Cafe Visits: Javalounge

Aside from all those good resolutions for the sake of being a better person (more on that later this month), one of them is to visit more cafes. Especially local ones that can’t really be found anywhere else. It seems a bit pricier than my usual Tesco’s £3 meal deal (that I’ll never give up, ever) but it’s probably money better spent, compared to, say, makeup.

But yeah, I’ve been harbouring a longing to be a coffee shop hipster for a long while but never mustered up the willpower to go. So on a day out with my siblings before the holiday feeling wore off, I suggested we all go to one together. The original cafe of choice was Damascena but it looked sort of busy? Although later I found out that they sort of have more space than what I saw… One other day, okay?

So we headed around the corner and down the road to Javalounge. It has a really warm atmosphere with the lights and decor. I wanted to sit at one of the enticing window booths but it seemed some filming was happening there and the free booth was within shot… maybe next time!

My brother and I ordered the special coffee eggnog. I’m not sure what was eggnog about it, as I’ve never tried it but it was nice and really hit the spot. My sister picked the banana milkshake, which was also pretty fabulous if you’re not a coffee drinker. The food was okay. It was filling and I did enjoy it, still. If I ordered again I’d probably go for my sister’s mozzarella wrap. The coffee more than made up for it though.

(We were too full to buy a dessert.) Oh, and they have free wifi. Perfect for sitting at the table on our phones and just chilling for half an hour.

Until next time,

X

 

 

My Experience at TEDxBrum 2017

Many of you will know what a TED talk is – a presentation of inspiring ideas and concepts by people from all sorts of fields. We watched many via Youtube whilst I was at school.

TED is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to sharing great ideas, and has spread worldwide in their commitment to this. The Birmingham-based event, TEDxBrum, which is annual and runs all day, aims to be just as grand and awe-inspiring yet locally relevant. It is independently organised by volunteers with the help of local sponsors.

Whilst tickets ranged from £25 (for Earlybird tickets) to £40, they do try to make the event as accessible as possible for everyone. The ticket was for the whole day including food and drinks, and you could pop in for only one particular session if you felt it. I was there for the whole day to get the most out of my ticket. If you couldn’t make it at all, it was all live streamed anyhow, and the talks will be going up onto Youtube in the upcoming weeks.

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This year, the theme was ‘Perspectives’ – the idea that everyone has a particular way of viewing the world and that civil conversation from many perspectives is important for growth and change. There was a huge range of topics covered and I wasn’t looking forward to anything in particular and just turned up with an open mind.

Florence Okoye speaking at TEDxBrum.

As an added plus they encouraged sharing the event live by tweeting and posting photos, and even let me use my DSLR so I was able to get some shots in. One person asked me if I was part of the crew – no, I was just looking for a good angle! The official photos taken by Thom Bartley, Curtis McNally and Paul Stringer are absolutely amazing and demonstrate both humbling and ambitious moments of the day – something I could certainly learn a lot from!

 

Lumi HD performing some of her songs.

 

(Unless stated otherwise, all photos are taken by me. I would appreciate credit to if you decide to use these photos, but it’s not necessary at all. I got a lot of extra fun and satisfaction just from being allowed to shoot!)

As it was my first time visiting the Hippodrome despite being a Birmingham local, I didn’t know what the auditorium looked like and end up in the lower circle. All the seats have a good view of the stage and the more important thing is that you could hear all the talks, to be honest. You were allowed to shift seats between breaks so I did eventually move down to the stalls in search of a good angle for my camera.

 

Bohdan Piasecki, a poet. He said something about teaching children to speak Polish in a Brummie accent, so I imagined it, and it made me laugh.

 

One of the most memorable talks from the day was definitely by Travis Alabanza, who was just dripping with strength and passion as he spoke about violence against non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals.

 

Travis Alabanza. A Warrior.

 

For me, the other most memorable part of the day were the performances from local music artists. These included DANS Chinese dancers (so this kid walks up onto stage and plays an intro piece and the whole crowd is awestruck and want to hug him), as well as The Dylema Collectiv (spoken word poetry against an mood setting musical backdrop) , singer/guitarist duo BEAR, Daps on the Map, and Lumi HD. There’s nothing like live music whether it is your genre or not. Especially in a venue like the Hippodrome, it manages to resonate with you anyway.

