Friday, 31 August 2018

5 Days In Manchester - The Trafford Centre, Beespotting & Feeling Autumnal

It's been a long time since I last posted about a trip to Manchester on my blog. If you've been here from the beginning I'm sure you'll have read posts documenting our Christmas Market visits and the trip where we got engaged, but since then we haven't actually been for years. It was somewhere we went every November once all the festivities had began but as my love for London has just grown and grown, that's ended up becoming our annual Christmas trip instead. So when George mentioned he would need to be there for work, a week in August, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to head back and spend some quality time together. Whilst we obviously didn't get all day everyday together, the time we did get to explore one of our favourite places, go for nice meals and shop (the most important thing of course😉) was so lovely and very much needed, and when George was working, it meant I had plenty of time to pretty much do as I pleased so I thought it would be nice to share that trip here and some of the photos I managed to take.
Manchester bee outside Piccadilly station
We arrived on a Sunday early afternoon so it meant we had the full day together which was such a perfect way to start. After checking in at our hotel which was the Macdonald Manchester just next to Piccadilly station (not brilliant, but not awful, great location though and view) we headed to the Arndale Centre. I spent quite a bit of my time there throughout the week as it's so easy to get to and such an easy way to kill some time. After a spot of lunch, we did a little bit of shopping, you have no idea how happy I was to see a Homesense again, I always love visiting towards the end of the year as their Autumn and Christmas stuff is just the best. They've already started adding in pumpkins and Halloween bits so if you have one near you, now's the time to get shopping! Also the Lindt shop in the Arndale is the absolute best. We visited a few times during the week actually but can you ever have too much Lindt?
Macdonald Manchester hotel
Homesense pumpkins
Lindt chocolate
I'm not going to go through each day as most were the same, I tended to pop out for lunch, usually treated myself to a few bits (face masks galore) and then I'd aim to get some blogging done back at the hotel before George and I got the evening to spend together. As I've mentioned in a few posts recently, it can be easy to compare yourself to others and not feel good enough and I've definitely had phases like that over the last few months so I really wanted to take this week away to have a proper break from actually posting. I had a few collaborations go up that were already scheduled but apart from that I really took some time out and whilst I was still planning future posts and writing a few up, being somewhere else and not putting pressure on myself to post every single day was such a help. I really did feel so much better about my blog by the end of the week and I had so many ideas for the future. Anyway some evenings we chilled in the hotel, others we would go out for a meal and one night we also went the The Trafford Centre which was so much fun. My feet were absolutely not prepared for it, you forget just how big it is but it's also absolutely beautiful and it was so nice to be back.
The trafford centre
The trafford centre
The trafford centre
Selfridges cupcakes
Wetherspoons Cookie Dough Dessert
One thing I really loved about our week in Manchester was all of the bees we managed to find! I mean, there were definitely more that we didn't get chance to see but they are all so stunning. There are such a range dotted around the city, from more colourful ones to white to even rose gold and I always loved seeing a new one we'd not spotted before.
Manchester bees
As Homesense made me feel all autumnal at the start of the week, I had to pick up a few candles and I couldn't wait to talk about them. I actually spotted these first two in TK Maxx who at the time had a much better range of seasonal candles, I couldn't leave with just one. They're only mini and were £2.99 each which isn't too bad at all! They both smell absolutely beautiful and I can't wait to light them this Autumn. I actually had a few that had finished in the living room so I did genuinely have a place for both of these which makes a change. Later on in the week I had one final look in Homesense though and ended up getting one of their bigger candles. In just a few days they'd already added more autumnal bits and the Oak and Bergamot candle, not only smells wonderful but also looks gorgeous. I've decided to put this in our newly redecorated bathroom and I think it looks perfect.
TK Maxx candles - Sweater Weather and Mountains
Homesense DW Home Oak and Bergamot Candle
After a pretty busy week, we headed home on Friday evening, both absolutely shattered. Once we knew about this trip, we'd planned everything we would do for ages but as with anything you look forward to, it just flew by! I was definitely happy to see my own bed though and properly relax by the time we got back.
Starbucks
I'm not sure when we'll next be back but I'm hoping for a little Christmas visit I think. I have such happy memories of the Christmas markets there and it's been a while so hopefully we'll get a day there later on this year. 

Do you have any ideas of what to do in Manchester next time? Have you ever visited their Christmas markets?

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Thursday, 30 August 2018

How to make the most out of a small bathroom - my experience and tips*

When George and I first moved into our flat, the bathroom was the one room we were unsure about. At the time we just needed our own space so we said yes to the flat and we just thought well we can redecorate the bathroom once we're settled...4 years on we have only just got round to it! As our last month has been spent re-decorating, I thought I'd share some of my tips for getting the best out of your bathroom and how you can make it a room perfect for those cosy pamper nights this Autumn.
Bath board, candle, shower gel

Check if anything needs replacing

Before making a start on painting, we looked at the bigger picture with the bathroom - what other things we wanted to change or could do with replacing. We didn't want to go straight in with painting and then realise, actually what about this, this and this. This way we could come up with a plan of which order to do things in and find replacements ready to go in afterwards. Sometimes you don't even realise until it comes to re-decorating major things that need changing, for example with Autumn and Winter coming up, no one wants a weak, cold shower. One thing that can help with this is installing a twin impeller shower pump which ensures you get the shower you deserve every time, especially in the colder months.

