Tesco Christmas Hampers || Vegan, British, Gluten Free, Luxury..


At Christmas time, I'm fond of giving people hampers. Whether that be, themed hampers (movie night, pamper evening, holiday prep, etc..), beauty hampers, or food. There's something incredibly satisfying about gathering all these little bits and bobs that you think they'll like. Of course, gifts like these are better done with mass amounts of time beforehand so you aren't running around like a headless chicken finding everything you wanted. That's where Tesco Direct comes in.

I was scroll through the site last night and stumbled upon the food hampers that they offer, and I was pleasantly surprised. They cater to many people's dietary restrictions and aren't too expensive. Don't get me wrong, it would likely be far cheaper to do any of these yourself (with your own budget in mind), but if you're a busy bee and want a quick gift that is also thoughtful - possibly even for a family, these may be your saviour. There are plenty on the site, but these are my top picks:

Vegan Hamper || £29.99

Gluten & Wheat Free Hamper (Alcohol Free) || £29.99

The Luxury Hamper || £49.99

So there you have it. Hopefully one of these tickled your fancy, or just gave you an idea for a gift. People too easily dismiss "hand-made" gifts nowadays. It's always more special to receive something that has a bit of a personal touch. Think about it.

I hope you're having a wonderful day! 
- Anne

A Drop In The Ocean || Sunset State Beach


If on mobile: rotate your screen for better imagery. 
I think I've been converted into someone who likes the beach. Shock horror. Truth be told, I'm the furthest thing you could possibly find to a water baby. I hate the water. It's beautiful to look at, but that's about it. So, being my oh so assuming self, I figured that I would hate the beach. That the view would be meaningless if I couldn't swim in the ocean, that it would be a wasted experience on me. What a silly woman. Note to self: you can't judge until you experience.

When on vacation, I asked if me and my partner could take a quick trip to the beach as, ironically, walking in the ocean was on my bucket list.. Yeah, I'm that kind of girl. But in truth, like so many of the other things on that never ending list, I figured it wouldn't be reachable to me. At least not for many, many, many more years. Unsurprisingly, he agreed to the outing on condition that he didn't have to walk in too (which I fibbed and was all "oh, of course." until we were there, and I then puppy-eyed him into doing it with me. Heh. I win.) . So we ventured out and dipped our toes in the ocean (and accidentally 1/2 of our bodies. Waves are the enemy.). That day has become one of my fondest memories from the entire trip and the photos are incredibly special to me, so I thought a post dedicated to them was warranted. Online life journal, and all.

"A drop in the ocean,
A change in the weather, 
I was praying you and me might end up together.
It's like wishing for rain as we stand in the desert,
But I'm holding you closer than most,
 'Cause you're my heaven."

- Anne x

Best Places To Buy Books: UK Edition


I, like so many smart people in world, hoard books. It isn't unhealthy, quite the opposite actually. Books are great but boy, can they be expensive. These are my top favourite places to get books for a reasonable price.

Book Depository || Free international delivery
If you haven't already heard of this heavenly site, this is a place to buy discounted books with the added bonus of free international delivery. Everyone squeal at once! As with most sites, please remember to always look for a discount code before purchasing something. I once saved a whooping £17 from a 40% coupon I found. Always give a quick Google search.

The Book People || Free delivery over £25
Much like the site above, this is a discounted book site that offers free UK delivery on orders over £25. I personally really like The Book People for the book bundles they sell as you can get a right bargain. Really good for Christmas gifts!

The Works || Free delivery over £20
If you're from the UK you've probably seen this store and assumed it's only good for art supplies, but their paperbacks are usually 3 for £5 or sometimes even 6 for £10! They have a huge selection (as you can view/buy on their website). I tend to buy my Collins Classics from here, especially in the sale as most books go for a £1 or sometimes even 50p. If you don't have the time to browse the store, at least give the site a looksie. If you're a parent or have children to buy for this Christmas, they often have a 10 children's book for £10 offer. 

Tesco and Asda || Free Click & Collect
99.9% of the time, both these supermarkets have the 2 for £7 deal on paperbacks (Or £3.95 each). It's great and I always make an effort to scroll down the book ally before starting my weekly grocery shop. Bonus fact: If you buy them from Tesco, you get the added bonus of clubcard points. Yay! If you see something on their site, you can always do click and collect, which is super helpful for all you busy bee's out there.

