SIMPLE PLEASURES: a good cup of coffee


There is nothing quite like the first sip of a good cup of coffee. Tea drinkers have no idea what they’re missing. I have gotten quite fussy with coffee and I’m not fond of instant, I hate that taste it leaves in your mouth, and that it never has the full coffee flavour. The best way to make coffee is definitely in a percolator but I will settle for a caffetiere. Most of the time I drink instant because it’s so easy but if I had a choice, I’d always make proper coffee. That’s why I got pretty excited when Kenco claimed they had made a ‘whole bean instant’ that was just as good as proper coffee. ‘Milicano’ has been a big let down for me, sadly, I have been taken in by advertising again. Sigh. It is just another bog standard instant “coffee” (they use that term loosely). The only instant coffee I have tried which comes close to the wonderful flavour of real coffee is Starbuck’s ‘Via’. It’s very pricey though so I only have it on special occasions.

Source: Google images

As a creature of habit, when I find a good coffee shop, I stick to it like glue. At the moment, my favourite coffee is No.1 Coffee’s Guatemalan blend. Maybe someday I’ll have a wonderful machine like Cato’s in The Green Hornet which can make me an amazing cup of coffee to wake up to…

What’s your favourite coffee? Are you as fussy about coffee as me, or just think I’m snobby?

Side thought: I love that scene in Elf when Buddy goes into the coffee shop to congratulate them because they have a sign saying ‘America’s no.1 coffee’ or something.

Advertisements

SIMPLE PLEASURES: everyday life


Our normal routine, our everyday life is the very simplest of pleasures that most of us miss. It’s an awful irony that we only realize how blessed we were every single day, when something awful that puts those things into jeopardy. It’s only when someone has an accident that results in paralysis that they realize how lucky they were to live without a disability. It’s only once you get ill that you realize that you took a good night’s sleep for granted. For me, I’ve come to realize how lucky I am that I only have fibromyalgia and CFS/ME. This hit me one day on a hospital visit, I was looking for the right ward when I read ‘teenage cancer’ on the sign and right there and then I thanked God that wasn’t where I was going that day.

I found out recently that a family friend has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although I am not close to this person or his wife, they are my parents friends, this has caused me a lot of grief because I can’t imagine how painful it would be to lose Paul. I think about all the things they’ve already done for the last time without knowing- the last holiday they went on, the last birthday. My parents are going through an awful time in nearly every area of their life but they have each other. I know that I would take any suffering if I could have Paul with me. These friends have lived a good, comfortable life but I know all of that will feel empty when she looses her husband.

This is something Gretchen Rubin tackles in The Happiness Project. It seems too morbid a topic to have in such a book, but realizing that bad news is only ever a phone call away makes you realize how lucky you are. None of us are exempt from the call telling us a loved one has been in an accident or that the test results are not good news. In a twisted way it is other people’s tragedies that make us thankful for what we have. Nothing can bring us security, we can work all our lives for a retirement fund that disappears in a few days in a global banking crisis or loose all our possessions in a house fire or natural disaster. We tend to think that because we worked for something then we deserve it, and we do, but just because you bought it, because you’re a good wife or husband, because your parents love you unconditionally does not mean it will be there forever. In reality we never really own anything, it can be taken in an incident is what I’m trying to say.

In my Church, we have a saying- everything is a gift. Don’t take anything for granted. We can’t live everyday as if it were our last, I’d have no money for starters and I would spend a lot of time on tearful conversations and making funeral plans. But, we can live a fulfilling, satisfying life. In the Bible it says to live life in all its fullness, sometimes that means doing not very fun stuff like being good with your finances so you have a roof over your head, but I’ve learnt not to see these things as a drag, I am so thankful that I have money to pay my gas bill, unlike many people right here in the UK. Instead of seeing things as a drag, I turn it on its head and I see the blessing, instead of missing the blessing. It may sound saintly but I’m happy than I’ve ever been. The other morning, I woke up really early in pain, instead of moaning at how unfair this is and how tired it made me, I thanked God that being in pain meant I finally got around to doing some stuff. I have a really short attention span and a bad memory so it takes me so long to get around to doing stuff so being stuck in the bathroom made me do some internet shopping I needed to get around to. Later on, I feel asleep with my head in Paul’s lap, usually he can’t sit down for more than a couple of minutes but because he didn’t want to wake me, he chilled out on the sofa watching TV, something he barely ever does.

So, thank God or the universe or just be happy that you are so very blessed today, no matter how little you have.

SIMPLE PLEASURES: A room to call my own


This is Talybont court- the nicer part of the complex. I lived in the horrid Talybont North

When my family moved from the city to the countryside, the farm my parents bought had enough bedrooms for me and my sister to have our own. Even though I was only 5, I remember so clearly that feeling of having a space that was entirely your own- the excitement about being able to decorate it exactly how I wanted. Even though I went for pink walls with Forever Friends bear (it was the girly craze at the time) decorative stickers, it still felt unique to me. So when, Kiwichat said having a room to herself was one of the little things she loved, I thought “yup, me too!”