Deep clean 

If you don't want to go ahead with fully redecorating the room, sometimes a deep clean can have a massive impact. A decent scrub, dust and polish of everything in the bathroom from the grout in the floor tiles to the windows can leave the room looking brand new and I personally find a clean like this really makes it feel so much bigger and brighter.

Paint the room a different colour

I've mentioned briefly before that the bathroom was kind of a luminous green which is certainly not a colour we would have chosen so it was always something we planned to change. We decided to go for a deep purple and I absolutely love it. As it's quite a small bathroom, both of us trying to paint in the middle of a heatwave was testing to say the least but now it's finished I'm thrilled with the finished look. I actually don't hate it when I walk into the room anymore and I just wish we'd done it sooner. Though we haven't made loads of changes, just changing the colour of the room and adding in some accessories to match has really made it our own. The great thing with painting is that you can change it every few years if you get bored and that way it always stays fresh and exciting.

Storage solutions

When you have a small bathroom, room for things like beauty products, towels etc, is limited so it's important to find storage that can hold everything but not take up too much precious space. In our bathroom we already had a mirrored cabinet on the wall from the start which holds skincare but we still had endless bottles of shower gel and hair products. We picked up an under the sink cabinet and this has saved us on so much space. It tucks under the sink perfectly so it's not in the way at all and it's such a decent size for all of our products. I just then take a few out that I want to use at the time meaning not everything is cluttered around the bathroom. Aswell as this I also have a little basket next to the bath that I use for products like bath bombs, this way they're not just hanging around.

Add in new accessories

One of my favourite things about re-decorating a room is getting to buy lots of new accessories! I've actually been pretty restricted with the bathroom so far but I've added in a few bits over the last few weeks. Candles are a must for me and one I picked up from Homesense last week goes perfectly. I also have things like small vases with fake flowers in which are really simple but add a lovely touch to the room and finally a bath board for my products and magazines is perfect for when I'm having a pamper night.
Plum bathroom
Products including Herbal Essence Conditioner, Bilou Shower Foams and Imperial Leather shower gel
Homesense DW Home Candle
If you also have a small bathroom, I'd love to know what you've done to try and maximise the space. We'd definitely still love something bigger one day but for now I think we've done well with what we have and as I said, just adding in a different colour has made the world of difference!

*This post is in collaboration with Pump Sales Direct

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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Nutella Victoria Sponge Recipe

So this is a cake I never actually intended to make. A few weeks ago we had family round for the weekend so as I always do, I planned to bake and this time I was thinking my Victoria Sponge would be a good idea. Everything was going fine, the cakes were cooling, the fresh cream was whipped, and then it turns out the jam we had in was no good. I have no idea how as I'd only used it recently but cue a panic from me because everything else was ready to go except the main filling. Luckily I had a bit of a genius idea, or so I think anyway, chocolate spread! I mean, adding chocolate spread to anything only makes it even better? So Nutella to the rescue and the cake turned out absolutely delicious! Whilst it is obviously very similar to a normal Victoria sponge, I thought I'd share the recipe anyway if you want to try it.
Nutella Victoria Sponge Cake with cream
Ingredients: cake
225g butter
225g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp of vanilla essence
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp of milk

Ingredients: filling
2 tbsp Nutella or any chocolate spread
150g double cream

Method:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees and grease and line 2 cake tins
2. In a mixing bowl, add in your butter and sugar and cream together until soft
3. Next add in your 4 eggs, one at a time, beating after each one and then finally add in the extra egg yolk and vanilla essence
4. When those are all mixed in well, sift in your baking powder and flour. Keep mixing until everything is combined and you can then add in 1 tbsp of milk to loosen it up a little
5. Pour evenly into the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean, leave to cool on a wire rack
6. When the cakes are cool, pour 150g of double cream into a clean bowl and whisk with an electric whisk for about 2 minutes. You can then spread evenly over one of the cakes
7. Add 2 tbsp of chocolate spread to the other cake, spread well and then sandwich the two cakes together
8. Finally dust the cake with a generous layer of icing sugar and slice!
Plain Victoria sponge with nutella and whipped double cream
Victoria Sponge cake with double cream and nutella
To say this wasn't the cake I planned on making, I'm actually really glad this is what we ended up with. Everybody seemed to enjoy it so it'll definitely be one I make again!

Have you done much baking recently?


