London Adventures

PicMonkey Collage3 London Adventures

Last week, before Comic Con, I spent a few days just outside of London, staying with family. Mum and I decided to play tourist and check out some of the London attractions we haven’t visited yet. We’ve done most of the museums and art galleries over the years, and things like the London Eye, but there’s still a few on the list to visit.

Our first port of call was the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Not quite located at 221B Baker Street (it’s actually a little bit further up, and 221B is part of a bigger building next to it) but with that famous number emblazoned over the door anyway, there was quite a queue when we arrived. I do wonder if the museum confuses some visitors, as it is entirely treated as though Sherlock Holmes was a real person. The guide leaflet states that the famous study is set up ‘as it was’, from the writings of Dr Watson. The series of rooms is filled with artifacts from Holmes’ most famous cases, Watson’s diaries and letters written by Holmes. By the way, keen Holmes fans will be pleased to know that there are indeed 17 steps on the staircase from the front hall to the study. The museum is small, and it was quite a squeeze to actually look at anything much, but it was fun spotting different bits from the cases I remember. The upstairs was full of slightly creepy waxworks, including the infamous Irene Adler. There was a also a huge scrapbook filled with letters that people have written to Holmes, including one plea from a little girl hoping he could help find her lost cat. I hope she found him, even without the Great Detective.

Next, we paid a visit to Churchill’s War Rooms. The rooms are hidden underneath Westminster, and were Churchill’s hub of operations during WWII. This was my favourite visit of the week, I think. The museum is fascinating; when the war ended, the rooms were just locked and left entirely intact (complete with one officer’s sugar ration still locked in the top drawer of his desk!) until Thatcher decided to open them as a museum in the 1980s. The virtually untouched rooms are remarkable. Churchill had a direct telephone link with America to speak to the President, and the army officers had a complex network of phones to communicate with various department heads in secret. I particularly enjoyed the recordings from staff who worked there during the war, and their recollections of the strange, secretive working life they led. Definitely worth a visit.

Last on the list was Westminster Abbey. The abbey is one of London’s most visited attractions, so expect to queue! Armed with an audio guide, we roamed the vast space, pausing to look at the huge, impressive tombs and memorials. There are some fantastic things to see in the abbey, with beautiful windows, tombs of royals including Elizabeth I and memorials for some incredible people. I was a touch over excited by Poet’s Corner, with it’s tombs and memorials for everyone from Chaucer to Ted Hughes.

Where’s your favourite place to visit in London?

London Film and Comic Con – LFCC 2014

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Last weekend was one for some serious geekery at LFCC 2014. Earl’s Court was taken over by all things comics, cosplay and…something else beginning with C.

We’re regularly visitors to MCM’s Expo, but this is the first time we’ve done London Film and Comic Con. I preferred this to MCM, definitely. There were less cosplayers, but the cosplayers we saw were incredible. Proper Stormtroopers, every version imaginable of Captain America, the world’s cutest Thor costume worn by a toddler and more Firefly cosplayers than I’ve ever seen before.

I shipped out in my Kaylee costume, deciding I didn’t need the rest of the crew. I’m glad I did, as I found at least one of every other member of Serenity’s crew, and a Reaver. It was awesome. I was accompanied on Saturday by Spidergirl, Dark Phoenix and Gambit. On Sunday, I swapped them for Loki, Thor and Black Widow.

The stalls were great, again with more Firefly stuff than I’m used to. I was disappointed in the comic stalls themselves though; I found ONE stall stocking Wonder Woman and they were all special editions selling for about £40 each. No, ta. I did spend a small fortune on Firefly gear, so obviously left happy.

The weekend was honestly exactly what I needed. Doing something I’d usually have done with Tom was worrying me and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. Spending a weekend with my mates, chasing down awesome cosplays and being stopped for selfies with Kaylee fans was fantastic, and made me feel much, much happier. I had a small blip of upset getting home on Monday (there’s a flatness after an event like this, and going home to Coventry isn’t so fun), but since then, the more positive mood has carried on.

I think the cheerfulness was definitely helped along by catching up with a certain charming panto prince who’s been showing up on TV screens a lot lately…

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It’s always nice to catch up with people after so long, and I’m so excited for how well he’s doing. And he gives the best hugs.

