Tuesday, 30 September 2014

September 2014 In Review

Is it me, or has September flown? How is it possible that it’s October tomorrow? Here’s what I’ve been doing this month:

TV

I finished Gossip Girl! I only discovered it a few months ago, but I got really into it really quickly, and now I’m kind of sad to have reached the end of it. I think we all know I’m a tiny bit obsessed with New York, so I loved watching the show for the backdrop just as much as for the characters and the story. I must say, it gave me some great inspiration of places to visit – even the Paris episodes gave me some ideas for our trip this past summer. Now I just need to get my hands on the books and see if they’re as addictive…

I also watched the entire first season of Scandal in a day – which isn’t that difficult as it’s only 7 episodes. I can’t wait to see season 2 now!

The big event from September for me was the beginning of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing – my favourite Saturday night show of autumn and winter and I’m so glad it’s back! It’s just a shame my favourite pro is busy doing Dancing With The Stars in America this year, I’m going to miss him.

Books

I’ve ploughed through a few books this month, which is great! At the beginning of September, I was reading Gone Girl – I’d wanted to read it for ages, but then at the end of August I went to the cinema to see If I Stay and found myself desperate to read that so I tried to hurry along with Gone Girl! Then I read If I Stay and its sequel, Where She Went. The next book I read was Paper Towns, which wasn’t quite what I’d hoped, and then yesterday I read You’re The One That I Want. My thought on those will be up here soon!

Movies

It’s been a strange month, I’ve hardly watched any movies! I only added one to my “never seen before” list, which was Anchorman 2.

Fun

Last Friday I headed down to York for a work night out with Boy. Several members of his team left last week due to a restructure, so they took voluntary redundancy or early retirement. I have no pictures at all of the evening but it was a lot of fun, even though I was purely on soft drinks all night (I must have had 8 or 9 J2Os!) – sometimes it’s funny watching everyone else being drunk.

Travel

We haven’t been anywhere much during September, but we have made a lot of progress with our Christmas plans. I booked our flights back in August, but it took a little while longer to settle on accommodations. That’s all now sorted; we’re staying just off the strip in Las Vegas in a condo resort, and in New York we picked a hotel in Long Island City with amazing views of the Manhattan skyline. We’ve also booked tickets for the Statue of Liberty on Boy’s birthday, which is really exciting!

The biggest thing for September has been the start of our frozen IVF cycle. Since the first weekend of the month, I’ve been injecting every day – yep, still hate those needles – and for the last 10 days or so I’ve also been taking tablets. Transfer of our frozen embryos should take place in the first half of October sometime.

How was your September?

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Literary Junkies - September 2014

It's a couple of months since I last took part in the Literary Junkies link-up, but I'm excited to be back today!

Pink Heels Pink Truck

1. What are you reading right now? Tell us about it.
Right now I'm in between books, but most recently I read If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman.

2. There are a ton of movies coming out soon that were based off of books. Are there any you’re particularly excited to see?
I very recently read Gone Girl, and I'm looking forward to seeing how they adapt that for the big screen. I'm also looking forward to Love Rosie; I read Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern many years ago and loved it, although I can't really remember much about the storyline now. I'm just a bit annoyed that the movie has the American book title; STOP MESSING WITH OUR PERFECTLY GOOD TITLES!!!

3. With fall finally here for some of us, are there any books that you’re particularly looking forward to reading in the season of big sweaters, blankets and hot chocolate?
There's nothing in particular that I can think of. I'm not even sure what I want to start reading next!

4. We only have 3.5 months left of 2014. Did you participate in any reading challenges? How are you doing?
My goal was to read 40 books this year, and to be honest I'm not sure I'm going to meet that - I'm not even half way! This must be my worst reading year for some time. I've totally lost my mojo a couple of times, sometimes for over a month.

5. What has been the best book you’ve read so far this year?
I had to check Goodreads to help me with this! There are 3 books by Taylor Dean that stood out and I gave 5 stars to - I Have People, I'm With You and Sierra. I also really loved Where She Went.

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Monday, 15 September 2014

If I Stay & Where She Went - Gayle Forman {Book Reviews}

A couple of weeks ago, I had a mate date with Nicola and went to the cinema to see a movie called If I Stay. I hadn’t heard of it, but she’d seen a trailer for it and thought it looked decent, and after reading about it I was intrigued too, so off we went. I hadn’t realised at first, but it’s based on a novel – there seems to be a pattern emerging here; we go to see weepy films based on novels, it’s our “thing”. The last one was The Fault in Our Stars.

