Friendship, fashion and the ‘Flirtini’: Why Sex and the City has been a lockdown favourite…

As promised, part two of my New York blog is here!

This time, it’s all about my new TV favourite, Sex and the City.

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The series follows four smart and successful single women as they navigate their way through life. The iconic New York City backdrop is ever-present, playing as important a role as the characters themselves.

I am incredibly late to the party but I’ve certainly made up for it now, binge-watching episodes of the hit show more times than I care to admit over the past year!

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In early January, it was confirmed that three of the four main ladies will return for 10 new episodes, a new chapter entitled “And just like that”.

But, with a cast member missing, I couldn’t help but wonder…will the reboot work?

The idea to bring Sex and the City to the small screen originally came from Darren Star. He was an avid fan of Candace Bushnell’s book and column for the New York Observer, which detailed the dating habits of various types of Manhattan singletons – from “modelizers” to “toxic bachelors”.

Star was inspired to bring the concept to our television screens in the mid-90s. HBO gave the go-ahead to shoot a pilot episode and he set about casting Bushnall’s alter-ego Carrie Bradshaw and her three 30-something girlfriends.

Fans followed the ladies for six successful seasons between 1998 and 2004, returning for a highly-anticipated movie in 2008 and its 2010 sequel. With its fashion, friendship and lighthearted comedy, the show is rooted in history as a pop culture phenomenon.

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The fab four

Sarah Jessica Parker, who had already been in films such as Footloose and Hocus Pocus, was cast as the show’s central character and narrator, columnist Carrie Bradshaw. We see New York through Carrie’s eyes. Witnessing her story unfold is perfect escapism, which wouldn’t be complete without her enviable designer wardrobe and shoe obsession.

Over the course of the show’s six seasons, Parker eventually became an executive producer, winning four Golden Globes and two Emmy awards for her portrayal of the iconic character.

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Integral to the plot are Bradshaw’s three best friends, whose stories and lives she uses as inspiration for her weekly column.

Kristin Davis (pictured below) plays Charlotte York, an art dealer whose views on men, marriage and womanhood are the epitomy of tradition.

What underpins Charlotte however, is what Carrie describes in one episode as her ‘eternal optimism’, her strong belief in love and her fervent refusal to settle for less than she deserves.

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Miranda Hobbes is an intelligent and feisty lawyer who has sarcasm and cynicism in abundance. Incredibly successful and independent, Miranda is the first of the women to buy her own New York City apartment. She is unafraid to air her opinions and is often the first to point out double standards and hypocrisy.

Cynthia Nixon’s portrayal of Miranda earned her an Emmy Award in 2004 (pictured below). This, alongside her subsequent Grammy and Tony award wins for other projects, makes Nixon just an Oscar away from completing the “EGOT” collection of awards – one of the highest honours in Hollywood which has only been afforded to 21 individuals thus far.

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Finally, Kim Cattrall completes the group as Samantha Jones.

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The Liverpool-born actress had previously starred in the likes of Mannequin and Police Academy, as well as episodes of Starsky and Hutch and Charlie’s Angels. She reportedly turned down the role three times before being cast, apparently due to being reluctant to take on such a project in her forties.

Fortunately, she eventually agreed and it is now very hard to imagine anybody else as the iconic character. Cattrall’s portrayal of the adventurous and straight-talking publicist quickly made her a fan-favourite.

Samantha is open-minded and outrageous. She loves herself unapologetically, and is incredibly non-judgemental when it comes to her friends.

Each of the characters are shown to have enviable qualities, at least for me. I’d love to have Carrie’s career, Charlotte’s optimism, Miranda’s wit and Samantha’s confidence.

However, what I also love is that these women are by no-means role models. They aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, things go wrong and they have their fair share of cringeworthy moments. That is what makes them appear human – and gives the show a lot of its appeal in my opinion.

The friendship

Early in the series, the women agree to be “each other’s soulmates”, with the writers deliberately not introducing or shedding too much light on the character’s family members, to further entrench that sense of closeness and reliance.

The main characters are incredibly different and often bicker and fight about how each of them sees the world. By doing this, the writers are able to demonstrate a whole range of opinion and outlooks. They show four different approaches to life and topical issues, all the while, refraining from telling viewers which to follow or believe.

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“I think our show is about choices and about being able to create your life in the way that you want to create it,” says Kristin Davis in the companion book, Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell by Amy Sohn.

On the one hand, you have Charlotte – whose goals in life are to get married and to have a baby. Samantha on the other hand, is repulsed at the notion of marriage, and refuses to be shamed for her choice not to have children.

The two extremes often argue and disagree, and both are shown to experience confrontation as a result of their choices. However, neither are presented or seen as less of a woman as a result.

In this respect, the programme sends a very important message of empowerment, and demonstrates the pressures experienced by women – vital even nowadays.

