Monday, 29 September 2014

Iceland Day 6 - The Finale!

We are finally at the end of the Iceland mini series - which brings us to day six, of course being my last day.

The big highlight of my last day was my horse riding day. You see, I love Icelandic horses. I always have. I was never a big horse fan despite my many many years of riding (like the sport, not the animal) but the Icelandic horse was always by far my favourite because they are one of the only breeds I would genuinely consider to be really pretty, and because they have a fun personality. What you may not know about the Icelandic horse is that they are also unique in that they have two additional gaits that other horses do not have, and so I was looking forward to trying these out whilst spending the day exploring the scenery.

I had two different horses as it was an all day thing. This was the first horse. I really liked him. However this was where I very quickly discovered that it is not that easy to get the horses to do the tolt (one of their unique gaits) but when they do do it, it is amazingly smooth. Unfortunately, the regular trot of the Iceland (or at least the two I rode) is horribly uncomfortable, and to get it to do the tolt you have to basically trot very very fast. Which means that when the horse suddenly decides it doesn't want to tolt anymore you are doing worlds most uncomfortable trot at a very fast speed and it is just... not pleasant.

The majority of the morning ride wasn't that interesting. We were around fields and paths that I'd be on normally, and it was slow paced as it was mixed ability.

In the afternoon I rode this horse. She had nicer gaits but was not a nice horse. She kept trying to bite me and everyone else. The afternoon trip was advertised as being for advanced riders so I was looking forward to it, but on the whole was really disappointed. We hardly cantered, just walked and tolt/trotted which made it kind of a painful day. The scenery WAS interesting, we went through lava fields and ruins, but I was disappointed as I much prefer cantering and galloping and as I'd signed up for an advanced rider session which specifically said you need to be able to do these things for long periods of time... yeah.

I was also put off by the fact that the driver who I think may also be the manager was a bit of a jerk. I'd arranged beforehand that my hotel be the first one to be dropped off at - you see, the way Reykjavik is organised, on all tours my hotel is literally the first or the last every single time depending on what way round the circle the bus decided to go. So by email beforehand I'd been assured that this would be completely fine. When I got there I checked about it and again, this was completely fine. When I mentioned it to this guy, he threw a tantrum over it, talked over me, was just generally rude and ruined the day pretty much. Oh well.

The reason it was important that I was first was because I had another bus waiting for me to take me to the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is an artificial pool which to be fair does look pretty  cool, but it's really expensive and I expected it to be a huge disappointment. It was. It was very interesting for a little while but also a lot smaller than I expected. I guess it would be fun if you were in a couple but mostly I just put random mud masks on myself and tried not to hurt myself on any sudden rocks whilst avoiding this one particular man who had decided to keep following me around. The only reason I went was because my flight was at midnight, so I figured I'd spend the remainder of the day there (it's not too far from the airport) and then get the bus there rather than just hang out at the airport all evening. I didn't take any pictures in the actual pool bit because that seemed like an obvious disaster waiting to happen, but as you can see, I also ate sushi there. Hoorah!

And there you have it, the end of my Iceland adventure! Iceland was expensive, very very expensive, but with an interesting background, varied geography, lots of stories, and friendly (generally very attractive!) people. I think I'll probably go back at some point to complete the four day hike, but for now I think I need a bit of a break from the volcanic countries as I may have overdone it a bit recently!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Open House 2014 - Day One

Open House London is something I've taken part in for the last three years. The basic idea behind it is that hundreds of buildings around London, many of which you can't normally go into, open up for the day for free. The amount of effort and things you can see in the buildings varies massively - some let you basically wonder around as you please, some take you on a guided tour, some just let you go into one room. Places I've visited with it in past years have included Lloyds, Battersea power station, the Bank of England and many more!

This year I suddenly ended up with both days in the weekend free so we ended up making two days out of it. This is recommended if there's a few you want to go to - Open House is really really tiring, especially if you want to go to a big player you'll probably end up getting there pretty early so you don't have to queue for hours and hours, and the day does become exhausting even if you're sticking to the same area. It's always a good day though, so off we went...

Our first stop was 30 St Mary Axe more commonly known as The Gherkin. I've wanted to visit the gherkin for years but have always been put off by the absolutely enormous queues. I suspected that this year the queues would be separated a bit by some people going to the cheesegrater instead and it looks like I was correct - we got there at 0730 for a 0800 opening, and were in by about quarter past.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Iceland Day 5: Jokulsarlon

We are almost at the end of the Iceland adventure - but the day that I was most looking forward to, and the trip that I had prioritised whilst organising. This was actually a two day trip, but I've bunged it together to save repeating myself!

Well, I'm more or less going to do the pictures do the talking with this one. I know it sounds lazy, but I think you'll see what I mean and why there's really nothing I need to say.

