Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Ties That Bind

Found here. I'm sorry, I can't find the original source.
I didn't get the job.

But genuinely, this is OK- not long after the interview, I realised that as cool as the job would have been, and as incredible an experience the interview was, I applied for the job based not on what I would be doing, but on where the job was and the organisation it was for. I don't think I applied because I wanted the job itself- which means that actually, I'm quite pleased to not have got it. 
(For obvious reasons I'm not going to tell you all where the job was)

My boss also guessed that I'd gone to London for an interview (maybe he reads this blog? Oh. If so, HELLO J. Let me know, please?!)- which led to a slightly awkward but also very interesting conversation. He acknowledged that he understood why I'd gone, and was pleased for me, and also said "But it's true, I've often wondered what keeps you down here [in the South West] you know. I mean, you have your family, of course- but you could go anywhere."

And it really made me think. I genuinely have no idea what's tying me to here. And I could go anywhere. So why aren't I? What keeps me here? What brings us all back to where we originate?

Well, we all know I'm scared. I think we all are- as always, the "lack of logical next step" brings us back to, or keeps us in, the familiar in many cases. It's an incredibly brave soul who moves somewhere completely unknown- be that alone, or with a partner. Lauren, Meg, Nicole and Megan leave me with my jaw on the floor. I have just the hugest amount of admiration for the bravery these women possess, moving halfway across the world. And while some of them have since returned to the familiar, others haven't. It's something I wish I was brave enough to do- but I'm still not certain that I am. 

I don't want to stay here forever. We all know that my money-is-no-object dream to go to patisserie school in Paris, live there for a while pretending to be Rachel Khoo, and return to set up a bakery/ tea room which also hosts a running club and book club. I want to go, and spread my wings, and really live. Sometimes, the weight of the memories here threatens to crush me. Sometimes, I hate the idea of going to Town and running into the people I went to school with. Sometimes, I wish I was absolutely anywhere but here.

But for now, the draw of the familiar is too strong. Any excuse- even if it does mean an eighty five mile round trip commute every day. Soon enough, something will force me out- Mama CupandSaucer could move, or I could get a job in London, or Cardiff, or New York, or Tokyo, or Paris, or some other force could pull me away. And I'm excited for that day, I really am. 

Then yesterday, the same manager suggested I apply for an internal vacancy. So maybe he does want me to stay.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Lopwell Dam

I've lived in my village since I was two. But recently, I've been coming to the realisation that I really don't know where I live at all.


For instance, the other week I went for a run in my village. I found about 15 beautiful houses that I never knew existed, and an enormous hill which I regretted running down as soon as I had to run back up it (even if I did get hill point on MapMyRun as a result. It was that big). 

And at the weekend, Mama CupandSaucer went for a drive and found Lopwell Dam, part of a nature reserve that we knew existed in an abstract kind of way, but had never visited. And I'm really rather pleased we did.


According to the genius that is Wikipedia, Lopwell features a saltmarsh, freshwater marshes, and "ancient, semi-natural woodland". Personally I'm not sure how it can be both ancient and semi natural (surely one precludes the other?), but who am I to argue?



We went on a rather cloudy Sunday afternoon, when the tide was out, but it didn't put us off. This place could be beautiful in the sunshine. We pottered around, I picked blackberries (Mum: "But Alice, you have nothing to put them in!". Me: "Er, what about my mouth?"), we spotted bird boxes, and ended up in the lovely tea room there, asking the charming young man serving us about the beautiful house we'd passed on the way down, which turned out to be the Maristow Estate (which, in turn, turns out to have a really interesting history).

This isn't the Maristow Estate. I have no idea what this is.
We nibbled forest fruit flapjacks, drank tea, watched the swans, and marvelled over how you can live in a place for 21 years, and not even realise what's on your doorstep.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Blogger Book Club- The Book

Remember way back when, Jen and I decided to set up a book club? Well, we've finally chosen a book and decided on a date for the chat. Yay!


