Off, off and away!

The bags are packed.

The plans are made.

The housemate has a number for the vets and a chicken budget for spoiling the fur-children (yes, I know they aren't real children. But man, I love 'em). I've double checked everything is switched off and safe in our rooms.

The out of office is on the email and the car will be here in a couple of hours.


Excited to visit New York for the very first time - a place I've seen and heard so much about. I've listened to songs about it, seen it in movies and TV shows, read about it in dozens of books. I can't wait to be a proper tourist and check so many things off the list - the Empire State building, the High Line, Central Park, pizza by the slice....

I can't wait to explore Boston and Cambridge in our super quick two days there. Such an amazing place, I'm glad we managed to wedge in a quick visit amongst the other excitements!

Toronto is such a favourite and I cannot wait to return! I'm looking forward to quality time with my girl Christy, catching up with our friends Szymon and Caroline, and exploring bits of the city I haven't seen before.

And then? Vegas. Cocktails and blackjack and shopping and spa times, oh my!

I'm taking my laptop and may well do a quick hello blog while I'm there, but the big posts will come afterwards - I have two new memory cards and I am not afraid to use them! I'll also be sharing lots of fun on my Instagram over at @cmclaire as well as plenty of silliness over on Snapchat, where I'm @cmclaire12

Have a great couple of weeks - it's time to holiday here!
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Book Review: Feminist Fight Club

Way back in the mists of February (Aside: do you remember cold weather? Man, I love cold weather. This endless sunny hotness suuuuuuuuuuucks), when I was interning at Penguin, one of my favourite things to do was look forward to the books coming later in the year - many of which I'm lucky enough to be reviewing here as their release dates arrive.

One I was truly intrigued by in the autumn calendar was Jessica Bennett's Feminist Fight Club, which publishes today in the UK on the Portfolio imprint. I love a bit of non-fiction, find the journey of twenty-first century feminism fascinating (to quote a song from the film Hairspray, it truly feels like "We've come so far, but we've got so far to go"), and  have always enjoyed Jessica Bennett's writing when I've encountered her pieces in on and in the New York Times, so my interest was well and truly piqued. So naturally I emailed the team and asked for a copy (thanks, Joel & Lydia).

Feminist Fight Club is a clever, funny, interesting read. Bennett makes her points well, incisively cutting through some of the rhetoric that surrounds the subject and providing plenty of thoughts to ponder and calls to action. The research involved in putting this book together is amazing - there are plenty of titles in the bibliography that I know I'm going to be seeking out and reading myself, and the prose is never dry or stuffy - the book is engaging and written with a deft hand. Bennett communicates her points with verve, clarity and humour, making this a great read. I also adored the illustrations, by Saskia Wariner with Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, which are brilliantly drawn, witty and a great accompaniment and complement to the written sections.
Each chapter has an amusing title, making it easy to go back and refer to parts of the book you may wish to consult or reread. I especially enjoyed the 'Get Your Speak On' chapter and will definitely be taking on board some of the lessons within it! Great for a boost of confidence and clarity.

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Happy Monday/Ten Happy Things #11

It's Monday, it's the start of the week, and I'm joining up as ever with Katy and Jasmin for a lovely, positive start to the week. Let's go!

1. Holidays right on the horizon!

From months to weeks to days, our holiday has finally come right into view. I can't wait to explore New York and Boston, revisit Toronto, and go back to the play-area-for-grown-ups that is Vegas! Beautiful hotels, so much to see, catching up with friends and amazing food are all on the menu, and I can't wait. Our dear friend Shona is kitty- and house-sittign for us too, so there are no worries on that front (the trio love Aunty Shona!).

There's a bottle of Laurent-Perrier Rosé in the fridge chilling all ready for Friday evening!

2. Theatrical fun

Between Pride and Prejudice and Vanities last week, I'm in a very theatrical spot right now! I must get some tickets arranges for the last few months of the year. We'll definitely try to catch some theatre in New York too. Hamilton's a non-starter (resale tickets only, and they are all about £1000 for a pair), so we've gone for the next best thing and are preparing to laugh our socks off at Spamilton instead. We'll definitely try the ticket lottery while we are in town too, although with odds of 10,000/1 it will be the most foolhardy gambling of the whole trip!

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Theatre: Vanities

Wow, it's been a very theatrical week on the blog, no? Absolutely not a peep of complaint from me about that - a week filled with books to read and plays to enjoy is just my cup of tea!

On Wednesday I headed over to Trafalgar Studios to see Vanities. I'd heard a lot about this musical and the play it was based on and was excited to see a UK premiere of a work - it's always so great when shows make it across the pond. I was also intrigued both by the subject matter and the cast of three; I am a sucker for a trio of females heading (or in this case being) a cast. One of my favourite musical scores ever is The Witches of Eastwick, mainly down to that supremely strong female trio at the centre, so I love to see shows with that amazing central core.

