April favourites

About an hour after I wrote the below I went down with the most awful norovirus I have ever had. I’ve been in bed for 2 days. Yesterday I watched 9 hours of Mad Men. That is too much Mad Men. I don’t even like that show.

We are on day 3. I plan to get out of bed at some point today. But first I’m posting this because rain or shine I am determined to stick to my weekly schedule goddamnit!

To visit: The Eden Project

Based in Cornwall, England, this impressive botanical project opened in the late 1990s. I visited when I was a kid but hadn’t been back since, so when my bestie and I were planning a trip out recently we decided to head down there are check it out. Two enormous domes – biomes, as they’re known – house a wide range of plant and animal life. You’ve got the Mediterranean biome – the smaller of the two, this one is comfortable to walk around in, packed with birds and bright flowers and a cute little pizza place I’d recommend for some lunch. There are a whole of bunch of food options at TEP, but we thought this was by far the nicest one. After you’ve eaten your pizza, have a wander and make sure to check out the tulips in the spring – they’re truly gorgeous – and the weird Bacchanalian sculptures for The Secret History vibes.

After that you head into the rainforest biome, and, as much as I loved hanging out in the Mediterranean, this was really the highlight of the day for me. Hot, sticky and humid as hell, regardless of the weather come with the knowledge that whatever you’re wearing, after you’ve spent about 15 minutes in here you’re going to want to take it off.

(Also, just give up on your hair for the day.)

Packed with beautiful rainforest plants including bananas, cacao trees and the orchid pergola, which houses over 500 different species, make sure to also watch out for the birds, lizards and beetles that call this biome home. Despite the heat, which the higher you climb does become quite extreme, we spent more than an hour inside the rainforest biome. It’s full of fascinating facts about the impact loss of the rainforest is having on the planet in addition to a beautiful but utterly devastating exhibition of photography of native people – who the TEP describe as natural environmentalists – and how climate change and deforestation has destroyed their way of living in so many places.

And the biomes are really just half of your day. Beautiful gardens, fascinating exhibitions and a massive play area for the kids in addition to activities like zip lining (super expensive but looks SO FUN) mean you can comfortably spend the entire day here – and at £25 for entry, you’re going to want to!

To watch: Barry (HBO/NowTV)

Barry

This weird show about a depressed hitman turned actor is dark, menacing, depressing and very very funny. A lot of shows boast a ‘morally grey’ leading man, but Bill Hader’s fantastic turn as Barry is one of the only lovable murderers on TV I have genuinely complicated feelings about, owing to an awful/brilliant twist at the end of the first season. Watch it nooooowww.

To listen: Mitski

I have commitment issues, but with this girl I’m in it for the long haul. Mitski isn’t new to me but she is the only artist I can think of where every time I hear a song I get lost in her albums for days.

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February favourites

I love a changing season. Whether the transition is from summer into autumn or winter into spring it always reminds me to notice. The world is constantly shifting, however much it feels like I am staying the same. There is comfort in that, I think.

The other day I walked a different route from usual on a boring Sunday and had the strange experience of being, for a short while, totally lost in the place where I live.

Truthfully, I got stuck in a field. I couldn’t find the gate out and was determined not to turn back the way I came. It was in the last corner I checked.

It was a big field, okay?

I was weirdly disappointed when, on finally finding the exit, I rounded a corner and was abruptly back in familiar territory.

I would say lately my mood has been characterised by constant feelings of ‘Urgh, this? Again?’

I’ve found myself particularly vulnerable to falling down well-trod mental holes, my brain circling the drain of paralysing insecurity, complete indecision and general feelings of panic. This is not unusual for me. I’ve never really figured out how to deal with myself when I’m like this (if you have any tips, please share), so I’m not going to lie, I have been watching a lot of TV. Living in my own brain is not a good option for me right now, so I have been spending as much time ‘elsewhere’ as I possibly can.

I would say this is probably not how adults are supposed to deal with their problems, but if that was the case, why would Netflix even exist?

All of this was a really long winded way of explaining that most of my favourites this month are in the realm of television.

Russian Doll

Russian Doll
Netflix

This show. I just… I can’t. It was as if Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland distilled everything that my heart needs right now down into funny, heart-wrenching, revelatory half hour segments.