Scenes From My Weekend – Tredegar House and Penarth Pier

132508953 848x1024 Scenes From My Weekend   Tredegar House and Penarth Pier

Is it just me or does your social calender get full after a break-up? My friends and family are busy arranging outings for me, as though I will spontaneously combust if I am left alone for more than ten minutes. Not to sound ungrateful of course, keeping busy makes things much easier. And to be fair, they’re probably right. Left alone last night, I spent it eating Quavers and Jelly Babies, roaming the flat like a lost ghost and listening to Adele’s 21 album and I Know Him So Well from Chess on repeat.

Saturday was spent exploring Tredegar House, a National Trust property just outside Newport. Tredegar House was originally owned by the Morgan family, until two of the family blew through the family fortune by having insanely extravagant parties in the 1920s and 1930s. Those must have been some wild parties…

Tredergar is a beautiful house, and the National Trust are gradually opening more rooms since they took it over in 2012. The house is set up to reflect three eras of the properties history; 17th century when the house was built, the Victorian era when the estate was at it’s most powerful, and the 1930s, when the parties were raging. The park and gardens are gorgeous too, although I was slightly confused by the presence of a Dalek in the stables. I hope this is just because Tredegar House has been used as a filming location so often by Dr Who, and not because the Dalek invasion has begun.

On Sunday, I was on Penarth Pier, which has just had a fancy makeover, with a new cafe, cinema and art gallery, which makes a nice change from the usual tacky arcade.

On a side note, thanks to those of you who’ve been sending me kind words and love this week. It’s really appreciated. To be brutally honest…I’m not in a good place at all right now and I’m pretty miserable. Things are moving in the right direction though, and I should hopefully have somewhere to live pretty soon. The sooner I’m moved, the better!

100 Happy Days

The 100 Happy Days Challenge is complete. 100 pictures of small moments of happiness, taken over 100 days. It’s quite bittersweet, I must say. I’m proud of completing, and there’s some nice little moments in there I might have missed otherwise.

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The challenge finished on Thursday. Tom broke up with me on Friday. Unwittingly, I documented the last 100 days of my relationship. So many of the pictures are of things connected with that relationship. Tom is in there a couple of times, days and evenings spent together, snippets of the home we shared, time with his family…I’ve made a record of happy moments I won’t have again. If I’d known…

I started the project before Tom got his job in Cambridge, and I struggled for a week or two to find the moments to document after he was gone. And now he really is gone. Those pictures of my home, of the little changes I was so excited about as I gradually made that flat ours…it already isn’t home. Pretty soon, I won’t live there. I worked hard to find things I liked in Coventry, to make it somewhere I wanted to be. It feels like time wasted now.

I wanted to have a collection of photos from the 100 Happy Days to look back on that I would find cheering and that would help me remember those first things I found to enjoy about Coventry, the early changes of a home I thought we’d share for a long time, the small, silly moments like making treats in the kitchen, being excited to have him home…The pictures are all here. I’m a completist, and wanted to share the complete challenge, but I think this will be the last time I look at them. I don’t want to look through, and wonder at what point in that challenge we weren’t happy after all.

Wishlist: French Connection

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All words, thoughts and opinions in this post are my own and entirely honest. If you’d like to know more about my disclosure policy, you can read about it here.

French Connection is not somewhere I generally shop, but I think that might have to change. Perusing their website had my virtual basket full to the brim in no time, with classic pieces in great cuts, made all the sweeter by the fact that they’re having a massive sale right now. French Connection isn’t cheap, but there’s some great bargains on real quality items to be found at the moment. Here’s some of my favourites:

I found lots to love in the dress section.

 Apparently, all I want is the fit and flare shape. All these beauties are in the sale, and I think are pretty excellent wardrobe staples. Wearable shapes, but great details, like the bright prints and the neon strips. Depending on how formal your dress code is, I can see these working for the office, as well as for fun. These three are pretty good examples of the whole dress collection. The dresses are all in flattering shapes that most women could wear, but they’re kept interesting with gorgeous prints, bright colours or other little details.

I found a lot of great tops too.

If anyone would like to buy me the shirt, I’d be more than happy to accept that gift. I love the collar detailing, it’s beautiful, but so simple as well. Yes please! French Connection rule pretty patterns too, I think. Check that floral print. Cuteness. The pink shirt is something I could wear to work, I think, and that drapey top is the ultimate pairing for jeans and heels at the weekend.

Who’s a French Connection fan? If you are, you do not want to miss this sale.

Breaking Up

This is going to be a stream of consciousness type of post, so be warned; it’s a rambling one.