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Tuesday, 28 August 2018

5 Things I Would Like To Do Next Time In Paris

Sometimes when I think back to our honeymoon in Paris it feels like only two minutes ago, and other times it feels like years ago already. I posted a travel guide recently with some of my tips if you're planning a visit in the future and I mentioned in that post that we're already thinking about going back again one day and over the last few weeks I've found myself thinking about it more and more and what I'd like to do next time. Whilst 3 nights/4 days was the perfect amount of time for us and we did see a lot of the sights, now we're back I've really realised how much we missed too. I'd love to go back again for another 3 nights or so in the future so these are some of the things on my list for next time!
5 Things I Would Like To Do Next Time In Paris including Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Disneyland, Montmartre and The Louvre

Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower

I went back and forth over whether this was something we should do on our honeymoon, some days I was all for it and then others I felt a little differently, also seeing it up close makes you realise just how high up it is and whilst I'm not usually fussy with heights, I did worry if went up there, I'd hate it. Looking back now I'm sure it would have been fine and if we do go back this is definitely at the top of my list. It's a once in a lifetime thing for most people isn't it and I think it's something we've got to experience at some point.
Eiffel Tower

Go to the top of the Arc De Triomphe

Talking of heights I'd also love to go to the top of the Arc De Triomphe. We walked past and admired this every day as it wasn't far from our hotel but it wasn't until the last day or so that I thought, actually what a cool experience it would be to go to the top. I've seen online the views you get from the top as it really does cover so much of Paris and I think that moment and those photos would be so special.
Arc De Triomphe

Visit the Louvre museum

It was incredible to see the Louvre up close and spend some time taking in the amazing piece that it is but last time we didn't find time to actually go in the museum and see paintings like the Mona Lisa. I'd heard from a few people it's definitely worth doing but we had so many places we wanted to see that it just wasn't a priority. In the future I'd love to spend more time there and actually go into the museum and see these masterpieces in real life!
The Louvre Museum

Spend more time in Montmartre

We only had around an hour in Montmartre when we did a different route on the bus tour but just that short amount of time really showed me that there is so much to see in that area of Paris and it had a really different vibe to other places we'd been. A lot of places in Paris as you'd imagine are packed full of people, and whilst it was definitely still busy, in general it seemed a little more chilled out and everything was just beautiful. Next time I'd love to see the Sacre-Coeur up close and also the sinking house!
Montmartre
Source

Visit Disneyland Paris

I've never been to Disneyland Paris or Disneyworld Florida and I think I kind of need to visit one of them at some point don't I? It seems quite easy to get to Disneyland Paris so I'd love to take a full day out next time to visit. I want to experience that feeling of walking in for the first time and seeing the castle, meeting the characters, and just being in the most magical place in the world.
Disneyland Paris
Source
The more I think about Paris, the more I realise how amazing it was we got to go at all. We'd waited such a long time to go abroad together and for our first proper trip away to be for our honeymoon, and in Paris of all places, it was just so special and somewhere I'll always remember. Whilst I don't think we'll be heading back any time soon, as nice as that would be, I think at some point we'll definitely consider it to do all of the things we didn't get time for last time.

Have you been to Paris or have any recommendations of what to do next time?

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Monday, 27 August 2018

Bomb Cosmetics Splash Bath Blaster Review

I have meant to put this post up so many times over the last month or so! I picked up this Bomb Cosmetics bath bomb from The Yorkshire Soap Company when we were in York in April and whilst I did use it about a month later, I've had so many other posts that ended up going live before this one but it's finally here. As I soon as I used this bath bomb, I knew it would be a great one to review so I was always going to get this posted eventually.
Bomb Cosmetics Splash Bath Blaster
First of all The Yorkshire Soap Company stores are legit the dreamiest shops ever! I love that they stock Bomb Cosmetics as they're so affordable and do such a range of pretty products. I love bright bath bombs like this so as soon as I spotted Splash, I knew it would be perfect for me. They always make the water look so pretty and if I'm going to spend money on a bath bomb, I want it to be worth it and I find ones like this usually are. What I also loved about it before I even used it was the scent, I could smell it through the packaging when I picked it up in the shop and I had to have it. It contains eucalyptus oil meaning it had a very fresh scent and it actually reminded me a lot of mens aftershave, which I absolutely loved, is that weird? It was such a strong scent and definitely the type of bath bomb I'd usually reach for, I'd buy it again just for the smell of it alone. It did also really impress me though once I put it into the bath. It didn't fizzle out straight away which I was happy about as I hate it when they disappear within seconds and then it turned the water into a beautiful turquoise colour. It wasn't a bath bomb that had loads of pretty patterns emerging from it like the latest one I tried from Lush, April Showers, but the colour was stunning and the brightness of it just seemed to intensify as it bubbled away.
Bomb Cosmetics Splash Bath Blaster in the water
I didn't find it particularly did much to my skin in terms of softness like some other bath bombs do but I wasn't disappointed by that. Some bath bombs are more about the colour and some are more known for their skin benefits and this was the former. I haven't actually been able to find this on the website for a while but I hope it comes back as it's definitely one of the best I've ever used. I loved everything about it and for £3 you can't go wrong!

Have you tried any bath bombs from Bomb Cosmetics?

Similar Post - Pink Elephants and Lemonade Bath Blaster Review

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Friday, 24 August 2018

How I'm Financially Planning For Our Future*

Whilst I may only be 23, I'm already starting to think about planning financially for the future. George and I love taking the time now to go on holiday or have nice days out, but for us to carry on like that aswell as hopefully being able to own a home of our own one day, it's going to require a lot of saving. As we've put a few things in place recently to help us be prepared for the future, I thought I'd share them and maybe they might give you a few ideas too if you're in the same situation.
How I'm Financially Planning For Our Future - phone, tablet flatlay

Budget every week

Setting time aside each week to budget has helped massively when it comes to having money spare each month. Before we did this we'd go a little crazy the week after payday and then towards the end of the month have no idea why we had nothing leftover to put away. Now each month we'll write down what's coming in on payday and what needs accounting for. We can then set money aside which is specifically for us to enjoy and also we can see what's spare to be put into a savings account. After this we then try to keep on top of it each week to check we're not overspending. I honestly don't know how we'd save for anything if we didn't do this so it's something I definitely plan on sticking with in the future.

