Thursday, 31 December 2015

Gloucester - Cathedral and Beatrix Potter Museum

One last trip for 2015

It's hard to say goodbye to anything, especially since this year has been so wonderful in so many different ways. To begin, I graduated (finally!), I undertook two amazing internships that have given me lots of new skills and insight into the careers I can see myself pursuing in the near future, and of course I spent lots of time with friends and family. The most exciting part, without a doubt however, was definitely having the opportunity to travel to so many new places. Aside from exploring the UK, I also wandered through the streets of Japan and Singapore, plus the trade show grounds of Hannover - I am more than satisfied with my travels for this year.

Scrumpty Claus

So, for the first travel post for my blog for 2016 (happy new year to everyone btw!), I thought I'd tell you all about my trip to Gloucester (which happened to have been my final UK adventure for 2015).

First look at the amazing Gloucester Cathedral

Beatrix Potter Museum

Arriving at the museum
My main aim was to visit Gloucester Cathedral (which I did in the end - this'll come later in this post!), but I ended up making a quick but worthwhile detour at this lovely little museum. It hadn't been planned - in fact I was quite surprised when I saw it. Aside from selling the usual Beatrix Potter world's merch (e.g. cups, keychains, toys etc.), there were two parts of the store that were museum-themed. I particularly liked the basement area's display, which boasted the scenery seen in Potter's "The Tailor of Gloucester" book (which is precisely why the museum is in Gloucester and is subtitled "The House of the Tailor of Gloucester") as well as a little TV showing the book in cartoon form. The second floor was equally as interesting. It continued to illustrate the Tailor of Gloucester through words, portraits and plush toys. 

Of course, a trip to any Beatrix Potter attraction is not complete without stopping to say hi to Peter Rabbit. Managed to find him in the end (thankfully) -- the best way to end a wonderful pitstop at a quaint and well-designed museum.

Peter says hi

Gloucester Cathedral

There's no surprise that I chose to visit Gloucester Cathedral for a reason. The original goal had been to admire/photograph/view its stunning historic cloisters (which were used in the 1st, 2nd and 6th Harry Potter films). However, when I arrived at the Romanesque and Gothic construction, I was greeted by two additional activities that were equally fun to attend.

The first was the Christmas market, of which was taking place in the historic cloisters - I thereby saw it as Christmas at Hogwarts (with lots of decent and quirky bargains for any shopaholic -- I'm definitely one!). Although the cloisters were packed, that didn't stop me taking as many photos as possible (after I got paid for a license to do so legally of course - you can get one at the cathedral shop btw).

Purchases from the Christmas Market
Pano of the Christmas Market
Browsing the many MANY stalls

I have to say, I think they're quite decent - don't you?

The ceiling - simply breathtaking (cloisters)

The second was the Christmas concert - now that was fun! We sang a bunch of my favourite songs (e.g. Silent Night) and it was nice talking to the people next to me that had also attended the event. I think that kind of became the highlight of my trip - who knew singing could bring so much joy?

Shh!! The concert has started
And after all that singing and shopping, it was finally time to do some surveying (i.e. touring the cathedral). With every corner I turned and every step I took, the true beauty of the cathedral became even more prominent. I spent the majority of my trip simply gawking at the different types of tapestry and ceiling designs present. It is, without a doubt, an architectural masterpiece. Imagine all those hours that had been spent in drawing and later building the cathedral - absolutely incredible.

Another ceiling - even more amazing (east end)

The stunning stained glass window

New year = new (travel, foodie & fashion) adventures

The above pretty much summarises my trip to Gloucester - it was short but definitely sweet. I have many memories of it that will undoubtedly last for a lifetime. So I'm gonna let you all go now - enjoy the new year and its respective celebrations.

A must visit for any architecture fanatic
The Cathedral's exterior - just as breathtaking as the interior

And what about me you might ask? That's for the next blog post.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Christmas Presents 2015 - BlogMas Day 4

First ever haul

I've always enjoyed the various haul-based videos that are scattered throughout YouTube. There are so many to choose from -- you've got your clothing haul, makeup haul, paint supply haul etc. My favorite definitely has to be the ones that pop up during Christmas (I.e. The "what I got for Christmas" videos). So in spirit of that, and because I've opened them up already, I thought I'd try to produce my own version of a Christmas presents haul (only through writing and photos rather than through film). 

As they say, "sharing is caring", so feel free to comment below on what you got for Christmas too. Hopefully this can give us some inspiration for Christmas gift shopping when it comes around next year (what can I say? I like to keep on top of schedule - always). And hopefully this will be the first of many hauls to come!

