Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Saturday Salute 31.07.10

Image thanks to jane rahman

Exactly a month from today I will be setting off for Spain... Cue panicked excitement. Also, I seem to be getting to grips with the technical problems I mentioned on Monday, but there may still be further blips as I'm switching hosts of my custom domain.

This weekend I'm out enjoying the Bristol Harbour Festival so will share photos in the coming days. Here are the links, minks:

Interesting Veggie bacon, I want to try making it but it looks like a hella lot of effort.

I'm loving the lingerie from Eco-Boudoir whose tagline is 'Luxury with a Conscience'. And on that note, you should read about more than pretty knickers.

Frock & Roll's thoughts on becoming a better writer.

What Stephen Fry wishes he'd known at 18 - I love this! (Don't be put off by the length and the fact that it's a little boring to start with, it gets goooooood.)

Thursday, 29 July 2010

A Case of the Nasty Niggles

Image thanks to hillary

nig•gle (n g l)
intr.v. nig•gled, nig•gling, nig•gles
1. To be preoccupied with trifles or petty details.
2. To find fault constantly and trivially; carp.

Lately, I’ve had a bad case of the niggles, and it’s been dragging me down to Chinatown on a daily basis. And, frankly, I’m fed up of it. The common niggle can pop up in a variety of guises and circumstances; it can be based on how you look, the work you’re doing, the choices you’re making, your relationships...

Here are some examples of nasty niggles:
  • I can’t do it.
  • Somebody is doing it better.
  • I’m not original.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’ll surely fail.

Want to know something shocking? Everyone has thought these things once in their life, and I mean everyone. Your parents felt it. Your hero felt it. The most beautiful girl at school felt it. Lady Gaga felt it.

The fact is us humans tend to focus on our shortcomings rather than our successes. For example, I often read blogs and think ‘wow, what a good idea, why couldn’t I think of something like that?’ But the truth is, I do have original ideas. I wrote a book. I have a following of several hundred people, all interested in what I have to say: why can’t I give myself a pat on the back rather than a mental nag to do better?

But a pesky, petty niggle does not make you a failure. When those bad thoughts strike, don’t let them debilitate you, because it’s the continuation that counts; the perseverance that pays off. Have the doubts, feel the bad feelings, but keep going regardless. You’ll get there, just like everyone else did.

What are your nasty niggles right now? A niggle shared is a niggle halved.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Words to Live By #101

Image thanks to jane rahman

"The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate."
Oprah Winfrey

I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, but I am having serious technical woes with the blog, with many people (including me) unable to access the site. I'm doing my best to resolve the issues so stick with me! 

Hope you had a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Ultimate Amsterdam on a Budget, Part Two

Read Part One First!

Where to Eat

Staying with family meant that I ate the majority of my meals in whilst in Amsterdam – but there were exceptions.

Delicious cake and pear juice in a cafe who's name I can't recall but was in none other than the red light district! I love the plates.

Bagels and Beans. We didn’t actually stop to eat here, but perused the menu and were most impressed. They do a range of tasty sweet and savoury bagels, healthy smoothies, and coffee. Prices aren’t super cheap, but reasonable, at around €5.00 for a filled bagel. Check out the menu here, the second half of it is in English.

♥ If you want to do something really special, consider breakfast at the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, on main 'Dam Square', which runs from 8am until 11am. This certainly isn’t cheap at €30 per person, but there is champagne, delicious waffles with stewed cherries and dark chocolate sauce, and stunning scenery. You’ll feel very posh, and that’s always nice.

♥ For a yummy snack, in the main tourist areas you’re likely to see lots of people clutching small cones of Frites (Dutch Fries) with a dollop of Mayonnaise, available at various hatch-like vendors. At €1.50, don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Where to Play

♥ If you do want to experience Amsterdam’s ‘coffee shops’ where marijuana is sold as ‘Space Cakes’ or smoked, there’s a relaxed and friendly atmosphere at Barneys.

Vintage shops and markets. I was pleasantly surprised by the abundance of beautiful vintage clothing to be found in Amsterdam. The above was one shop that really stood out, but I don’t remember the street name. I do remember that it was on the way to Waterlooplein flea market, which was also something of an experience:

A vintage vixen's wet dream.

However, I got a hot tip that the place you really want to be is the Monday market where few things are above €5-10.00 and you can even bag some top designer garb!

