Sunday, 31 January 2016

January Round Up - Dublin, Baking, Lush and Decoupaging

So January (for the most part) has been super quiet, with lots of cosy nights in, and afternoons full of creative-ness!

I cracked open New Year in Dublin, and spent the first 2 days there, mostly eating and chilling, which I can't complain with!
 
The Gibson Hotel, Dublin
 
However the rest of the month has been super quiet, and apart from work, it has consisted mostly of lots of Lush bubble baths, reading, and trying my hand at decoupaging. I bought a white and grey key holder and revamped it with some gorgeous floral paper, and considering its my first time decoupaging, I'm actually quite impressed with the result! I really want to start some sort of creative business from home as a side job, but I just have no clue where to start (any business owners out there, give me a shout!). 
 
My first go at decoupaging a key holder

Book of the month

Christmas Lush Pud Bath Bomb
January also consisted of lots of crazy organizing and decluttering, moreso in the clothes department, but also in my kitchen cupboards. I've been clinging onto 6 red mugs for a long time now, even though my kitchen colour scheme is no longer red, but pastel shabby chic colours (and has been for 2+yrs!). God knows what I thought I was going to do with 6 plain red boring mugs.. but nonetheless, I've got rid, and its made so much space! It feels so much better opening a cupboard with shelf space where nothing falls out on you once the door opens! I also made a conscious effort to complete at least 1 mindfulness colouring page per month, and here is my result!


That's my January! It's gone in the blink of an eye... best thing of all, I completed my monthly NY resolutions with a few days to spare! (here is my resolutions post if you missed it). As you can tell, for the most part its been a pretty relaxing one, which wont be said for next month... I've got 2 separate weekends away plus a works night out, and Valentines Day.. best get my beauty sleep in whilst I can!

Have you done anything exciting this month?
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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

My Top 3 Restaurants on International Drive, Orlando.

I've stayed on International Drive twice in the past 2 years so have dined at a fair few places on the strip. The length of International Drive can get a little overwhelming, and most people don't venture too far from their hotel, however popping in your hire car or on the bus is so simple, and will open your dining options up massively.

Budget wise, we tend to go for a varied mixture when it comes to dining. Some nights we may splash out a little and enjoy a bit of luxury food, then other nights we'll watch the pennies and go for something a little cheaper. The 3 restaurants I'm going to showcase will vary in price, from low-medium, then medium to high. None of the meals were ridiculously priced whereby it left us squirming in our seats once the bill had arrived!

Olive Garden


Olive Garden is located not far from Wonderworks (the upside down house - you can't miss it!). We visited here on one of our first nights in Orlando and I almost turned away because from the outside and reception area, I immediately thought 'this is gonna be so expensive'. I asked to take a sneaky look at the menu and I was pleasantly surprised by the prices. The restaurant is large and airy, with different dining sections. There were 5 of us so we were seated in a corner booth. The menu is predominantly Italian, however they had a good range of foods. To keep us going whilst we waited for our food, they provided us with 8 huge warm herbed bread rolls. The biggest bowl of the most delicious salad I had ever tasted... (how do Americans make salad so good?!). These were all free! For the main I had garlic chicken & rosemary mash potatoes, with vegetables. It was honestly divine (of course the photo does it no justice!). The service was on point and they couldn't have done any more for us. The atmosphere was perfect and the prices for mains varied (on average) between $10-16 (£7 - £11). I'm so glad I ventured in here. Such a perfect start to our holiday. This restaurant has been ranked on TripAdvisor at No 29 out of 3,187. Need I say more?

Main Meal


Shake Shack

Shake Shack is situated to the left of the Orlando Eye, amongst an array of other restaurants/clubs. I know this has now opened up in the UK, but lets forget that.. this is originally an American chain (it all started in NY to be precise!)

