01 August 2018

My Top 5 Favorite British Filming Locations

Blockbuster book and movie franchises from the past decade have spawned a whole industry of filming location tours. There's the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London, which features sets, models, and props from the film series and hosts special demonstrations and events. Forks, Washington went from a down-on-its-luck former logging town to a tourism hotspot after being featured as the primary setting of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series of novels and films. Fans of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy make pilgrimages to New Zealand, billed by the country's official tourism website as the "home of Middle Earth" thanks to its use as a filming location in the recent film adaptation series.

The appeal of these destinations, of course, is to experience one's favorite fictional setting in real life--or at least, as close an approximation as one can get. There are several places I'd like to experience in that way myself, but my dream destinations are considerably more obscure than the ones I mention above. Here are my top five favorite filming locations from British movies and television that I'd love to see if I ever get the chance to cross the pond:

Athelhampton House, Dorset, England

Mike Searle / Athelhampton House the South Front / CC BY-SA 2.0

This Tudor manor house brought Green Knowe to life in From Time to Time, a 2009 film adaptation of L. M. Boston's Green Knowe book series. While some interior scenes were shot at other historic houses, Athelhampton and its grounds were used in all exterior scenes plus scenes set in Green Knowe's library and great hall. The entire house looks quite atmospheric, and the gardens with their unusual topiary and structures seem worth a visit in their own right.

Ardverikie Estate, Inverness-shire, Scotland

Dallas Epperson / Ardverikie House / CC BY-SA 2.0

While many films and television series use multiple filming locations to represent one place, Ardverikie Estate truly is Glenbogle from Monarch of the Glen, a comedy-drama that aired on the BBC from 2000-2005. The fantastically castle-like mansion was used for both interior and exterior scenes at Glenbogle House, and the surrounding 38,000-acre estate represented Glenbogle's extensive land--so much so that the writers actually gave the fictional Glenbogle the same acreage. Today Ardverkie functions as a filming location for other productions and operates as a tourism destination, renting out cottages and offering outdoor activities to visitors.

Chichester, West Sussex, England

Evgeniy Podkopaev / Chichester Cathedral / CC BY-SA 3.0

One of my favorite television series of all time is Rumpole of the Bailey, and my favorite episode is Rumpole and the Age of Miracles. In it, Rumpole travels to the fictional cathedral city of Lawnchester, whose claim to fame is the story that the ghost of (the also fictional) St. Edithna haunts the local hotel. After a little internet research I discovered that the real cathedral city of Chichester served as Lawnchester, and the real Chichester Harbour Hotel was used for exterior shots of the St. Edithna Hotel. While Chichester might not have quite the same spooky backstory as Lawnchester, it looks like a beautiful place full of its own unique and interesting history.

Rye, East Sussex, England

Jim Linwood / Lamb House, Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex / CC BY-SA 2.0

Rye is inextricably twined with the Mapp and Lucia book series: author E. F. Benson based the fictional coastal town of Tilling on Rye, the town where he lived and eventually became mayor, and modeled the much-coveted Mallards on his own Lamb House. The real-life town stood in for its fictional counterpart in both the original 1985-1986 television adaptation and the 2014 miniseries, and it was in the latter that I first saw Tilling brought to life. It looks just as picture-perfect onscreen as Benson describes it in his novels--though hopefully any visitors will end up with better landladies than Miss Mapp!
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England

John Kenyon / Buildings on Wyle Cop in Shrewsbury / CC BY-SA 2.0

My favorite adaptation of A Christmas Carol that does NOT feature any Muppets is the 1984 film starring George C. Scott. Since London in the 1980s had changed quite a bit since the Victorian era, the filmmakers went to Shrewsbury to get a properly Dickensian look for the film. Scrooge's gravestone still stands in St. Chad's Churchyard in Shrewsbury, and was apparently a blank stone found on-site by producers, who got permission to inscribe it for the film. The town of Shrewsbury itself is rich in history, and of relevance to the film is the fact that Charles Dickens gave a public reading of A Christmas Carol in Shrewsbury's town hall.

11 July 2018

Sad but Sweet Gonzo Songs for When You Feel Like a Weirdo

"Who Wants a Picture of Me?" from a 1981 Polaroid Commercial

They never say to smile--
I guess it's not worthwhile,
'Cause who wants a picture of my face?
Who wants a picture of me?

"My Way" from Season 4, Episode 11: Lola Falana

I've loved, I've laughed and cried.
I've had my fill, my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing . . .

"Smile" from Season 4, Episode 11: Lola Falana

Light up the life with gladness,
Hide every trace of sadness,
Although that tear may look ever so near.
That's the time you must keep on trying--
Smile, what's the use in crying?
You'll find that life is so worthwhile,
If you just smile.