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With its sex, cocktails and designer handbags, it could be easy for the show to be perceived as incredibly shallow. However, it is its ability to perfectly balance those aspects with poignant, heartfelt moments which gives Sex and the City its class, especially in the later seasons.

By the time it reached its conclusion, the show had tackled many important issues as the women stuck by each other through marriage, pregnancy, divorce and cancer.

Sarah Jessica Parker addressed this in her interview for the companion book, saying that if it was simply about four women using bad language and having sex, “the novelty of that would last about 20 minutes.”

The show is about more than that. It combines comedy with heartbreak in a very real way. It features celebrity cameos, beautiful music and good writing which is brilliantly acted – which perhaps helps to explain its enduring legacy, as well as its many awards and nominations.

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The fans

All these years later, Sex and the City still has millions of loyal fans around the world and remains incredibly relevant. There are many accounts across social media to celebrate the show, with some even grabbing the attention of the original cast and crew.

The Bradshaw Boys is a fabulous podcast where three men watch each episode of the show for the very first time, discussing and debating the many talking points that they bring to the fore.

Another Woman’s Sushi is another, a fun Instagram account dedicated to perfectly replicating all of the fabulous food and drink featured in the show! So, if you would like to make “the best brownie in New York” or the “Flirtini” cocktail – then look no further…

The feud

Despite the chemistry between the cast members on the show and in the movies, rumours of wage disparity, ‘diva’ and ‘mean girl’ behaviour leading to the cast not getting along in real life has somewhat marred its legacy.

You can see a timeline of the high-profile ‘feud’ here.

In 2017, amongst the ‘drama’, Kim Cattrall moved on from Sex and the City and decided not to reprise her role as Samantha in any further movies or episodes. She explained her reasoning and explained her side of the story during her appearance on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories:

Although I am dubious as to whether the show would be as successful without her fabulous presence, I admire her ability to step away with class. She has expressed her desire to explore different projects, most recently focusing on theatre work and starring in drama series Filthy Rich.

“I don’t want to be in a situation for even an hour where I’m not enjoying myself,” she told The Guardian in 2018. Who can argue with that? She is doing what is right for her (very Samantha Jones).

The future

Considering that the second movie wasn’t very well received and with the women doing different things – including Cynthia Nixon’s run for governor of New York in 2018, it was thought that Carrie had put her Manolo Blahniks away for good.

However, earlier this month, the remaining cast members took to social media to announce the aforementioned reboot. Not much is known about the plot, but it is thought that the new series will follow the three girls as they navigate life through their fifties.

After the announcement, many fans took to social media to express their disappointment that Kim Cattrall would not be returning, as well as providing ideas and speculating over how her absence will be explained.

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Watching the episodes and films for the first time in 2020, I recognised and completely understood the argument that many storylines have aged badly. There are many examples of out-of-date attitudes and behaviours as well as a lack of diversity, which I assume they will be keen to rectify in order for the reboot to work.

At the time however – feud or no feud, relatable or not – the show was considered to be groundbreaking. It highlighted the power of strong female friendship, and the girls’ candid brunch conversations succeeded in normalising open discussions of women’s issues.

Given the power the show had, they will have a perfect platform to do the same thing again, this time with topics and issues relevant to today’s society.

So, like many other avid fans, this reboot news has left me with a lot of questions:

Where are they now? Will they tackle modern issues? Will it be the same without Samantha? And, most importantly, will it be better than that second movie?!

We’ll just have to wait and see…

I already know the answer to one question though.

Am I excited? Yes. Yes I am!

Reflections & Resolutions as we (finally!) leave 2020 behind…

A few weeks ago, I found a diary I wrote when I was five.

Reading about who my favourite musician was (Shayne Ward) and my goals for the year (to get dressed on my own and lie down on the bottom of the swimming pool), certainly provided a good laugh.

However, my nostalgic find also provided a lot of moments which made me not only reflect on this strangest of years, but on my life in general.

In answer to who my role models were, five-year-old Kathryn wrote “Grandma, Mummy & Olivia (my cousin)”, and in answer to my dream place to live – “Grandmas house”.

My dreams remain pretty much unchanged today!

Despite being written almost 15 years ago, I feel if asked the same questions again today, my answers would remain very much the same.

My life has always revolved around my family. So, this year, to hear that I would not be able to see them due to Covid-19 was heartbreaking, as it was for many others across the globe.

Realising that like many, lockdown was going to cause my mental health to suffer, I threw myself into finding coping strategies and making the most of the huge amounts of time I found myself with. I do believe I have learnt a thing or two, both about myself and the world around me that I hope to carry into 2021.