Courtesy of google - Photo V Justice? Not at all...
It's McDonalds, but on a whole new level. The burgers... oh my. The juicy goodness just melted in the mouth. The flavours were out of this world. I think I got a spicy burger if I remember rightly and it was to die for. The cheesy chips... ahhh, take me back. The milkshakes were on point too. The menu was so varied and appealing. Prices are a little steep for what is just really, a fast-food take-out. Expect to pay a little more than McDonalds, but its so honestly worth it. We visited here twice - once on our first night when we were jet-lagged beyond belief (Shake Shack just sent us into an even deeper coma!), then once on our last night, just for convenience. This place can get pretty busy (which shows how much its loved!), so be quick to find a seat. They do both indoor and outdoor seating - the outdoor seating is full of wooden benches and cute little fairy lights. Indoors is a blessing to indulge in some air con! Definitely wouldn't hesitate in returning here on our next trip!

Maggiano's (Little Italy)

Situated right near Pointe Orlando (the mini shopping mall) we just had to pop in here after visiting the one in Las Vegas and loving it. Chicken, parmesan, garlic, flatbreads, meatballs, pasta.. the menu is endless. Everything is cooked to perfection and it's bloody gorgeous. Holidaying in America can sometimes get a little tiring, feeling like your eating the same old junk food time and time again, so its nice to visit somewhere that doesn't fall in line with the typical cuisine of fatty junk foods. The interior is elegant, and its a nice one to visit without the kids! (Although we don't have that problem...).


Keep your eyes peeled for more top tips on Orlando!
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Friday, 22 January 2016

New Years Resolutions - 2016

This year I made a conscious decision to not make any new years resolutions that I knew I wouldn't stick to. 'But that's the whole idea!' I hear you cry.. 'Push yourself in order to achieve those resolutions'. I get it, but now I've come to the realisation that I'm just setting myself up to fail, and that I'll just be miserable within 2.5 weeks of being into January, knowing that I'm already on the downward spiral with my eating. The downward spiral that I happen to get on every.single.year.

This year I thought I'm actually going to switch it up a bit - make resolutions that I actually want to do. What a genius idea I hear you say? I know, I know.

I was aware that in 2015 I spent way too much time on the internet, be it on my laptop or phone. 50% of that time would have been aiming to better my life by getting inspiration from others, but I'd somehow get absorbed into some strangers life that I've never met before, and spend an hour creeping on their blog, photos and everything in between. I'd come away feeling like I actually knew that person, when in hindsight, I knew nothing but how this girl is great at making her life look perfect through Instagram pictures (c'mon, we all do it...). I didn't learn what I set out to. Times this situation by 200 and this is what the majority of my internet time went on. Living my life through others, or wishing I had what they had. All these vloggers, bloggers, work-from-home creative women, they're everywhere.

My aim for 2016 is about 'me' time. Making sure I don't get too absorbed in social media to the point I neglect other areas of my life (I'm looking at you housework). I've set myself 3 'tasks' if you like, that I have to complete by the end of every month. For most of you, these tasks will be pretty achievable in just a week, maybe. But this is me, and I need to do what fits in best with my lifestyle.


These tasks will make sure I cut off from social media just that little bit more, and make sure I'm getting the time that I need to myself, for me, which I think is important for everyone.

1) Read 1 book a month. I set myself this same 'resolution' last year. Do the maths and you'll work out that I should have read 12 books last year. I failed this and read 10 instead. I know for someone, this is probably achievable in a month, but again, this is me and my lifestyle. I only tend to read in bed, right before I go to sleep. 60% of the time, I'm that shattered by the time my head hits the pillow that reading a book is the last thing I want to do. Last year, there was a period after I returned from Florida that I never read. I didn't pick up a book in almost 2 months because I'd completely got out the swing of it. I'm currently reading a chick lit book and I'm on course to finish it by the end of the month. I love reading, especially if I find a really good book, but unfortunately sometimes other things have to take priority.

