Monday, 24 April 2017

9 Places in North America I Really Want to Visit

Growing up, North America was the top of my wish list of places to travel to. Beautiful national parks filled with mountains were beyond my wildest imagination while living in all-flat Netherlands, and the idea of seeing ranches with cowboys, metropolitan cities filled with sky scrapers, and the kind of natural beauties so foreign to me, was the dream. I have since explored some of Canada on my year backpacking there after uni, as well as either coast in the US, but not until the fantastic Trek America blogging event last week, where I had the chance to see four of the US' grand national parks in virtual 360 (so realistic), have I been so very excited to explore more of North America again. There are many places I want to go to (or revisit), but in this post I will highlight the top ones I've never been to before (I'll put them in alphabetical order because I just can't choose my favourite!).

Friday, 21 April 2017

Behind-the-Scenes at Half a Sixpence at the Noël Coward Theatre

I go to the theatre a lot and there are few shows and plays in the West End I have yet to see. However, despite being inside London's glitter playhouses frequently, I don't normally get a chance to glimpse behind the (safety) curtain and see the inner workings of a big West End production. Until this week... I was kindly invited to attend a special media night at the Noël Coward Theatre to see musical Half a Sixpence, with not only a Q&A with the cast beforehand (and a delightful tune by lead Charlie Stemp on the banjo) but even a behind-the-scenes tour afterwards.

Monday, 17 April 2017

10 Hours in Oxford – How to Spend a Day in the City of Dreaming Spires

The travel bug has been itching again recently, and while time and money isn't allowing me to go back to travelling the world like I used to, I've decided to explore the UK again in the meantime. Through day trips and weekend breaks I'm hoping to satisfy the travel craving just enough until I have saved up money and holiday days for a bigger trip. The long weekend over Easter was perfect for my first outings, one of which was to glorious Oxford. I was only in the city of colleges, Tolkien, Alice in Wonderland, dreaming spires, and Harry Potter for 10 hours – but that was plenty of time for a jam-packed day of exploring, and I'd like to share with you my top tips for visiting Oxford in such a short space of time.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Why I Love Visiting Brighton (Again and Again)

It's a Bank Holiday in the UK today – the perfect excuse for a cheeky day trip to get away from all the work stress and feel like I'm going on vacation. One of my absolute staple trips is Brighton, which is just an hour away from Central London by train, making it a quick and affordable getaway. I find myself going back to Brighton time and time again, and in this post I'm highlighting three reasons why I love it so much.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

The cover of The Impossible Fortress makes this book seem like a 1960s/1970s housewife romance, but don't be deceived. The pages are packed with fun 80s references and music and the core story is a quirky, geeky, and very charming coming-of-age novel of a 14-year-old boy who dreams to be the next big computer game developer.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Easy Banana & Red Fruit Breakfast Smoothie Recipe

With spring finally here, few things beat a smoothie as a great breakfast to kickstart the day. A smoothie maker has been on my wish list for a very long time yet rather than me getting one for myself (which I should've done a long time ago) it wasn't until I got one for my birthday in February that I finally tried it out. And I have been hooked since! My concoctions so far have all been based on the basic starting off recipe of Greek yoghurt, milk, a fresh banana en frozen food, but I'd like to share with you my journey in experimenting on this blog, starting with the recipe that has become my staple breakfast several times a week.

Friday, 7 April 2017

An American in Paris at the Dominion Theatre

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

Set in a post World War II Paris, An American in Paris tells the tale of US veteran Jerry (Robert Fairchild) who, after falling under the spell of a mysterious girl he sees on the streets, tears up his ticket home to try to make it as a painter in the French capital instead. He becomes friends with fellow veteran and composer Adam (David Seadon-Young) and the French Henri (Haydn Oakley), who secretly performs as a jazz singer without his family's knowledge.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined was one of the stand-out titles for me at Scholastic's Bloggers' Book Feast earlier this year. The tagline was 'When Ingrid arrives at wilderness camp, she quickly realises there has been a big mistake' and one of the publishers described it as Wild for teens. Now, I've not actually seen that film nor read the book, but I did hear that the main character's journey was a transformative one, and so putting this in a young adult setting had me very intrigued. While this book definitely had elements of wilderness survival (used toilet paper in ziplock bags, you guys!), there was far more to it than that, and travelling the road to self-discovery with Ingrid and the other campers was both difficult and beautiful.

