It's Sunday and time for us to catch up! It's not been that long since I last did one of these posts but with the festive period I've been doing a lot and definitely have enough to talk about to make an entire update. I also watched some great films and TV shows during my time off, so I'll share the best ones I caught in the lifestyle favourites half of this post.


I've kind of been 'here, there and everywhere' over the past couple of month, which suits me given that my house still isn't all back in order after a pretty bad ingress of water from an upstairs bathroom destroyed the ceiling, carpet and mattress in my bedroom (I'm currently having to sleep somewhere else without most of my things!) Christmas and being out and about so much was definitely welcome given the less-than-ideal living situation I'm currently in. At the start of December, myself and a few others went to Bristol to visit our friend who just bought a really beautiful house there. We spent most of our Saturday wandering around charity shops and stopping at pubs for various mulled beverages. We actually went to one of those board game pubs after several hours of drinking and hilarity did indeed ensue following a game of Five Second Rule... We had dinner at the Coconut Tree, which I've been to and loved in Oxford but I had no idea it was a chain - I hope we get one in Birmingham! It's a 'small plates' Sri Lankan restaurant that's affordable and tasty, plus has great cocktails and a good veggie menu. We went to another really good restaurant for Sunday brunch the next day, that I recommend checking out if you're ever in the Easton area of Bristol called Dela. The cakes and other baked goods were really great and even my simple meal of mushrooms on sourdough was soooo tasty!

With Christmas, of course, came plenty of parties! We had the Christmas 'do for our entire office at a wine bar near where we work. It's normally a much more formal event, but this year they decided to go for a more relaxed atmosphere and it really worked for me. Instead of it being a big black tie event, it was just everyone having fun at a place we go to all the time! Where I work, you also have a 'team party', where you head out of the office early and have some food and drink just with your team. So we went to Ginger's Bar in Birmingham and had our own little area where we drank champagne and cocktails, then went on to La Galleria. It's a bit of a hidden gem right near New Street Station that's well worth checking out if you need somewhere central but fancy something a bit nicer than the standard chains that's still really affordable. They just do good, hearty Italian food!

For the first time in my working life; I got the whole of Christmas and New Year off. It was very satisfying to put on my out-of-office on the 21st of December saying I wouldn't be back until the 3rd of January! I chilled out with my boyfriend in Birmingham over the weekend before heading for Christmas at my grandparents' in Warwickshire. It's become a bit of a tradition to go to the Elan Spa at Mallory Court on Christmas Eve, which is the perfect way to unwind during the madness of the festive period. It's such a calm, relaxing, tranquil setting with an outdoor hot tub and sauna, a really nice cafe and a quiet pool area. I also had a full-body massage, which was great! Christmas Day was a pretty relaxed affair too (take a look at the presents I got this year here) with no kids! I had a great nut roast, we had some drinks, watched some TV and obviously played some board games (Articulate in particular caused deep divisions...) 

We had some more family over on Boxing Day before I headed for a stop over in Birmingham to see my boyfriend before meeting friends in London and then going to Oxford for New Year. I had a really nice day wandering round London with my friends and seeing some of the museums. The highlight was definitely having dinner at a restaurant called Paladar. It's a little bit 'off the beaten track' but well worth making the journey for. It's a really authentic Latin American restaurant near Elephant and Castle that focuses on small plates. It was absolutely excellent! For NYE, my group of friends never really go 'out out', as it's always very busy and very expensive! Instead we usually have a house party. I had a day or so in Oxford before the party where we did shopping and dinner before the bulk of the people coming arrived, which was nice. The actual party was a lot of fun and we did our annual tradition of making new year's predictions instead of resolutions, as well as revealing whether what we guessed last year came to pass! 

Earlier this month I also had a weekend in London. It was really lovely - we stayed at the Montcalm Royal London House near Shoreditch, which is a pretty impressive hotel! We had drinks at the rooftop bar with amazing views of the city and the morning after our stay we went and relaxed for a little bit in their spa. The reason for our visit was that my boyfriend got me tickets for us to see Matilda on the West End for Christmas. It was such a fun, enjoyable show! I wouldn't say any of the musical numbers were show-stoppers as such, but it was just a really great all-round experience and I think there's a bit of something for every age group in it. We had dinner at a vegetarian restaurant called Mildred's in Soho. The food was really good and it was just nice to go to a restaurant and be able to have anything off the menu! My one warning would be that it was super busy when we went at 5pm and you can't book it, so you could be waiting a while at peak dinner time... The following morning we also went to have a look around the Wallace Collection, which is a small art gallery that has free entry and is perfectly-situated between Oxford Circus and Marylebone Station. It wasn't busy and didn't take too long to walk around at all. The collection primarily focuses on 18th century French pieces. 


