Another Catch Up

Hi everyone!

It’s been a good month and a half since my last post. I made sure to take some time off after exams to chill then ended up diving into part-time work in a slightly drastic change to my routine that took some time to adjust to. I’ve managed to get a little bit of balance back, so here is a rambling post about some of the things I was up to recently, with some photos of other things I did.

This lil cat from The Kitty Cafe in Nottingham represents me during the summer. And maybe all the time.

You all know I have a long list of hobbies and interests I like to switch and rotate between a lot. Makeup has fully fallen out of the rotation, it seems. I haven’t touched my box of new items in MONTHS and I wear the same casual lipsticks for work all the time, although to be fair I have rarely gone out to do anything else. So, as a result, I am kind of stuck for beauty content.

I have picked my reading back up again as well, although it seems my pace slows every time I do. I finally finished reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, and then I finished Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin, too. I particularly loved the latter, especially the second half. It’s very sweet and emotive, not romantic in the typical sense, and deliciously dark. I will be seeing Sarah Maria Griffin in an event in a few weeks, which I am really excited for now.

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Some terrible doodled versions of covers of the books I read.

Just a few days ago, I finished Blade Runner, or originally ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ by Philip K. Dick – It’s a shorter read compared to my last two but I am enjoying it a lot so far. I’m only two chapters in, and the worldbuilding is done really… concisely, with lots of ‘show, don’t tell’. As much as I can deal with flowery prose, I really like this about this book so far. Gotta take notes.

Anyhow, my next pick will be Sabriel by Garth Nix. I have a goal to make it through as much of my current TBR this summer as possible!

This is Zaap Thai Street Food, also in Nottingham. I thought I had stepped out onto a street on the other side of the world! The details were amazing and reminded me of a night in Ho Chi Minh City, too.

I recently acquired a Nintendo Switch, so most of my days off have consisted of wandering Hyrule semi-aimlessly. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is so OPEN and I love it – almost everything can be interacted with. At some point, I am going to have to learn and actually remember some combat controls though because simply charging into the nearest enemy flailing a Boko Bat and panicking won’t work all the time…

My favourite part of the game beyond exploring is probably gathering ingredients and cooking food, as boring as that sounds. Autosaves in this game make me feel invincible even though I’ve gotten ‘Game Over’ at least nine times. I do like to dive into new areas but you know when it’s misty and I paraglide in only to have the mist reveal a bunch of Lizalfos that kill me in one hit? Sigh, yeah that kind of sucks.

The Warehouse Cafe is a nice Veggie Only place to check out. I wasn’t into this dish (the filo parcel) personally but I’d love to go back and check out other items on their menu!

I also bought Stardew Valley, which I really like because whilst I loved Harvest Moon DS, it was… tedious, for lack of a better word. Stardew Valley feels very similar… maybe better, though! I tend to like these no-pressure games a lot more. I also bought Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, for another open-world like BOTW, but also no-pressure kind of thing. It’s okay so far. Can’t climb things though. Can’t even enter buildings or swim, so it’s not as open, and sometimes the movement and camera controls make me dizzy, but it’s a welcome change from Guardians and Lizalfos.

I feel stuck with my drawing. I’m finding it really hard to be happy with stuff I draw at the moment making it really hard to continue. I keep thinking every line and resulting picture needs to be perfect (I finally understand the idea of ‘meaningful lines’ my art teacher kept going on about in school but it’s hard!) and it’s so frustrating that I can’t put my ideas on paper/computer yet. I think I will start experimenting with brush settings and some other digital techniques beyond just sketching. I have actually gone back to dabbling in writing too, but like… actually writing stuff instead of just planning forever and never getting words down on the page.

Anyway, I am scheduling some long-overdue beauty posts from before the hiatus, and I hope to still be chatting to myself here afterwards. If I’m not grinding for money or still dying in games.

Until next time,

X

Places: Paradice Gelateria, Harbourne High Street

I’ve never done a review of a place before so this is interesting!

One evening, J and Q were discussing a nice place to go eat ice cream when I realised that I, too, also had free time to go try some of this good stuff! So off we went.

Paradice Gelateria on Harbourne High Street is about 10-15 minutes away from Birmingham city centre by bus, using the 22, 23, or 24 routes which all go along this road. The Gelateria is right next to one of the bus stops. It was my first time visiting this area and I saw about ten charity shops just walking along afterwards with Q and J, so I’ve put it on my to-do list to visit again to have a look at all the shops! I really love charity shops.