Need I say more, really? I felt it a bit dumb to put Amazon on the list as it seems like an obvious choice, but to be perfectly honest, I mostly buy my books secondhand from Amazon. A used book can go for as little as £2.81 - that's including delivery, and I have yet to have a bad experience when ordering a used book. I just favour used books more than brand new ones, I don't fully know why. I think it just adds to the charm. Especially when the spine is cracked and it looks well-loved. I feel like I'm giving it a second lease at life, and hopefully it will one day be passed down to someone who will also love it.

Charity Shops
Don't overlook a good ol' charity shop. My local Oxfam is by far my favourite as they usually do books for as little as £1 and rarely sell anything that isn't in reasonable condition. You can't go charity book shopping with a few titles in mind, but it is handy to keep a list on your phone that you can refer back to when faced with multiple shelves of books in no order. Charity shops are also a great place to pick up the classics that you've been meaning to buy but wind up getting lost off the path by newly released shiny books with stories you know nothing about. 

The Library
Last but by no means least, your local library. I am ever so grateful for my library, I would've read far less books than I have if it wasn't for it. Let's face it, books can be bloody expensive and sometimes you just can't afford to splash out £7 on a new book that you may not even enjoy. My local library has come so far over the years and now have the option of ordering anything your heart could possibly want on their online catelog and it will be shipped to my local library ready for pick up within 5 days. It's great and I feel really blessed for it. No longer are the days of disappointment when the book you've had your eye on isn't stocked in the limited YA range the library holds. 

I hope that's given you a few other places to browse for a new read, or maybe given you a place to find a gift. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to comment them below! #BookLoversUnite

- Anne x

San Francisco: Japantown, Hotel Kabuki, Sushi.


Last month I went on a three week vacation to visit my boyfriend in the USA. Having only previously flown to Germany last year (see blog posts Part 1 and Part 2 here, if interested), this was a heck of a giant leap. Travelling alone has become the norm to me, and I'm actually thinking of doing a sort of travel guide to newbie solo travellers. We'll see. Anyhow, back on topic. I landed in San Jose and we then drove up to San Francisco. My journey over was smooth despite the two, yes, two, layovers I had to endear for the sake of saving £29. Worth it? Questionable. My thrifty side needs to take a backseat sometimes.

Our first trip in San Francisco lasted two nights, but we later went back for a day trip to hit the places that we missed out on the first time around. But I'm going to list everything as if it were one magical trip, otherwise both you and I are going to get confused. (Just me? Shush.)

Where We Stayed:
Hotel Kabuki. Our trip began with a two night stay in Japantown. My partner kindly arranged our accommodation and having stayed there previously, went with what he already knew. The room was beautiful but the view took the cake, especially at night. The hotel itself was within short walking distance from the shops/restaurants that Japantown has to offer and a quick 8-10 minute Uber ride to Highway 101 and the busy streets of San Francisco. It was the perfect fit for us. Local but quiet.

Hotel Kabuki didn't have any flaws in particular, but there was a slight downside of the bed being a little firm. Not a major deal breaker, but if that isn't your particular thing and you're planning on a longer stay, it may not be the most comfortable for you. A highlight of the stay for me was the first night together. We were both exhausted and ordered our traditional pizza (mushroom and pineapple, FYI) on the first night together, and ate on crisp white sheets - which my mother would object hugely to. Being the oh so sweet man that he is, my partner brought a bottle of champagne for us to toast to the trip. And not thinking to call down and request two glasses, we instead drank directly from the bottle under the warmth of the duvet. You don't get fancier than that, folks. Whether it was the situation or non-existent jetlag, I don't know, but I remember being incredibly amused and more importantly, happy. I will cherish that memory.

Things We Did:
Japantown: During the first day, we mostly wandered around the array of stores that the town had to offer and spent an endless amount of minutes flailing over the array of cute cat things. The quaint little independent shops were really fun to look around and having even better company for it made it heavenly (yes, I am going to be sickly in love throughout this entire thing. You're welcome.).