Also I’m basically Alan (minus the whole roof thing, don’t worry).

Russian Doll is an amazing new Netflix drama about Nadia (Lyonne), who dies after being hit by a car on her birthday, only to wake up and repeat the loop of birthday/leave party/death over and over again. Eventually, after several deaths she finds another shares her violent ‘purgatory’ (it’s in the trailer so not really a spoiler), Alan, and together they try and figure out what the fuck is going on.

This show kind of defies categorization – its half hour slot makes you assume comedy, and it certainly is funny – but it’s also a high concept drama built in a complex and confusing purgatory-like world that is also a study on loneliness and childhood trauma.

It’s real good you should watch it. Natasha Lyonne is always stunning and never more so than in this.

The Umbrella Academy

The Umbrella Academy
Netflix

This month I learned that the guy from My Chemical Romance wrote a series of graphic novels that got made into a TV show? Turns out people you don’t keep track of are still making stuff!

The Umbrella Academy is a show about a group of superheroes (and their one unsuper sister) who, after years of separation, come back together after the death of their abusive adoptive dad.

It’s a show about family dysfunction, the apocalypse, and how hard it is to pick which one of those is the more pressing issue.

I think we can all relate.

It also features one of the most impressive performances I think I’ve ever seen by a child actor. Fifteen-year-old Aiden Gallagher, playing a 50-something-year-old stuck in a 13-year-old’s body, has the presence and charisma of a much older actor, and was a consistent scene-stealer even with his much more experienced co-stars. Here’s hoping fame doesn’t ruin him, cause if he can avoid going crazy then I think he has an exciting career ahead of him.

Estee Lalonde

estee

I’m not going to lie, I started watching Estee Lalonde videos earlier this year because she has short hair, and as of a few weeks ago, I also have short hair. I find her videos comfortingly down to earth – in a my skin care routine costs more than you earn in a month sort of way – and her willingness to share her down days (she deals with depression and anxiety) comforting as I climb out of my own psychological holes. Also she has a super cute greyhound.

Tin Star

Tin Star
Sky 

This is a stupid fucking show that is essentially Lie To Me but with murder and alcoholism. Tim Roth gives a bizarre performance as Jack, a police officer/hitman/occasional drug dealer trying to keep his family together against unlikely odds of violence, cults and that time he murdered his daughter’s boyfriend.

It’s one of those shows that only exists to raise the stakes, and is entertaining even as it is utterly ludicrous. It also has an oddly comedic tone for a show that began with a toddler getting shot in the face.

Yet, I’m still watching.

New Girl

Nick and Jess

Rewatching because Nick and Jess are my OTP. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.

January favourites

Time to wrap up the only month of the year we describe as “long”.

How was your January?

Mine was mixed. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I lost my job back in December (budget cuts) and so I’ve spent January looking for work (there isn’t much around) and finding freelance jobs (that pay very little money) so I’ve been busy, albeit, broke.

BUT I am not yet destitute and I’ve gotten to do some pretty interesting stuff this month. I met a jaguar when out in my journalistic capacity. I mean, there was a single chain link fence between me and the jaguar (thank the lord), but that is a lot less fence than there usually is between me and a jaguar. When we went up to the ‘keepers only’ part of the enclosure for my jaguar meet-and-greet, my tour guide/the owner of the zoo told me that he was going to have to politely ask that I kept my hands well away from the wire and I was like sir, that is NOT going to be a problem. I like my fingers attached to my body.

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He, on the other hand, abides by no such rules 
Anyway. Time for my favourites.

Stationary fave: 2019 diary

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My mum got this for me because she wants me to feel excited for my new freelance lifestyle, as I suppose I might if it had happened on purpose. I was sceptical at first, but this thing is GREAT. It has your standard day of the week set up, but it also has a tear off shopping list section, a meal planning section, monthly calendar-style grids (perfect for keeping track of random deadlines) and monthly planning pages. As someone who is very much a list-maker this appeals to my style of organisation on every level. I LOVE it.