Recently, I was in Waterstones, tying to decide on an extra book to allow me to get the buy-one-get-one-half-price deal they have in there (which seems worse than the 3 for 2 they always used to do- but I think it's probably actually quit similar?!). I was flicking through things and came across The President's Hat- and we've decided that this will be our book for this time.

The blurb says:

"Dining alone in an elegant Parisian brasserie, accountant Daniel Mercier can hardly believe his eyes when President Fran├žois Mitterrand sits down to eat at the table next to him. After the presidential party has gone, Daniel discovers that Mitterrand’s black felt hat has been left behind. After a few moments’ soul-searching, Daniel decides to keep the hat as a souvenir of an extraordinary evening. It’s a perfect fit, and as he leaves the restaurant Daniel begins to feel somehow … different."

Intriguing, right?!

The book is available in paperback and for kindle, and on Amazon is £6.47 for paperback, and £5.39 on Kindle. You can buy it here, and of course it's available in Waterstones too.

Personally, I'm really excited about this- the book sounds great, particularly given my "passion for French history" (this is a term I used on my optional module form for final year. I got on well with the lecturer making the allocations, and he made fun of me for WEEKS for that statement).

We're going to be having the chat on Jenny's blog on Thursday 17th October. How it will work is that there will be a post with some questions for us to discuss. You then just need to drop by, "subscribe to comments" on the post, and then getting involved should be easy, as you should be pinged an email when someone responds to something you've said. Cool, eh?! 

So yes. Go out, get the book, get reading, and GET INVOLVED!! Everyone is more than welcome, the more the merrier!!

Love love. I'm excited!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Great British Bake Off: Angel Food Cake

Before this series of the Great British Bake Off started, I set myself the challenge of making every one of the technical bakes from this series. A good number of my friends and family, and of course the lovely Bella, keep pestering me to enter, so maybe it's good practice?!


Clearly, great minds think alike as last Wednesday, I arrived at work and a colleague had also decided that I should do this- mostly so work could benefit from the fruits of my labour. But being the kind person I am, I'm happily obliging. And this week, I made angel food cake.

If you don't know, an angel food cake is an incredibly light, fatless sponge (fat free cake, say whaaat?!), made by whipping an awful lot of egg whites (the recipe I used called for 10), folding in icing sugar, plain flour, and, in the case of my recipe, vanilla extract, almond extract, and a little lemon zest. I originally looked up the recipe from the programme, but as I don't have an angel food cake tin, as this recipe calls for, I had to look elsewhere. Fortunately, in the Hummingbird Bakery "Cake Days" recipe book, there's a recipe which uses a bundt tin- which I do have. 


I actually found the bake quite straight forward- but that's probably because a) I had all the instructions and b) I didn't have a team of cameramen watching me. The recipe seemed really effective, though I do think that I didn't whip my egg white quite enough, as I didn't get an enormous rise. Additionally, in line with the Bake Off itself, I decided not to grease my tin- which really wasn't my smarted move, as trying to get a spongy, delicate angel food cake out of a fiddly bundt tin was... interesting.


As the programme suggested, I topped my angel food cake with chantilly cream (sweetened whipped cream with vanilla), and a homemade lemon and passionfruit curd. The main reason I made the curd was to use up the ten egg yolks I had left over, but I am so pleased I did- it's delicious, and was so straight forward. As you'd expect from that amount of yolks, you end up with an awful lot of curd, and I'm excited to use the rest in another bake- probably just a simple Victoria Sponge, using the curd instead of jam. Yummy!

I need to work on this whole making-jars-look-pretty thing...!
And as requested, I took the cake to work yesterday. Despite the fact that we only had half the office in, the entire thing had been demolished by the end of the day and I received a lot of lovely compliments too. If I was being really, really critical- I think it was slightly denser than it should have been, but overall I thought it had a good texture, a lovely taste, and I was seriously proud of my curd.