Panoramic Night Tour: In the evening, we booked a two-hour tour with Big Bus Tours to see the beautiful lights of San Francisco at night. The sightseeing spots it offers are as follows; Golden Gate Bridge, Grace Cathedral, Bay Bridge, and skyline views from Treasure Island. It seemed romantic, and it had the possibility to be. The scenery was spectacular. Sadly, we froze to death. Not literal death, obviously. But good God, it was cold. Having forgotten his jacket at home, my better half got the bunt of it. If you're planning on doing one of these, here's my advice: Layer up. Bring your own blanket. Possibly a thermos. The tour itself sells blankets for a whooping $10 each, and it wasn't especially warm. Despite the chilly weather, it was fun. The fog rolled in (shocker, I know.. that was sarcasm), and the rain started to fall as we went over the bay bridge and it was just.. electric. I didn't take many photos due to the shivering and numb fingers, but some things you just have to experience, you know?

The Bay Bridge: After having the quick pitstop here the previous night (see photo above), we decided to take a quick detour during the drive home to take some photos in the daylight. Near treasure Island and within sight of Alcatraz, it's a beautiful spot for photo taking. Especially as it was deadly quiet. Bonus!

Golden Gate Park: In all honesty, we only went here to hit the three places that are location around the area (listed below), but it was a noteworthy spot itself. The area is beautiful and having a stroll around was quite romantic. We got lunch from a food truck, sat on a bench near the fountain, and people watched. Children were laughing and splashing in the water (which, please, don't let your child do. You don't know if there's glass in there and the water itself is absolutely freezing. Not wise. Nuh-uh.), people were going about their day, the sound of water was loud and you could feel the chill in the air that it caused. It was an accidental date, and damn great.

Japanese Tea Gardens: Beautiful. There are no other words to describe this little place of tranquillity. It's strange, but there were so many people crammed around the small cobble-stone paths, yet it still felt peaceful. We didn't go to the cafe due to the mass amounts of people there, but I couldn't find it in me to be disappointed. It's worth going to even if you only have a spare 10 minutes - cost and all. A truly romantic spot.

California Academy of Sciences: Fun but expensive. This is the kind of place that anyone of any age will enjoy. It's fascinating, fun and beautiful in parts. You get everything. I feel like I'm three seconds away from yelling "Fun for all the family!" but it is. With so many different exhibits and various subjects in science that are there for you to both learn and appreciate from, it's worth a visit.

De Young Museum: I failed at taking photos here, as it just didn't seem right. There was a sense of serenity that I just couldn't bring myself to disrupt by bringing out my camera - sometimes the phone is best left in the bag. Walking around the many, many exhibitions that it has to offer, I grew to appreciate art far more than I have done in the past. I'm not hugely knowledgeable when it comes to art, but I do enjoy walking around a space that is homed to so many incredible pieces that hold such sentiment to their artist, and in turn, history. There isn't a particular way to accurately describe it. It's something you have to experience for yourself.

Where We Ate:
Mifune: Sushi was on my bucket list, for no particular reason. Turns out that eating at Japanese restaurants as a vegetarian is difficult. Tip: Always check what they put in the broth. We found our way in the end and ordered. It was good - peculiar for my mouth - but good. We got an appetizer of tempura and a roll of both Kappa Maki and Shinko Maki. The service was good, and their coffee was strong. We went around 1pm and it was absolutely dead except us and another guy. So that's worth keeping in mind.

Chocolate Chair: As we cruised around a shopping centre in Japantown, we noticed a food stand that sold coloured balls that appeared to smoke. Of course, curiosity got the better of us and we bought some. The odd snack is called Dragon's Breathe. Fruit Loop flavoured cereal puffs dosed in liquid nitrogen that causes smoke to come out of your nostrils and mouth. Yum? This is nothing other than a novelty, but a fun one. For $5 (small) or $7 (large), it's worth the laugh. Not to mention the cool selfies.

Bruno's Pizzeria: Decent pizza. Not the best, but not bad by any means. The sauce was just a little lack luster. In spite of that, I was happy with it because my cat is also called Bruno. I'm an easily pleased woman.

