Monday, 30 December 2013

Book Haul Time! (#1)

Over the course of my birthday and Christmas I’ve seemed to have collected a lot of book vouchers from my family since they know how much I love books. And when I say a lot I mean A LOT. I didn’t think I could wait any longer to use those vouchers. So, I made my way over to the Waterstones site and reserved my books so that I could just go in store and collect (I was told it actually work out cheaper to do it on there). Altogether I managed to get 11 books with my vouchers and I also got another two from my family as well. 

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices #1)
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices #2)
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare (Infernal Devices #3)

These are three books that I have been dying to get my hands on so I thought I may as well get the trilogy. The Infernal Devices series in the prequel to Cassie Clare’s ‘The Mortal Instrument’ series. Ever since I read those books I’ve been wanting to read the prequel, especially after my auntie had read them and told me that she thought they were amazing. Loads of people say that you can really see the improvement within her writing in these books, so I’m really looking forward to getting into them. 

Brisingr by Christoper Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle #3)
Inheritance by Christoper Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle #4)
Percy Jackson & The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #1)

Brisingr and Inheritance are the penultimate and final books in the Inheritance Cycle series. I’m currently in the middle of Eldest which is the second book in the series but I decided to get these so that they would be there and ready as soon as I finished this. The inheritance Cycle basically follows this boy who becomes a Dragon Rider and has to help the kingdom from their ruler. It’s all fantasy but a really interesting read. 

One of my Uncles gifted me the Percy Jackson series after I asked for it because one of my friend’s has been telling me to start the series. I’ve wanted to read it since the film has been out and I’ve only caught glimpses because I refuse to watch it until I’ve at least read the first book. 

The Glimpse by Claire Merle
Soulmates by Holly Bourne
Magician by Raymond E Feist (The Riftwar Saga #1)

Both The Glimpse and Soulmates caught my eye when I was reserving my books on Waterstones and after reading the blurb on them both I had to get them. The Glimpse is more of a dystopian type of book with romance in it, whereas Soulmates is mostly romance. Magician was a book that I had seen in Waterstones a few months ago and have been planning on getting it for a while. I like reading about magic so this seemed like a perfect book for me. 

Feed by Mira Grant (Newsflesh Trilogy #1)
Parasite by Mira Grant 
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

Feed is the first book in the Newsflesh Trilogy, I had never actually heard of them before until I stumbled on it on the Waterstones website, I was going to get the other but I thought I’d see how the first book goes. I ended up looking up the author then and saw that she had done a separate book called Parasite which really interested me so I ended up getting that one as well. They’re both dystopian novels and I think these are the two books I’m looking forward to reading the most. 

The Night Circus seemed to be slightly creepy after I had read the blurb or it but it intrigues me at the same time so I thought I may as well give it a chance. The funny thing is my sister was going to buy it as well. 

The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines 

The last book then isn’t really a reading book but a cookbook. My auntie got me the Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook which I put on my Amazon Wish List and have wanted for ages. The recipes in there look awesome and I cannot wait to start making things from there!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

D is for: 'Drunk' by Ed Sheeran

This week’s song is Drunk by Ed Sheeran from his album ‘+’.

I absolutely love Ed Sheeran, and this is one of my favourite songs of his for quite a few reasons. It’s not the most upbeat of songs but that’s what I like about it. There is that kind of bounce within the music but it’s still mellow.

It’s one of those songs that I would love to learn to play on guitar if I was able to play guitar at all. I love the way that the pictures have been interpreted into the video and the cat that’s in there all the way.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments, on the song, below.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas Tag 2013

Do you prefer a real Christmas tree or a synthetic one?

We’ve only ever had synthetic Christmas trees; we’ve gone through green, white and are currently on black. I would love to have a real Christmas tree one year though. I would love the smell of them and I think that it would just be more fun to decorate as well.

You’re in a coffee shop, it’s December, what do you buy? 

Definitely a peppermint hot chocolate. Nothing could beat that for me. 

What’s your favourite colour scheme for decorating the tree? 

At the moment our tree has a silver and blue colour scheme going on. Personally though, I would love for one year to have a black and purple colour scheme on a tree. I think it would look really nice.

Giving or receiving presents? 