Anyway, Paradice has really lovely decor with off whites, mint greens and chocolate coloured decor. It’s also well lit without a dark corner in sight, as it has large window-walls on both sides of the shop. There’s a kids play area in the corner if you are bringing little ones, and if you are not, the kids are the only things breaking the quiet vibe there.

It has an extensive menu with a variety of things to eat. Of course the highlight is the gelato, but they also serve it with crepes and waffles, and they also offer other hot desserts and savoury crepes too.

I chose to have a warm Belgian Waffle with mango sauce and a scoop of their Ferrero Rocher ice cream… And it looked amazing. I was a bit worried that mango and chocolate would be a strange combo but honestly the mango sauce adds so much bright colour and is fruity to taste, too. If I were not in public I would have licked the plate clean.

Q chose to have two desserts for lunch, an apple cinnamon tart and some warm cookie dough, whilst J chose to have scoops of gelato – Ferrero Rocher and Cappuchino being her choices. I admit I was tempted by coffee-flavoured ice cream too because I always am, but wanted to try something new.

 

Those chairs! 

 

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience at Paradice and I’d love to visit again to try the cookie dough, apple tart or fondant – there’s also the selection of gelato to get through too…

Thanks for reading! Until next time,

X

Food Adventures

Mom has been gone for about a week now. I haven’t missed her much- it’s only 10 days. I know I was ranting on for a while in my last personal post but I was madder about the short notice than her going abroad.

Dad has had to run the Nail Salon in her steed, leaving me at home with a half empty fridge to feed myself and my siblings with. On Saturday we had Mom’s smoked mackerel that she bought but didn’t eat due to her trip, leaving it close to the use by date. Three servings, which was perfect for the three of us. On Sunday, whist Dad was out I made omelettes, throwing in some chopped shallot (like mini onions to me, perfect if we can’t use an entire one in one go) and  yellow pepper for the illusion of healthiness. Derp attempted to add cheese as well. It was the soft cheese spread type, and whilst the result looked edible, it wasn’t a five star dish.

Then I made mug cakes. It’s been quite a while since I’ve made some at all. After my attempts to be healthier, mug cakes have been off the cookery list, but there are no snacks available at home. I use the recipes from food blog Kirbie’s Cravings (note to self – link!), improvising where necessary. None of my recent mug cakes have been rising well, and I think this might have something to do with the self raising flour, even though I have used it many times before without trouble. I used apples from our garden for the ones I made yesterday, and banana and cinnamon lying around to make this one.


It was edible, just really really dense!

I probably won’t be the next master chef or Nadiya Hussain (that British Bake Off final was too intense! ) but you could probably count on me to feed you in a sudden food emergency…

X

Textbooks and Apple Sauce

Laughably, if anybody wants a decent textbook to study with this year, the School will be of no help. Last year, having fallen short on AS textbooks they had to give us revision guides for free. The AS textbooks in question weren’t even the right ones for our specification and I’m personally not fond of revision guides as they are condensed versions of textbooks and sometimes leave out important detail – my notes will usually do, in that case.

Their reason for not buying new ones? The specifications for our courses have changed and there is no point in buying new books for only one year group. So every time I see the year 12s walking around with their pristine, new books I can’t help but glower, even if they’re bulkier to accomodate 2 years of A-Levels.

(If you don’t know, AS and A2 levels are now separate so there’s no point doing 4 and choosing to drop one at the end of Y12- it won’t count for anything. All A2 level exams are taken at the end of the course – i.e. the new Y12s have internal exams that help their teachers make UCAS predictions, and then they have twice as many exams in Y13. For this reason different schools are approaching this differently: my brother’s school has told them they can only do three subjects in Y12, but at my school they still do four and drop the subject with the worst end-of-year grade.)

Having received unsatisfactory AS results I am taking absolutely no chances this year and bought my textbooks out of my own pocket (I know, this is like, the parental area of spending but it’s easier to order them myself). Firstly, I bought AT’s AS biology textbook as she did well enough to not have to resit biology – the money will go towards her own A2 textbook! Then I ordered an AS CHEM2 unit guide. (I know what I just said about guides. But my notes are actually quite good so this is a little supplement, specific to the unit I’m retaking, that is easier to carry around than my huge lever arch folder. Plus it was only £3 with free shipping. I need all the help I can get.)

I did attempt to bid for textbooks on eBay but, when shipping was taken into account, I did just as well with buying it right away. Plus, I am awful at bidding. Sigh.

My A2 chemistry textbook was ordered new for a discounted price and arrived a day later than estimated, but it came with this lovely post it note scrawled in beautiful handwriting.