Save money each month 

The good thing with budgeting is that we can clearly see how much money is free to go into a savings account. Recently any spare money has been put aside for future trips we have planned, or towards a car but now we're definitely starting to think about saving for our future too. Whilst we won't be in the position to buy a house anytime soon, it's something we would love one day so for that to happen, we need to get started on that deposit! We don't save massive amounts as I think life is for living so it's just finding that balance. Making sure money is going away and building up but also being comfortable on what's left and enjoying it.

Pensions 

When you're young it's easy to think you don't need to worry about your pension anytime soon but it's definitely something to be considered. George and I have thought many times about things we would like to do in the future, when we have children and they then leave home, and for us to be comfortable doing those things, we need to have a good pension. Your pension is what you rely on once you finish work so having a good one to pay into now whilst young is definitely something to look into.

Have a plan 

I am an avid planner, I like everything in order and that applies to money too. When we know our amount to spend on us for the month, we plan days out, weekends away and more. By thinking about those things, we can work out a rough amount we'll spend too, again keeping us on track with our budget for the month and helping ensure we don't go overboard. It might sound like we're quite strict about it but we're really not, some months we're definitely a little too relaxed with money but putting plans in place really does help. By doing all of these things at the moment to save money, I think we're really going to be able to enjoy ourselves later on in life, aswell as now. We already have ideas of places we would like to travel to with our hard earned money and some of the stories I've seen on the SunLife website recently, prove that you can have fun and broaden your horizons at any age so that only inspires me to keep going the way we are. 

Do you have any other tips for saving for the future?

*This post is in collaboration with SunLife

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Thursday, 23 August 2018

Should I Go Vegan?*

I want to start this post by saying I'm definitely not a vegan currently but it is genuinely something I've considered a few times over the last year or so. The vegan lifestyle is everywhere you look right now, so it's impossible to not think about it. I also follow some amazing vegan bloggers who I really admire and every time I see a new post from them about their journey, I feel so inspired to try it for myself. Though I do feel quite well informed when it comes to being vegan, there are still things I'm not 100% sure about so I was thrilled when HealthLabs got in touch and asked if I'd like to collaborate and talk about my feelings around it and if it would ever be something I could do.
Should I Go Vegan?*

Who are HealthLabs?

HealthLabs are a private wellness company that offer a variety of health tests for people based in the US. Whilst there are a number to choose from, the topic of today's post is the vegan test. The aim of these tests is to help detect any deficiencies of some of the most common nutrients and vitamins in our body. This is great for vegans so they can see if they're lacking in anything due to their diet and if so they can go onto get advice on how to fix this and lead an even healthier lifestyle. These tests are also great for people like me who might be considering going vegan but aren't sure if it's for them or not. It really is a brilliant idea for anyone wanting to know how to live a healthier lifestyle and maintain a better diet full of only things that are going to be beneficial. At the moment they're only available in the US but this means for any of you lucky enough to live there, you have over 4500 certified locations to choose from and the tests themselves only take around 10 minutes so it's a really quick and easy process. Another bonus is that you can get your results in 1-3 days which is an incredibly fast turnaround. 

The Vegan Tests

There are a range of vegan tests that you can choose from but the one I'm drawn to is the basic 'Should I Be Vegan?' test. This specific test will look out for 18 meat and dairy products meaning if your body has been reacting to something and causing you to feel unwell but you can't pickpoint what it is, this test will figure it out for you. Maybe you're allergic to an animal-derived product but had no idea? I love that you can basically get confirmation of whether being vegan will genuinely benefit you, and if that's the case, why would you not make the change? Price wise the vegan tests start start at $149 which might seem expensive but compared to a lot of other companies, is actually incredibly affordable for what it is. For an even bigger discount though you can use my code for 25% off - FOODANDOTHERLOVES25.

My final thoughts

The vegan lifestyle has been spoken about countless times due to it's amazing health benefits for both physical and mental health and so this is the thing that has always gravitated me towards it. Whilst I try to eat well and my diet is a millions miles better than it was a few years ago, knowing just how much my health could improve even more by adopting a vegan diet, only makes me even more keen to at least give it a try. Over the last few months I've been making a real conscious effort anyway to cut down on the amount of meat I eat and because being vegan has become so popular, it means exciting alternatives are becoming more and more available so I do feel it's definitely something I could do over time. I think the vegan tests available from HealthLabs are incredibly useful and really supply you with plenty of information and advice on whether it's something that is genuinely right for you or not. I think even if these tests only encourage people to think about becoming vegan or just make small changes, then they're worth it!

I'd love to know if you're vegan and how you've found the change? or is it something you're considering too like me?