  1. I love a good boogie

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, as a way to cope with the worries of lockdown, I decided to start an exercise regime – something that I always swore I never had the time to do. I started yoga, and initially took up running. Although I still sometimes run, I did find that it was not really for me in the long term. I found it a little boring and didn’t get much fulfillment from it.

Enter Emily Thorne. Emily is a fitness trainer who provides a wide range of themed ‘HIIT’ workouts on YouTube. Her videos provide all the same benefits as normal high-intensity workouts, only turned into dances. There is no pressure to be good at it or get it right, just to have fun. I first stumbled across the videos by chance, and have been doing them most days ever since.

There is something about locking yourself in the garage and dancing around to ‘Jai Ho’ that just hits completely differently than a 5k run! So, if you are like me and struggle with the concept of hardcore workouts, try ’emkfit’ as a fun stress reliever which works your body just as hard, yet leaves you in a very good mood!

You can access one of her videos below:

2. Its important to try new things – and find humour in failure

At some points this year, restrictions and lockdown measures meant it was feasible to meet family in a garden or open space. So, I managed to get to see my Grandma in her garden. She has always been a very good gardener – me on the other hand…not so much!

However, Grandma (against her better judgement, no doubt!) trusted me with looking after a little bit of her garden, to plant flowers and make it my own – and although I made a huge number of cock-ups, I ultimately got so much pride from the work I had done. I found myself excited to keep visiting it and checking up on its progress.

It was a wonderful thing to do and something I probably would never have done. I found it immensely therapeutic, allowing me to have some time to reflect and my funny mistakes have served as lovely lifelong memories which I am incredibly lucky to be able to have.

3. Do small things to work towards your dreams

Another thing from my little diary which still resonates today are my wishes and dreams – to be “an ortha” and to “rayt books”. This has always been a dream of mine, to write for a living, and this year has given me opportunities to get my ducks in a row and pursue that.

I have been able to take the opportunity to do some freelance content writing from home which I have adored, and my journalism university course is providing me with opportunities to publish articles, meet some incredible people and learn all of the history and legalities which surround such a career. Something I consider myself very lucky to be able to do.

I have learnt this year that doing something, however small, towards a dream you have, can give you such a huge feeling of accomplishment and pride.

There may be days where you don’t feel like being productive – and I’ve learnt that’s ok too.

Reflections and Resolutions

So, as we come to the end of this turbulent year, like many people, I am reflecting and making resolutions for the future. 2020 has taught me to count my blessings even more than I did before and to never give up on lifelong dreams and ambitions.

Perhaps the most sentimental of things to come out of finding my diary was reading what my future hopes were – simply, “always to be happy”.

Although you would think this the simplest of requests, life may make that goal feel incredibly out of reach at times. 2020 has challenged everybody’s happiness in real and extreme ways.

Therefore, my biggest resolution for 2021 is to strive to make the dream that five-year-old Kathryn had, a reality.

Finding (and keeping hold of) happiness is what it all boils down to in the end for everyone isn’t it? Regardless of what form it comes in.

Me with my Grandma x

I hope you continue to have a peaceful Christmas and a happy and safe New Year.

See you in 2021 🙂

Kathryn x

Looking back at our week in ‘the city that never sleeps’…

The Staten Island Ferry allows you to get beautiful pictures of Manhattan. Image: Kathryn Austin

This October marked five years since our girls trip to ‘The Big Apple’ and it made me reminisce about all the amazing times we had on the trip of a lifetime.

It was like an out-of-body experience as a 14-year-old, finally being able to visit a place that I’d dreamt of visiting my entire life.

On top of that, I was able to experience it all with my best friend Hannah (and our wonderful Mums!), which I was incredibly lucky to be able to do. We still talk about how surreal it was, and how it only actually dawned on us where we’d been once we got home!

I experienced New York with my best friend and our Mums.

As someone who usually enjoys holidays in Europe – the flight from Manchester to JFK was the longest, yet most exciting of my life!

The taxi ride from the airport is a key moment that stands out to me. We emerged from a tunnel and were instantly greeted by Manhattan, feeling as if we had just driven into all of our favourite movies and songs.

Naturally, we broke into our special (loud) rendition of “Empire State of Mind”, behaviour that I remain deeply sorry to the taxi driver for!

The most exciting of taxi journeys!

The four of us were determined to squeeze as much as we could into our four days, soaking up as much tourist action as possible. We started with an open-top bus tour, which took us to all of the major landmarks.

My favourite memory would probably be getting this bus at night and crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. The views of the skyline were unforgettable.

Windswept and starving, we decided afterwards to stop at ‘A Slice of New York’ at midnight for a slice of margarita pizza. We all agreed that it was the best pizza we’d ever had!

I then purchased a cheesecake from the iconic ‘Carlo’s Bakery’ on Times Square. The perfect end to the perfect evening!