28 June 2018

An Introvert's Guide to Dan and Phil's Interactive Introverts

Blurry stage photo by me

This Tuesday, I actually went outside to see Dan Howell and Phil Lester's first USA stop on their Interactive Introverts world tour. As someone who is indeed very introverted, a little anxious, and unused to seeing live performances, I didn't know quite what to expect, but it was a really fun show that I highly recommend for any Dan and Phil fans out there.

Although I very much enjoyed the show, there were lots of little things I would have liked to know about the experience in advance to help put my anxious mind at ease. So, for all the other introverts venturing out to see Dan and Phil this summer, here's a spoiler-free guide of what to expect at the theater before, during, and after the show:


While our venue doors were scheduled to open at 7:00, they actually opened around 10 minutes later. By then a very long queue was stretching down the block, but the staff set up multiple security lines and had everyone moving through pretty quickly. I actually had no wait at all, since by the time we found a parking space a new line had just opened.

Pro tip: Wait to arrive until about 20 minutes after doors are scheduled to open, to account for delays and avoid any bottlenecks.

Security and Staff

I was nervous about the security check, but the staff was super nice and kept a positive, upbeat attitude throughout the process of checking in. Screening consisted of a brief check with a metal detector wand and a quick bag search, which together took only a few seconds. (Just make sure to check your venue's guidelines in advance to find out how big a bag you can bring and what you can take inside.)

Once we were through security there were staff members positioned throughout the theater to direct guests to their seats, giving more specific directions at each step along the way. After the show, they directed the flow of foot traffic and kept the exits unobstructed both inside and outside the theater.

Pro tip: Have your ticket in hand before getting in line and keep it out until you take your seat so staff members can quickly direct you where to go next.


People of all ages came to the show singly, with parents, and in groups. Dan and Phil fans really are a diverse bunch, so don't worry about feeling out of place--I'm in my late twenties and brought my dad along, and neither of us felt excluded or like we didn't belong. Our audience was enthusiastic without being frenzied, which kept the vibe fun and relaxed throughout the show.

Pro tip: The show is entertaining even if you're not familiar with Dan and Phil, so if you'd like to bring someone uninitiated, they'll still have a good time. (Though be prepared to explain a few inside jokes and references after the show!)

Sensory Sensitivities

As someone with high-frequency hearing loss and a disorder that makes me sensitive to sound, I was concerned about the noise levels at the show. Be aware that the music, dialogue, and sound effects are all very loud--I wore earplugs and could still hear everything plus feel the sound thumping in my chest at times, like when fireworks go off nearby. The tour website also warns of strobe lights and smoke effects, but they were subtle and contained to the stage area.

Pro tip: If you're at all sensitive to sound or need to protect your hearing, wear earplugs.

Show Structure (No Spoilers)

Recorded music played from the time doors opened to the start of the show. Dan and Phil came out about 10 minutes after the slated start time of 8:00 and performed for about 1 hour before intermission. The break lasted about 30 minutes, and then Dan and Phil came back and performed for around another 30 minutes or so.

Pro-tip: From arrival to the show's end, expect to spend about 3 hours at the theater. Plan bathroom breaks and pre- and post-show meals and snacks accordingly!

Interaction (No Spoilers)

There were three kinds of audience interaction at our show: some based on the online survey on the tour website, some based on Dan and Phil gauging audience cheers for different options for what to do, and some based on direct participation. All of this is totally optional, so you can remain a non-interactive introvert if you prefer.

Pro tip: At our show, the guests seated on the ground floor in the rows nearest the stage had the best chance to take part during the segment with direct audience participation.


Only the special Interactive Introverts merchandise was available, not any of the general merchandise for sale at the Dan and Phil online shop. There wasn't really any time to shop before the show started, since the staff was working to get everyone promptly seated so the show could begin on time. However, the merchandise stand was open during intermission and after the show, though post-show the line stretched all the way up the stairs.

Pro tip: Those who bought merchandise during intermission got back to their seats pretty quickly, so pop out and do your shopping then instead of waiting until after the show's over.

I hope this information helps anyone nervous about seeing the show, especially those who have anxiety, sensory sensitivities, and other special considerations. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll try my best to answer!

11 June 2018

Sun Care Tips for Very Fair Skin

As I've mentioned in past makeup and beauty posts, I have very fair skin--always burns, never tans, Type I on the Fitzpatrick scale fair. This means that I have to be careful about sun exposure, since more than a few minutes in bright summer sun will leave me with a pink or red burn instead of a bronze summer glow. Since I don't like to spend all of my summer days slathered in sunscreen, I've found a few alternative sun protection options to add into my defense arsenal. Here are my favorite finds and tips for enjoying the sun and staying sunburn-free without resorting to a vampiric lifestyle:

For Any Time: Wide-Brimmed Hats

Hats can add a jaunty touch to your ensemble, but they're also a valuable accessory for avoiding sunburn. They protect the part of your hair without having to add greasy sunscreen to your scalp, and if the brim is wide enough they can also shade the face, neck, and upper chest. I wear a hat in sunny but not-overly-hot weather when my shoulders and arms are protected with sleeves, or in conjunction with sunscreen to keep my part covered and gain a little extra coolness from the shade.

