20 October 2016

Moments: September 2016

I've been whizzing around Florida so I've only just had the chance to sit back and reflect on what I did in September.  Typically, with me saving up for my holiday I didn't think I'd done much last month, and then looking back I did some awesome stuff!  Here's some of it:
I’ve Visited
The Tate Modern-
I met up with my friend Dave and headed towards the new hall to check out what’s in store.  I won’t lie, I mostly go here for the giggles and I certainly laughed a lot at some of the art here. I can’t pretend I know a lot about art but I still had fun.
Terrifyingly it’s 10 years since I started University, so I went back up to Lincoln for a mini reunion or sorts and to visit some friends.  Lincoln is some damn pretty, it will always have a special place in my heart, as will Sugarcubes, the dirtiest of nightclubs that I think I had a great time at that weekend if I can piece my memories together correctly...
I’ve Read
Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett-
It’s been awhile since I read any Pratchett but I am working my way through the Discworld series slowly.  It will always hold a special place in my heart as my first ever blog post was a review of one of the books from this series.  I find that as I understand the world and the writing style further, I enjoy these more and more. This was a lot of fun to read!
We Have Always Lived in the Castle-
A crime book club has been created at work where everyone who volunteers gets a free book which we read, then discuss at work later in the month.  This was the first book since I started and I really enjoyed it.  It is a classic and I have to say I love the writing style and found the world so eerie and strangely fascinating. Although I don’t think I would necessarily classify it with what I think of as crime.  Unfortunately, I missed the actual book club meetup this month so I can’t offer any more in depth insight!
Gypsy: Memoirs of America’s Most Celebrated Stripper by Gypsy Rose Lee
Gypsy Rose Lee is a woman who has fascinated me for a long time, I love feisty, entertaining people from this era.  However, I’m not normally a big biography fan so this book had been on my shelf since Christmas.  It was a mistake because it was fascinating, hugely entertaining, and I'm sure, largely false!  It’s crazy to believe anyone could have gone through the stuff she claims in the book and yet, because of the kind of entertainer she is, this doesn't actually matter at all!  True or not, it makes for a damn good story!
I’ve seen
Macbeth at The Globe-
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen some Shakespeare, and even longer since I’ve seen any at The Globe.  I chose to stand in the pit as it’s so much cheaper and I enjoyed this show on the whole, although some of the way the witches were portrayed felt like they were trying too hard to do something new.
The anniversary of the Great Fire of London-
It’s been 350 years since the Great Fire of London, so to mark the anniversary a huge wooden replica of London was floated down the Themes and then set on fire.  It was busy so I didn't get a good view but I just love being around the Southbank, so it’s never a lost moment.
No Man’s Land at Wyndham's Theatre
Yes, I was one of the lucky ones who got tickets to see two of Britain’s most loved actors grace the stage in this famous Pinter Play.  Obviously both McKellen and Stewart were amazing, well worth a watch if you like Pinter.
The Libertine at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
I actually wrote part of my dissertation about this play but I have never had the opportunity to see it live, so trust me when I say I was very excited to finally get to finally see this!  I enjoyed the performance on the whole but it wasn’t perfect, however I thought Dominic Cooper did a good job as John Wilmot.
I’ve been up to
Grabbing Crystals (or not) in The Crystal Maze
In what was one of the most fun things I’ve done all year, myself and a group of friends teamed up to take on the new Crystal Maze in central London.  I didn't get the crystal in any of the two challenges I did, but that didn’t dampen my day at all.  Honestly, it’s amazing just how much of this looks exactly like the original TV show, they’ve done such a good job!  Oh and those damn silver tickets in the dome are much harder to grab than they look! If you ever get a chance to do this do not hesitate!
Swing Dance Classes-
You might recall in my January round up post that I was going to go to swing dance classes then chickened out.  Well, after seeing an offer in Timeout I took the plunge!  I’ve been to two classes but been too busy for the last couple so think I’m going to pick it back up after my holiday.  I’m awful so far, but enjoying it!
Holiday planning-
I looked into my favorite Universal Rides and listening to Disney World podcasts to prep for Florida.
Flying down the ArcelorMittal Orbit Slide-
When I bought the tickets for this several months, ago, I decided to ignore the fact that I actually hate slides, especially covered ones.  This one, wrapped around the UK's largest sculpture, is bloody massive! So it’s fair to say I was fairly nervous when I rocked up to this, however, I did it anyway.  Turns out, it wasn’t anywhere near as scary as I thought and I actually really enjoyed it, a totally unique experience.  You get a great view of the Olympic Park too.
Doing a 20k Charity walk-
As you will have seen in my London Sightseeing post, myself and a group of friends completed a 20k walk and raised over £1000 between us!  Despite the fact one of the group had food poisoning, one of the group has MS and one of us is pregnant, we still managed to complete it together.  Thank you so much to anyone who sponsored me, we smashed out £1000 target!
I’ve eaten
Say what you want but I do enjoy Nando’s and it had been a while, got to love some spicy chicken!
Meat Liquor-
Another month, another visit to Meat Liquor. This time with a bunch of friends in tow!  It was as good as ever.
This is a restaurant I discovered near our flat that only serves desserts!  Harry went for a waffle while I went for a sundae, and they were both huge!  Not the cheapest but if you want a sweet treat, this is a great place to go.  There’s a crazy amount of choice too!
Pumpkin Spice Lattes and frappes-
I know I know, so basic, but so what?  I bloody love them and I'm making the most of it while I can, 'tis the season!
Pizza Express-
A post 20k walk treat while we all struggled to stay awake, it was much needed/ deserved!