This note has made my day, and the star stickers are a cute bonus. Thank you, ebay seller. I will do my best. The note has gone up on my wall and fits snugly in a gap between some postcards.

Altogether, my educational spending came around to just over £61. At full price this would have been over £90 so every pound counts!

Secondly, Twerp and Dad harvested some of the apples and pears from our trees in the garden. Our apples are really sour and not nice unless you like sour apples or eat them with a little savoury dip, so we took two out of the three harvested and had a go at making apple sauce using a simple recipe on the BBC Food website. It was surprisingly quick and really really easy – all the time taken is through peeling and chopping  the apples and cooking only took us 5-10 minutes.
Here is a really bad photo of our applesauce.

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It was a huge hit with our roast chicken!

This has been a brief summary of my day… yesterday. Not much else happens now besides stressful things.

Until next time,
X

Weekly Thoughts #10

I am typing almost half asleep and am blissfully wondering if I could squeeze in a nap before dinner…

  1. I think one of the single biggest factors of my skincare problems is my lack of sleep. The other is hydration, which has been easier to rectify. I get into bed at 10pm but don’t fall asleep until midnight, giving me an average of 8 hours’ sleep (7 on school days or when I stay attached to the family iPad) when I should try to get more as I definitely have the time.
  2. I have attempted to stick to a blogging routine but well, personal happenings do not happen on a schedule so I think I shall just roll with this semi-scheduled format.
  3. I have discovered a new eating place near Mom’s nail salon. I have walked past it so many times on my way to get lunch at Greggs’ (or another local eatery) but never entered the shop. The Spud Oven does simple lunch foods like jacket potatoes (with a great variety of toppings) and pork sandwiches and soups and regular sandwiches and sometimes other hot foods like cheese and potato pie. I am a convert and will be visiting regularly from now on!
  4. I bought a slightly battered copy of Game of Thrones from a charity shop to ‘try out’ but I think I may have dived into the deep end of the pool. I feel as if this series should be read first and watched later because knowing what happens by watching, I no longer have the patience to read all about it again. The books, however, are just as vivid and action-packed as the TV series which is a good thing to know. On the other hand I bought some old pop CDs from the 2000s and I’m really not sure whether to regret this or not – ah well, for 50p each I can’t go too far wrong… can I???
  5. I am developing a vague interest in tea, and have purchased Pure Green Tea and Mint-and-Green Tea for the health benefits of the Green, even though I am not a fan of the taste – the mint is a welcome addition and sometimes I put lemon in my Pure Green Tea. I also bought a small box of Chamomile Tea for the evenings to help me relax and possibly help with my sleeping routine. These teas are surprisingly really affordable at less than £1 a box for own brands (I bought mine from The Co-Operative Supermarket) and a bit more for Twinings.
  6. I (or rather, Mom) bought a pair of beautiful new boots at New Look in the kind of style I have been lusting after for months and months (Mom justified this by fitting well into them as well so we can share!). I love block heels with platforms in particular but they’re particularly hard to find sometimes, especially as I have small feet (I fit a size 3 with wide fit and 4 without). New Look have a lot of items in styles I love and the biggest blessing is that their stuff actually fits my petite frame. I spotted a long t-shirt style top which is now on my mental wish list for my next after-work shopping spree.
  7. I ripped out my Lael Cowl and started it over again as I didn’t like the rolling stockinette at the beginning. Instead, I replaced it with seed stitch which doesn’t roll and adjusted the pattern so that the bumps in the main pattern fall in line. I have knit enough to catch up to where I should be as the 3rd episode of The Great British Bake Off is on tonight.
  8. I have re-done my nails twice since my last nail-related update, so a post is long overdue. The parents have plans to redecorate the salon and I got a huge bagful of throwaway polishes that have questionable colours and half-full bottles… But c’mon. It’s free nail polish – even if my mom has a particular disdain for those brands (How could she not like China Glaze? Really.)

The back to school rush has well and truly started  – I’m exhausted from today’s shift at work, I mean we have a ticket system for a reason, dear customers, don’t tell us we’re crap for not catering to your every whim when you didn’t get a damn ticket or bother to get measured – and that only serves as a grim reminder that we have like, two weeks left of the holidays.

I swear, yesterday I still had my entire life ahead of me, what happened?

X

P.S. It’s my brother’s turn for GCSE Results Day tomorrow. Wish him luck.

Free Graze snack box! (Review and code)

(Scroll down for a friendcode for a free box, as well as your 5th and 10th if you decide to continue your orders! You have to give payment details but it’s really easy to stop orders if you want to.)