I got a similar feeling when I moved out of my home to go to university. Everything about my room was un-sentimentally standard- there were thousands of identical rooms in the complex. The room was painted a dull blue, the furniture was ugly and boy was it small. I loved that little flat though, once I got my own stuff up on the shelves and decorated my pin board, it began to feel mine. I can’t imagine someone else living there now. And, every room I visited was different, the inhabiting student had personalized it (even the manliest of guys)- there’s something in our nature that wants to make our “nest” our own, unique and individual.

How about you- do you like having your own room? When was the first time you got your own room?

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS: Tunes


You get that tingly feeling in your belly when you’re favourite song comes on the radio or during a film. I love singing along and dancing to anything, even better when I know the words. When I was in school, I used to make CDs for me and my best friend to sing along to and dance to in her car.

Some of our favourites are:

Build Me Up Buttercup- The Foundations

Stronger- the Kayne West version

Thou shalt always kill-  Dans le sac vs. Scroobius Pip

New Shoes- Paolo Nutini

Do you dance around the house? What’s your favourite song?

The prophecies of the analogue world


If you know me personally, then you know how ridiculously generous my boyfriend is. This year we agreed on a maximum amount to spend on Valentine and anniversary presents. For quite a few weeks now I have been drooling over a camera, a Diana F+ with flash by Lomography. I wasn’t casually mentioning this to Paul as a hint. As usual, he cheated and bought me the camera I wanted, even though it cost more than we had agreed. If you haven’t heard of Lomography you are in for a treat.

The Lomography society is all about the snapshot. They produce cheap, almost entirely plastic cameras, made to be taken everywhere by their snap happy owner. The point is to capture that exact moment and turn it into brightly coloured, moving art. The model I have is based on a camera from the sixties, now improved and re-produced. It is really weird going back to film, it completely changes taking photos. Unlike with my digital camera, I don’t take a million pictures per event but only take one or two and I have to rely on skill. I can’t just keep taking photos and get the camera to auto-focus, I have to do most of the work myself, even deciding on the shutter speed. This leaves so much room for experimentation. And, best of all, the subject cannot request seeing the photo, and then keep asking for re-takes until a perfect one comes along. I haven’t finished my film yet, I’m a bit nervous, I hope it doesn’t come back from the processors as blank. The excitement of collecting photos from the processor is back!

Anyway, the Lomography society is now producing a new campaign- The Ten Prophecies of Analogue. I’ve listed a shortened version below. Even if you don’t like taking photos, take the principles to heart and let them change how you see the world. I was having coffee with a new friend today, a lady who has the same illness as me. We talked about the burden, the frustration, the pain, but we also talked about the way this illness has changed us. We are different people than before our lives were smashed apart, but we are not worse people. We have to take pleasure in the simple things, and take life in the slow line. Our lives are not, and cannot, be high-pressured, running from one task to the next in a caffeine fueled mission. And this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Today, well maybe tomorrow because its late, stop and take time to smell the roses, enjoy life- definitely don’t sit on your laptop all day. The digital world is a great thing, I found my new friend on Twitter, but use it to share all the things you enjoy about life, don’t let it be your life. Don’t be a slave to the beeper, to your smart phone, to your Facebook status, and for goodness sake, do not post your every move on Twitter. Instead of tweeting every inch of your train ride, look out of the window and at the people inside your carriage. And then, by all means, like me, come and report back, use social sites to be social, read blogs, but also remember to talk to people, to see people, to touch, to feel, to smell. But read the ten prophecies below first. If you want to apply these ideas to photography, you don’t have to buy a Lomography camera, although they are pretty great, you can pull out your old camera which takes film or buy a disposable one. The full version of these prophecies is on the Lomography website, click on the link.

If you have been inspired to be apart of the Lomography revolution then a great place to start is the Sampler camera. And, believe it or not, there are actually still places processing film.

THE 10 PROPHECIES OF ANALOGUE:

1. Leave the digital grind behind

2. The return of luck, coincidence, contingency, chance, fortune and surprise

3. Expect the unexpected and the excitement of experiment

Trial and error is your policy. Action and reaction your strategy. Believe in yourself, never stop looking, never stop asking and never stop recording.

4. Lomography will bring back overtones, nuances, smells, shades, dirt and dust and real life beauty to us

Great art is not imitation but interpretation of the world.

5. Film and paper ensure originality, authenticity, and eternity

6. Look twice

Pictures that don’t grab your attention today might do tomorrow, the day after or in your next life. Rediscovering means rein-venting your: taste, style, habits and general understanding of the world. A true revolution. Look twice to find real beauty.

7. Let loose with Lomography

You are a boat, the world is an ocean and you are floating along wherever it might take you with the wind in your sails. Nothing else matters; you’re alright as long as you’re with your Lomo.

8. The avant-garde is analogue

Through the challenge of the new, the old re-invents itself and breaks free from all conventions. It finds styles, relations and languages that remain undiscovered within the mainstream. Therefore analogue is the most exciting form of expression nowadays; the avant-garde of the 21st century.

9. A bazillion fresh tunes await us

10. The analogue future is the home of a whole lot of love, joy, fun, sex and… paradise!

Disclaimer: I did not take any of the photos featured in this post. I got them from Google images, have a look, there are tons more.

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair


On Sunday, Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair came to my Student’s Union. I was really, really excited about this so I took a lot of my student loan out of the cash-point and arrived at opening time. I had a strategic plan, quick look around the whole fair, picking out cheap items or things which I would be gutted if I didn’t get, and then back around once more when I had decided on my items. I meant to take pictures of the fair, but I went into a shopper’s frenzy as soon as I left my flat. Poor Paulie (my boyfriend) was dragged around the fair several times for almost two hours, and bless him, he did not moan.

I like to divide my shopping into categories, part of my desire to organize everything. So firstly, here is one item I picked up on the first round of looking around the fair. I was trying my hardest not to spend an absolute fortune, so it was a toss up between cigarette case and a reel of old ticket stubs. My instinct was that it would be more difficult to find the ticket stubs so that’s what I went with.

I also picked up a lot of £1 and 50p items which I intend to turn into other things. You’ll probably be seeing these things sometime soon in Home-made.

But my bargain of the day was this vintage real leather clutch purse. I could not have put it back down on the table when the stall owner told me I could have it for £3.

I have saved the best ’til last. This was my most expensive item, a new hand-made handbag. I bought this from Fennella for £15. Fenella sells lots of different handbags, each unique and at very affordable prices. It took me a long while to decide which one to get. This is exactly the sort of hand-made items I like, taking used clothes, curtains, rugs, belts, pretty much anything used, and then make them into something completely new. The strap is a leather belt, the main bag is made from an old tapestry-type curtain, the front red part is leather cut from something else, probably clothes, and then vintage pictures, text, sketches, magazine cuttings, etc covered in varnish and then sewn on as embellishments. Even the lining has been made from material salvaged from something else. I imagine part of the reason why Fennella can sell bags at cheap prices is because all the whole product is made from recycled/reused items. I have been meaning for so long to get to grips with learning how to use a sewing machine so I can do projects using the same idea as Fennella, but, for the meantime, I will settle for buying instead of making.

And even with buying all of that, there were so many items that I exercised restraint, and did not buy. There is one stall where lots of old “junk” is turned in to charms and pendants. You pick out whatever you want from the boxes, pick out a vintage chain,  and then the jeweler at the stand and the buyer discuss and design exactly how and what you want the “junk” to be made into. There was also a lot more jewelery that I really wanted to get, an absolute abundance, and loads of clothes too. And then, like my ticket stub, there are vintage items that are incredibly hard to find like glasses, french magazines, even flying goggles, and Judy does not lie, the whole fair was very affordable.

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair travels- so far they have been to 22 cities and 6 major festivals in the UK. On the website you can find out when the fair is next coming to a city near you or sign up to their email list so you have a reminder.

It’s the little things: FAMILY


I just spent a happy afternoon with my family yesterday. We’ve all been going through a rough couple of years for a lot of different reasons, in fact things have gotten worse instead of better. My parents came to visit me and my sister, and our significant others. We went to a pub have a very British (and delicious) Sunday roast carvery. There was nothing especially luxury about our afternoon, we didn’t spend much money at all but we all had big smiles on our faces, we couldn’t stop chatting, and, most of all, we all felt happy. There’s never a better afternoon to be spent than among family, especially if they’re also your friends.

It was my mummy’s birthday this week so we were celebrating that a bit belated. The biggest present Paul and I gave to my mum was a family tree. I saw a similar project on a blog; I tweeked and changed what I needed to so it would be just right for my mum. My parents are notoriously hard to buy presents for, I wanted to give my mum something that would make her smile, something she might actually use. We decided to make her a family tree so that she can remember, every time she looks at it, that we are so lucky to have family (I’ve known a lot of people recently who have lost loved ones by sudden deaths, and divorces), and that these tough times have brought us closer together, and we will get through everything that life sends our way as a family, all of us together.

It’s a simple little thing, family, but your family are able to completely shatter your life or become your rock in tough times. It’s so easy to cut someone down when you know all the buttons to press. It’s sad to say but through my own experience, and my friends, I have found that rejection by a family member hurts so much more, and cuts so much deeper than any friend could do. This post may seem overly sentimental to some, but I couldn’t help but remark on the stark change in mood after yesterday. It really is the best thing in life. Having said all of this, I do also have some friends who feel like family, because they have been such a good friend to me, so loyal, so understanding, they have acted in ways I could have only expected from family. Hope this post reminds you too of friends and family you love dearly and always make you smile.

P.s. We also watched the Ireland vs. France rugby game together too, so expect some thoughts from Paul later this week.