Tuesday, 31 December 2019

An End Of Year Look At My 2019 Blogging Goals

Every year I set myself a variety of goals, some for my personal life and some for blogging so 2019 was no different. I shared just my blogging goals in January as I didn't feel I had quite as many personal ones unlike previous years and also the sort of ones they were, weren't all ones I wanted to share so let's just see how I got on with my blog over the last 12 months. I already know I've not achieved most of the goals I set out to achieve but hopefully it won't be too bad. At least by setting goals I was more motivated than I might have otherwise been, I find they always give me that push to work really hard even if I don't always end up exactly where I set out to.
desk with laptop, flowers and notebook
Image from Pexels

Have My Best Year Since Going Self-Employed

Erm, not a great one to start with! To be fair, whilst I don't think I've had my best year since going self-employed and looking back now 2018 was actually far better than I could have imagined, I don't think I did too badly in 2019. I still worked with a variety of different brands, built up some great relationships with PR's and I got to write about some really fun things so whilst I don't think I'm quite where I was at the end of 2018, I'm still proud of what I achieved. Maybe it's just me but I found there just weren't as many opportunities around in 2019, anyone felt the same? It felt like a real slog to get anything off the ground most of the time. I definitely could have put more into it at times and pitched myself more but getting Bear in April cut out many weeks as he just took up all my time and my life completely changed. Hopefully in 2020 I can get me back a bit as I feel I've lost myself a little in the blogging world.

Get Back Into Pitching To Brands

I did actually pitch my blog to far more brands and PR's in 2019 after really losing my confidence with it the year before and I got some great opportunities from it. I definitely believe that if you want something, you need to go out and get it for yourself, opportunities won't always come to you but it's still a daunting thing to do! I think it's really important to keep in contact with brands you've worked with previously and often that's how I find current opportunities so it's definitely going to be something I'm keeping up with in 2020.

Reach 5000 Twitter Followers

To some this might sound like an easy amount to hit and to other it might seem huge, well I've still not hit it. I know it probably sounds like an excuse but there have been times this year where I genuinely haven't had the time to really use Twitter to my advantage and do the things you need to do to grow so I've just sort of petered along all year but you know what, that's okay. I interact with people when I can, I join in with things when I can, not that there ever really seems to be any chats or comment threads going on like they used to so if I get there one day then I do, but if not, it's not the be-all and end-all. I'm ending the year on almost 3700 followers so slowly but surely I'm getting there anyway.

Reach 2000 Instagram Followers

Ahh Instagram. What a love/hate relationship I have with this. At times it's absolutely brilliant, there are some bloggers who I interact with all the time and I love it for discovering new people. It's also great when your photos are doing well and your followers are growing, but when they're not it can make you feel like absolute crap. I don't just want to blame the algorithm as I know I could have tried harder this year if I really pushed myself but whatever Instagram are doing behind the scenes is affecting so many of us. Our photos are hardly been seen, when they are no one seems to interact like they used too and followers seem to go up and down so much, it's hard to even know where you actually stand with it. I'm so confused that 2 years ago I was getting almost 200 likes per photo and now I struggle to hit 50. I mean, how dis-heartening is that? Whilst my photos will never be exceptional because the photography side of blogging just isn't what I'm good at, I try my best and it's hard when photos you are so proud of, just bomb. I do think sometimes I take things like that more personally than others would but that's just the sort of person I am. Despite staying around the 1700 follower mark all year, I have enjoyed using stories more over the last few months so that's something I want to continue with this year and let's just hope something improves for us all regarding likes because I know so many other people are struggling too.

Get Creative With My Photography

This is kind of what I was talking about in my last post, maybe if I'd really put myself out there and tried lots of different things with Instagram, I'd be doing better than I currently am but I just don't have the imagination sometimes! I've always been a better writer and more about my actual blog content but it seems that's just not enough anymore. My instagram has become more of a personal account too rather than just blogging now so maybe that's not helped? I still share flatlays, beauty photography, lots of different baking ideas and I'm still happy with what I've put out there in 2019. I might not be the most creative on Instagram but I'm never gonna be that person. I've tried new things when I could and I've also stuck to my old style at other times and I think that's just how it's always gonna be for me.

