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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

June 24, 2016

Me & My Other Interests: Video Games



Last time I did one of these posts, I discussed all things to do with music and shed some light on things I love and how my taste in music manifested itself and has grown over the years. I thought my next post in this series should cover another great love of mine: video games. Gaming has been a central aspect to my life since a very young age. Having two parents who were keen gamers on old consoles (circa Atari and Megadrive in particular) its kind of no surprise I grew up to love them too.

My first memories of any sort of video games was the SNES and the arrival of the Playstation. I had my uncle's old Super Nintendo and my dad's old Sega Megadrive hooked up to my TV in my room at my gran's house. I can always remember playing The Lion King on the Megadrive and Donkey Kong and Street Fighter II on the SNES. Those were my first real instances of gaming that sparked an interest for me. I was always a creative kid - whether it was sitting painting or drawing, making videos with my camcorder and barbie dolls (move over Spielberg), or making up some new sports game outside which I subjected my grandma to, I was always doing something. Video games were interesting to me because they challenged you in a way that was different to all other things I liked to do. They were tough. They were frustrating. They were something that had the ability to calm and relax whilst also creating such a level of suspense and intrigue and from my first go, I was hooked.

My first game that I really loved was Broken Sword. I remember my dad letting me play this one (because he "checked" all of them first - read: played) and I've played it multiple times since. It even helped me write a couple of university assignments because it sparked my interest in the Aztecs (if I could have sourced it in my bibliography, I would have). The Sims was also something that stole my young life away and the day I got my own PC and then the expansion packs every time they came out was absolutely swell times for a young Amyleigh. But then the Playstation came out and I can remember how excited I got to go to my aunt and uncle's on the weekends. My uncle used to let me play Crash Bandicoot for hours and he had all the cheat codes scribbled down on a piece of paper so I could do any level, it was what dreams were made of. Then my dad got one and that meant life had stepped up a notch on the awesome scale because there was a Playstation. In my house.

Theme Park, Theme Hospital, Tomb Raider, and Theme Park World definitely stole most of my free time as a young kid. Suddenly games had stepped up a notch in their quality and even at my age, I knew things were getting better. I can vividly remember my dad playing a game called Final Fantasy VII and I used to watch him play it for hours. The story was fascinating. There were so many characters and monsters and weapons and amazing scenes during the battles - I knew I needed to play it. After what was probably a lot of pleading, my dad let me start playing it and he was my wing man for when the boss battles got a little too hard. Still to this day, playing through that game can bring back memories of sitting on my parents bed playing through the same scenes and still to this day, it is my absolute favourite game. I will also always revisit the Silent Hill and Resident Evil series' whenever I have that ol' faithful console plugged in. Those games were the stuff of nightmares and I swear no modern jump scare, horror genre games have a patch on them.

Then came the other consoles. I had the Game Boys and Game Boy Advance, I had the clip on light so I could play Pokémon Red in the car at night when we used to drive to pick up my mama from work (kids these days do not know the struggle of screens without backlighting), but then the Dreamcast and the Nintendo 64 came into my life. The Dreamcast will forever be one of, if not my most favourite, console ever. Controversial you say? Yeah I know, no one in their right mind would say the Dreamcast was *that* good, but the Dreamcast introduced me to Shenmue. Shenmue I and II are two games that will always be in my top favourites. They were the first RPG's I played that truly felt like you were playing through a movie and obviously I wasn't the only person to think this - when they released Shenmue II on Xbox, the game came with a DVD feature length film edition of the playable game - those guys knew what was up. Those games are responsible for that bold statement and I can't bloody wait for Shenmue III to finally happen.

