Friday, 27 February 2015

Movie Music: My top six cinematic composers

Nothing makes me feel more emotional than beautiful music, and I often find that the best can always be found in film scores.

For me, one of the best thing about watching a film is the soundtrack, especially if it can tug at the heartstrings, envelop me in calm or fill me with the sense of the greatness of the world.

I particularly love to listen to film scores while I work (I can't write with lyrics blasting into my ears), or as I travel. They're not only the perfect soundtrack to a big screen masterpiece, but the perfect soundtrack to life too. They can make me feel so much, and I really think they can be overlooked in the world of music.

Let's face it, who doesn't love to imagine that they're starring in their very own big-screen hit!

More often than not I find that my emotions are affected mostly by the music rather than the action in the film - if the music was turned off, for example, I bet that I wouldn't cry nearly as much! I can be happily watching a scene, and then they amp up the strings. BAM - I'm in bits.

So, for something slightly different thought I'd bring together the work of seven of my favourite cinematic composers and their work to share with you!

Of course, I can't include every single track - I may even write another little list in the future - but here are the first that came to me when I was drafting this blog post.

Each name is linked to YouTube videos of their work, so you can hear them for yourselves.

I hope you find a few new favourites and maybe something to listen to while you relax / commute / study!

John Williams is possibly the most obvious first choice - his music is incredibly famous, used in cult films such as ET, Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Jurassic Park. I would be incredibly surprised if you didn't know who he was! I love the grandeur of his work - everything is performed with gusto and energy. Besides, who doesn't love a classic soundtrack?  My favourite scores have to be from the Harry Potter films.

Thomas Newman's scores are beautiful. Newman had worked with Williams, and is also another classic film composer - Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty are amongst his work. I love his more recent pieces, however - Finding Nemo and meet Joe Black, for example. My ultimate favourite has to be his work for A Series of Unfortunate Events - quirky, haunting and beautiful. If you want a piece that will break your heart and fill it with beauty at the same time, I recommend The Letter that Never Came. I also utterly adore his score for Road to Perdition which is another wonderful film, and can't recommend that enough too. The title theme is just stunning.

Alan Silvestri is not a name you'd recognise as easily as the previous two, but his music is wonderful. I love his scores for Forrest Gump, The Polar Express and Castaway. Notably, also films starring the brilliant Tom Hanks!

Hans Zimmer's music is instantly recognisable and incredibly dark and powerful - he's the one that came up with the iconic theme tune for the Pirates of the Caribbean films. I also love his work for The Dark Knight and Inception, as well as Sherlock Holmes and Gladiator. Did you know he composed the score for The Lion King too? I often turn to Zimmer's work when I'm feeling a bit angry, stressed or in need of some pure motivation.

I listen to Howard Shore's work for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit - each piece is so powerful and dramatic. The music is instantly recognisable but always makes me feel emotional - I can't help but imagine the rolling hills of Middle Earth and the close bonds between the characters in the film adaptation. It's a bit of a guilty pleasure.

Ludovico Eunaudi isn't very well known for  his movie scores - Doctor Zhivago and Black Swan are the main ones I recognise. However, I still had to include him in my list. I adore his classical music and cannot recommend it enough. It is utterly beautiful - if I could have a soundtrack to my life, I'd chose his scores. Each note is stunning - and perfect to relax to (or even for a romantic dinner!). Two of my favourites are 'Una Mattina' and 'Nuvole Bianche'. I dare your heart not to break.

Do you have any favourite scores, or films which you think have great music? I'm always looking for new soundtracks to work to, so recommend them in the comments below!

She Wears Burgundy

Monday, 23 February 2015

RECIPE: Simple Sweet Potato Falafel and Roasted Vegetable Wrap

Sometimes you come across a recipe online that you know you just have to share. This is one of them.

I've recently been trying to cook more from scratch using fresh ingredients, herbs and spices and experimenting a little more in the kitchen. This has been spurred on by my 10km training, and with my run fast approaching I've been trying to fuel myself with better food.

I've taken to pinning recipes and finding them on Pinterest (I'm somewhat addicted!) and I stumbled across this recipe during one of my daily browsing sessions.