(You can double click for the full images!)

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DANS Chinese Dancers

 

 

The Dylema Collectiv

 

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BEAR performing some of their songs at TEDxBrum

 

In the breaks between sessions, you could socialise with other talk-goers, listen to poetry on the bottom floor, or talk to awkward artists on the second floor. I had a chat with Kenny Cowle about her photography – experimenting with the chemical processes involved with developing pictures to create fragile, constantly changing works of art.

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Me, chatting to Kenny Crowe about her work. Credit: Paul Stringer (Taken from the TEDxBrum Facebook Page)

I will be honest, my memory isn’t so great and there was so much awesome stuff to cram into my head so a lot of it didn’t stay for long, haha! This is what the YouTube videos are for, anyhow. I learnt a lot and laughed a lot and really really enjoyed myself, anyhow. Most importantly, I learnt a fair bit about Birmingham as a city, how it could be better, and what we can all do to play our part in its improvement.

 

TEDxTwentySwans lol

 

Needless to say, I will be sure to put aside the date in my diary for TedxBrum 2018.

Until next time,

X

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Weekend in Bristol!

I’m nineteen now, everyone. Almost at that big two-zero and of course, by this time nobody quite wants to get older. Right now I actually want to skip to my late twenties when I have my life a little more put together but, of course, it can’t be done.

I spent my birthday weekend in Bristol visiting my best friend TrayTray. I think I packed just enough for the trip but maybe overdid it by bringing along the pink bed socks. I love those socks, but it seems they weren’t important enough to remember to bring back afterwards!

On our first day, we went for a scenic walk around, visiting the suspension bridge, and some of the local shops. We got quite lucky with the weather. Although the skies were grey we got a few peeks of sun for a few snaps (I was, of course, the designated photographer) and we got some fantastic shots. For a good group selfie, the little mirror maze in the Royal Fort Gardens is great! For good views, the suspension bridge is a nice place to visit.

There’s a really nice bubble tea and frozen yoghurt place called Flavalanche. We wanted to visit a dessert place during the weekend but that didn’t happen, sadly. At least there is always next time!

I went to a nightclub for the first time, and I was there as the clock ticked over to my birthday. Nightclubs are strange places. I mean, I can see the appeal. It’s losing yourself a little to familiar tunes or just a good house beat, yelling conversation at your friends although you can’t even hear yourself, and pretending to be cool in a forest of people. I didn’t bring my heels, so I am 100% sure I was the shortest person in the club to the point that the guy at the computer picking the tracks kept looking over at me like I was a 12 year old in the wrong place. I did enjoy myself somewhat and really wore myself out, but I don’t think it’s the life for me. Not unless I can find a club near me that can do a K-Pop themed night.

My absolute favourite photo of myself ever!

On our second day, we slept in. Then we got to have a look around the shops. I picked up a green embroidered sweater on sale and baby pink velvety cap which wasn’t on sale but I bought anyway because it was just so cute. This turned out to be a good idea as it got a little chilly in the evening. I think Bristol’s Cabot Circus and general shopping area is bigger than Birmingham’s Bullring and extended city shopping, but Tray seems to disagree! Even if Bullring has a lot of shops I think that in Cabot Circus, all the shops have a lot more space. That’s just my first impressions, however. Birmingham is, after all, the second city of England.

I wonder what it was about the changes to my beauty routine, but I found myself rubbing my nose and feeling up all the clogs in my skin after the weekend was over. It just felt super clogged compared to usual. Perhaps it was the new heavy mask I was trialling, the sheet mask, the sunscreen, my period, or just the fact that I’d worn makeup all day for two days straight where I hadn’t done it in ages, even if I had done my best to cleanse it off my face thoroughly. 

I really enjoyed myself that weekend to the point of struggling to get out of the holiday mood once I got back! I had a fantastic birthday and it was wonderful to spend it out of my home city.