Giving. I don’t mind what I get, if I get anything at all but I love giving presents to people. Especially when it’s my sister and she has said that she wants something ages ago and doesn’t realise I’ve gotten it for her. I think it surprises her sometimes with some of the things I remember and end up getting her. 

To mince pie or not to? 

I have never in my life tried a mice pie before and I don’t think I will anytime soon. I don’t really think that anyone I know actually likes those things. 

What’s your traditional Sunday lunch? 

Turkey, mash potatoes, roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, carrots, Yorkshire puddings, gravy, stuffing and then some kind of cake for our dessert. 

Christmas day fashion? 

Our whole family always ends up in pyjamas. Comfort over style! My mam tried asking me to wear a dress this year for Christmas but I love my pyjamas too much. It’s not as though we go anywhere. 

What’s your favourite Christmas song? 

I love the Michael Buble ones thanks to my sister. I can actually sing his songs because they’re low enough for me. I also love Carol of the Bells, I don’t know why but I just really love that one. 

What’s your favourite Christmas film? 

There are two, Four Christmases which I always find extremely funny and Elf! 

Open presents before or after lunch? 

Before! My family is way too impatient to wait until after lunch. If we had the choice we would be opening them on Christmas Eve when they’re all set out down my Nan’s house.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

C is for: 'Can't Hold Us' by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Ray Dalton

So, this week's song is Can't Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton, from the album 'The Heist'.

I’ll be honest, when I first heard this song I really wasn't a fan and I didn't really like listening to it. I started to hear it more and more often and I actually started to listen to the lyrics instead of just the music and I started to want to listen to it. 

Now I absolutely love this song. It’s really upbeat and I find myself wanting to start to sing it in the middle of the lesson and then having to stop myself. I ended up looking up the lyrics online because there were parts of the verse where I really had no clue what they were saying. After looking at them and actually realising what they were putting across into this song it gave me a whole new view on things.

The whole songs feels like they’re taking us on a journey throughout their music career and everything they did to get to the top and now no one can hold them back from doing what they do best. It’s one of those songs that I find quite inspiring. The first verse is how he’s been rapping since we was fourteen and made it to the top without any major record label backing him up. 

I especially love the lyrics in the second verse when they go, “I got my city right behind me, if I fall they got me. Learn from that failure, gain humility, and then we keep marching.” Macklemore knows that he’s got his hometown there for him if things don’t work out and knows that he made choices in life that weren’t always the right choices for him to make but he’s learnt from them and taken in his stride. He didn’t let them stop him.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments, on the song, below. 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Playlist: Christmas 2013

One of my favourite parts of Christmas is Christmas music, so I put together a little playlist on Spotify. You can use the link if you have a Spotify account but the playlist is also embedded below.

i. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens /// ii. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl /// iii. Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie /// iv. Feliz Navidad – Jose Feliciano/// v. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Frank Sinatra /// vi. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Michael Buble ///vii. Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let it Snow! - Frank Sinatra /// viii. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee /// ix. Do You Hear What I Hear? – Susan Boyle & Amber Stassi /// x. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Jackson 5 /// xi. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Glee Cast /// xii. Carol of the Bells – Pentatonix /// xiii. I Believe In Father Christmas – Greg Lake /// xiv. Last Christmas – Wham /// xv. Santa Baby ­– Michael Buble /// xvi. Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Feed The World) – Band Aid /// xvii. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams /// xviii. I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake ///xix. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – John Mathis /// xx. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard /// xxi. Little Drummer Boy – Glee Cast /// xxii. My Only Wish (This Year) – Britney Spears /// xxiii. Silent Night – Michael Buble /// xxiv. Step Into Christmas – Elton John 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Dropping Off At: Rome & Sorrento

Roman Theatre in Pompeii
During October half term, whilst my family were in an extremely cold Britain, I went to the beautiful country of Italy with thirty one other people from my school.

We left on the Saturday we broke up, at 10:30PM. I was kind of upset since it was the first time I was spending quite a long length of time without my family but as we were driving to Gatwick I started to have more of a laugh with the people that were around me.

Our flight was leaving a six in the morning and we weren't allowed to check in until four. The funny thing was, our bus got into the airport at two so we all ended up camping out on just outside of check-in which wasn't an extremely comfortable experience. When we finally managed to check in, we all went to go a get some food since we wouldn't be having a proper meal until the evening and then we finally boarded the plane.