So there you have it, I'm fighting jet lag as I write this so I hope this is making sense. On to the next month!

17 October 2016

Guest Post: What Vintage Means to Me

Welcome to Shy, Strange & Manic. I’m Jamie and I will be guest posting on Kariss’ blog today. I can’t thank her enough for letting me ramble on her blog!

I know that the lovely Kariss loves her vintage fashion so I thought that I would kind of talk about my version of vintage today as vintage fashion can be represented through many different ways. Vintage is defined as something that represents a past era.
I think that vintage can mean the above but I also think that it can also mean embedding things from past eras into your wardrobe. I think that just adding one thing to your outfit that is vintage makes a similar statement as making your full wardrobe vintage inspired.
Vintage to me means things such as bowties and loud patterns, it means old styled brogues, thick old flannel shirts, ripped jeans that are reminiscent of the grunge fashion era, it means fancy suits reminiscent of the 20’s/30’s. It also things like old leather jackets and long knit jumpers.
You can incorporate most of these into one outfit to create a plethora of vintage fashion or add one to make an outfit scream that its got lots of history to it. You could drape a leather jacket over anything really. Add some old fashioned brogues to an outfit. Team a dress up via putting a jumper over it. I just thiyok that doing this adds a different dimension to your outfit and it makes you look quite different and unique at the same time which I think is a good thing.
Do you ever team your outfit with anything that is vintage or wear full vintage outfits? Let me know in the comments below!

Thank you for reading my rambling post about how to put some vintage into your outfit. I would like to thank the wonderful Kariss for letting me guest post on Shy, Strange and Manic. If you would like to read more of my posts then go on over to http://www.jamiesowden.com/

Jamie x

6 October 2016

5 European City Destinations You Need To Visit

As you read this I am currently in Florida, most likely running around Disneyworld eating too much sugar and waiting to meet Mickey Mouse, so today Rhian is taking over the helm to share with you her favourite European cities. Don't forget to check out her blog at http://www.rhianwestbury.co.uk/