Well, that all ended up pretty negative didn't it? It's hard when some things are out of your control despite how much you try but I'm not going to let it deter me for 2020. There are still milestones I want to hit with both my blog and my social media accounts and I'm going to do my best to get there. I'm starting 2020 raring to go so I just need to put myself back out there, see what works and what doesn't and just enjoy it regardless. Blogging should be fun and at times in 2019 it wasn't so whilst there are things I would like to achieve, if I'm happy that's the most important thing!

How did you do with your 2019 goals, if you set yourself any? Have you struggled more with Instagram and Twitter over the last 12 months?

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Monday, 30 December 2019

What I Got For Christmas 2019/Bear's First Christmas!

Christmas is over. I'm devastated about it. Not even joking. I'll get over it soon enough and get into that new year spirit at some point but for now I'm just trying to get my head around how it's all over already and how quickly December went by?! I've already seen people getting excited over Summer bbq's and slating those who still have their trees up, each to their own but Winter has just started and Christmas was days ago, please let those of us who aren't ready to say goodbye to it just yet, enjoy it for just a little bit longer. Anyway now that little rant is out of the way, let's get down to all of the good things that Christmas day brought this year. Each year I like to write some sort of Christmas reflection post and a what I got for Christmas so this year I've just combined the two!
flatlay - everything everything dvd, home again dvd, lush bath bomb, 2020 calendar, love actually socks
Let's start with what I got for Christmas. I always love reading these posts from other bloggers and whilst the presents George and I buy each other aren't necessarily out there or pure luxury, because that's just not us, I still like to share all of the normal things. So let's start with books first. I honestly would have been happy with just a pile of books as in case you somehow hadn't heard over the last few weeks, I've managed to read 100 books this year and I'm still not quite done. The first book I unwrapped was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I really enjoyed The Husband's Secret by the same author and I loved loved loved the TV show of Big Little Lies so I'm really intrigued in how the book will differ to that. I also got The Librarian Of Auschwitz which I'm going to save to read in January. I'm so interested in anything to do with Auschwitz so I'm really looking forward to reading this.

I also got a few DVD's for Christmas this year which were Everything, Everything and Home Again. I adore both of these films so I can't wait to re-watch them both soon! Everything, Everything is just the perfect soppy romance we all need sometimes and Home Again is just so much fun and Reese Witherspoon is brilliant in it. 
flatlay - home again dvd, everything everything dvd, big little lies book, the librarian of auschwitz book
One of the presents I was actually so thrilled about was these Love Actually socks. I know - years ago I would have thought socks were such a boring present but now each Christmas and birthday, I'm always so happy to receive them! Especially now we have a dog who steals them at every opportunity he gets. I've watched Love Actually more times than I can count this Christmas and it's definitely my all time fave festive film so I'm looking forward to watching it again with these on. I also got a Lush bath bomb I've not tried before - Luxury Lush Pud. I've meant to pick this up every single year and I just never do so this was a top choice. Oh and I almost forgot to mention George topped all other Christmas cards with this Jeremy Corbyn spesh. Sorry if you're not a Corbyn fan but he's the prime minister we all deserve.
Love Actually socks
Luxury lush pud bath bomb
Jeremy Corbyn christmas card
We always get each other a few food items too because we definitely don't stock up on absolutely everything in advance....you can never have too much though! I got my faves - mini Toblerones, my ultimate favourite drink EVER - Red Pop which is so hard to find now and it's a bit of a running joke now that we get each other Pop Tarts at Christmas so I got the chocolates ones this year. I always prefer the standard flavours like chocolate or strawberry whereas I tend to get one of the American flavours for George, this year it was the return of cookie dough. We also had our stockings full of chocolate too so we have more than enough for the foreseeable. Finally, I have to talk about my present from Bear. It's a beautiful personalised calendar, I love it so much. Each month has a gorgeous picture of him and a funny little caption and some of the photos are from when he first came home, some I didn't even remember so it's such a lovely gift. I can't wait to put it up in my office this week.
2020 calendar
Speaking of Bear, I think he thoroughly enjoyed his first Christmas. He was totally spoilt and didn't even know which toys to play with, there were so many. He spent the day doing a mixture of sleeping, playing and eating, and he even got some chicken for dinner too which he was very pleased about.
collage - Bear on christmas morning, napping, in his toy basket
The whole Christmas break for us has just been perfect and exactly what we needed. We've been on lots of walks to the park including one on Christmas Eve where Bear wore his festive jumper and got covered in mud. We've eaten pretty much everything, read lots and we've also watched SO many films. I can't not mention the Call The Midwife special too which was incredibly heartwarming as always but how good was Gavin and Stacey?! I wanted to cry throughout, they have to do more surely? Over the weekend we also binge-watched the second series of You but I suppose now it's time to get back to some sort of reality.
collage - family selfie, bear on his walk with jumper on
call the midwife on tv
I now need to try and get this flat back into some sort or order as it's very cluttered at the moment, I need to start planning for next week as we're away for my birthday and I literally can't wait, and I should probably slow down on all the Xmas chocs...maybe not just yet though. Bear's first Christmas was everything I hoped it would be and I just can't wait to experience more of these firsts with him over the next few months as he turns 1 in February! Don't talk to me about how fast that's come around, I'm trying not to think about it too much as it's just mental that it will be here so soon! The whole of the last week has just been lovely, better than I could have ever imagined. I really hope your Christmas was special too however you spent it.