2) Colour 1 page of my mindfulness colouring book in per month. Yes, so achievable, and something that could be completed within a matter of hours if I did it in 1 chunk, but sometimes I'd rather spend that time doing something else. I received a mindfulness colouring book from my friend last year for my birthday (Hi Kat, if you're reading!). I'll be honest - I only managed to colour in 1 page of it in the 7 months I had it. Partly because I forgot I had it, and partly because again, other things took priority. However within 3 weeks, I've completed 3 pages already. And I'm actually really enjoying it. The whole relaxation concept behind it? It really does work! It completely takes my mind off things if I've had a stressful day or I'm worried about something - you're so busy concentrating on what you're colouring, that for half an hour, you forget about other existences. It's great!

3) I received a Mary Berry baking book for Christmas. Baking is something I love to do but its just one of those things that I do once in a blue moon. I'm not great at it but I do enjoy doing it, especially if its an interesting recipe. I do have a handful of baking books now that I barely use - but I've made a decision that at the end of every month, I will spend a few hours in the kitchen and bake 1 recipe from my new book - that way, it won't get too costly. Keep your eyes peeled to see if any recipes make it to my blog!

There's going to be a small change to my lifestyle very soon, which I'm very excited about, but I'm hoping it means there's only better things to come! Stay tuned for more updates!
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Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Review: December's Degustabox

Due to the Christmas period, Degustabox purposely sent out December's box later than usual, so its a double whammy this month! Due to this box coming out early January, it was based around Healthy Eating, as many of us set those all famous 'lose weight' resolutions.

Unfortunately I was less than impressed with this box. I feel like I'm repeating myself in more and more of these reviews, but Degusta continues to repeat the same brands and same style products, and it's all getting a little tiresome now.

I noticed a pattern - they tend to go through whims whereby they will send a certain style/brand of product out for a handful of alternative months, then move onto something else. I've had many repeat drinks as well. Again, 80% of the food/drink will always be used but as a subscription service, I expect variety. You have to remember the idea behind subscription boxes, and this really isn't cutting it.



Lets take a closer look...


Barilla - Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta Sauce - £2
This is a mixture of 'authentic Italian tomatoes, ripe courgettes, plump aubergines and sweet peppers' - I'm not too sure I like the sound of this - both courgettes and aubergines is something I dislike, however as a sauce it may be ok. I will definitely give this a go and use in a pasta dish to see.

Crabbies Light Ginger Beer - £1.49
I've finally found a beer that I can drink (which is pretty good going if you knew how many drinks I dislike!) this is yummy, and would be perfect in the summer! If you like ginger ale/beer (non alcoholic) then you may like this. You can taste a slight hint of mild beer, but nothing overpowering.

Barilla Fusilli pasta - £1.50
What can I say about this? Pasta is pasta... unless mixed with a sauce all brands taste pretty similar to me.. Always a good staple to have in your food cupboard though. We always have tonnes of the stuff, all different shapes and sizes.

Compete Energy Bites (Lemon) - £1.99
I got a 4 pack of these 2 months ago in the DB. Because of what they're meant for (fuel for the body before working out) I give these to my boyfriend before he goes to footy training each week (simply because I don't work out enough!).

Chai Latte ('Gift')
This 'skinny chai latte' is  'spiced with a hint of clove for that everyday guilt-free fix'. Honestly? I've tried Chai latte before and it's really not for me, so I'll be passing this onto someone in the office that would appreciate it more than me.
 
 
 
Hip Pops (2 x £1)
These snacks are the healthy equivalent to crisps. I've tasted something similar before. They're nice, nothing overly special, but a better guilt-free option if you fancy something savoury!
 
Nothing But (2 x £1.69)
I've worked with Nothing But several months ago, so I've tried all of their range before, so I knew what to expect. For me, these snacks are the type of snacks I'd go if my cupboards were bare and this is all that remained. More and more dried fruit/veg snacks are being made and they do nothing for me. The texture, the taste, everything about them... and I'm no fussy eater!
 
