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Goodbye 2013…hello 2014!

Hope you all had a great Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year.

This year has had its ups and downs but it’s ended very well and I have high hopes for the new year. Here are my favourite moments of 2013.

1. Australia

This year was the year I got live out a lifetime dream and go to Australia for 10 days. It was a long trip and I went alone to meet up with my boyfriend Tom who was already working out there at the time. Read about my trip and see photos.

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2. New job

It was sad to leave Buzz after two years. It was my first job from university and I had a great time working on the magazine and website. I’m on to new challenges now working as a website and social media assistant and I’m looking forward to the new year.

3. Home sweet home

At the end of 2012 Tom and I decided to move in together into our very own little flat. A year on and we’re doing just fine. We’ve renewed our contract and we have furniture! You have no idea how excited I am at having my own sofa.

4. House party

Now that I have my own place we’ve had the odd get together with friends. In September I hosted my very first dinner party with five of my friends. No one got sick and the plates were empty so I’m guessing it was a success.

We had a bigger gathering back in May for my annual Eurovision party where we got to see quite a few old friends and new.

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5. Download 2013

2012 didn’t scare me off and I returned for the second time to Download Festival. The weather was slightly better and there were a lot of bands performing that I wanted to see including Katatonia and Rammstein.

Lidl's shoppers like Korn

Lidl’s shoppers like Korn

Low point

The weather has got to be the worst part of 2013. I know I talk about it quite a lot anyway but it has been particularly plan-destroying this year. At the start of 2013 I almost lost my car to the snow storm. Mid year we had a heat wave. At the end of 2013 we’ve had to battle floods, trees falling down and lengthy power cuts due to the storms that have recently hit the UK.

I don’t believe this will change in 2014.

Resolutions

Last year my resolutions were to read the books in the BBC Book List Challenge which is partially completed. I’m rolling it on into my 2014 resolutions.

Another few life goals were accomplished including taking up volunteering. I now help out in the local RSPCA shop every other Saturday. I also came third in two cookery competitions and I’m aiming for first next year!

In 2014 I plan to work hard at my new job and I’m also looking to do a bit of travelling. Oktoberfest 2014 is a big possibility.

For 2014 I hope your year is full of fun and happiness!

Happy New Year!

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Posted by on December 28, 2013 in Personal

 

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Australia 2013

Sydney Opera House

I know I said I don’t have much time to blog any more but I wanted to do this post because it’s about one of those life experiences that you can often only dream of doing. For me that’s what Australia was up until about two months ago.

I love travelling but I’ve never really had the funds to do it. Since school I had a list of countries I wanted to go to but the more out into the ‘real world’ I got the shorter that list became. Australia disappeared from the list pretty quickly. It’s one of the furthest distances you could ever travel from the UK and the cost of the flights alone is enough to put you off.

Out of the blue in August my boyfriend was asked to go there for work. It was a three month outing and I knew it would be a long time apart so straight away we started looking into the possibility of me joining him out there. A slight problem was that I was just about to start a new job so that idea was put on hold. A little bit of time passed before I suddenly came to the conclusion WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING!? I have an opportunity to go to Australia, accommodation is sorted and it’s a once in the lifetime opportunity. That night I booked my flight tickets and the journey began…

Come fly with me

I’ve been on a long haul flight before. When I was 12 I went to Florida with my family. The flight was eight hours. For this journey one of my flights was eight hours. The London to Singapore flight was 12 hours. The Singapore to Sydney flight was eight hours. The Sydney to Canberra (where we were staying) was roughly 45 minutes. That plus stopping time led to the grand total of 25 hours. I felt like I was living in the air.

I left on Wednesday 23 October at 7pm and arrived on Friday 25 October around 7am. They were night flights so I felt I could just sleep the whole way. Wrong. I did get some sleep but it was interrupted by turbulence, mass toilet breaks and food. I don’t think I got more than about four hours altogether. When I did finally make it to Canberra I had another problem. My bags didn’t make it. The connection time between the Sydney flight and Canberra flight had been so tight I had ran through the airport to make it and I had a funny feeling my baggage wasn’t going to do the same. Luckily it arrived on a later flight that day.

Jet lag won’t stop me now

A 10 hour time difference can play havoc with your brain. When I arrived in Canberra I felt unusually awake but my main fear was doing nothing for too long and falling asleep. Once the tiredness comes it’s hard to get rid of it. So from day one I set my self a plan to not go to bed before a certain time and not get out of bed before a certain time. This meant forcing myself back to sleep at odd hours of the morning. In between I would do as much as possible to keep myself active, possibly tiring myself out in the process but I also did a lot in those first few days making my overall stay seem a lot longer.