European City Destinations You Need To Visit
While we’d all dream of laying on the beaches of Hawaii or exploring the colourful streets in Thailand, long-haul holidays aren’t always possible. With so many amazing places right on our doorstep in Europe it’s easy to get a short break away and explore another culture without the need to spend more than a few hours on a plane.
I would have to admit that Copenhagen is one of my favourite places in the world and within 13 months I would have visited the city three times. Firstly Copenhagen is so cheap to fly to, on Sky scanner it’s forever the cheapest place to get a flight to. I’ve heard a lot of people say the city is expensive when you arrive but living in London I don’t find this and as long as you’re not going to eat a la carte every night you can still do it on a budget. Copenhagen has the iconic Little Mermaid statue housed here, Northern Europe’s largest aquarium, one of the best zoos I’ve ever been to, a theme park/ gardens in the city centre (yes you read right) and it’s the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen who wrote a lot of those fairy tales you remember from a kid. There is honestly so much to do here you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Rome is somewhere I have been itching to revisit for years and is my other joint favourite city in Europe. There is so much history here and I love the stories of the Roman times so this is the perfect city for me. Not only do you have the coliseum and the ruins with plenty of amazing stories, you have beautiful views from the top of the Spanish steps, the iconic Trevi fountain and you can even tick off another country on your visit if you head to The Vatican. Plus you can’t go wrong with all the fresh, authentic pizza you can eat.
Paris is a little bit of a cliché city when it comes to trips away but if you don’t want to head too far away then this is the perfect place to hit up. And there is so much more to do here than just going up the Eiffel Tower. There are plenty of monuments you can scale including The Arc de Triumph, Notre Dame and the Sacre Coeur, plus the Louvre is possibly one of the most famous museums in the world, although it isn’t all about the Mona Lisa. You can spend days just wandering around Paris and never getting bored with it’s gothic architecture and abundance of pastries and macaroons.
If you’re looking for something on the cheaper end of the spectrum when it comes to holidays then look no further than Krakow in Poland. Beer is typically cheaper than water and a three course meal can set you back under a tenner. Not only can you eat and drink your way through Krakow you can visit the stunning salt mines where everything is carved and sculpted out of salt (people even get married down there), and you can visit the moving Auschwitz concentration camps, but make sure you have your tissues ready.
Don’t even fancy heading out of the United Kingdom? Then never fear as Edinburgh has so much to do then 50 minute flight is worth every second. With the iconic Edinburgh Castle, the Queen's’ residence Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh Zoo home to the country's only Panda’s, the Royal Britannia Yacht which serve some of the best smoked salmon in the city and enough fudge to keep you on a sugar high for life you’ll never get bored. If drinking is more your thing then you’re in luck with a Gin Distillery and so many whisky shops you might get drunk just walking in. Edinburgh is a city like no other and one you’ll never want to leave.

30 September 2016

London Sightseeing: a 20k Walk Along the Themes

As you will have seen on my previous post, I recently teamed up with a gang of friends, one of whom suffers from MS, to do the 20k MS Charity Walk and raise money for the MS Society.  We smashed out £1000 target, and got to see some great views along the way, so I thought I'd share some of the sights with you today.  
We started off at Battersea Park befoe crossing south of the river where we saw the beautiful and iconic MI5 building.  Yes this is the same beauty you will have seen in many a James Bond film, and it's one of my favourite buildings in London.  Unlike New York we have so little art deco buildings in London.  I love how this stands out in all it's blue, shiny glory.
Quite a while later, once we had passed the London Eye and the Tate Modern to name just a few, we passed crossed over the Millennium Bridge, or the 'wibbly-wobbly' bridge as it is often known.  From here we headed straight towards St Paul's Cathedral.  A really beautiful structure.
Soon we were passing one of the newest additions to London's skyline, The Shard.  It's unique shape and a top that looks like broken glass means it is already one of Lnodon's most well known buildings.
Next up is one of London's most famous monuments, Tower Bridge, not London Bridge as people often think it's named.  Tower Bridge definitely more spectacular then Lonon Bridge so people often get the two confused.  This marked the half way part of our 20k and it felt pretty good to be walking over this bridge, especially as I realised I've never actually done this before!
From the opposite side of the river we had a great view of the 'the city' as it's locally known, which is the financial district.  As you can see the skyline here is ever changing, with new, unique buildings going up all the time.  Here you see 'the gherkin' and 'the walkie talkie'.  We like our nicknames in London!
By contrast, just further along the river is one of the oldest buildings, The Tower of London.  This is where the crown jewels are still kept to this day, heavily guarded by the world famous Beef Eaters. 
Big Ben was one of the last photo ops on the walk, so obviously it was selfie time!  I think we had about 5k to walk at this point, but boy did it feel longer!  

It was a great day, as you can probably tell from these photos, the weather was interchangeable but I had a lot of fun.  It felt so good to be doing it for a great cause and see some of the more touristy parts of London I don't often go out of my way to see these days.

London, stay beautiful!

20 September 2016

My Top 3 Disneyworld Planing Podcasts

In the last few years I have turned into a bit of a podcast fiend!  When I’m not listening to true crime podcast changes are I’m listening to some kind of Disney planning podcast, even if I’m not actually planning a holiday there yet!  I love keeping up with all the changes, new stuff and rumours!

When I head to Florida next month it will have been 4 years since I last headed over, one of my longest gaps ever, and oh boy has there been some changes!  Not least the addition of Magic Bands/ My Magic Plus, the most stressful change at all for someone not used to that system!  Here are the podcasts I’ve been listening to keep me ahead of the game, and try and rest my stressed out planning brain!