Thank you for reading! Until next time,

X

The Gap Year Diary: December/ January 

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So, last month I didn’t put up a Diary entry because I had it written and just forgot to schedule it – So now I have combined it with January events this time around. This is what I got up to…

  • Uni Offers
  • New Camera
  • Progress with revision and languages
  • Novel Progress
  • Novel Editing Workshop
  • Archery Competiton

University Offers
At the beginning of December, the two universities that had yet to respond to my UCAS application finally did… with rejections from both. One of the rejections I was unfazed by, whilst the other was from Warwick, which I have visited a few times and was a place at which I was really hoping to study. It’s a shame (sigh). That said, my remaining offers are all very reasonable so my hopes of actually getting into a university on Results Day haven’t plummeted just yet. I felt a bit dejected but what’s done is done. I have my target grades, now I just have to aim for them and like, not miss this time (*worried laughter in the distance*).

New Camera!
Following the previous part, I then proceeded to treat myself and spend all my summer savings on a new camera. It’s an ‘entry-level DSLR’ from Canon, the EOS750d which is a newer model from that line, and it’s really really nice… Who knows, maybe there will be YouTube videos?? Haha. No.

I’m still using the automatic features a lot, but slowly I am learning about the different components that make up a shot and want to practice as much as possible. I’d like to learn about post-processing too. Whatever it is, it means some great shots for the blog in the future!

Revision Progress
Ploughing along as usual. I am working myself into the habit of picking up my flashcards when I have time and testing myself, and I need to keep it up into the year, especially as I start to switch up the topics and subjects a lot. But I also need to remember to wind down in the evenings to sleep, and to know when to stop.

Now that we are officially about halfway through the academic year, I’ve been rethinking my motivations. I dream of being able to pump a fist at life on Results Day. I think of that image a lot, and I make sure to think of that image day and night, and that has been helping. I also think of that wad of my own money I used to pay for this year’s exams, which is also pretty motivational.

Language Progress
I have now finished my first Japanese course, and have decided not to take on another class. My main issue is that the next course runs through the exam period and I don’t want too many commitments during that time (with my job and archery and all). Over the last few months I have liked having classes as an extra spurt of motivation and I definitely feel more comfortable directing my own self study in the language. I think I have these conjugations sort of making sense in my head, and I have been memorising some kanji, too!

How is that novel going, by the way?
I made some surprising progress this month! I’ve been making more time to just sit down and ponder about how to take the story to where I want it to go, even if my characters don’t seem to want to go there. I’m trying to stick to a daily goal of 200 words on my project, and have finished the first chapter at last. I let a friend read it and she gave me some really good feedback and pointers that I hadn’t thought of. I work on multiple chapters at once because that’s just how I like to write, and just before the end of the month I hit 10,000 words on my draft, which is the furthest I have gone with a project without scrapping it and that is an achievement in itself!

There are some crucial parts of the story that I have found still need developing, like the main characters’ families (!! important!) and since my main protagonists are all Vietnamese, I’m having to consider other aspects of the family dynamic like how they use language at home, the various names they might have, and so on. Thinking about it, it’s pretty interesting and I’m looking forward to developing that part of it more.

 How to Edit Your Novel Event at Waterstones Birmingham 
No, I haven’t finished my novel, but of course I was going to turn up to a great opportunity for advice and insight! I took quite a few notes and it was lovely to hear some authors talk about their processes – it really solidified the idea that writing methods are different for everyone. I have written up a blog post on this, so keep an eye out for that!

Archery Competition 
I have to admit, I’ve been feeling far less enthusiastic about archery than I used to. Main reason being that it feels stranger and stranger to walk into my old school and not be a student there. Thankfully the other students I’m familiar with are usually there and have really helped me feel less awkward.
Anyway, after a Christmas break, I did feel quite under prepared for a competition so Twerp and I did our best to make use of all the sessions by going to every one leading up to it, even if I was suffering from cramps one week and a very bad cold the next!

The two of us were so nervous going in, as it’s our first ever archery competition. We shot a Portsmouth round, and I was one of the scorers on my target. In actuality, I was probably more nervous about the prospect of doing mental arithmetic under time constraints because I kept making mistakes on the score sheets! I was also pretty tense during the first half of the shoot but after resigning myself to doing badly I was able to relax. There’s nothing I can do about arrows already shot!

In my competition category, I didn’t win any prizes. My score was over 120 points from the bronze score. Twerp managed a bronze in her category, though! Right at the end, though, I unexpectedly got a handicap award, which I think means taking into account experience level and stuff like that (I’m a novice, and went up against veterans!) I won a little thing. I’m pretty chuffed~!