Original Buffalo Wings: Yeah, I know. "You're veggie. Weird choice." But I'll rest my case by saying that they did sweet potato fries and my boyfriend is meat friendly. We actually had the food from here delivered (again), and it travelled surprisingly well. I had a garden burger, yes, my inner 2009 Twilight fangirl was thriving #noshame, and it was really good. Homemade veggie patty and heaps of salad. If you want a quick delivery place that isn't pizza, and want it to be fairly reasonably priced and good? This is your spot.

All in all, our two night/three day visit to San Francisco was everything we could of wanted it to be. I wouldn't of changed anything. It was a beautiful city and I look forward to hopefully visiting again in future (ideally with the same company).

- Anne x

The Robin || A Short Story


When Christina was eight-years-old, she had once thought it was wise to climb the tree that stood proudly in the far corner of her local playground. It was the same place her family had always taken both her and her brother growing up. The swings creaked and the slide could be a tad wobbly, but it had that homey charm that doesn't come from complicated designs or a fancy pants location. It was surrounded by the most beautiful park, and you in Spring the entire place would smell of newly blossomed flowers. Both children and parents seemed to favour this particular park over the others, almost as if it had magical powersThe atmosphere was always electric and being her quiet self, Christina often preferred to sit under the climbing frame and watch it all unfold around her. Her parents had tried to persuade her to go and play with the other children multiple times, but her response was always 'But I'm having fun. Aren't I meant to?'. Eventually they stopped pestering her, but it didn't dampen their worries or late-night talks about her. Teachers had said she was the same in school, and suggested that they try to get her to interact more with children of her own age bracket. But it was difficult. If Christina was anything, she was stubborn.

As the months passed, other children caught onto her hiding spot and decided to sit there themselves. They'd asked if they could join her and despite the fact that she had said yes, that she didn't mind, she had actually felt like she was being cast out of her own spot. She didn't even attempt to exist there with them, it just seemed illogical and she felt as if she would be a nuisance. Instead she took it upon herself to find a new place. Eventually she had settled on sitting beneath a tree that was rooted a mere few steps from the swings. The tree itself was at the very least 30ft tall, you could barely see the top if you stood in close proximity to it. In the eyes of the little girl, it looked endless. There were barely any leaves coating it's ancient looking branches due to the current autumn weather, and it gave the impression that it would creak from a mere touch. She loved the spot instantly. Leaves crunched under her as she moved and there was a smell of oak that reminded her of Christmas time, when she would venture out to collect wood with her Grandpa for the roaring fire he loved so much.

Later that night she lay in bed and couldn't stop her mind from trailing back to her spot, a buzz of excitement lining her stomach at the thought of going back. Her father had promised that he'd take her back after school on Friday, which was three sleeps away. It was so strange, that tree had been there for as long as she could remember and it had never occurred to her to sit beneath it. It was so incredibly beautiful and she had simply walked passed every visit, not even giving the thing a second glance. How many other pretty things had she missed in her life, due to her need of similarity? 

Change wasn't her speciality. She had cried and cried last year when her mother had come home with a new car. They didn't understand what was wrong. "This is now ours. We'll make new memories." they said. But she liked the purple colour of the last car and she had a seat in it. It was hers - suited to her. She knew every nook and cranny and she longed for the day when she could sit up front. And just like that, it was gone. It wasn't fair that she didn't get a say. After all, it was a part of her life too, right? The change affected her. The same thing happened last weekend when her parents had surprised their children after school with a dinner out, instead of the usual meatballs and spaghetti that they had on a Friday. She had gotten upset. It frustrated her because she knew it was silly to be crying over this. It should've been a fun experience and she didn't want her parents to be hurt, but it was her instant reaction. She had looked forward to sitting at the table and eating her father's speciality all day. Then poof, it was gone. Her brother called her stupid and she had she cried herself to sleep that night. How could she get them to understand when she didn't herself? She wished and wished to fly away but it never came true. Now as she looked up at the white doves painted onto her ceiling, the glow of her night light making them appear pink, she wondered if she was a version of her tree to her family. Maybe they just hadn't looked hard enough to see her properly yet.

She dreamt of fairies that flew on pink doves that night.

Friday came excruciatingly slow, but like everything, it eventually came around. Christina was bouncing and skipping during the entire walk to the park. Her father laughed and she wanted to dance in the sound. They rarely had just daughter and father time nowadays so she cherished these moments. She dragged her father instantly to the tree and made him sit, he looked around and said how pretty it was. "But you know, honey. At the park, you're meant to play on the things that, you know, make it a playground." He gestured toward the swings and her brows instantly scrunched together in confusion. 