Usually, I read the book before seeing the movie. Unfortunately this time that wasn’t an option; I’d just started on Gone Girl and I’d been wanting to read that for so long, and I didn’t have time to finish that and start a new book. So, in a break with tradition, I went into the cinema with only a very vague idea about the storyline.

The movie itself was pretty good, I enjoyed it right up to the end – we both agreed that it seemed to end really suddenly and was very unsatisfying. However, now that I have read the book, I kind of understand why – the book does it too.

So, onto the books…

If I Stay

What Goodreads Says:
Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.

I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.

Stay, he says.


Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.

What I Say:
It’s normal to like the book more than the movie, right? In a lot of ways, this is no exception. However, I have to admit that having seen the movie first, I can see why certain small changes did make for a better, more dramatic and heart wrenching story. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the book a lot – but I think the fact that the movie made me cry and the book didn’t says it all really!

I rated it 4/5.


Where She Went

What Goodreads Says:
It's been three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life.

And three years he's spent wondering why.

When their paths cross again in New York City, Adam and Mia are brought back together for one life-changing night.

Adam finally has the opportunity to ask Mia the questions that have been haunting him. But will a few hours in this magical city be enough to lay their past to rest, for good - or can you really have a second chance at first love?

What I Say:
Right, let me get this out there: I am a little bit in love with Adam. There, I said it.

There are a lot of times that a sequel doesn’t live up to the first book in the series; this is not one of those times. I enjoyed this one a whole lot more. Getting inside Adam’s head and hearing his side of the story was a total rollercoaster of emotions. This one did make me cry! I’m not going to say anything more about it because I don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I loved it.

I rated this 5/5.

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Harry Potter Tag

I saw this on Saloca in Wonderland, and I just had to do it!


What’s your favourite book?

Probably The Deathly Hallows. I went through a harrowing time to get my hands on a copy the day it was released (I kid you not), and I devoured it once I finally did.

What’s your favourite film?

Wow, this is hard. I could say The Chamber of Secrets, because I adore Dobby and I love watching the scenes filmed in my local cathedral. I could say The Deathly Hallows part 1, because there's a scene filmed in a place close to my hometown. I could say The Goblet of Fire, because that always seemed to be a very pivotal time in the series to me. Basically, I could say each and every one of them for various reasons and it's just too hard to pick!

Least favourite book?

I'm going to say The Order of the Phoenix, because the first time I read it I was disappointed. I'd never felt disappointed by the series up to then. I have to say, though, I've read it a couple (or more) time since and I enjoyed it so much more.

Least favourite film?

Prisoner of Azkaban. Not sure I can justify it though! I don't dislike it, I just like it the least.

Parts of the books/films that made you cry?

I cried my eyes out when Dobby died in the final book. And when Dumbledore died before that. Dumbledore's death in the movie didn't seem quite as emotional, but Dobby's... Oh I sobbed. I cried after the final battle too when Fred,Lupin and Tonks died and Teddy was an orphan.

If you could hook up with any character, who would it be?

You know, I never looked at them that way!

Favourite character?

I always liked Molly, she's such a lovely mum but so fierce when she has to be. "Not my daughter you bitch!" - love that line!

Least favourite character?

Lavender Brown irritates me. I realise that she's probably supposed to!

Least favourite line?

I can't think of one off the top of my head. I'll have to think about it!

What would your patronus be?

Hmm... Maybe a lion? I have some very typical Leo traits.

If you could have the Resurrection Stone, Invisibility Cloak or Elder Wand, which would it be and why?

Invisibility cloak, no question. I'd love to be able to sneak around, completely unseen!

Which house would you be in?

Pottermore put me in Hufflepuff, and other quizzes put me in Ravenclaw, so... One of those I guess! I have a T-shirt for each, so I'm covered!
 
If you could meet any member of the cast, who would it be?

Matthew Lewis. He's from my neck of the woods, and we even have some friends/acquaintances in common, so it would be fun to chat about people we both know.

If you were on the Quidditch team, which position would you play?

I'd probably be a beater.

Happy with the ending?

Yes. I know some people aren't, but I'm happy that good triumphed over evil and that Harry was able to go on and have a future.

How much does Harry Potter mean to you?

I just can't imagine life without it. I don't want to. It's a magical world, and it brings people from all over the world together. I am eternally grateful to the friend who loaned me the first three books one Saturday at work, and brought the fourth one in the following week because I'd devoured those three in just days.