What did you get upto this Christmas?

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Monday, 23 December 2019

Weekend Summary #31 - Our Second Wedding Anniversary, York Christmas Market & Winter Walks

It's finally time for my final blog post before Christmas and I'm not gonna lie, I'm genuinely incredibly sad that Christmas is just days away because that means it's almost all over for another year. I'm trying to soak it all up and just enjoy it while it's here as it's our first Christmas with Bear but there's no denying this month has flown by, I feel like I just blinked and now it's almost over, anyone else feel the same? I wanted my final post before I take a little break to be one of my weekend summaries as like I say in every single one, these are always my favourite posts to look back on and this weekend was actually packed pretty full for us.
The Shambles, York
So, let's start on Friday as that was actually George and I's second wedding anniversary! That's something else that has come round far quicker than I thought it would, in some ways it feels like we've been married forever and in other ways it feels like 2 minutes ago that we made it all official. It's scary how fast time seems to be going, though we've definitely packed a lot into the last few years. We've seen many, many, MANY musicals, had various weekends away, our first car, our first little family holiday and of course this year we brought home Bear who has just completed me. Last year we celebrated by seeing Hamilton in London - I still can't comprehend how that was a full year ago already, but this year we made a trip to one of our all time fave places, York, for the Christmas market. 
Selfie of George and I
York is a pretty festive place anyway and I love it no matter what time of year it is but man, they do Christmas well. The Christmas markets pretty much cover the whole centre, there are lights everywhere, several stunning Christmas trees and more food to try than you could possibly imagine. It's just such a beautiful place. We ate the most amazing sugar & cinnamon doughnuts, bought decadent brownies and tried a Baileys & Biscoff Hot Chocolate Freakshake which was seriously one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life. Unfortunately the weather wasn't fab whilst we were there but it doesn't matter, it was still the loveliest day. We ended the evening watching Love Actually too with a very sleepy pup which was just perfect.
collage - York Christmas markets, Clifford's Tower, Brownies, Hot Chocolate, Doughnuts
George and I holding champagne glasses in front of Christmas tree
Christmas tree with lights on and TV with Love Actually on
Saturday was a pretty chill day which was very much needed after Friday so it mainly involved a lot of Christmas prep, I'm feeling frazzled at the amount I have to do on Wednesday at the moment, but we did watch one of the classics The Santa Clause and of course, The Holiday. I even made some After Eight Brownies. Yep, I'm still not done with the brownie recipes! This one won't be up until after Christmas now but it's definitely a recipe I'll be going back to at several points throughout the year so not just strictly for Christmas. 
After Eight brownie held up in front of Christmas tree
Finally, on Sunday we took Bear for a brisk Winter walk after the huge Christmas food shop, which he thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason he wanted to jump on every bench we saw and he also got to sniff alllllll the dogs. We put him in his little Christmas jumper which at first I don't think he was too pleased about but he got over it, he looks like a little professor in it with his roll neck! Can't deal with this amount of cute. I'm definitely sad Autumn is over for another year but you know what, I am loving the cold. I'm really hoping we get some Snow over Christmas as it definitely feels cold enough outside but that might be wishful thinking. After a long soak in the bath with a new book (currently reading The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell, it's taking me a while to get my head around it!) I made a curry, started a little bit of prep for next year's blog posts and we settled down to watch Paddington, so the perfect end to the weekend. 
collage - Bear in the park
Trees in the park
I definitely think this will be one of those weekends I'll remember. It was cosy, festive and relaxed yet it felt like we managed to get so much done.