My Nintendo 64 was something special too - I still have my special edition Pikachu version with the light up cheeks to let you know it's turned on. What a present that was. Pokémon Snap! and Banjo & Kazooie were my favourites on there, but I also spent many hours on Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time, and a dirt bike racing game that I can never remember the name of. Then the next big thing in my life was the PS2. Having played through FFVII, FFVIII, and FFIX, I suddenly had a shiny new console with a shiny new Final Fantasy to play. FFX stole my heart. I am currently playing through it for the 8th time now that it is a remastered HD game for the PS4, but this game blew every game out of the water. Suddenly I had my beloved Final Fantasy but with amazing graphics and movie-worthy cut scenes - it was heaven. I thought things couldn't get any better, but then along came Kingdom Hearts and I totally lost my shit. Disney? And Final Fantasy? In one game? As clear as day I can still remember sitting in my dad's swanky swivel/recliner/ultimate bachelor gaming chair with my feet up on the foot stool as the opening cut scene started on this game and I fell in love there and then.

Then the original Xbox came along and I played everything from Driver-style car chase/gangster games to Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball (I fully realise this game was intended for perverts now, but for a 13 year old girl, dressing up your own character in cute bikinis and making sure she got a tan was pretty great okay?). But it wasn't until the Xbox 360 came into my life that I properly fell in love with a few new games again. The Xbox 360 saw Bioware come into my life. The Dragon Age and Mass Effect series have stolen so so so many hours of my life and I'm not the least bit mad. They're games that I still routinely play through whenever I have the chance because I love them *that* much. Mass Effect 2 in particular is just one of my all-time favourites and I just can't contain my excitement for the new Mass Effect: Andromeda to finally drop. Another game I particularly enjoyed on this console was BioShock Infinite. This game just felt so nice to play despite the storyline of it. Is it possible for such a bizarre game to make you feel nostalgic? Because that is the effect it has on me. The Fable games were also winners for me, as were the Assassin Creeds.

Some of my favourites over the years include (in no particular order): Final Fantasy VII, Banjo-Kazooie, Broken Sword 1 & 2, Syberia, Grandia, Vagrant Story, Myst, Riven, American McGee's Alice, Lifesigns: Surgical Unit, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Rule of Rose, Black & White II, Skies of Arcadia, Guild Wars, Final Fantasy IX, Road Rash, Rayman, Battletoads, Diablo III, BioShock Infinite, Harvest Moon, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy, Jet Set Radio, Final Fantasy VIII, Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2, Shenmue I & II, Dissida, Professor Layton, Okami, Lost Odyssey, Stunt Race FX, Tony Hawk's Underground 2, Kingdom Hearts I & II, SSX Tricky, Crazy Taxi, Animal Crossing, The Last Story, Driver, Persona 4, Dragon Age II, Fable I, II & III, Pokémon Snap!, The Wolf Among Us, Final Fantasy X, Silent Hill 2 & 3, Silent Hill: The Room, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Phantasy Star Online, Resident Evil 2 & 4, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Crash Team Racing, Valkyrie Profile, Cooking Mama, Borderlands, and so many more.

So what about now though? Well, now its PS4 domain in my household and the likes of Fallout 4, Dragon Age Inquisition, and King's Quest (shut up, it's actually a hilariously great game) have graced my playtime. The Wolf Among Us is another one worth a mention because that was just great for me. The graphic novel series it is based on, Fables, is my most favourite graphic novel series so having the opportunity to play and interact with some of my favourite characters well, there was just nothing to not love. But currently, as I haven't got a lot of free time, I'm slowly ploughing through a replay of Dragon Age Inquisition and my first trip through FFX in it's HD form. For me, gaming is such a fantastic escape. I can spend hours relaxing and exploring areas and storylines that even movies fail to tap into most of the time. I can educate myself, I can stretch my imagination, I can laugh, cry, lose my temper, and genuinely feel sorrowful all due to the brilliant array of stories and plotlines games have to offer. Sure, I'm a sucker for a really detailed RPG, but I will also play a range of other games... I just tend to like a good love story alongside my mythical creatures, magicka, and guns, that's all.