Finally getting out of the plane was amazing, the weather in Italy was absolutely gorgeous. It was another five or six hours until we actually got to the hotel then. I genuinely thought that the room was going to end up killing, or the bunk beds at the very least. We ended up having dinner a little bit later (which wasn't exactly great) and then we went to our room to get sleep since the majority of us hadn't slept in over 24 hours.

The second day was a lot more exciting, we all woke up pretty early and then travelled to the city of Pompeii. We spent the majority of our day there and it was absolutely amazing. It was so beautiful and I was just mesmerised that it had once been a proper city and the ruins of all the building had once been homes to people who had built them all by hand. You could see the actual position some people had ended up dying in.

That was all in the morning of that day, we spent the second half of the day in Naples Archaeological Museum and I can tell you now, there was barely anything about the architecture like we had all expected but there were a lot of marble statues around and some modern art. There was a load of Egyptian things there which were really interesting to look at. By the end of the day, we were just happy to get on the bus back to the hotel because we were so tired and warm.
View from the top of Mount Vesuvius

The third day involved us walking to the top of Vesuvius. The bus drove us half way and the when had to walk the rest of the way and we were already above some of the clouds. The first part of the walk was extremely hard since it was so steep and there was no shade at all from the sun. The whole group ended up getting really thirsty and out of breath quite quickly. It got to a point that there was a shop and it started to get less steep from there which made things a lot better. Midway through the climb one of the girls had to go to the hospital because she tripped and needed to get the grit cleaned out of it. So, two of our teachers went with her whilst we carried on to the top. I felt like I was dying most of the time but then we got to the point where we could see the crater it was like a huge boost to right to the top. The carter was absolutely huge, it was one of those things where you never really have a scale in your mind of how big it really is until you actually see it. Getting to the top of Vesuvius was such an amazing feeling. The view from the top was gorgeous and one of our teachers was nearly in tears because she didn't think that she would be able to get all the way to the top. The trek back down was probably the worst part of it all. It was really hard to walk slowly or stop because it felt like you had to keep going because of how steep it was. So, we basically all ran the way back down and were all lucky that we didn't run into someone or trip over a rock.

We took a bit of a break before we got on the bus and had some food and then we made our way to the Herculaneum. It was another city that was hit by the eruption of Vesuvius, only with this one it had been covered in mud instead of being hit with pyroclastic flow. As soon as you stepped in you could see that it can been kept better than Pompeii had, a lot of the building were still I tact and you could make out what a lot of them were. As we were walking around it looked as though people had been making something at that time because you could see the pieces of mosaic in certain places but they never seem to come together to actually make anything. So, one of my teachers thought that maybe around the time of the eruption they were making something.

That night after dinner, me and some of the people in my year group, along with a few teachers did a great escape from the hotel. We didn't each much of the food they had given us at the hotel that night because we didn't enjoy it and nor did the teachers. So, without telling everyone else, we went and found a restaurant to have food at. We then all had to sneak back to the hotel without anyone seeing us, which we did successfully.

The next day we were going over to the capital city, Rome. We hauled our luggage to the bus again and made our way but before we got there we were dropping off at Monte Casino Abbey. I was actually surprised out how big the Abbey was. The inside of it was beautiful and all the designs were really intricate. Our tour guide told us about the whole history behind the Abbey and how it was actually bombed during World War Two because the Allies thought that there were Nazis in there. I think that was the most interesting part of the tour for me.

We hopped back on the bus and then it was a very long journey to our next hotel. We all decided on the bus not to go to the next church because we would have had to go to the hotel first, sort ourselves out, get back on the bus and then go to the church and our teachers realised that we may have not had enough time. So after listening to a lot of songs on my iPod, we finally managed to get to the hotel. I ended up sharing a room with three of the girls in the year above me that time around. I was a little bit skeptical and wasn't sure if they would like me but it turned out that we had a really good laugh the whole time.  That was basically our whole day, it was filled with a lot of travelling.

