Happy Birthday!

Dude.

Happy Birthday.

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My sister is another year older and it’s weird. (I, like Joey from friends, find it rather disconcerting that people perpetually grow older.) Anyway, even though I’ve already wished Abi Happy Birthday through the form of an Instagram post and a text message, I thought I’d go ahead and do a blog post. Nothing like the personal touch, right? ;)

(Mainly for the photos, there are some real cuties)

An open letter to Abi’s sixteen year old self:

Dude.

Happy Birthday.

Have a good day.
You know how I’ve recently starting calling you ‘Bobby’ and you don’t really think it’s cute, but I’m trying to make it catch on? I’m not gonna stop and it is gonna catch on. Sorry about that. In a few months time you’re going to realise that I’ve stopped growing taller and will officially be an oompa loompa until the end of time. You’re going to have a lot of fun teasing me about that one, so…

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A  levels are coming up! Holla! You’re going to do well and I’m going to be all like ‘Really? Really? Pretty and clever? Save something for me, geeeez!’ But other times I will watch as you get your thumb stuck in my phone case for twenty minutes and I will decide that we just have different skills. I will always be so proud of you and I will not stop telling people (or trying to subtly drop it into conversation) that I have a sister who does Biochemistry at Oxford, even if this involves a serious conversational segue;
“Biochemistry – did you say Biochemistry? My Sister does Biochemistry”
– “Er, no, I was talking about Black History
“She goes to Oxford”
– “Er…”

“Also she’s the women’s Bouldering champion OF THE WORLD”

*whispers* “and she’s so pretty”

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I will also force people to look at pictures of you, and of us together, and especially ones of us together that have been taken after I turn seventeen and learn that I can put makeup on my eyebrows. (And espeeeeecially ones that have been taken after I learn that I can put makeup on your eyebrows.)

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We will continue to spend our birthdays together, even that one time when I’m in Italy. This is because you are a top sister and also because you enjoy making me scream and burst into tears of happiness and shock when you surprise me on the steps of Venice central station.

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Most of all, I think that you will be happy, and you will continue to care for me as well as you have done for the last fourteen years and six months. (Although that now involves walking me home after parties, receiving excited text messages instructing you to go and stalk celebrities on my behalf, and having a loud, short, stressed out teenager in your house for at least the next two years.) I don’t know why you do it. I really, really don’t, but I am grateful to you for continuing, because sometimes I just really need someone to phone, or someone who understands why a picture of a Chihuahua wearing a sombrero is so funny that I think I’m going to pee, or someone who remembered to bring a coat, or gloves, or their keys. Most of all, I need someone who never judges me or makes me feel stupid, and who supports me unfailingly in everything that I do – even if it’s weird. 

Happy Birthday Piglet!!

I love you and I think we’re all proud of the person you’ve become ;)

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srsly,

All my Love,

George

November Shmovember…

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I am all over Christmas planning right now! Seriously, December – we got this.

I feel like I may have been a teensy bit overenthusiastic in looking forward to Christmas and have sort of let the whole of November trot by without paying too much attention. I’ve been working, a lot, and I also got to head to Manchester to see my bestest bestest buddies and have some down time exploring the city. It was so fun! What with all of that good stuff, and also all of the time I’ve been spending wandering around the house wrapped in blankets and singing ‘in the bleak midwinter’ forlornly to myself (part of a campaign to try and encourage my housemates to turn on the heating), November is already almost over. But that means that it’s almost officially the most wonderful time of the year. Get your glitter ready, good stuff is on the way!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some updates so we can get November cleared away in good time for December. (with photos in case you’re more of a ‘visual reader’… yes Rob I know you just scroll through and look at the photos ;) haha)

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Work Updates:

Well you may have noticed that I have not written any humorous blog posts about my job at a coffee shop. That is because sometimes it is just not funny when a customer asks you for the three hundredth time if I’m sure their drink is made with soy milk (dairy alternative milk option), even though they asked for soy milk, it says soy milk on the cup, and my only job is to put the right milk in the right cup, so yes of course it’s soy.. IT’S SOY. I suppose this is quite funny if you imagine me going slowly crazy and just yelling ‘IT’S SOY’ every time anyone questions their drink. I think it’s even funnier if you imagine me, with milk in my eyebrows, wearing my red christmas apron and brandishing an empty milk jug like some kind of crazed elf, shouting ‘IT’S SOYYY!!!!’ at a poor, innocent customer, who proceeded to look at me with real horror and whisper ‘But, I didn’t ask for soy’

