Monday, 20 May 2019

Her Majesty's Garden Party 2019

One day as a kid I went to see Buckingham Palace. It had been a long day, my feet were in shreds, and I walked down the road at the side of the palace barefoot, exhausted from sightseeing. It then dawned on me that the wall on my left was the Queen's wall, and on the other side of those bricks was her private garden. As a child, that idea seemed magical. There was another day, quite a few years before that, where children across the country were encouraged to enter a competition to win an invite to the Queen's birthday party. I entered, and I was desperate to win -- but I didn't, obviously.

Fast forward to 15th May 2019, aged 20, and I finally got to see the other side of the wall at Her Majesty's garden party. Say whaaaaaat. (To be clear, I'm not cool enough to be properly invited by the Queen; I was just tagging along with my boyfriend and his mum, who had actually been invited to attend.)

Dress: Paper Dolls | Fascinator: ASOS | Bag: Michael Kors | Jewellery: Ted Baker | Shoes: *shrug*

We entered through the back of the garden, meaning we got to wander around the rather lavish grounds to get to the main lawn you see in all the pictures and on TV. Weirdly, as soon as we stepped through the gate, the air changed, and I'm not shitting you, it smelled royal. Gone was the London pollution, replaced with the freshest air I have ever smelled?! And I actually live in the countryside. Maybe they have fresh air pumped in.

The Queen, although in residence at the palace, was in a meeting all day with international dignitaries, and so didn't attend the party. Instead she was represented by Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Princess Anne, and we were so close to them! There were 8,000 guests so I had only expected to see maybe one of them from a distance -- not all of them up close.

I will never ever ever have cake as nice as the cake I had there and that makes me sad. Guys, it wasn't even Waitrose standard, it was above. I'm aware that that makes me sound like a peasant but, like, I shop at Aldi; I don't usually move in rich circles. Also, I'm pretty sure the apple juice was pressed from a thousand apples. Very apple-y.

Anyway, it was the most amazing and surreal day, and I really, really enjoyed it. (And I didn't have a panic attack, yay.) Amazingly, there were four of these parties, with approximately 30,000 guests in total!

Have you ever been to one of Her Majesty's garden parties?

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Gringotts Wizarding Bank at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

Disclosure: I was given complimentary tickets by Warner Bros. to attend the launch but I have not been paid for any of the following content.

A few weeks ago Warner Bros. kindly invited me to the launch of their new addition to the Harry Potter studio tour: Gringotts Wizarding Bank! I first visited the studios a few months after they opened in 2012, and back then it was fairly small. My next visit in 2015 was a little bigger... and my visit after that in 2017 was bigger still...

But this time, they've really outdone themselves. Driving into the car park, I barely recognised the place, and if you haven't been in the last couple of years, you won't either. Not only have they added more parts to the tour, like the Hogwarts Express and Gringotts, but they've completely re-done the outside, and the foyer is all new, too.
Saturday, 4 May 2019

Tour My Collaborative Travel Journal

Last Christmas, I got a large Moleskine sketchbook which I had asked for with the intention of making it into a travel journal. However, I had a slight problem in that I'm not very good at art journalling. The fact that I'm not good at it means I don't enjoy it. But making a travel journal was something I really, really wanted to do - so I enlisted my mum, an artist, to collaborate on it with me. I decided that she would do the backgrounds - well, most of them - and I would do the decorating. I was much happier with it that way, and I love what we've created so much that I thought I would share with you the travel journal so far...

I really like our arrangement. I'll tell my mum which page is next, and if I have a colour scheme or any ideas in mind, and the rest is up to her. Then I'll stick bits and pieces in, work on the typography, and generally finish it off. Our house might as well be an art shop, so I'm lucky in that there's no shortage of supplies...!

Follow my mum on Instagram @ZoeFordCreates.

What's your favourite page?

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Why I Loved 'Fierce Fragile Hearts' by Sara Barnard

I have loved Sara Barnard's books since before her debut even hit the shelves, and now she is one of the UK's best YA authors. These days, I (very, very, very sadly) don't have time to read as much as I would like to, but of course I made time for the sequel to Barnard's first novel! Here's why I loved Fierce Fragile Hearts, Sara Barnard's latest.
Saturday, 20 April 2019

48 Hours in Copenhagen, Denmark

Back in March, I saw an advert on Facebook for an app called LuckyTrip. (Before I go any further, I should probably tell you that this isn't sponsored and I have no affiliation with them at all.) Essentially, you put in your budget and the dates that you would like to go away - unless you're not tied down to a time, in which case they'll pick dates for you - and then you tap a button and, voila, a full package holiday has been picked out just for you. I was enjoying just tapping the 'lucky' button endlessly, seeing what was about, not really planning to book anything.