Red Square Toffee mini (£1.99)
This bottle bought so many memories back.. I used to buy a large bottle of Red Square in my early twenties before a night out.. it was like my pre-drinks before hitting the town! Never seen a toffee version before, and I only wished I spotted the recipe that they included before drinking my Crabbies (they recommended to put the 2 together!). I definitely will try this with some lemonade at some point in the near future though!
 
Love Kombucha (Blueberry - £2.25)
This comes in a glass bottle, which ticks a box in the packaging department for me (small things.. small things..). However the taste was a different story. Yuck, yuck, double yuck. This had a slight fizz to it, but it had the most bitter tasting flavour to it - It reminded me of cheap bitter white wine. It was vile and went straight down the sink. Shame because I really wanted to like this - I was expecting sweet blueberry fruitiness, but no :-(
 
The Fabulous Bakers - £1.80
These mango and pineapple bars are good for lunch time I found. They are made with all natural ingredients, and contain no 'nasties or added sugar'. They're 'made with real fruit, slow release energy oats and they're high in fibre too'. I'm not blown away by them, and they did leave a strange after-taste, however I did find them very filling.
 
Betavivo - 2 x £1
These crispy oat cereals are 'proven to lower your cholesterol and blood glucose'. 1 serving per day provides 'the required 3g of beta-glucan from oats needed to reduce your blood cholesterol'. I'm yet to try these but they do intrigue me! I'm not quite sure if its just a case of adding milk with these as the packet is pretty small.. I need to research then I'll make sure I have them for breakfast in the morning!


Did you receive Decembers Degustabox? What were your thoughts on it?


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Friday, 15 January 2016

Pink Parcel Subscription Box Review

Way back when beauty subscription boxes first came out, I was there, and I was one of the subscribers of the first ever Glossy Box. Since then, I've had my fair share of beauty subscriptions - I stuck with Glossy for 3 years. 2 years in I dabbled with a few others, some I forget the name of now (I don't even think some of them exist any more!). I then had Glossy Box and Birchbox running alongside each other for approx. 1 year, because I'm greedy like that. I then became the responsible adult and decided to cancel one of my subscriptions, for money saving purposes. Glossy Box unfortunately didn't make the cut, so Birchbox became my new monthly friend for the next couple of years. That was until late December 2015, when the New Year was fast approaching, and I decided to start making little plans in my head (as you do). My beauty stash was getting beyond a joke, and I struggled to keep up. No matter how many little city breaks I went on, armed with sample sized products, I just couldn't seem to get my stash down. Not only was I running out of storage but I was worried that the more 'older' products were getting close (if not beyond) their 'sell by' date. Also, even though I absolutely loved getting goodies through the post every month, beauty products just wasn't exciting me as much as it once used to (Christ, the age factor is kicking in!). I knew I didn't want to give up my monthly present through the door, but at the same time, I couldn't continue with all these beauty items. Brainwave - why not try a different theme of subscription box!? Doh!

After trawling through sites, reviews and prices, I finally settled on The Pink Parcel - a monthly subscription box that caters for women's 'needs' at 'that time of the month'. Not only that, but it provides women with monthly pick-me-ups around 'that time'. Sorry if this is TMI but I suffer quite badly with my periods, something seems to have happened in the past 12-18 months and I feel its gradually getting worse as I'm getting older. On the first morning of my period, I suffer with bad stomach churning cramps that leave me unsettled, unable to sleep and irritable, simply because I can't stay still because of the pain. I'm also up and down to the toilet and its not pleasant! This usually lasts a full morning but once its over, everything settles down and I plod through it as normal. This year I've told myself I'm getting on top of it - I've invested in some Anadin tablets that are specifically designed to combat period pains, and if that doesn't solve it, I may go to the doctors. Anyway! To make these episodes a little more pleasant (if that's even possible), I thought I'd invest in The Pink Parcel.


Wow, just wow is all I can say. Inside this large long grey box came 4 smaller boxes as well as a velvet drawstring bag, all clearly labelled what each one is for.