"I like it here." she said. He gave her that dad smile and moved to stand, his knees cracking in protest. 

"Okay. You play here, I'll go do my grown up thing." He gave her a lingering kiss on her forehead before strolling over to the bench that he usually sat on, already pulling his phone out of his pocket. 

"He didn't get it." she sadly said to herself, watching him go.

The weeks that followed where uneventful. The evenings got colder and it rained more often,  but the novelty of her new spot didn't wear off. Every Tuesday and Friday Christina would be elite with enthusiasm during the entirety of her school day, her toes itching in her wellies with the desire to stomp on leaves. 

It was a Friday afternoon when it all went wrong.

It had been raining throughout the day and it plummeted Christina's spirits, the thought of not going making her feel dreary. But much to her excitement, the weather started to clear up later in the afternoon and the droplets of rain lessened with each passing hour. The breeze still felt wet but it didn't warrant a cancellation of their trip. Her dad came to get her, only her, her brother had gone to his friends house for the evening. It was perfect. 

The moment they got there, she ran ahead and he took his usual seat on the damp bench. Within short distance from her spot, Christina suddenly came to a standstill. A robin whose chest was painted with the brightest of reds flew straight above her head and landed atop one of the twiggy branches. Ever since she was a little girl, Christina had a fascination with birds. They always seemed so free and kind. She wanted to become one with them. The young girl's heart was beating wildly as she turned her head to see what her father was doing, a surge of glee flooding her insides as his nose was buried deep in his phone. Without a second thought Christina ran toward the tree, her tree, and began to climb. 

It was difficult at first to find the right spot to stand, but it was almost as though the trunk adapted to her shape and small feet, and made the hollows just for her. The grips of her yellow rain boots aided in her climb and the cold sank straight through her kitten shaped gloves as she lifted herself into the air. Higher and higher she went. She didn't dare look down or back, instead keeping her determined eyes on the bird she was soon to become one with. It's head bobbed as it watched the small child inch closer.

'I'm doing it!' Christina internally squealed. She could hear her own pulse, and there was a loud buzzing filling her ears to go alongside it. She felt as though she'd been climbing for hours, even though barely a minute had passed. Her calves were shaking from the effort she was putting into it, but she didn't care. She wanted to fly. She was going to fly. That's when her foot applied just a little too much pressure on a branch and down she fell. She hit the ground with a loud thud and she instantly felt sick. A feeling of warmth was spreading behind her head. It was strange. It felt as though it had taken so long to climb, yet barely a second to fall. She could hear her dad's panicked voice and his approaching footsteps getting louder, but she didn't move. 

Tears welled up in her eyes as she watched the bird fly away. 

She had needed seventeen stitches – thirteen on her thigh and four on the back of her head. The doctors had said it was lucky that she was so bundled up as it could've been much worse. Her mother had scowled her like no other and she was even grounded for two whole weeks, which was completely illogical to her eight-year-old mind as she was usually spoilt rotten when sick or hurt. Throughout the entire hospital visit, she cried. Not from the pain or fright, but because she thought the birds had rejected her. They didn't want her to fly with them. That night in bed, she cried again.

It had been days of tears and rest until her father eventually knelt down beside her bed and begged her to tell him what was wrong. He was fearful that she was hurting more than she said and didn't want to confess it, in fear of angering them some more. His daughters chest heaved as she sobbed out her confession, her reasoning behind all these long nights making him want to laugh from relief. Her big brown puffy eyes looked at him as she said the words that had been circling her mind "Why didn't they want me?"

"Sweetheart, you can't fly with them. They couldn't of accepted you for a very important reason." He stroked his little girl's hair and a small hiccup came out muffled with her words. 

"But why? What reason?" she cried. 

Getting up, he sat down beside her on her wooden framed bed and took her into his arms. He had held his wife as she cried from fear last Friday night, and now it was his other girl's turn. "Because, you have to fly with the humans. You have to fly with your family. I know it can be hard sometimes, but all that matters is that we fly together. Okay?"

He'd nicknamed her Robin after that night, and it stuck.

- Anne.

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