand very quickly! It's really fun though, and I think we had about 20 people there.

5. Jackson and Rye, Soho or Richmond
In my previous blog post I reviewed Jackson and Rye. I'm not sure about the Richmond branch, but with the Soho branch you can only book for a maximum of eight people, as they only have round tables. It is a great atmosphere, and I can really imagine having a good party here.

6. The Refinery, Southwark
This is a restaurant and bar in one. The food is sort of smart pub grub, and it has a very chilled and relaxed atmosphere. I would definitely recommend it if you some of you wanted to eat, and others only wanted to drink.

7. Mildred's
This is a vegetarian restaurant based in Soho. You can book the private dining room by phoning up. The food here is absolutely delicious, and by booking the private dining room you avoid the normal hour and a half queue!

8. Jolly Gardner's, Putney
This is a beautiful pub in the heart of Putney, near the river. It has a really warming and homely feel to it, and you could sit in there for hours whiling away the hours chatting with friends.

9. Busaba, Covent Garden
Busaba is a chain of Thai restaurants based in London. Every table can fit about eight people around it, so it makes it good for big groups.

10. Masala Zone, Covent Garden
Masala Zone is again, a chain, and serves Indian food. The best part about Masala Zone is its grand thalis. It is a bit like tapas but for Indian food, so great for sharing.

I hope this list is of some use, and please do let me know if you have any more suggestions I should add to my list!


Sunday, 10 January 2016

London Eats: Jackson and Rye | The Small Desk

I cannot quite believe it is only the second week of January; it feels like I've done so much already. I've had a busy weekend celebrating the boyf's birthday, and a busy week finishing off my first paid book review. I was thinking about what to blog about this week, and I thought it might be nice to share with you one of my favourite places to meet people for brunch or lunch. As you may, or may not know I live in London, and often take it for granted, however when I blogged about Sloane Square I got some lovely comments requesting to hear more about London. So, here we go, this is the start of my 'London Eats' series!

Jackson and Rye has three restaurants across London: one in Soho, one in Chiswick and one in Richmond. I've not been to the Chiswick one, but I've been to both the Soho one and the Richmond one. I think the one in Soho has more of a dinner vibe, and the one in Richmond is better for brunch or lunch.

What I like most about Jackson and Rye is the atmosphere. The interior decoration is absolutely beautiful. It is a bit like a fancy 1930s American diner. The one in Richmond is in the most spectacular setting, right on the river, and if you're lucky you can sit looking out at the river whilst you enjoy your food. Last weekend the boyf and me decided to do a long walk in Richmond park and then we walked to Jackson and Rye for our lunch. They were so lovely in there and didn't even flinch at our muddy walking boots! I think it would also be nice to go for a stroll along the river after your meal.

The food served is basically posh American diner food. I've tried the Spiced Black Bean Enchiladas, which were delicious and vegetarian! I've also had the banana pancakes and the Angler's eggs, both of which were very tasty. If you're a meat eater I hear the buttermilk fried chicken is superb! I wouldn't advise going here if you are in a rush though, as the service isn't that fast. It is a lazy Sunday type of place, where you can relax, take your time and pretend you're in uptown NYC.

I should also point out that every toilet has Aesop hand wash in, just in case you needed a bit more persuading!

Have you been to Jackson and Rye? Would you like to see more 'London Eats' posts?


Sunday, 3 January 2016

The photos I am most proud of on Instagram | The Small Desk

Yesterday I took the photo that I am most proud of, probably ever. It is the one above. It made me think about my journey on Instagram and how a love of photography does not necessarily mean that you always take great photographs. I decided to have a look through all of the 931 photos I have posted on Instagram, since 16th June, 2013, and put together a post of the photos I am most proud of. This way I can look at these photos and decide what it takes for me to take great photos. 

When I first started on Instagram I decided to take on the 100 happy days challenge. This is where you post a photo every day for 100 days of something that made you happy that day. It was fun for a while, but it did result in me having some pretty poor quality images on my Instagram. 

The oldest photo I am most proud of is from 16th November, 2014. I feel I have steadily been improving my photography in 2015, and hope that 2016 is my best year yet for photography on Instagram. Make sure you follow me on Instagram here, and let me know if you particularly like or dislike a photo. Advice on how to take really good Instagram photos would also be very much appreciated. Here are the rest of the photos I am most proud of on Instagram... 

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