Another must-do in my opinion, is the Staten Island Ferry. It’s a free service that gives you wonderful views of Manhattan and takes you past the Statue of Liberty.

What’s not to love!

A word of warning though – it’s very windy! Especially in the middle of October, so dress for the occasion. Do not go wearing any large hats with a tendency to fly off like I did!

The rest of the trip was spent admiring the beauty of Grand Central Station, falling in love with ‘Duane Reade’ and buying too many cute hand sanitisers from ‘Bath and Body Works’.

We bought way too many of these cuties!

This trip will always hold a special place in my heart, we had such fun. I always knew I would fall in love with New York – I just don’t think I knew how much.

If you haven’t been to New York before, please go if you get the opportunity! You won’t regret it.

We were supposed to be going on another trip there this summer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible due to the travel restrictions.

But, I would love to be able to see even more of the city now that I am a little older. I hope that I’m lucky enough to be able to return to shopping, eating and sightseeing once it is safe to do so.

In the meantime, I am reminiscing, looking at all of my pictures and watching ‘Sex and the City’ religiously!

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to watch a show that lives and breathes everything I love about New York! Now that I have, I can’t get enough!

So, I thought it only right to do my next blog post all about why it is my latest lockdown TV obsession.

Stay tuned and stay safe!

Kathryn 🙂

Why Emillie Grace Cosmetics should be the next addition to your makeup bag…

Image Credit : Emillie Grace Cosmetics

I am yet to meet an individual who doesn’t light up like a child on Christmas morning upon the delivery of a parcel.

The other day, I was that excitable child when my ‘Emillie Grace Cosmetics‘ order arrived, cheering up an otherwise dreary and depressing October night.

Until now, the company had been an exclusive seller of luxury lashes and although beautiful, they aren’t something I frequently wear. So, when the highly anticipated collection of makeup brushes dropped, I just had to splurge!

The products arrived in wrapped in pink tissue sealed with a cute sticker.

Image Credit : Kathryn Austin

Comprising of 12 rose-gold and white makeup brushes bearing the company name, this set truly does provide everyone with a tool for every stage of their makeup application.

Also included is a high-quality faux leather marble pot, perfect for displaying and storing your new possessions. Oh, and it serves as the perfect backdrop for the obligatory photo session after opening.

Image Credit: Kathryn Austin

It took me a few days to get the gumption to try them – terrified I would ruin how pristine they are. However, when I finally did I was incredibly happy with my purchase! The synthetic faux hairs mean that the brushes are incredibly soft and blend your makeup perfectly.

The aptly named sponge – the beauty ‘EG’, does not disappoint either, it comes in a transparent cylinder and when wet, makes for flawless application of my foundation. I also get the impression that most (if not all) of my foundation ends up on my face, not soaked into the sponge – something I have often resented in other, less affordable brands.

The Beauty ‘EG’ is the perfect gift

Now, moving on to the lady herself!

The company was born earlier this year, when makeup artist and student, Emillie Grace Hylins, decided to try and turn the negatives of lockdown into an opportunity to concentrate on designing her products.

When she isn’t designing products, Emillie is a makeup artist – creating a wide variety of creative looks (Emillie Grace MUA)

“I have loved lashes ever since I became makeup obsessed at a young age, so it seemed natural to bring out my own lashes as the first product,” Emillie explained.

The newest member of the family – The Ivy Lash – is the perfect Christmas gift. (Emillie Grace Cosmetics)

Several pairs of glamorous lashes later – including the newest holiday essential, the Ivy lash – the young entrepreneur started working on the brush set. “I wanted to create a brush set that made applying makeup easy for everyone.

“As a makeup artist, I have tried many types of products, so I have got experience in knowing what makes a good product.”

So, by all accounts, the products are only going to get better, 2021 is going to be an exciting year for the company – with lots of exciting launches and surprises to look forward to.

Whether you are obsessed with luxury lashes, or can’t get enough of beautiful brushes, Emillie Grace Cosmetics is the place for you!

Visit emilliegracecosmetics.co.uk and enter the promo code ‘LIFEOFKATHRYN10’ for 10% off your order!

What better excuse is there than the festive season to treat your loved ones (and maybe even yourself) to a little glam!

Take care & happy spending,

Kathryn 😉

Recipe: Flippin’ Great American Pancakes!

Shrove Tuesday may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait a year to enjoy Pancakes again.

If I had my way, every day would be Pancake Day!

This weekend, I decided to make American-style pancakes for the first time.

If you haven’t already, I definitely recommend trying them – they are light, fluffy and go perfectly with butter and tons of maple syrup – delish!