The Dis Unplugged
I’m starting off with the very best, and The Dis is definitely it.  Their insights into all Disneyworld related news, rumours and reviews, even of the smallest elements, are second to none.  On top of that they don't sugarcoat their opinions.  If Disney do things they don’t like, they aren’t afraid to say it, and will give you advice on how to make Disneyworld for you no matter what your holiday group consists of.  I have also started listening to one of their sister podcasts, The Dis Unplugged Universal Edition for info on Universal Studios which is also great.  If you are only going to listen to one, make it this one!

The Unofficial Guide’s Disney Dish with Jim Hill
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how good the book The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World is, it is the one thing you need to get if you are looking into a Disney World Holiday.  If The Dis Unplugged is the must have Podcast, this is the must-have book.  The Unofficial Guide Podcast is created by the same person who creates the book, and features Jim Hill who is a Disney historian who knows seemingly everything about the parks and their history.  They switch between news and advice, to some really fascinating historical overviews of the parks, well worth a listen!

The WDW Radio Show
I think this is one of the first fan-based Disney World media projects I ever followed, originally via their Youtube channel years ago.  Presented by Lou Mongello, an expert on all things food related in Disney, this podcasts involves reviews, news and answers questions submitted by viewers.  A great place to find an answer to any of your concerns or worries, or just to find some great snacks in the parks!

So there you have it, what do you turn to when planning a holiday?

16 September 2016

What I Wore: Yelp 50's Party

Do you ever fall in love with a dress, and realise it’s on sale at the same time?  It’s a rare combination, but when it strikes you’ve got to get it fast!  Recently, as both Lindy Bop and Collectif had amazing sales on, I spent a bit too much money taking advantage of both.  One item I fell in love with and just had to get my hands on, was this Marion Red Anchor Print dress by Lindy Bop.

Now we all know that Lindy Bop products can vary when it comes to quality and sizing, so I was disappointed but not surprised when this arrived in a size that should have fit me well, but was actually way too big.  They were out in the smaller sizes so my heart sunk.  However I had really fallen for the dress, so I stalked the website until the size I was after suddenly appeared.  This is from Lindybop’s more expensive ‘made in Britain’ range, and after seeing the difference in quality I would definitely order from this range again.  The material is thicker than usual and elasticated, it fits so well and it’s completely comfortable.  The material also never needs ironing when it comes out of the wash which is a major win in any book for me!  My only criticism is that as I have worn this more and more, I feel like the neckline is getting lower and lower and it’s becoming a little indecent, I don’t want to have my bra on show.  I often have this issue as I have a short upper body and shoulders, I wonder if it is stretching in the wash?
Bandana: old
Hair flower: Collectif, old season
Belt: from a different dress
Bag: Banned Clothing, gift
Petticoat: Lindy Bop
Shoes: ebay, no longer available
Pics by Lissa
In these pics I was headed to a 50’s themed event ran by Yelp at Love, Die, Late, along with Greece playing in the background, free cocktails and amazing food it’s hard to think this event wasn’t made just for me!  To add to the 50’s aesthetic I wore my new Petticoat with the dress, another find in the Lindybop sale.  I tried a 30-inch length (way too long!) and a 28 inch and this is the 28.  In hindsight it’s actually still too long, even when I have it pulled up over my waist it still just peaks out, I think in future I'll be looking for 26’s to fit my 5 foot 3 frame, you live and learn.  I got this petticoat for a total steal and was surprised at the quality.  I’ve owned a few petticoats in the past but this one feels like my most luxurious.  I love the shape it gives (sometimes I find petticoats that flair out too high up just make me look bigger, instead of the desired 50’s shape) and it is seriously soft.  It also has a really nice lining which stops from the dreaded itch which has made me tear off some of my cheaper versions in the past.  

Shoe wise I was heading straight from work and wanted to walk to the event, so as usual I choose comfort over style with these £5 ebay finds, wish I’d got these in more colours now!  I am still yet to master doing anything interesting with my super annoying thick hair so I added a red bandana and Collectif hair flower to my ponytail to give me a more ‘teen on her way to a sock hop look’.  Do I also get points for matching my nails, Fitbit and bag?  Totally not accidental….

Overall I have to say I really enjoyed wearing this outfit, and I got compliments from strangers and you can’t ask for more than that.  I’d love to hear your thoughts?