Boxes of joy

1) Benefit Party Popper (makeup and beauty advent calendar)
  • This was such a cool and nifty gift. There are 12 different products (for "12 days of [being] gorgeous") mainly for the skin, lips and eyes. I particularly liked the Total Moisture Facial Cream that was included. Oh and did I mention that the box sings to you when it opens? Totally fabulous.

2) MINISO Inductive Wireless Speaker
  • The name "speaks" for itself (pun intended)! I've never gotten a portable speaker for my iPhone so this is definitely going to come in handy. Plus it's in the shape of a Lego brick - what could be better?

3) Sweet treats
  • Chocolates are nice but waffles (pink box) and assorted biscuits (brown box) are even yummier! No doubt these'll satisfy my late night cravings for a long time (well...maybe for this month at least!).

4) AwaTaccino 3D Latte Maker
  • One word: AWESOME! Apparently you can make a snowman, bunny, dogs and even a seal. Hopefully I'll get the hang of how this works soon -- will make sure I post again once I have so you can see what I've been able to craft.

5) Fluffy Christmas blanket
  • A wonderful and warm alternative to fluffy socks. This kept me nice a cosy when I was in bed with the flu last week.
Before I end this post, I'd just like to say a huge thank you to everyone who got me the above gifts this year (and for the ones I didn't mention in this blog post as well). They will definitely be used well  by me! However, what I will treasure the most is your support to me and our friendship - these cannot be bought by money and I feel grateful that they've been sustained for so many years already (and for many more years to come!).

Stay tuned for the last (extremely belated) BlogMas post which will be released tomorrow (aka. The last day of 2015!!!).

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Building the Gingerbread House - BlogMas Day 3

Getting started

I don't usually start a blog post off with an apology but I will today. I apologise that BlogMas sorted came to a halt last week on December 23rd. That was partially because my flu was getting the better of me but mainly because of the task I had set myself and my cousins to completing (or rather constructing). We try to host a family Christmas party each year and I'm always in charge of baking something yummy. This year, I decided to turn it up a notch and do something completely different (but definitely Christmassy).

Opening the box of goodies
Prepping the icing bag (and the house!)
Ladies and gentlemen - it was finally time for The Amateur Anthropologist to make decorate a gingerbread house.

I'd found a box (by Wilton) that offered all the necessary tools and sweets needed for gingerbread house decorating just the other day in the local shopping mall - there was definitely no stopping me now!

Steady there...
Like all good cooks/amateur bakers, I made sure I read the recipe (in this case, instructions manual). This involved prepping the piping bag with a generous amount of thick white icing to begin with, and then gluing the walls of the house before waiting for an hour for them to dry off. A tip for anyone that wants to attempt at decorating a gingerbread house in 2016 (my countdown for next year's Christmas has already begun) is to pipe a decent dose of icing on the bottom of the walls before positioning them on your base (I used a silver piece of cardboard made especially for baked goods) - this ensures that your walls are sturdy enough to stand by themselves and to later hold the roof of the house up (there have been quite a few gingerbread house fails on YouTube - probably because they didn't follow my tip!)

Waiting for it to dry...

Lunch break

Making the gingerbread house required a lot of patience (because it took several hours to dry each piece). So during that time, I decided to head out to do some last minute grocery shopping for our family Christmas party. I also picked up some lunch which was awesome.

Mini bus-ing it to the shops
Purchases for the party
A (somewhat) healthy lunch
And isn't the Christmas tree in the shopping mall near my house simply stunning? They always ensure that a new design is used each year, so it's always exciting to see what they have install for us by the time December arrives.

Several levels tall and colour changing - best tree ever!

Decorating delicately

Decorating the gingerbread house did require a lot of delicate movements -- push too hard on any of the pieces and the whole building (well house) could easily collapse. We decided not to go with a design that the box had suggested us to go with. Instead, we improvised along the way. I think it worked out quite well in the end don't you?

(Sweet) decorations for the house
Beginning with the front door
We also used some sweets (M&M chocolates) that I had bought during my lunchtime shopping excursion, and some leftover cake decorations that had been lying around in my house - I think adding them made the gingerbread house even more special.

That's it for this post - be sure to look out for the next two BlogMas posts (which I promise will be up before this year ends which is in like what...? 2 days?!?!?!)

A very Merry Christmas indeed! :D

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Theatre Review - BlogMas Day 2


Sunday afternoon treat

Generally on the weekends, I like to take time off to spend with family at home. This usually involves at least 3-4 hours of TV, then a homemade meal before either some more TV or blogging. However, as a special pre-Christmas treat for this year, we decided to watch a local play just last Sunday. The show had received positive ratings and almost had a full-house (in terms of audience numbers) when we got there. And seeing as it was only in town for 3 days, it was definitely something we ought not to miss!

