February reads: Four brilliant books


I started this year really well in the reading department after signing up for a Goodreads account, but it’s fallen to the wayside a bit over the past couple of weeks. In an attempt to kickstart things again and boost my total reads for 2017 so far, I downloaded a couple of books this weekend and put about 58 in my amazon basket (and about 58 pairs of shoes in my ASOS basket to match). I intended to read loads on Sunday but life (including a balance of work and sticky toffee pudding) scuppered that plan.

The stuff I have actually gotten around to reading (shoutout to Thameslink for all the delays recently giving me time to read on freezing platforms) has been really bloody good. The best are listed below and I’d highly recommend them all.

Hold Back the Stars – Katie Khan 

This is Katie’s first novel, and I ordered it after following her on Twitter for a long time. She heads up digital at Paramount and after always enjoying her work and personal life tweets I felt like I needed to read this. Also the cover is gorgeous and will do your bookshelf a pretty little favour when you’re done.

Behind Closed Doors – B A Paris

This is brilliant. A proper page-turner and if you love Girl on the Train and Gone Girl style books this is a must. I gave it to my mum to read for her holiday last week and ended up reading the start again afterwards and it’s just as good second time around. It’s essentially about a glamorous, happy marriage that is actually far from. Just the right amount of grit.

The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

Yeah I know, so late to the party there are people asleep on the stairs and the wine ran out three hours ago. I had been meaning to read this for so long and when I found it on my boyfriends kindle I finally did it – in just under two days. If you haven’t gotten round to this, seriously do. It’s pretty short, very sharp and really interesting. I’ve never read something like this and found it so clever and inspiring and actually pretty moving.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

I mentioned this in the pub at work on a Friday and a couple of people whipped round to chime in on how bloody good it is. It took me a while to twig exactly what this was about but that, in my opinion, makes the book. The way the story of Rosemary and Fern is told is like thinking back to childhood with your own sibling, but then you learn it really isn’t like that. I absolutely loved this, probably one of the best books I’ve read in years.

Quick and easy crumpet french toast

 

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I’ve been looking up pancake recipes this week because the best day of the year fast approaches, and every so often a french toast recipe crops up and I have the biggest craving (to both eat it and book flights to New York). French toast is one my favourite indulgent brunches but I haven’t made it in a couple of years because I feel like it’s loads of effort.

It’s not loads of effort, I am just loads of lazy.

I had crumpets in the cupboard and a slightly hungover sister, boyfriend and brother in-law to feed, and since I didn’t think they’d want plain crumpets and we had bugger all else in the cupboards, french crumpets happened.

I once saw an amazing looking chocolate and cinnamon french crumpet recipe but it was very complicated and frankly I can’t be arsed with complicated on a Saturday morning. This is quick, easy and tasty so it gets full marks for lazy weekend eating.

You Need: crumpets, milk, 2 eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter to fry with and something sweet to drizzle on top.

Directions: Crack 2 eggs into a bowl and add in about 4 tablespoons of milk, some cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk together until you get a runny, sticky mixture. I put a tiny bit of dessicated coconut in too, but obviously it’s not necessary.

Dump your crumpets in for a little soak (about one minute on each side) and heat the pan with some butter. Fry them all together if you have a big enough pan, so you can actually eat them at the same time rather than awkwardly queue. I chucked frozen berries into the pan while they browned and let them go mushy to use as topping.

Once they’re browned, drizzle them with honey or maple syrup, chuck on your toppings and et voila, you’re done.

5 little coping mechanisms for when life gets you down

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I was supposed to spend the weekend just gone catching up on various stuff, blogging included, after a stressful couple of months but it didn’t happen. Since I’ve been blogging less, I’ve used social media less and I’ve gotten used to being detached from my phone and the internet more and I think that change will stay. It’s no lie that social detoxes do wonders for the mind and for anxiety. I’ve been ill the past week with some sort of virus and cough and stayed inside for 48 hours, so rather than stare at screen all weekend, we drove down to Worthing to visit Dan’s dad and had a lovely, fresh and airy little break. (Thanks @Dannyboyjnr for the photo skills displayed above).

We’ve managed to get on top of  most of our issues including living situation, home buying, car owning and storage issues in the past ten days, but it hasn’t been the prettiest start to the year. I definitely think adult life should come with harsher warnings, or even just a good sit down in a pub for half hour where someone tells you that things will get shit, then probably worse, then be really hard before they get better. Insert mum, dad, Hermione Granger, a wise cat – whoever you like.

These are the things that have got me through this irritating little patch of life and I can confirm they have all eased my woes for at least fifteen minutes, but some for much longer.

1) Walking

You cannot beat literally walking your worries away. The further into my twenties I get, the more I seem to want to go for walks. Obviously countryside and sprawling views of natural beauty would always be preferred, but even walking round the block or a longer way home from the station will do it. We blew away the cobwebs on the Sussex Downs on Saturday then spent Sunday morning strolling around Arundel and I feel a million times better for it.

2) Paying closer attention to sleep

I’m quite bad for letting myself get overly tired then having a casual 12 hour sleep marathon to try and fix it, but it doesn’t work for me. Being extra strict on bedtimes and setting alarms even on weekends (I mean, nothing before 8:45/9 because I’m not an alien) stops me from over-sleeping, which just makes me feel gross and lethargic and is all a bit sad.

