Monday 29 April 2024

Reasons to buy a second hand book

This post was prompted by a post from Wob (World of Books) on Facebook last week - apparently buying 144 pre-loved books will save one tree. I must admit that does still seem like quite a lot of books, but one of the reasons that I love buying my books second hand is for environmental reasons. Not only does it save on the resources required to print a new book, it also reduces waste and means that the same book can be enjoyed by many people.

It's not the only reason that I buy many of my books second hand - here are some of the others:

To save money

This is very important to me. Recently I was looking to buy a book for my son which is fairly niche and a few years old. £15 on Amazon and £7 from Wob - an easy decision! Also Wob are almost always running a special offer where many of their books are buy three and get one free as well as other regular discount codes, making it even more worthwhile. When I buy a book from a charity shop I would expect to spend £1-£1.50 for a paperback which is a fantastic price.

To take a chance on a book

If you are browsing in a charity shop or second hand bookshop you may not be able to find the specific book that you are after. It's exciting when you do! But it's an opportunity to try something new, maybe another book by an author that you've enjoyed or just something that you wouldn't normally pick up. 

To support a charity

I often support a charity shop twice when I buy a book from them - I frequently donate back books and other items as part of the same visit!

Shop selling second hand books
Photo credit Noémi Macavei-Katócz via Unsplash

To feel a connection to a previous reader

I don't want to buy a book that has writing or highlighting on the pages, but I don't mind at all if there is an inscription or a name written in the front. I love to see evidence of the book having being read - like worn and folded pages or a cracked spine. I've also been delighted to find a bookmark or a cryptic note tucked between pages!

To not have to worry about keeping the book pristine

I often travel with my books, and I don't want to worry about reading them by the pool or on a beach. Or just in the bath at home.

To make an old book feel loved again

I love the thought of re-reading a book that may have been abandoned on someone's bookshelf for years before being donated!

Do you buy second hand books? Can you relate to any of my reasons?

Tyre maintenance and car care tips for maximising vehicle safety

This is a collaborative post

Vehicle safety doesn't come down to your tyres entirely. The brakes, seatbelts and condition of the windscreen also play a crucial role, among other systems. However, since tyres are in constant contact with the road while providing traction and manoeuvrability, they are prime candidates for any ongoing car that might be needed to improve safety. What do you need to know to ensure that you and other road users remain safe while you're behind the wheel? Read on to find out more about car tyre safety tips.

Pump your tyres up

Under-inflated tyres can be a killer on the road. When your tyres are even partially flat, they mean you can swerve around debris on the tarmac less effectively. When cornering, you may find you lose control and could even spin out. Equally, the additional braking time that flat tyres need means they are basically unsafe. Pump your up to the recommended level every second time you refill your tank and maintain this habit. Don't over-inflate them either, something which also causes problems with sufficient grip.

Check the tread depth

When tread depth is approaching the legally safe limit, it will already be underperforming. This is often most noticeable in wet weather when tyres with lower levels of tread struggle to clear water and are more prone to aquaplaning. Even in the dry, it takes longer to stop with tyres that cannot grip as well. Replace old tyres that are approaching the end of their lives. Fife Autocentre offers free and easy booking on the website and you can choose your car tyres at local prices.

Man checking a car tyre
Photo credit Enis Yavuz via Unsplash

Inspect your sidewalls

Not many motorists appreciate just how important their tyres' sidewalls are. The sidewall is a section of the tyre that doesn't come into contact with the road so you might think ignoring it is okay. However, sidewalls face more UV light than other parts of a tyre. UV wavelengths can deteriorate rubber over time leading to bulging or scars. Tyres with them could blowout so you'll need to have them exchanged if you notice these issues.

Car tyre maintenance

Given the advice outlined above, looking after your tyres to ensure you and your passengers are safe on the road isn't hard and doesn't take long. Make sure you don't compromise on the condition of your tyres if you want to remain safe when driving.

Friday 26 April 2024

Starting my second journal

Around this time last year I began to write regularly in my journal, and I soon progressed to adding ephemera along with a few illustrations. I've mentioned my journal a lot on my blog.

I've written about how I use my journal, shared some of the things that I have stuck in to my journal, and how I use my journal to help me notice the things around me. I've also blogged about overcoming my fear of journalling in public, and how I use my journal to spark my creativity. A regular journalling habit has become really important to me, and I always feel better after getting my thoughts down on paper.