I suppose all that's left to say now is that I hope you have the most amazing Christmas however you spend it, I know for some people it's the best time of year and for others it's the hardest so I'm sending love to those who need it. I'm planning on taking a week or so off now (though I'll probably end up being back writing up a blog post by Friday) to try and fully soak these last few weeks of the year up. So much has happened in 2019 and I whilst I hoped for it, I never thought I'd be ending the year with a little dog of my own so now I'm going to go and give him lots of cuddles and snuggle him for as long as he'll let me. Merry Christmas!
Bear sat in front of Christmas tree
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Saturday, 21 December 2019

My 2019 Reading Challenge - Update #5

It's time for my final reading challenge roundup of 2019! I can't believe it's time for this already. When I started with these posts earlier on this year, I'd just set myself a challenge of reading 30 books and whilst I thought that was do-able, I didn't think I'd exceed it to the point I have. I've just reached book #100 so if you've read each of these updates, well done and thank you because I know that's a whole lot of books to read about! I wanted to do a final update before I share my top 5 books of 2019 which will be up soon so let's get started.
books stacked on top of each other held up in front of bookshelf

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton - ⭐⭐

I think this had the potential to be something really brilliant, and maybe some people thought it was, but I just really struggled with it. I went into it with high hopes and I actually think it started off really well. From the beginning Juliette is an obsessive and controlling woman, desperate to get her ex Nate back, and she really doesn't hold back in going to extreme lengths to get what she wants but then it just went a bit flat. There was a lot of build-up for nothing major and I found the ending didn't quite pack as much of a punch as it could have done.

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This had been recommended to me over and over again so after sitting on my bookshelf for the longest time, I finally read it and overall I was pretty impressed with it. It started off with a bang, petered off for a while and then started to get really juicy. I did wonder at first if it was going to be a little too American and just something that had been done many times before but it picked up and I ended up getting really invested in Kailyn and Daxton's relationship. You could feel the chemistry between them and I'd love to see it come to life on screen one day. 

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was tempted to write a separate review of this as it was so mindblowing but I think I'd end up giving out so many spoilers so I thought better of it. I can't quite explain how much this book surprised me though. There are so many twists and turns throughout and whilst you think you know which woman is the crazy one, and possibly out to steal a baby from another character (I know!) BAM, you realise you were wrong all along. There are a few chapters towards the end which are really clever as you don't know which person is narrating unlike the rest of the book and then right up until the very final sentence, it's just shock after shock. Outstanding. I am shook.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I put off reading this for a long time because I'd watched a film very similar a while ago (The Ones Below) or so I thought anyway, but the book was extremely different and really followed a different path to the one I was expecting. When a couple leave their baby daughter at home to go round to the neighbours for a party, they assume she'll be fine... when they return home, she's gone. Initially I suspected a few people but I soon figured out there were going to be a lot of twists coming and in the end I was so shocked with who the kidnapper turned out to be. A really clever plot with lots of suspicious characters, I do just wish they'd been a bit more about the couples neighbours as I think they were a bit underused throughout.
The couple next door by shari lapena held up in front of bookshelf

Here To Stay by Mark Edwards - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I had been wanting to read something by Mark Edwards for absolutely ages and I think I picked well for my first book of his as this blew me away. Elliot meets Gemma and falls in love quickly, so quickly in fact that they get married within months. Everything is going great until Gemma's parents arrive, initially intending to stay for a few weeks. Elliot soon realises though the danger he's put himself in by marrying someone he barely knows, and her parents have no plans for leaving. It was fast paced, infuriating at times (I wanted to scream at Gemma's parents!) and genuinely scary at points. So impressed.

The Last Affair by Margot Hunt - ⭐⭐

I thought The Last Affair started well, we get thrown straight in with a murder and whilst we know who the victim is we have no idea who has killed them, but pretty quickly I realised that was the most exciting part of the book. There was just nothing that stood out to me and it all just felt very flat.

Because She Loves Me by Mark Edwards - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

God, this was intense! I had to just sit and think for a while afterwards as the last few chapters were full on and I needed a little time to piece everything together. Another book by Mark Edwards that was incredibly gripping right from the very first page. This time the book focused on Andrew and his new girlfriend Charlie - she's beautiful, clever, edgy, he can't believe his luck. But when weird things start happening in his flat and his friends find themselves in danger, he realises Charlie might not be the girl of his dreams, more like the woman of his nightmares. Or is someone else trying to ruin his life? I honestly had no idea where this was going to go in the second half of the book and I LOVED the final twist.