I really am a lovely person. My customer service skills are unsurpassed ;) I also work at a bar and that’s super fun, although I don’t use my most polished customer service skills on the drunk students who are my main clientele. I mostly just say things like ‘yes, you have to pay’, or ‘no we don’t make cocktails’, or ‘who do you  think I am – your mother? Please place that empty shot glass into an appropriate receptacle and don’t throw it at me’ Actually I don’t say that last thing at all, I just serve up the drinks and chat and try and avoid the shot glasses so they don’t hit me in the eye. Sometimes when the customers are particularly rowdy, I just yell ‘IT’S SOY’ at them, and that seems to work. I actually love working at the bar, and it’s kind of fun to have jobs that are so different, keeps me on my toes and means I get crazy good benefits (and yes, by ‘crazy good benefits’ I mean I get free frappuccinos and also free fried chicken. If that’s not crazy good I just don’t know what is)

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Tooth Updates:

Oh, the tooth. I feel like I’ve massively dramatised the story of my tooth (or should I say, I’ve definitely over dramatised the story of my tooth), but having done so, I might as well keep you updated. The tooth is in good health, it hasn’t turned black or fallen out or made any more attempts to disassociate itself from me. But – and this is slightly grave news, guys, so prepare yourselves – I think the other one is trying to make its escape. It’s an ongoing saga, I’ll be sure to keep you updated ;)

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Hope you’re enjoying the end of November – I’m already planning lots of Christmas content including gift lists and ideas – don’t say I never do anything nice ;)

PV x

Brighton

Rob and I took at trip to Brighton a few weeks ago and I took my beloved Diana F+ film camera with me. We mainly explored the Lanes and spent time hanging out on the beach, and it was so nice to get away and be by the sea for a little while.

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Although I’m a rubbish swimmer (I just can’t get the hang of not breathing in the water!) I have always loved the sea. I already want to go back.

Robbie and I took a very similar trip three years ago when we had just started dating, and I took photos on my Diana then too. As always with my attempts at film photography, the pictures are a little bit overlapped and maybe not always in focus, (I’m always grabbing photos without adjusting all the knobs and dials properly!) but I love them just the same, and I love being able to look back at both of these trips.

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(I made Rob pose with a Frankenstein mannequin outside the haunted house and I love how this photo is cropped – it looks like a random man is kissing him on the head. Hehehe…)

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Glad we got to get away together and thankful that we have these blurry overlapped photos. Life is good.

PV x

p.s. November has been a busy, busy month. I love being busy – it’s a hobby of mine and I’m really good at it ;) – but working all the hours I can means there’s less time to blog. Boo! I’ve got a lot l want to blog in December though so hopefully next month prettyvacant will be getting a little bit more lovin’ <3 Thank you, as ever, for reading my lil’ blog. xoxo

35/52 – The Convenience, a NANA Café

Somewhere in the East, East end of London, (a minute’s walk from Homerton station), The NANA café serves up bottomless cups of tea, hearty breakfasts, comfort food and extra crispy bacon (just the way we like it).

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This homely little café is the day time home of NANA, a café which employs older local ladies to create a community where they can come together over tea and cake – while managing a lively café which is a hub for local residents. The café is, rather strangely, located in a converted public toilet – just one of the many quirky little details which make the place so interesting!

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In the evening, the café becomes ‘The Convenience’, and plays host to different types of food experiences – the current one being an authentic Vietnamese kitchen (with authentic East London cocktails just to get everybody in the mood for a party!)

I visited during the day and was greeted by a bunch of friendly staff who were happy to chat as they made tea and took my order. It’s really a tiny little place (public toilets aren’t that roomy when you think about it!), and upstairs is the most amazing open air seating area. It’s not Covent Garden, but I’ll put up with the view of a bus stop for this colourful perch in the fresh air with a cup of green tea and a good book.

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As much as I am romantically attached to the idea of an endless summer, after a while my blanket-scarf-swaddle began to let in the winter chill a little too much so I headed back downstairs to enjoy my food.

It was a lovely lunch hour and I’d definitely go back for some tea and cake – I think in the summer I’ll be headed back to the roof terrace for some sun – I feel like it’s a bit of a hidden gem!

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A short and sweet one this week, but for even more cafés that were once public loos (who knew that was a thing?!) check out this list, and for more information on the wonderful work of NANA, you can head to their website, here.

Big Love,

PV x

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This is Halloween!

twins

I thought I’d share some photos from the Halloween weekend since we had such a fun time getting dressed up and spookifying the house for our party!

I’ve never really celebrated Halloween, but I think that costume parties are one of the chief joys of my life, so I was all over it this year! I was super pleased with how all of our costumes turned out, and especially pleased that everyone got to see our house, hang out with us, and Noodles (our house cat) even made an appearance (she pretends she’s shy but she loves the adulation) ;)

Sorry this is another picture heavy post, but I just couldn’t resist sharing!

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We went all out with the decorations, covering our living room in paper garlands, and even fashioning a chandelier out of fairy lights. We cut strips out of bin bags and hung them in our hallway to create a spooky entrance way (which was actually pretty terrifying – especially with the lights off, as our hallway is long and winding anyway).