The Vatican Museum was our first stop the next day. We headed over there by the Metro was was one of the most scariest experiences of my life. There were pick pockets everywhere and two of our teachers had their purses stolen from them. We all tried to dodge the Metro whenever we could and tried to walk to wherever we needed to get to next.

Personally I didn’t find the tour of the Vatican Museum too enjoyable. Some architecture and the history behind it all was really amazing but our tour guide seemed to keep going off of the subject which took us a lot longer to get around everything. We did end up going inside of the Sistine Chapel which was amazing. We had to stay quiet the whole time and we weren’t allowed to take pictures but it was crazy to think that we were in the place were the actually decided on who the next Pope would be. We also headed into St. Peter’s Basilica, I nearly got lost from the group at this point because it was pretty big inside.
After a lengthy tour of the Vatican Museum we headed to the Time Elevator Show. No one was really sure what this was going to be like but once we got in there and they started to show us the whole history of Rome it was amazing. They had different affects going on around us. The taught us the history of how Rome was built and things about the Vatican City.

That night was Halloween so a few of us decided to go to the restaurant all dressed up. Two of my friends went as Mario and Luigi, one of my other friends went as a pirate, there was a girl who just wrapped herself up in toilet paper, there were a lot of people who went as cats and then I went in my Hufflepuff robes. The whole night was a really good laugh and I don’t think  the restaurant staff had expected us to go there all dressed up.
The Colosseum

Our last full day in Italy was spent on a tour of Rome, which was amazing. We went to the Colosseum. Seeing the outside of it was one thing but actually going inside the amphitheatre and seeing where everyone would actually go to sit down and where the event would be held was crazy. After that we went to go and see the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain had to be one of my favourite things, it was gorgeous and I made my three wishes.  It was an amazing day and to be able to see Rome like that is something that I won’t ever be able to forget.

Our last day was spent going to a few shops and then heading to the airport. I think everyone was looking forward to getting back at that point. As much as I had loved Italy and all the history that it held, I was looking forward to seeing my family and being able to sleep in my bed. It was such a memorable experience.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

B is for: 'Backseat Serenade' by All Time Low

This week’s song is from All Time low’s latest album ‘Don’t Panic’, Backseat Serenade. 

This wasn’t one of the first songs that I had heard on their album but I ended up seeing the audio post to it on tumblr before I had the chance to get through the full album. At first it was just one of those songs. It was catchy and I didn’t mind listening to it. 

The more I started to listen to it the more I loved it. It just starts off really mellow and as soon as it hits the chorus I start yelling along to it. The whole song just seems to have a huge summer vibe to it, which I love. The chorus has to be my favourite part of the song because of all the imagery in my mind that goes with it all. 

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments on the song, below. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Stick A Fork In Me: Chewy Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Last weekend I decided that I wanted to try my hand at baking again since it had been a while and wanted it to be a little bit festive. So, after seeing a picture on tumblr, I decided on Friday night that I was going to make chewy double chocolate peppermint cookies. 

I wasn’t really sure how they were going to work out; my family tends to make a lot of cakes but not a lot of biscuits or cookies but in the words of my mother it was going to be trial an error and just see how things go. There weren’t that many ingredients involved, especially if you tend to bake quite frequently.  They were quite easy to get a hold of as well. I did substitute natural peppermint extract for American Peppermint flavouring which did the same trick. 

The recipe is really easy to follow and doesn’t take up too much time if you know what you’re actually doing (which sometimes I didn’t). It’s quick and easy but the results that come out of it are great in the end. It’s the kind of recipe you can involve children in because it’s straight forward and there’s no use of electric whisks or anything like that. Straight forward baking. The taste of peppermint isn’t too strong in it either since 

The cookies really do have a festive theme around them, especially if you’re baking them while listening to some Christmas music. The crushed candy cane on top really ties it all together and brings Christmas that little bit closer.  

I really would recommend this recipe if you’re looking at making some festive treats this season. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Music Challenge: A is for 'Anything Could Happen' by Ellie Goulding

So, every week I’m going to be posting a music video or some lyrics with a title of a song beginning with a letter of the alphabet until I get to the end.

This week’s song is Anything Could Happen by Ellie Goulding.

I've been in love with this song ever since it first came out. Whenever I listen to this song I always think that no matter what’s going on in your life, things can get better and you never know what’s going to be around the corner. That sometimes we let these bad things get to us and let them rule over our lives like we need it to but then something happens and it completely changes our view on it.

The lyric that really gets to me throughout the whole song is when it goes, “I’ll give you everything you need, but I don’t think I need you.” It’s like she’s finally letting go of someone who held her back no matter what she could do for someone and, personally, I find that part inspiring on it’s on. It just makes me feel as though it’s okay to admit that you don’t need a person in your life anymore.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments on the song, below. 

Monday, 2 December 2013

D of E: Interviews & Perks

So, this May I had applied for a spot on the Duke of Edinburgh (D of E) team in my school and managed to get on. The D of E Award is open for anyone that’s between the ages of 14 and 24 and there are three stages to it: Bronze, Silver and Gold. A lot of the time secondary schools offer the first two awards. There are four stages to gain the award. Volunteering, this is undertaking a service to individuals or your community. The physical aspect is you having to improve an area of sport, dance or fitness activities. The skill aspect is developing practical and social skills in an area of your own interest. And then there’s the last section, which is the Expedition. With this one, you have to plan, train and complete a journey in the UK or abroad. There’s an extra Residential part for the Gold award which Is basically you working away from home and doing a shared activity. 

A lot of people tend to wonder if the D of E is for them and what it will help them with. The D of E award is literally for anyone who’s looking for an adventure, doesn’t mind the outdoors and loves a challenge. You need to have a lot of dedication to complete the award and know that you can balance everything else that is going on it your life as well because it will be time consuming, You also need to be aware of the fact that there are costs involved in joining and also when you’re buying your kit for the expedition. Keeping all that in mind, the Duke of Edinburgh Award is something that tests you in every single area. It makes you grow as a person and develop new skills that you didn’t know you had. It’s about breaking boundaries that you had built up and setting you new ones time and time again. It makes you work with people that you may have never have spoken to before and make new relationships along the way. It gives you things that employers are looking for all the time and just by them looking at your CV and seeing that you have the award shows them that you can demonstrate so many different skills. 

The way you get onto D of E is going to be different from place to place but we had three different stages in my school. We had to sign up for the award, that was then narrowed down to 60 people by all of our D of E leaders and then we had an interview with them and that was narrowed down to the final 30 people that would be on the team. So, if you do have to go through an interview for it, which they tend to do, the questions they ask you aren’t really difficult. Basically, they just want to get to know you and the type of person that you are is all. They tend to ask what the four different areas of the Duke of Edinburgh are because if you want to do the award they expect you to know what you have to do. They might ask you the Duke of Edinburgh actually is and a lot of people tend to say Prince Charles for some reason (that’s not who it is guys). After that they tend to ask questions about you, so there’ll be ones like why you want to do the Duke of Edinburgh. My best advice to you for this question is just be honest as to why you want to do it, you don’t have to have a mile long answer that you spent days writing. If you wanted to take part in the award because it looked interesting and it was something you think you would enjoy then tell them that. They just want to know that you’re not doing this because your friends are and just because it looks good on your CV. They might ask what you think your top three qualities are and what you think they are looking for when they are looking for D of E candidates. Once again, just be honest with them. This whole interview is for them to get to know you better as a person because a lot of them time they don’t know you that well. Just go in there and be confident and smile. Show them that this is something that you really want and that you’re really passionate about. Make yourself stand out from the crowd; you don’t know how many people they’re going to have to interview so make sure that you stay in their mind. 

There might be some people who have reached over the age that award will actually accept Bronze participants but that’s fine. You don’t need to do your Bronze in order to do your Silver or even your Gold award. You can go straight to them; you’ll just have to do an extra few months of your physical, skill and volunteer area. So, even if you feel as though you aren’t quite ready to do the award now or that you don’t have the greatest amount of time at the moment but still want to do the award, you still have up until the age of 24 to complete it all. 

It’s a great opportunity and even though I have only just started to training for it, I am loving every single second of it. Just be yourself through your interview and be honest with them. There are so many places that give you the chance to take part in this award, schools, colleges, universities cadets and other organisations within your community. Just because one place hasn’t accepted you doesn’t mean that you can’t do the award at all just look around for other places that give you the chance as well. There will always be a place that is looking for people to take part in the award.