Don't forget to let me know in the comments below if you fill this in too - I'd love to read your answers!

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Monday, 8 September 2014

While The World Celebrates A New Cambridge Baby...

This morning it has been announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their second child. There’s no doubt this is lovely news for them, for the royal family, and for the country… But I can’t help feeling really sad about it.

We got married before they did. We’re still waiting to be blessed with our first child, and now they’re onto their second. I know the world doesn’t work this way, but it feels really unfair that some couples get to “queue-jump” while others have to wait, and wait, and wait a bit more. It hurts to think that, had things gone to plan for us, we could be onto our second child by now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for them, and I really hope that Kate doesn’t suffer quite so terribly from hyperemesis gravidarum this time around because it sounds truly awful - reports say she's being treated for it at the moment. I'm just really sad at the reality that couples who have been trying to conceive a lot less time than we have are now moving onto second children.

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Click here to see who I'm linking up with!

Soaking Up Some Culture in The Louvre

Everyone has heard of the Louvre, I'm sure. It's one of the most iconic buildings in Paris, and home to some of the most iconic works of art in the world.
After my slight failure at researching for our visit to Versailles, there was no way I was risking the same thing happening when we went to the Louvre. I was in no doubt that the place would be hugely busy, so anything that would cut our time waiting in queues had to be a good thing, right?

Our plan was to visit first thing one morning, and be there right after it opened. I'd researched for alternative entrances to the Pyramid, and had committed these locations to the very front of my mind. And then life happened, the lurgy kicked in, our original plan of going to a different museum went belly up, and we found ourselves Louvre-bound at noon on the Wednesday.

As we approached from Pont Royal, the first of the "secret entrances" we happened upon was the Porte des Lions. Unfortunately, on the day of our visit this was only open to ticket holders. We decided to try our luck in the shopping centre below - we weren't hopeful, but we were there and it was worth a shot.


We were very pleasantly surprised to discover that the queue was only 15 minutes, so we didn't hesitate to join it. Once we'd passed through security, we joined the line for the ticket desks, and again had a pleasantly short wait of around 10-15 minutes.

We had already decided in advance which parts of the museum we were interested in seeing - it's such a huge building and you just wouldn't be able to see everything in one day - and our only disappointment was that the Egyptian exhibition was closed on the day we went. There was (understandably) a huge crowd of people all heading off straight in the direction of the Mona Lisa, so we decided to go a different way and work our way around to it.

You may or may not know that the Louvre wasn't always a museum; it used to be a royal palace. Many, many times I got sidetracked marvelling at the architecture, the structures, and the decoration. It is such a beautiful building, and so easy to imagine royalty living within those walls.


The scale of some of the paintings is incredible. I can't even imagine how difficult they must have been to paint - or to frame and to hang. How gutted would you be if you were in charge of hanging them on the walls, and once you'd done you stepped back and noticed the frame was wonky?!


From what I'd read prior to our visit, I expected the crowd around the Mona Lisa to be enormous. It was immediately obvious which room she was in, as there was definitely a noticeable crowd; nowhere near as bad as I had expected though. I'd read reports of people queuing just to get into the room, and being stuck at the back, barely able to see the painting. As you can see, we did get a good look and, later on, managed to walk right past without particularly trying.


We also wanted to see the Venus de Milo, so we set ourselves away to the gallery of sculptures. We did get a bit lost somewhere along the way - the maps are really not easy to follow! - but we did get there in the end. This was another piece with a more noticeable crowd around it - the price of fame, I guess.


For all we didn't queue very long to gain entry, the same cannot be said when the call of nature comes. On two separate occasions I joined queues for the bathrooms, and on both occasions I gave up hope and walked away again. My tip: go before you go in!

Neither of us is into art all that much, but we both enjoyed our wander around the Louvre. There is something special about seeing famous masterpieces with your own eyes - and having them on display in such an amazing building only adds to that.

Are you into art galleries? Would the Louvre be on your most-see Paris list?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

101 in 1001: The First 100 Days

I'm 100 days into my 101 in 1001 challenge (alright, 104 days, but who's counting?!) - what a perfect time for an update! I've managed to complete 10 items already, and I've got 13 more in progress, so I think I'm doing OK!

Completed:
1 Write a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days!
28.05.14
Sometimes it's hard just compiling a list of 101 goals, and it took me a couple of days to do this. It's an achievement in itself!