This is Jokularlon, Iceland's glacial lake. Photos from around it (see what I mean about the terrible weather actually working really well with the photos?) and from the boat.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Career choices, career choices...

It's time that I started thinking about what I want to do with my life. Again. Because at 26, I still don't have a bloody clue. I have plenty of pretty solid ideas about what I don't want to do, but the rest of it ends up being a mystery that I'm fairly sure I should have figured out about ten years ago. Nevermind.

So, let's have a bit of a background check before we get started. Right now I have two jobs; I work as a teacher and I work as a police officer. Yep. 60 hour weeks sure are fun! I hate the teaching role and always have done. I really enjoy the police work, but at this point don't want to do it full time. It's probably the eventual idea, but I'm also not sure because if I really wanted to do it full time, I'd probably do it by now. With the teaching, I currently work in preschool but have worked in pretty much every primary age phase. Before that I've also been a sports teacher, taught English as a foreign language, and been a horse riding instructor.

On pretty much a yearly basis, I try to apply for new jobs. I never hear back from any of the non education jobs, and will be offered pretty much all of the education related ones. Don't get me wrong, I know I'm lucky to be getting those acceptances, but it's still seriously annoying. Well, we are coming up to the time when I'm considering applying around again, and hopefully the year in the police will also have helped my CV out by adding a bit of variety - but what to apply for?! Here's the considerations so far...

Teaching Assistant
The job I do now, but with less pay and less respect? Yeah, pretty much. The main difference being I'd get the reduced hours and I'd get reduced stress. My problem with teaching has never been the kids. Sure, some of them are awful, but for the most part I do actually like working with kids. What I don't like is all the pressure and stress I get, and the fact that because I have so much to do I don't really get to spend all that much time interacting with the kids and getting to know them. So I figure being a teaching assistant will mean I have no money anymore and it will be a downgrade career wise, but I think I'd enjoy it a whole lot more and to me that's more important anyway.

Project Administrator/Secretary/Manager
Yep. Some sort of office based role is, I think, what I'm trying to say. I'd like to find some sort of role within a charity that can hopefully combine my two interests - ideally working with disadvantaged kids or people. I think I'd enjoy this as it would hopefully offer me variety, but not leave me feeling completely overworked.

Case Worker
Again, ideally for a charity working with disadvantaged kids or people. Getting to know someone or a family and really being able to help them. The joy of the interaction but without all the demands.

Prison Officer
I have a feeling I probably wouldn't like this all that much, but I also have a feeling I'd actually be really good at it. See, I think being a prison officer isn't actually all that different from working in preschool as it's basically ensuring everyone sticks to a timetable and is doing what they're supposed to be doing - of course, added risks, but y'know, on a simplistic scale. I obviously know a fair bit about criminal interaction, and this'll help me if I do decide I want to go full time. I also think I might find this horrendously boring, but maybe I won't as the interactions will be more interesting to me. Hmm, not sure on this one.

Team Administrator/Receptionist
If I did this, it would need to be one of those roles where you move around a lot. So spend a bit of time on reception, a bit of time with this department, a bit of time on that one... I also don't think I could do this for just any company as I'd get bored quite easily. In an ideal world, I'd be looking at one within a police service, the prison service, or the government. Or a charity, obviously. You notice that I seem to like the same organizations?!

Other options that I don't really know much about are mainly those to do with children, ie as an early intervention worker, or some sort of intelligence analysis role. All I really know is that I absolutely need to get out of teaching/childcare/education. I've never enjoyed it and it basically makes me a bit of a rubbish person as I'm exhausted and stressed and I just don't care as much as I used to which I really hate. Compare this to the police where I sometimes end up doing 20+ hour shifts but leave in a good mood and leave having given the best care and attention that I can to the people that I've had to deal with - but, I don't want to ruin that by doing it all the time and doing the horrific shift work.I actually like working and hate having nothing to do, but it's about time I did something that I actually enjoyed.

I have two months coming up that'll give me the time to do this... I'm hoping that the year with the police will have helped me out, but watch me only hear back from schools again!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My Little Box UK September: My Little Parisienne Box

I recently found out about Paris based My Little Box and have been so excited waiting for their UK launch. I've tried out quite a few boxes and while I love the surprise of getting something random through the post each month, it generally ends up being a disappointment eventually. So I was excited to find My Little Box, which is more of a lifestyle, beauty and fashion box than any one in particular and focuses its boxes around different themes; Such as My Little Sunshine Box or My Little Happy Box. This idea appealed to me much more, as I don't really use many beauty products so a general lifestyle one with a different theme was so much more ideal to me! The boxes also looked really beautifully presented and basically like they tell a story as you open it, so I was super excited to receive my first one.

And here it is!

