The little things - June edition

I would like to apologise to the University of Strathclyde Creative Writing department. While clichés in our writing was a big no-no, I think sometimes you need a cliché. A quote. A bit of cheese. 'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans' is one of my favourites. And 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.' We studied some great writers in my four years at university, but sometimes a John Lennon or, er, Ferris Bueller's Day Off quote can sum up how I'm feeling just as well as anything by Austen or Wordsworth. 

To take a leaf out of Ferris Bueller's book (see, once the clichés start it's really hard to stop), I have been taking the time to appreciate the little things lately. This peek inside my iPhone shows some of the little things that have made the past four weeks pretty great.

Poking around Voltaire & Rousseau in the quirky West End of Glasgow is a perfect way to spend a quiet afternoon. I tend to gravitate towards the children's literature section to swoon over the oldest and most unusual editions. Voltaire & Rousseau is also home to book shop cats - there's a black and white kitty and an enormous tabby cat who is usually asleep on the till.

Say hello to the newest member of our little family, Blue! He's a British Shorthair and, despite looking very almost fully grown, is actually only three months old in this photograph. As well as being already enormous, he is also very clumsy and noisy - choosing to spend his day running up and down the hall 'chirping' (who knew cats chirped?) and following me and Sam everywhere ('You're going to the toilet? Okay. ME TOO!').

I spent last night at the Old Town Jail in Stirling watching Sunshine on Leith. It was my first outdoor film screening and the atmosphere was amazing - it was BYOB so after the wine and cider started to flow, there was a lot more singing and dancing from the audience than you would expect at a regular cinema!

The weather has been a little up and down this month, but there have still been plenty of opportunities to get outside for a little exploring. The first photograph is from a sunny evening in Linlithgow, on our way to visit Sam's parents. I definitely think my favourite part of summer is the long warm evenings - spending a sunny day in work is okay when you've got a sunny evening (and preferably a BBQ) to look forward to after.

The second photograph is from a slightly stormier (but wonderfully still dry) evening spent in Dunbar at a spoken word event. Sam was performing but because we arrived a little early there was still time to have a walk around the coast. I might have fallen a little in love, suddenly imagining a future writing gothic horror novels by the sea (it must have been all that sea air).

Back in Glasgow's West End, I spent a lovely sunny afternoon wandering around Kelvingrove Park, eating ice cream and spotting the spires of Glasgow University in the distance. I also discovered the 'The Dogs of Kelvingrove Square' pinboard display which shows - you guessed it! - the dogs in the neighbourhood. Seriously, West End, never change.

The best berry pavlova I have ever eaten. This was at Sam's little sister's birthday lunch at the start of June and I have been thinking about this beauty ever since. 

Baked potatoes the size of my head at The Baked Potato Shop in Edinburgh. It makes me ridiculously sad that Glasgow doesn't have an equivalent restaurant. This is where I hope people will suggest going for lunch every time I'm through in Edinburgh (or I'll just suggest it, again).

Impromptu picnic tea after work one evening. I don't understand people who say they don't feel like eating when it's hot outside - summer was made for indulging at barbecues and picnics! 

What little things have you enjoyed this month? If you like this type of post, Jess over at Gingerly Pale posts a Simple Sunday post every week to show her appreciation for the simpler things in life.

Shop Front and Scotcampus

Scotcampus is Scotland's biggest independent student magazine, with features on fashion and lifestyle, interviews with 'real people' and celebrities, and advice on topics like interning and finding a job. As well as staff writers, Scotcampus takes on aspiring journalists and writers every month to give them hands on experience of working on a monthly publication. Glossy, young and exciting, Scotcampus is a magazine I read while I was a student and still pick up from time to time when I see a copy in bar or cafe in Glasgow - so it was very exciting when Scotcampus got in touch with my boyfriend, Sam, for an interview.

If you read my post about his launch, you'll know that Sam released his début novel, Shop Front, on Fledging Press back in March. Since then he's been reading at literary festivals and speaking at events, so an interview with Scotcampus is the cherry on top!

Sam's interview covers his inspiration for writing Shop Front, his experience of being a young graduate during a recession, and his passion for new writing, which led him to set up literary magazine, Octavius

If you're a writer or you're interested in writing (or if you just fancy a nosey!), you can pick up a copy of Scotcampus in bars, cafes, restaurants and on campuses across Scotland, and it won't cost you a penny. If you don't live in Scotland, or if you do but just don't fancy a magazine hunt, you can also read the latest issue online.

It's not mentioned in the interview, but Sam is also performing at his own event, Scottish Brogue, this summer as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. I was there when Sam first started submitting his poetry and short stories to magazines and competitions, so to see him start to get recognised as a brilliant young writer is amazing. It's all very exciting!