14 September 2016

Top 10 Unmissable Universal Studios and Island of Adventure Rides

My last visit to Universal Studios was in 2012, and as Universal can turn out half a new park in the same time it takes Disney to finish building a car park, you’ve got to believe there is a ton of new stuff I want to explore here, as well as re-visiting some old favorites!  Here are the attractions I can’t wait to jump on in each of the parks next month (OMG I can say next month now!)

Universal Studios
Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
This is the big one from Universal!  I have heard nothing but praise about this next generation immersive ride, and nothing but dread about how crazy the queues get!  I will be making a beeline for this at opening that’s for sure!  I’ve heard the queue theming alone is incredible.  None of Diagon Alley was open during my last visit so I can’t wait to see it all here.
Revenge of the Mummy
One of my most favorite roller coasters of all time, it doesn't even seem like a rollercoaster throughout most of it!  Between the special effects, the surprises, and the incredible set this is no ordinary coaster!  I could ride this all day, and the queue fits in perfectly in Universal’s ‘backstage at the movies’ aesthetic, as it takes you from movie set to the supernatural as you head further in.  It’s a little scary, and a lot of fun!
Men in Black Alien Attack
This is Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin’s bigger and more hardcore brother, and as long as you can hold on to your lunch, it’s much better!  The set is huge and incredible, there are a lot of unexpected twists and a competitive element that ups the ante from the Disney version.  Don’t forget to never press the red button….
Transformers: The Ride 3-D
This is another new addition since my last visit, and I am a huge Transformers!  Transformers is the perfect addition to universals repertoire and again, I’ve heard good things about this rollercoaster come simulator ride.  
Hogwarts Express
This isn’t listed as an actual ride and it is technically classed as transport, as it goes between both parks but I chose to add it here because we all know it’s a major attraction!  Apparently each way show different scenes and I can’t wait to see both.  It's seemingly really realistic too, I’ve seen some pictures of their version of King's Cross station and it’s early similar to the old version of King’s Cross here in London before the reascent re-do.
Islands of Adventure
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
I love this ride!  It’s worth it for the queue alone, it’s a fully detailed Hogwarts!  Honestly, the special effects in the queue are almost as exciting as the ride.  You wind through the castle before you board visiting the defense against the dark arts classroom, Dumbledore's office and so much more.  The ride itself is so immersive that you totally lose sight of what is actually real.  It’s so in depth I can’t even describe it, but image you're on a broomstick, being flung around on a robot, while simulated and real scenes play out in front of you, with roller coaster elements to boot.  Often described one of the best rides ever created for immersiveness, this is as good as it gets!  However, because of this it is also bloody terrifying!  If you don’t want to have a Death Eater coming right into your face while you are helpless to get away, ask for the castle tour which just takes you through the queue area, skipping the ride.  
Dragon Challenge
I have loved Dragon Challenge ever since it was called Dueling Dragons back in it’s pre-Harry Potter days.  It went through an overlay when Harry flew into town but the actual ride stayed the same, with a couple of relevant props added to the already cool cave like queue line.  The premise is simple, there are two coasters that run alongside each other and race to the end, each one is supposed to be a different kind of Dragon from the Triwizard Tournament.  It’s heart racing and a lot of fun!
Skull Island: Reign of Kong
This is the newest ride to either of the parks and I can’t wait to try it out.  It’s had some crazy hype about it’s use of scare actors, technology and the scale of the set.  I have great memories of the old king Kong ride from the 90’s so I'm looking forward to giving this grown up, seemingly terrifying version a go, if I don’t chicken out!
The Incredible Hulk Coaster
As far as coasters go there is nothing really crazy technology wise at play here, other than the vertical climb that blasts you, somewhat unexpectedly, to the top of the track so fast you’ll be wondering what’s going on.  However, this is one of the smoothest coasters around and there’s a reason it’s often voted one of the best coasters in Florida.  There are more twists, turns and drops here then you can shake a stick at.  It’s recently had a new queue added and a track replacement, bringing it more up to date, which I am hoping they do with the rest of Marvel Superhero Island before Disney create their own version in the near future.
The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman
Another beauty from Marvel Super Hero Island and one of the rides that set the standard for all rides that followed at Universal.  This is another that mixes rollercoaster ride technology with simulators to give you a really immersive experience.  The queue for this is always long but it is so much fun!

An extra nod goes out to the water rides at Island of Adventure as no one gets you wet like Islands of Adventure (take that as you will!)

What’s your favorite ride at Universal?


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