(Here's a bonus tip for if, like me, you find most hats too big: try a children's size large! Mine is from Crewcuts--here's a similar one.)

For Backyard Parties: Parasols
Image by Totes (because umbrellas are hard to photograph)
Once a staple accessory in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, parasols have fallen out of fashion in recent decades. But with rising skin cancer concerns they're starting to come back onto the market, and I'm hoping to be part of the vanguard bringing them back into style, too. Look for umbrellas with UPF ratings like this sun umbrella I got from Totes, which does double-duty rain or shine and comes in an array of cute prints. While parasols can be a little awkward to maneuver in crowded spaces, they work great for events like garden parties and barbecues where you're standing still or sitting in one place, and if angled correctly can shade your entire body from the sun.

For Active Days: Mineral Sunscreen

While I'm not fond of the feeling of sunscreen on my skin, in some cases it's the only option for sun protection, like at the beach or on hot days with lots of activity. When I do need to use sunscreen, I use an SPF-50 mineral formula with both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which I find works better than chemical sunscreens or formulas with just one kind of mineral. This summer I'm using this Goddess Garden sport formulation with a base of natural and organic ingredients--I got mine at Whole Foods, but my local CVS carries the brand as well, and it's also available online.

For After Sun: Aloe-Based Witch Hazel

Sometimes sunburns still happen, even if you're normally careful. When I spend a bit too long in the sun unprotected and get a slight burn, I soothe it with witch hazel. Witch hazel helps to reduce redness, inflammation, and irritation from sunburn, and the the aloe vera base of Thayer's alcohol-free formula is soothing and moisturizing. (Avoid the more common alcohol-based witch hazel astringents, which can dry the skin out and further irritate a burn.) As a bonus, witch hazel is also handy to have on hand in the summer as it can relieve redness, swelling, and itchiness from insect bites!

27 May 2018

Teddy Bears of Social Media

Have you ever seen people get overly excited when they see a dog or a cat out and about, or when a picture of one pops up in their social media feed? Well, I'm like that about teddy bears. I always notice when there's a bear on screen in movies and television, and I'll never pass one by in a shop without giving them a closer look. In the same way that other people find that cute pets brighten their day, a teddy bear will never fail to make me smile and lift my mood.

So, of course I've found teddy bears to follow online, for whenever I need a little cheering up. Here are those I follow through their blogs, Twitter, and YouTube, which I'm sharing for those fellow teddy bear enthusiasts looking to add a dash of adorableness to their internet wanderings:

Horace the Alresford Bear

Photo by Karen Borek from Cotehele Daffodil Day

Horace is a teddy bear made in Alresford, England who was rescued from a charity shop in 2011 and now blogs about his adventures in Bristol and around the United Kingdom. Many of Horace's posts detail his trips to National Trust properties, so you can take in the gorgeous historic houses and gardens while getting a dose of teddy bear cuteness. Horace also posts photos on Instagram and Twitter, including some with his many siblings such as Nye, Theo, and Wilfred.

Jama's Alphabet Soup

Photo by Jama Rattigan from
Friday Feast: The Bear in the Window and Paddington's Bread and Butter Pudding with Marmalade

Jama Rattigan's blog is technically about culinary and literary matters, but her Teddy Bear Picnic category of posts is chock-full of adorable teddies, including the numerous Paddington Bears in her collection. Other literary teddies including Pooh, Corduroy, and Rupert also put in appearances, often with accompanying recipes.

Jane Hissey's Old Bear

Illustration by Jane Hissey via Twitter

Jane Hissey is the author and illustrator of the beautiful Old Bear series of books, and she frequently shares her exquisitely detailed and incredibly realistic drawings of Old Bear and his friends on her Twitter account, alongside occasional snapshots of the real toys that inspired the books. Hissey also recently launched a YouTube channel where you can watch the television series based on the show, completely for free. Each episode is ten minutes long and features stop motion animation and gentle narration--here's the first one:

Tatty Teddy

These short and sweet YouTube videos from British greeting card company Carte Blanche feature stop-motion scenes of their character Tatty Teddy, and are designed to be sent as e-cards. They seem to have stopped posting new ones years ago, which is a shame, but the collection they have features videos that can be sent for a variety of occasions. Here's a little montage from several of their Tatty Teddy videos: