Sunday, 27 November 2016

Taco Bell Southampton




Taco Bell...
has come to Southampton!

Last Monday I was kindly invited to the VIP pre-launch evening to the new Taco Bell that has opened just off of Southampton High Street. I flipping love Mexican food so it’s safe to say I was excited, and, judging by the people there (and how busy it has been since it officially opened on Wednesday), the rest of Southampton would agree with me.

I think the draw to this place is that it’s something different. Extremely popular in the US, it’s a recent addition over here and this latest opening is the very first south of London. A very welcome change from the usual burger and fries, Taco Bell serves Mexican inspired food including burritos, quesadillas and, of course, tacos!

We arrived on the night to a restaurant full of excited and hungry people, and sat down with the other Southampton bloggers. We started with some loaded nachos, and then learnt some more about the company and their goals for the UK from Nick Dawson, General Manager for Taco Bell UK. We also helped ourselves to refillable soft drinks throughout the night, and another element that makes Taco Bell so unique on the high street, is the option of alcohol – they had Tequila Lime Slushis and beer on offer throughout the evening.

Then it was on to the mains! I wasn’t a huge fan of their burrito, but massively enjoyed the beef taco, even if it was incredibly messy to eat! I had the classic hard shell, but it’s good to know that both their beef and chicken have the soft shell option, too. My absolute favourite dish was the quesadilla – full to the brim with three cheeses and scoffed extremely quickly.

As if that wasn’t enough, it was onto puddings. Their unique ‘Chocadilla’ had me intrigued and, what is quite simple a kitkat in a flour wrap, was really rather tasty. Anything full of melted chocolate has a tick in my book. They also serve churros, though unfortunately I didn’t get to taste one, I’ve heard it’s a winner.

The staff were very attentive all evening, and it was great to see an open kitchen so you can see the food being made fresh to order. There was also a photo booth on the night which was a big hit, as well as their very own Snapchat filter.

After a very busy start since opening to the public last Wednesday, I’ve no doubt it will do well and the chain will expand further along the south coast. Southampton Taco Bell is located at Hanover Buildings, down the road with Forbidden Planet and Laura Ashley.



Sunday, 13 November 2016

November thoughts


It’s a boring thing to start with but, it’s a bit bloody cold isn’t it? Scraping ice off my car is probably my least favourite thing about Winter, but luckily I can cope knowing that Christmas is just round the corner. I love love love buying gifts and finding stocking fillers and perfect presents for people. I usually get a bit too excited for Christmas a little bit too early but I’m hoping this year my festive mood will last well up to January 1st.

Winter coat

Following on from the boring weather chat, I bought a new winter coat – and from Sainsburys no less. I always forget that supermarkets actually provide a pretty good selection of clothes and shoes, so they’re definitely not one to discount just because of the label. I’ve had a smart, grey winter coat for a while though it’s very restrictive if I’m wearing a lot of layers (it’s only done up using poppers so these often come undone – I’d like to say this is the layers but it may be my ever-expanding stomach). Anyway, I wasn’t necessarily on the hunt for a new coat but this one caught my eye. I love the fluffy hood – it’s gigantic and a little ridiculous but oh so cosy and the fur lining is extremely soft. It zips up nicely and has buttons as well, and plenty of room to allow for excessive Christmas eating. It was £40 which seemed a little pricy for Sainos, but actually it’s really reasonable for a winter coat and very good quality.


Home Bargains has been my first port of call for stocking fillers and Christmas gifts so far – dangerously, a store has just opened up near my work so I’ve been popping in far too regularly! I’ve started my Christmas shopping but I’ve got a long way to go.

Speaking of, I’ve finished my Christmas card design for this year, too (you can see it below). I always like to design my own, and have done for since I started uni in 2009. Last year was a very typographic design but I wanted this year’s to be an illustration, especially as it was a personal goal to draw more this year. I’ve had a few comments as to whether I’m going to sell them and I’ve decided I am, so if you’re interested then just drop me a tweet or message on Instagram! There’s a few more details in this insta post if you’d like to know prices.

President Trump
The US Election

I’m not going to pretend I know enough about American politics to make a cohesive statement, but what I do know is the disappointment that has been felt around the world at this decision. It certainly feels like the heartbreak of #brexit all over again, except on a much larger scale and no possibility of backing out. I fear for many Americans futures now, and the damaging message this sends to those around the world. I know Clinton isn’t an angel, and I don’t know if she’ll have made good decisions, but surely, surely, she was a better choice than someone who isn’t even a politician. Someone who has sexual attack charges open against them, someone who makes derogatory remarks about women. Someone who wants to build a wall, akin to Berlin? I just can’t comprehend it. And I’m going to reiterate the fact that I really don’t know enough about politics, and that I’d like to learn more, but I also didn’t want to stay silent on this huge issue. I think it's so important to talk, and write, during these times and sometimes I feel sad that so many bloggers with such huge audiences and influence choose to be silent. I read Mish's post on her post-election thoughts and she's written how I feel in a much more eloquent way, so I definitely recommend her post if you'd like to read more.