Monday, 3 April 2017

My 5 Favourite Quick & Cheap Day Trips From London

I love London, but sometimes I want to get away from the hustle and bustle and explore somewhere new. While an overseas holiday would be great, there isn't always the time or money for even a weekend break in the UK and day trips provide the perfect opportunity to still satisfy the need of going away, without breaking the bank or go very far. And because I don't drive in the UK, my favourite day trips from London are all just a quick train journey away. With summer just around the corner, these five British locations are the perfect getaways for a a little holiday in your own country.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum

I'm a big fan of nature photography, the closeness to the animals and the impressive landscapes always have me in awe of the beauty we have on this planet. And the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum is one of my favourite staples on the cultural calendar. Now in its 33rd year, out of all the times I've had the pleasure to visit this exhibit, the 2017 edition was the best one yet.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

You guys know that two of my biggest passions in life are books and theatre, and when the two come together (see Matilda the Musical and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, for example) magic happens. It doesn't occur often that it's the other way around though and it's a book that brings all of the stageyness rather than a novel being adapted for the theatre. So when I heard of Dramarama, written by one of my current favourite young adult authors, being set at summer theatre camp I was instantly sold.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Faulty Towers the Dining Experience at Amba Hotel Charing Cross

I'm not normally a fan of immersive theatre. I once was 'picked on' with a card trick during a show and I still break out in cold sweat when I go to anything with audience participation and one of the actors locks eyes with me. However, I grew up on brilliant comedy series Fawlty Towers and I love eating out, so despite normally distancing myself of immersive theatre I was very keen to check out the Faulty Towers Dining Experience. And I am so very glad I did, because this is a fantastic combination of a farce, improvisation and a hearty meal in a stunning location.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Top Museums in Paris – And How to Visit Them for Free

My recent trip to Paris was a whirlwind one, but one thing I made sure not miss out on was the city's incredible offering of museums. The French capital is a paradise for culture vultures and even if you're only a casual museum-goer I'll guarantee you'll be impressed by the diversity these great places have to offer. In this post I'll give you a snapshot tour of my favourites, and I share my top tip to go to the museums and other attractions in Paris completely for free!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

If you've been following me for a while on here or on social media you will have heard me rave about Passenger by Alexandra Bracken. A lot. As one of my favourite books of 2016, this time travelling, swashbuckling teen adventure was imaginative, fascinating and well-written that despite reading it almost a year ago I'm still thinking about it and recommending it on a regular basis. So of course I was very excited for the second installment to come out!

Monday, 20 March 2017

Highlights From BlogCon London 2017

On Saturday my friend Laura and I ventured over to Scarlett London Digital's #BlogConLDN at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster. I'd recently been to the same location for a work event, so it felt a bit weird returning, but of course it was for a much more fun occasion: a conference specifically designed for bloggers! There were a ton of exhibitors to chat to and lots of inspirational presentations throughout the day, and I'd like to share with you some of my highlights from the experience – including top tips from the talks and my favourite brands!

Friday, 17 March 2017

LMTO's Honeymoon in Vegas at the London Palladium

Photo credit: Nick Rutter

I've been a big fan of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra ever since I was invited to their launch gala in July of last year, and interviewed its founder and principal conductor Freddie Tapner. I loved their concert staging of Rodgers & Hammerstein's State Fair at Cadogan Hall, and while I was gutted to miss out on Alan Menken's A Christmas Carol during the festive season as I was spending it overseas with my family, I made sure to add their 2017 performance dates to my calendar as soon as they were released so I wouldn't miss another one.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

My 5 Favourite Moments in Beauty and the Beast

To celebrate the release of Disney's Live action Beauty and the Beast film this week, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the titular characters, and the publication of the stunning illustrated book by the genius design duo MinaLima last week, I thought I'd do a blog post on my favourite moments within the story – illustrated by photos from the beautiful, interactive book.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

See How They Lie by Sue Wallman

Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman was one of my favourite young adult reads from 2016 (and rightfully so not only made the Zoella Autumn Book Club but even won the title of best book!), and so when a second novel by the same author was announced at the Scholastic Bloggers' Book Feast 2017 I was stoked. How They Lie is a brand-new story, with new characters and a new location, but it has the same sense of suspense and unease as Sue's first novel, and I found myself even more gripped than before.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Art of the Brick: DC Super Heroes Exhibition

Lego was a huge part of my childhood and I'm sure I'm not the only one who still has fond memories of creating innovative structures and characters with the versatile building blocks. However, my creations weren't quite as impressive as those by Lego artist Nathan Sawaya. He has over five million pieces of Lego in his studio and his latest creations, around the themes of good vs. evil, are on display in London until September.

