Top Social

Robsessions // January 2019

03 February 2019


January has been and gone, and strangely it feels like it's lasted both 2 weeks and 2 years... I turned 26, I baked a shit-ton of cookies, I got in touch with an old friend, I took a trip to see the Winter Lights Festival in Canary Wharf (above) and I loved a whole lot of things in between...


I Watched...

The first film I watched this year is already a strong contender for my favourite film of the year. Coincidentally called 'The Favourite,' Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are a tremendous trio who alongside the kid from 'About A Boy' and Taylor Swift's current boyfriend, provide an irreverent look at a gout-stricken Queen Anne, and two women competing for her affections, complete with rabbits, killer outfits and a dance-scene that I will forever campaign for anyone to do as their first dance at their wedding.

Image result for sex education netflix uk
Picture Credit
Netflix has been delivering the goods recently, with teen/tween/cute/quirky/fun series 'Sex Education.' It's caused a bit of titter-tatter on the webs, with many confused by its combination of US setting, retro clothes, but very current British humour, but I feel it just adds to its charm. It's a nice, enjoyable watch, with a great cast, and delves semi-deep into a wide range of 'young people sex problems.' Top tip - if, like me, you like to download shows to watch during commutes or lunch breaks, maybe don't do it with this.

Props once again to my favourite show 'The Good Place,' whose current season finished in January. I'm very intrigued to see how the next chapter of the story goes, and whilst the current season felt very choppy as they ran into a circle of issue, panic, overcome, issue, panic, overcome, they may have set up what may be a longer story arc for the next series, which will make a nice change, even if I'm not the biggest fan of who they've brought in and brought back. The characters still remain loving and endearing and depending on how much you're into the show, and the characters, you may shed a tear or ten at the final episode of the series. Surprise surprise, I did.

I Used...

I have a new favourite shower gel. Just thought I'd let you know. As the self-titled biggest fan of ~citrus~ it's no surprise Original Source's Orange has bulldozed it's way through the competition. I'd used the Foaming Shower Gel a few times prior, but honestly no matter how luxurious it feels sometimes you just want a shower without all the faff of loads of bubbles, so this no-nonsense yet obnoxiously strong smelling shower gel fulfills this greatly.

I received a box set of Barber Pro Gentleman's face masks for Christmas, which came with different variations of masks. I've found the peel-off mask has been the best so far,  I've also been enjoying eye masks recently - as a 26 year old with the under-eye bags and wrinkles of a 62 year old, they're a very much needed addition to my self-care ~routine~.


Part of my morning routine now, he says as if he has a lengthy morning routine, is using a face mist. I think it genuinely helps me wake up a little, and it's always nice to add more moisture to your face in this weather. I've been using The Body Shop's Mandarin Energising Face Mist which leaves a nice little whiff and ready to face my BFF - the morning commute.

I Consumed...

The weather outside is frightful, but the food is so delightful, and since this is a favourites post... I've come back to this four times to finish and I've got nothing apart from 'here you go, here you go, here you go.' Don't worry, I'm disappointed too. Anyway, one of my favourite things about the cold weather is comfort food - there's nothing better than coming home from a long day at work, having traveled in the cold to some warm, hearty... grub. I always refer to Autumn as Pie Season, but as January comes, and the healthy-eating fairies swarm, I ditch the pies for a greener alternative.

At the moment, my go-to option is a 'bung it all in one big pan' dish consisting of wholegrain rice, beans, pre-cooked seasoned chicken, mixed veg, peppers and a shit-ton of seasoning. Honestly, it's so simple but ticks every box for me - I can just throw it all in a pan willy-nilly, mix it a bit, and serve. It doesn't even matter if you make too much because, as I now always say, the rest is for lunch tomorrow. I've also been partial to a Katsu curry or five this month, and have found solace in many a homemade mash side dish over January.


Another winter-warmer is the universal short-term therapist also known as hot chocolate. Sometimes I do get a little bored of plain hot chocolate, and decided to set up my own little hot chocolate station, complete with my new obsession - flavoured syrups. A pre-Christmas trip to TKMaxx resulted in me conducting an X-Factor style competition to shortlist the literal tens of different flavours down to just 4. I'm happy with my choices, and my current favourites are Toasted Marshmallow and Mint Chocolate Chip which does actually taste exactly like the ice cream. Stunning.

As my Lacto-sensitivity worsens (sorry, TMI) I'm finding myself testing trying out the now extensive offering of alternatives, and whilst LactoFree is satisfying the milk and cheese area, it's Alpro's Vanilla Soya Yoghurt that is leading the breakfast round - the consistency is different to what I'm normally used to but paired and mixed with with granola and berries it is beautiful. Well played, Alpro.

I Did...


I turned 26 this month, was strangely okay with it, and decided to celebrate with my friends with a nice trip to the new BoxPark that's opened in Wembley. It's basically a large area of seating with a couple of bars and loads of street-food-esque places all under one roof. If you venture upstairs, there's loads of activities - we're talking Jenga and Dominoes on the tables, , and a new love of mine... Shuffleboard. Honestly, it's great.

I've also baked a lot and made some incredible chocolate chip cookies, as below, and experimented with some hot-cross-bun themed cookies where I added mixed space swapped chocolate chips for mixed peel. They were beautiful, thanks for asking.

I Listened...

I'll be going into more detail later in the week, but here's a whole list of songs I've been loving this month...

<iframe allow="autoplay *; encrypted-media *;" frameborder="0" height="450" style="width:100%;max-width:660px;overflow:hidden;background:transparent;" sandbox="allow-forms allow-popups allow-same-origin allow-scripts allow-storage-access-by-user-activation allow-top-navigation-by-user-activation" src="https://embed.music.apple.com/gb/playlist/january-2019/pl.u-76oNzW3FW93d5a?app=music"></iframe>

-----

Is there anything you've been loving in January you'd recommend?

Self Care Sunday

27 January 2019


Something I incorporated into my week towards the end of last year was 'Self Care Sunday.' My job can bring an array of stresses on an hourly basis, and honestly most days it leaves me too exhausted to put much effort into, well, anything in the evening that isn't absolutely necessary, but we're working on that - we're really working on that. I never really do anything on Sunday, but the day seems to fly by and before you know it you're off to bed ready to face another week, so I thought it was important to take some proper time, and put some effort into the creature I call... me. It's my way of wrapping up the week, calming myself down a little for the new week ahead, and most of the time, it actually worked and was pure, pure bliss.

 It was a fairly simple affair - it would start off softly with me watching Doctor Who with my mum, then making some tea and then lunch for the next day with Strictly in the background. I would then have a nice shower - you know the shower that isn't just for purpose and you can actually spare a few extra minutes, play some music, and pretend you're performing at Wembley Arena, without fear of missing a bus, being late and not being able to do your hair properly because it's still wet. I'd also shave. Past Rob would then have left me nice pyjamas out on the bed to put on, I'd throw on a face mask and watch a film or binge a show, before treating myself to a ~stunning~ hot chocolate made from such combinations as below.