To watch: Salt Fat Acid Heat, Netflix

salt fat acid heat
Photo: Netflix

This show, based on the cookery book penned by its host, Samin Nosrat, is a freaking DELIGHT. I fell in love with Samin when she appeared on Call Your Girlfriend towards the end of last year, and her cookery show is every bit as adorable as she is. In SFAH, Samin takes viewers through the basics of cooking and shares her belief that every recipe boils down to the four elements of the show’s title. What I enjoy most about this show is watching Samin eat. She gets such pure, uncomplicated joy from food and I love it.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut with cooking, to treat it like another inconvenience at the end of a long day, but watching SFAH makes me enjoy the process again, and really revel in eating whatever it is I’ve made. Even if you’re not a cookery show person (I’m actually not – the power of Samin drew me in) you should still watch Salt Fat Acid Heat. It’s sweet, relaxing, gentle viewing and feels like the perfect antidote to what a nightmare the world is right now.

To watch: The Punisher, Netflix

frank
I’m so attracted to this man it is becoming a problem.

Jon Bernthal’s performance in this bloody, problematic and morally grey (lol. Understatement of the year) show continues to utterly captivate me. The supporting cast are immense, from Amber Rose Revah’s traumatised, morally compromised Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani to Ben Barnes’ unhinged, amnesiac Billy Russo, everyone in this show is at the top of their game and don’t deserve the cancellation that is surely coming for them.

To listen: Longform

longform

If you’re interested in journalism you need this podcast in your life. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it until now! Longform is a series of interviews with journalists about their writing process, how they got to where they are and how they tackled some of their most famous stories. It is fascinating, and I really can’t recommend it enough. Episode 325 would make a great starting point – an interview with Lizzie Johnson about how she came to cover wildfires for the San Francisco Chronicle.

What have you been loving this month? Have you watched The Punisher or Salt Fat Acid Heat? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

August favourites

I’m not going to lie, August has not been a fun one for me. From career set backs (or, as my friends are determinedly rebranding it: new opportunities) to a sudden family crisis (all turned out fine) to a horrific stomach bug that took me down for days, I have spent a disproportionate amount of August feeling sorry for myself and not much like reading — or writing about it.

But, despite the repeat plunge into the unknown I’m going through right now and the big change coming up that, unfortunately, is very much not a change I wanted, for the past few days I’ve been feeling unusually optimistic. It’s been a hard couple weeks; hard enough that, for once, I’ve sort of let myself off the hook. I have a very loud, negative, naval gazing interior monologue that I pretty much leave to chunter away unimpeded to call me a piece of shit regardless of whether I’m doing something helpful or nothing at all. But the past couple weeks as I’ve struggled to meet work deadlines around hospital visits (like I said, everything is really fine now) I sort of realised the time had come where I needed to be on my own side a little bit. Like, life is hard enough without me making it even harder for myself, you know?

So that was a realisation I’m trying to carry forward as I plan the next stage of my life, a process that will also include the need for me to cheer for my own team of one. I bring this up because I feel like that’s important for everyone — be on your own team a little bit. It helps.

Anyway, as this is a officially a monthly favourites post, here are a few:

Reading: Elle September issue

slick-woods-elle-ukI haven’t written about it much on here, but I care very much about trying to be more ethical and environmentally sustainable in my buying, particularly when it comes to clothes. After I watched The True Cost documentary a couple years ago I knew I couldn’t go on buying in the way that I had done before, so ever since I’ve been gradually searching out shops that care about the environment and the people producing their stock as much as I do. This issue of Elle was entirely dedicated to just that and I had a really fun time reading it — there was little in there I didn’t already know, but it makes me happy to see ethical clothing lines getting the credit they deserve.

If you want to know more about making ethical buying choices I would recommend either watching The True Cost (it’s on Netflix) or reading Slow Fashion by Safia Minney, founder of People Tree.

Listening: My Dad Wrote A Porno

220px-My_Dad_Wrote_a_Porno_logoYes, you read that right. In this podcast Jamie Morton and his friends James Cooper and Alice Levine perform a dramatic reading of Jamie’s dad’s self published erotica series Belinda Blinked — the least sexy, most anatomically confusing porno book you’ve ever heard. Would recommend headphones.

 

 

Watching: Luke Cage

luke cage

I am yet to watch the last episode because I’m horrible at finishing things (also I need to watch it during the day because I have a feeling it’ll be stressful enough that I won’t be able to sleep after and haven’t yet had the opportunity) but I have loved this season. Season one, I was in two minds about — I enjoyed the beginning but lost interested a bit after Mahershala’s surprising early exit, then came back around again for the last few episodes. But this season — with the exception of the Danny Rand episode — has kept me gripped throughout. I love the way Marvel’s Netflix shows complicate villains so authentically. They are both super evil but I am actively dreading the inevitable demises of Bushmaster and Shades (please don’t spoil me) — that’s another reason why I am yet to watch the finale.