Monday, 13 March 2017

How I Became a London Book Fairy

On International Women's Day, with the help of volunteers in 26 countries as well as UN Women's Global Goodwill Ambassador and actress Emma Watson, The Book Fairies was launched. The project and IWD-themed global book drop got a LOT of media coverage so you may already be familiar with this brilliant organisation. If not, let me tell you my story of becoming a London Book Fairy, five reasons why I love being a part of it, and how you can get involved with this amazing project too!

Friday, 10 March 2017

Robert Rauschenberg at the Tate Modern

I love a good exhibition at the Tate Modern on London's South Bank, however I hadn't been since the amazing The World Goes Pop all the way back in January 2016. Clearly I was long overdue a return and so the Robert Rauschenberg exhibit came at the perfect time. With a mixture of installations, paintings, screen prints and film, Rauschenberg's eclectic back catalogue of work has something for everyone to enjoy.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

Despite it being the 21st century, the gender split in children's fiction is unfortunately still an unequal one. There is some movement within the young adult space, for sure, but for younger readers it's often still boys that are front and centre within a novel – especially an adventure one. So when a book turns this upside down, providing inspirational and strong role models for young girls, I'm always keen to explore it. The most recent example I read was the magical The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, and Maresi feels along similar lines when it comes to adventure, kick-assness and an other-worldly quality to the story.

Monday, 6 March 2017

A Book Lover's Guide to Literary Paris

Paris has a rich literary history, with the likes of Victor Hugo, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Alexandre Dumas all having lived and worked there; the city of love leaving an indistinguishable imprint on their writing. On my recent visit to Paris I followed in the footsteps of some of the these incredible writers, soaking up the lingering literary brilliance they'd left behind as I visited places such as famous bookshop Shakespeare & Co and Victor Hugo's tomb at The Pantheon.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Dinner at City Spice on Brick Lane

Brick Lane is a vibrant, multi-cultural area in London know for its diverse array of restaurants and shops with flavours from around the world, making it a popular destination for foodies. During the day there are street markets where you can sample the delights from lots of different countries at once, whereas in the evening it's more of a going out and dining destination. I'd not visited at night before and was delighted to do so to try the dishes at the award-winning City Spice.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Pancake Day Recipe: Dutch Pannenkoeken

I don't celebrate Shrove Tuesday back home, but any excuse to make a home-made batch of pancakes. The traditional pancakes in the UK are either American-style (quite small and thick) or crepes topped with lemon and sugar. For a twist on the classic Shrove Tuesday fare, why not try Dutch-style pannenkoeken? For toppings you can go either sweet (jam, nutella, etc.) or savoury (cheese, bacon, etc). My favourite is the cheese pancakes, which I made for this post, but this recipe is easily adaptable for different toppings and I provide some other ideas below as well.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Beauty and the Beast afternoon tea with Alan Menken

I love Disney. I'm sure I'm not the only one having grown up on the Disney films and going to Disneyland for special celebrations, but even as an adult I still have collectibles around the house, I go see all new films in cinema, and I adore visiting the happiest place on earth. So when I received an unexpected invite for a Beauty and the Beast-themed musical afternoon tea at the Corinthia Hotel to celebrate the new live-action film with legendary composer Alan Menken performing a medley of his most famous songs I felt like I'd won the lottery.

Friday, 24 February 2017

The Girls at Phoenix Theatre

Photo credit: Matt Crockett

I'm sure you're familiar with the 2003 film Calendar Girls. Starring the likes of Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, and Penelope Wilton, it tells the true story of a group of WI women posing for a nude calendar to raise money for a good cause. Gary Barlow and Tim Firth have taken the heartwarming tale and created a musical adaptation for the West End stage.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt

There was a time I regularly went to conventions, from LFCC and TV-show specific ones here in the UK to the incredible San Diego Comic Con in the US (by far the very best con experience ever!). Life and work has gotten in the way, and I've also not been as passionate about a fandom in a long while, but I still remember the good ol' days of little sleep and food, queuing from crazy o'clock for the biggest panels and stars, the fun swag and, of course, connecting with like-minded people to flail over something we all love. And Maggie Harcourt has captured the magic of conventions perfectly in her swoon-worthy YA novel Unconventional.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Dinner at Brown's Covent Garden

Situated next to the Noel Coward Theatre in London's West End, Brown's Coven Garden is the perfect lunch or dinner spot to combine with a stagey outing. And as someone who spends many evenings a week in this area of the capital, I loved checking this one out. With a combination of seasonal dishes, well-know dinner fare made to a high standard, and signature cocktails, the menu is perfect for those who want something familiar and homely with an added touch of finesse and a little razzle dazzle, befitting its location.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Stripes Publishing YA Showcase

On Saturday I ventured over to West London for a fabulous event organised by Stripes Publishing. The first part of the day was a showcase of upcoming young adult titles from authors such as Sophia Bennett, Sharon Gosling, Katy Cannon, and with surprises from their upcoming BAME YA anthology, A Change Is Gonna Come. After that we headed off for a tour of beautiful Leighton House, the home that inspired Sophia’s Bennett's Pre-Raphaelite parties in Following Ophelia.