I, Daniel Blake
Directed by Ken Loach

On a similarly heartbreaking note, I watched I, Daniel Blake earlier this month. It won the Palme d'Or award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and it’s a compelling, hard-hitting insight in to the working class and the war on benefits – difficult to watch and sadly, a very realistic insight in to the politics that is affecting our country. This film affected me a lot, and I sobbed in the cinema at the rawness of it all – and the knowledge that those who most need to watch this film, won’t. It’s a film that has stayed with me, and though I feel helpless to making changes higher up, it doesn’t mean I’m helpless completely. I discovered a wonderful new business on Twitter called ‘Breakfast in a bag’ and have donated – I feel a lot more passionate now after seeing the film and realising the effects that benefits, or lack of, can have on people. .

In other, more hopeful news, I start my new job tomorrow! This year has been an intense one and I plan on writing a post rounding up 2016 before the year is out. For now, I just hope to settle in ok and find my feet! Tell me what’s been having with you guys recently? xo

charley harper

Monday, 31 October 2016

Inktober 2016


My artober challenge is done! I'm really chuffed I actually managed to post every day on Instagram for 31 days (I posted about the challenge at the beginning of the month if you'd like to know more!). I know it's not as impressive as 'Inktober' because I didn't create new inked artwork each and every day - but I tried my best. Some of the photos are of books that I wanted to share and some other behind the scenes photos that are still art related. It's been another hectic month so I'm glad I didn't add extra pressure. There were a few times I wanted to throw in the towel but I knew from day one that I didn't want this to be a half-hearted effort.

Lessons learnt...

I always thought challenges like this would be a fab way to grow your audience and become part of a community. Unfortunately, I think Inktober is now a bit too large for that! Whenever I checked the hashtag on Instagram, there was literally a new image appearing every second, and it was crazy to keep up. Unless your image already had a few hundred likes and was featured in the popular section (at the top of the screen when searching a hashtag), or you’d just posted an image that second, it will easily get lost amongst the rest. I tried my best to comment and like any of the images I saw on the hashtag, but I did find it hard to discover new artists I loved, but weren’t already super popular. I love the YouTube videos and watching processes of the art being created, but as I’m not a YouTuber and don’t have enough experience in video editing, this really wasn’t an option for me.

Even posting an image every evening was hard enough with various life stuff happening anyway. I have huge respect for vloggers and artists who share content on the internet regularly, if not daily. I changed the original challenge to ‘Artober’ – so I do wonder whether the lack of engagement I had on Instagram was because not everything was following the ‘Inktober’ theme (of things being created using ink only). I shared various images, including book and art material reviews, photos of past projects and my desk space, as well as creating fresh, new artwork that did follow the ‘Inktober’ idea. Despite the little influx of followers I gained at the beginning of the challenge, I noted that this fluctuated every day and, after 31 days of posting daily, my follower count has only gone up by 8. My photos started with a good number of likes, but slightly disappointing by the end of the month, and certainly less than before when I posted only once or twice a month. This could be because the hashtag was followed less as the days went on and people lost interest (though, as I said, the huge amount of photos still being uploaded to the hashtag certainly didn’t reflect this). Perhaps the new Instagram algorithm has affected me – perhaps it was na├»ve of me to think that simply posting more regularly would help gain likes and follows. It would be good to hear if you did it both this year and last, before the new Instagram algorithm, and whether your engagement was the same or reduced compared to this year. I’d be really interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this, and if you’ve done a challenge before and have had varying results.

On the plus side...

It's a huge boost to my self esteem that actually I can create something daily, whether it's a post from my creative archives or not. I'm really pleased that I did it because I feel more confident posting more in the future, and pushing myself to create new artwork more regularly. Lookout for some more regular content on my Instagram in the future (though not everyday, I need a little break!). If you participated this year or you have an arty insta, leave a link in the comments!


Sunday, 16 October 2016

October update


It’s Sunday evening. As usual, I’ve got the Sunday blues but I’ve distracted myself by baking cookies, watching Youtube videos and there’s a roast chicken currently cooking in the oven.

Autumn is definitely drawing in and I’m feeling really cosy. The electric blanket and heating is well and truly on, the evenings are getting darker and I’m feeling that usual niggling itch that I really need to start thinking about Christmas presents. A lot has happened since my last post, I don’t think life has got any less crazy! I’ll most likely share some words about it all soon, but for now, I’ll keep it simple.


If you follow me on Twitter , you’ll probably know by my incessant tweeting on Wednesday evenings that the Great British Bake Off is totally my jam. I’m not even going to go in to the whole moving to channel 4 thing, but yes, my heart broke into two and will likely only be glued together by a whole load of chocolate. Anyway, I love GBBO, and I love baking. Their new range of products has just been launched and includes cake tins, stands, timers, magnets and aprons, of course. I was sent a cake tin to try out and I have to say, it’s wonderful. The colour is beautiful, a sort of pastel teal blue, with pretty little illustrations of the iconic tent in a pattern around the sides. It’s a really good size too – the bigger the better in my opinion when it comes to cake.

The tin comes with a pen and the top is adorned with a space for you to write in – Star Baker tops this but I’ve been using it simply to label what is inside. The pen wipes off really easily and leaves no smudges or marks so that’s a big plus. Anything in their new range would be perfect Christmas gifts for bakers and fellow Selasi lovers, I'm sure.

In other news...

In other news, I’m still going with my Inktober challenge – which I’m pretty pleased with. There have been a few moments when it’s been a bit of chore and I’ve wanted to give up – engagement is low and it’s hard to feel the community aspect. Nevertheless, I’m continuing on until the end of the month and reminding myself that I am doing this for me and you – sharing my love for art and everything that goes along with it.