Vanities follows the lives of three friends, Joanne, Kathy and Mary as they move from high school to college and then out into the world. As all life paths do, their paths diverge and against the background of the 60s, 70s, and 80s we see these friends grow and change. From naive cheerleaders to mature women the show offers an opportunity to see the relationships alter, break, morph and repair, as friendships so often do.

I loved the show. The story itself is fairly good, if a little predictable at places, but this leaves ample room for some cracking songs and three fantastic performances. In a cast of three there is nowhere to hide, and the three leads all sing beautifully, act their bobby-socks off and show a great amount of comedic timing as well.

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Book Review: A Boy Made of Blocks

Back when I was teaching, Minecraft was such a craze. As much as my pupils adored books, sports, Lego...Minecraft was the great unifier - they were all obsessed. I've played a little myself (hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?) and know enough about Creepers and the difference between Creative and Survival Mode to get by. In the last year or so, while I've been out of the classroom I've not really had to use this knowledge, however, and it has lain dormant while other, less block-based pursuits have taken up my time.

Minecraft swept back into my life last week, however, when I was sent a copy of A Boy Made of Blocks* by Keith Stuart to read and review.  Keith writes for the Guardian on tech and gaming, and is a keen Minecraft player - he really feels that the game has helped him to bond with his young son. Having spent many hours playing the game with young folk, I can more than believe this. Taking this bonding as his inspiration, Keith has written A Boy Made of Blocks.

And it is brilliant.

A Boy Made of Blocks charts the family life of Alex and Jody, and their young son Sam. Alex is going through the thirtysomething angst phase and is struggling to understand how he wants his life to be. He loves Jody but their connection feels a little frayed at the beginning of the novel, and he loves Sam but he struggles to understand him. Sam is a beautiful, talented child, who has autism, and at the start of the book Alex is finding it hard to be the parent Sam deserves and needs.

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Getting comfortable with the #KnitwearCareClub

Last month the lovely folk at George at Asda asked me if I'd like to take part in their #KnitwearCareClub. They are prepping for autumn by talking all things cosy, warm and knitted over on their blog, and they wanted me to join in the fun, by having me share my tips for caring for knitwear (mine? Check those darn care labels and invest in a nifty little bobble hoover/destroyer to keep things looking neat and kempt).

So far, so good, right?

However, there was a whole other job to do too, which I've been putting off for a little while. The lovelies at George sent me a little bundle of goodies, including two pieces of knitwear (I went for this stripy delight and a burnt orange longline cardigan/jacket). I love them both and they are super comfy, but I've been shying away from doing an outfit post, and that has nothing to do with the threads.

The reason?

I really hate how I look right now.

I feel fat and frumpy and awkward and am just in a phase where I don't want to be in photos much, at all. Do you ever have those moments? In life I can style them out fairly well, but with an outfit post's hard.

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Theatre: Pride and Prejudice

Photo from the Open Air Theatre Website

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I am a total Austen fangirl. I've read all of the Austen books, seen most of the movies, and find Jane simply one of the most fascinating writers. I'm always amazed that I somehow managed to go through school and an English degree without encountering her (did a metric tonne of Dickens and Shakey-babes though, so there's that), but I'm so glad that in my twenties I picked up Pride and Prejudice and embraced the Austen joy.

Of all Jane's works, my favourite switches between the big three - Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice, and whenever there's a new production, film or spin off I am eager to see or read it. When I spotted that the delighted Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park was putting on a production of Pride and Prejudice, therefore, I quickly bought tickets, and on Monday I saw the show.

I've written before about the Open Air Theatre and how much I enjoy productions there. The openness of the theatre and the necessary spartanness of the stage (you can't fly things in when there are no flies above from which to do so!) lends itself to intimate, innovative productions. Being at the mercy of the weather is also an experience - Monday dawned rainy and grey so I was watching the theatre's twitter like a hawk for news. Luckily the weather improved and the show did go on - a steady drizzle pitter-pattered through the first act but cast and audience alike steadfastly ignored it, and by the second act things were positively damp, rather than rainy.

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Relatable or Aspirational? Let's be both

I don't often blog-about-blogging here (except when I do), but some recent chat on twitter has got me thinking, and here seemed the ideal place to have a little ponder and a word based wander on the theme - as much as I adore me some twitter time, when you're as verbose as me, sometimes you need to break out of the 140 characters and have a wee ramble. I will still use gifs in this post though, because they are my love language...

The current discussion seems to want to divide the blogging community into two clear camps.