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Tom and Imogen decided to go as Little Red and The Wolf (and pulled it off amazingly!)

Meanwhile, Chelsey and I got busy preparing to be the twins from The Shining. We had bought two matching blue sun dresses which were on sale, white knee high socks (from good old Primark) and because Chels and I both have an immaculate sense of style we happened to already own matching black heels (;

We kept the makeup pretty simple, using lots of dark colours for the eyes, and dark eyeshadow to contour the face. We made our lips pale for the sort of creepily undead look (it’s a great look) and finally, because we were going for the doe-eyed-but-creepy-child look (which is harder than you might think) we made our eyes look bigger with a nude eyeliner on the bottom lash line. I am by no means an expert at makeup looks, but it was easy and I think it looked great!

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We went a bit crazy with the fake blood – but the girls in the film meet a bit of a sticky end on the sharp end of an axe, so I don’t think it was possible for there to be too much blood! We created huge matching abdominal wounds (which I think was part of why the look was so effective – the matching wounds were extra creepy) and then added blood to the neck and chest, and scrunched it into the bottom of the dress (in a moment of inspiration, I ripped off the hem of my dress and made it into matching ribbons for our hair as well!)

Once we were done and had our shoes on, we looked pretty identical, and we worked extra hard on our creepy vacant stares for the arrival of our guests…IMG_8268 IMG_8264 IMG_8272 IMG_8274 IMG_8277 IMG_8285

It was so fun.

I think I want to do it all again next year – I’m already thinking of costume ideas!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek at Halloween Sunset Strip Style!

PV x

PS – because no photo post would be complete without a couple of selfies…

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You’re not Nineteen forever

(pull yourself together)

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I’m definitely a sun baby. Pumpkin Spice season isn’t even over yet and I’m already buried in my duvet dreaming of sun and sleep and mojitos. I mean, you can definitely still drink mojitos in the winter, but I think you have to sort of do it while crying and wearing a scarf (just for the sake of decency).

It’s coming up to Christmas (eeeep!!!) and I’m so, so excited. I’m probably the only person in the world who gets excited when supermarkets start playing Christmas music in October! I’ve been especially excited by Primark’s delightfully colourful and sparkly (and sort of tacky, shhh…) Christmas stuff, I’m definitely going to do a big shopping haul to give myself a little boost through the winter blues! (and by ‘winter blues’ I mean ‘chest infection which makes me cough in a super dramatic fashion and cause people to move away from me on the train…’) ;)

I’m also counting down the last eight weeks (ish) of my ’52 New Places in London’ Challenge from last year! I’ve done thirty-two so far, so I might not quite finish up by January 1st 2015, but I definitely will get it finished, it’s my favourite thing to blog about.

After I’ve wrapped up my London challenge, I think I’m going to start a ’19 before 20′ challenge. I’m turning twenty in June (!!) and I just thought it would be a fun idea to try some new things, make exciting plans, and challenge myself so I can feel oh so accomplished ready for the big two-o.

It’s gonna be fun! Here are some of the ideas I’ve cooked up so far:

- Take portraits of my family. When I say ‘my family’ that means all of the people that have contributed significantly and positively to my life. This boils down to about sixteen people and I would absolutely love to have special portraits which capture the personality of each of these people. I have always been fascinated by portrait photography and I may even take a day course or a night class so that I can learn a new skill and make sure the photos look super good. I’m really excited about this project and I can’t wait to start sharing with you.

- Take a road trip. Travelling is my favourite thing to do. And, maybe because I don’t drive and I spend so much time on the tube nowadays, I find travelling in cars to be sort of magical. I love love love the idea of setting off and exploring somewhere new for a couple of days. (I think this obsession with travelling in a car dates back to my early childhood when I used to wish I had one of those mobility scooters so I never had to walk anywhere! What a lazy child. Lucky I was so cute.) ;)

- Sew a dress. Ha – did you think all of my things would be about going wild and partying? Well, obviously I am an uncontrollable party animal, but as everybody knows, I have an obsession with sewing, and few things bring me more delight than finishing a project and then parading it in front of anybody who will look at it! I think that sewing a dress is going to be a bit easier (or maybe way harder?!) than I imagine, but it’s totally doable and I’m going to make something which is sparkly and gorgeous and wonderful and then wear it every day. (try and stop me)

I have a lot of ideas! It’s going to be fun fun times. If you have any ideas for stuff I should try out please give me a shout!

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

PV

ps – stay tuned for some Halloween stuff – prettyvacant style!

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34/52 – Seven Dials, Covent Garden

We have always been of opinion that if Tom King and the Frenchman had not immortalised Seven Dials, Seven Dials would have immortalised itself.  Seven Dials! the region of song and poetry—first effusions, and last dying speeches…

 The stranger who finds himself in ‘The Dials’ for the first time, and stands, Belzoni-like, at the entrance of seven obscure passages, uncertain which to take, will see enough around him to keep his curiosity and attention awake for no inconsiderable time.