The falafels are a BBC Good Food recipe - so a trusted source which means you can't go wrong! I love falafels, but find them so expensive and wanted to find a homemade alternative which involves baking, not frying - thus making them healthier! I also wanted to make a batch to freeze, giving me falafels on demand!

I whipped these up one night after a run and although they took a little extra time, I found the cooking process calming. This recipe involves coleslaw too, but I wanted it solely for the falafels, so I ignored that part.

They were easy to make (peeling soft sweet potatoes is strangely satisfying!) and I was very impressed with the results!

I enjoyed three falafels hot from the oven in a wholemeal wrap with houmous, salad leaves and roasted vegetables and it made the perfect light meal. I froze the rest, so that I have some ready for lunch over the next week - office lunches can get dull! So far, I like to eat them in a salad with leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, tuna and balsamic vinegar.

I used 1cal olive oil spray to oil the baking sheet and it worked like a guilt-free dream. I may use a little more in the future to ensure a crispier falafel, but otherwise they're perfect.

Follow the recipe and prep some roasted vegetables of your choice; I used mushrooms, peppers and courgette, but you could roast some tomatoes, leeks and red onions too. Once you've turned the falafels halfway through cooking, pop your vegetables into the oven.

In the meantime, grab a wholemeal tortilla, smooth on some houmous and add some salad leaves. Place your warm falafels and roasted vegetables into the tortilla once ready, and enjoy!

If you try these out, let me know what you think - or, if you have another falafel recipe, I'd love to know!

She Wears Burgundy

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Sweets for your sweet: Valentine's Day 2015

I truly believe that you should never just confine love to just one day - or, in other words, your loved ones should know how you feel about them 24/7, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Valentine's day isn't about over the top, romantic gestures for me - rather, my heart can be won by little tokens of meaningful affection - a small card with a heartfelt note, a cute cupcake, or homecooked food. Words and gestures should say it all - no need for extravagant floral arrangements, decadent diamonds or - as I've seen before on social media - ipads and holidays - though each to their own! Meaningful romantic gestures can take on a variety of forms dependent on the couple, of course!

Yes, more often than not, words and small tokens are the best ways to show love in my opinion. For me, Valentine's Day is often marked simply by adding a hint of pink or red to the day's outfit, and enjoying some quality time with someone special.

Valentine's Day shouldn't be confined to loved-up couples either - love is felt for friends and family and even for yourself, so it's the perfect opportunity to spoil someone special in your life, be they your other half, friend, housemate or relative...don't confine it to romantic relationships.

In light of my thoughts, here are a selection of bits and pieces which I will be making use of this Valentines. I was lucky enough to be gifted a little box of edible Valentine's Day treats from Marks and Spencer* - so I've decided to pair them up with a few of my personal love-themed favourites which I will wear and use on Saturday. No trips to see Fifty Shades of Grey for me!

As usual, I only blog about things I really like - and believe me, these edible gifts are pure heaven.

Guys and gals, if you're trying to woo your beloved and you're stuck for ideas, head over to M&S - they have the perfect little treats to spoil your lad or lass without going over the top.

Firstly there are their 'Love Bugs' - delicious little chocolate domes filled with oozing caramel. Then they've created 'Nuts About You'...'caramelised peanuts smothered in milk chocolate with crispy butterscotch pieces'. Wow...these are some very naughty little bites of heaven! 

'Lovers Heart' is an adorable pack of two chocolate biscuits coated in vanilla fondant and raspberry pieces - and really is made to be shared over a cup of tea - my idea of bliss. However, if you or your sweetheart are not fans of chocolate, then 'Hook Line and Sinker' is for you - an assortment of jelly sweets to tickle the taste buds. A lovely idea from M&S to cater for those who can't (or won't!) be indulging in chocolate.

These M&S treats are perfect to be shared, or indulged in alone! You'll be tempted to keep it all for yourself, just as I am... I'm very much an advocate for self-love, so why not treat yourself to a packet or two?

This Valentine's Day I'll be enjoying my M&S goodies with a few other love themed delights:

My lips will be painted in Revlon's Colourburst Matte Balm in Elusive.
I'll be smelling divinely of Nina by Nina Ricci.
My lashes will be coated with my current favourite, Maybelline's Lash Sensational Mascara.