One week, to switch things up a bit, I had quite a lot of holiday left at work, so I took a Monday off and booked myself into a cheap local Travelodge and 'escaped the world' for a Sunday evening, complete with cooked breakfast the next morning. I did most of the same thing, but it felt new and fresh, and was a nice change to what was becoming a routine. As much as I love a routine, sometimes it's not the best when your heads a bit tangled like mine, and you need to keep it on its toes before it becomes almost ~immune~ to help.

Now, as we go in to 2019, I'm switching up my routine and turning Self Care Sunday into something a little more... interesting. There's still the facemask, and the hot chocolate to round off the week, but I wanted to be a bit more creative and with me trying to watch more films generally, it felt less of a treat. It's also an excuse for me to pick up old hobbies I seemed to leave behind in 2016/2017, like baking.



I've really thrown myself back into baking, as you can see from the treats above, and have set myself a mission to find a bake that is 'my bake.' You know how some people have those bakes or dishes that they're known for - I kind of want that. Is that a bit sad? Probably. Anyway, I've been trying cookie combinations the last couple of weeks, including an absolutely stunning hot cross bun inspired cookie (at the bottom right of the pic above) which I'm hoping is not just a fluke, and I can replicate very soon.

This week has been a bit of a mixed bag so far - I had a very morning/lunchtime so this afternoon I've worked on some background blog stuff, I've researched recipes for meals next week, I've booked myself into the Luxe Odeon near my work to watch a film this week, made a start on my ultimate 00s playlist, as well as doing a bit of window shopping for a couple of much needed treats tomorrow. I also had a bit of a down day yesterday and made myself a Katsu curry dish which went down v v well. I've been productive, mostly, and next week, I plan to use the scrapbook I bought ages ago to get a bit crafty, and the week after that, I'll probably do some more baking.

I'll be evolving this over the weeks to bring in new activities and hobbies, and I'm happy to have turned Sunday from a bit of a non-day, to a day I really look forward to. As part of a few changes I've made to my routine over the past few months, it's definitely done wonders, and I've found it's had a bit of a knock on effect to the evenings, where even now I'm taking time to properly rest. Do you implement this kind of self-care into your life? If so, feel free to let me know how - I'd love to find new things to try.

My Top Hundred Songs of 2018

06 January 2019

Welp, here we are - the final of my year-end trio, only 4 days later than planned. The last of three shoddy graphics and opinions no-one asked for is a bumper list of singles I've been loving this year. Every year I find myself gravitating more and more towards a full list of pop music, and I'm not even mad - I think it's my brain telling me I need bops as much as I need food and water to survive.

As this is such a long list, I've included them as both Spotify and Apple Music lists below, in descending order, but here are some of my highlights:

The Year of the Comeback

Janet Jackson made her very long-awaited comeback in 2018 with cute little festival-inspired number 'Made For Now' that actually kick starts my top 100, at #100, whilst  Ciara came back out of nowhere, and dropped nostalgia-inducing 'Level Up,' in which it's repetitive chorus takes me back to the days of 'Work' - they even dropped a Missy Elliott remix later on. Ironically, the choreography in the video feels like the Boss Level of Zumba.

Kylie Minogue went to Nashville for a bit and came back as Dolly Parton's cute niece, twice-removed, and sees 3 of her tracks make my list, including feel-good 'Dancing' at #20, and Robyn didn't change a thing, as 'Missing U' felt like something she could've released years back, but still fresh at the same time?

Meanwhile, Mariah Carey became yet another meme with the genius 'GTFO,' and Avril Lavigne recovered from almost dying, and wrote a song about it. 'Head Above Water' is a punchy ballad that features her trademark shouty-vocals, and a lovely little video.

You could also throw Ariana Grande into this category, as everyone waited for her first release in over a year. Each main single (sorry 'The Light Is Coming') has hit my list, including 'No Tears Left To Cry' at #2. She also features on Troye Sivan bop 'Dance To This.'


Justice For Rita Ora?

I've always rooted for Rita Ora - she always seems to find herself on the other end of a professional bitch-slap doesn't she? Bless her. 2017 saw Rita return with a hat-trick of incredible singles, and she started 2018 with the really great Fifty Shades number 'For You,' which featured Liam Payne but shoehorned him as the lead artist I'm guessing to attract more listeners. It's #6 on my list, so get the champers out Rita!

'Girls' was a bit of low moment following what felt like a flawless run, but she followed this with 'Let Me Love You' which she performed on every TV show you can think of, and she really earned that pre-album hit and #83 place on my list.

... (Ft. Dua Lipa)

Dua Lipa has found herself catapulted to the front of the British pop scene following her monster hit 'New Rules,' and her label made a very good decision featuring on both a Calvin Harris and Silk City (Mark Ronson &amp; Diplo) track over the summer, both of which have made my top 10. They are very much basic pop/dance songs, but they soundtracked a big chunk of my year and for that I am grateful - cheers Dua.

Me &amp; U

There have been some great collabs this year, and some that take a few listens to realise their true potential - enter Poppy and Grimes. 'Play Destroy' mashes up a sickly sweet production with hard guitar and is an actual masterpiece, whilst BTS managed to get Nicki Minaj (like it's that hard) on a track so infectious it made its way to #12 on my list.

Little Mix also got Nicki on a track, starting the era with a track ft. rapper, which they usually save for the 2nd or 3rd single post-album, whilst Clean Bandit continued with some great features, including another track featuring potentially my favourite artist of all time, Marina and the Diamonds (RIP), oh and the Despacito guy.

Other greats include Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus, Charli XCX and Troye Sivan and the other Calvin Harris duet with Sam Smith.

A Star Is Re-born

Lady Gaga saw herself return to the top of the UK charts with 'Shallow,' whilst fellow 'A Star Is Born' track 'I'll Never Love Again' found itself onto my work commute playlist, and hit me in the feels every time.

Also in soundtracks, 'All The Stars' from Black Panther finds itself very high on my list, along with the surprise Deadpool track 'Ashes,' by the Lady Gaga fan herself, Celine Dion. Imagine Dragons' cute number from the Wreck It Ralph sequel, 'Zero', also cemented itself as one of the greats of 2018.

Here Come The Girls

Surprise, surprise - it's the females who have completely annihilated this list. 'Janelle Monae' managed to fight the others off to take top place, with the funky 'Make Me Feel,' whilst Paloma Faith's modern day fiesty disco-anthem 'Til I'm Done' sits at #3. Florence and the Machine just misses out on a top 10 placement, at #11, whilst numerous 'indie' acts, including St Vincent, Lauren Aquilina, dodie, Orla Gartland and Allie X all find themselves sitting pretty. 'SuRie' our lovely Eurovision entry also finds herself on my list.
-----





-----

Ask me again in a month and this list may completely changed, but during a vigorous Boot Camp, we got there, and A List Was Born. Is there anything I've missed?

Picture Credits: 

My Top Twenty Films of 2018

01 January 2019

Well, first of all, Happy New Year! Hope you all had a great evening celebrating - whether you stayed in, went out, or even found yourself getting chucked out of an early-closing McDonalds 10 minutes before midnight and then just sort of standing outside watching the surrounding fireworks with one of your besties for a little while, like myself. I'm finishing this post after having a lovely roast with the family, complete with my elegant cocktail of Lambrini mixed with Oasis Citrus Punch (Bucks Fizz) and two lots of leftover Yule log, and I now sit listening to the Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack, beside a freshly bought diary and a bunch of paperwork to sort out to start 2019 off with my shit together...ish - I reckon I've started the year off perfectly. Anyways, on to the reason you're here...

-----
A couple of days ago, he thought he was a professional album critic, and today he's moving on to the movies - will he stop referring to himself in the third person before tomorrow's singles countdown? Honestly, I don't know...

This year, I've tried to make more of a conscious effort to see more movies - usually I like to stick to my bubble of comedies, musicals and kids' films but this year I tried to push the boat out - to limited avail. Below are my 20 favourite movies from 2018:



20. Like Father

We start with the pinnacle of films - a Netflix original. 'Like Father' sees Kristen Bell's character ditched at the altar, and her abandoning father (played by actual Frasier, Kelsey Grammar) turning up and running off again in the same day. What a shit day. Following a lot of drinking, she asks her father to accompany her on her honeymoon cruise, where they meet a group of couples and take on a number of activities that help them work through their shit, a bit, including some karaoke which is always fun. The trip pretty much helps her realise she's honestly just a bit of a career-focused, damaged bitch, and their relationship is fixed a bit, it's a nice watch.


19. Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again

I'l be honest - as soon as I heard where they took this story after so many years, I was a lot madder than I would care to admit, but it helps give a lot more context to what is a lovely reflection of the life of dungaree-fanatic Donna Sheridan. Lily James does a great job of playing young Donna, and seeing all our favourites from the original in their younger form is a great novelty that will start to wear off towards the end. Of course, it's worth powering through as the final scenes featuring Cher popping in to sing a couple of bops (and performing some questionable choreography) adds another half star to my rating in itself. 


18. Game Night

'Game Night' takes the crown for the 'Movie I Thought Was Going To Be Shite But I Gave It A Chance And It Was Actually A Solid B Minus 2018.' Shit gets real during Game Night, where a group of regular board game players, and a fresh new Irish girlfriend for one gamer, find themselves in the middle of an actual hostage situation. Chaos obviously ensues, and every character is given their chance to shine and - plot twist - the usually annoying cliche stupid character was actually done very well, and the film contained some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Applause all round team.


17. Molly's Game

Jessica Chastain playing the powerful, ambitious Molly Bloom works very well; a cold character who after being unable to compete in competitive skiing, turns to the world of gambling. The story takes a turn where she turns from amateur poker-game host to one of the best, all of the attention turns to her, including the bad guys... uh oh. A very enjoyable watch that leaves you feeling uncomfortable at parts, but it's Jessica Chastain so that's surely enough of a plus to negate that.


16. The Shape Of Water

On paper, this film may put you off - a woman falls in love with a sort-of sea creature, she helps break him out of captivity from the bad guys and they have sex in a flooded bathroom. Don't let that put you off, this story is told so uniquely with moments that will tug at the heartstrings, but also sit you somewhere between 'this is beautiful' and 'okay but seriously, what the fuck' including a slightly traumatic scene involving a cat.


15. Love, Simon

A cute coming-of-age movie that sees Simon being outed by a twat fellow student after anonymously being open with a stranger online, and having to deal with the aftermath of lying to his friends to keep his secret, coming out to his parents, and meeting the stranger he's fallen in love with online. Apart from the blackmail that seems to come out of nowhere, the story feels very real and it's heartbreaking to see someone going through something so big having pushed away his friends. It risked being too cute or too dramatic, but the film came into it's own and was a lovely watch. I also appreciated the inclusion of Simon being the one who drives everyone to school, and is always complimentary of his sister's cooking, showing that he is actually just a really decent guy caught up in a bad situation.


14. Adrift

Sam Claflin returns for another film where he gets to lounge around and do nothing whilst the woman does all the work. To be fair, in 'Adrift,' his character suffers with a lot of physical damage after getting caught in a hurricane on a boat, alongside Shailene Woodley. The film is cleverly told in two timelines - starting off with the aftermath of the hurricane, and flip flopping back and forth between the past and present, as we see the pair meet and embark on their journey, whilst also dealing with the damage to themselves and the boat, desperate to reach land again. It's a heartbreaking story, that risks falling flat at parts but is an enjoyable watch nonetheless.


13. Black Panther

I'm going to say this now and maybe hide in the corner - I just really don't care about Marvel. I've tried, I've really tried, but it just doesn't happen, but 'Black Panther' stands out from the crowd. There are still beings with incredible powers, there are still action shots, there's still a villain and a few funny moments for some light relief. The overall story appears to focus on power and morality and was something I could sink my teeth into. Martin Freeman's also in it. 


12. A Simple Favour

Anna Kendrick as a kooky non-creepy mummy-vlogger and Blake Lively as a mysterious suit-donning lady sounds like exactly what I want from a movie. A movie that contained some funny moments, a little bit of suspense and a kid swearing at one point. The plot felt a little far-fetched, but it was a very enjoyable watch, and both Anna and Blake serve some serious looks throughout the movie. I also very much appreciated the vlog updates as things got more mysterious, and find the idea of these vlogs existing hilarious.


11. The Incredibles 2

The family of superheroes return and are completely overshadowed by Jack Jack, who is definitely the best part of this film. The plot is a little predictable, but the characters are able to make you laugh and keep you entertained the whole way through, including a lighter look into family traits - solo parenting, teenage dating and even money problems, which are a nice addition to the action, and Jack Jack's ever-growing list of superpowers.


10. Dumplin'

A film about a Texas pageant, an ode to Dolly Parton, and an uplifting story about turning what appears to be a rebellious act against vanity into a celebration of yourself, through the eyes of agitated, plus size legend (same) Dumplin'. A film that just gets me. It was a film that was sort-of on my list, but definitely not one I was rushing to watch any time soon, though following a strong recommendation from a friend, I decided to give it a go. I'm very glad I did. Aided by her friends and some fabulous drag queens, Dumplin' takes on her mother's beauty pageant but finds herself struggling to keep up, and keep her friends, before an expected very warm ending. Maddie Baillio is also a strong highlight for me.


9. A Wrinkle In Time

Oprah, Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon all find themselves in a Drag Race maxi challenge where the category is... space princess. Set with more iconic costume changes than Lady Gaga's new Vegas show, 'A Wrinkle In Time' is a nice story that simply says something along the lines of love being light, and light saving you from the darkness. We see Meg, her younger brother, and a friend, on a quest to find her father, played by a rugged looking scientist Chris Pine, who accidentally fucked up and found himself trapped somewhere in the darkness. It's not the most complex film, and it definitely has its flaws but for a light watch, it's fine - on reflection, I think I might've watched this on a very good day.


8. Lady Bird

Saiorse Ronan stars in this beautiful coming-of-age story, playing a young girl, known as Lady Bird surprisingly, who is honestly just looking for something more, having outgrown her  hometown of Sacramento. It feels more than the usual coming-of-age story - there's the obvious tropes of Lady Bird being rebellious, in constant beef with her mother, and going through many important life things for the first time - but it also sways more towards society, religion and poverty. Lady Bird just wants more from life, which you can't blame her for to be fair, and you do honestly find yourself rooting for Lady Bird, even if she is a bit of dick sometimes.