5 See a movie in IMAX or 3D
09.08.14
We saw Guardians of the Galaxy in 3D at the biggest IMAX screen in the UK. I tried to take a photo of the screen on my phone before the movie started - we were sitting right at the back and the screen was still too big for me to catch it all!


23 Explore Paris by night
13.08.14
We went to the top of the Eiffel Tower at 10pm, and came back down at around 11.30pm. So we had a little stroll around to see everything lit up.



28 Kiss in front of the Eiffel Tower
13.08.14
I have no photographic evidence of this, so you'll just have to trust that it happened!

38 Visit the Palace of Versailles
12.08.14
You can read all about that here.

44 Visit an art museum
13.08.14
I actually visited two in two days! We went to the Louvre in Paris, and the next evening to the Musee d'Orsay.

50 Go on a road trip without a pre-set destination
14.06.14
On the first weekend after we got the car, we just went out for a drive and ended up all over!

54 Start a new blog
27.05.14


62 See a musical
21.06.14
I've actually seen a couple, but the first was Wicked with my mum on her birthday.

68 Meet an online friend in person
07.06.14
I met Nicola for the first time when we went to a Boyzone concert together. And a second time when we went to see The Fault in Our Stars. And a third time when we went to see If I Stay and she bought me a birthday muffin.


I'm pretty pleased with my progress; considering everything else that's been going on just lately I think I've done well to achieve 1/10th of my goals!

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A New Name!

There are changes occurring around here. The name, mainly. I just wasn't loving What Jenni Loves any more. OK, to be honest, I wasn't loving it ever - but I thought I might grow to. Then I didn't. So now...

Ta-dah!

I blog to you as Living for the Victories! My new URL is http://livingforthevictories.blogspot.co.uk/

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Saturday, 6 September 2014

Here We Go Again... & Change Is Coming!

The time has come, the wait is over, etc etc. Frozen Embryo Transfer Cycle is here!

The last time I talked about our IVF journey, I was hoping that my boss would be supportive once I had chance to talk to him about it. Thankfully, he was. Although the day after I told him that the drugs would make me feel really tired, and I'd most likely be able to function on a 'bare-minimum' level and not much more, he decided to give me extra work to do... But whatever. I'll just have to see how it goes, and if it's too much, it's too much.

And in other news, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this ol' blog of mine, and I've decided to make some changes. So watch out for that! The new name will be unveiled very soon.

Happy weekend everyone!

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Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A Visit to the Château de Versailles

When we first decided to visit Paris again this summer, Versailles was right at the top of my list of places I wanted to go. Last time, we just didn't have enough days to fit it in – so I was absolutely set on making it a priority this time around!

Versailles is, in theory, very easy to get to from Paris. In practice, not so much. I'd checked using the route planner on the RATP website, and our plan was to get the metro to Gare d'Austerlitz, change to the RER C which goes to Versailles Rive Gauche, and that would be easy as pie. However, we spent a good 20 minutes wandering around Gare d'Austerlitz looking for an RER C train that was going to Versailles Rive Gauche before finding a staff member to ask, and he informed us that the line was disrupted and advised an alternative route. We weren't the only people confused, and it would have been really helpful if there had been some posters around to advise people of the disruption… But whatever. So instead we took the 10 to Javel Andre Citroen and transferred to Javel to pick up the RER C from there – and had a little wander down memory lane because on our last visit to Paris we stayed just up the road from there.

Versailles Rive Gauche (also called Versailles-Château) is the terminus station, and is just a short walk from the palace. When you arrive, you really can't get lost as there is a swarm of people heading towards the Château and you just get swept up in the flow of the crowd. The first view when you turn the corner is simply breathtaking; the gold features glint in the sunlight and you can tell the whole place is just massive.

Also massive are the queues! I'd tried (and failed) to pre-book tickets on the website, but I found it so difficult to navigate that I gave up. So when we arrived, we immediately joined the queue to buy tickets – and we were in this queue for over an hour. It would have been longer still if we had been paying with cash, as we discovered that once we'd snaked our way through the barriers, and around the building inside past the information desk, that there were machines for card payments – so we decided to go for that option rather than wait any longer.

Tickets in hand, we headed back outside to figure out how to get into the palace. And then realised that the enormous queue snaking up and down the courtyard was the line for that! A staff member gave us an estimate of 2-3 hours waiting (!!!!!) so we decided that we'd go around the gardens first and come back later on, in the hope that the line would have reduced by then.

The gardens are free to visit, if that's all you want to see of Versailles, and they really are spectacular. Some parts of the gardens were only open to ticket holders on the day we were there, due to it being a Musical Fountains day (which increased the cost of the Passport ticket by €7).