My Great Ex-Scape by Portia MacIntosh - ⭐⭐

This started off so well but just kind of became a bit of a mess. Rosie gets dumped by her boyfriend on live TV but then receives a bouquet of flowers with the message 'I love you, I should have never let you go, I want you back' and there are 5 people it could be. Her journey to figure out who has left this message takes her back to her childhood home, on a cruise, even all the way to New York but she ends up meeting them all SO fast and there was just no suspense there. In my opinion there was no chemistry between her and any of the ex's and she had good reasons to split up with them in the first place so it was just all a bit random that she would then forget all that after all this time. This had so much potential but after the first few chapters it just lost it's way.

The Mother-In-Law by Sally Hepworth - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

After being on my to read list for a long time and only hearing good things, I went into this expecting a lot and it was BRILLIANT! It's going to be tough choosing my top 5 books of the year but I definitely think this is a contender. When Diana dies with a suicide note close-by claiming she no longer wanted to live because of her battle with cancer, her family are devastated but then the autopsy finds she had no cancer. So, what happened to Diana? Every person becomes suspicious and from here it's a tale full of twists and turns as we try to figure out the murderer. A whodunnit that's been executed incredibly well and will keep you guessing the whole way.

Chasing Daisy by Paige Toon - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Back to my fave, Paige Toon and she did not disappoint with Chasing Daisy. It was another book of hers that surprisingly took me a little while to get into but once it got going, I couldn't put it down. It's hard to explain the plot of the book without spoiling it and there's a shocker of a moment halfway through so all I say is, if you like a love story with a bit of heartbreak, read this 😂 In all seriousness it's incredibly emotional for the second half of the book and really made me think. Chasing Daisy is yet another story of Paige's that would make an incredible film, please somebody pick it up and make it!
Chasing Daisy by Paige Toon held up in front of bookshelf

The 24-Hour Cafe by Libby Page - ⭐⭐⭐

Ahh I wanted to love this so much but it just wasn't on the same level as The Lido for me. I reviewed The Lido by Libby Page earlier this year and it's stuck with me since then so I had high hopes for her second book but it just didn't grab me emotionally like I wanted. Don't get me wrong it's still a great book and a lovely premise but it's definitely not a book full of moments you'll remember or characters you'll really root for, in my opinion anyway. It felt more like a collection of short stories.

The Perfect Couple by Jackie Kabler - ⭐⭐⭐

This really did keep me guessing until the final few chapters! 18 months ago Gemma met Danny and quickly they fell in love & got married, but one Friday Danny doesn't come home from work. Days go by and then Gemma realises a serial killer, targeting men who look just like Danny is on the loose, could he be in more danger than anyone ever expected? On the hunt for Danny, Gemma realises though there might be more she doesn't know about her husband than she thought. Really well paced, the characters developed nicely and a satisfying ending.

The Assistant by S.K. Tremayne - ⭐⭐⭐

Well this had made me 100% sure I never want an Alexa or any sort of technology like that in my home! Newly divorced Jo moves into her friends flat who is upto date with all the latest technology and the home is controlled by a Home Assistant called Electra. All seems normal until one day Electra says one sentence that throws Jo's world upside down 'I know what you did'. Years ago something happened involving Jo that only few people know about, so how does Electra know and why is she being targeted? This was a really refreshing thriller to read as whilst it had its faults in places and S.K. Tremayne's writing style wouldn't be my usual choice, it felt very current. You'll struggle to find someone who doesn't have some sort of technology like this in their home now so it felt scarily real!

The Cake Shop In The Garden by Carole Matthews - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

After lots of thrillers & mysteries, a Carole Matthews book was just what I needed. A light-hearted love story that I could just sit back and enjoy. Fay is running her cake shop from her own home and garden whilst caring for her mother and whilst she's happy, is it really setting her world alight? That would be a no, until handsome Danny turns up out of nowhere and shows her how much more could be out there if she just took a chance. I just loved everything about this and baking features heavily so it was something that was always going to be my sort of thing.