7. Oceans 8

Cate Blanchett, Sarah Paulson, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Sandra Bullock in the same movie? Am I dreaming? Is this real life? I can't ev- you get it, we stan legends. Throw in the very underappreciated Mindy Kaling, sort-of newcomer Awkwafina and global superstar Rihanna and you've got yourself 8 of the best. I won't even follow that with a noun, they're just 8 of the best. The plot may fall a little flat, but the characters mould together to form the perfect support structure to carry the movie that is suitable nod to its predecessors, that sees them hatch a plan to steal a necklace at the Met Gala, complete with a few cheeky cameos and an appearance by James Corden that is both unnecessary but also helps the plot reach it's inevitable conclusion. It's also responsible for giving us potentially the best collection of promo/interviews maybe ever, mostly down to Sarah and Cate. YouTube it, seriously.




6. Ralph Breaks The Internet

The idea of 'Ralph Breaks The Internet' sounds like something that in the wrong hands could be maybe one of the worst films ever, but it's actually done very well, in my opinion. It is a Disney film after all. The internet references are cleverly done in the most part, if not for some bad puns, yet it is a bit of a stretch in terms of the main plot, but the characters interacting outside of the arcade gaming world is refreshing, as we are introduced to the very-cool, Gal Gadot voiced 'Shank,' a racer in a world Venellope is immediately excited by, following the sameness of her founding game Sugar Rush, that is currently unplugged.

A highlight is of course the Disney Princess scene, set inside the dressing room of 'Oh My Disney,' and a great reference to the Dark Web, where an act of selfishness leads to the potential shutdown of the whole internet. In some cases, it can feel like a giant advert, and doesn't match the original in terms of quality, but there's just enough plot to keep it an enjoyable film.



5. Hearts Beat Loud

If you're looking for a warm, feel-good film, 'Hearts Beat Loud' does just that, and then some. A film predominantly about the relationship between a father and his daughter who share a similar interest in creating music and find minor success on Spotify, featuring Parks and Rec legend Nick Offerman. Of course, the daughter is leaving for college soon, and goes on to go through her own coming-of-age story, and has to fight her father's continuous efforts and passions to take their band further, and in the process randomly learns to ride a bike with help from a female love interest. The climax of the movie is enough to leave you beaming from ear to ear, as they get together to sing again, and honestly the songs are very, very good. Well played, all.


4. A Star Is Born

I've talked about this film so much even I'm sick of myself, but it's honestly just a really great film. I'm glad that 99 people in the room didn't believe in Lady Gaga because Bradley Cooper did, and boy did they deliver with this remake of a remake of a remake (of a remake?) that sees two talented strangers come together in a bar full of drag queens, before they end up touring the world together and fall in love before life takes quite the dramatic turn for them.

'A Star Is Born' hits you right in the feels - the music is powerful and helps aid the storytelling, whilst L. Gaga and Bradley Cooper's chemistry leaves you invested in their relationship and respective careers, beaming through the highs, clenching through the lows and trying not to sob at the ending that hits you right in the gut.


3. Crazy Rich Asians

I think more than anything, the thing that really stood out for me with 'Crazy Rich Asians' was just how extra this film was. They took the idea of throwing large lavish events to a new level, and left me and my friend speechless every time. The story follows two lovebirds, played by Constance Wu and Henry Golding, as we find that the rest of his family is rich... very rich. Bring in a cast full of some of the most well known and talented Asian actors, including the hilarious Ken Jeong, Miley Cyrus soundalike Awkwafina and the absolutely stunning Gemma Chan, and a plot full of relationship highs and lows, some scheming from a protective mother, and we're left a visually stunning film that is less of a rom-com than it is a parody, that doesn't take itself too seriously.

The film definitely focuses on the ridiculous; a type of rich that seems almost unreal, but definitely exists in some capacity, and can come across quite cliche, but if you forget that it's just a very enjoyable watch that shows you that money isn't everything, though it may look like it. Aside from the lavish events which look both incredible and fills me with anxiety at the thought of being at one, you're left with a bunch characters who are a little lost, or just unhappy, ultimately saved by... you guessed it, each other. How cute.


2. Mary Poppins Returns

It's been a very long time since I've left a film feeling warm, and happy, and just really, really nice. Come through 'Mary Poppins Returns.' Although the film features a stellar cast, including Broadway great Lin Manuel Miranda and the incomparable Emily Blunt, I was a little skeptical going into 'Mary Poppins Returns.' Like many, the original holds a special place in my heart, but I had absolutely nothing to worry about - though the first musical number didn't instantly hit me, every other musical number felt like it could've easily been in the original, and even features a Miranda/Blunt duet 'A Cover Is Not The Book' complete with a brand new Chicago-esque bob for Mary Poppins I was not ready for. Other highlights include epic number 'Trip A Little Light Fantastic' and the beautiful 'A Place Where The Lost Things Go.'

The film makes several nods to the original, and includes a couple of cheeky cameos I won't spoil for you, and plenty of references that have aged accordingly with the original Banks children. Speaking of the Banks children, the new children, all belonging to Michael Banks, are cute and do very well in the film, and are rarely annoying which is always helpful. One of the children is played by Pixie Davies, who's been in Nativity, Humans and that advert where the cute little girl teaches her dad to eat the Oreo - so we know we're in good hands. Chris O'Dowd and Fred Flinstone himself, Mark Addy also lend their voices, whilst Meryl Streep pops in for a bit for the oddly wonderful 'Turning Turtle' and Julie Walters is great as always. Rarely do I watch a film multiple times in the cinema, but I'm seeing this again on Friday and I am EXCITED.


1. Coco

A Disney Pixar film takes top place in my year-end list, and I'm not even mad. 'Coco' was an imaginative look at the 'Day of the Dead' celebrations, and is a great way to combine what appears to be a very respectable look at the traditions and roots of Mexico, and a touching story of family, passion and hope. It deals with the idea of death the only way Disney can - through the story of a child, Miguel, armed with enough naivety and curiosity to act on his musical dreams and meet his idol. There is a warmth to the movie, even in the colder moments and the emotion during the final scenes in particular felt very real, though that may be more due to personal experiences, where I found myself crying... a lot.

The animation and, in particular, the colours in 'Coco' leave the film visually stunning, which matched with the heartwarming story, that leaves you willing Miguel on, and finds your heart breaking exactly when his does. It's a very powerful movie, done very well - probably the best Disney Pixar film in a good few years.


-----

There we have it, my favourite films of the year... what have you been loving in 2018?

Picture credits: 

My Top Ten Albums Of 2018

30 December 2018

A lot of the albums I've loved this year appear to follow the same format - artist tries something new, I listen, I'm hooked, I'm here for it. Many of the albums before you see indie artists take on a more pop approach, whilst pop artists broaden their own horizons. I can't say this has been my favourite year for music - one look at the singles charts (for the first half of the year anyway) is enough to fuel my depression further, though the absolute steam-roller also known as The Greatest Showman OST has been there to soothe things (unfortunately it came out last year technically, so it is unable to come in like a figurative wrecking ball for this list.)

There's still been many-a-great album though this year. I've also enjoyed Troye Sivan's debut effort, the Nile Rodgers and Chic revamped album, and some of Lily Allen's new album, but the 10 albums below are what have truly soundtracked my 2018...

10. Florence and the Machine - High As Hope

I won't lie, I was a little disappointed to find Florence and the Machine's latest album was only going to be 10 tracks, after being treated to monster Deluxe editions with previous efforts. 'High As Hope' is a little more subdued compared to the latest couple of albums, but is filled with some beautiful tracks that allows Florence to be a bit more open and personal with her lyrics.

'Sky Full Of Song' was the first track to be shared from the album, a track that starts a capella before building to a stunning chorus, with subtle guitar, whereas 'Hunger' gave us that punch I was waiting for, existing in a slightly abnormal song structure, shoving a chorus straight after the pre-chorus, which is most welcome and sits pretty as one of my favourite songs of the year for it's sheer sing-a-long-ability.

Opening track 'June' is hauntingly beautiful, the tempo kicks in with '100 Years.' whilst 'Big God' took a while to connect but we finally got there. Other favourites include 'Patricia,' an ode to Patti Smith, and the powerful final duo of 'The End of Love' and 'No Choir.' Overall, if you can get over the fact it's not as much of a punchy album, you can appreciate it for what it's worth.

Fave Five: Hunger, Patricia, Sky Full Of Song, June, The End Of Love

Fave Lyric: '



-----

9. Shawn Mendes - Shawn Mendes

I feel like I'm always quietly rooting for Shawn Mendes. On paper, he's a guy with a guitar and wouldn't usually be my sort of thing, but in all honesty - the guy's had some absolute bops. Lead single 'In My Blood,' was a powerful piece that I and many others could relate to, about not giving up when things get a bit rough, whatever that may mean to you, and he continued to touch on this subject with Khalid collab 'Youth,' a look into dealing with the world at what feels like such a young age, and trying not to be too affected by it.

'Lost In Japan' was already a favourite, and a slightly mature, funkier sound from Shawn, but the Zedd remix elevated this greatly, giving the track the extra bit of life it needed - to in turn give me my life - whilst sort-of-single but I'm not sure at this point, 'Nervous' kept the similar funky guitar, alongside 'Where Were You In The Morning'.

The album itself it a very easy listen, a lot of the tracks allude to a break up, as will be quite a regular theme across many of these albums, which is surprising when I haven't even been through one myself, but album closer 'When You're Ready,' 'Queen' and 'Fallin' All In You' are all funky little numbers that are in no way life changing, but lovely enough to soundtrack my summer. Overall, a very strong follow up from Shawn, which has left me interested to see what he does next.

Fave Five: Lost In Japan, In My Blood, When You're Ready, Nervous, Youth

Fave Lyric: 'Looking through my phone again, I'm feeling anxious' - In My Blood


-----

8. CHVRCHES - Love Is Dead

CHVRCHES returned to the scene with a much more commercial sound with latest album 'Love Is Dead,' - still complete with strong synths, and lead singer Lauren Mayberry's unforgettable vocal, throwing us straight into this evolved sound with lead single 'Get Out.' An instant favourite for me, the track is sort've what I wanted the Avril Lavigne comeback single to be - it has an erratic verse, moment of calm before a huge screamalong chorus, and potentially the best middle eight of 2018 followed by a great instrumental, which is repeated straight after the final chorus for yet another moment of sheer elation.

In an album full of big production with absolute bops such as 'Deliverance,' 'Graves' and 'God's Plan' which you'll be surprised to hear is not a Drake cover, things are pulled back a little with Matt Berninger collab 'My Enemy,' Matt's haunting deep vocals match perfectly with Lauren's shriller delivery in a track that's laidback but still has a lot of production going on behind it, and builds a little to a slightly more full-on chorus at the end.

Another song given the single treatment was 'Miracle,' a song that doesn't sound too dissimilar to Imagine Dragons in production, complete with heavy drums, and actually holds a writing credit by Steve Mac. Another favourite from the year, the song is asking their partner to just show them that they love them, whilst a lot of the remaining songs appear with what appears to be a messy break-up, questioning the relationship on tracks such as 'Heaven/Hell' and regretting getting so angry 'Forever.'

Overall, a big, bold album, still reminiscent enough of their old material, but in what may be a reach of a statement, is something I could see the Pet Shop Boys recording.


Fave Five: Get Out, Miracle, Deliverance, My Enemy, Forever

Fave Lyric: 'You are a kaleidoscope' - Get Out



-----

7. Kylie Minogue - Golden

Kylie Minogue released a county album this year. Not a sentence I would've expected to write at the start of the year, but it happened, and it was great. 'Golden,' perhaps a reference to Kylie's 50th birthday, though moreso a true reflection of her remarkable career, is a respectable nod to Nashville, where Kylie ran off to have her Dolly Parton moment after a breakup, and came back with a surprisingly great blend of southern guitar and radio friendly beats.

Following lead single 'Dancing,' a fun balls-out feel-good track tinged with the casual sadness of mortality, none of the following singles seemed to stick unfortunately, though that may be down to the label pushing different songs as singles what felt like every month or two. 'Stop Me From Falling' and 'A Lifetime To Repair' are cute little ditty tracks complete with hard-to-resist singalong post-choruses that will leave you both smiling, and gutted at the fact that every time you attempt a high note it's, quite frankly, shite, whilst the more toned down material, such as 'Radio On' and a personal favourite 'Music's Too Sad Without You' are beautiful pieces, the latter feeling like a timeless classic perfect for this wintry weather.

Long time Kylie lovers longing for the big pop tunes may find themselves drawn to songs like 'Raining Glitter' and 'Every Little Part Of Me' - both leaning more towards the pop side of the spectrum, whereas if you're looking for some more warmth, feel-good tracks such as title track 'Golden' and 'Love', though most of the album does find itself under the unfortunate umbrella of a breakup. Overall, very cute, very easy to listen to if you're used to Kylie's more shriller vocals. A lovely surprise.

Fave Five: Dancing, Music's Too Sad Without You, Lost Without You, Stop Me From Falling, A Lifetime To Repair

Fave Lyric: 'When I go out I wanna go out dancing' - Dancing
(Honestly, probably the best way to go...)


-----

6. Years and Years - Palo Santo

Years and Years' debut album was going to be hard to top, spanning some incredible singles that put them firmly on the map, and they returned with concept album Palo Santo, a look into a sort-of-dystopian world, .

'Sanctify,' the first song we heard off the album, was a little different to what we had heard before - it was less uptempo, religious in parts and the imagery was a little more complex as we were introduced to the world of Palo Santo. 'If You're Over Me' continued the story visually, but was a little more of a relatable story of a break up - complete with plinky production and infectious chorus. 'All For You' continues this break up story, complete with disco-like production most similar to that of previous singles, and remains one of my personal favourites. We then start to get an idea of what 'Palo Santo' is to lead singer Olly Alexander, as he reflects on a cheating partner and the darkness he holds over him.