Last year I also wrote a little advice about falling in love with yourself. It is so important to make sure that you put yourself first often and satisfy your own needs, showing the same affection to your own soul as you do for others. This is another important thing to remember this Valentine's Day, and another excuse to treat yourself!

Happy Valentine's Day one and all - and remember, everyone has a valentine - just be sure to love yourself first.

*As usual, these treats were provided for me by Marks & Spencer, but all views are my own. The other products mentioned are all my own, and were purchased myself.

She Wears Burgundy

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Life's Loves: January Favourites

Last year I documented my favourite items every month in my creatively named 'Monthly Favourites' series - a concept which is seen on hundreds of blogs and YouTube channels.

I loved the idea of keeping track of my favourite products - I'm not much of a beauty blogger, but I love to shout about the things I do find that are great quality - be they cosmetics, food or books!

I want to continue doing this but, for 2015, I fancied a bit of a face lift. I'd like to broaden my views each month and take a look at everything that has captured my heart for the previous thirty days; products, yes, but also music, films, other people's blog posts and ideas which have made me think a little harder.

So without further ado, here's everything that has captured my heart during the first month of 2015.


Le Couvent des Minimes - Cologne of the Morning

Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to win a selection of beauty products from Le Couvent des Minimes on the lovely Zoe Newlove's blog. My prize arrived mere days before Christmas with a gorgeous stocking and, my, the contents were superb. I'm hoping to do another post detailing the products in more detail, but I have fallen in love with this natural company. My favourite for the last month has to be the Cologne of the Morning, which is gorgeously fresh and the perfect spring-time scent. Keep your eyes out for another post on this brand soon.

Rimmel London - Kate Matte Lipstick 107

Ah, a cult blogger beauty classic. This little beauty is literally on everyone's lips. I've been wearing this lipstick a lot this winter - the perfect deep wine shade, flattering and very long lasting. I'll probably still be wearing it throughout spring when lighter shades should be adopted.

Maybelline Lash Sensational Lash Multiplying Mascara

I choose my mascara very wisely, and when I saw this recommended by many bloggers and friends on Instagram and Twitter I knew I had to try it out - especially since it was on offer when I hunted it down! It works like a dream, makes my lashes look longer and separates them wonderfully. I also love the packaging - one of the main turn-offs for me is garish, bright or tacky packaging.

Weleda - Skin Food & Almond Soothing Facial Oil

These two have been saving my skin throughout the winter and really are utterly fantastic - and completely natural! I plan to write a full post on these gems later this month but for now I'll just say that my skin has never felt so good - Weleda are well and truly on the radar for me now.


Beadin' Nora Rose Gold Necklace -

This gorgeous necklace was a present from my parents at Christmas - it's so delicate and understated and I get so many compliments when I wear it. I do really think I need to check out more! Rose gold is just beautiful too.


Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

After receiving this book from my (not-so) Secret Santa at work, I was excited to finally see what all the fuss was about! It took me a few weeks to finish, but this book made me want to go to bed early just so that I could read some more. Watch out for a spoiler-free book review coming soon!



Ok, this is a bit cheeky - this is my housemate's new DVD set, and I've only been watching them with her - but it's an absolutely brilliant TV show. It's the perfect combination of crime, mild horror and  thriller, with an excellent cast. It's gory at times, but this is made bearable through the pure imagination and intricacy of the stories - I find it fascinating that people come up with ideas like these! I'm looking forward to finishing the first series and recommend it to any box-set junkies out there.

Food & Drink:

I loved my lunch date at Ebb & Flow, a new restaurant / bar in Southampton's city centre a few weeks ago. I am already planning my next visit to test their cocktails.

The Corner House cafe in Winchester is a little gem tucked away from the main high street, and was recommended to me by a close friend. I went last week and it's already one of my favourite eateries in the city. It's cosy, with delicious food, an impressive cake selection and a lovely atmosphere. I can't wait to go back - and as usual, you can read my review!