Apologies for the terrible picture quality- I snapped this speedily at work yesterday morning...
Are you baking along with the Great British Bake Off? Bailey and Jules are doing this too, and you should definitely all join in. Next week it's muffins. We'll see how I get on!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Dartmoor

On Sunday, I felt like I needed to just get up and get out of the house, and decided to drive the long way around from my little village to the nearest town (the quick way is six miles. This was 13 or so). And as I was driving, I thought about the fact that while I mention that I live in South West England pretty regularly, I actually haven't really shown you much of where I live.



I live on Dartmoor National Park, and it is seriously one of my favourite places in the world. Two people have tried to speak negatively about it to me- one, an ex who said on first visiting "It's rather bleak, isn't it!?", and the other, a housemate from uni who tried to tell me that it was a scaled down version of the Peak District- and I got really defensive and quite cross at both of them.



Dartmoor is covered in rocky outcrops known as tors, formed from adamellite (not granite, as another ex pointed out) way back when the whole area was a big mass of lava. In my opinion- it's beautiful. Yes, it can be pretty bleak, but when the sun is shining and the tourists are looking awestruck and squealing at the views, it's hard to hate.



Most of these pictures are of Sharpitor, which is the closest tor to my house. When my head feels too full, one of my favourite things to do is head up there, clamber up to the top, and remember how small and new I am in comparison to everything else. It kind of puts things in perspective.



The one below, however, is of Cox Tor, which is near Tavistock basically the M5. Far too many people climbing up and down it for my liking, though there's a great place next to the car park where we used to fly kites as kids. Cox Tor is kind of jam packed full of memories for me, so it has the opposite effect of Sharpitor, but still, it's fun to head up there every now and then.


Sorry for all the pictures. I couldn't choose...

Monday, 26 August 2013

Happiness Is... (vol. 30)

Ah, bank holidays. They're just so necessary, aren't they!? While I like having two in Spring, I do think we should move one of those to October and spread the bank holiday love throughout the year a bit more- but maybe that's just me.

So far, my bank holiday weekend has been incredibly relaxed. I've been doing lots of thinking, because all of a sudden life seems to be turning in the direction I thought I wanted- and now I'm just not sure it's what I want. I feel a little... adrift, perhaps? I think it's still the thing of having no logical next step. But regardless, life is good and the sun has been shining, and this week, happiness is...

... the smell of freshly washed laundry. Washing powder is one of the most comforting smells ever, don't you think? And the smell is just so much better when the laundry has been blown on the line, rather than hung inside or tumble dried.


... this picture. I don't know why I like it, but I do. Probably because you can't see how bad the circles under my eyes were that day, and my air-dried hair was behaving itself.

... sleeping in. I slept in til 9:30am on Sunday, and it was astonishing- I can't remember the last time I slept later than 8:15am. I'm definitely a morning person, but waking up just that little bit later did make all of the difference.


... crumpets. Preferably toasted until they're rather crisp and smothered in melted cheese. I do love being able to have things like this for lunch when I'm not at work!

... FINALLY getting the last chunk of money through following my car accident in March, exactly at the same time my car insurance is being paid off. Happy days!!

Also, I couldn't not post a link to this article. It's so interesting in general, but the description of the British in the first couple of paragraphs made me laugh so much. I am particularly guilty of the "sorry" thing- I used to have a sorry jar because I apologise too much.

What's making you happy this week?

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Origins Mega-Mushroom Cleanser

We all know I'm not a beauty blogger. I don't own anything from MAC or Benefit, I own one blusher, and while I do own a few Essie nail polishes, it's just because I like the colours.

However, recently I've started to get more into my skincare. After admitting I knew nothing about good skincare on Twitter, Rachael and Bess pointed me in the direction of Caroline Hirons' blog, where I learnt so much- particularly, the importance of a really good cleanser.