On day one I got a better picture my surroundings. I was staying in an apartment block outside of Canberra city centre. It was gorgeous and the fact that the weather was so good made it even better. We went for a stroll and came across a sculpture garden by chance which had a much smaller version of the Angel of North in the UK. I have seen Australia’s Angel of the North before I have seen the one in England.

Black Mountain Tower

Black Mountain Tower

Afterwards we jumped in the car and headed up Black Mountain to see the telecommunication tower where you can pay to go up the top. The wind definitely woke me up and we got some great views of Canberra. Then we got back in the car and headed for the next mountain. This is when I fell asleep. That was a failed mission but in a last attempt to keep me awake before it got dark we headed to a park where Tom had seen wild kangaroos. I had to wake up to keep a look out and when we saw them it was worth it. There was a small group and we tried not to disturb them. A couple jumped away which was also brilliant to see.

Wild kangaroos

Tidbinbilla

We had acquired some tourist leaflets from the visit to Black Mountain Tower. One of them was for Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Shortly before I came to Australia there had been huge wildfires, particularly around Sydney. Unfortunately it seemed some areas in the reserve had been affected too because parts were closed off but we still had a choice of trails to do. Naturally we choose the one with the most animals.

Terrapin

Terrapin

We got to see terrapins, some very angry Cockatoos, one my favourite birds the Kookaburra, plenty of lizards and a glimpse of a platypus.

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

After the reserve we headed about two minutes down the road to the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex and saw some moon rock.

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Culture fix

On the third day it was time to get our culture fix. The first place we went to was the National Gallery of Australia and then we went to Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre. It had a lot of hands on activities to try including an earthquake machine you could sit in. There was also an air hockey game where you played against a robot. I thought I was good at air hockey but the robot always wins. After that the tiredness returned so we took up our culture fix again the next day by walking around the government buildings and going to Australia’s National Museum where we were asked to design our own futuristic houses (mine and Tom’s looked oddly similar). Then we walked around the centre of Canberra which has a massive shopping centre! Yes, that did indeed help with my culture fix.

To the beach!

It was time to get out of Canberra and head east to Batemans Bay. It was a three hour drive and as we were planning to head north to Sydney at some point we decided to book a beach hut for two days. The weather was in our favour and was getting warmer and warmer each day. When we arrived we checked into our hut and then headed to the nearby Birdland Animal Park. It was a very small zoo but it housed mainly native Australian animals like wallabies, kangaroos, emus and koalas. We also got to get up close and personal with a diamond back python and a very hyperactive wombat which I think is Tom’s new favourite animal.

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Koala

Koala!

Wombat

Tom rubbing the wombats belly

The next day was quite a hot day so we found a quiet beach and sunbathed. We did wear sun cream although we definitely missed a spot because when we returned to the hut we started getting uncomfortable. It wasn’t until the next day when we saw the full extent of our stupidity. We had completely missed the backs of our legs and they were glowing red. It was pure agony for the next few days.

Onwards to Sydney

Jervis Bay

Jervis Bay

It was time to leave our beach retreat and head North along the coast.  It was a long drive but we managed to break it up by taking a detour to Jervis Bay. Jervis Bay is another nature reserve but is well known for it’s beaches which have some of the whitest sands in the world. We headed for the one right at the end where there were no people and it was like something out of a holiday brochure. I’d like to add here it was Halloween on this day and I spent it laid on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world with nothing to be scared of but more sunburn.

Tom having a swim

Tom having a swim

Sydney

We stayed in Sydney for two nights. When we arrived it was very late so we saved our energy for the sightseeing the next day.

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We caught a train to Sydney Harbour Bridge and walked across before reaching the harbour. It was another lovely day and the Opera House looked stunning. I’ve only ever seen pictures of the Opera House and the bridge on TV, particularly around New Year’s eve but to see it in person is something else.

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Right next to the Opera House are the Royal Botanical Gardens. We had lunch there and did some souvenir shopping. Then we took a ferry from the harbour to Manly. Got off the boat. Headed to the bar next to it. Had a beer. Got back on the ferry and went back to Sydney Harbour. Sounds silly but we took the ferry to get some great views of the harbour. The beer was a bonus.

Last day

We spent the next day driving back to Canberra which was a very long drive and we arrived back late evening.

The next day was my last so I did some last minute souvenir shopping and then we went to Canberra’s centre again for a goodbye meal. I was going back to England alone because Tom still had another month to go. We went to the Playground Martini and Tapas Bar  which served delicious food and amazing Martinis. The coconut flavoured one was a particular favourite.

Then it was time to go home. I left on the Monday and arrived Tuesday morning because of the time difference. My body has now officially recovered from jet lag and Tom will be back this Wednesday!