Christmas Cakes & Mistletoe Nights by Carole Matthews - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The follow-up book to The Cake Shop In The Garden and just as full with love, cake and happiness. I adore Fay & Danny's relationship and I'm so glad we have another book to really see their relationship flourish. The thing I've loved the most about both this and the previous book is that the majority of the characters are so likeable and I genuinely cared for them all. I could read about Fay, Danny, Lija, Stan and Rainbow over and over. I really hope there's one final book about them all at some point as my only slight criticism of this would be that the ending felt quite abrupt and could have done with an epilogue to really give the perfect ending.
Christmas Cakes & Mistletoe Nights by Carole Matthews held up in front of Christmas tree

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

What a festive book to end the year on! This was a book I kept thinking about reading for a while so when I had pretty much ran out of every book on my shelf and saw this for just 99p on Kindle, I thought why not? There are so many positives to this book, I'm not even sure where to start. First of all such an interesting premise, characters you're never sure you should trust or not, suspense at what's going to happen next, it just had it all. A really clever story, though I was slightly disappointed with the ending and feel maybe a few chapters could have been filled out slightly but on the whole a brilliant book to end the year with.

And that concludes my final 2019 reading challenge update of the year! I can't quite believe I've managed to read so many books this year and whilst I'm doubtful I'll match it next year, I'm going to give it a good go. I now need to try and whittle it down from 100 to just 5 for my top books of 2019 so come back in January if you want to see what I've picked!

Have you read any of the books I've mentioned?

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Thursday, 19 December 2019

The Perfect Tipple For Christmas - Lindisfarne Mead*

At Christmas time I like to have an array of drinks in, from Bucks Fizz for Christmas morning to fresh juices for breakfast, a bottle or two of prosecco & many other things and for me it's important to have a mix of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Neither George nor I are huge drinkers and whilst I'd say we indulge a bit more over the festive period (doesn't everyone?) I imagine it's still pretty tame compared to most. I've been adding to our stash over the last few weeks though and the most recent addition is Lindisfarne Mead.
bottle held up in front of Christmas tree
I hadn't actually heard of Lindisfarne Mead before but they're actually a fascinating brand which first started to trade as early as the 1960's. The company has made its renowned Lindisfarne Mead at St Aidan's Winery, just off the coast of Northern England since the beginning and it's even become popular with members of Her Majesty's Government over the years with many making the journey to visit the winery to try it for themselves. It's even been featured on shows like Countryfile aswell as a range of other Lindisfarne Mead products.

I think the first thing I have to mention about this particular drink is the beautiful bottle. This would stand out to me in any store, I just love how unique it is and the packaging is clearly inspired by it's history. The history of mead goes back so far that it was even the tipple of choice for King Arthur! So what actually is Lindisfarne Mead? Well it's a vatted blend of honey, locally drawn water, fermented grape juice and neutral spirits. A deliciously fruity wine that can be enjoyed any time, but especially perfect for the festive period.
champagne glass held up in front of christmas tree
If you like your wine sweet then this is going to be ideal for you! Instantly you're hit with a multitude of flavours and there is a real zing to the wine. It wasn't like any other wine I've ever had before. Straight away I picked up on the grape which is always such a refreshing ingredient but it was then followed by the soft honey which lingers afterwards. They compliment each other incredibly well and whilst that does mean this is a much sweeter wine than most I've tried in the past and maybe not something for everyone, I can see why it's become such a popular choice, having sold over 2,000,000 bottles.

I personally couldn't drink glass after glass of this, though really I can't with most wines, but I do think this is such a great choice to have in over Christmas. I could easily see it being brought out on Christmas Eve or maybe after Christmas Dinner on the big day to enjoy with dessert. Aswell as the original Lindisfarne Mead, the winery and craft shop on the Island of Lindisfarne also has many other products to choose from including a broad selection of wines, liqueurs, preservatives, bespoke confectionery and local artifacts. You can also find their Spiced, Dark and Pink flavours of The Mead so if you or anyone you know loves their wine, it's a brilliant brand to consider. You can even add the wine into cocktails which could be something fun to try over the festive period!
closeup of label on bottle
A big thanks to Lindisfarne Mead for sending over a bottle for me to try! If you want anymore information or want to buy a bottle for yourself, you can find out more on their website where a 70cl bottle is priced at £10.49.

What's usually your choice of drink at Christmas time?