And then I saw a night away in Copenhagen for £60, flights and accommodation included. Reader, I booked that shit.

Friday, 12 April 2019

The Pigs, Norfolk

The Pigs is an independent luxury spa with accommodation on the Norfolk coast. I've seen it pop up as a competition prize in my Facebook feed a few times over the last couple of years, and after not winning any of them, I thought y'know what, I'm just gonna book it. (I'm an advertiser's dream, apparently.)

Many of you will know that I live in Norfolk. Despite living here, we actually used to camp on the North Norfolk coast once or twice a year throughout my childhood, which I loved, so going anywhere near the coast always feels like a holiday to me and is full of memories. That said, it's been a long time since we holidayed here. We started camping in Cornwall instead, and then I got older and started travelling other countries rather than other counties. Because of that, it was really nice to stay so close to home again -- not far away, so no stressful travel, but far enough to feel suitably 'away' from everything.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Travelling to New York City on a Budget

I was brought up to get the best value for my money. I'd like to think I'm good at it, and when I'm booking a holiday, it can take me an entire day - maybe even two - plonked in front of my laptop, hunting for the best deals, scrolling through endless reviews, and seeking the cheapest options (which are not always the worst!)

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Waffle House, Norwich

The Waffle House, 39 St Giles Street, Norwich, NR2 1JN

The Waffle House is intimate, understated, and blends into the street. You could be forgiven for walking past and completely missing it (I've done that several times even when that's where I'm actually meant to be going...) One thing that might stand out to you, though, is the queue of people that is almost always spilling out of the door.

This blog post might change your life.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

What does 'Academic' Really Mean? | Online Course Recommendations

Would you say you're academic? I didn't think I was until recently. When I was a kid, I didn't enjoy school for a number of reasons: I was bullied, the teachers were abusive, and education-wise it was certainly under-performing. When I left that school to become home educated for the next few years, I enjoyed the projects we did and the places we saw, but I didn't seem particularly academically driven (not that that is necessarily needed in home education, but maybe that's a blog post for another time.)

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Climbing the O2 Arena!

I'm adventurous but only a little. I like to leave my comfort zone sometimes but not too much. New experiences make me nervous even if I end up enjoying them. So when I was asked if I wanted to climb the O2 last summer... I didn't particularly, but I made the leap anyway.

My main worries were that I wouldn't be able to do it, or that I wouldn't be good enough, or that I'd lag behind everyone else, or make a tit of myself in some way. I'm petite, not very strong, I have anxiety, and I have issues with my knees, so climbing the O2 which is 52 metres high? Um...

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Ask Italian

I am a huge fan of Italian food, and I imagine that when I finally get to go to actual Italy I'll put on about 3 stone. For now though, while I'm stuck in the UK, my favourite Italian restaurant is most definitely Ask Italian.

I've been to Ask Italian a countless number of times, and the food has always been impeccable. My first visit was actually in Birmingham, when I met up with my friend Charli before going to see Lorde. We couldn't decide which delicious-sounding dessert to have, so we ordered a couple and split them both. That's the way to go, people, I'm telling you.
Saturday, 2 March 2019

How I Completely Re-branded My Blog

When I realised I was absolutely, 100%, no-going-back certain that I wanted to give my blog an overhaul, I knew it would be a massive job. The longer you blog, the more of a trail you have, and the more there is to change: from fairly easy things like the design and the URL, to the little things like changing your email address, your social media accounts, re-formatting everything, and much more.

Transforming The Mile Long Bookshelf to what we have today took me a couple of weeks. I had to...
Saturday, 23 February 2019

New York Diaries: Day 6

At last, the dreaded day arrived: our final few hours in New York. We packed, checked out of the apartment at 10:30am, and struggled across the city with our suitcases to put them in luggage storage for the day so we could fully enjoy ourselves.

Our first stop of the day was New York Public Library. You know me - how could I not go in a beautiful library given the chance?

Saturday, 16 February 2019

New York Diaries: Day 5

Thursday began with the Flatiron building, built to fit an accidental triangular gap in New York's grid system. Coincidentally, the Flatiron building is on the same street as an IHOP, and we just so happened to be there in time for brunch. INTERESTING. Not planned at all. 👀

After that, we did a bit of shopping. I had a look in Bath and Body Works (which in my opinion did not live up to the hype...), Victoria's Secret, and Century 21. Oh my god, Century 21. Why don't we have this in the UK? It's like T.K. Maxx but actually good! I got a Tommy Hilfiger jumper reduced from roughly $60 to $29.99 (£22) and a Michael Kors jumper down from $80 to $20 (approx. £14), as well as a couple of Christmas presents. I also went in a Target which was basically all of my dreams come true. Does anyone else obsess over foreign supermarkets when on holiday or is that just me?

