25 April 2013

Cheap and Cheerful: The London Bus Tour

I think only people who haven't spent their lives in London, or who have been away for awhile will really appreciate this one, but it's one of the things I really enjoyed about moving back here:

London is beautiful via bus.

You'd be surprised how much of the city you can see that way and how nice it can really be to get on a bus with some good friends and just ride the route to the end.

I started to notice during shopping trips and while going to visit family- the buses are the best way to see a lot of the city in a short time. There's nothing to see on the tube, and the overground is good, but doesn't go past a lot of the best parts.

Riding the buses gives you enough time to spot those little restaurants to try, shops that you can visit the next time you're in that area, statues, architecture, even landmarks.

One Saturday, there was no one on the top level with me, and I happened to be going over London Bridge. I couldn't help myself- I started taking pictures like a tourist.

It's relaxing, warm ( the weather is dastardly lately) and really, really cheap, and if you pick the right route, you can go right through central and see all the big touristy places (like Picadilly Circus and Oxford street for you non- Londonders out there).

It's great- you should try it sometime.

23 April 2013

#1 Don't Let the Sauce Do All the Work: and Other Lessons My Mum Taught Me About Cooking

Mum would be proud!

On Sunday mornings as a kid, I used to get up early, creep into the kitchen, pour some juice and watch.

My mum would be cooking.

One of the most interesting things in this world, is watching my mum cook. My dad and I both do it: we sort of sidle in and stand there, inching closer and closer to bubbling pots and sizzling pans, watching my mum literally zip around the kitchen with a dozen arms and legs, limbs flying in every direction while she prepares six or seven dishes at the same time.

If we were lucky, she'd banish us to the breakfast nook, and we'd get to stir things.

This particular honor was one of the highest a person could hope for in our household. I still thank my lucky stars that my siblings are older than me, and we didn't have to fight over it. The only remaining contender for it was my dad, and we had several unspoken agreements:

If he was doing the lawn, and therefore more work than me, he got it.

If he was up first, and I came down too late, he got it.

If I managed to be the first one in the kitchen when mum started cooking, no matter who was up first, I got it.

If he had to go out, I got it.

The reason for it was simple: if you got to stir, you got to eat. The two went hand in hand, except on holiday occasions when a massive breakfast was prepared for everyone, or in the rare case that mum was in a particularly good mood and both dad and I were able to benefit.

For the most part though, the person stirring got to eat: little bits of chicken fresh out of the frying pan, left over pasta and sauce that wouldn't fit into the baking tray, extra sausages, and so on.

There was no telling what or how much- it depended on the menu for the week, mum's mood, and how much would be left that wasn't enough to worry about sticking in the freezer for another time.

My mum was like an artisan, spooning, whipping, chopping and mixing, making up baking trays of different meals that would then go into the freezer to be taken out and eaten during the week.

The honor wasn't just in the eating, it was in being the one to label, and sometimes even put together a meal that the whole family would sit down to enjoy a few days later. I always got a thrill of pleasure when we'd take a tray out of the freezer and it would say "Chicken Parmesan" on the tin foil in my handwriting.

The pride in it was unmistakable, and mum would always tell us over dinner who the lucky party was that had helped prepare the meal. I'd sit there grinning like a cheshire cat every time.

Food brings people together, in so many little ways, and I'm proud when I think about how much I enjoy cooking and eating and sharing thanks to those busy Sunday mornings.

This is a multipart post, so look out for part 2 soon!

05 April 2013

Life Updates #2: Stress and Stuff

Lately I haven't been doing much with my face- no make-up, no nothing.

I've been on holiday, so I thought I'd give my skin a break. The other day, I was doing something in the bathroom (you know how you just end up in there, fussing with the vanity etc. etc?) and I noticed lines on my head.

It was the light.

My bathroom is dark.

Or too bright for that matter.

It was the angle.