Of course I went straight for the 'for you' box and I was SO impressed with what I found inside, and all I could think was 'and this is only part of it..' I'm still getting my beauty products, but on a smaller scale. Some stationary was also included (which is another huge tick for me, who doesn't love stationary!?) 3 cute little notepads, these will definitely come in handy! I also received an interesting test tube full of vanilla and almond tea from The London Tea Club. I'm not usually a fan of flavoured tea, I've tried so many in the past and disliked them all but ahhh, this was so nice with a little sugar and milk. I'm even debating sending for some more! A cute little packet of sweets were also included which were gone before you could say boo! (Ok, not quite, but you get the idea...). I also received a gorgeous eye shadow from BellaPierre (honestly, its the prettiest shade of silver/white with a gorgeous shimmer to it.. great for any parties!). A lipstick was also included, however unfortunately the shade didn't suit me one bit (it was too nude!), however this is the only item I wouldn't get any use from. There was also a Skin Balm that is used on dry skin and skin conditions and a sachet of coconut & almond butter that could be used on toast/in shakes etc. I popped it in with my chocolate slimfast to give myself those extra nutrients! On top of this was a small tube of Vichy cream for problematic skin. Phew! What a lot of stuff!



The other boxes were filled with sanitary towels from Always. The box labelled 'For Bedtime' were filled with 'bedtime' sanitary towels, the drawstring bag was filled with a couple of normal sized towels plus small panty liners, the 'for later' is a further stock of towels, and the 'down there' box included a pack of wipes to keep yourself clean & fresh! There appeared to be more towels included than what is included in a typical pack of Always sanitary towels, so there's plenty to keep you going! There has been so many times over the years that I've had to send Mike off to the shop to buy me a pack because I've 'come on' and haven't been prepared!

I don't think I have to say it anymore but I'm super impressed. I was a little anxious about completely giving up my beauty products for a box like this, but this has just confirmed that my decision was the right choice. I'm definitely getting the best of both worlds, plus more! I love the fact that both beauty, food and stationary is included, along with those monthly essentials! Perfect, just perfect! I do imagine that I may not always get stationary/food items, but I'm excited to see how they mix it up each month!

For those that are thinking of subscribing - you can choose between sanitary towels and tampons, whichever works best for you. Also upon subscribing, they will ask you when your period is usually due to start - this will help them predict when to send the box out to you so you receive it in time for your cycle. You even get a few delivery dates to choose from. I received mine way too early, so I will be adjusting my delivery date for next month. Trial and error, trial and error! I received the first box for only £7.95, which is great! After your initial box the price then increases to £12.99 (inc P&P) but I still think this is good compared to other subscription boxes.

Have you ever tried Pink Parcel?

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Sunday, 10 January 2016

Snap a Sunset

If there's one view I love whilst on holiday it has to be a sunset. I've found myself timing restaurant bookings on the beach before whilst on holiday, just so I can eat and enjoy the sun setting at the same time. I've also been known to leave a meal half way through in Florida, to rush onto the sand and take some snaps. Not only does it make for a perfect picture, but it helps me to reflect on life - it symbolizes the close of one day, and that another one, full of new adventures, is about to begin.

Every new place I visit, the sunset is an obligatory photo. I took a last minute Autumn break to Puerto De La Cruz in Tenerife in 2014 with my boyfriend to grab some last minute sunshine before the English winter kicked in. We arrived at our hotel and the first thing I noticed was the most amazing view from our balcony I think I'd ever had in a hotel. We were high on the cliffs on a corner, and had swooping views of the vast ocean that was so close. I remember sitting on our balcony at every opportunity, just to indulge in the scenery that little bit more. I did my make-up out there, we played games out there, and just sat and chatted for hours over drinks, I just couldn't get enough! And even when we weren't on our balcony, laying on the bed and glancing out of the floor-to-ceiling windows still gave a perfect view of the ocean. I really can't think of a more perfect view to wake up to!

Here is the view from our balcony by day. The small rocky area to the right of the photo I'm still not quite sure the purpose of it, however I loved watching the waves crash against it!