Ingredients:

Makes 12 pancakes

1 cup (120g) plain flour

2 tablespoons caster sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 egg

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup milk

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 90C and place a heatproof baking tin in the oven to keep the pancakes warm once made.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
  3. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl and then add in the flour mixture.
  4. Stir both mixtures together in the large mixing bowl until it becomes a thick batter.
  5. Melt some butter and oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Once it starts to sizzle, place 2-3 teaspoon of the mixture in the pan. (I found that I could fit 2-3 small pancakes in the pan at one time.
  6. Leave to cook until bubbles start to appear on the surface – when this starts to happen it is time to flip!
  7. Flip the pancakes and continue to cook on the other side for around a minute.
  8. While you cook the rest of the pancakes, put the ready-made ones in the oven, covered by foil to keep them warm.

Once you have made your desired number of pancakes, place them on top of one another in a stack!

A blob of butter on the top and lots of maple syrup compliments these pancakes perfectly.

You can even add some crispy bacon if you like, for that extremely indulgent, truly American breakfast.

Enjoy! 😉

Recipe from DelsCookingTwist.com

Recipe: Utterly Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Credit: Kathryn Austin

I don’t know about you fellow bakers out there, but for me, it has always seemed impossible to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie – crispy on the outside, melted and gooey on the inside.

There have always been 2 parts to my problem:

  1. The recipe (quantities of flour, types of sugar etc)
  2. Getting the baking process right

They go hand in hand, mastering one is useless if you can’t master the other.

So, not one to let a baking disaster (or twelve) get me down, I set about trying to solve both of my problems.

  1. The recipe

Believe me, I’ve tried every single recipe out there – all to no avail.

That is, until I found this one!

I would like to thank Tasty for finally introducing me to a recipe that works!

(Click here to see it)

I substituted the dark chocolate for milk (which I recommend) and added white chocolate chips (because why not?!)

What was interesting for me was the addition of espresso powder – I had never done this before, but definitely noticed a difference. It seems to give the cookies a richer flavour and deeper, darker colour.

2. The baking

As the recipe suggests, I baked the cookies on 180C, for around 10-12 minutes.

You will find that they do not look cooked when you take them out, but if you leave them to cool for a little while, you will find that they soon solidify.

If in doubt however, give them a little bit longer in the oven – they’ll still be delicious!

At long last, this temperature and time worked perfectly!

They do have a ‘wrinkle’ to them, but I think that just proves how impressively homemade they are! 😉

I have even frozen some of the dough so I can experience the cookie joy again soon – hassle free!

Top Tip: Only put a maximum of three cookies on the a lined baking sheet at one time. This is more time consuming, but it avoids the possibility of the dreaded spread into one ginormous cookie – something I have experienced many a time!

So, if you’re like me and have never been able to master the chocolate chip cookie – have a go at this recipe, and, as the nights grow colder, spend the time you are at home wisely by cozying up with one of your creations and a cold glass of milk…

You won’t regret it! 🙂

“The Forgotten Army” of World War II – 75 years on

Saturday 15th August 2020 is the 75th anniversary of Imperial Japan’s surrender, which brought the Second World War’s six years of fighting to an end.

Yesterday was marked by a series of events to honour those who fought and those who lost their lives in the Far East.

I have always been aware of the significance of V-E Day, but had ignorantly never paid attention to the equal importance of V-J Day. After hearing the incredible stories on the news yesterday morning, I decided to broaden my knowledge.

Allied military personnel celebrate VJ Day in Paris – 1945 : Credit

Although the allies’ fight against Nazi rule in Germany came to an end with their surrender on V-E (Victory in Europe) Day in May 1945, Japan’s militarist government – a key German ally – stood firm and thousands remained fighting in the South-East Asian theatre.

August 15 marks the day of Japanese surrender, thus ending the war once and for all. Surrender documents were not formally signed until September 2 – hence why the US observe V-J Day on this date instead.

In Japan, the day is also commemorated on the 15th August and continues to be known as “memorial day for the end of the war”.

An insanely brutal, yet overlooked theatre.

It is estimated that casualties sustained in the Pacific War (in countries such as Burma, India, Thailand and Singapore) totalled 36 million – 50% of the war’s total casualties.

According to the BBC, 50,000 servicemen were held as Japanese prisoners of war. A quarter of whom died as a result of the dire conditions and brutal treatment.

Many were incredibly malnourished, leading to loss of vision and nerve pain.

Diseases such as malaria and dysentery were also rife, and the prisoners were subject to slave labour, random beating and torture – despite many having surrendered.

There are reports of prisoners being used as subjects for horrific medical experiments, under the impression they were being taken to be treated for their existing injuries.

Flight Army Sargeant Bill Tate spent two years in captivity after his plane crashed in Burma. His son William converted his experiences into a memoir shortly after his death in 2007.

The book – Surviving the Japanese Onslaught – reveals harrowing details of his torture by the guards.