*PR Sample

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Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Lush Snow Fairy Bath Bomb Review

Is it even Christmas if you don't buy Snow Fairy from Lush?! Saying that, I didn't get any last year despite it being one of my all time favourite festive scents but I made sure to grab some when we were in Leeds recently. It just smells too good! Despite Lush seemingly raising their prices every year, you can't deny they are the go to brand for bath bombs, gorgeous smelling skincare & an array of gift sets so when I can I do like to treat myself to a few bits. Whilst picking up a bottle of the limited edition Snow Fairy shower gel, I spotted their new Snow Fairy bath bomb too so of course I had to grab it. I've reviewed quite a few of Lush's bath bombs in the past and a few from Bomb Cosmetics too but it's been a while since my last one so I thought a little post about this beautiful product would be nice as one of my final posts before Christmas. 
Lush Snow Fairy bath bomb in front of silver christmas tree, home bargains candle and red and white swirl ornament
So, if you've somehow not heard of Snow Fairy before, it's one of Lush's most famous products now. They bring it back every Christmas in the form of a bright pink shower gel and trust me, if you like anything with a sweet scent, you need to try this! With the scent of candyfloss and bubblegum, it really is one of the sweetest smelling things I've ever had the pleasure of trying but to me it's still not too much. I imagine for some it's probably way too over the top but I just adore it. As I'm such a fan of the Snow Fairy scent I was really intrigued by the bath bomb. Instantly though I was hit with the familiar smell of Snow Fairy and it filled the whole bathroom. 

Before I get onto what I thought it was like in the water and whether it's worth the money or not, let's just talk about how beautiful it is! Pink and white with a silver snowflake, it's just ideal for Christmas, it was one of the first products that stood out to me when I walked into the store. It would make a perfect gift for any of your friends who are fans of Lush, or maybe for a teenager who's starting to get into things like this, which I remember very well. 
Pink and white swirls from Lush Snow Fairy bath bomb in bath
Whenever I use a bath bomb like this I always make sure I use it as an opportunity for a full on pamper so the evening I used this I indulged in a full skincare routine (something I'm not great at keeping up with) I relaxed with a face mask and I started a new book. That for me is the making of a perfect hour of self care. Once I dropped this into the water, the fun really started as instantly it released the most amazing colours starting with an intense fuschia which then started to have swirls of baby pink mixing with the bubbles it was forming. If you're someone who really likes to see their bath bomb doing something special rather than just quickly fizzing away, this is perfect. It took it's time, it definitely didn't feel like I'd just wasted almost £5 which has happened in the past and the scent just intensified as it went along. Once the bath bomb had completely fizzed away, I was left with a dark pink bath with subtle glitter which looked so inviting.

Whilst the scent is obviously sweeter than most other bath bombs from Lush, in my opinion anyway, I also really picked up on some of the fresh & fruity notes too from the Limonene and Persian Lime Oil which are just one of the many ingredients in this. The Persian lime oil also helps remove dead skin cells which encourages glowing skin and added shine to your hair which is also a bonus. With most Lush bath bombs I find my skin always feels refreshed afterwards and just generally far smoother and softer than before so this was no exception to that either.
Dark pink water in bath from Lush Snow Fairy bath bomb
I paid £4.95 for the Snow Fairy bath bomb which for Lush, I actually don't think is too bad. I've seen bath bombs of their hit prices of £7/£8 which I would never pay but I'm glad to see they do still have products under a fiver and I do think they are worth the money. If you do Secret Santa with friends or at work, something like this would definitely come under budget. I'll 100% be picking this up again next year along with a few other bits of their Xmas range, but for now I need to get to using my Snow Fairy shower gel as I've been trying to hold off as long as possible!

Are you a fan of the Snow Fairy scent? Have you picked up any of Lush's Christmas range this year?

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Tuesday, 17 December 2019

My Favourite Musical Theatre Songs

If you've been reading my blog over the last few years then you know I am utterly obsessed with anything musical theatre. I saw my first West End show in 2016, that being Wicked and since then I have just fallen more and more in love with all things theatre and I genuinely don't know what my life would be like without it. Upto now I've seen Wicked twice, Kinky Boots twice, Heathers, Hamilton, Come From Away, Waitress and most recently & Juliet. In just a few weeks time I'll be seeing Les Miserables for the first time which I am SO excited for and then next year so far we have Dear Evan Hansen and & Juliet planned (again) so it's safe to say musicals are a big part of my life. Some shows I have found a huge comfort for certain reasons, some have just been all out fun and others have taken a real moment in history and found a beautiful way to share the story.
collage - Kinky Boots, Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Waitress, The Phantom Of The Opera, Come From Away, Hamilton
Of course each show I've seen has been full of amazing music but there are certain songs that have really stood out to me and have become special over time. Some from shows I've seen, some from others I haven't got round to yet but all favourites of mine regardless. I've chosen 10 songs from a variety of musicals that are my overall faves, the ones I go back and listen to over and over. Let me know if you're a fan of any of them too!