Camp one is the 'relatable' bloggers - like a 'celebrities, they're just like us' page come to life. All human life is here, complete with burned suppers, creased clothes, period cramps, late night worries and budget tricks. Camp two is the 'aspirational' bloggers - they have it all, from the hangbag du jour to the eyebrows on fleek. Like the Regina Georges of the scene (without the being-evil-geniuses part) these are the bloggers we want to be, whose lives we are meant to covet.


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Theatre: A Q & A with Born Mad.

Image by Ludovic Des Cognets

This evening, after a sell-out success at their premiere at the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival, Born Mad return to London to present Sister at Ovalhouse.

Sister is an outpouring of memories using Born Mad’s signature style of boundary-pushing electronics and vocals to bring these deeply personal stories to life. This production seeks to get right into the heart of family life capturing those tender, intimate, and sometimes comic, complexities of sibling relationships and sisterhood.

I was lucky enough to have the chance to have a quick Q&A with Born Mad (Rebecca Hanbury and Alex Groves) ahead of their opening night this evening.

1. Is there a character in the play who you empathise with the most, or who you admire the most?

As Sister is based on real life interviews, all the characters in the play are actual people that I’ve met, spoken to and shared stories with.  Until you asked this question, I’d never really thought of them as characters. To us they are people whose stories we need to tell. It therefore feels tricky to pick one I most admire. There are no heroes in the play. There are stories of huge resilience and strength, but these are just normal people full of joy, sadness, selfishness and sacrifice.

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Happy Monday/Ten Happy Things #10

Hello all! And big love to all the teachers, parents and little ones starting school terms today - it feels very odd not to be doing so (only the second September of my remembered life when I'm not bound by terms of some sort). A little sad not to be in the mad start-of-term whirl, but also cosy with a cup of tea and wearing yoga pants right now, so aware there are swings and roundabouts to factor in! It's Monday, it's the start of the week, and I'm joining up as ever with Katy and Jasmin (she's currently on a brief hiatus, but I still like to give her a wave!) for a lovely, positive start to the week. Let's go!

1. Cooler weather

After the weeks and weeks of heat, I'm adoring the ever cooler temperatures. I love this time of year - from September to December is my favourite time.

2. Tomato soup and cheese on toast

Cooler weather also means it's time to break out comfort foods like soup for lunch, and drink lots of lovely cups of tea.

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Food, Drink, London: The 10 Cases

I'd heard about this little spot close to Covent Garden a few times before I was able to visit a couple of months ago. With only 10 wines ever on offer, and just 10 tables available inside, I was intrigued by the set up and excited to see if this arrangement yielded delicious results.

As we had plans later in the evening my friend Eileen and I decided to share a cheeseboard and sample a couple of the wines by the glass. As we were there early we were assured there would be no rush and that we could enjoy our refreshments in peace without causing an issue for the dinner rush.

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Book review: Miss You

Last night I was lucky enough to go along to the first Mantle Book Club, a new event arranged by the lovelies at Pan Macmillan for book folk of all ilks (from book bloggers to editors, journos to publicists) to come together and talk about books. The book for the first club was Miss You*, by Kate Eberlen. As someone who spends a significant portion of her time with her head stuck in a book, a la Belle from Beauty and the Beast*, I really enjoyed the opportunity to go along and discuss the book, the characters, how we'd cast a movie of the book and many other points with a group of interested and intelligent readers.

As I was going to book club, I read this book very quickly after receiving it at the weekend, and thought I'd review today, after the discussion, debate, and alcohol-infused-slushies (seriously, so good) of last night.

Miss You is the story of two characters, Tess and Gus. For me it's very much the story before  the love story, as our star-crossed lovers keep missing each other as their lives move along. I loved this premise and the ways that they almost meet are inventive and charming. Their not-quite-intertwining stories both have highs, lows and moments to cherish and for a book with two such different paths I loved that the changes in perspective and person never jarred - whether it was a Tess or a Gus chapter, I was always pleased to see them again!

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Food: Zia Lucia (Pizza Club Rides Again!)

Last week, on a sultry, warm Tuesday evening, I met up with two of the other Pizza Club lovelies (Connie and Vicky) for a review of Zia Lucia, a cute little spot in Islington which opened back in June. 

With a sweet little restaurant and seats outside (where we happily sat), this is a great little place, and is definitely popular - people were happily queueing for fifteen or thirty minutes or more to pull up a chair and share a slice.

We started proceedings with generous Aperol spritzes, which were mixed to perfection! I find being too heavy-handed either way can leave you with a very bitter or an overly sweet drink, but these were great while we perused the menu, caught up on each other's news, and felt a little sad that the lovely Emma couldn't make this outing (we missed you, lovely!).

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