On one occasion, Flt Sgt Tate spoke of being starved for 24 hours, before being restrained and force-fed rice. He was then held down on the cell floor while a guard jumped on his stomach.

He weighed just six stone when he was found alive in Burma in May 1945.

Flt Sgt Tate was so traumatised from his experiences that he waited 50 years before telling his story to his son. Even then, he could only speak about it for 30 minutes at a time.

The Pacific Theatre of World War II was described by one historian as “hands down the war’s most hated theater in which to fight.”

The Burma Campaign was one of the longest in history : Credit

The Pacific War also sparked racism and tensions across America after they joined the war in 1941. Despite being US citizens, 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced into brutal internment camps, locked up purely for their heritage.

Despite the existence of these horrific racial differences, the campaigns fought in the Asia-Pacific during WWII also managed to see the creation of one of the most diverse armies in history.

The Fourteenth Army played a vital role during the Burma campaign.

The army consisted of over 600,000 troops. More than 85% were from pre-partition India, as well as Ghurkas from Nepal and soldiers from 12 African nations.

More than 40 languages were spoken among the troops and every one of the world’s major religions were represented.

In commemorating V-J Day, we are also honouring the coming together of many communities in the fight for peace. Their actions and sense of camaraderie has helped lead to the increased sense of multiculturalism that we have today.

The Forgotten War

Soldiers who fought fascism in the Far East have often been overlooked as a result of more focus being afforded to action in Europe.

As a result of a “Hitler First” strategy, the fighting and affect being had on civilians and soldiers in the Far East has always been referred to as the ‘Forgotten War’ and the soldiers known as the ‘Forgotten Army’.

It is for this reason why it is even more important to speak of V-J Day, so that the sacrifices of these men and women do not go unnoticed and the stories unheard.

Image of Captain Sir Tom Moore courtesy of Flickr

NHS fundraising hero, Captain Sir Tom Moore, was stationed in Burma during the war.

He told the National Army Museum this week: “Victory over Japan is as important a part of our history as Victory in Europe and I hope that it is never really forgotten”.

The Kissing Sailor

Once you are made aware of the atrocities faced by all in the Pacific Theatre of World War II, it is made even clearer how wonderful it must have felt for the 15th August to finally arrive.

V-J Day in Times Square

A remarkable event from celebrations is the story behind this photograph, taken in New York City.

Amid the celebrations, Alfred Eisenstaedt captured the moment a sailor passionately kissed a woman in a nurses uniform in Times Square.

The photograph went on to be featured in ‘Life’ magazine, and has since become one of the most famous images of the 20th century.

The woman – whose name is Greta Freidman – later revealed that the couple were in fact complete strangers, and the kiss came as quite a surprise to her!

Over the years, many people have claimed to be the sailor. However, facial recognition technology was able to confirm his identity to be US navy sailor George Mendonsa.

He told CBS News in 2012 that the impromptu moment came as a result of a perfect combination of excitement, relief, and a celebratory drink or two!

“It was the moment,” he said. “You come back from the Pacific and finally, the war ends. The excitement of the war being over, plus I had a few drinks. So when I saw the nurse, I grabbed her and I kissed her.”

Perhaps the most shocking part of the story is that Mendonsa was actually on a date with another woman at the time – who can actually be seen in the background of the photograph!

His actual date, Rita Petrie, has since said that she did not object to him kissing another woman upon hearing news that the war was over – in fact, she was so unfazed by it that she later became his wife of 70 years!

Civilians and service personnel in London celebrating V-J Day on August 15, 1945 : Credit

August 15th 1945 is said to have been a day full of joy and relief, that so many years of fighting had come to an end – yet also a day of such great sadness at the devastation left behind.

I think it is so important to continue to honour this day for generations to come.

We should continue to do as they did, striking a balance between celebration for what had been gained, but also honouring and remembering what has been lost and so greatly missed.

We should also use the devastation of war across the globe to teach us that lessons in respect, empathy and kindness are paramount.

As part of yesterday’s events marking 75 years since the war ended, The Duke of Cambridge led a moving programme featuring music and stories from the often forgotten Pacific War.

We must not forget our responsibility to learn the lessons of the past, and ensure that the horrors of the Second World War are never repeated.

We owe that to our veterans, to their families, and to the generations who will come after us.

HRH Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge

Facts and information from BBC News, Metro, The Guardian, allthatsinteresting.com and The Royal British Legion.

Recipe: Gooey Chocolate Brownie Deliciousness!

Credit: Kathryn Austin

I have been an avid baker for several years now.

I am however, ashamed to say that during all this time, I have never attempted to make the worlds most indulgent creation – the brownie.

This is, until now…

Taking inspiration from and combining recipes by Tasty and Preppy Kitchen (modified to my own taste and what I had in the cupboard), I set about trying to create the perfect brownie.