- A.
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June 17, 2016

Pi: Woodfired



So food is something I cover now and again on this little blog, but in all honesty, I don't remotely touch on *just* how much I love food. Being an extremely picky eater in my younger years and having a battle with food for most of my childhood, I'm so pleased now that I find joy in eating almost everything (not sprouts though because they're the devil,) and I'm especially pleased to see that I'm making positive steps to getting over my fear of eating out at restaurants. A lot of people will think it's a silly fear to have and you're absolutely right; it is. But as someone who suffers from anxiety, particularly in social or public situations, my thought process when going out to eat usually goes a little something like this: "I have to order my food. That's awful. I need to speak to someone I don't know? And my accent - they might not understand me? I don't want to pronounce something wrong they will think I'm really odd and an embarrassment for the people I am with. And what about everyone else? They will all be able to see me eating. It will be like a zoo." - Yeah, this is the lead up for every meal out and it gets tiring.

However! I've noticed in the past year or so that those niggling feelings and thoughts don't occur as much and a lot of it is down to my super chill and supportive boyfriend. Matt has the patience of a saint when I get *like this* about going out for dinner, which is great because it's obviously been having a great effect on me! Now that I've gave you some random insight that actually has nothing to do with the post really (sorry, this is what happens when I write late at night,) I thought I'd share with you a place I would highly recommend if you're ever in the Winchester area. And that place is Pi.



First off, look how happy Matt is. You see that sheer joy? Now we can move on. Pi Woodfired is my go-to destination for a bit of pizza pie. When it first opened, Matt & I booked in as soon as we could and have been going back ever since. It's a small restaurant and it can be tight squeeze during their busy times, but its very family friendly as well as being great for couples and lone diners. The most appealing thing about Pi for me (besides the pizza, we'll get to that in a minute) is that it is straight and simple. They have a small but perfect drinks menu, they offer the odd cocktail for if you're feeling fancy. They have a small classic antipasti and side salad menu as well as a seasonal dessert menu, and best off all, the pizza is great. Now, these pizzas. Guys, they're just somethin' else. You can get individual pizzas if you wish but if you do that, you're a fool because why would you choose individual when you can choose 20 inch. Yep, you read that right, you can get a 20 inch pizza, with up to three different toppings for £23. That is such good value. Now, when I say "three" toppings, I technically mean the choice of three "themes" if you like. The restaurant typically has 9 or 10 choices on the menu that range from veggie perfection toppings such as butternut squash with feta cheese and olives, to the ultimate meat feast of pork crackling on a pizza. I know. Amazing. These selections change seasonally, but they do keep some all-year round which are the popular picks.

Matt & I went for just two toppings on this particular trip - the spicy salami and fresh chilli which we always get and Turkish spiced lamb with sumac yoghurt and fresh parsley. We also paid £3 extra for that big ol' ball of cheese in the middle of the pizza (or as it's actually known, a burrata). This stuff is so. good. We always get it because it just melts in the mouth and tastes good with every single topping. The pizzas are all made to order so you may have to wait a little longer for your food to reach the table than you do in other larger restaurants, but it's worth it. You can tell it has been freshly made, with great, different, and sometimes unusual but super tasty ingredients, and who doesn't want to get a fresh wood-fired pizza for under £30??? Dominos can cost more than that and tastes like card in comparison. I was a big fan of the Turkish lamb topping but I've got my fingers and toes crossed that they bring back the pork crackling when the bring back the autumn menu. Pi are also available for takeaway but unfortunately don't deliver yet. But if you've got a car and live locally, I'd say trying to wrestle the 20 inch slab of heaven into your car is worth all your energy.

*This is not a sponsored post*

- A.
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June 10, 2016

7 Days of Nature Photography

After a recent scroll through Twitter, I realised I had a notification from the lovely Sarah from ItsSarahAnn, challenging me to a seven day photography challenge. Usually things like this don't appeal to me because I like to create my content from the idea up, but this sounded like a wonderful idea and also come on, Sarah is lovely and said the kindest things about my photography so I couldn't let her down. Then would you believe it but I received two more notifications from the equally fab Melberryy and JamieTSmyth informing me they had nominated me too, so I definitely had to take part!

So the idea of this post challenge/tag is to post nature photography from seven consecutive days and guess what? I'm going to cheat just a wee bit. Initially I thought "great! I have half term! I can go out every day and photograph different things!" but typical English weather made sure I remembered when I come from and shit from the heavens for the majority of the week. I still managed to get some new snaps, but as he skies were so grey, the conditions for photography just weren't that great. This didn't stop be though as I have some snaps from a couple of recent walks and wanders so this is a perfect opportunity to share those too. I've mentioned before on this blog that one of my most favourite things to photograph is all that nature has to offer and this post certainly just added fuel to that passionate fire. I really enjoyed getting the content for this post albeit tricky due to unpredictable weather so I hope you enjoy.