All in all, it’s been an eventful couple of months. February should be interesting, as it’s my birthday month and all…!

Until next time,

X

Two Years of Twenty Swans!

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This blog survived another year! That’s pretty cool, if I do say so myself. I have followed many a blog that has just disappeared after a few good posts. More than that,  I am proud to have just stuck to putting things up even without a schedule or promoting my posts on social media properly.

For any regular readers, know that I am so thankful that you glance at my stuff and I hope you’ll stick around for the years to come.

Want some stat-related tidbits? Sure you do.

  • The total amount of views for 20S in 2016 were almost quintuple the amount in 2015 (!!)
  • But! I also posted far less, with 26 posts in 2016 compared to 134 posts (!!) in 2015. I think I went from thinking about posting often to posting less, but more quality posts that I took time and real effort to do and am proud of. I have also begun to use a diary to keep track of various things and in a way, vent off some thoughts that won’t go on the blog anymore.
  • My most viewed post includes a terrible sheet-masking selfie. Half the views I got this year came from this post.

I am really surprised and proud of the humble bit of growth this blog as seen, numbers wise, haha. I have to admit, I got the Blog’s birthday wrong. I had this post in draft mode for sometime next week, but it turns out to have been today! Cue a lot of last minute panic. Last year, I gave the blog a new banner to celebrate. I still really like it. I still use the same theme (Plane) and same standard WordPress domain. This year, the Blog Gift (am I making this a thing?) is nicer looking photos!

I also had a bit of special blog-related reflection time based off last year’s anniversary post. I think I did work a lot on improving my beauty reviews and making them as detailed as I want them to be, and the photography/lighting issues have pretty much all been sorted in one swoop since I bought a new camera at the end of the year.

On the other hand, I completely forgot about my personal spending goal and whilst I definitely didn’t stick to it (especially with that camera) I think my willingness to spend has kind of levelled off a little. I’m less impulsive about my purchases and stricter about using up products before I buy more. On the other hand, I am way more likely to buy books…

What are this year’s mindful things?

  • Actually keep goals in mind. It’s so easy to lose track of annual goals as the days go by, especially now that I can barely keep track of the days.
  • Be better about doing to-do lists. I’ve been trying to use them to keep track of my daily progress and work on daily streaks and habits and stuff, but for some reason I’m leaving at least one point empty all the time. Heck, I could have only one thing on my to-do list but not complete it.
  • Finish that novel. I’m not sure any more needs to be said.
  • Read and review more books! BOOKS, I TELL YOU.
  • Maybe get back into knitting? Knitting was possibly one of the main reasons that I started this blog (it gave me something to write about!) But I’ve barely touched my needles since last year. I also have a big box of yarn to use up. I just don’t feel like I have much cause to sit down and space out any more. I really miss it though so I’d like to take more time out to do it.

Again, thanks for reading, and here’s to yet another year!

Lots of Love,

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

The Gap Year Diary #2: Sept – Oct

Fortunes from Lily @ #BookityBooks

Here’s what I got up to this month-and-a-half!

  • The school squad group chat is quieter these days.
  • #Growingpains tour
  • School-related things
  • Beginner’s Japanese
  • Bookity Books
  • NaNo Prep
  • Trip to Edinburgh
  • Goodbye to the nail salon

Uni things
Towards mid-September I said goodbye to a number of school friends that were heading off to Uni and moving out. I’m hella excited for them! They’re heading off to do a huge variety of exciting things. Although they’re all my motivation for working my butt off this year, most I’ve heard is that things are expensive, and freshers’ week is a blast, and they have lots of cool student discounts, yet things are still expensive. Their workload seems to be increasing at a pretty fast rate, too…

#Growingpains book tour
I went to the #Growingpains tour in Waterstones Birmingham featuring four lovely authors: Laura Dockrill (Lorali), Julie Mayhew (Mother Tongue) , Claire Hennessy (Nothing Tastes As Good) and Jess Vallance (The Yellow Room).
I hadn’t read any of their books but rest assured that they are all on my reading list after hearing them talk a bit about them – they are all funny and lovely people! I also managed to get some great writing advice from Laura Dockrill and Julie Mayhew about the plotting and structure of a story which has inspired me to approach my current project differently. I was suddenly bombarded with ideas, and also did a bit of a horrid thing and cut out a few of my beloved, yet unnecessary, characters to archive them for another story. Thus began my prep for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

Exam Scripts
The day after that, I went into school to pay to get my exam scripts back, and pay for the archery club which I still go to. I can’t wait to see what went wrong four months ago, in a gut-dropping, sigh-inducing way. My UCAS application is also well on its way and hopefully should be finished soon. I’m in no rush as the staff from my old school are prioritising this year’s Year 13 and have warned me that they’re not going to put mine first – fair enough, really. I think I have just sighed a hundred times just having to write this paragraph, but it’s something that has to be done.

Japanese Lessons
I signed up for a course in Beginner’s Japanese in September which started last week, as it’s been something I’ve always been interested in doing. Had I gotten into Uni I would have used the module-switching opportunity to do it, but thankfully I found a way to do it anyway. I have previously tried to learn at home but I’ve never had any lessons so my knowledge is random and I can’t string sentences together… There was a beginner’s Plus option but it’s good that I went for basics as the course includes a few things I hadn’t covered in my self-learning and it’ll help me to reinforce the things I do know. I am also using the lesson structure to go over my Vietnamese as well.

Bookity Books
In my first write-in session at #BookityBooks (as opposed to the ones where we just talk about books), we did a couple of word wars and I got stickers (always fun), a fortune cookie (always fun) and won a prize (YEAH. GO ME.)
I had decided not to bring my laptop and wrote by hand for my word wars, which I didn’t have much high hopes about because I know I’m a really slow writer. It turns out that I’m actually pretty fast under pressure – I did 300 words exactly in fifteen minutes, which is about a side and a half of stretched out handwriting on A4. In the ten minute war, I almost matched that with 248 words.
There’s hope for my Psych essays this year, everybody! Even if the average word size in my essays is larger!

NaNo Prep
NaNoWriMo is coming up, so I was very good about planning and did it all in a two-day sitting. By planning, I mean I summarised ideas for scenes that I’d like to write and made sure there were loads just in case I got stuck and wanted to move on. It’s a pretty long list. We did a bit of criticising at the month-end session at #BookityBooks so I had the other members (and by that I mean just Maddie) look at my intro. My issue is that descriptive paragraphs sound fine in my first-person POV style but not in my third person because it sounds less personal and just too much. So now I am trying to strike up a conversational tone in third person that should hopefully be easier to read through.

The Spontaneous Trip Up North
Coming into the second half of the month, my Dad invited me to go up to Edinburgh with him for a couple of nights. I was a little worried about it at first, but decided to be positive about the idea and went along. My family and I have never been to Scotland at all before as it’s a bit of a long drive – estimated at about 5.5 hours but that ended up being longer due to weather, construction work and general traffic.

Anyway, Edinburgh and Glasgow (where I went on our second day) are really lovely cities that I’d love to visit again to explore better. All the buildings in the city centres have a charm to them that’s unique to their cities and not like my home Brum at all. I mostly had to tag around with my Dad on this trip, but I want to come back and visit Edinburgh Zoo and all the museums I spotted on our drives around the city. We visited the seafront in the early morning when it was still chilly, but it was still really nice – I love a nice quiet beach. If you are visiting, I recommend the Mussel Inn in Edinburgh as a restaurant to eat at in the evening, although be sure to book a table first!

We also dropped by Newcastle to visit one of Dad’s acquaintances on the way back. That makes three cities in three days!

 The Nail Salon
As we go into November, my parents have sold their nail salon to focus on their new business ventures full-time, and I have to say that it was sudden and that I’m not quite ready. I had no idea that earlier this year I’d be walking into the place for the last time. The place is virtually the same, just that it will have different people working there from now on. I liked the neighbourhood it was in and the familiar local faces – faces that probably assumed I was a local too. My parents ran it for over a decade, which is over half of my life so I do feel a bit of a sad pang knowing that I’ll probably never go back.

That’s what I’ve been up to this month! Next time, you’ll probably be hearing a bit about NaNo, UCAS and my progress in languages.

Until then!

X