Bloggers often talk about the rosy lens that gets put over their life when they share it online. Most of us, while we share a lot, tend to stay pretty positive. When something goes wrong, it can be very, very difficult to share. For me, I get caught somewhere in a desire for privacy, but also wanting to be honest. I wanted to share what happened this weekend, because in all likelihood, there’s going to be an effect on my blog. There’ll be a notable absence of someone you’re used to seeing mentioned a lot, and to be honest, I’ll probably be around less myself while I get my life and head together.

On Friday night, Tom and I split up. He’s working away in Cambridge at the moment, and unfortunately, our relationship has become something he doesn’t have the time for. It’s something I’ve seen happen to several friends. Boyfriend works and lives with a lot of single guys, and it becomes that nights out with the boys make the relationship seem like a chore they don’t want to deal with, when they could live responsibility free. Essentially, I’ve had a spectacularly horrible weekend of heartbreaking phone calls (top tip gents, if you’re living with a girl, don’t break up with her over the phone. It’s really, really awful and painful) and scrambling to sort out where the hell I’m going to live, after our lease ran out on Saturday.

At the moment, I’m still in the shell-shock state. This is easily the worst way I’ve ever been split up with, but right now there’s so much practical stuff I need to sort out with our flat, and finding myself somewhere else to live, so I’m mostly just pushing through as best I can, particularly as it seems I’ll be the one dealing with the old flat and sorting that out.

It’s incredible how little you can know someone, and the horrible things they’re capable of. It’s also amazing how much love there is between friends. I went home to Mum on Saturday morning, and was immediately fully booked for the next fortnight with friends and family wanting to help, even if just keeping me company. You all know who you are. Thank you.

As for Caramel Latte Kiss…well, there’s a lot to sort out over the next few weeks. I’m aiming to keep as busy as possible, so I don’t crumble completely, so hopefully it won’t be too quiet around here, but there might a drop in regular posting. Thanks in advance for your patience with this, and I promise things will be back to normal as soon as possible. Breaking up is the actual worst.

Thoughts on Being A Girl Geek

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It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a geek. I like science-fiction, I like fantasy stories, I like comics, I like cosplay. I’m also a girl (no, duh, right?). Once upon a time, girl geeks were a rare and wondrous creature. Not so these days. Women make up a huge percentage of the geek world, whether it’s buying video games, watching the latest superhero blockbuster or spending hours crafting the perfect cosplay costume.

Yes, there are a lot of stereotypes around girl geeks. And some of them are true of some people. I do know girls who pretend to be into games to impress boys, go to see the superhero films because they’ve got hot actors in them, and enjoy cosplaying in skimpy outfits so they’ll get photographed. But in reality, most girl geeks are just normal, everyday girls who happen to be interested in something considered geeky.  I’m one of those. Sure, I very much appreciate the decision to cast Tom Hiddleston and Chris Evans, but they’re not the only reasons I enjoy those films. Tom might like the fact that I get stuck in beside him flicking through boxes of comics, but that isn’t why I buy them. Like most of the girl geeks out there, I just like what I like.

So why then, if us geek girls are growing in numbers, are we not being catered for? Why is geekery so male dominant?

I think part of the problem is that relative lack of women in a lot of shows, game franchises and books considered to be geeky. And when there are women, they’re left out of the merchandising.

I’m a Wonder Woman fan. I collect the comics, and I love a bit of Wonder Woman merchandise. But unless I’m searching specifically online, it’s often hard to find. Tom collects comics from the Marvel Civil War event, and whenever we go to conventions, he always leaves with a good stack. I just want Wonder Woman comics, and find that the majority of the stalls have none, which is insane, for arguably the most famous and well recognised female superhero. The stalls that do have some of her comics usually have a very small selection. It’s the same in comic book shops. I never find old editions. Some will have maybe the newest issue, and one or two collections of the newer comics, but that’s generally it. And forget merchandise. The Forbidden Planet near my work has a lot of cool figurines, action figures, wallets, badges, mugs, books, board games, keyrings…you name it, for a lot of superheroes. Amongst ten zillion variations of stuff with Batman, Superman or The Green Lantern on it, last time I went in there I found exactly one mug, one badge, one figurine and one glass as part of a Justice League set, with Wonder Woman on. And that’s fairly typical. She’s also usually the only female hero I see represented. Luckily, she’s my favourite. Good luck if you’re a fan of Black Widow, Ms Marvel, Storm, Catwoman, Silk Spectre, She-Hulk, Power Girl, Raven, Black Canary, Jean Grey, Thundra or any of the other myriad female superheroes out there.