Wonderful Winchester
I've probably said it a thousand times, but Winchester is just so picturesque. Especially in the summer, I sometimes just like to take stock and truly *look* at how great it is to live in such a beautiful city and call it my home. The various walks down by the river are always somewhere I find myself pinching myself that I'm so lucky.



Sun Shine Bright
Okay, so I'm not going to say again how fantastic Winchester is, but surprise surprise, this is a shot from another wander around the lovely place but on a different route once again. This is a little road down by one of the churches that believe it or not, I didn't actually head down and never have - it just looked nice! Maybe I need to head that way next time and see what I find.



I Spy a Magnolia Tree
I love this time of year when all the cherry blossom blooms, but another bloom that is lovely to see line the streets are magnolias. There was a huge tree lining the path from university and although the lighting wasn't the best, I couldn't not take a photograph of how beautiful it looked.



The Temptation to Take a Dip
Matt & I took a huge walk recently which is something we like to do when the weather permits. As it was our first "big one" of the year, we decided to just take one of our usual routes. There's a particular patch of the river that always looks so lovely - it looks so cosy and secluded despite being on the main bike/hiking track. The trees and greenery surrounding it has grown so much since last summer and there were some ducks joyfully having a swim... But it's just how crystal clear the water is in this specific spot that fascinates me.



St. Catherine's Hill's Natural "Steps"
St. Catherine's Hill is a hotspot for nature lovers and history lovers alike but my god is a hike to get to the top. I always love the fact that one of the main routes up to the top have all these exposed tree roots that kind of act like a staircase. No matter how many times I try to snap a picture of them, they never look as impressive as they do to the naked eye, but this was the best I could do.



Silhouette Sunset
One good thing about terrible weather is that it often leads to a nice skyline if it clears up before sunset. Although this was shot from my bedroom window, the silhouette these trees create when the sky is multicoloured is one of my favourite views.



Duck(s) Below the Willow
The far side of Winchester city centre is not somewhere I usually go to, but I have clearly been missing out because - just look at how many ducks hang out here! This spot, although busy and bustling, seemed like a really sweet spot for an ice cream and a cold ice drink with good company.

And there we have it; my 7 days of nature photography. Apologies for slightly cheating and not shooting seven consecutive days but I would much rather include content that is nice to look at (I hope!) rather than just seven shots of the same grey sky and raindrops... I'm now supposed to nominate some fellow nature enthusiasts to take part in the challenge but to be honest, off the top of my head, I can only think of those who have already done it! So I nominate anyone and everyone - get out there, enjoy what this gorgeous green earth has to offer and enjoy being behind the camera.


- A.
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June 08, 2016

Real Talk: That Time of the Month



Okay ladies, listen up. I thought I'd do a slightly different post to my normal beauty themed ramblings today but I'm pretty sure it's something we can all relate to on a monthly basis. I'm talking periods. If you're anything like me, they're a hindrance, a monthly dread, a cataclysmic event that I'd rather not have to deal with... ever. But over time I've learned, you really need to take care of yourself and kind of embrace what you're going through. Now I know there's going to be some of you reading this like "wow, don't be so dramatic" and all I have to say is, you must be a lucky one who hasn't had periods that bad. Just to give you a little TMI, I used to pass out from the pain of mine as a teen, they were completely irregular and would happen up to every two weeks, and I just generally would have given anything to get rid of them. Nowadays they've kind of settled down, but they can still make me feel crippled with pain and thus anxiety for work and can still be a major annoyance. And this is why I'm going to share with you all the things I like to do pamper and care wise to make it all a little more smooth sailing.