Monday, 20 February 2017

An Instagram Tour of Paris

I had big plans for my break to Paris a few weeks ago as you could read in my pre-scheduled blog: Plans for My Birthday Weekend in Paris. Things didn't quite go as I'd written about them though, what with it being an emotional trip, a terrorist attack at the Louvre on the day I arrived, and some really bad weather. I'm still reflecting on whether I actually enjoyed my time in the French city, and so for something a little different until then I'd like to share with you a view of Paris as seen through my Instagram photos (because everything looks wonderful through a social media filter!).

Friday, 17 February 2017

3 Great Books for a More Balanced Life

If there is one thing that I've been craving in my life recently it's been more balance. Between a hectic work schedule and running around from one event to the other, I've been craving some much-needed peace and quiet. However, when you feel stuck in a certain lifestyle, finding that balance is easier said that done and so as a book geek I turned to literature to help me with this. I looked at three completely different books to show me a different way; one delves into the science behind the power of resting, one is filled with fun and easy experiments to help me wake up the conscious part of my brain, and one provided a stimulating creative outlet.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

Wing Jones is one of the few debut novels that has had such a buzz around it that I'd been looking forward to it months before publication. In fact, I was so excited to read this book that when Walker Books invited me to their Christmas blogger event, I only took for me to spot that author Katherine Webber would be there and RSVP-ed as quickly as possible before I actual read the rest of the email. Worth it.

Monday, 13 February 2017

A personal post...

I’ve had a whirlwind 10 days in which my reviews didn’t go up and the scheduled blogs that did go live weren’t shared across Twitter and other social channels per usual. I wanted to take this opportunity for a brief personal post to explain, and to stand still by someone who has been very important in my life.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Books and the City Spring Blogger Evening

Books and the City, the women's fiction spin-off from Simon & Schuster, has a special place in my bookish heart. Not only is it headed up by one of the most passionate and inspirational people in the publishing world (I'm looking at you Sara-Jade ♥) but my first book event after I moved to London was one they organised, and I've been hooked ever since.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Plans for My Birthday Weekend in Paris

As this post goes live I'm sitting on the Eurostar train to spend my birthday weekend in Paris! Last year I had an amazing holiday in Canada but that was very late in the year, making the work weeks seem even longer than usual. This year I decided to have lots of small trips, so I always have a getaway to look forward to. The first weekend break of the year has already arrived and I'll be in Paris from this afternoon until Monday night, spending my actual birthday day tomorrow in Disneyland. I'll be posting lots of photos after I've come back, but for now I wanted to share with you guys my plans for the weekend.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

2 Memoirs I've Read by Funny Ladies

When it comes to memoirs by contemporary female celebrities known for their comedic chops, it's often Amy Schumer (The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo), Tina Fey (Bossypants) or Amy Poehler (Yes Please) people think of first. And while I don't want to refute their accomplishments, there are two actresses that I admire that have also recently published their memoirs, although to slightly less fanfare, that I'd like to talk about today: Lauren Graham and Anna Kendrick.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson was one of the best books I read in 2016. People had been raving about it for a while by the time I got around to reading it and so I thought that it might not be able to live up to the hype, but it did. A YA contemporary about identity, acceptance and friendship, it was an incredible novel; insightful and hugely important. All About Mia, while having a very different protagonist at its core, also focuses on these three core elements of growing up and finding yourself. 

Monday, 30 January 2017

Magical Lantern Festival 2017

When I went to the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House and Gardens last year I was hugely impressed by this stunning feast for the eyes. Wondrous and so very unique I spent hours admiring the lanterns along the route and couldn't stop recommending the festival both online and offline. So I was very excited when I learned the festival was to return this year to brighten up the dark winter evenings in London.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Death Takes a Holiday at Charing Cross Theatre