I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara | The Golden State Killer was known by various names including the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker and the Visalia Ransacker, and terrorised California for decades, starting with burglary then escalating to rape and finally murder. Crime writer Michelle McNamara was fixated on combing through the evidence and catching the criminal. This book charts her investigation and personal obsession with cracking the case. Tragically, Michelle died during this investigation, before a suspect was finally arrested, however the book was completed by her husband Patton Oswalt. This was a truly compelling read; Michelle was such a talented writer and any true crime fan will definitely relate to her obsessing over the details of the case to try and find something that might have been missed. It's a quick read but a page-turner that will suck you right in.

Widows | I actually went back to Manchester at the end of November and whilst shopping at the Trafford Centre, I finally caught this film! I feel like I've been waiting for this forever. It's directed by Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Shame, Hunger) and stars heavy-hitters like Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez and Colin Farrell. It's essentially a crime caper, but it's so much more than that at the same time! It tells the story of a group of widowed women whose husbands die after a 'job' goes wrong. They're all left with financial difficulties after their husbands' deaths so decide their only option is to pull off one last robbery... It's fantastically-acted, brilliantly tense and touches on some very real issues. Definitely a must-see.

Carnage | Somehow this mockumentary passed me by, however we actually watched it one night whilst I was in Oxford, for whatever reason! This one-off was created by Simon Amstell and is set is a sort of utopian future, looking back at the mistakes of previous generations (like ours!) It's very satirical and is told from the perspective of a future society, where the idea of eating meat and animal by-products is abhorrent. It's very smart and absolutely hilarious. On the one hand it does poke a bit of fun at militant veganism, but at the same time, it gives some real food for thought (ha!) on the morality of eating meat.

The Favourite | I love a good pre-1800 period piece, even if the story does fluff up the history a little! The Favourite is the story of two cousins vying for the attention of Queen Anne during her reign in the 1700s. The queen is eccentric, unpredictable, idiosyncratic and often incompetent at her job, so her favourite - Sarah Churchill - is heavily leaned upon for political guidance. However her impoverished cousin Abigail's arrival at court and subsequent winning over of the queen ruffles feathers... This is a film with a fun storyline, plenty of laughs, a very flamboyant turn from Nicholas Hoult, sumptuous production values and impressively elaborate costumes. However what really takes it to the level of being brilliant are the central three female performances by Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina | I think the best way to enjoy this Netflix Original Series is not to compare it to the 90s series starring Melissa Joan Hart, because it's related to that show in name only! This is a much darker, more horror-themed take on Sabrina. To become a witch, Sabrina must pledge her soul to the Dark Lord. Instead of dropping one-liners to canned laughter, this new Sabrina is very much of the occult... There is still some dark humour in there but this is a true creepy horror and I love it!

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch | In 1984 a young programmer decides to create a game based on the 'choose your own adventure' book with a grisly backstory: Bandersnatch, and...well, the rest is up to you! This Netflix show allows you to choose the character's actions and what happens next. This starts out as very mundane; which cereal should our main character eat? What music should he listen to? However it steadily gets darker... until you're left to choose *SPOILER ALERT* should he kill someone? And what should he do with the body? *SPOILER ALERT* I think we spent 2 hours or so on this and saw most of the events and endings (there's actually a flow chart floating around on the internet of all the possible paths the story can go down). It's incredibly dark and extremely enjoyable to immerse yourself in the story. However it's incredibly meta on a lot of levels; do you choose the dark, twisted path or try to take the story down a softer route, and what does that say about you? Do you really have much of a choice at all? Or do all paths eventually lead to the same brutal ending...? This is definitely worth experiencing for yourself! Also: A+ to the very edgy marketing of this show; I was walking through Digbeth the other day and noticed a load of posters apparently advertising video games on the side of a building - on closer inspection they actually showed characters from the show.

You | This is a total guilty pleasure as it definitely has its soap opera moments and its problematic elements (which I wish it was a little more self-aware about), but it's just so darn enjoyable! This Netflix show tells the story of a bookstore manager's obsession with a customer who just happens to wander in one day... I don't want to spoil the story so won't say much more; but it escalates! It's tense, creepy, addictive and, yes, a little bit silly at times, but it's thoroughly entertaining throughout...

Gibi ASMR | I feel like the last person in the world to discover this channel but...if you want to dive down a rabbit hole of listening to relaxing whispering and tingle-worthy tapping and textures: this is the channel for you! Gibi is totally lovely and her voice is sooooo soothing; I often listen to her videos before bed.

Have you watched any of these TV shows or read any of these books? What did you get up to over the festive period?

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