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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Personal

 

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Lime’n’Lemonade for when it gets too hot

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Typical Brits. We wait seven years for the sun to come out and when it does we complain. Granted the heatwave has come as a bit of a shock to many who thought it would be a repeat of last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, but I am just so happy Britain is finally getting a summer.

If you can’t take the heat though you can cool down with this Lime’n’Lemonade recipe.

Lime’n’Lemonade

  • 6 limes (1 sliced)
  • 5 lemons (1 sliced)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100ml cold water
  • 1 litre soda water
  • Lots of ice cubes

Start by putting the fruit slices on a tray and leaving in the freezer for an hour. Roughly chop up the rest of the lemons and limes and put in a food processor or blender. Add the sugar and water and blend. Push the mixture through a sieve into a bowl until you have as much juice out of it as possible. Add the soda water and stir. Add the lemon and lime slices and the ice cubes. Serve.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Personal

 

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Download Festival 2013

The raters

The raters of Blue Camp

I am back from my holidays and yes, a festival can be classed as a holiday.

Last week I returned from Download Festival with sunburn and a cold which got quite bad which is why I have only just managed to blog.

Returning to the tent

Luckily our tent wasn’t too muddy after last year and we were able to use it again. I was also a lot more prepared for all festival eventualities.

Two things had changed from my experience last year. I was now the driver, transporting an overfilled Ford KA and three other festival-goers – including my boyfriend Tom.

My low rider KA

My low rider KA

The second change was the weather. Good news is It rained less. Last year we were up to our knees in mud but this year we had a few light showers, one major downpour and then two days of sun.

You look familiar. Weren't you here last year?

You look familiar. Weren’t you here last year?

Of course the baby wipes and dry shampoo were my precious possessions throughout the week but this year was much better in the camp. No need to stop drinking because you’re terrified of drowning in mud on your way to the toilet.

Tom and Tom cooking dinner

Tom and Tom cooking dinner

Everyone from last year was back and with beers in hand we had some fun nights in Blue Camp. In fact we became quite popular amongst the campers after we invented a rating game (see top photo). It began with just three of the guys but grew when campers started deliberately walking past us and doing tricks to get their ratings. Even the stewards joined in. By the end of it all 10 of us had rate cards. I decided to have a smiley face and sad face but I only gave the sad face when somebody flashed us. It happened way too often…

Me dressed for Download

Me dressed for Download

The music

The main reason you go to a festival is for the music. The line up for Download 2013 included Slipknot, Rammstein and Iron Maiden.

In the arena

In the arena

On the first day we went to the second stage to see Uriah Heep, Dragonforce and Europe who last year had to cancel right at the last minute after their plane was delayed. Then we made a b-line for Korn on the main stage and then stayed there for Bullet for my Valentine and Slipknot where we got absolutely crushed. I expect to be crushed and pushed in the festival crowds but this got to a point where people had to be carried over barriers to get air. The main problem was too many people went into the front part and then decided they didn’t want to be there. To get out they pushed their way through until everything got so tight barriers started breaking and Slipknot had to stop the show several times so security could sort it out.

Lidl's shoppers like Korn

Lidl’s shoppers like Korn

The second day I went to see Young Guns nice and early on the main stage and then had a little break before going to see one of my favourite acts of the festival, Katatonia who I’ve been dying to see for ages.

Katatonia

Katatonia

Then back to the main stage for Alice in Chains, Motorhead and the first half of Queens of the Stone Age before going over to the second stage for a little bit of Enter Shikari. Then we went to see legends Iron Maiden who put on a great show complete with a Spitfire fly past.

Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden

On the third day we had a little lie in and then headed over to the main stage for Five Finger Death Punch who half way through decided to bring the children up on stage for a song. It was brilliant, especially when some of the children could sing it word for word.

People, people everywhere!

People, people everywhere!

I went to see Ghost on the second stage who you won’t forget if you saw them. All the members wear robes except the main singer who dresses in cardinal attire and a skull mask.

Ghost

Ghost

Then we finished the festival on a massive high note with the best live performance I have ever seen. I have been told Rammstein put on a good show but I was not prepared for what I saw. Fireworks, flame throwers, crazy costumes and a foam cannon shaped like a..um…never bring your children to a Rammstein gig.

Rammstein

Rammstein

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Personal

 

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Eurovision 2013: The Verdict

Eurovision 2013

Eurovision 2013

So Eurovision is over for another year and so is my Eurovision party – my first party in my new home!

Something I really enjoy about Eurovision is making people who hate Eurovision find a way of enjoying it and I think I was successful in this. Even the scorecards got used.

Onto the scores…

There were some interesting performance and some surprising outcomes. Thankfully my favourite Norway did do quite well finishing fourth.