You can buy Shop Front from Fledging Press or on Amazon in paperback or Kindle edition.

Head Case Designs

Is it just me or do you use a different phone case for work? I might start Disney conversations in the office on a regular basis ('If you were a Disney character, which character would you be?'), but whipping my phone out while it's wrapped in a Disney design feels a step too far. While my colleagues might expect it (I use a Easter bunny mug for my tea, so I doubt they'd even bat an eyelid at a Snow White phone cover), checking my emails or tweeting from an industry event with a phone dressed up as one of the Squeeze Toy Aliens in Toy Story makes maintaining a professional image just a teensy bit harder*.

When I needed another new phone case for work, my friend recommended Head Case Designs. That night on Amazon I had about a bazillion (technical term) tabs open because there are just so many I love ('Oh that one's cute!', 'Aww, look at that one!', 'Oh my god, this one is amazing!'). I'm normally quite fussy with phone covers (I never find any I like in those phone case stalls that have popped up in every shopping centre), but Head Case Designs have such a gorgeous selection that it would be really difficult not to find one (or five) to fall in love with. 

In the end, I picked this Hot Pink to Teal Vivid Swirls case: plain enough for work (i.e. a distinct lack of cartoon characters) but still pretty and definitely not boring. 

Then - because I'm me and have no self-control - I also added this adorable Wilbur and Merry Band of Mischiefs case to my basket for after my 9 - 5 (when I can really let my inner-child go berserk).

Head Case Designs have a series of covers featuring this chubby grey tabby Wilbur and I can definitely see myself getting addicted, but at only £4.95 per case that shouldn't be too much of a problem (other than aiding my flourishing reputation as a crazy cat lady). 

With designs as gorgeous and colourful in real life as they are online, I definitely recommend Head Case Designs. And, in case you're worried the cases are style over substance, both of mine feel tough (the thought of dropping my phone still gives me heart palpitations though) with a professional finish.

* I know I could just use a regular, less embarrassing, phone case all of the time, but that just really wouldn't be very 'me'...

Summer book swap

Alphabetised, colour-coordinated, arranged by size and genre - as I scroll through my Twitter and Instagram, I can't help but notice how many of you rock a tidy bookshelf. I wish I could say the same, but I can't even pretend that my books are in organised chaos: travel guides are squished up against gothic horror, crime novels are piled on top of literary journals and any series I own is punctuated by recipe books and poetry collections or half in one room and half in another. While I sometimes wish my bookshelves were more organised (and, let's just admit it, more photogenic), for the most part, if I can squeeze in yet another book then I'm happy. 

If you do have a less lazy haphazard approach to arranging your books, then you could share your 'shelfie' online. I don't know if all Waterstones are running the campaign, but my local Waterstones has a beautiful display in their window, with a sign asking people to 'take shelfies, not selfies' and share them online. I've noticed that some people are taking selfies with their shelfies (how 21st century is that sentence?!) - I think that's missing the point slightly, people! While I do love a selfie every now and again (if you follow my Instagram you're bound to have seen a few awkward poses by now), I prefer my shelfies with more knick-knacks, less duckface.

Images from Iconosquare.

If your shelfie game is lacking and you'd like another book to add to your shelves (for absolutely free), then you should take part in the summer book swap being run by Hayley and Beth. You can read about the finer details on either girl's blog, but the basics are: you send Hayley or Beth some details about yourself (like your address and favourite genres) and you'll be matched with someone by June 30th. The deadline to take part is midnight on June 28th, so get those emails in soon! I've just taken part in my first ever blogger book swap (post coming soon!) and it's so fun to see what books someone else thinks you would like based on the little snippets of information they have. 

Have you ever taken part in a book swap? Did you love or loathe the books you were sent? I really enjoyed the three books I was sent in my last swap, but I haven't heard from my swap partner yet so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I picked good books for her too!

Girly tattoos

I've flirted with the idea of getting a tattoo since I was a teenager, but a fear of commitment (and needles) has always stopped me from making an appointment. Despite an early interest in tattoos, I didn't consider until recently that getting a tattoo could require any more preparation than: decide on a design you like, find a reputable tattoo shop near you, make sure you like the artist's previous work, get tattooed. I hadn't realised that some people research artists who focus on distinct styles (for example, American traditional or abstract), get familiar with their portfolio of work, and then get tattooed by that artist in particular (even if it means driving across the country or flying to another country altogether!).

Then I helped set up Octavius, a literary magazine for students, which is illustrated by Roberto Poliri, and my interest in tattooing began to grow. I started to realise that instead of simply being tattooed by any good artist, it's worth taking the time to find a good artist whose portfolio is chock-a-block full of tattoos similar to what you're looking for. I'm sure an artist who does amazing black and grey work could create a beautiful Asian tattoo - but wouldn't you rather choose a tattoo artist who loves (and has buckets of experience) in tattooing that style?