(Disclaimer: I was not paid or anything. I just ordered my free box and I’m giving an honest review of my experience.)

Graze are a snack company that deliver healthy snacks (although they have a treat range too) to your door. They are often doing ‘free first box’ deals, and whilst I know that we should always be cautious of online deals (my dad got duped once), my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered my free box (I am a sucker for freebies). I ordered it on Wednesday, they packaged it and sent it off on Thursday and it arrived on Saturday… so, pretty quick!

(Sorry, US residents, but as far as I know they deliver nationwide in the UK only!)

The boxes are conveniently letter-box sized so that they are delivered with your post. I chose to order a ‘light box‘, where all the snacks chosen are under 150 calories… surprisingly, the selection was still big.
   

The snacks they send are usually a random selection based on your ‘try’, ‘like’, ‘love’ or ‘bin’ ratings. All the snacks are set to ‘try’ by default (you shouldn’t be picky with things you’ve never tried) but if there’s something you really really despise then you can ‘bin’ it, but if you want it in your next box there’s an extra ‘send soon’ tick box!

In my free box, I received the Banana/Hazelnut Bread with their Afternoon Tea Infusion (a tea bag) , the Veggie Sushi Plate, the Rhubarb and Custard and the Roasted Pistachio Nuts. They’re not all what they say in the titles but the graze website does list the things in each mini-box in full so you know it’s not real custard or salmon sashimi.

I can tell you all now, that as I type, three out of four snacks have been demolished and I am munching on my sushi plate. I’m the sort of person who eats almost everything, so the format of these boxes with the surprises and the healthiness is my thing. Unfortunately, my sister can’t eat half of the available snacks because of her specific nut allergies, so if you also have nut allergies you’ll probably want to avoid these snacks.

At full price, this is £3.99. Graze also do loyalty offers and things that make it even more affordable than it already is. Plus we ran out of snacks at home so the free delivery to your home makes it very convenient. I will probably be buying from Graze again, just not that often, and only when I need to or feel like trying something new.

X

P.S. I have two kinds of codes available. One is the reward code, for 1st, 5th and 10th boxes free (this brings down the price to around 2.79 per box if you buy 10 boxes!). Here’s a special link with the code: https://www.graze.com/uk/p/XUANV6QCU
(I get a reward for this one, so it’s win-win.)

The second code is for a £5 voucher. This pays for your first box and about £1 of your next, or just £5 off a sharing box (worth £15). I don’t get a reward for this one but it might be more convenient for some of you. Plus I have only two of these and it’s only valid for 1 person at a time. If you’d like this one, email me here: twentyswans@gmail.com and I’ll reply with the code. It’s first come, first serve.
P.P.S. Remember to stop your orders if you only want the one free box, or payment will be taken for the next one!!!

Weekly Thoughts #5

I’ve been busy pretending to be an adult.

  1. I got a summer job! This makes me feel all grown up… Hooray! I will be fitting shoes at a Clarks store over the summer, when all the kids come in to get their new school shoes – it’s going to be chaos, especially as ‘uniform’ is all black. Me wearing black in summer is not unheard of, but working in a crowded store too? I’m going to overheat. All the same, I am looking forward to earning some extra money this summer and potentially becoming a year-round part-timer as opposed to just in the summer.
  2. I’ve opened my first bank account as well. I guess the idea of going to a bank can be quite intimidating at first, but the staff are really lovely and helpful in all the ones I’ve been to in the last few days (apart from that one lady in that one bank who looked a bit suspicious of us). There was a particular bank I wanted to open an account with, but they’re a popular choice so every branch I visited was booked up for appointments until next week – when I wanted one this week. Walked to another bank’s branch, however, and they were able to fit me in the next morning – the only reason they couldn’t get me in on the day was that the manager happened not to be in!
  3. I am thinking of all the online shopping I could do once the card arrives… This is a bad sign.
  4. I opened up the Pocky Panda! I have been waiting – It’s one of the last few Birthday Box treats left. I love Pocky and I love pandas, so this made me all excited. The biscuit is chocolate-flavoured and the outer coating is milk with chocolate bits to create a speckled effect… I’m in love.
    Packaging is so, so cute!

  1. I still have this horrendous backlog of posts that still need to be edited and posted. This week has mostly been spent away from the computer so I haven’t been able to get much blog work done. My weekend is mostly free, though, so hopefully I can get all my work scheduled and done. I always fall into the trap of thinking that blogging is something that will only take an hour, when in reality it takes about three or four scattered over several nights…

A summer job sounds like hard work, but I’m looking forward to it, anyway.

X