Boat tours. Cheap at around €10.00, the ‘Lovers’ (not actually reserved for lovers, although my friend and I did get mistaken for a gay couple whilst in Amsterdam... but that's another story) tour leaves from just outside the Anne Frank house and takes approximately an hour and a half. There are plenty of other boat tours, but the ‘hop on/hop off’ ones can make for the best value day out.

Things to See

The Anne Frank House, Dam Square, Heineken Experience, Tulip Museum, Van Gogh Museum.

What to Take

♥ The weather in Amsterdam seemed pretty unpredictable. We were lucky and got blazing sunshine when we were expecting cold and showers, but it could go the other way, so prepare for all instances.

♥ Take plenty of cash as overseas withdrawals and card transactions can often be expensive. Budget-wise, it’s easy to do Amsterdam fairly cheaply, as long as you can avoid being tempted by the shopping! Though even that can be done on a shoestring. Trip Advisor has its own guide (scroll down and download the PDF) with a variety of eating out, entertainment, and accommodation options for varying budgets.

♥ A load of cycle chic outfits.

Have you been to Amsterdam? What was your highlight or horror? Any tips?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Ultimate Amsterdam on a Budget, Part One

Forget the hype about pot or prostitutes, this Netherlands capital has so much more to offer. How does vintage markets, boat rides, amazing food, and stirring history sound? Like the perfect girly weekend? Thought so.

Here’s how I whetted my Amsterdam appetite... 

Before you go:

♥ Print off a Google map to save money and time and know where you’re going on the other side. Be sure to get the names of the smaller streets as well as the bigger ones as you’re just as likely to get lost there!

♥ Although the general public in Amsterdam were some of the nicest I’ve come across when travelling, and more than happy to converse with you in fluent English, take the time to learn one or two words as it will really impact how you are received. Dank u wel, for example, is ‘thank you’. See more basic Dutch greetings here.

How to Travel:

If you’re coming from the UK then bag a cheap flight with Easyjet and it will take you just an hour. From the Airport you can take a train to the central station, which is around 3 Euros and takes about 15 minutes.

Alternatively, if you’re close by in Europe, then I’d highly recommend taking the train (which is how we left Amsterdam). A high-speed Eurostar from Amsterdam to Paris cost us only 33 Euros and took just 3 hours, plus we avoided the inevitable waiting around at the airport, and lengthy security checks etc.

Once in the city most places of note and be reached on foot or, if you're brave enough, by bike! There are places to rent bicycles all over the place, so do a little research before you go and find somewhere near where you're staying. There are also hop on/hop off boats that ferry you around the canals, but more of that in Part Two! There is also a thriving tram system, but we didn’t use it.

Where to Stay:

Similarly to when I stayed with friends in Milan, on this trip I dropped in on my cooler-than-cool Japanese aunt (she has an online shop here). Her apartment was wonderfully kooky and it was so nice to catch up with her as we hadn’t seen each other for over a decade! Just check out her shoe collection:

Excuse the blurry picture, it must have been over-excitement!

The hospitality of people never fails to amaze me when I stay with them – if you’ve never tried it, I defy you not to be in awe at how accommodating friends and family can be, and even friends of friends, or friends of family, as I’ve found!

Sweet snacks and a stunning view.

But if you don’t have a handy port of call in Amsterdam, never fear.

♥ Initially I began looking for a hostel and, to my surprise, didn’t find a great many of them around. The chief student hotspot seems to be The Flying Pig which looks to be a fab budget option and a great way to meet other young people staying in the city.

♥ If you want something a little more sophisticated and quiet, it seems you could do worse than Hotel Museumzicht from $70 a night which, when sharing with someone else, is not far off what you would pay in a hostel.

…And that’s your lot for Part One! Part Two speeding your way later this week.

On another note, I'm experiencing problems viewing the site (which may explain any gaps or funny business in the layout of this article) - has anyone had similar problems? It's been on and off since I switched to a custom domain, so I'm afraid it is linked to that, but I don't know how to remedy it... Input appreciated!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Words to Live By #100

Image thanks to jane rahman

“At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the sun.”

Well blow me down, one hundred WTLB. Can you fathom it? Thank you for sharing every one of these special quotes with me. Here's to the next hundred!