I have ridiculously sensitive skin which can be quite oily, and I suffer quite badly with rosacea which flares up when I'm stressed, anxious, too hot, too cold, have been drinking red wine... the list goes on. And when I use something that my skin doesn't like, my god does it show on my cheeks, which look angry, red, and blotchy. Attractive, right!?


I'd put out a call on Twitter for any cleanser recommendations, and was pointed in the direction of Origins' Zero Oil Cleanser. So off I trotted to House of Fraser, where the girl on the Origins counter took one look at my skin and said "There is no way you should be using that. Your skin will hate it, it won't help at all"- which I thought was really refreshing. I don't know about you, but I'm always scared that the women on beauty counters will sell me something inappropriate just because they want to make a sale. Instead, she directed me to the Mega-Mushroom Face Cleanser, and I am so pleased she did.

Apparently, this cleanser is designed to help combat redness and sooth irritated skin- and in my experience, it absolutely does this. I've been using it for a couple of months now, and noticed a change in my skin within the first couple of weeks. The redness on my cheeks is so much better, my skin is far less oily (though I'm not sure if that can also be put down to balancing my skin with the Botanics Facial Oil which I love), and my breakouts are SO much better (as in, I don't have so many).

Admittedly, it does have a lot of ingredients...!
...but none of these.

This is a non-foaming cleanser (foam is so bad for your face!)  that contains no nasties, and it has a light creamy/ oily texture, which sounds gross but I promise isn't. I use a small amount of this morning and night, and my skin absolutely loves it. Additionally, it removes my eye make up really well in the evenings (which is the only make up I really wear), and doesn't irritate my eyes in the slightest. If I do wear a full face of make up though, I tend to remove it first and then use this to finish off.



I would seriously recommend this cleanser for anyone with rosacea or sensitive skin and those whose skin seems to hate them some days. It is slightly on the pricey side at £26 a bottle (I know), but I take the view that I wear my skin every day and investing in it can't be a bad thing.

This is not a sponsored post. I just really like this product! 

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Whistlestop




London, you have once again completely stolen my heart. I may only have been in the Big Smoke for a grand total of 7 hours, but it was brilliant to soak up some big city atmosphere.

I heard on Tuesday that I had an interview in London on Friday. Cue massive panic stations and a £73 return journey, but I was going regardless. I'm obviously not going to say who the interview was with, but this was the crazy ridiculous thing I was talking about on Twitter the other day.
We've had some cracking sunrises recently. This was yesterday's- as always, the picture does it no justice.

If you've never got the train between Exeter and Newton Abbott, it's a must. You go along the sea, and it's my favourite journey in the world ever.
I decided to play safe and book a train that arrived in London a whole three hours before my interview- because let's face it, we've all had a National Rail-based disaster before, right? 
(Mine was when I nearly missed a plane to meet my now-ex's family for the first time- he had to make them keep check in open for me, and there wasn't even 40 minutes between me getting off the train and literally being in the air. Stressful doesn't even begin to cover it.)

I have a large amount of love for the flower man at Paddington Station...
 For once, the train ran completely to time (I think it's a first), so I slowly made my way around to Victoria where I changed and applied my make up before going and chilling in Green Park to do my last minute bits of interview prep- where I also spent a lot of time panicking and reading Rachael's brilliant post on interview technique. Seriously, I like interviews normally, but for some reason this one really stressed me out.


I was visibly shaking when I rocked up to the interview, so two security guys in the reception decided to try to calm me down by making jokes with me- which worked pretty well, actually. I only had to stop once in the interview to apologise for speaking quickly and my shaking voice. As much as I enjoy interviews normally, this one felt really high stakes- but I think it went well.