*This post is in collaboration with Healthlabs

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My Tips For Moving House Smoothly*

Whilst George and I aren't planning on moving house for another year or two yet, I do sometimes think about what our next home will be like and just how we'll manage to get all of the things we've accumulated in our nearly 4 years in this flat, to another place. It's no secret that moving house is stressful and last time it was a real eye-opener but there are definitely things you can do to ease that stress. Here are my tips for ensuring that you get into your new home as smoothly as possible, all of which I'll be ensuring we properly take on board next time.
Kitchen accessories, prints, bathroom

Do a massive clear out 

Before anything else when you know you're going to be moving, do a huge clear out! Whenever you've lived somewhere for a while, you accumulate so much stuff, a lot of it you probably don't need or even realise you had so if it's no use, get rid. When it came to moving last time we went through every single thing and we were ruthless. A new home is a fresh start so you don't want to be clogging it up straight away.

Start packing asap 

After a clear out, I think it's vital you get packing straight away. No leaving it until the last minute and then panicking it won't all be done in time! Just like with holidays, I get started on packing weeks in advance and that means when it gets closer to the time, everything is pretty much done already and there's no need for any stress. If you have things you know you won't wear before the move, or things you won't use, get them in a box and out of the way. This also goes for seasonal bits too. When it comes to moving day and everything is already done, you'll be so thankful you started early.

Clean your new house before you move in 

This is something I really wish we had done last time but we just didn't have the chance. I've now learnt from that mistake and will definitely be ensuring we spend time in our next home before properly moving in. If renting, the landlord/estate agents will have a responsibility to ensure your new home is clean but as we learnt last time their version of clean isn't always like yours. We walked in to quite clearly unhoovered carpets, marks on the walls and a general feel it had not been touched in weeks and whilst yes we could do all of these things ourselves, having to do it on the day we were unloading all of the boxes in, when we'd been promised things, made for a lot of stress. Our flat is lovely and I've probably made it sound worse than it was, but on that first day it just wasn't as tidy/clean as we'd expected or maybe just not to our standards, but I definitely think from now on having a day in the new home to deep clean everything and get it ready will be so helpful.

Consider if you need help/removal company

Moving house is serious hard work so it's important you consider if it's really something you can do with little help or if you need to hire a removal company. It's important to think about this early on as if you do need help taking your belongings from one place to another, you'll have to do your research, compare prices, check availability and get something booked in. Last time we moved we had help from family but it was still really hard work and next time I just don't see how we could do it without hiring someone. Hiring a removal company will mean they can be there to load and unload the van, take care of any big items of furniture and get you moved in far quicker than you might be able to otherwise.

Take time off 

Obviously this might not be something everyone can do for lots of reasons but if there is a chance of you getting time off work so you can move, do it! Last time George only managed to get one day off around the time of the move which meant it was all done at once (part of the reason we couldn't get in to clean) and then the next day I was in this new place alone trying to make it a home. This meant it took far longer to get each room sorted and how we wanted and that meant it took much longer to settle in. Whilst nothing could be done about getting more time off work, because I had to do a lot of it by myself that first week, I really struggled to get comfortable with the place and it took months and months for me to finally feel settled and like it was home. I think if you can get a few days to take your time moving in, decorating each room and enjoying your time there, it will make a world of difference.

Plan each room before you move 

It's likely when you choose your new home you'll have ideas for each room but I think it's really important to come up with a rough plan once you know your move is confirmed. This way you can really start getting excited and prepared. You may need to figure out what furniture can be taken with you, what needs packing or what needs buying to suit this new place, you just don't want to get there and not have a clue how you want it to be, as like I just mentioned, this only adds time to getting settled. We already have a few ideas in mind for the next time we move, we want a bigger kitchen, a garden, I think we're set on the colour scheme we'll go for the bedroom and we've even thought about spare rooms in case we are lucky enough to grow our family. I've always wanted a big family so I've thought many times about what their rooms would be like when we get a bigger place and with the help of stores like Children's bed shop, it will be easy to bring those ideas to life.

As moving house can be such hard work, it's not something I'm keen to do often which is part of the reason we're holding off at the moment, but hopefully with these tips it will make life a bit easier when we do finally take that step. I also hope these are helpful for you too if you're planning a move any time soon.

Do you have any other ideas to help move as smoothly as possible?

*This post is in collaboration with Children's Bed Shop

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4 Hobbies I'd Like To Take Up In The Future*

I've never been one to have loads of different hobbies. Even when I was younger I had phases with things like dancing but there was never anything I really truly loved and stuck with, and it wasn't until I discovered blogging that I finally had a hobby I could see myself doing forever. I've now self-employed with this blog I started years ago so I don't think it technically counts anymore so recently I've been thinking about a few things I'd like to take up in the future. Let me know if you have experience with any of these!
Baking classes, horse riding, a new language and photography

Baking Classes

Aside from blogging, baking has always been a hobby of mine and I can't see myself ever stopping. I get so much enjoyment out of baking for other people and creating things I've never made before. It's one of those things I can do whenever I'm stressed and it always chills me out. Because I already love it so much and do think I've got better over the years, I'd love to take up some actual baking classes and only improve where I can. My baking is definitely more basic and as I've mentioned in posts before it's a dream of mine to at least apply for GBBO one day and for that I do think I need to get some experience in a place other than my own kitchen! It seems like there are quite a few different classes nearby me which help with an array of different things so it's definitely something I'm thinking about.