How was your August? Any faves I should know about?

 

July favourites

There goes another month. How has everyone’s summer been so far? Are you wearing sunscreen? I hope you’re wearing sunscreen. Sunscreen is important.

I don’t have much in the way of favourites at the moment. I’ve either been working or at the beach – it has been consistently sunny in England for several weeks now and people are starting to lose their shit.

Unless you’re a farmer, I think the sun is a strange thing to complain about seeing as it rains 90% of the time.

Anyway, on to this month’s faves (discussing the weather isn’t one of them):

Our Tiny Bees Vanilla and Honey Body Scrub

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetSo I know this is pretty far off normal topic but I recently started regularly using a body scrub and lemmie tell you: it is a game changer. The lovely one I use functions as both exfoliator and moisturiser leaving your skin feeling smooth and gorgeous and it smells great. Obviously be careful what brand you’re using – you don’t want to be sending anything awful down the drain. I would recommend going for something with more natural ingredients so you can be totally sure you’re avoiding any harmful plastic microbeads. This one, for example, is mostly made of sugar. So good.

The Skincare Bible: Your no-nonsense guide to great skin by Dr Anjali Mahto

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetI purchased this to keep me entertained on the long drive back from holiday last month and it exceeded my expectations entirely. Dr Anjali is just that – a doctor and trustworthy source  – and is all about debunking marketing myths and skincare fads (layering, anyone?) to help you find a routine that works for your skin – without spending thousands in the process. It’s a super informative read (did you know you should still wear sunscreen if you’re inside all day because the rays can still get to you behind glass?!) that avoids market-speak and jargon and left me feeling like I have a much better idea of what I should be doing for my skin going forward.

Podcast: Gossip

GossipI’ve been feeling a bit fatigued by my serial podcasts lately (does anyone else feel like the last season of The Bright Sessions lost its way? I sort of feel the same about Alice Isn’t Dead, as much as I don’t want to) so I was thrilled when I came across Gossip. Written by the brilliant Allison Raskin it spans the regular lunch dates of three friends who get together and gossip – about their neighbours’ polyamory, that time the mayor may have punched a florist in the face, but most importantly, whether or not the local priest is a serial murderer. Her friends think she’s mad but Bethany just can’t let it go…

What were some of your favourites this month? Any podcasts I should check out? I’m particularly interested in serialised stories like Gossip at the moment.

May favourites

Hey June! Nice to see ya.

I am very excited by the prospect of summer. Every year I have this whole list in my head of things I want to do that I inevitably fail to achieve. I feel good about summer 2018 though. I’ve made a solid start. Tomorrow I’m going for a walk with some llamas (for an article I’m writing for work, but I’m very much looking forward to it anyway) and I’m also looking into renting a kayak.

It’s weird, but as an adult I have become somewhat outdoorsy.

In terms of media I consumed in May, I wasn’t overly thrilled by anything. I finished Scandal just because I felt I needed to but wasn’t impressed, as I haven’t been for many seasons now. I keep watching iZombie even though it’s just so bad. What is with that ‘french’ guy? And more importantly, why? I was so excited when Agents of Shield finally started back up again in the UK, but some Instagram spoilers of the season finale have made me lose enthusiasm because I know all I’m heading toward is pain.

But that said, there were a few gems in the slush pile.

TV: Barry

Barry

I love everything about this show. I have long-held affection for the comedy hitman (really ever since I first saw Gross Pointe Blank when I was like 12) and Barry is a truly impressive take on this well-trodden ground with one of the strongest casts I have seen in a while. Everyone is so. Fucking. Good.

Podcasts: Sandra

sandra

I devoured this fictional series in only a couple of days. Voiced primarily by Alia Shawkat, who continues to be one of my favourite actors at the moment (with the exception of new Arrested Development, which I don’t wish to discuss) it establishes a world in which every household has a Sandra, an Amazon Alexa-like device that is powered by real people rather than the internet. Desperate to change her life, Helen (Shawkat) gets way too involved with a Sandra user, with menacing consequences. It’s the exact mix of weird, funny and sad that I enjoy so much.