'Hypnotised' is a beautiful number, stripped back, showcasing Olly's unique vocals, before the tempo is picked up for the more experimental 'Rendesvouz.' The production behind 'Lucky Escape' almost doesn't do the anger in the lyrics justice, but the production comes back in for album closer 'Up In Flames,' probably my favourite track on the album.,

The Deluxe edition of the album also now includes Jax Jones collaboration 'Play' which is worth nothing is an absolute bop. Overall, a great album that is a nod to their debut but takes them in a more artistic direction that let's see us see more directly into Olly Alexander's head.

Fave Five: Up In Flames, All For You, Hallelujah, Hypnotised, If You're Over Me

Fave Lyric: 'My past is going up in flames, my future can be arranged' - Up In Flames


-----

5. Ariana Grande - Sweetener

Following the devastating attack during her concert in Manchester last year, all eyes were going to be on Ariana's comeback single and album. 'No Tears Left To Cry' was the uplifting anthem not many were expecting, and teamed with it's world-bending imagery, it became an instant hit with me and, let's be honest, most people in the world, probably. Followed up with the semi-questionable 'The Light Is Coming,' where Nicki Minaj pops in for a minute then scurries off, we're treated to some great moments, and are faced with some not-so-great moments and Pharrell samples the same guy he did on Lemon, I think.

News of Pharrell playing a heavy part in production for the album then became a bit of an amber alert - an album produced by both some of her previous collaborators, but mostly Pharrell Williams, was always going to be interesting mix, and it's not surprising that most of the fan favourites are the former. 'Breathin' is a very relatable song about dealing with mental health, complete with a cool, slightly retro production and a perfect guitar solo during the middle eight, whilst 'God Is A Woman' is an ultra-empowering sensual song, complete with an incredible visual including Ariana fingering a tornado.

Album opener, 'Raindrops,' is a short piece for those lost in the attacks, complete with stunning vocals, and the tongue-in-cheek 'Successful' is a look into the world of being 'young and beautiful and so successful.' In contrast to me shitting on Pharrell a little earlier, many of his tracks on 'Sweetener' have great production behind them, and shows a much more mature/sensual side of Ariana, such as title track 'Sweetener,' which alludes to someone (let's say a partner due to the innuendo in the song) making things better, more than likely with sex. The chorus is a surprise boppy moment after what is quite a cute pre-chorus, whilst tracks such as 'R.E.M.' and even 'Pete Davidson' take on a more sweeter (lol) approach. There's also a great Missy Elliott feature which I will always appreciate. Overall, a great album, though I'm not sure it will age as well as her last two efforts - I mean even Ariana seems to want to move on from this era already.

Fave Five: Breathing, No Tears Left To Cry, Successful, Sweetener, God Is A Woman.

Fave Lyric: The day you left me, an angel cried - Raindrops


-----

4. Little Mix - LM5

Somehow, Little Mix are on their fifth album. Fifth. Through each album release they've gone in slightly different directions, but remained predominantly in the pop-realm, though LM5 is the most experimental they've been by a long shot. The majority of the album has a very heavy urban influence, and sees the girls try things they've only really dabbled in with prior efforts. There's a lot more rapping (or let's go with fast-talking), interesting melodies, vocal layering, and choppy production almost in vain of Girls Aloud, where songs feel like 3 different songs shoved together but work very, very well. We've seen urban influences with a lot of Salute, and the various rap features they've had shoe-horned in to single releases, but LM5 seems like a complete switch-up. From interviews, this feels like the album most reflective of their own personal tastes, constantly dropping the cliche that 'this is the album we really wanted to make,' but on to the songs...

Lead single 'Woman Like Me' saw Little Mix finally team up with Nicki Minaj after 7 bloody years of begging, and gave the girls a strong opening for what is a very female-empowering album. Future anthems such as 'Joan Of Arc,' 'Strip,' 'Woman's World' and opener 'The National Manthem' fit the mark perfectly, spanning the areas of relationships, body image and the gender gap, sending out the strong classic inspirational Little Mix messages of being yourself, not needing a man and standing up for what you believe in. This is also present in 'Wasabi,' a sassy little number that says that they're frankly just fed up of the negativity, against an array of production, including a cowbell and random yet perfect rock part that lasts about 7 seconds. There are also nods to friendship ("the key to a successful girl group") with cute guitar-led 'Told You So,' and 'More Than Words,' that appears to be more of a love song to collaborator Kamille, known for writing many of their huge hits, and by the sounds of it, listening to all their woes. Teamed with interesting vocal production, a booming chorus, and some very cute visuals it's become a personal favourite, along with classic LM ballad, the incredible 'Monster In Me,' which I hope becomes their next 'Secret Love Song.' 'Think About Us,' the next single, is slowly growing on me.

There's also a heavy Sisqo sample in 'Love A Girl Right,' and a track that wouldn't sound out of place on a Fifty Shades soundtrack, 'Notice.' Overall, the album didn't grab me instantly like it's predecessors, but with the help of some simple yet effective visuals and many-a-relisten, it's all grown on me and now I just can't get enough.

Fave Five: Joan Of Arc, Wasabi, Monster In Me, More Than Words, Strip

Fave Lyric: 'I Put My Own Rock On My Hand' - Joan Of Arc


-----

3. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born OST

Let's be real, as soon as the trailer dropped for 'A Star Is Born' and we were met with this incredible chalk and cheese of a subtle yet heavily gruff tone of Bradley Cooper, and the ultimate powerhouse of Lady Gaga (or L. Gaga as I will forever call her) coming through with a note bigger than my future (that even with a LOT of practice, me and my friends still can't nail) - I knew this was going to be something great. These songs turned out to be 'Maybe It's Time' and 'Shallow,' the movie's breakout song, that builds and builds to an epic final chorus showcasing L. Gaga's incredible vocal.

The movie opens with Bradley Cooper solo 'Black Eyes,' only elevated by the performance in the movie, complete with heavy guitar and an incredible vocal delivery. Later down the line we get L. Gaga's beautiful cover of 'La Vie En Rose,' and a beautiful original 'Always Remember Us This Way.,' not too dissimilar to some of the big ballads she released during her first couple of albums. It's similar to 'You and I,' 'Speechless' and even part of her last album, 'Joanne.' During a portion of the film, we are given more of a pop sound with tracks 'Heal Me,' 'Hair Body Face,' and 'Why Did You Do That To Me?' where L. Gaga, whilst playing a character, still reminds us why she's one of the greatest artists of our generation.

Many of the standout moments come from the beautiful duets between the two, including 'I Don't Know What Love Is' and 'Music To My Eyes,' but it's the final song in the film that is the true home run - 'I'll Never Love Again.' L. Gaga to perform this at the Oscars please. Overall, an incredible soundtrack for an incredible film - well done all.

Fave Five: I'll Never Love Again, Shallow, Always Remember Us This Way, Heal Me, Black Eyes

Fave Lyric: 'HAAAARRRAARRARRGGHH' - Shallow



-----

2. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer

Janelle Monae is an artist who unfortunately always seemed to slip under my radar, but as soon as I heard 'Make Me Feel' - a funky Prince-esque sexual awakening anthem, which is now a very strong contender for my favourite song of the year - I was ready to take notice. Following this with a string of releases, including the incredible 'Pynk' featuring Grimes - a cute little ode to cunnilingus, complete with a video featuring trousers that look a bit like vaginas - and cheeky album track 'Take A Byte,' Janelle Monae has come out in potentially the best possible way.