So first of all let's talk about the whole process a little more. I'm sure we've all been on the receiving end of comments like "oh it must be your time of the month", "have you got the painters in?", "are you on the rag?", "is Aunt Flo visiting?" etc. all because we may have said something sassy or snapped because you know, you can't obviously do these things as a woman unless there's an underlying reason (I digress). But people who say that - do they really understand that if that is the case, and you are "on the rag", you've pretty much got every right to act out? Just to give you some facts: the average woman will spend around 10 years of her life menstruating. That's a total of well over 3,500 days spent "on the rag" - that's a lot of time when you think about it collectively. Your hormones also swing out of control. In the lead up to your period, your oestrogen levels can plummet making you cognitively think more like a man, or you know, you can blub your eyes out because you dropped your toast on the kitchen floor - there seems to be no in between. During your period you also can suffer from iron deficiency which will cause you to feel fatigued, aching, and just down right rough, and oh yeah, there's that little fact of your uterus swelling up up to three times its normal size which also might effect how you're feeling too. This isn't me giving you all the green light to punch your boyfriend in the face or to scream and shout at everyone who might irritate you, but next time someone makes a comment about your actions, you know those actions might be a little justified.

Now let's discuss how you can make this all a little more smooth sailing. First up: tampons and pads. Menstrual cups aren't something that appeals to me so I apologise for having no insight to those ladies, but tampons and pads are something I'm well experienced with. I've always been someone who is happy to just grab and go when I'm shopping for sanitary products but recently, the brilliant company Veeda contacted me and wanted to know if I'd be interested in trying some of their products. Their sanitary products have recently become available in the UK and are now also available in Boots. They are a brand who specialise in 100% natural cotton tampons and it got me thinking... I will read about the chemicals and contents in my hair dye, my skin care, my makeup... but tampons? It never even occurred to me to look at the ingredients. It might sound trivial, but using 100% natural cotton products is good for you - you need to know what you're putting into your body is 100% safe for you and Veeda's products certainly are.

I'm going to state the obvious parts now too - if you don't have a hot water bottle or microwaveable lavender popcorn bag thing, get one. And make sure your cupboards and fridge are stocked to the brim with comforting snacks. I am a notorious snacker anyway, but gorging on chocolate or other naughty but damn tasty treats can make you feel better. A lot of the symptoms you suffer on the lead up to and whilst on your period are the same as those during pregnancy (aches, pains, bloating, hunger/cravings, emotional distress, bad skin etc.) so I say why not make yourself feel better even if its just for those 10 minutes you spend sat on your kitchen floor, scooping nutella out of the jar whilst you mumble about how fat you're getting. If snacks aren't your jam, I'd recommend a bath. This is currently the worst thing for me as my flat doesn't have a bathtub and there's no greater feeling than having a piping hot bath when you're on. Grab a good book or magazine. Take your iPad or laptop in there and watch as many episodes of your fave TV show before the water goes cold. Load up the tub with soothing bath salts or essential oils or, of course, Lush bath products and let it all ease your pain and heightened stress/irritation levels. I find the best time to do this is either if you're having a slow morning and need an instant pick-me-up for the rest of the day, or late at night to calm your aches and pains before bedtime. My fave products for when I do have access to a bath are just a couple of drops of lavender essential oil (or some of the0 Dr. Bronner Lavender castile soap) or if I want to push the boat out, Milky Bath, A French Kiss, and Mmmelting Marshmallow Moment all from Lush strike a good cord with me. Fear not fellow bathtub-less ladies because the best thing about essential oils is that you can also use them in the shower. Just add them to the corner of your shower or the opposite end of your bathtub and the heat and steam of the shower will wake them up and carry the fragrance, making you feel much more at ease.



A good face mask is also a hit with me during this time of the month. Most of us suffer with bad skin during this time so a face mask either when soaking in the tub or relaxing in bed or on the sofa is a good indulgence. My current favourite is The Body Shop's Blue Corn 3 in 1 Mask. This mask is great as it helps draw out all the impurities in your skin so you can really start to tackle the mess your period has made. Whilst wearing this, I like to soak a couple of cotton pads in Liz Earle's Eye Bright Soothing Eye Lotion and whack them on my lids. Lying for 10 minutes with that mask on, those eye pads, and some good music playing can totally improve your mood. Another joy of using this mask is that it doubles up as a scrub so removing it really aids you in feeling like you're scrubbing away those pesky impurities and congested skin ready for your skin to improve once the painters have left.