After the interview,  I played the tourist outside Buckingham Palace and I wandered up to Hyde Park Corner to meet my beautiful uni friend L, who's loving life and living in London. We meandered up to the cafe on the lake in Hyde Park and caught up on all the gossip we've missed since we last saw each other in February, and it was SO good. Sadly all too soon I had to dash back to Padders, where I learnt that if you don't have your ticket/ Oyster card ready when you get to the barrier at 5:45pm on a Friday, you we pretty much facing a lynch mob. Thank god it wasn't me that did it. 


I also had chance to grab a burrito the size of my face at Barburrito- which I'd seriously recommend if you have a bit of time before your train and you're starving. Get the steak one- you will NOT regret it.




Getting home at 11pm after leaving at 6:55am was a  bit of a killer, but I loved it. Sitting on the train home I got this mad rush of happiness at having spent a day in London. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that it was £73 well spent.

Friday, 23 August 2013

"Confidence, Cohen!"

Or, you know, insert my actual surname above. You get the gist. I've been rewatching The OC, and I'm quoting from it- you'll forgive me.

I've been feeling seriously under confident in my own skin recently. A few choice remarks from various people, combined with a fairly bloaty tummy and a holiday with a girl who has the.most.incredible.body.ever kind of left me with my body confidence through the floor.



While we were away, M and I spoke a lot about body confidence, actually. And one of my favourite things we talked about was what our favourite parts of our own body were. And I couldn't think of anything about my body that I'm proud of. Now, we've all seen me in a bikini (above), and I'll be the first to admit that there isn't really anything wrong with my body- I just couldn't think of anything that I really love about it. 

So instead, I got M to tell me what she envied about my body. Which now I write it down seems a weird thing to do, but it's amazing. I was there thinking that she had the best stomach, and there she was telling me how she thought I have great legs and a brilliant bum- which are two things I would never ever have said were good about myself. It made me look at my body in a totally different way.

Now, I'm on a bit of an up. I've actually decided to come off the Pill, too- which has made me feel so much better in so many ways so quickly, and I'm suddenly liking how my body looks way more- whether that's because it's changed since then, or if I'm just feeling more positive, I don't know. And I'm starting to see things that I like- like the curve of my waist, or the fact that my bum actually does look pretty good in my black skinny jeans.

What I'm trying to say is- what you don't think looks good might be something that your friend would love to have. And, as Joanna Goddard suggested in this post, looking at yourself from a friend's perspective is a good way of making yourself feel pretty awesome.

Happy Friday everyone! Go forth and feel amazing. I'm jealous of something about every single one of your figures.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Wishlisting

It feels like ages since I've written a wishlist. Though actually, now I'm thinking about it, I'm not convinced I actually have written one? Do feel free to correct me if I'm wrong...

Purchase here
I desperately want an Emma Bridgewater mug with my name on it. All of the prints the half pint mugs (which are the only mugs I'll drink out of at home- you, my friend, are reading the blog of a complete and utter mug snob) come in are adorable but I think one is my favourite. Though of course mine would say "Alice", not "Anna"...

Red coatbeige coatgrey coat
I actually need a new winter coat this year. Well, strictly speaking I don't- I do have a (ahem, four) perfectly functional ones, but I will be buying a new coat in the coming weeks. My current favourite is the red- but how amazing would it be to have a coat like the grey one, which is basically a dressing gown you can wear outside!?

From here
 I absolutely love beautiful bedding. There's nothing better than fresh sheets, is there? And fresh, beautiful sheets, like these, are just the absolute bees knees.


Mulberry wallet

...and Bayswater

Two Mulberry products? Oh come on, it's a wishlist! If I had my way, I'd have both of these- they're just so beautiful and classic, and I'm sure I could talk myself into one or the other had I not paid for my car insurance on my last pay packet. Give me a bit of time though...
Zara boots

Again, I actually need some new black boots, and these could just be the pair for me. They're just so cute, and the perfect heel height for me- I'm not into super high heels for work or play, so just a little boost is quite sufficient, thank you.