So for day 2 of BlogMas, here's my review of 折翼天使 (aka. Angels Pslam):

Flawlessly spectacular

The plot itself was simple but filled with strong messages about the unexpected challenges in life and how to deal with them positively. It circulated around the true story of a 23-year-old woman who had lost her legs, along with her 10 month old baby girl and mother-in-law, during the tragic Sichuan 7.9MW earthquake in 2008. What made matters worse was that the main character was originally a dance instructor for children. Without the key physical feature needed for dance, the protagonist was unable to make a living initially and had to rely on her parents. To top it off, her husband broke off with her as her injury reminded him too much of his mother and daughter's deaths.
Devastatingly horrifying basically summarises the first part of the play.
However, the situation starts to get better as the second act progresses. The protagonist first meets a group of missionaries from abroad, whom had come to help hospital patients that had suffered the physically from the earthquake. Through one of them, she managed to get in touch with a foreign prosthetist of prosthetic legs. Although slightly reluctant to try them at first, the main character eventually gathered enough courage to do so. She mentioned on countless occasions that they weren't at all comfy, and it took a long time for her to get used to them. However, with lots of practice and support from her family and friends, she eventually managed to walk and even dance confidently in them. Having mastered these skills, she later decided to volunteer in another earthquake-hit town, called Ya'an, not too far from her own in 2013. Today, the protagonist continues to dance and travel to different parts of the world to share her story and the lessons she learnt through her journey.

From a critic's POV, the play's story was portrayed perfectly by each and every actor and actress that stepped foot on the stage. The emotion they manage to convey through their actions and speeches was unbelievably powerful. Whether the scene was about laughter, joy or sadness, all were easily portrayed by the performers and felt accordingly by the audience. A big thumbs up to all the children that performed, their singing was particularly wonderful, and to those that had created the amazing backdrop.
Would a different crew have been better? Absolutely not. The entire drama was flawlessly spectacular just the way it was already.

Angels Pslam autograph board

Lessons learnt

As mentioned, the play was meaningful as well as memorable. I think the clearest message presented was definitely that about persistence and optimism. In short, no matter what life throws at you, even if it is an extreme tragedy, always remember that there are more solutions to them than the problems themselves. We must always hope for a brighter future, and believe that one does exist as well. 
As for the optimism part of the play's core message, that simply involves smiling (lots of it). Smiling through the toughest of times definitely helps you feel better (trust me, I've tried it before). In addition, always look at both sides of the coin. Although it may feel as though there is nothing positive about the situation on hand, if you look just a bit more closely and patiently, you may just find several bits of happiness that can change the gray skyline a bit (even if it only lasts temporarily).
Persist in being and thinking positively, for the answer you're looking for may just be around the corner - that's my new year's resolution for 2016.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Birmingham Christmas Market 2015 - BlogMas Day 1

Let the festive season begin

Advent calendars are traditionally bought to help one remember how many days there are until Christmas (as well as for a special daily sweet treat!). For me though, the countdown doesn't begin until my work is complete. That joyful day happened to be yesterday. Aside from spending time with family and friends, I thought I'd take this opportunity to start my first ever BlogMas. I've seen YouTube video makers do something very similar with VlogMas (where they upload a new video every day starting from, for example, the 1st till the 25th December), so I thought it'd be fun to do something like that with my blog (through writing blog posts of course)

So, for the 1st Day of my Christmas countdown, we'll start with my absolute favourite hobby (ever): Travel!

Birmingham Christmas Market 2015

I've been wanting to go to this event ever since I first came to England to study (2012 to be more precise). However, the train routes were never in favour of me going. So for the Christmas periods of 2012, -13, and-14, I had to visit the North Eastern Christmas markets instead (which were all very delightful). This year however, owing to a change in academic institution, Birmingham was only 30 minutes away from me by train.

Clearly, nothing could stop me from attending the metropolitan city's Christmas market and enjoying its other festivities this year.

Top highlights

It's a bit difficult to summarise how I felt about the event in just 1 blog post (simply because there was SO MUCH to do, see, and of course, eat). So, just for a change (because it is almost Christmas), I'm simply going to describe my top favorite moments:

Number 1: Arriving at Birmingham Christmas Market (was greeted by bubbles instead of snow!)

Number 2: Shopping, shopping and (even more) shopping! Definitely worth buying the following:


Number 3: Food Glorious Food (esp. frankfurters and chocolate)


Number 4: Unexpected festive surprises

Ostrich eggs or reindeer meat anyone?
Perfect Christmas prezzies for all dog lovers
Number 5: The Christmassy scenery (plus the awesome Ferris Wheel!)



Tomorrow's nighttime treat

So hopefully today's blog post has brought you joy, laughter and, undoubtedly, travel inspiration. Join me again tomorrow at 8PM UTC (Hong Kong time) for another Christmas countdown blog post -> this time, a theatre review!

Santa Claus has landed in Birmingham