My journal is a very simple Amazon Basics notebook (affiliate link), and it's slightly smaller than A4 size. I always look out for this notebook on Prime day as they are often reduced to half price. The pages aren't the best quality but they hold up well to my fountain pen and even some ink and watercolours. The paper is really smooth for comfortable writing and although the pages are thin they are still sturdy enough for plenty of gluing. There's also a handy pocket at the back for loose odds and ends.

I was running out of pages in my original journal just before we went away over Easter, so I decided that it would be a good time to start a new one. I removed the last few blank pages to try and make it a little flatter. I love this photo comparing my old and new journals - you can see just how much I stuffed it full with tickets, pictures, postcards, stickers, cards and all sorts of ephemera!

Old stuffed journal compared to brand new one

Now I'm starting again with a lovely empty book of clean pages. I love writing with my fountain pen, or cartridge pen as we used to call them back at school. I'm thinking about treating myself to some different coloured cartridges so that I can have a really colourful journal!

A woman's quick guide to chic airport style

This is a collaborative post

It’s not uncommon to see people at the airport with a generally unpolished and haggard look as they rush to board their scheduled flight. As such, you might think it an insurmountable task to come up with a style that can make you look chic and refined as you make your way through the airport and board your next flight.

Whether you’re traveling for business or for pleasure, you can put together a travel look that’s polished and comfortable with a bit of effort and good fashion sense. With a lot of people at the airport dressing a little too casually these days, you too can stand out as a breath of fresh air in your chic ensemble that leaves an elegant impression.

This article aims to help you create an eye-catching travel outfit that balances comfort with style, as you make your way through the airport and onto your flight. Read on to find out how you can do so.

Opt for a Polished but Comfortable Outfit

When it comes to airport style, comfort is non-negotiable. This is especially true if you have a long flight out of the country. However, that doesn't mean you have to compromise on style. Whatever outfit you put on, aim for a look that’s polished yet comfortable enough to wear on the plane. 

For instance, the fabric used in a cotton twill suit can be quite soft and breathable yet still evokes a sophisticated air when worn. Another example is a cotton-blended jersey sweater paired with a pair of leggings. The loose fit of the sweater and the stretchy fabric of the leggings allow for freedom of movement, which is important when you need a good stretch after a long flight.

Layer Your Pieces

In styling an outfit, knowing how to layer pieces of clothing is an essential talent. With making use of the right layers, your outfit can look visually dynamic and exciting. What’s more, these layers provide the warmth you need in a cold airplane.

For your base, you can wear comfortable pieces like a tank top or a long sleeved shirt made of soft fabric that won’t irritate your skin. Over that, you can wear a button-up shirt, hoodie, or jacket. If it’s particularly cold, you can add even more layers like an overcoat and a scarf. Overall, your layered look will give warmth as well as incredible style inspiration.

Slip On a Pair of Comfy Trousers and Wrinkle-Free Tops

For bottoms, there’s an array to choose from if you’re going for something stylish yet comfy. Unlike the previous decade when it’s all about the slim fit, there are a variety of styles that are more comfortable these days. For example, you can opt for wide-leg sweatpants or joggers that look dressy enough to be worn at an airport. You can also choose to wear a trusty pair of leggings that never go out of style.

When it comes to tops, choose those made from wrinkle-free but still comfy fabrics like silks, wool, and organza. This would ensure that you look put-together even when you’ve just landed from a 14-hour flight.  

Choose Stretchy and Loose Dresses as Alternatives to Trousers

If you’re tired of trousers for your airport look, why not opt for stretchy dresses like a sweater dress? These types of dresses come in all sorts of hemlines. In fact, you can even wear one over your tights for a more layered look. Another type of dress that just screams summer is the nap dress. With a solid-coloured nap dress and a coat thrown over it, you’re ready to take on the world.

Wear Matching Sets for Effortless Style

Do you not trust yourself to pull off a stylish ensemble? If the answer is yes, then have no fear. One fool proof hack to look absolutely stylish without any effort is to wear matching sets like a tracksuit.

By using a single colour, you can elongate the body with a monochrome look. Unlike mismatched sets that look frumpy, a matching tracksuit presents a comfortable but cohesive appearance that’s easy on the eyes. 

Stylish woman walking through the airport with suitcase
Photo credit Gabrielle Henderson via Unsplash

Carry a Stylish Outerwear for Instant Warmth and Style

With a stylish overcoat, jacket, or sweater, you can instantly elevate your look—from drab to fab. In fact, you can use stylish outerwear to hide the fact that you didn’t have time to put together a more thoughtful ensemble. Best of all, this outerwear can protect you from a cold airplane cabin. Once you get to warmer destinations, you can simply take this layer off and drape it over your shoulders for a stylish flair.