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Seven Dials, a busy intersection of winding streets and passageways, is hidden away just beyond the main square of Covent Garden. Perfect for a bit of Saturday-afternoon window shopping, a Sunday morning breakfast craving, or even a last minute dash to find the perfect gift, each of the seven little roads which come together to form the iconic ‘dial’ is brim full of boutiques, cafés, small designer outlets and even big name stores tucked neatly into the sort of high-end hipster aesthetic which Seven Dials carries off so perfectly.

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I took Rob with me on my wanderings, and we decided to begin at the centre of the dial, and then explore each road and see what we could find. All of the shops look amazing, and the area just looks so colourful and enticing. The first place that caught my eye was the (bright yellow!) Burt’s Bees store. Stocked to the brim with my favourite brand of skincare (Yes I’m a middle aged lady and I have a favourite brand of skincare…), everything sold by Burt’s Bees is packaged so well and it smells so yummy, this would be a perfect place to find gifts (or even little treats for yourself!)

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Around the corner, we popped into Urban Outfitters, which is a high street store I’m quite fond of. The Seven Dials store is so lovely, and we spent a long time browsing through all the books and albums they had on display. The buildings in this area are so beautiful, and the close knit construction of the streets makes for a lovely atmosphere. Every time we turned a corner there were new things to look at, and although many of the shops were way beyond my price range, all of the shops, including the ones that were student-budget-friendly, felt a little bit more special and ’boutiquey’, as if rewarding you for all the hard work you had to do to find them in the first place ;)

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Although Seven Dials is definitely a bit of a maze, there are helpful maps up at regular intervals, and it makes your shopping experience feel a bit more like you’re really exploring an area, rather than just running down Oxford Street between H&M and Topshop.

Perhaps it was all this luxury boutiquey-ness and the little streets and all the hipsters, but I did pop into  Benefit and the lady was so nice and basically gave me a mini makeover (and didn’t look at me suspiciously when I told her that yes, I was wearing yesterday’s makeup – oops) that I did finally purchase some eyeliner that I’ve been after for ages. I got a tiny little bag and they even printed my name on the receipt! What ridiculously good customer service. (Although I feel I should mention my name was spelt wrong. Just call me Georig.)

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Just beyond Benefit we found this crazy little reading room! It’s just a room full of books and chairs and the doors are left open all day and it’s just left to its own devices and nothing is nailed to the floor. You guys, I think that’s how you know that this area is seriously nice. Anyway, because I was with Robby I didn’t think it would be polite to sit down for an hour and read a book, but I definitely think I’m going to next time. It’s actually a book exchange so you could take a book, read it and chill out (perhaps with some bubble tea from around the corner?) and then when you’ve finished it, you can leave it behind and pick out a new book to take home. Amazing.

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Our final hidden gem was Neal’s Yard. I have to say I found this inception-level confusing. You know Neal’s Yard Remedies? The Health and Beauty shop? Well, that is in Neal’s Yard. I’m not sure if the Yard is named after the shop or the shop is named after the Yard, but there are other shops in there (and a raw food café which looked amazing) which are also called Neal’s Yard  and it’s so confusing. But it doesn’t matter, the whole yard, whether it belongs to Neal or not, is totally beautiful, so colourful and full of benches and plants and amazing places to eat. The gluten-free, superfood, cold-press café looked amazing, but I have to confess I think I’d head straight for the pizza place! It smelled so so good.

Safe to say that the Seven Dials of today is very different, although no less intriguing, than that which Dickens described. I’ll leave you with this rather unflattering description, and you’ll have to make a trip to Seven Dials to see for yourself how much the place has changed and blossomed into quite an elegant, if rather sprawling and ungainly, little character.

From the irregular square into which he has plunged, the streets and courts dart in all directions, until they are lost in the unwholesome vapour which hangs over the house-tops, and renders the dirty perspective uncertain and confined; and lounging at every corner, as if they came there to take a few gasps of such fresh air as has found its way so far, but is too much exhausted already, to be enabled to force itself into the narrow alleys around, are groups of people, whose appearance and dwellings would fill any mind but a regular Londoner’s with astonishment.

PV x

* Extracts from Charles Dickens’ Sketches by Boz: Seven Dials (1836). I would do anything to take old Charlie on a walking tour of 2014 Seven Dials, I’m pretty sure it would blow his little socks off. (And then we could go have pizza and talk about what exactly he thought he was doing marrying Mr Toots off to Miss Nipper, and how on earth he manages to keep that deadly sarcasm of his under control. We’d definitely hit it off and we’d probably go for cocktails afterwards.)  <3