I proceeded to make a huge brownie traybake, with the added extra of yummy meringue frosting.

My mum and I just couldn’t resist keep going to the kitchen for another sneaky forkful!

Ingredients:

For the brownie:

180g milk chocolate

45g white chocolate buttons

170g butter

250g caster sugar

2 eggs

95g plain flour

30g cocoa powder

1 teaspoon salt

For the chewy meringue frosting:

3 egg whites

60ml water

200g granulated sugar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a baking dish with parchment (I used a 8-inch one).

2. Chop the milk chocolate block into chunks. Melt 110g in the microwave (stirring every 20-seconds) and leave to cool down. Save the rest of the milk and white chocolate for later.

3. Mix the sugar and butter together, then beat in the eggs for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.

4. Whisk in the melted milk chocolate.

5. Sift in the plain flour, salt and cocoa powder. Fold the mixture just enough to incorporate the dry ingredients. If you overmix, you will end up with a more ‘cakey’ brownie.

6. Fold in the rest of the chocolate chunks, and transfer to the baking tin.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes and leave to cool completely. For super fudgey brownies, I’ve found that a baking time of just under 20 minutes is perfect!

Now, onto the frosting…

8. Whisk the egg whites together with 49g of granulated sugar until soft peaks form.

9. Heat 60ml of water with the rest of the sugar (151g) in a small saucepan to make a sugar syrup. Heat until a candy thermometer reads 235F.

10. With the mixer running on low, pour the sugar syrup into the egg white mixture in a steady stream. *Be careful* – the sugar syrup will be very hot. The heat from the sugar will cook the egg whites.

12. Continue to whisk the mixture until the frosting becomes cool and looks glossy and fluffy.

13. Assemble the brownie by using a palette knife to spread the meringue frosting to your desired thickness.

TIP: You can use melted chocolate and a cocktail stick to make a chocolate pattern on your brownie! Simple – yet very effective!

*Voila!* – you’re done!

Enjoy your trip to chocolate heaven!

Keep happy, healthy and safe.

Kathryn 🙂

The world’s most talked about fitness phenomenon? – “Yoga to try it!”

Oops! Apologies for the cringe-worthy headline. Believe it or not, it took me a while to come up with it!

Anyway…

Welcome to my latest blog post – a beginners guide to yoga, written by a beginner.

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Yoga is thought to have originated in Northern India, some 5,000 years ago.

Despite being such an ancient practice, it is arguable that yoga is trendier than ever in the 21st century.

Business Standard estimates that by the end of 2020, there will be 55 million people worldwide using yoga to keep fit and relieve stress.

Which begs the question – what is all the fuss about?

I have always been cynical, yet somewhat intrigued. So, during lockdown I succumbed to the pressure from society and decided to join the millions.

After two months of my self-imposed, often regrettable “lockdown health-kick”, the ‘Down Dog’ app has certainly been my favourite.

You can choose how long you would like your workout to be and what you would like to focus on. No two practices are the same, with the app providing you with a different workout, tailored to your skill level every day.

You can also choose what type of yoga you would like to practice. Many are available on the app, including:

  • Hatha – the most popular form. Hatha incorporates basic slow movements with breathing exercises.
  • Vinyasa – a gentle warmup moves into a mix of standing poses and deep floor stretches.
  • Chair Yoga – modified poses which can be done while seated.
  • Yoga Nidra – meditation, allows you to fall into a ‘yogic sleep’.

I’m not going to lie, a great deal of the initial attraction was the excuse to invest in all the “essential” yoga attire and equipment I was going to need.

Throughout, I have used the ladies of ‘Sex and the City’ as my inspiration, determined to mirror their glamorous yoga image. Those girls even made combining their gossip sessions with yoga classes look effortless.

Needless to say, I started on this mission by raiding the ‘Gymshark’, ‘House of Fraser’ and ‘Sweaty Betty’ websites. (You know, for essential research purposes).

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Then once I got my mat and app, I was “home-yoga” ready!

After just a few practices, I was able to see the possibility of many benefits to my overall physical and mental health, I also realised that I had many “I told you so’s” coming my way.

The body benefits

Although not a massive calorie burner (I burn around 50 calories in a 30 minute practice), doing yoga alongside some cardio has made me see such a difference in my body in just 2 months.

I have found that the workouts are already beginning to tone and strengthen my arms, legs and core.

However, the most impressive thing would have to be early signs of changes in my flexibility, including my ability to touch my toes for the first time in forever! (Impressive, I know.)

The brain benefits

I suffer from terrible anxiety.

The stress and self doubt in my mind is often infuriating and terrifying. My mind is often consumed by worries about the past, present and future, to the point where it severely limits how much I enjoy life.

