Friday, 31 January 2014

January Films

Films that I watched and enjoyed in January. 

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 
The classic story of a day-dreamer who escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened Walter takes action in the real world, embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.
I guessed I would enjoy this film purely from reading the synopsis and I was right. I loved this film so much. For me the highlight of the film was most definitely the scenery, especially the Iceland ones. I also thought the soundtrack was great especially Kristen Wiigs' version of David Bowies' Space Oddity.  I left the theatre wanting to travel and take on the world! 9/10

17 Fille | 17 Girls
Seventeen teenage girls at a school in small-town France become pregnant at the same time, baffling the adults -- and the boys -- in their lives.
As an avid fan of foreign films and unusual plots I found this film in the depths of netflix. Although it did end up more emotional than I had assumed it would be, I thought the plot was pretty good. It showed how intelligent yet naive the girls were and this view developed as the film progressed. 6.5/10

Grave Encounters
Shot in found footage style, the footage follows the crew of a paranormal reality television programme who lock themselves in a haunted psychiatric hospital in search of evidence of paranormal activity as they shoot what ends up becoming their final episode.
I have a confession, I'm a huge fan of paranormal programmes and one in particular, Ghost Adventures, is exactly the same as the show in this film. Although it got off to a slow start it picked up and had me hiding behind my covers. The horror in this is more of a 'sit and wait for something to happen' than an outright scary thing. If you're a fan of Paranormal Activity or similar films then you'll enjoy Grave Encounters. Plus there's a sequel! 7/10

Medianeras | Sidewalls 
Separated by the wall their apartments share, Mariana and Martín are without question the perfect couple. There's just one problem: They've never met.
Yet another foreign film with an unusual plot. I connected with both characters and the idea of being small in a big city. I'm not sure what else to say apart from it was a nice film that I would watch again!  8/10 

The film tells the story of a fearless princess who sets off on an epic journey alongside a rugged, thrill-seeking mountain man, his loyal pet reindeer and a hapless snowman to find her estranged sister, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in an eternal winter.
After seeing all the hype on tumblr about Frozen I just had to see it! I'm not a Disney maniac but like everyone I enjoy good songs and animated snowmen. I really appreciated how the plot was focused more on the sisters than a romance. The unexpected villan (spoilers!) shocked me and added an interesting twist. I can't not mention the songs, 'Let it Go' is just one of those songs that you belt out and then feel instantly like you can do anything! A good film for children and adults alike. 8/10

When Mary, a devout senior at a Christian high school, accidentally gets pregnant, she starts to see her peers and her faith in a whole new way.
Intrigued by the 'Faith and Spirituality' genre on netflix I was drawn to this film, the whole premise of the film is pretty unlikely but it ends up being genuinely good and heartwarming. Overall it's funny and it's weird seeing well known actors before they were famous. 6.5/10

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Eggless Banana Bread

A good recipe if you're vegan, allergic to eggs or ran out of eggs! (Which was me!)

4 ripe bananas, mashed
120g of butter or margarine, softened
175g of brown sugar
120ml of milk or milk substitute (soya, almond etc)
200g of self-raising flour
vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 180*c

In a large bowl mix together the mashed bananas and butter, then add the milk and vanilla essence. 

Add brown sugar and mix.

Then sieve the flour and cinnamon into the bowl. Make sure to mix thoroughly so the mixture is even and there are no pockets of flour. 
Pour mixture into a greased loaf tin (or normal cake tin) and place in oven for 1 - 1.5 hours. 

Allow to cool before enjoying!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Travelling Alone Tips and Advice

Traditional dress on Lake Titicaca

As you may or may not know, I've not mentioned it on here, but I spent two months in Peru this past summer and went alone. I volunteered at an orphanage in Arequipa and had an amazing time!

Speak the language 
It's not always possible and quite a lot to ask in most situations but it really helps, especially in more rural areas. You don't have to be fluent, even the basics are a huge help. I find that people really appreciate it when you try to speak their native language.  I even managed to get a few discounts because I spoke Spanish! I actually ended up speaking Spanish 50% of the time as the ladies who worked at the orphanage I volunteered at didn't speak a word of English!

Use your common sense
This goes without saying, don't do anything stupid or dangerous. Sure it might make for a good story but it also might mean you get hurt or in trouble. If you wouldn't walk down a dark alley in your hometown don't do it in a foreign place. When you're alone, especially if you're a woman, you make an easier target. If you put yourself into uncomfortable situations or dangerous places it's important to know how to deal with it. I'd recommend having travel insurance and knowing the numbers for the local hospital, police etc. Also, if you're going somewhere by yourself tell someone (a fellow guest, the receptionist) where you are going and what time you'll expect to be back, that way if something does happen someone will know where you are. 

Have an open mind
It's fun to plan an action packed holiday with a mile long list of things you intend to do but sometimes things don't work out. Throw yourself into your new surroundings and you'll have an amazing time. Sometimes the simple things like wandering around a new city end up being the most memorable. I went on an unplanned weekend trip to Lake Titicaca and ended up staying with a local family on an island! 

Touristy places are good
Being alone in a strange and new country can be intimidating. Whilst cheap hostels and tourist bars aren't the nicest or most genuine places they are a fantastic way to meet people who are in the same boat as you. The majority of the time they'll speak English which is good if you're struggling with a new language. It also means you can ask about the best places to see, eat at, drink at and get a feel of the place in general. I was lucky enough to be staying with other volunteers who had already been there for a month or so who took me under their wings. 

Do your research 
It's a good idea to get a feel of a place before you go there, and even more so if you're going to be alone. Some countries have massively differently social codes and cultures which are important to understand prior to travelling. Guidebooks and the internet are always a good place to start, I recommend the tripadvisor and lonely planet websites and the rough guides. My guidebook was a godsend, however it's impossible for the information to be right up to date so make sure you double check online. Also, if you can, speak to people who've been there and ask them about it. Speaking to people who have actually been there and done that is a great way to discover where to go and what places to avoid like the plague! 

I volunteered with the charity Traveller Not Tourist which is based in Arequipa, Peru. You can find their website at and their facebook page. I could not recommend them enough and if you have any questions feel free to ask me! You can see more of my photos of my time there on my flickr.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Lemon Drizzle Cake Bars

These cake bars have the perfect combination of sweet and sour. Plus because of their relatively small size they make a great and not too indulgent snack!

4oz caster sugar
4oz margarine (at room temperature)
4oz self-raising flour
3 medium eggs
lemon juice

    Preheat oven to 200^. Beat eggs together.

     Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg to the mixture and mix together. Repeat with 3-4 teaspoons of lemon juice,               depending on how lemon-y you want your cakes.

 Pour mixture into a square or rectangular tray and place in oven for around 20 minutes. Whilst    that's baking you can make the 'drizzle' part of the title.

Lemon Syrup;
200g of caster sugar
50ml of water
lemon juice

Boil the sugar and water in a pan until the syrup is clear. Let cool for ten minutes and then add   two teaspoons of lemon juice. Once cooled pour over cake and once it's absorbed cut the cake into rectangles.

Arrange on plate in however fashion you want, I went for the traditional jenga!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Grandpa's Hobby

My Grandfather was a keen photographer, a hobby I share with him. Although I never met my Grandpa I've learnt a lot about him through his photographs; whether they're of the Austrian Alps, his family or India. I love seeing photos of my mum and her brothers as children and my grandparents as young adults enjoying themselves after the war. I love these photos because they give me a glimpse into my families life and what it was like back then.

My Grandpa worked for GlaxoSmithKline and spent a lot of his career contributing photographs to the company magazines and newsletters. He was lucky enough to travel to India to see the new factory in an era when foreign travel, especially that far, was rare and very expensive. He was also very fond of Austria and Switzerland, I found hundreds of photos of mountains and lakes. Alongside the far-flung landscapes he often took photos of his family and friends. There is something both professional and amateur about these photographs and I love it. Nothing leaves memories better than photographs.

My Nana died on Christmas Day aged ninety-two years old and she lived a good life. She is remembered by her four children, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Although I am devastated I know she is in a better place and finally reunited with my Grandpa, her husband, after more than twenty years apart. We can't prevent our loved ones dying but we can deal with it and remember them whilst simultaneously pulling ourselves together and living our lives.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Realistic Resolutions

Like everyone else in the world I make resolutions for the new year with the well intended hope of sticking to them and magically transforming into a super fit goddess who can speak Spanish fluently and cook up a storm. However, like the majority of people, I last for a few weeks (days) and then give up and go back to my old ways. This year, however, shall be different. I'm making realistic resolutions this year, starting off with small doable things that will make a difference. 

Eat healthier | This doesn't necessarily equate to 'lose weight', my diet is terrible and no doubt adds to my weight and bad skin. I enjoying cooking and plan to use this as a motivation for making healthy meals. This year I will eat better and finally sort out my horrendous diet.

Read more | I used to read a lot, I would read a book every week but in the last year I have only read whilst on holiday. I have mountains of unread books just screaming out to be loved so this year I'm going to read more and blog about them. 

Switch off | This appears to be quite a common resolution this year, it seems that many people are attached to their gadgets, I know I'm certainly attached to my phone! I could be doing so many productive and creative things with my time yet I can spend hours on tumblr or just generally faffing about on my phone. This year I am aiming to spend half an hour without gadgets each day. 

Keep learning | I finished school last year and I am currently on a gap year before going to university in September. I'm going to be doing modern languages and really need to keep my skills up. Although my Spanish is pretty good because I spent all summer speaking it, my German is schlecht! Alongside my two languages I want to learn French and some basic Icelandic, so I've got my work cut out for me! This year I'm going to continue learning my chosen languages and learn some new ones.

So there you have it, realistic and not intimidating resolutions that I will try my hardest to stick to. What are your resolutions?