Images from Rachel's Instagram.
Rachel Baldwin tattoos at Bold as Brass Tattoos.

While my boyfriend loves Roberto's work so much that he had his first tattoo tattooed by him (and is currently planning his second), I hadn't met The One until I went to the Scottish Tattoo Convention last year and discovered Rachel Baldwin. I didn't realise tattoos could be so bright, colourful and girly until I saw Rachel's work. I fell so head over heels in love that I snapped up an original painting there and then and have been following Rachel (not in a creepy way) on Instagram since. Her work is so distinctive and beautiful that I recognise it instantly on my feed. I would love to get tattooed by Rachel, but I'll need to make my mind up on the design first (and save up some serious pennies).

Images from Beau's Instagram.
Beau tattoos at Blue Cardinal Tattoos.

I also discovered Beau's work through the Scottish Tattoo Convention. While she tattoos much more than Disney designs, these are definitely what I've fallen in love with most. Her work is feminine, bold and charming and I love the pretty, delicate frames which she designs, styling each to the character it surrounds. I'd love Beau to tattoo me with my favourite Disney character - but if you know me even slightly, you'll know that choosing who that is may take some time...

Images from Keely's Instagram.
Keely tattoos at Jolie Rogue Tattoo.

As you can see, when I think of tattoos, I think of colour. Keely has a bright, cartoon style which I absolutely adore. I love the level of detail which she puts into her designs, which I think you can see in the love hearts framing the unicorns, or the patches of glitter on the Lucky Chinese Cat. Keely's work is unapologetically girly - I think if I get tattooed by her I need to get something super girly, like a princess riding a unicorn, surrounded by clouds of candyfloss and glitter.

Images from Jessica's Instagram.
Jessica tattoos at The Grand Illusion Tattoo.

Whenever I see Jessica's tattoos on my Instagram feed I want to squeal. She tattoos the sweetest little animals that I can't help but fall in love with every single one of them. The fact that Jessica is still an apprentice blows my mind: her work is so delicate and pretty that I assumed she'd been tattooing for years. I've been vegetarian since I was fifteen and I've wanted a little animal tattoo for a long time as a nod to that and one of Jessica's tattoos would be perfect. Unfortunately Jessica is based in Melbourne, so, while I'd be happy to travel for my chosen artist, she might be a little too far to travel to. If you do live nearby then I think you should get tattooed by Jessica immediately, before her prices and waiting list inevitably explode!

If you are interested in tattoos, particularly feminine tattoos, I really recommend reading Things and Ink. It's a beautiful magazine which focuses on female tattoo culture - and is so much more appealing than the booby tattoo magazines which supermarkets seem to exclusively sell! 

Do you have any tattoos or are you planning any? If you do have any, I'd ask if they hurt that much, but I'm such a scaredy-pants that I never listen to anyone who tries to reassure me that they're not that bad!

Five quotes from modern classics

When I spotted Hayley's post on her Top 5 Book Quotes, I knew that I had to join in. Then I started to poke through my book shelves (and bedside table, chest of drawers, coffee table, kitchen table and various stacks dotted around), and began to realise that picking just five books would be very difficult. As the choices mounted up, I decided the best way to do it would be categorising the books - I'm not very good at slapping a label on a book ('It's, eh, like a sort of thriller, but there's a lot of romance in there too, and it's kind of like chick-lit, but with crime. And ghosts.'), but I think these books could all count as modern classics.*

"It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together."

The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides. 

"If there's just one kind of folks, why can't they get along with each other? If they're all alike, why do they go out of their way to despise each other? Scout, I think I'm beginning to understand something. I think I'm beginning to understand why Boo Radley's stayed shut up in the house all this time. It's because he wants to stay inside."

To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

“We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.” 

Fight Club, by Chuck Palahniuk.

"All kin's a vegetables in the garden, and if we want a little whisky we can sell a few eggs or something, or some milk. We'd jus' live there. We'd belong there. There wouldn't be no more runnin' round the country and gettin' fed by a Jap cook. No, sir, we'd have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunk house."

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. 

“I just want you to know that you’re very special… and the only reason I’m telling you is that I don’t know if anyone else ever has.” 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.

These are the ones that sprung out at me when I thought back to reading them, but there are so many other wonderful quotes to choose from - basically, you should read these books!

It was too long to include, but you can read my favourite scene from Fight Club here. I don't know why I love it so much - I guess there's nothing like imagining a gun being held to your head to make you realise you should grab life by the cahonas!

Have you read any of these books? Which quotes from literature stand out to you?

* I can't promise that I won't dedicate an entire category to Harry Potter.
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