3) A ‘three things to accomplish’ list for every working day

I’ve actually found work a relaxing escape from dealing with daunting admin and life decisions lately (no YOU need to sort your life out) and I saw someone on Twitter going on about hand-writing three things you want to achieve every day when you first sit down at work. I did every day I worked last week and a couple the week before and it’s quite nice, if not just because ticking something off a list is satisfying as hell.

4) Separation from the news

I can’t ever be that far from current events partly because I work in a press environment and partly because I just don’t like it, but a little bit of down time is good for the soul. The news is freaking mental 99% of the time at the moment, and when I’m not pulling ‘WHAT THE F’ faces I’m feeling sad about the state of the world, so time away from Twitter and news sites has been cathartic.

5) Eat better, feel better

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, LAME. But as someone who doesn’t really have a bad diet anyway, I really notice the difference in how I feel physically when stress eating kicks in. Roaming the kitchen looking for anything carb-laden and chocolate covered has been a 2017 hobby of mine. I need to stop though, and I have mostly (apart from this weekend because cake and red wine and life) and when I eat well, I do feel a billion times better for it. Now I just need to dose up on willpower and I’ll be dandy.

One trip back to university, several realisations

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The past few weeks haven’t been what I would call a great time. They’ve been long, stressful, sleep deprived, frustrating and largely disappointing and I’ve needed reminding almost constantly that the glass should always be half full. I haven’t had the time or spare energy to maintain any hobbies, including this blog and my beloved running/exercise regime has been non-existent. Gloomy Lauren is gloomy.

However, I am refusing to let stress and all the non-joy that comes with big adult decisions and processes ruin any more of this year. You will be a good year 2017. You bloody will. (I guess I’ll have to also work on not watching the news 24/7 to make myself believe it’ll be a good year).

With all the stuff we’ve had going on, the trip I took back to uni with Dan about a week ago hasn’t really come back to the front of my mind until now. We were asked by an old tutor of ours who we’re still in contact with if we would come back and take part in an audit of the department we studied under for our journalism degrees, which we happily agreed to. We both had, and I think I speak for most of my good university friends from my course here, a really good higher education experience. We loved our course, had sociable tutors and lecturers, a great balance of practical work and theory and brilliant people to learn with. Obviously this was all helped along massively by VK Pineapple, cocktails from saucepans, mass sleepovers and many Thursday nights spent watching indie bands and dancing til 2am. It was better than I had ever imagined uni would be when I was younger and getting stressed about filling in UCAS forms online and being put on hold by student finance for all of eternity.

Going back last week meant walking through the town we spent so much time aimlessly wandering, past the pubs we spent more money than we had in and then all the way through the campus. It was weird. More than weird actually, and the nostalgia level was through the roof. Peering into the canteen we used to buy coffee from and passing the courtyards we sat in and rooms we learnt in felt like a trip to someone else’s life. Like something that happened to someone you know really well from hearing stories over and over again- it just didn’t feel like that person was me. I guess that happens over time and especially when so much has changed. As part of the audit we were asked about our jobs, how life is panning out, what we took away from the course and carried with us into post-uni life and about how ready we felt to take on the real world after graduation.

What it really gave me, apart from a glass of good red wine and chance to go back to my old pub haunt and feel outraged that it’s now gastro and fancy, was a chance to remember I’ve done okay. The start of 2017 has felt so frustratingly lame compared to what we had imagined, that I started to feel like nothing in my life was what I wanted which is a slippery slope to start falling down. This little trip down memory lane helped me realise that I am a functioning adult with a good job and I no longer drink from saucepans (sadly) because I’ve built a life and a career and for the most part, things have gone smoothly. I just need patience and deep breaths and a sunnier outlook on the rest of this year and I think everything will be fine. Thanks KU for the degree and the friends and the great cheese baguettes and for still letting me know that life is good all these years later.

QBic London – East London cool in a cube


A couple of weeks ago we took a Monday off work after a grotesquely stressful week and stayed in QBic London on a Sunday night. 
I’d read rave reviews of the Amsterdam branch and since that wasn’t quite a viable option, we hopped on the tube to the other side of town and checked in here, just by Aldgate East station. I was expecting bright and colourful and bold from what I’d seen online and the reality didn’t disappoint. If you need cheering up and a think a cheerful room, gigantic squishy bed and rain shower might fix things, head here. 



Keeping on East London message, everything is cool. The reception, the lifts, the bar, the retro games and even the water glasses. The rooms are built in cubes, all slotted together with lots of eco nods such as the showers, the toiletries, swapping your room cleaning service for a drink at the bar and the way the hotel was made- economically and environmentally friendly. 

The rooms aren’t huge but that’s all part of the cube idea, everything fits nicely from the quirky furniture to the light controls and bedside storage.

If I go to a hotel, I want the bed to be stupidly big. I want a delicious breakfast menu. I want a massive shower and good TV and good places to eat close by and with Brick Lane a stones throw away this place ticks all those boxes with a good price to boot. 

Spending a Sunday night drinking wine, playing Battleships, sinking into pillows and a duvet and consuming Brick Lane burgers is a good way to do life. 

The best thing about this hotel was the zero fuss. Everything was easy and the staff were brilliant. I’ll definitely be making a beeline to stay at QBic when I go to Amsterdam later this year.