Photography

Something I've learnt more and more about because of blogging is photography. Whilst I don't think my photos are the best by any means and some days I do find it incredibly stressful trying to get that perfect flatlay, there is something so satisfying about it and seeing that finished photo at the end. I'd love to only find out more about how to take different photos and get all the editing tips I can get! I think it would really help with taking my blog a little further too.

Horse riding 

This one is definitely a little bit more out there to the other hobbies I've already mentioned but it's something I've seen people speak so positively about! I love the sense of adventure and freedom horse riding can bring you and being closer to nature which itself provides such a feeling of escapism. I love the thought of owning a big house one day with my own stables and places like this Online horse feed suppliers give you so much advice on how to ensure you care for your horses properly and so much more. There are also loads of health benefits to horse riding too, weight loss, toning and reducing stress just to name a few so all round it definitely seems like one to consider.

Learn a language 

Over the last few years I've tried to take up learning a new language but I've never got that far with it. I've mentioned briefly before that I was actually born in Germany and whilst I only lived there for a short amount of time, I would absolutely love to go back in future with George and be able to speak at least a little bit of the language! We both started a while ago and George definitely got further with it than me but I'd love to put my all into learning it in the future. I think having the ability to speak a different language is so incredibly useful for lots of different reasons and it's something I've always been keen to do.

Have you taken up any of these hobbies?

*This post is in collaboration with Spillers

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Friday, 17 August 2018

Preparing for our first car*

At 23, I'm really at that point now where having a car is becoming a necessity. For quite a long time I've been okay with my previous journey with learning to drive (long story short, I did a lot of lessons but the theory side I struggled with so stopped) but as you get older, have more responsibility and just generally want to go further afield, there's only so far public transport can take you. With a plan in place for George and I to have our first car hopefully within the first half of 2019, I've been doing lots of research into all of the things we need to consider and think about when taking this step so I hope if you're in the same position, this post is helpful.
Preparing for our first car*

Choosing our first car

Used cars are cheaper than new - As much as I'd love a brand new mini cooper for our first car, it isn't going to happen. It works out far better value for us to buy a used car as it reduces the overall expense, insurance premiums are lower and repairs should there be any required, will cost less. With used cars though it's important you get it checked over with an MOT for any potential safety issues before getting out on the road. As tempting as it can be to pick a nice looking car, that's really not the most important factor and we've seen some great ones that you wouldn't even know have been used before.

Expenses - It's important before buying your first car that you are 100% sure you can afford it. For a long time we've been very much about putting any extra money aside for holidays and weekend breaks or just using it for other things and money for a car just wasn't a priority, or there wasn't enough spare for it to be something worth doing yet. It's only now we're in a better position we find we can do both and it's the time for us to really make a start on driving and getting that car. Unless you have a guaranteed amount coming in each month that you know you can set aside for the expenses, it's really worth waiting it out. There is so much more you need to pay for than you might first realise.

Insurance - When choosing what company to go with for car insurance, it can be an absolute minefield! I've looked quite a few times and each time there's been a different outcome. You can check for yourself online with the help of insurance calculators. The main thing to look for when pricing it up is fully-comprehensive cover. Whilst third party cover and third party fire and theft cover are also available, if you were involved in an accident, you'd have to pay for the repairs to your own car and the insurance would only cover any damage to other people involved. Fully comprehensive cover looks after your car and actually works out the cheapest compared to others.

Safety tips

MOT Testing - With a used car it's important to get an MOT so it can be checked over for any potential safety issues before getting out on the road. An MOT test will check that you car meets the road safety and environmental standards and you need to do this by either the third anniversary of the car's registration or the anniversary of it's last MOT, if it's over 3 years old. 

Check your tyres and exhaust - Tyres are the only part of the car that actually comes into contact with the road so it's vital to keep them in good order so you and your family are safe on your travels. A few things I'm already aware of are checking tyre pressure regularly, checking the actual tread of the tyres and also something else to consider is the exhaust. For a lot of people this may be something they don't really think about but it's actually an integral part of the car's engine and the main role of it is to carry out the waste gasses to reduce any pressure building up and creating issues. Choked exhausts can cause a lot of problems, but can easily be resolved by Ossett Tyre House.

Car brakes - Aswell as your tyres and exhaust, it's incredibly important that you check your brake pads occasionally. Wear and tear can occur which can prevent your car from a quick halt so it's important to look out for a few warning signs. Ensure you listen to your brakes as you come to a stop, most brakes will indicate when the brake pads have started to wear thin by letting out a loud, high-pitched sound. You should also feel your brakes as you stop, if you're pushing the brake down to the floor but it doesn't come to an immediate stop, this is another indicator, and if you feel the brake pedals are pulsating or vibrating this can mean your rotors are warped. All of these things can be checked by a professional if you're not sure, another reason why MOT's are so vital as I mentioned earlier.

Prepare for all weather conditions - In the UK we're used to the weather being all over the place but it's important to be aware of how to drive safely in any condition that could arise. In snow and ice, you need to drive a lot slower as your stopping distance becomes significantly longer. This also applies to heavy rain. If you see huge water puddles, slow right down otherwise your vehicle can start to hydroplane which means your tyres can't hand the amount of water it's encountered. Having your headlights on so other drivers can see you at all times too is important. Finally, whilst driving when it's sunny isn't usually a hazard, it can affect your visibility at times. Be cautious of other drivers as they may not be able to see you as clearly due to the sun, avoid any sudden stops and make sure to stop slowly and in a timely manner so drivers behind you have plenty of time to react.