Photo credit: Scott Rylander

Death Takes a Holiday, starring Miss Saigon's Chris Peluso and Les Misérables' Zoë Doano, combines the dramatic melodies of Phantom of the Opera with the sweepingly romantic tunes of Disney's Beauty and the Beast into one beautifully atmospheric package. It's another winner for artistic director Thom Southerland at the Charing Cross Theatre.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I do love a good fairy tale. The marriage of adventure with the fantastical (not to mention some truly dark storytelling) has always interested me, and when you throw in a handsome knight or prince as well? I'm sold. However, despite my love for these stories, my knowledge is very focused on those of European origin and so The Bear and the Nightingale, which is set in Russia, opened an entirely new wondrous world of myths and fairy tales for me.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Scholastic Bloggers' Book Feast 2017

I loved last year's Bloggers Book Feast at Scholastic and so I was thrilled to be invited back for this year's edition. The event was jam-packed with interesting publishing panels, author talks, a sneak peek at all the young adult releases ahead of us this year and lots of bookish goodies. I had an absolute blast and I think I may have found a new most anticipated book of 2017!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

2017 may not even be a full month old yet, but I've already read some incredible books that are published this year. There are two titles in particular that I cannot stop recommending (I fear I am becoming a bit of a broken record to my friends), which are the fantastical Caraval by Stephanie Garber and the heartfelt The Memory Book by Lara Avery. They are two wildly different young adult novels, but what they both have in common are strong female protagonists and a powerful story.

Monday, 23 January 2017

VanDusen Botanical Garden in Pictures

While my favourite green space in Vancouver is Stanley Park, a close second is the VanDusen Botanical Garden. The variety of plants and flowers is enormous and being quite a large attraction to visit you can easily spend half a day browsing the Canadian Heritage Garden (a forest), the maze, the rose garden, the Japanese Maples (which were stunning bright red when we visited), Livingstone Lake, and much more. Rather than just telling you about it, I want to show you the gorgeous gardens in all their autumnal glory with my visual trip through VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Promises, Promises at Southwark Playhouse

Photo credit: Ollie Rosenblatt (Senbla)

In 2015-2016 I had the distinct pleasure of watching the incredible Close To You at the Criterion Theatre – several times. I was familiar with Burt Bacharach's extensive back catalogue, of course, but I did not connect to it on an emotional level until I saw this beautiful and mesmerising show. So when I heard that Promises, Promises, which also features Bacharach's music, would get a London revival I was very excited to hear his music in a theatre setting again.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

RoseBlood Ball at Abrams & Chronicle

Some of my favourite 2016 books were published by Abrams & Chronicle, and so when the opportunity arose to celebrate the release of an awesome new title at their offices in Farringdon I of course jumped on it. Not only that, but the book at the centre of the festivities was RoseBlood by A.G. Howard (author of the Splintered series), a young adult novel inspired by The Phantom of the Opera. It sounds absolutely brilliant, not in the least because it brings my two passions – books and theatre – together in one. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Sara Barnard's Beautiful Broken Things was one of the most talked about young adult novels in 2016, and rightfully so. Her raw insight into teenage lives and female friendships created a beautiful yet devastating read. I was so enthralled by it that I had to finish the story very late at night, even though I was falling asleep (and I feared it was going to end badly – not ideal bedtime fare). Needless to say I was very excited when a proof of Sara's new novel arrived in the post, this time around focusing on two teenagers who each in their own way struggle with communication.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Boxing Day Sales Haul

Throughout the year I don't tend to buy too much for myself (unless I really need it) but when the Boxing Day sales come around I'd like to treat myself to some extras. While I'm always in the Netherlands when the sales are on, there are plenty of shops that have great offers online too and so that is where I do my shopping (it means I don't have to go outside early either or queue!). This year was a little light on the clothes haul (what I usually splurge on), but I did pick up some great things at The Body Shop, Boots, M&S, Accessorize, Fat Face and Paperchase.

Friday, 13 January 2017

The Kite Runner at Wyndham's Theatre

Photo credit: Ben Haigh

Back in 2012 I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, a poignant novel that enlightened me on the last four decades of history of Afghanistan and its people. I felt like a completely ignorant Westerner for only knowing about this country what the media had spoon-fed me, but Hosseini's beautiful novel opened my eyes by showing the human side of the wars in that part of the world and the terrible suffering of the people within. And now this remarkable and memorable story has made its way onto the stage; travelling from California to Nottingham and eventually landing in London.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

3 Great Reads For a Hygge 2017

You can't have missed the hype around hygge in the last year. The Danish are apparently the happiest nation in the world, and this is in a large part attributed to one specific element in their lifestyle: hygge. While there isn't a word for it in the English language, loosely translated it describes a feeling of relaxation and living well through spending time with friends and family and all things cosy (such as candles and comfy clothes). Sounds pretty nifty and suitable for our hectic lives, right? Read on for my top recommendations of books to pick up so you too can have a hyggelig 2017!