Other things: Neal Brennan: 3 Mics

neal brennan

I have mixed feelings about having this in my favourites, but it’s probably the most impactful thing I’ve watched this month so here we are. What is so remarkable about this stand up special is the format. Brennan uses, as the name implies, 3 mics: one for one liners, one for stand up and one for ‘emotion’. He would cycle between jokes (some of which I liked, some of which I was less crazy about. As soon as a guy starts on ‘women do [insert stereotype here]’ my eyes immediately roll, but a lot of his jokes were funny) then the lights would go down and he would move to the ‘emotion’ mic. He told stories about failed relationships, his depression and his family sparing no painful detail – he’d get a couple laughs while doing it, but it wasn’t about that. I don’t know about anyone else, but to me at least, there is something deeply comforting about people who have the ability to hold their pain in their hands and offer it out to everybody so we all feel a little bit less alone. And to do that and then seamlessly step into making jokes about doing the reverse cowgirl? That’s impressive.

Instagram: @bookishbronte

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“But Hagrid, there must be a mistake. This says Platform 9 3/4, there’s no such thing. Is there?” . Which book captured your imagination the most? I’ve always completely lost myself in the world of Harry Potter. I grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermione. I sorted myself into Hufflepuff and found my Patronus and read the books so many times that the Hogwarts became real, it’s amazing what the imagination can do, isn’t it? #WHPimagination . . #harrypotter #hogwarts #hufflepuff #bookart #bookworm #booknerd #hurrayforplay #bookish #bookgram #alittlebeautyeveryday #nostalgicmoments #justalittlewhimsey #thisjoyfulmoment #ofsimpledays #ourplayfulstyle #visualcollective #livecreatively #myhappycapture #inspiremyinstagram #booksofinstagram #nostalgicmemories #creativityfound #bookartwork #shared_joy #thingsilove #harrypottertrain #harrypotterinspired #ourplayfulstyle #thevisualcollective#bookish_nio

A post shared by Bronte (Bee) 📍London U.K (@frombeewithlove) on

I’ve recently discovered the wealth of beautifully artistic Instagram accounts that exist. This is one of my current favourites.

How was your June? Any favourites you think I should check out?

 

April favourites

Hey April, where’d you go? Mine vanished in a whirlwind of deadlines (never.ending.deadlines) the occasional spin class and a sneaky weekend away in Cornwall.

I was very pleased to realise it was monthly favourites week, because I have fallen behind on my reading and caught up on my reviews, leaving me suddenly without anything to blog about. I decided to finally read The Secret History by Donna Tartt (of The Goldfinch fame, a book that ruined me for any other book for several months), which while very good is also very long, hence the review gap.

TV:

a series of unfortunate events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that because of Daniel Handler this is on the problematic side, but I am enjoying A Series of Unfortunate Events so much. Firefly occupies such a special place in my heart I will never be anything less than thrilled to see Nathan Fillion (another problematic fave) and as Jaques Snicket he performs in his ever-so-likeable with a side of I would still totally do you way that I enjoy so much. Oh Mal, I just can’t quit you.

Also Neil Patrick Harris did WTF with Mark Maron a few weeks back and he was exactly as delightful as you might imagine. I just want to lie on a sofa with him and platonically snuggle.

Podcasts:

wtf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of WTF with Mark Maron, ep. 907 with Aisha Tyler and Louie Anderson is a wonderful way to spend an hour and a half of your life.

In a conversation I found so comforting – partly just because I was so happy to sit and listen to Aisha again. Her now defunct podcast Girl On Guy was a huge thing in my life for a while – as she and Mark navigated the gradual but huge life changes that come along with suddenly waking up to your own bullshit. IT IS SO GOOD. If you feel like a weirdo alien sometimes (so, everyone, right?) I can’t recommend this episode (and the podcast in general) enough.

Other:

I’m scared to buy a pair of these because I lack confidence in my ability to pull the look off, but this month I have spent an inordinate amount of time scrolling through their Instagram imagining what it would be like to be the sort of person that could.

How were your Aprils? In the garbage fire that is the world right now, what media do you use to distract yourself?