So, upon hearing stories about how much yoga can clear your mind and transform your outlook – I was desperate to find out.

Switching off from the outside world during the workouts helps to put my worries into perspective and has boosted my self-confidence no end.

If I begin to feel anxious or doubt myself, I now know that yoga is an excellent quick fix – even if it is just for a small period of time. Yoga has helped to reduce my heart rate and helped me to regulate my breathing and find calm during moments of panic.

Top Tip: Essential Oils

It was my birthday recently, and a good friend treated me to a set of essential oils.

A yoga enthusiast herself, she suggested I use them during yoga. Since then, I put a few drops on my mat and I would highly recommend it.

These really help you to get into your workout and feel even more tranquil, each carrying their own benefits.

Take a look at the infographic below to find the best one for you!

Made by Kathryn Austin using Piktochart. Information via Lagunamoon

Taking all this into account, I have one thing to say to anybody considering taking up yoga – believe the hype.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure I have the yoga glamour and confidence of a ‘Sex and the City’ lady *yet* – but I’m getting there, lockdown isn’t over yet!

I’m here to tell you that you do NOT have to be a professional, be super fit or flexible to see benefits from yoga.

Just take your time, relax and don’t push yourself too far.

Credit: Kathryn Austin

If I can do it, anybody can!

Take care,

Kathryn 🙂

“I Can’t Breathe” – the death of George Floyd

I didn’t want to write a blog post without addressing the horrific act of violence which has shaped events over the past week.

George Floyd was murdered outside Cup Foods, where he was a regular customer. Credit: Flickr

On May 25, a teenage Minneapolis deli employee called 911, believing that a 46-year-old black man who ‘appeared drunk’ had just tried to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.

The owner of Cup Foods, Mike Abumayyaleh told NBC that his employee was following protocol and that the man – later identified as George Floyd – was a regular, pleasant customer who never caused any trouble.

Witnesses have recalled how, upon arriving at the scene, the police used a gun to demand Floyd raise his hands, before pulling him out of his car.

In camera footage, a white police officer can be seen restraining Mr. Floyd – by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

During this time Mr. Floyd, who was unarmed, repeatedly said: “I can’t breathe”, while pleading for his mother and begging “please, please, please”.

Around six minutes into the incident, Mr. Floyd – described by his family as a devoted father and ‘gentle giant’ – became unresponsive and bystanders encouraged officers to check for his pulse.

Despite one of four officers, JA Kueng, checking his right wrist and announcing that he “couldn’t find one”, nobody moved and the officers knee remained on his neck for almost 3 minutes more.

After almost 9 minutes, the officer finally stood and Mr Floyd was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead an hour later.

The four police officers seen on camera have since been fired from their jobs and officer Derek Chauvin, 44, has been charged with third degree murder.

Credit: Flickr

In the days following the incident there have been riots, looting and protests across the USA, on a scale not seen since the 1960’s.

Replica protests in other countries have taken place, showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Terrence Floyd speaks at his brothers memorial in Minnesota. Credit: Flickr

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis is something that has angered and disgusted me.

He is by no means the first to lose his life due to police brutality and racism, and it has opened my eyes to just how massive these issues continue to be in our world.

According to statistics by CNBC.com, in 2019, the American police force killed 3 people per day, a total of almost 1,100 killings.

Black people accounted for 24% of those killed, despite making up only 13% of the population.

Shockingly, 99% of killings by police between 2013-2019 resulted in officers not being charged with any crime.

Police officers in the US are protected under a federal law known as “qualified immunity”.

US Capitol – Washington DC. Credit: Wikipedia

The qualified immunity doctrine protects government officials who performed an action within their official capacity, unless it violates a “clearly established” law or constitutional right.

Blackout Tuesday

Today (Tuesday 2 June), has been labelled Blackout Tuesday.

People across the globe have been encouraged to post a black screen on social media with the hashtag #blackouttuesday and spend the day researching and being educated, raising awareness and showing solidarity with the movement.

It began with Atlantic Records marketing executives Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, who wrote: “Tuesday, June 2nd is meant to intentionally distrupt the work week”.

They hope that it will provoke reflection and trigger widespread change.

Some businesses have announced that they will not be conducting any business for the day.

Although it originated within the music industry, TV channels and radio stations have also got involved, with MTV falling silent for eight minutes.

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

– Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968)

We all have learning to do, and I have found that life is full of disputes and misunderstandings. However, treating somebody differently based on the colour of their skin is despicable and should not be happening.

It scares me to think of what it will take for us to realise the importance of treating everyone equally, with kindness and respect.

Even though it has been nearly 60 years since Martin Luther King Jr fought for justice, we have not made 60 years worth of progress.

Until next time,

Stay safe. Stay well. Be kind.

Kathryn.

Follow this link to see how you can help – https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co