Saturday, 9 February 2019

New York Diaries: Day 4

Let me take you back to 2011. My mum is an artist (you can snoop on her Instagram here) and that year, when I was thirteen, she submitted a piece of her work to The Sketchbook Project, run by Brooklyn Art Library. Along with lots of others, that sketchbook toured multiple countries, and we got to meet up with it when it was displaying at London's Southbank. However, that was the last time we saw it, as shortly after it returned to its permanent home in Brooklyn, NY, a place none of us ever planned to go.

Fast forward to 2018, a week from turning twenty years old, and - yep - I went to visit my mum's sketchbook! I always said that I would go and see it if I went to New York, and I did. It made me so happy to be able to do this for my mum who will never see it again, and I took loads of pictures for her so she could experience it as fully as possible.
Saturday, 2 February 2019

New York Diaries: Day 3

Welcome to the next post in my New York Diaries! Day 3 was Tuesday, and it was probably our busiest day. We began with the High Line, a 1.5-mile elevated urban park on a former railway track. We enjoyed the walk and the opportunity to see the city from a different angle. The four different lenses we had between us were also very pleased...
Saturday, 26 January 2019

New York Diaries: Day 1 & 2

Plane wing at sunset

Dudes, I did it: I went to New York! If you've been here since what I call the Golden Days of Blogging (cough, 2013) you'll know that I have always had an interest in the city and always dreamt of experiencing it for myself rather than through books and films. But there was a problem; well, several. 1) No one wanted to go with me, and I wasn't old enough to go alone. 2) Money. 3) Hello, fear of flying!

Yes, a fear of flying despite having never flown before. That'll be down to watching movies about plane crashes as well as an abundance of 9/11 documentaries when I was a kid. Thanks, past Amber.

But, come the end of 2017, the first two problems became less of an issue, and so... I did it. I booked it all. And on 14th October 2018, I got on that plane and I flew - horrifically, traumatically - to the Big Apple!
Monday, 21 January 2019

Feminists Don't Wear Pink and Other Lies by Scarlett Curtis

Buy the book: Amazon | Waterstones | The Book Depository • Penguin, 2018

Feminists Don't Wear Pink and Other Lies by Scarlett Curtis drew me in by its cover. I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover -- but I do, and I was bored as shite in Tesco, and a really nice shade of pink caught my eye from the shelf. My sudden need for it must've been pretty obvious because lo and behold there it was under my tree on Christmas Day: a glorious matte-pink hardback, pleasingly sized and satisfying to hold, with foil and bold lettering just daring you to argue with the women inside.
Sunday, 6 January 2019

Kew Gardens Light Trail | #ChristmasAtKew

How did you spend New Year? On New Year's Eve I had to be up at 5:45am for a nine-hour shift, which meant I promptly fell asleep at 9:30pm like the lightweight I am. Set an alarm though so I still woke up briefly enough to watch the London fireworks -- just. On New Year's Day we had tickets for the light trail at Kew Gardens, so after a lie-in and a Quorn sausage roll and Pringles for breakfast (I clearly don't give a shit about January's weight-loss culture) we headed out.
Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Well hello there, shiny new year. What am I going to do with you?

Parts of 2018 were a bit rubbish. My anxiety hit me over the head with a sledgehammer just when I thought it had left me alone completely, which led to me being signed off work for a couple of weeks. A knee injury I obtained last winter still hasn't healed, and having practically lived at the hospital this year seeing various physiotherapists and podiatrists, and even having an MRI, I'm wondering if it ever will. I fell out of love with blogging for a while, I had to go through two very unpleasant ordeals at work that I can't expand on here, and we had some sad family news.

But it's also been a great year. It took a while but I started to manage my anxiety again, and eventually I got back to work. I'm blogging again. I ticked off all the places on my travel wish list, having been to Brighton, Edinburgh, Paris, Amsterdam and New York in 2018. I got over my fear of flying. The two incidents at work seem to be over, and I've really developed myself there, being given more responsibilities. More recently, I've started volunteering again, this time at a local food bank - increasingly important in today's political climate, and something I've always wanted to do but never got round to doing. I've also been working on driving in unfamiliar places, something I've struggled with for years. That one is going to take a while, though.