And it’s not just the superheroes. Again, my local comic book shop has a whole wall of Dr Who gear. No companions. I have no idea if anyone even makes anything with a companion on, I just know I’d absolutely buy a Rose Tyler figurine to hang out with my model of the tenth Doctor. But there never is one. There’s a wall of Star Wars stuff. No Princess Leia. Not even slave-girl Leia. Star Trek; phasers aplenty and models of Spock, but not a single female Star Fleet officer. Bad luck, Captain Janeway. The Game of Thrones section is always well stocked with those little bobble-head models of Jaime Lannister and Ned Stark, but it’s always a mission to find Cersei, and I’ve never seen any of the other women represented. No Arya, no Sansa, no Ygritte. Why? It’s the same in every comic book shop I’ve ever been in.

Is it just that I’m the only one who wants to buy this stuff?

Clearly not, judging by the uproar recently over Disney’s new line of Star Wars product, which entirely missed out Princess Leia. When people began asking for Leia, Disney told them that they were no plans to release any Princess Leia products. A fortnight later, after angry fans demanded that Disney include the key female character from the franchise in their merchandise, Disney released a statement announcing that Leia would be added to the line. But the point stands. Why was she missed out in the first place?

Earlier in the week, I listened to the team behind Her Universe talk about being a girl geek on the Nerdist Wrtiers Panel. The company creates apparel aimed at women who like ‘geeky’ things, after the founders got fed up of never being to find merchandise that they wanted to buy. Their clothing, which has franchises with Star Trek, Marvel, Doctor Who, The Walking Dead and Star Trek, aims to combat the problems of buying this stuff when you’re female. Their size range is vast, and the clothing is not the awkward, boxy, man’s shirt scaled down crap we often get on convention stalls. The designs are clever, and appealing, not ‘girly’. One of the panel hosts talked about looking for a t-shirt for his wife at a convention. He found three shirts for women. One said ‘I only date superheroes’. Another had Batman standing by the Batmobile with the words ‘I like boys with fast cars’. The last was a pink Wonder Woman shirt with the words ‘Girl Power’. Sorry, Wonder Woman – Girl Power?? Really? Infantilise, much? But that’s how women’s merchandise is. We couldn’t possibly want to wear a superhero shirt. We’re the wives and girlfriends. Girl power.

Project Wonder Woman #8

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Let’s talk about happiness. Last week I picked up The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book covers Rubin’s year long project to bring more happiness into her life. Each month, she tackled a new area; her marriage, her work, her energy levels, and so on. I’m still only part way through the book, but I’m already hooked. Rubin wasn’t depressed or even especially unhappy when she started the project, but she had the nagging feeling that she wasn’t getting the most out of life.

I think most of us could probably use a little extra happiness in our lives. I mean, who, on being offered more happiness, would say, “Oh, no thank you, I have all the happy I want.” Rubin’s book explores lots of theories about happiness, some written by experts, some just from Rubin’s friends and family. And so many of them are so simple. So obvious. But so often, these small things are the ones we ignore.

Since starting the book, I’ve been easing some of Rubin’s suggestions into my own life. Energy is definitely something I’m often lacking, but since I’ve started being stern with myself about what time I get into bed, I’ve been feeling so much better. I’m dreadful for sitting up late staring at the internet, often because I’m waiting for Tom to come on Skype. Those conversations are still a high priority, but I need to prioritize sleep more. If I’m up late, whether I’ve spoken to Tom or not, I feel sluggish and low the next day. With just a little extra sleep, I feel alert, awake, and happier. 

I was also really interested in her thoughts about the small ways we treat others and how they impact our own happiness. Small kindnesses make us feel good, and don’t always have to take much effort to do.

Has anyone read Rubin’s book? What makes you happy?

Afternoon Tea at Balcony Brasserie, Selfridges

PicMonkey Collage 1024x1024 Afternoon Tea at Balcony Brasserie, Selfridges

If you ask me, Afternoon Tea is a pretty awesome meal. Tea, little sandwiches, scones, cake…yes please to all of those. Mum and I are both fans, so today we decided to head off to Balcony Brasserie in Selfridges to try their Picnic Tea for two (£29).