Pair Your Outfits with Sleek but Comfy Footwear

The golden age of flying had women wearing their best clothes and heels. However, modern airports are incredibly huge, sometimes requiring you to walk half an hour just to get to your gate. As such, you need to ditch your heels and put on your most comfortable shoes like trainers, loafers, and ballerina flats. That said, ensure your footwear matches your outfit. For an effortless style, choose neutral-coloured shoes that go with everything in your luggage.

Accessorize with Airport-Appropriate Pieces

The difference between wearing clothes and styling clothes lies in the accessories. For a put-together airport outfit, you need to consider the security implications of wearing metal pieces. While these may provide the piece de resistance of your outfit, they might also cause you security delays. To prevent this from happening, simply keep your accessories in your carry-on before heading to security and put them on once you’re through.

Achieving a chic and comfortable airport style is all about finding the perfect balance between elegance and ease. With the right combination of polished yet comfortable pieces, thoughtful layering, and stylish accessories, you can elevate your travel look to new heights.

Thursday 25 April 2024

The High Line, New York

On our recent trip to New York, one of the places that I was really keen to visit was The High Line. The High Line is a park which has been built on an abandoned elevated railway track, running from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to 34th Street near the Javits Center. It's free to enter and is open daily from 7pm-8pm in winter and until 10pm in summer. We visited on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the end of March, and it was very busy.

The High Line entrance pathway New York

It's a little early in the year for much to be growing, so the park was sparse in places. But there is plenty of artwork displayed to add some colour. Also many of the buildings that you walk past have cheerful murals and there are some lovely views of the city buildings. I was pleased to see that some of the original tracks had been kept in their original positions, and the park was much wider than I expected it to be.

The High Line New York in March

Some of the paths were a little cramped because it was so busy - when we visited it wasn't really possible to enjoy a leisurely stroll as you needed to keep up with the people ahead of and behind you. I can't imagine what it's like on a sunny summer's day! There are plenty of places to sit down to enjoy the view and people watch, and it all felt very safe.

The High Line New York in March

As you walk through the park you are very close to some of the apartment blocks on either side. It's very tempting to have a peek inside even if you try not to! There was one apartment with a large window very close to the path. Inside the room, all the furniture was draped with white sheets and there was a young woman dressed in white, lounging artfully on a white bed while staring back at the passers-by. It was very surreal, it felt like an art installation!

The High Line New York view from bridge

If you are taking a trip to New York I'd definitely recommend taking the time for a visit, it's a fantastic way of bringing new life to old infrastructure, and a real change from the busy and noisy city. 

Friday 19 April 2024

Where to see the retired space shuttles

Recently I shared some of the things that I saw on our recent trip to New York and Washington, and I mentioned that we had now seen all of the retired space shuttles. I thought I'd put together a post about where all the space shuttles can now be seen, as they are awesome to see in person! The best thing is that they are all displayed in different ways to showcase their various features and uses, so even though the shuttles themselves are similar you can learn new things about them as you see each one.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the museum has gone to a lot of effort to showcase its star attraction. The shuttle is housed in a separate building, fronted by the massive familiar orange external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Before seeing the shuttle you go through several exhibits, including a short film about the history of the space shuttle programme and how the shuttle was conceived and developed. The final film is displayed on a floor to ceiling screen, and at the end the screen rises quickly to reveal the space shuttle suspended in front of you, tilted as though flying through space.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

The shuttle is displayed with the payload doors open and the Canadarm extended, and as you walk closer you can get a really good feel for how it would have looked while carrying out a mission.

Space Shuttle Atlantis with Canadarm extended

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington D.C. in a large hanger, along with lots of other impressive air and spacecraft. It's displayed resting on the ground with the landing wheels down. There's just a low barrier all around it, and it's so close that you almost feel as though you could just reach out and touch it! It's really interesting to be able to have a good look at how the wheels slotted into place underneath the shuttle.

Space Shuttle Discovery on display in Washington

Space Shuttle Endeavour (currently off display)

Endeavour is currently stored at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. We saw it in 2018 when it was in a temporary home, suspended in the air in a large hanger above the heads of the visitors. Unfortunately at the moment it is off display, as it is in the process of being moved to a new part of the museum - the Samual Oschin Air and Space Center. When open, it will be the only place in the world that you'll be able to see a complete Space Shuttle System with a flown orbiter as the shuttle will be displayed upright, attached to the rocket boosters and external fuel tank ready for launch. It looks as though the museum is expected to open next year (2025) and I would love to be able to go back and see it again in its new home!