Chococo Cherry and Amaretti Clusters

Chococo is a local chocolate company - which makes this even better as I love finding smaller, local and fresh companies to support! I always try and pick up a couple of gifts for others when I visit their Winchester store, but this time I bought a little something for myself. These are little bites of heaven -  the flavours combine perfectly. Because they use 67% dark chocolate, they relieve my chocolate craving but mean I don't need to eat the whole packet to feel satisfied! A true treat - I can't wait to try more of their products.


You may have already seen my recipe post this month inspired by the Happy Egg Co.'s January Tastemaker's challenge. I can't wait to whip up this tasty breakfast treat again!

 I recently made this recipe from the Waitrose website and couldn't believe how easy, simple and tasty it was! It's very healthy too. I can't recommend it enough! Fortunately I made enough for my freezer, but I shall definitely be making this again.


One of my favourite bloggers, Katy's weekly posts are a true pick-me-up on the most hated day of the week. I love catching up on what she's been up to, but also getting inspired - it's important to stay positive and focus on the good things life throws at you, regardless how day your bad is.

In the month where our news feeds and offices are full of talk of resolutions, I loved Erica's honest, refreshing and thoughtful post. When so many of us pledge to be healthy (guilty as charged!) it's important to set more realistic - and often, more valuable - goals. The resolutions she's made mean much more than stopping at one glass of white on a Friday because 'myfitnesspal will go nuts'. There's more to life than calorie counting and smoothie-making.

What have you loved this month? Share your thoughts in the comments - or leave links to new things I might enjoy!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Life Lessons: Advice of a Graduate (pt. 2)

Last year I offered five nuggets of advice from a recent graduate to current and future University students, and I promised five more. I thought it was about time I shared these final five with you!

As someone who adored their University experience - and I mean all of it, including the academic life, not just social stuff - I'd love to offer some more advice to those of you who have it all ahead of you. Going to university was the best decision of my life so far. I found that it was hard, challenging, and the experience of a lifetime, and I learnt much more than my module content. I left as a completely different person, and I wouldn't have changed a thing - even the tough times.

As you'll be able to tell, I adored my subject, and have a natural passion for education and academia - I know not everyone is the same, but I hope this will help anyone studying any course, at any stage.

So, here are my final five pieces of advice for you all - I hope you find them useful and possibly even inspiring!

6. Love your degree

By the time you graduate, you will (hopefully) understand what a privilege it is to be able to learn. It may seem that everybody has a degree - but that's not the case. As a young woman, I often found myself thinking about the restrictions placed on women within education many decades ago, and I now realise how lucky I was to have the opportunity to fall in love with my subject. Get stuck in, use the resources available to you, think creatively and challenge your mind, especially if you're studying a creative or humanities subject. Explore. Make learning enjoyable.

I worked at my best when I went out into the world to do my research; once I spent the whole day in some film archives in London, poring over old scripts, finding evidence and writing about what interested me - which led to my best ever grade. You will even miss those deadlines and lectures within a year of graduating - so make the most of it, as strange as it sounds! 

Degrees are limitless. Go to lectures outside of your timetable, explore museum and library resources, take up that innovative module or that optional language. One of my biggest academic regrets is not even considering taking a year abroad or continuing my Spanish studies. You may hate it at the time, and you may struggle, but if you're going to spend most of your waking hours working, you may as well make it enjoyable for yourself! More often than not, your grades will reflect your ambition. Appreciate your abilities - you should be proud to simply be there.

Some people aren't academic by nature - and it's ok not to be passionate, and eagerly await your graduation day from the very beginning. But uni is the best time to really love learning, and if you're that way inclined, embrace it!

7. This too shall pass

It may seem that assignments are never ending; that housemate conflicts will always be there, and that the stress of your society committee position will never stop. That's not true. One day the things which are getting you down won't exist any more. You'll never see half of the people you meet again. That mark you're feeling let down by for your module? You'll have forgotten about it within a few months. Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the bad things. The stress may seem never ending, but it's important to have perspective. It will get you through the hard times. Enjoy the good things, and cherish them, and know that the negative moments will not last forever.

8. Friends for life

Many people say that the friends you make at university are the friends you have for life, and I completely agree. I made so many life-long friends as a student, and although I don't speak to a lot of people who I used to see on a daily basis, there are a few who I speak to regularly and remain very close to. Watch out for these people and cherish them. These people will become confidants, maids-of-honour, colleagues, godfathers and seasoned cocktail partners when life gets tough.