Have you got any tips on preparing for your first car?

I just wanted to quickly add that I'm going to be taking a bit of time off from my blog now as we're away next week. I've got two scheduled collaborations but aside from that I'm going to spend my week chilling out and I can't wait. I've got lots of posts planned for when I'm back so I'm already excited to get back to it!

*This post is in collaboration with Ossett Tyre House

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Thursday, 16 August 2018

My Favourite Blog Posts #3

With blogging I find it can be so up and down sometimes. As I mentioned in my blogging slump blog post, it can be so easy now to compare yourself to others and feel like you're not good enough but YOU ARE. We all are and we all bring something different to blogging. Whilst I do struggle sometimes and put myself down either about how my blog looks, my posts or my social media (which is completely normal) I do also have times where I am so incredibly proud of what I've achieved and can't believe blogging was something I once knew nothing about. I still stand by what I've said many times that starting a blog is the best thing I've ever done and every so often I do like to have a read back through some of my posts. I've done two posts like this where I've gone through and picked some of my favourite posts from the previous year and I thought it was about time for another. So here are 8 posts I'm really proud since 2017, I'll leave links to them all in you want to give any of them a read.
My favourite blog posts including musical theatre, christmas adverts, tips for improving DA, London, York and getting married

We Got Married 

This had to be at the top of this list. I still remember posting about being engaged after such a special weekend so to finally be able to say we were married after what felt like forever of saving and planning before just making the jump, was amazing. It was a pretty short blog post but I love reading it back as I know just how happy and excited I was.

Planning a Small Wedding 

Following on from the wedding post, not too long after I posted my tips for planning a small wedding. I'd actually love to do more wedding related posts as they make me so happy and this one seemed to be really helpful for a few people. When planning a wedding as small as ours (literally George and I and two witnesses) it can be hard to find out much information as lots do go for the traditional wedding so I hope if you want a small wedding too, you find that post useful. I also really love reading it back too just because we really did do it our own way and it was exactly like we'd hoped.

Why I Love Musical Theatre and Why I'm No Longer Embarrassed by it 

Since 2016 I'd been posting a few theatre posts here and there, usually just when I'd been to see a show or something similar but this year as my love for all things musical theatre grew, I just wanted to share that on my blog. After really struggling with blogging for a while and not knowing what to talk about anymore, I decided I just needed to stop worrying so much about what other people thought and just post about what I truly love and musical theatre is one of those things. This post about why I no longer feel embarrassed about it anymore got such a great response and since then I've only felt even more compelled to talk about musicals and I've thoroughly enjoyed every post I've put out about it since. Seeing my first ever West End show, Wicked a few years ago just sparked something in me I never knew was there and now I can't imagine being without it.

Five Years From Now Book Review

 I've absolutely adored reading more this year, after such a long time not even considering picking up a book. At the moment I love nothing more than getting cosy in bed or on the sofa with a nice drink and a good book, it's such an escape and really chills me out. As I've been reading more, I've ventured into book reviews on my blog and like with musical theatre, it's something I'm so glad I've started talking about more. Out of all of the book reviews I've done recently, the one that stands out to me is Five Years From Now. I've lost count of the amount of times I've spoken about this since I finished it but it was outstanding. I was gripped from the beginning and heartbroken by the end of it and I genuinely still think about it now months later! I think you can tell in my review just how much I loved it, or I hope so anyway because I genuinely couldn't recommend it enough. The author herself has also read the review and tweeted me which made my week!

2 Nights in York

 I love love love a weekend break. Just a few days every so often for George and I to get away and relax is always something nice to look forward to and York was a place I'd dreamed about for so long. After getting married we thought instead of doing a big honeymoon, why not do a few little breaks instead? So we started with 2 nights in York, then the next month we had 3 nights in Paris and then finally a week later, a night in London to see a show. I love that we did it like this and got to celebrate in a few different places, each one I adored for different reasons. York was such a breathtakingly beautiful place and I've been so keen to go back since. Though we saw pretty much everything in those few days, I wish we'd had more time there, it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

A Christmas Trip To London 

How could I talk about my favourite blog posts and not include one from London? As long as we keep going to London, I'll keep talking about it in one of these because it really is my favourite place in the entire world. Though we've been in 2018 too, the trip towards the end of 2017 is one I look back on so fondly. It was a very spontaneous trip as George had a last minute work trip and it just worked out that I could go with him too, and as I'd been feeling quite low at the time, it was perfect. Though it was a work trip for George we really made the most of it, from having the full day on the Sunday to visit our favourite places and then see Winter Wonderland for the first time which was amazing, to having the full day on the Monday to myself before heading home, it was just lovely. I'm so comfortable in London that I really don't struggle at all by myself, in fact you'd think with anxiety it might be the opposite but it's like home to me and I had the most wonderful day by myself walking around London Christmas shopping and just sitting taking in the views. I think about it a lot actually and just remembering how happy I felt at the time and how at home I was, just makes me smile.

The Christmas Advert Hype 

I loved this idea for a post! Every year I get so excited for the Christmas adverts to start and last year I decided to put some of my favourites into a post. It definitely didn't do as well as I hoped it would but I don't even care, I love it and I'm so glad I wrote it. I remember so clearly the first John Lewis Christmas advert George and I ever saw together (it was the snowmen) and since then it's been something I look forward too as soon as Autumn hits, there's just something really special about it.

My Tips For Improving DA

 I've posted quite a few blogging tips posts recently but one I'm really proud of is one all about DA. The reason I'm so happy with it is because just over a year ago I genuinely had no idea what DA was let alone know how to begin growing it but after lots of hard work, it started rising and improving as time went on and I felt like for once I had something I could help others with! My tips weren't groundbreaking, as with all of my tips posts, it's quite basic but those are what I personally need so I hope if you're the same and can't be doing with anything complicated, it helped.

I think it's so important every once in a while to go back through your blog and re-read some of your old posts. As hard as we might be on ourselves sometimes, blogging is such an incredible thing and we should all be so proud of what we create.

Do you often go back through your blog?

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Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Food I Have Been Loving This Week #29

All I've thought about over the last few weeks is food, I have no idea what's wrong with me but so many amazing meals have been whirling around my head, I'm hoping my love for cooking is starting to come back as for a long time it disappeared and I couldn't think of anything much worse than trying to get creative with different meals. Because I've not had loads of inspiration recently these posts have definitely become a bit more few and far between but I do still love writing them so they won't be going away completely.
Food I Have Been Loving This Week including Millies Cookies, M&S Bakery, Chilli cheese nachos, pulled beef and Red Pop
Spanish potatoes - Anything with potatoes is a winner for me so when I saw a recipe for a Spanish twist on classic new potatoes, I had to give it a try. In Summer I like to try and make our meals a bit more exciting and this was a side I thought would be so nice with tapas bits one night. It's such a simple recipe, just cook the new potatoes as normal, then in a frying pan soften red onion and pepper, add in some chorizo and seasoning (I used chilli powder, garlic, chipotle chilli flakes) a few cherry tomatoes, and then add in the potatoes and give everything a good stir with a glug of olive oil. They were delicious and I think they'll be something we have quite a lot during summer.

Millies cookies - For some reason recently I've been thinking so much about Millies Cookies! A lot of the time if I'm in the mood for something baked, I usually like brownies or a muffin but I recently had a Millies Cookies and I've just wanted loads since. They are the best cookies you'll find, so soft and creamy and the chocolate is just heaven.

M&S Cinnamon Swirls - Sticking with baked things, something else I've loved is M&S cinnamon swirls. I'm not sure if they're new or not, but we seem to have only just got them in the bakery section and they are just amazing, they're almost a mixture of a flaky cinnamon swirl and a doughnut which might sound strange but the pastry is definitely different to others you might find. They're almost a bit of a substitution for the beloved cinnamon swirl doughnuts we've tried in Whole Foods during our trips to London which are genuinely one of the best things I've ever eaten.

Homemade chilli cheese nachos - I posted a recipe for this a while ago and whilst we don't make it often, whenever we do it's always insane. Recently I've been making my slow cooker chilli quite a bit, it's just so simple so when I planned it yet again a few weeks ago I thought for a change I'd stick it on top of some nachos and make a bit of a feast. I think it was probably the best it's ever been when we've made it so I'm already planning it again!

Red pop - OMG finally! I have found my favourite ever ever ever drink. I first tried this years ago when there was an american shop in our city centre, it then closed and it was only available online, it then disappeared from there too so I didn't think I'd have it again unless we ever went to America one day (dramatic I know but it's amazing!) until last month! I found it again and I had to order myself some. It's strawberry flavoured pop and it might not sound special but it's just the best drink ever. I already wish I had more, nothing else will ever beat it for me.

Slow cooker pulled beef - Another slow cooker meal because it means I can just leave it in the kitchen all day and I don't have to be stood cooking in this heat. I'd only made this once before so it was kind of just guessing work this time but it turned out so well. The flavour from the beef cooking all day was beautiful, and it just broke apart by the end, it's such an easy meal. Leftovers for days too!

Chicken and potato hash - This definitely isn't the prettiest looking meal but it tasted good and that's all that matters. I've been a bit low on inspiration when it comes to cooking recently but after a a flick through Instagram I found a few new Slimming World meals and this was one of them, basically a spicy mix of potatoes, chicken and peppers. It's incredibly simple, just peel 2 baking potatoes, chop into cubes, par boil for 10 mins then put into a dish with chilli powder, garlic, salt and pepper. Pop in the oven for around 45 minutes. Whilst these are in the oven you also want to cook 2 chicken breasts, these took around the same amount of time as the potatoes and when cooked I just shredded them. Once both of these are cooked, set aside and in a frying pan soften a few handfuls of frozen peppers, add in a good glug of relish, a squeeze of tomato puree and seasoning, I used chilli powder, chipotle chilli flakes and garlic salt. When the peppers are soft, add in the potatoes and shredded chicken, give it all a good mix and tip into a dish, top with cheese and bake in the oven for 5 mins. It might sound like there's a lot too it but there really isn't, and it was just so delicious. Incredibly filling and so comforting.

Did you see my last recipe post? The perfect roast dinner with Essential Cuisine

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