P.S. You can now take a look at the first batch of items that I am selling on ebay. I hope there's something that takes your fancy, don't hesitate to ask me any questions! (And if you're curious as to why my ebay name is Tamsin, that's my mum!) I'll be posting up more bits and pieces throughout the week.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

The Saturday Salute 17.07.10

Today I made my friend frittata and salad for lunch. After dabbling with the idea on-and-off for years and reluctantly making myself watch Earthlings last night, I'm now officially vegetarian. Hopefully the pictures above show that you can have a delicious, balanced, beautiful meal without a hint of meat in sight. The smaller bowl of salad is even made up of our very own, homegrown Mange Tout and French Beans - good ey?

Proof that you really can fight cellulite with water, plus some tasty recipe ideas.

Fierce Frostings, one of Charade's beloved readers, interviews Sarah Von, who is also a beloved. Heck, I love everyone!

Help send Jodi to India for a truly awesome cause.

You should also check out the War on Want.

That's all folks! Thanks so much for all the lovely encouragement you dished up regarding my Spainish adventure - definite warm and fuzzy moment, I'll be sure to keep you regularly updated. This weekend I'm clearing out my wardrobe and getting some preloved goodies on ebay, so watch out for the chance to snap up my ex-threads for a steal!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Out into the Big Wide World: A Megan-Shaped Update

Image thanks to jane rahman

So, here’s something:

On August 31st I am moving to Spain for a year.
Well, ten months, but that doesn’t have quite the same impact now does it?

Oh baby. Did you see that one coming? Truth be told, I didn’t either.

Here’s my reasoning in all its candid glory. Excuse the messy mind-blurt format - we’re all friends here:

  • For as long as I can remember, it has been my plan to experience living in many different countries, cities, and cultures. Spain was never top of my list, but the universe has thrown the opportunity in my direction and who am I to argue with the universe??

  • I am partaking in the Erasmus exchange scheme which involves a plethora of plus-points, namely:

    - My tuition fees are waived for the year. (To all you non-residents of the British Isles that’s a whopping £3,200 I’ve saved right there.)

    - I get a monthly, non-repayable grant of several hundred Euros per month. I’m not yet sure of figures or else you know I’d be dishing the dirt, but last year it was €365.

    - I am supported in what is actually a pretty intimidating, crazy, panic-infused step by an educational institution, URV.

    - Bargain Spanish lessons for a year! If I can’t give you an authentic sounding Hola by the end of that then I give you permission to throw cabbages at me. I’ll also be learning Catalan, the regional language, for free.

    - The chance to meet a whole bunch of other students experiencing the scheme from all over Europe (HELLO new homes to crash at on my holidays!)

    - Education-wise, the year is marked on a Pass/Fail basis rather than my receiving a formal grade. As the UK system means your first year works on a Pass/Fail basis too, my entire grade for my degree rests on my second year which I have just completed. I got a First. Yazoo!
  • I’ll be learning my own subject (English Literature, unfortunately there are no Creative Writing Modules) in my own language with Spaniards who are passionate about English Literature – and here’s where you see into the ridiculous recesses of my psyche – therefore they must have an appreciation of English culture, therefore they’ll like English people, therefore… I’ll be super popular!?

    No? Let a girl dream won’t you!

  • I’ll be spitting distance from Barcelona, perhaps one of the top ten sexiest cities of the world (sexy translating as: incredible architecture, beautiful people, crazy-badass-shopping, and a buzzing café culture which is perhaps my favourite of all the classically continental qualities.)

  • And finally, dammit, I’m gonna get me some sunshine! Which, coming from England, will certainly be a novelty ;)

I see myself in a breezy apartment, scooting around on a vintage bicycle with a wicker basket threaded with flowers, wearing striped summer dresses and my new Birkenstocks (which I am determined to integrate into a stylish wardrobe) carrying a satchel, wearing non-prescription glasses and loading up on ‘look! I’m intelligent!’ type books in the University library. That’s right, I’m bringing international-student-sexy back. To what extent this visualisation will come to fruition remains to be seen, but the aspiration is certainly there!

What do you think? Are you excited for me? Afraid for my sanity? Do you want to hear more about my experiences? I’m thinking of starting a serial diary of being an international student, perhaps once a month – would that be cool?

In other news, this evening I am flying home from Italy where I have been staying with my friend for the past ten days. I’ve had a wonderful time but am really excited to be going home. Expect excessive talk and photos from my travels over the next fortnight!

And enough about me for heaven’s sake, how the hell are you? How’s summer treating you? What are your plans for the coming academic year?