It's quite fitting I think that the first box is My Little Parisienne Box, and it sure does work as a little introduction to the company. The first thing I thought whilst looking through the products was how well presented and designed it was, and how great the quality of the contents were.

Let's take a closer look shall we?

The first thing I see is this cute little inspiration card. I really love the design of it, and I love the idea of these little cards. I have a little display board that I stick random things on (right now it includes a painting I got in Zimbabwe, a lucky charm someone gave me, some photos, and the flower that used to live in my beloved VW Beetle!) and little things like this will work wonderfully, or on my work locker or something along those lines. Ironically I'm not actually a fan of Paris, (maybe this box will convince me otherwise?) but I am loving the idea of these and this is such a cute card.

Next up is some cute little stickers. This is a cute idea, though I won't be decorating my own things with them as I know some little girls who would love them a lot more than me so I may use them as rewards for them :)

Next up is a little book which begins as an introduction to My Little Box and tells you a bit about it and the people behind it. The book is really well made and again beautifully presented, the photos are wonderful and really help with the atmosphere and experience of the whole box. The rest of the book is plain, which is a little odd when some of it works as an advert and some of it is your own use - but I'll still definitely be using it though I'm not entirely sure what for yet!

On to the beauty products!

First up is Huile Prodigieuse dry oil. I honestly had to google this to find out what on earth I was supposed to do with it which should tell you exactly why I don't do most beauty boxes anymore, but it seems it is to provide moisture to the face, body and hair. A little strange but it smells really lovely, and winter is coming so of course I'll be using it.

Next up we have a Laura Mercier foundation primer. I bought my first foundation primer a few months ago and have used it a grand total of never (which again, should tell you why I don't do beauty boxes anymore!) but it goes on really easily and again smells soft and pretty. I'll inevitably end up trying this at some point!

The final beauty product is from the My Little Beauty range and is Stylo Lumiere, which is a light pen .

The final product in the box is this pretty little case which you can use for a tablet or a small laptop. As you might expect, it is slightly too big for my tablet and slightly too small for my laptop, but it is so pretty and well made that I definitely want to find some sort of use for it. The design is pretty and it is well padded and feels really secure for your items. I may stick my tablet in it even though it looks a bit ridiculous in it just because I like it so much!

In conclusion, I am happy with my first My Little Box. I wasn't sure what to expect AT ALL, but the items are so pretty and well made and offer such a great variety that I'm really happy with it and really really looking forward to next months box. I really love the idea of having themes and I can't wait til next month to find out what the theme is going to be!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Iceland Day 4: Snaefellsness, and my favourite Icelandic evening

Welcome to Iceland Day 4, which includes the Snaefellsness penninsula and also provides you the story of the most fun night I had in Iceland and in quite a while!

But first, lets take a look at Snaefellsness. This was the first sunny day in Iceland (this does not mean it wasn't really bloody cold and windy) and that was definitely appreciated! Having said that, for next weeks post the terrible looking weather really adds to the atmosphere of the area, but for me it was a very welcome break from constant rain.

The above photo is one of my favourites from my entire trip (my favourites all being from next weeks post!) as I think it captures the Icelandic atmosphere pretty well. You've got a little isolated house with volcanoes in the background and the ocean in front - that pretty much reflects the Icelandic spirit as much as you can get, I think!

Ahh,the ocean. I went looking for seals and finally found one. After spending all my time trying to find this one seal, I suddenly noticed there had been a group of about six or so killer whales just hanging out that I'd completely failed to notice at all.

More lava fields. I mentioned I like these, right? I never did stop finding them pretty cool. 

The above two photos are of a pretty cool area; the beach is the site of a boat wreck, and the remaining parts lay scattered over the black beach with just one sign at the beginning asking you to respect the wreck and let them lie. It was a little surreal, but a really touching spot actually that I found very interesting. I feel like if this was in pretty much any other country, it would at best all be covered in grafitti and at worst completely empty from everyone stealing the parts...

Overall Snaefellsness was a pleasant little area with some great views and finally the iconic Nordic shots that I'd been waiting for!

But my highlight of the day and this trip as a whole came in the evening. I returned to my hostel and found the person on the bed underneath mine being rather bored out of his mind reading a book - he really was not a fan of Reykjavik at all and was only there on a stopover anyway so had given up on it. We ended up chatting and getting on, so I offered to take him on a quick trip to the city where we would do the tour completely the wrong way - just picking a direction and walking it. He agreed to this, so off we went. And honestly, it was a great evening. From 7pm til 7am the following morning (and even then it only ended because I had to go and catch a bus and he had to go and pack for the airport) we just walked around having those experiences that I love the most about meeting people travelling, just finding out everything about each other, all the parts people normally don't talk about to each other but you're never going to see each other again because you live in different countries and live different lives, and you're two people connected purely by the fact that you have ridiculously good small talk chemistry and just happen to be in the same place with nothing better to do.

I may or may not have ended the night kissing a complete stranger...

I may or may not have lied about how you never meet each other again, because he may or may not have extended his stay in London by a day so that they could have a night out back here as well...

The people you meet whilst travelling, hey?


Friday, 12 September 2014

The Sims 4: Review

As many of you know, in November and December I'll be on medical leave. Throughout this time I'll be unable to eat, exercise, go out very much - meaning my blog will become amazingly active, basically! So I was planning on saving the Sims 4 until then, since I'd be pretty house confined anyway.

Well, dear reader, I am a failure. The 5th came around and I spent a grand total of two hours trying different Asda and Tesco stores to try and find a copy (and then the next day found a discount code that would have saved me £20, dammit), and the 6th I sat there for three hours straight playing the game, stopped myself from playing it anymore, and spent the remainder of the night thinking about playing it. Yep.

This is just going to be a quick review, as I'm not much of a gamer and I'm definitely not much of a game reviewer. I have owned every Sims game, and many of the expansions, and in the build up to the Sims 4 I was genuinely not very excited at all as I thought it was too much of a downgrade from the Sims 3. Well, I was wrong.

The Sims 4 plays perfectly on my three year old laptop. There are loading screens, but they are not bad ones - they are there for around 5-10 seconds, and usually on the lower end of the spectrum. I don't like that so many normal careers are missing (I want my Sims to be doctors and police officers, not astronauts) but I do like the changes to the careers, because they're more difficult now - I used to bloody hate the whole having to make friends to go up in careers and I would cheat around it, but I hated how easy it was on the Sims 3. For the Sims 4 you have daily tasks and more that you need to complete.

I was never one of those people that disliked the look of the Sims in the Sims 3, but I LOVE how they look in Sims 4. It's easy to make some very attractive Sims, and a lot of effort has gone in to making the different ethnicities as well.

Overall - it is just more fun to play. Group conversations are a thing that makes a huge difference and looks so much more natural. And multi tasking also makes the whole thing more natural! For example, my Sims' housemate was watching TV on the sofa in the morning. I told my other Sim to go and get herself some breakfast, and she then automatically went and sat next to her housemate and whilst eating also watched the TV and talked to her. I sent the other Sim off to work and spotted a friend of my Sims jogging outside. I quickly clicked on him to tell her to go and talk to him and off she went, taking her plate with her and eating it at the same time. It's very little changes but actually it makes an enormous difference and makes it much more fun to play. The emotion system is a nice change too - it doesn't make a huge difference for my Sims at least but I have made two very easy going Sims - however normally when playing I go out of my way to keep everything happy and I never bother with the negative interactions. When my Sim is angry in the Sims 4, I will make sure I include some and do have my Sim get bitter and insulting and mean and reclusive and whatever else according to her mood in a way that I wouldn't have done before.

Overall; I'm enjoying it, and you should get it too :)

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Criterion; Summer Set Menu

I've posted a review about the Criterion before, and recently decided to go back to try out their summer set menu.

This time I went on a week day evening, and there was an immediate difference; the place is still awesome, but it's far less intimidating during the week. It's not as dark, the music isn't there - these are subtle changes but they make a big difference. I was going with one male friend and I was very worried that it would give us a massive datey atmosphere that would make us feel uncomfortable, as though I went with about ten friends the last time I could still see how it would feel like that. On a week day - not at all! Still lovely, less pressured.

The food here is a really good deal considering where this restaurant is and how amazing it is. We went for their summer set menu which comes with a cocktail and is £20 for two courses or £25 for three.

For my main I had the fish. I literally always go for the fish, this should be no surprise to anyone!

 But for the pudding, I had this amazing raspberry and chocolate pudding. I absolutely loved this! The tastes were all spot on, it was very sweet and strong flavoured.

I'd definitely recommend the Criterion (Link). Literally the only bad thing I can say about this place is that because of the lighting you can't take very good pictures! But the lighting gives it a great atmosphere, so this is only a bad thing for bloggers :) Go on the weekend if you want the full atmosphere and the music, go on a week day if you want it to be a little less intimidating (though I'd say the weekend is more fun, if you're not sure which to go with!)

Monday, 8 September 2014

Iceland Day Three; Landmannalaugar

My third day in Iceland finally brings us to the first trip I actually enjoyed - hoorah! It had to happen eventually.

I'm sorry, Iceland. You are a great country, really! 

So on my third day I headed off to Landmannalaugar. That word is not pronnounced how you think it is, by the way! (Unless you happen to be Icelandic/Nordic, in which case it probably is)
 We passed this waterfall on the way. I'm not going to snark any more waterfalls.

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