This was the same view by night. I love the contrast of colours in this sunset and how the ocean looks rather cold and mysterious. I also love the silhouette of the paraglider returning to land...


Does the sunset evoke emotions for you too?
 
This is my entry to Olympic's #SnapASunset competition


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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

A Postcard from Dublin...

Over the New Year period I was lucky enough to spend it in Dublin, somewhere that I've never been before. Our main reason for going here however was not for New Year, but to go and see Mary Poppins the musical at the theatre. Mary Poppins is close to my heart, a nostalgic film that I grew up on as a kid (and that I now annoyingly know every single word to). It was part of a Christmas present from Mike, and I couldn't wait. Spending New Years Eve there was just a bonus...

However unfortunately things didn't go to plan. We never did get to see the musical because our flight had a huge delay. Not 1, 2, 3 hours. 9 hours! Yes, NINE hours! Looking back, I still don't quite know how we managed to kill that amount of time. Thank god we didn't have kids with us! We were flying with Ryanair (first and last time) - everything was a complete shambles but I won't go into too much detail (I'll leave that for the compensation file..).

We arrived at our hotel at a much later time of 11.30pm (as opposed to the 2.30pm we had originally anticipated!). Thankfully the hotel was absolutely gorgeous (thanks to my pickings) so we settled for the night in luxury.


The next day, after getting over our anger, we took it easy, and had lunch in the hotel bar and restaurant. I was in love with the setting. We overlooked onto the gardens, which had gentle water fountains and pretty lights twinkling everywhere, as well as some roaring fires to keep people warm (not that anyone was out there!). The inside was just as nice, and the food, even though we ordered simple food, was to die for.

We caught the tram into the main centre and had a mooch around. We found Temple Bar (lots of people told me to go here prior to our visit!) and did a lot of window shopping. Annoyingly I couldn't buy too much as we were on restricted weight limits due to only having cabin cases. This was rather frustrating but I soon got used to it. Late afternoon we headed back to the hotel in order to get ready for our booked evening meal/NYE.

We spruced ourselves up and headed back out to a restaurant called 'The Boxty House' on Temple Bar. This was a quirky little restaurant with a really good menu. After that we just had cocktails in other pubs around this area, saw in the new year then went back to our hotel. The Irish sure know how to party though! "Crying cockles and mussels alive alive-o" stayed with me for days afterwards!


The next day, feeling fresh as a daisy (thank God!) we chilled in the hotel before heading out to find somewhere that does afternoon tea. (For those that don't know, I have a tradition whereby every new place I visit I have to have afternoon tea if possible!). We discovered The Temple Hotel that did it, so spent a few hours devouring that! (Review to come soon!). We did a little more shopping (I was surprised how many shops were open on New Years Day!). It was a horrible blustery and rainy day so we jumped on a tram back and played games in the hotel room. Later on we headed back out to a restaurant I had previously researched and had read good things about - The Bank on College Green. The building was stunning and the food wasn't far off either. So glad we went!



Our final day came - we checked out of our gorgeous hotel and headed back into the centre. We stopped for breakfast at a place called Flanagans - a friend had recommended this to us but we didn't think great things to it. After this, we braved the cold weather and took a last minute sight-seeing tour on one of Dublin's open-topped buses before having to go to the airport. Despite the cold, I really enjoyed this tour. It allowed you to see parts of Dublin that you wouldn't have seen otherwise, going out of the city centre and learning about their history, as well as a few famous authors, seeing the Prime Ministers house, the famous Guinness Factory etc. I really enjoyed it!




Although we had a bad start to the trip, it was nice to have a slow-paced chill out break. Usually our breaks are always so fast paced and tiring, so it made a change to not feel under pressure to get everything done within a few days.

We would definitely revisit Dublin again, but in the warmer months! It had such a nice atmosphere to it and the Irish are lovely friendly people!
 
What did you do over New Year?
Have you been to Dublin before?
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