My last skin care love to do whilst on your period is actually just taking some time out to properly care for it. We all seem to have an interest in skincare routines to some degree, but taking time out to really get to know your skin is so beneficial - particularly during this time when you think you look like a troll. Lisa Eldridge is like my go-to for skincare and makeup and after watching a video of hers a while ago, I picked up a technique she uses which really makes you feel pampered and like you've got a spa at home (I also totally copied her technique in the hopes that I look as hot as her when I'm in my 40s because I mean come on, have you seen her?! Heart eyes. Heart eyes everywhere). So back to this technique. Basically take a cleanser of your choice (I'd recommend something with a slippery or oily consistency as it works best) and you want to add a generous amount to your hands and begin to massage it into you clean, dry, makeup-less face. You can do all sorts of gentle patting, massaging, circular, angular motions you wish - there's no right or wrong ways to do this - but you want to try and do it for as long as you can stomach. I find it nice to do on a pamper evening when you're catching up with TV or watching a film as you don't want to concentrate on what you're doing too much. Just let your hands guide you and massage away for as long as you can or for as long as it doesn't bore you. I've found it really helps to plump up my skin, give it a bit of natural glow and goodness back, and it generally seems to help kickstart my skin healing after it's period breakouts.

If you think about how little time we usually spend cleansing our faces in our routines, can we really say we're getting the most out of our products and seeing the best results? Probably not, therefore this way gives your products a good fighting chance to show you what they're really made of. My all time favourite for this job is the Superfacialist by Una Brennan Vitamin C+ Skin Renew oil cleanser as it is so silky soft and really brightens your skin and gives you some radiance and nourishment. You don't have to go out and buy any fancy or expensive oils for this though. If you're a fan of coconut oil or you are happy to use olive oil or castor oil (both are really good at balancing out the pH levels of your skin and thus improving your skin's condition) I would recommend those just as highly. This also doesn't have to be something you do solely on your period though. I try to do it once a week if not more if I remember/can be bothered to as it does improve the skin. But it's especially nice to do when you feel like shit and hey, if you live with your boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe you could convince them to do the massaging for you I mean, I don't want to plant ideas in your head, but if you want to have a full spa-at-home experience...

Periods can be a pain and 100% make us feel like shit 50%+ of the time, but try and take it all in your stride and take some comfort in the fact that you're not alone and like I've told you, you've kind of got scientific fact backing up the fact that you want to punch many people in the face during this dilemma of a time. The best advice I can give though is something my great gran used to say and that is to always make sure you're "put together" and radiate out what you want to soak in. So I say go for the big hair do, whack on that bold lip and cat flick liner if it's gonna make you feel good and even if you do want to moan and complain (which is totally fine, I do it constantly) try to keep it contained a little more or do it in isolation. If you act like a bad bitch who owns the fact that she feels like death but doesn't want anyone to know her uterus is trying to kill her, you will come across as a bad bitch with periods being 0% of her problems. And who doesn't want that confidence showing huh?

- A.
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June 03, 2016

May in Review



It doesn't feel like two minutes since I typed up my last Monthly Review post yet here we are, it's the end of May and the sun has still struggled to show its face for more that 3 straight days (I'm still rooting for you, summer). This month has been a tiring one - I haven't done an awful lot but I have been working non-stop. I'm coming towards the end of my teacher training which is both terrifying and a sigh of relief - I'm terrified because I haven't been a "proper adult" for the last few years due to being at uni, but I'm also relieved as I can say goodbye to the most stressful, tiring year of my life and say hello to still doing something I very much enjoy but on a lot less of a stressful scale. So aside from working, what have I been up to?

The Personal
This month was super exciting for me for two main reasons - Busted were on tour and it was Matt's birthday. Busted were one of, if not my most, favourite band when I was younger and after seeing them 3 times (once on their first tour and twice on their second) I thought it would be a common thing that I would go and see them every time they toured. Then the broke up. Then I weeped for all eternity. Then I lost my shit back in November 2015 when they announced they were getting back together. I had signed up to a gig ticket site so I could buy tickets the day before their official release date (super keen I know) and almost forgot about the gig since then. Then before I knew it, it was time to see them live again. My inner 12 year old just couldn't contain the excitement. I dug out my old merch and wore it proudly to their Newcastle gig. I had the most excellent time with my mam watching them and it was funny - we had almost exactly the same seats as we did 12 years ago when I last saw them. They were amazing. Such a nostalgia trip, the atmosphere in the arena was so alive and their new songs sounded great too. Only problem? The gig was on a Sunday evening. I had work the next day. I had work the next day back down in Hampshire, over 300 miles away. I ended up having a wonderful friend drive all the way to Newcastle just to pick me up and drive me all the way back to Winchester, overnight, so I could go to work the next day like nothing so eventful had happened at the weekend. It's fair to say I was t.i.r.e.d that week as a result - so worth it though.



The other significant event that happened this month was my man turned the big three-oh. He's been so worried about it because I guess 30 is an age that has so many connotations and expectations linked to it. He was feeling under the weather about not accomplishing and having all the things he thought he would by now but growing up just doesn't happen like that. It's a fair statement to make that your young adult years are a time when you're just scrambling to survive day-to-day and that is okay. The only person who's high expectations you might not be meeting is yourself and that's healthy - that means you have goals and achievements in mind. I love buying Matt gifts. He's the first and only person who I've been in a relationship with who makes me look forward to birthdays and Christmas because we are so similar in our interests and know what each other like and love that the gift buying and receiving is just ace. I had all of his presents ordered and ready to go by the start of the month and I psyched myself up for him opening them, hoping he'd like what he received. Aaand he did - success! We went out to a local French restaurant that night and I had the nicest dessert I've ever had - freshly prepared, made to order, Pistachio soufflé. I pretty much died and went to heaven with each and every mouthful.



Films
I've watched quite a few movies this month; some we re-watchers and others were first seeners. I re-watched Bridesmaids because well, its hilarious, and Bad Neighbours because Matt had never seen it before and I knew he would love it because Seth Rogen. Need I say more. I watched a mix of new films though ranging from fantasy triller, to comedy, to downright bizarre. The ultimate disappointment was Red Riding Hood. I had wanted to see this since it was in the cinema in 2011, but I honestly just thought it was a bit naff. I don't rate Amanda Seyfried as an actress - she's great in Mean Girls but a more serious role? I just don't think she can pull it off. The best thing about it was Gary Oldman (naturally) but even he couldn't keep my attention. It's all shot in one village too which is fine if enough suspense is created hell, Ryan Reynolds had me hooked for like two hours in just a box in Buried, but the set of this movie just looked like a drama school production and I couldn't buy into it. For someone who really loves anything to do with folklore, fairytales, Brother's Grimm etc. I just found this really disappointing which was a shame.

Matt and I also watched Paul. It was funny in places but nowhere near as good as Shaun of the Dead - I don't think those guys are ever going to top that. It is basically about two stereotypically geeky, nerdy British men who go to America for a convention then decide to drive across America, checking out all the alien hotspots and low and behold, they bump into one. It has a great comedy cast but again it just didn't grip my attention. But now, now let me tell you about the movie I really shouldn't have liked but I really kind of did. Splice is something I've wanted to watch for ages because my best friend said it was one of the strangest movies she had ever seen. So Matt & I found it on Amazon Prime and decided to give it a go. Splice is described as a horror sci-fi but I wouldn't really say it was a horror at all. It's not scary but it is bizarre. It stars Adrien Brody who plays a genetic engineer. Himself and his fellow genetic engineer girlfriend work for a company who are splicing together different animal DNA in the hopes of creating a new super hybrid species they can use to gain funding for the company. Without spoiling the story, you can imagine what "animals" they decide to splice together and well, something odd happens when they do. Now, the idea of this movie isn't *that* bizarre; I found it interesting because the whole film had Alien vibes from start to finish, but some parts of the movie just made you say "what the fuck" under your breath. I'm not going to spoil it by saying any more about it, but check it out if weird and sci-fi is what floats your boat.



Television
In last month's review post, I said I wasn't totally loving Vikings but considering I've finished all the series currently available, I would like to take back my poor judgement. It was definitely a slow burner for me but I'm eagerly waiting for the next series because it is great. Game of Thrones is also back on the TV and I'm so pumped for it. The first few episodes weren't *that* eventful but you just know everything is going to kick off big style pretty soon so I am hooked on that series once again - especially after "hold the door"... I was not emotionally ready for that shit. I also got super excited to finally watch the series Black Sails. Think Vikings, think Game of Thrones... but with pirates. What would there be not to love? Well actually, the whole first episode was just a bit 'meh'. I didn't really like any of the characters and the guy who seems to be the main guy, for a lack of a better phrase, got on my tits. Needless to say we haven't continued watching it which is a shame because I had such high hopes for the show!

Matt and I have also ploughed our way through the first and so far, the only, series of Lucifer. It is an American show based around the main character, Lucifer. Yep, the devil, he's decided to leave hell and is living amongst the American population and somehow ends up working alongside the police to investigate crimes. The guy playing Lucifer is the main reason I'm watching it - he's really funny, really charismatic, and the show seems to be getting really good just before the series ended. It has been confirmed for another season so I'll keep an eye out for that for sure. Sleepy Hollow is also a great series I've been watching - it's not your typical "Sleepy Hollow" storyline as its set in the modern day, so definitely give it a chance. And the best show this month? Has to be the pilot episode of Preacher. Preacher is one of my absolute favourite graphic novel series and I'm so incredibly excited for it being a TV show. The pilot episode was everything I was expecting and more, the characters are all perfectly played by the perfect choice actors/actresses, and if Quentin Tarantino floats your boat, its got pangs of his style throughout. Also, if sharks are your jam, there's an excellent two-part documentary about different species of shark on Netflix right now. Believe it or not, it's called, Shark.



Music
May has been a fantastic month for new music - lots of my favourite bands have been releasing new songs and albums and I've been pretty pleased with all of them. First up I'll talk about Death Grips. Death Grips are one of those bands I would have never have dreamed I would like yet I regularly listen to their album The Money Store and I'm still desperate to see them live. They released a new album, Bottomless Pit, early May and I have mixed feelings towards it. There's some songs I absolutely love on it, but there's also some I could take or leave. I think it's definitely going to be a grower on me, but The Money Store still tops it. One of my absolute favourite bands, Spookyland, released their debut album too. Spookyland are an Aussie-based band and I'm not entirely sure how I stumbled across them via the net, but I'm so so pleased I did. Their old EP, Rock And Roll Weakling, is a firm favourite of mine and I have played each of the 4 songs a disgusting amount of times, so I'm so pleased there is now an extra 11 songs I can overplay. I mainly love this band for the lead singer's voice as it's so different and incredible. They have an almost folksy vibe, but they're quite indie, kinda remind me of the 80s, and every one of their songs could be used for a scene from a movie set in the desert or wild west... they've just got a very unique sound. Their new album Beauty Already Beautiful is available to listen to free on Spotify so definitely check them out.

There has also been some new releases and trailer teasers from Brand New and Russian Circles. Brand New's latest track, I am a Nightmare, sounds typically Brand New - I like it. They have been a favourite band since my early teens and it always pleases me that they never seem to lose or change their sound. I'm excited to hear the rest of their new album. Russian Circles are another favourite band. This purely instrumental post-metal/rock band are still one of the best bands I've ever seen live and their new teaser trailer of their album, Guidance, which is set to drop in August this year sounds great. Anticipating that one too! Another childhood favourite band, Saosin, released their new album too and it has been regularly played by both Matt & I this month so I'd definitely consider that one a hit for my household. I've also listened to a great deal of Funeral For a Friend and some of The Rocket Summer's old tunes from his first couple of albums... I guess I've just been on a, Amyleigh circa her 2005 emo phase, trip this month!

- A.
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