Monday, 12 July 2010

Words to Live By #99

Image thanks to hillary

"The hardest battle you're ever going to fight is the battle to be just you."
Leo Buscaglia

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Saturday Salute 09.07.10

Image thanks to hillary

God I love Life After College, especially Jenny's recent Money Manifesto.

"What I want most for myself, for my friends, and for all of you is to see money as a source of freedom, not imprisonment. Of empowerment, not guilt or shame. Of conscious choices, not feelings of frustration or ignorance."

Jenny's article also linked to this which I thought was awesome: what's your side hustle?

How to Have Good Luck on Think.Simple.Now is totally worth a twenty minute timeout to read.

How to Make Perfect Cookie Dough from Rhyming with Purple.

And for a guilty giggle...

That's all for now! Adieu!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Travelling with Friends: 7 Do’s and Don’ts

Image thanks to Jane Rahman

I’ve travelled with family, alone, with my boyfriend, and with friends. All have their particular delights, downsides and things to keep in mind. Whether you’ve experienced travelling with friends or are cautiously considering it, here are my tips for keeping things sweet:

1. Do choose your travelling friends wisely. Just because you took a class together once or love going out for cocktails, doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily make great travel buddies. Someone can be the nicest person you’ve ever met, but that doesn’t inherently mean you can spend day and night with them for two weeks or more. Opt for well-travelled, mature friends with whom you share an equal passion for the place/places you’re visiting. That said, travel can often really enhance a friendship so don’t be too picky – just go with your gut.

2. Don’t forget: less is more. It may seem the biggest cliché going, but two truly is company whilst three is very often a crowd. Similarly, when you start stretching beyond four you’ve got a veritable melting pot of conflicting interests and potential fallouts. I’d recommend doing a Noah’s Ark and travelling in twos unless you are very familiar with spending time together as a larger group, otherwise you might experience some nasty surprises.

3. Do be aware that you will have different priorities. Even if you’re the best of friends there are bound to be some conflicts of interest, and you may even be unfortunate enough to face this at every turn, after all it can be hard to really know someone until you start spending solid lots of 24 hours together. If you find this happening then why not take it in turns to plan each day. When it’s not your day try to be as laidback as possible and allow yourself to be open to new experiences. Discuss at the offset what you’d each like to do and split your time as required. If necessary, it’s no big deal to spend an afternoon apart each doing your own thing and meet for dinner, and in fact this can often really refresh your enthusiasm for doing things together.

4. Don’t expect plain sailing. Travelling is tough but often doesn’t get thought of as such, instead there is a constant pressure to be enjoying yourself. However, walking miles upon miles everyday in not the best shoes, in weather conditions you are perhaps not used to, on what is often very little sleep, tackling another language, facing dreaded public transport, and all the while trying to fit someone else’s agenda, well, it’s pretty tough at times! The trick is take the pressure off; be realistic about what you have the time and funds to do and be sure they are things you’re both excited about. If you find you are getting on each others nerves at any point just be honest, make a joke about it, take a deep breath, realise travel is stressful, sit down for a coffee, keep calm and carry on!

5. Do be considerate. Sounds obvious, but make the effort to treat your friend as you would like to be treated: keep your stuff neat in hotel rooms, offer to buy the odd bus ticket or ice cream, happily take photos of them beside the sites etc. These little things can make the trip all the more enjoyable for both of you.

6. Don’t have different budgets. Where you stay, where you eat, which tourist attractions you venture out to… all of these depend on your budget, and are all things you’ll be doing together. Money can be difficult to talk about even with good friends, but if you both start out with the same budget you will each have the same expectations and it will also help to keep things fair. It might help to have a joint ‘kitty’, a shared purse/wallet where you each put in the same amount and spend on entry fees etc.

7. Do share responsibilities. From booking accommodation to mustering up your limited French to ask for a café au lait – each of you should take a leading role in your trip. If not, there could potentially be resentful feelings because one of you is taking the lion’s share. You’ll each have your strengths and weaknesses, so tailor your roles to these. On my trip I was happy to hunt down great budget hotels and ask questions, whilst Virgo Cai was important document organiser and chief map reader.

What do you think of my tips for travelling with friends? What have you learned from travelling with your gal or even guy pals? Do you prefer to travel in a large or small group? What have been your memorable ups and downs?

Monday, 5 July 2010

Words to Live By #98

Image thanks to yvette
"There is not one big cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person."
Anais Nin