'Dirty Computer', an album paired with unapologetically honest visuals in the vain of 'Lemonade,' sees Janelle acknowledging and celebrating her sexuality and position as a black woman in a society that is always watching, and may not necessarily welcome this combo, across an impressive collection of songs spanning the genres of funk and R'n'B, including ballsy Zoe Kravitz collab 'Screwed,' and the retro, retrospective 'Crazy, Classic, Life.'. Album closer 'Americans' - an honest matter-of-fact look at the state of the country at the moment saying 'I'm not crazy baby, I'm American' whilst 'Django Jane' shows her success despite what may be perceived as an unorthodox, or for some, undesirable background. Fair play, Janelle - fair play.

Janelle contrasts the confident self-awareness towards the end of the album by alluding to her insecurities and fears to love in the sultry laid-back 'Don't Judge Me' and 'So Afraid' - a beautiful song that builds and builds to an epic chorus complete with strong guitar, before closing with a minute of stunning instrumental. Overall, a feisty, self-assured collection that I couldn't get enough of.

Fave Five - Make Me Feel, Pynk, Screwed, So Afraid, Americans

Fave Lyric - 'Let the vagina have a monologue' - Django Jane



-----

1. The 1975 - A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975 have slowly made the transition from NME credible indie-rockers to making fully fledged pop anthems, still with their trademark blend of Matt Healy vocals, slightly erratic melodies and unique matter-of-fact storytelling. Their 2nd album saw an introduction to this, as songs like 'The Sound' saw them dabble in a more classic pop delivery, and outright reference to pop-critics in the process via the music video, including reviews set against soft pink background in-between shots - way to put the point across, lads.

We were treated to a whole bunch of insta-grat songs prior to the album's release including personal favourites 'TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME' and 'It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)', and the more experimental 'Give Yourself A Try' - the first song we heard from this era. The track initially grated on me as a sort of noisy, busy mess, and didn't give me much hope for the album, but it slowly grew on me, maybe more due to the self-affirming lyrics and now I love the production. Imagery for the album teased that this album would be more experimental in parts, and upon the first listen, standout tracks included 'The Man Who Married A Robot,' a spoken piece about an individual addicted to the internet set to a delicate piano instrumental, which leads into a beautiful orchestral piece before booming into the simple yet effective 'Inside Your Mind.' 'How To Draw / Petrichor' is another track with minimal vocals that transforms from a haunting piece into, sort of, garage?

'Love It If We Made It' boasts strong, almost shouty vocals whilst 'I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)' is a hard-hitting honest piece that closes the album with another strong orchestral piece, and is very self-reflective alongside the stripped back 'Be My Mistake.' Overall, a very cleverly made album; touching on relationships both online and offline, loving and platonic, and even living and not living (substances, internet etc.) and full of an array of individual tracks I will find myself constantly coming back to.

Fave Five: TOOTIME, I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes), Be My Mistake, It's Not Living, Give Yourself A Try

Fave Lyric: 'Fuck your feelings, truth is only hear say' - Love It If We Made It


-----

So there we go - is there anything I've missed that you've loved this year?

Picture Credits: 1 2 3

I Started My Resolutions Early & It's Actually Turned Out Alright // A Christmas Eve Reflection

24 December 2018
^ Because what says Christmas more than the stacks upon stacks of Pannetone in Wilko's.


It's Christmas Eve and the bags for life filled with thoughtful pressies, cute little titbits and last-minute tat have now turned into piles of averagely wrapped shapes that give no clue as to what's inside, stacked like an adventurous game of Buckeroo, except there is no horse buckling under the strain, just this idiot, who treated his lacto-sensitive self to a large hot chocolate for his efforts.

I'm sat alone whilst my parents are out, 'wrapping' away, and found myself strangely reflecting on the year. Normally this doesn't happen until actual New Years - where for the last few years me, Mum and Dad have driven up to a random backstreet in London to watch the fireworks. On the strangely relaxing drive back, I find myself having one of those 'look out of the window as if you're in a music video' moments where I pick out the highlights and lowlights of the year and think about what I want from the next. This year though, as I find myself honestly just sort-of-suffocating a cute fluffy animal hot water bottle thing with wrapping paper that is fancy enough to give the impression I have my shit together (we're talking beautifully drawn reindeer and some copper detailing here - I know), my brain seemed amped to kick things off early.



I've tried making resolutions before - to very little success. With most resolutions you find yourself quitting something cold turkey, or jumping head first into an extreme lifestyle change, and whilst for some that is the key to success, the rest of us don't have that sort of willpower. For me, making small changes regularly has helped when it comes to a number of changes, including eating healthier, and adding variation into my diet. I don't want to brag but I've levelled up from a plain butterfly chicken in Nandos to medium and if that's not character development... I don't know what is. Last year, I told myself I'd not make any resolutions, just sort of go through the year, see what happens, see what I can fix and try again next year.



Here's the thing - I started my resolutions early. By early I mean... September. I'm not quite sure what kicked it off and where I found the motivation to do so; it may have been a similarly reflective journey home more than likely soundtracked by Now That's What I Call A Power Ballad, or an inspirational tweet that lead me to kick myself up the arse, or even simply a string of a few sad days I needed to bounce back from. It could also be the fact that I cling to the past a little and still see the start of the school year as a new beginning. Either way, I found myself planning and making changes to keep things moving in a positive direction which consisted of 3 main categories.



COOK MORE


Probably the main thing I wanted to change was to start cooking, and by cooking I mean making things from scratch

 A lot of my cooking involves putting things on a tray, in the oven, and working out timings to ensure whatever is in the oven is ready the same time as the veg I've shoved in the microwave - we love exciting nutrition. During this 10 minutes or so, I'm able to change out of my work clothes, and even make a sandwich for the next day, and I've spent as little time as possible ensuring I have as much as the evening left to do whatever I want as possible. Another aspect is price, as you can get a lot of prepared meat and potato products for very cheap, but to be honest if you make good choices you can sidestep this issue somewhat.

Simple things like making mash from scratch, or taking a day or two to cook mince so it's the perfect consistency, has helped me kick start this transition. Above is a cottage pie I made this weekend, which was absolutely beautiful, and as I find myself getting more and more confident, I find myself wanting to experiment more. If only people told us regularly that trying something and practising can make you pretty good and, more importantly, interested in cooking. Part of my motivation for this sits closely with what I see around me - a lot of people who can cook to a degree, have a meal or a few meals that are their statement meals. Meals that people associated with them and make sounds so close to an orgasm you wonder whether you should leave the room for a second. Selfishly, that's what I want. A weird surface-level reason, I know, but hey - it's motivation, and I'll take that where I can get it.


I love baking, I do okay with baking, it's just sometimes it takes a ruddy long time and effort to make something that's gone in (some cases) 60 seconds, but a lot of the time your brain is busy thinking about the steps, and how much you want to shove your finger in this sloppy mess featuring a shitload of raw egg, and it's relaxing. Sometimes my mum will help too so that's always lovely.