This afternoon tea comes served on a mini picnic table, complete with gingham table cloth. Full marks for presentation. On that picnic table, each person gets three kinds of sandwiches, each on different kinds of roll (salmon, cucumber and coronation chicken), a scone with jam and clotted cream, two macarons and a lemon cupcake.

The Balcony Brasserie itself is really nice, with lots of booths to sit in, and simple, modern decor. All the staff were friendly, when we were in there, although considering it was quiet, the service was a little slow.

If you’re a coffee drinker,  it’s worth noting that you only get one cup as part of the afternoon tea deal. Mum’s a coffee drinker, and while she was disappointed to have to pay for a refill, she did give the coffee itself top marks for tastiness, and was pleased it was served with hot milk on the side. I went for English Breakfast Tea, which came in a really nice teapot, which weighed an absolute tonne! I got three full cups out of it, and there was still more in the pot. Definitely the better deal!

It was a nice touch having all of the sandwiches on different kinds of bread. The rolls were fresh, and crisp and had been warmed through before serving. All the fillings were generous and tasty. Also, om nom salmon. My favourite. The cupcake was light and fluffy, but was only very lightly flavoured. I didn’t realise it was meant to be lemon until I looked at the menu. It was yummy though, with lots of icing. I love macarons, so I’m probably biased, but these were yummy. The ones we had were pistachio with a chocolate filling. Delicious. The scones were beautiful. Obviously freshly baked, and with LOTS of clotted cream, we both really enjoyed these. We did think it was a bit stingy only to give you one mini pot of jam to share though. It was just about about enough for two scones, but having a jar each would be nice.

Overall, we really enjoyed this afternoon tea and give it a definite thumbs up (despite the stingy jam). We liked the restaurant too, and would go back again, either for the afternoon tea, or to order from the regular menu, which looks really nice too. There was one black cloud on it though; the bill comes with a 10% ‘discretionary service charge’ added to it automatically, which is a pet hate of mine. I’ve worked in the service industry, and always tip, but I hate it when the restaurant decides whether I should and how much I should be tipping. Thanks, but I’ll decide for myself whether the service I received was good. It’s also worth noting, that these charges added to your bill often aren’t actually ever seen by the staff, and just go back into the restaurant profit. If you want to tip, leave cash, just to be safe, so the people who have earned it are the ones who get it. Anyone else hate those charges?

Friday Round Up Double Edition

Links, loves and lomograms from the last (two) weeks. Let’s catch up with 100 Happy Days.

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Day 81 – Mirror selfie. The blogger classic
Day 82 – Koppalberg, sunglasses, sunshine. Yes.
Day 83 – Polka dots!
Day 84 – I am mad for Peanut Butter KitKat Chunkies
Day 85 – Sale in Paperchase? Dangerous!
Day 86 – A few cheeky purchases from Selfridge’s Paperchase concession
Day 87 – Getting Blognix goody bags ready to go
Day 88 – Blognix!!
DAy 89 – Blognix branded chocolate, so cool. And tasty.
Day 90 – Cool graffiti at work
Day 91 – Indian wedding being set up at work
Day 92 – Hello there, Ben & Jerry’s. Rather a nice find.
Day 93 – Goody box from my colleague’s baby shower
Day 94 – Gorgeous rose on my walk to the station

Sorry I missed the round-up last week, it got lost in the Blognix flurry! Can I also just point out that I have six days left of 100 Happy Days? SIX! Six more pictures and we’re done. After all the Blognix fun on Saturday, I spent Sunday swapping between working through all my notes from the day and falling asleep on the sofa. All that learning definitely knocked it out of me! This week has been good; I’m all full of blogging excitement and inspiration. Expect to see more regular posting around here, and a couple of exciting projects…

One of the girls I work with is off on maternity leave next week, so we had a little send off for her yesterday, which was lovely. We’ll definitely miss her when she goes, but I think she enjoyed her baby shower with us.

But, what have I been enjoying online?
High School boys talk about why they’re feminists.
How colour theory can help your blog.
Five Signs you’re a multipotentialite.
Yes, all men.
Blognix, as told through tweets.
Lego to produce female scientist mini-figure set.
100 ways to join the Nerd Fitness rebellion.
What feminism means, according to kids.
Bill Murray crashes couple’s engagement photo shoot.
The ultimate guide to superfoods.
On the culture of misogyny.
Woman beaten to death for refusing to give men her number.
Cat people are more intelligent than dog people.
I am not an angry feminist. I’m a furious one.
Rest in Peace, Maya Angelou.