9. Enjoy your weekdays

Seriously - you will really, really miss being able to go Christmas shopping or do your weekly trip to Asda outside of peak time. Of course, the flexibility of your time depends on your chosen subject and your timetable...but most of the time, you can afford to have the occasional lie-in or enjoy the gym at its quietest. When you start working nine-to-five, you'll be shopping and travelling with the masses, and you won't be able to enjoy a quiet coffee and cake with a friend in the middle of the afternoon. Make the most of it!

10. Enjoy it

This is the most important one of all. Everyone's university experience is different. Although I like to think my advice here could be useful to someone, it's all down to the person you are, the people you meet, and how you choose to spend your time as a student. Remember to just enjoy it, cherish it, grab all opportunities with both hands and take time to work things out for yourself. If you've chosen this path, make the most of it, and mould it to be another brilliant chapter in the story of your life.

To all of you studying at university - good luck, and ultimately... have a wonderful time! I hope you have the same amazing experience that I had.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Running 10km: January's progress

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an introduction to my challenge for the first half of this year - training for and completing my first ever 10km run for charity.

So how's my training going so far?

Well, I'm really pleased to say that I've managed to keep up a really regular training pattern alongside the busy responsibilities of work, blogging, maintaining a social life and whatnot. During the week, to avoid running outside alone in the dark (not very safe!) I've been rushing off to the gym to use the treadmills, while on Sunday mornings I've been cavorting around the Common.

I've just finished Week 4 of the NHS Couch to 5km programme, which has seen me repeat this pattern three times:

Warm up walk: 5mins
Run: 3mins
Walk: 90secs
Run: 5mins
Walk: 2mins
Run: 3mins
Walk: 90secs
Run: 5mins
Cool down walk: 5mins

Running for 5 mins doesn't sound like it should be too hard, and is very easy for many, but I find it hard to keep going for so long, and I feel really proud that I was able to complete this last week without stopping (or wanting to stop) once. It certainly pushes you week by week, but I can really feel an improvement, and I am enjoying seeing my progress as each week goes on.

I am amazed by the sense of achievement I feel after each run. Yes, I may only be out for a total of half an hour, and it may not be the fastest, but I complete each session and enjoy it. It seems to be working. And, dare I say it...I am actually falling in love with running.

Who am I and what have I done with Jo?

I am a little nervous about the next few stages, but if I can run this way after a few weeks, I can't wait to see where I'll be at the end of next month.

Looking at my Nike+ app, I can see that I do seem to be improving with each run - I am managing a further distance with each increase, and I have yet to really struggle. I am very pleased to see that I am maintaining some sort of consistency. I also love being able to see my progress visually!

As for the other benefits, I am feeling much healthier - it feels good to be exercising regularly, and I don't allow myself to even question skipping the gym now. I'm taking more care about the food or 'fuel' I put into my body too, and am finding it to be one of the best stress busters I've tried in a while. Nothing feels better than burning off some nervous energy. In fact, when I don't run for two days, I get very restless and uncomfortable.

So, in summary, Training is going well so far - I can see and feel progress, I am enjoying it and, although I am still worried it'll be a struggle, I am pleased I have set myself up for this challenge. My summary below may not be impressive to some, but I am very proud that I'm even trying.

When I begin to worry that I might not be achieving enough, or pushing myself enough, I like to think about the wonderful THIS GIRL CAN campaign. No matter what we do, we are still lapping everyone on the couch. Every little really does help.

If you're interested in donating (I will be running for Mind in April) you can check out my Virgin Fundraising page.

January Summary:

Fastest run: 7'32"/km (average)
Furthest run: 4.22km (week 4, 32.23mins)
Total runs: nine
Total distance covered: 34.3km
Average speed: 7'51"/km

February goals:

  • Run outside more in lighter evenings.
  • Eat more clean foods to complement my running.
  • Keep enjoying it! See it as a hobby, not a chore.
  • Attend my first local 5km Parkrun session once I reach my 5km goal.

As always, if you have any running advice or encouraging words, please let me know in the comments below. I'll be blogging about my progress at the end of each month.