However, my winner prediction was way off. I knew Denmark was the favourite but I thought another song might just steal the show. In the end Denmark were victors and so they will host Eurovision 2014.

Germany, who I thought would win, came a shocking 21st which was two below UK. Cascada’s song was not that bad but the performance could have done with more than just her on stage.

I am actually impressed with the UK. Bonnie Tyler did give it her all and although we finished on the second half of the board at 19th place we still did better than seven other countries which is a vast improvement from previous years.

Sadly someone had to come last and that country was Ireland. The song was bad and about the only interesting aspect of their performance was when one of the drummers dropped his stick.

The top three were all deserving though of their place and as long as Greece or Finland did not become one of them I was happy. In third place was Ukraine with a song called “Gravity” which began with the singer Zlata Ognevich being carried on by a very tall gentlemen.

Second place was the most handsome man in the competition and perhaps any of the Eurovision contests. Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov performed “Hold Me” whilst a man in a box, that we believe is his shadow, mirrored his movements.

And the winner was Denmark’s Emmelie de Forest with “Only Teardrops” which was performed perfectly and although the song did not win me over, she was a very good singer and deserving of the title. Here she is performing at the Grand Final last Saturday…

 

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2013 in Personal

 

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Eurovision 2013: Second semi-final verdict

Eurovision 2013

Eurovision 2013

Well the last of the semi-finals is over and we now know all the entries performing on Saturday for the final!

This semi-final was not as good as Tuesday’s with only one or two that I think stand a chance of winning but at least my favourite Norway got through. I am looking forward to cheering Margaret on at my Eurovision party.

The ten finalists chosen from this semi-final are:

  1. Hungary: Kedvesem by ByeAlex
  2. Azerbaijan: Hold Me by Farid Mammadov
  3. Georgia: Waterfall by Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani
  4. Romania: It’s My Life by Cezar
  5. Norway: I Feed You My Love by Margaret Berger
  6. Iceland: Ég Á Líf by Eyþór Ingi
  7. Armenia: Lonely Planet by Dorians
  8. Finland: Marry Me by Krista Siegfrids
  9. Malta: Tomorrow by Gianluca
  10. Greece: Alcohol Is Free by Koza Mostra featuring Agathon Iakovidis

I chose six of these songs with the exception of Iceland which was a good song but I really wanted San Marino to get through because they never have, Finland which was irritating, Malta which was once again a good song but I preferred Albania, and Greece who were TERRIBLE! Greece always go through but this was just awful and meant that Israel, a genuinely good, well-sung song, did not get through. Poor taste Eurovision.

I also liked Switzerland who did not get through but had the oldest contestant ever to perform at Eurovision at the ripe old age of 95!

My favourites of the night were of course Norway and Romania’s Cezar, who’s voice was nothing short of amazing and has to be heard and seen to be believed. So here it is…

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Personal

 

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Eurovision 2013: First semi-final verdict

Eurovision 2013

Eurovision 2013

The first of the semi-finals took place tonight where 10 finalists were chosen. It was a brilliant semi-final with lots of strong contenders for the winning place. I made a quick top 10 before the finalists were announced and I am pleased to say I got 7 out of 10 correct but I am very disappointed that one in particular did not get through who, in my mind, gave one of the most entertaining performances ever in Eurovision.

Singers from Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus  Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, The Netherlands and Ukraine all performed in tonight’s show.

The finalists are:

  1. Estonia: Birgit – Et Uus Saaks Alguse 
  2. Denmark: Emmelie de Forest – Only Teardrops
  3. Russia: Dina Garipova – What If
  4. Ukraine: Zlata Ognevich – Gravity
  5. The Netherlands: Anouk – Birds
  6. Lithuania: Andrius Pojavis – Something
  7. Belarus: Alyona Lanskaya – Solayoh
  8. Moldova: Aliona Moon – O Mie
  9. Ireland: Ryan Dolan – Only Love Survives
  10. Belgium: Roberto Bellarosa – Love Kills

I picked these apart from Belgium because it was just bad, Belarus because it was too trashy (even for Eurovision) and Ireland who I am not too sad about seeing as we get to see the drummers again. My other three were Austria, Serbia and Montenegro.

I am very shocked by some of the comments that have come out since the finalists were announced. Lithuania, as you know from my earlier prediction, were one of my favourites. They let me down a little with their performance but they were definitely better than Belgium! Leave Lithuania alone.

My upset of the night though had to be Montenegro. It is a well-known fact that rap gets no where in Eurovision but this performance was pure brilliance. Rapping dubstep spacemen? Yes please!

I cannot believe they will not be in the final but just so you don’t miss out, here is their performance.

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Personal

 

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