Is there anything in particular on your wishlist at the moment?  Life's got a bit exciting and busy this week, so I'm hoping that this will inspire me all over again- I'm aware I've been a bit slack recently, so my apologies for this. Mind block is not fun people!!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Conversations With Engineers





My dad and my brother are both engineers, which makes life pretty interesting sometimes. 

For example, when we went to Paris, the two of them spent ages under the Eiffel Tower ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the rivets that had been used to stop the thing from falling down.

The rest of us just wanted to climb up it.

They are also both wildly clever, and get way too into maths. I learnt pretty early on never to ask my dad for help with my maths homework- he'd go into so much detail, and I would end up more confused than before I asked.

But the thing that gets me the most is the fact that when I asked my brother whether he saw the glass as half-empty or half-full, he replied

"Neither, it's twice the size it needs to be".

Bloody engineers.

Nick Drake

One of my favourite memories of being a young teenager revolves around Nick Drake.



I'd like to say I'd heard him somewhere cool- but really, I'd read the lyric "I just need your star for a day", in The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and loved it, so I looked it up.

Then, a few weeks later, I was in the car with my dad and he'd put on Bryter Layter, and I started singing along. Dad was so shocked, he pulled over, turned to fourteen/fifteen-year-old Alice, and went "How do you know the lyrics to this song? How do you know who Nick Drake is?" 

If you don't know who Nick Drake is, he's a musician who died in 1974 aged 26 before he really gained any critical acclaim. Turns out my dad used to listen to him when he was a teenager, and an awful lot of famous musicians cite him as an influence. You might actually have heard some of his music before- Northern Sky was featured in Serendipity, and Pink Moon was used in some sort of advert- for a car, I think.

I love Nick Drake. I always come back to him at this time of year- there's something about him which just screams late-summer-and-autumn to me. Last night, after I'd finished work, I lay in the garden in the last patch of sun, re-reading The Hunger Games and listening to Bryter Layter. It was perfect.

So here is Fly, which is where that original lyric comes from, and is one of my favourite songs ever. Be nice about it.



I've fallen so far for the people you are- I just need your star for a day. 

We've all felt like that, right?

Monday, 19 August 2013

Happiness Is... (vol.29)

I've had such a lovely weekend this week.

Lazy rainy days, busy Sundays, and laughter-filled pub quizzes are a good way to put me in a good mood. I'm not sure why, but I have felt a little under a cloud recently- but I've made a couple of little changes this week, and they really are making all the difference. I'm really hoping it carries on, because let's be honest- feeling happy is way less exhausting!!

So this week, happiness is...


... post boxes. And post in general, actually. I haven't had much good post recently, but I love receiving letters and parcels. It's such a simple pleasure. And I love seeing red post boxes everywhere- there really is something so wonderfully British about them, isn't there?



... the arrow in the FedEx logo- and particularly, pointing this out to people. Have you ever noticed the arrow between the bottom two prongs of the E and the left hand side of the X? Look! Seriously, someone pointed this out to me a couple of years ago, and every time I see it I have to point it out. Blows nearly everyone away, and it always makes me smile.


... food festivals. There was a Flavour Festival in Plymouth this weekend, so I headed in on Sunday to see what was what. It was so good that the only picture I managed to take was of this sign because it made me chuckle. It's true, isn't it!? Nothing's better than the fact that every now and then we stop everything just so we can eat. Cracking.

... an hour's lie-in on a Monday morning. I'm working from home this morning, and I have to say- it was so lovely to be able to get up an hour later and still start work at the same time as I would had I driven the 45 miles in.


... trying on hats. Because I can't walk past one without jamming it on my head and chuckling at how silly I look. I was particularly fond of this one I found in H&M yesterday- but I know I wouldn't be brave enough to actually wear it. 

... making plans. It can't be just me that's happiest when she has something to look forward to, can it? Some uni friends and I are planning a bit of a gathering in September to celebrate various things, and I am so looking forward to it. Having dates in the diary to work towards is just lovely.

What's making you happy this week?