Space Shuttle Endeavour in Los Angeles

Space Shuttle Enterprise

Space Shuttle Enterprise is on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. It's housed in a separate, covered display area at the far end of the museum, and be prepared to wait in line for a little while if you visit on a busy day. Space Shuttle Enterprise is the only shuttle that didn't actually fly in space, it was used for atmospheric test flights. 

You can view the shuttle from a raised walkway around the front of the shuttle, so you can get a good look at the windscreen and heat shields.

Space Shuttle Enterprise at Intrepid Museum in New York

Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia

Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight in 1986, killing all seven crew members aboard - the first fatal accident involving an American spacecraft in flight. Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere in 2003, also killing all seven crew members. (There was a recent three part documentary 'The Space Shuttle that Fell to Earth' which was excellent in telling the story of what happened in the Columbia disaster, it's available to watch on BBC iPlayer.)

You can see some pieces recovered from both shuttles at the 'Forever Remembered' memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, along with personal items and stories from the crew members. There are also memorials to the astronauts of the Challenger and the Columbia at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Finally there are two more shuttle experiences that we've not yet managed:

Space Shuttle Pathfinder (test simulator)

Not a real space shuttle, the Space Shuttle Pathfinder was a space shuttle test simulator made of steel and wood, and it's about the same size, weight and shape as an actual orbiter. You can see it on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and this is definitely somewhere that we would love to visit one day. 

Space Shuttle Independence (replica) - formerly known as Explorer

Space Shuttle Independence is a full scale space shuttle replica. It was formerly on display at the Kennedy Space Center and can now be seen at the Space Center Houston (another place that we would love to visit). It's displayed in Independence Plaza, mounted on the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. Visitors can enter both the shuttle and the plane, which sounds amazing.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Some cool things I've seen over the last couple of weeks

This Easter we finally managed the trip to New York and Washington that was originally planned for March 2020. We spent 6 nights in New York, 5 nights in Washington D.C. and travelled by train between the two. It was a brilliant holiday, with lots of walking and sightseeing. I feel like my head is full of all the amazing things that we saw! 

Here are just some of them:

On our first evening in New York we all booked a trial for the Apple Vision Pro at the shop in Grand Central Station. I've written before about how I was interested to see the technology in action, and we weren't disappointed. We each had half an hour or so to run through a quick demo, learning how to use the headset and seeing what it is capable of. We all loved it and I think my husband was very tempted to bring one back home with us, but at $3500 it's a little out of our price range at the moment!

Apple Vision Pro headset demo in New York

We spent a lot of time in museums on this trip and saw so many things that it's difficult to pick out a few, but one thing I was excited to see was definitely this costume from Hamilton in the National Museum of American History. We spent a lot of time learning about different aspects of US history, we also did a tour of the Capitol building and saw the original Declaration of Independence along with other historical documents.

Hamilton costume in Washington DC museum

We were also lucky enough to see not one space shuttle but two! We first saw the Enterprise at the Intrepid Museum in New York. The Enterprise is the only shuttle that didn't actually fly in space, it was used for atmospheric test flights. Then we saw the Discovery at the Udvar-Hazy Center on the outskirts of Washington. It's parked in a huge hanger at the Udvar-Hazy museum, and it's almost close enough to touch which was amazing. This means that we've now seen all of the space shuttles in their various homes across the US!

Space Shuttle Discovery at Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington

We saw lots of other space related artefacts as well. At the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. I was most impressed by Neil Armstrong's actual space suit which he wore when he first walked on the actual moon. I was also interested to see a replica of one of the Voyager probes which I remember learning a lot about as a child. 

Neil Armstrong's space suit

Also in Washington I loved spotting this Floral Library on the National Mall. At this time of year the 93 beds are filled with tulips planted with bulbs from Holland. 

Tulip library in Washington DC

On the final day of our holiday we were fortunate to still be in the US for the solar eclipse. Although Washington didn't fall into the path of totality, the sun was 87% covered by the moon and everyone was looking forward to it. We joined crowds of people sitting on the grass to watch from the moment that the shadow first appeared across the sun.

Children wearing solar eclipse glasses

It was all very exciting, and the sky remained mainly clear throughout. Apart from at the actual minute where the eclipse reached its peak and a cloud appeared in front of the sun! It was quite funny because it blocked out the sun completely and everyone cheered because it felt like a total eclipse! 

Solar eclipse 2024 in Washington

We had a fantastic trip and although we all came back exhausted from so much walking around we saw things that will stay with us for a long time to come.