I've also upped the baking game again - I saw this video on Tasty where they'd spent 6 months or something perfecting their brownie recipe and I was eager to try, and also adapt it. Since the first okay attempt, I've jumped in with different flavoured chocolates and made some lush chocolate mint and chocolate orange brownies, which have gone down very well. My next attempt will feature winter spice, the forgotten Spice Girl who was supposed to replace Geri but her car didn't turn up for the Goodbye video shoot, 



TRAVEL MORE


I hadn't been on holiday properly since the end of 2016, for a number of reasons, and teased myself with a couple of day trips back in June - a lovely day trip to Brighton with one of my besties, and a traumatic eventful day in Paris where I nearly died - more on that another time. Whilst this had not put me off per se, I just didn't have the motivation to travel anywhere - people around me were taking solo and group trips abroad or even visiting places in the UK over the weekend and I wanted in.

Not the biggest jumps in the world, but I then proceeded to book a couple of UK trips. With the Christmas markets opening up in mid-November, I wanted to go and see the best. Last year, we took a trip to the Birmingham ones when it snowed and it was only partly better than 'meh.' Me and another bestie went away to Bath for a weekend, staying in an AirBNB, and doing all the tourist-y things possible on a grey November day, the weekend of the opening of the Christmas markets. It was a great weekend, and one of those very cliche moments where I thought - 'why don't I do this more often?'

I had also booked myself a 4-day trip to Edinburgh, again in an AirBNB, mostly for the markets but also to have a good old explore. My old camera had resurfaced so I was dying to try it out in a more interesting area than... West London. I'm sure my Mum was a little dubious about this trip, considering the afore-mentioned Paris trip, but all was fine, and I came back feeling great and inspired to take another short trip somewhere very soon, which I'm currently planning.



TREAT MYSELF MORE


Finally, and probably most importantly - self care. This partly encompasses all of the above when it comes to taking time for myself, as well as little things such as sitting in a coffee shop and getting myself a posh hot chocolate during the cold weather, getting lunch out on a Friday, seeing films with and hanging out with friends more (though this still needs a lot more work), but alludes more to what I now call 'Self Care Sundays'... which sounds a lot more ominous than it is. SCS is what I incorporated into my week every Sunday evening, a time when I'm normally at home, and a time that normally goes to waste. I put together a list of things that would relax me in preparation for the week ahead, and put together a weekly schedule.

This normally started with watching Doctor Who with my mum, undisturbed with my phone switched off, then making myself a nice bit of food, preparing breakfast and lunch for the next day whilst popping in and out of the living room to see what was happening on Strictly. Following this I would take myself upstairs for a shower and a shave, slap on some kind of food-scented body butter, pick a movie to watch, grab a drink and do a facemask. Not a lot, let's be real, but for those few hours it was my time, and it was lovely.


One night, I even booked myself a very cheap local hotel room and stayed overnight to take some time away from home. I ordered food, I watched TV and I did most of the above - it was absolute bliss.

So Rob, I hear you ask, what is the point of this post? Honestly, if nothing else, it's me patting myself on the back and saying well done - that motivation you've been (barely) looking for is there somewhere and it's further coming out of hibernation just in time for 2019. There's still some things we need to work on, so grab this motivation, make good choices and make this next year a good'un.

Grub Crawl: The Pheasant Inn and Restaurant

18 October 2018

A couple of weeks back it was my dear friend Kirstie's (who you may know as KirstieKins) birthday, and to celebrate we all took a trip to The Pheasant Inn and Restaurant. As a group who normally find ourselves at a TGI Friday, Nandos or for a few of us what has become a regular staple - Red Iron Burger - it was nice surprise to have a new birthday contender thrown into the ring/group chat.

The Pheasant wasn't a place I'd come across before - it's slightly hidden away on a residential street off the main road in Harlington - but one look at the menu and you could tell this was going to be a nice place, and I for one was very excited.

On the outside, The Pheasant appears as a standard, if not maybe a little extra, pub - we walked through a small part of the pub and it looked very nice, and as we took a trip through to the back we found ourselves in a very snazzy restaurant. The waiting area was dressed to the nines, complete with slick modular black sofas and shiny tables, and we were met with a smile and a joke - even though our half of the group were actually 20 minutes late...


I kicked things off with an old favourite - Shepherd's Pie. The last time I had a Shepherd's Pie was a ready meal phoney I'd picked up on the way home from a long day at work, on a Spring day that was more than likely groggy, threatening to rain but not quite raining, still a bit cold but not freezing, but you're still wearing your big coat just to be safe, even though you're definitely sweating a bit - you know the sort've grey sky that you just look up at and think... 'same.' It consisted of approximately 4% filling and what felt like 130% mash, and left a crusty residue and sad puddles of gravy that again you just look at and think... 'same.'

The menu offered a great selection of gastro-gourmet-grub ranging anywhere from 12 to 20 quid, and as we were finally starting to feel the effect of Autumn (or as I like to call it, Pie Season), this felt like the best option - I was after something hearty, with that homemade feel and wasn't feeling ambitious enough to try the sword fish... yet. Kirstie, if you're reading this, I'm sure you'll twist my arm at some point.

It was served with a selection of vegetables, and a personal gravy boat, with everything neatly compartmentalised which was incredibly satisfying to look at. The mash to filling ratio was more of a 25:75 which was much appreciated, and the filling had quite a smoky taste to it, which is something I'd never experienced before. There's not really a lot to say about cooked vegetables - they tasted real, and were definitely cooked, and that's all I need. Overall, a very lovely meal.

 Amidst another impressive list of mouth-watering puddings, or desserts because, you know, we were fancy this evening, I saw two of my favourite words jump out at me - Banoffee and... you guessed it - pie (I told you, it's Pie Season.) I'd like to think I've mastered making a mean Banoffee Pie - sure the toffee I make is never hard enough and doesn't set properly, sure I still can't seem to cut bananas equally or even straight, and sure I never crush my biscuits small enough to make a legit neat crust, but it's so. bloody. tasty. that none of that matters. A disheveled pile of slop that makes you think..- you get it.

One look of this petite, rich beauty (pictured first) though and I was in love. I was happy to bow down in it's honour. In my head, I curtseyed. In my mouth, I salivated. On the outside, I played it cool, don't worry. Again, the ratio between each layer was perfect, and it was served with a glorious, satisfyingly perfect scoop of vanilla ice cream - you know you've got the good stuff when you can actually see the vanilla (though my picture above is not doing it justice.) There were lovely additional little touches, including the icing sugar and chocolate underneath, and the cocoa powder dusted on top of the cream, and overall it just tasted immense.

Birthday Queen Kirstie was also treated to a celebratory dessert, complete with a chocolate swiss roll type cake, whipped cream and strawberries, as well as the obligatory fancy, sometimes waste of good chocolate sauce, but overall joyous 'Happy Birthday' on the plate.


With an impressive list of cocktails, I went with Ye Olde Faithful and had a Mojito. I've said it many times, and will probably say it many more, but it's very easy to get a Mojito wrong. Though a little strong, the mix of lime and mint was spot on, and it all tasted real... you know, none of the fake syrup shit.

Overall, I had a great meal with some great people and would definitely go again.