We had a look round the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trainon, which are both steeped in history and decorated very extravagantly, as is befitting to a palace estate I guess!


At around 3pm, we decided to head back towards the Palace and see how the line was looking then. To our dismay, it was almost as long as it had been hours earlier. By this time, we both had aching feet, and my back was starting to really hurt (I have ongoing issues with my back and I have to be really careful), so after waiting in line for 10 minutes and then realising it would likely be at least 2 hours before we got in, and then we'd be rushed around because they'd be closing very shortly afterwards, we decided to just give it a miss. It was a shame, but we agreed that if we did wait, and then we had to rush around and not really look at things, and we'd both be in considerable discomfort and pain, we really wouldn't enjoy it and it wasn't worth it.

We headed back towards Versailles Rive Gauche station, and – understandably – the crowd of people waiting to buy tickets and get on the train was enormous! I quickly opened up Google Maps to figure out how long it would take us to walk to an alternative station (Versailles-Chantiers), in the hope that it would be a quieter station and a quieter train. It was only around 10 minutes away on foot, so we went with that as our new plan and it totally paid off! Although still the RER C, it goes on a completely different route around the outskirts of Paris, and terminated at Gare d'Austerlitz, which made the journey back to our hotel so much easier. It was nice to see a different side to Paris too.

It was only when we got back and I had a browse on TripAdvisor that I saw lots of people advising against going to Versailles on Tuesdays because the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays so the crowds go to Versailles instead - oops! Obviously I hadn't researched that part well enough! There were also people advising against visiting in August, so I really messed up by going on a Tuesday in August. Not a mistake I will ever make again, believe me! In fact, I'm not sure I'd want to ever visit again, full stop. Don't get me wrong, it's impressive and I am glad that we got to see it with our own eyes (or most of it, at least) - but I'm not sure it lived up to expectations. And then there's the fact that both of us became ill after visiting, and Versailles has been given the blame for our lurgy!

Have you ever visited Versailles? If not, would you put it on your list?


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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

I Am An Aparthotel Convert!

On our recent trip to Paris, we'd decided to stay in an apart-hotel. There were a couple of reasons for this, and it turned out to be a really great decision – one that we'll more than likely make on future trips.

Citadines Bastille Marais Paris

1. More space
It's probably obvious, but an apartment comes with more space than your average hotel room. Not only did we have a bed, a wardrobe and a bathroom; we also had a kitchenette, a dining table and a couple of chairs, and plenty space to swing a proverbial cat, if we were so inclined.

Citadines Bastille Marais Paris

2. Flexibility
Our kitchenette meant that we could eat pretty much whenever we wanted – and whatever we wanted. Hotels tend to have restricted meal times – this one did serve breakfast, at a cost of €12 per person per day, and only for 2 hours on a morning – so we saved ourselves a lot of money and time by making our own breakfasts. The same can be said for evening meals, which we cooked for ourselves in our apartment. We had taken a few things with us to save the cost of buying them at the local supermarkets too. It also meant that if we didn't finish our meals, we could easily put them in the fridge to save for later. Another excellent reason to want access to a fridge – a hot drink tastes soooooo much better with actual, real, cold, fresh milk in it than it does with the little cartons that you get in hotels!
Citadines Bastille Marais Paris

3. Cost
Obviously this varies tremendously from property to property, much as it does with hotels; but in general, an apart-hotel costs less than its fully-serviced counterpart. We paid just £68 a night for our 3* room – for the same price in the same area we would have struggled to get a 2* hotel room.

4. Hotel services
There are some great reasons to stay in a hotel, and thankfully our apart-hotel provided some of these. Having someone at reception to speak to when you have any problems, questions etc, is always useful. They were also able to book tours and trips. Although we didn't use it, there was a laundry service. There was also a launderette, but we didn't use that either.

The most noticeable difference between a hotel and an apart-hotel in terms of service is how often your room is cleaned. In a hotel, this happens every day. Our apart-hotel only provided maid service after every third night, so we only had our room serviced once during our stay. Honestly, I found that to be enough. We're not messy people; we don't need our sheets changing every day or fresh towels. The only thing we did need really by that morning was for the bins to be emptied!

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay and it is extremely likely that we'll go down this route on future trips. I'm more than happy to give up some unnecessary cleaning in exchange for more space, and kitchen facilities.

What type of accommodation do you prefer to stay in when you go away?

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