It doesn't really matter though, because they were there. I'm 22 years old, and I noticed the lines on my forehead for the first time.

Not from angry frown-y faces; these lines run horizontally just above my eyebrows, which is what caused them: worry.

When I worry, I apparently make a 'pleading' sort of expression, with my eyebrows up and my mouth compressed (I spent five more minutes in the bathroom for no reason, figuring this out).

The lines are there because I've been extremely worried lately, and to make matters worse,  I hadn't even realised. I thought I'd been fine.

So how do you come back from stressing too much (and by extension, make those wretched lines go away)?
Listening to Frank helps. 

One thing has worked for me: rest.

I don't mean sleeping either, I mean the kind or rest where you do what you have to do, and then as you feel yourself starting to get tired, or ache, or get hungry or cold, you stop.

That's it.

You just stop, and find something else to do- and here's the kicker- it has to be something that you enjoy doing.
Watching anything with him in it is something I enjoy :)  

You don't stop and do more work.

Please note, this isn't a cure all, and I'm certainly not a doctor, but I know how bad anxiety can be, and I've found that giving myself a proper rest when things start to freak me out is extremely helpful.

The downside is, I had to be on holiday to do it.

The upside is, I feel better about life in general.


02 April 2013

Music for Listening: Why I Seriously Dig Frank Ocean

Frank is April's Person I Love:
Frank Ocean: Huffingtonpost.com

As much as I love music- and I do- definitely,

I listen to it in two specific ways: first, when I want a song- any song- and I want to dance, or wail at the top of my lungs, and second, when I want to listen.

Most music falls into the first category for me. It's for dancing, or singing out loud in the car, or for playing on your iPhone when you're on the train.

The type of songs I like best though, are for listening- really listening. The kind of listening where the lyrics trickle through your mind stirring up all kinds of feelings, where you feel as though something in your heart has woken up and it's keeping pace with the music. Where, as the melody fades, you feel refreshed, as though a weight has been lifted, pent up energy expelled, a breath let out.

That kind of listening.

There are only a few songs that fall into that category, and Swim Good, for me, is one of them. It's beautiful: hauntingly so.

The refrain lingers in the back of my mind, and I find myself randomly humming it at moments of high stress or anxiety. It's the kind of song that makes me conscious of my own thoughts.

Frank Ocean is doing something that I wish more musicians would do, he's making the kind of music that takes a image, a feeling, something more intangible than just words, and builds a whole song out of it.

The content doesn't revolve around procuring ones sexual favours in exchange for expensive or monetary gifts- a fine tradition in its own right, but preferably not one to be continuously written into every song since music began.

Instead, you get feelings: love and lust, fear and pride, and in Swim Good, the kind of raw, aching sadness that you only know if you've been in love. It's the kind of feeling that makes you reckless. When you realise that it's not going to happen, it was possibly never true, and you can't cope with the gaping wound in your heart- reckless. It's something I've only known once in my life, but it's a feeling that I never thought could be so perfectly captured in music.

That song leaves me breathless.
Frank Ocean: soulculture.co.uk

This man is obviously a writer.

You know how I feel about words. 

And writers for that matter. 

Frank Ocean's music is lyrically beautiful, it's one of the first things I noticed about it. You don't get a lot of oooh baby  - which is good. Because sometimes, all us babies out there get really sick of the oohhs.

Ocean's melodies are also achingly glorious- I'm gushing, I know, but I like this guy, and this is really one of the reasons why. It's hard to find a song that doesn't remind me of "that other song where he goes like..." and hearing his lush, beautifully composed pieces you realise there's a perfectly unique experience- in each and every one.

But it's not just the lyrics, or the beat, or the melody- it's all of them, the entire piece is that surreal something plucked from the heart, or the mind, or the soul.

It's why some songs can't be played on a rainy day when you're not feeling 100 per cent. It's why others make you smile no matter what kind of day you're having.

Frank, you are amazing. Seriously.