Defying Gravity - Wicked

Well, this had to be at the top of the list didn't it? One of the most powerful songs in any musical I think, Defying Gravity. The song that leads into the interval, it's a real stand out moment in act 1 of Wicked and packs such an emotional punch as Elphaba has just discovered the Wizard is not the man she once thought he was and she finds the courage to go out on her own. I will never ever forget both times I saw Rachel Tucker performing as Elphaba, the second time especially which was her final show was honestly one of the most memorable nights of my life. 

You Will Be Found - Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen is a musical that stole my heart last year and still hasn't given it back. I am utterly obsessed with everything about this musical. I've actually read the book this year and I can't quite put into words how much of a comfort I found it. Dear Evan Hansen is about some really tough topics - anxiety, loss, suicide and many more so it's not a light-hearted show really but for people like me who have suffered with anxiety for years, it just makes you feel a little less alone. There are lots of songs that get me but You Will Be Found is a real moment and I'm not sure I'm emotionally prepared to see this live next year. It shows you really aren't alone and no matter how bad you might feel, there is always hope.
Dear Evan Hansen

Wait For It - Hamilton

It's coming upto a year since we saw Hamilton, I have no idea how that's flown by so fast and still Wait For It is a song that stands out to me from that day. In fact, this song felt really special from the first time I listened to it. I've written a few blog posts on my fave Hamilton songs so I've said before that it's so relatable as often it can feel like you're behind everyone else and never quite where you want to be.

Everybody Say Yeah - Kinky Boots

I just adore Kinky Boots. We've seen it twice so far and it's actually unfortunately closed in the West End now and it's just finished a UK tour but I have everything crossed that one day it will return. It's one of the most fun musicals around, the music is BRILLIANT but it's also full of heart. Everybody Say Yeah is the song just before the interval and it is the perfect choice to end act 1. Everyone's part of it, it's so much fun to watch and it leaves you on such a high. I will never forget seeing it for the first time and turning to George at the interval saying 'I don't want it to end' 😭

All I Ask - The Phantom Of The Opera

The Phantom Of The Opera is one of the most famous musicals there is and I am incredibly excited to see this one day. I tend to be much more about the modern musicals e.g Kinky Boots, & Juliet but you can't deny that the classic ones are incredibly special. I love how dramatic the whole soundtrack is to this and I imagine it's such a spectacle to see live. All I Ask has become a firm favourite after finally watching the film this year. I adore the lyrics.
The Phantom Of The Opera

What Baking Can Do - Waitress

A show about baking, how could I not love it? Waitress was everything I hoped it would be and more and hearing all the songs that I've been addicted to for years was just amazing. I love this moment in the show when Jenna is doing what she always does, baking her way through life, ups and down, through sadness & happiness, it's the biggest comfort to her and I totally relate to that.

Welcome To The Rock - Come From Away

Finally a song from the incredibly uplifting musical Come From Away. I said in my review of the show earlier this year that you would never expect a show based on the aftermath of 911 to be something positive but trust me, it will make your heart soar. I left wanting to be a better person and if a show can make you feel that with it's message, it's doing something right. There are many moments that stand out to me but Welcome To The Rock kicks things off perfectly. As soon as the drums start, the cast walk out and it's just nothing like I've seen in a musical before. So simple but so effective.

She Used To Be Mine - Waitress

Back to Waitress and I will never forget (how many times will I say that in this post) seeing the Katharine McPhee singing this. It's the most powerful moment in the show where Jenna realises how much she's lost herself over the years - staying with an abusive husband, now pregnant with a baby she didn't plan and dreams she hasn't fulfilled. It's extremely emotional, very relatable at times and honestly she brought the house down with it when we saw it, just incredible.

Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story - Hamilton

The amount I cried at Hamilton was not normal. During that second act, I was basically a puddle. Whilst I obviously knew what was going to happen and it's not a spoiler because it's real life history, Philip & Alexander's deaths hit me like a fricking train. I COULDN'T SEE I WAS CRYING SO MUCH. Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story is the final song and it's where Eliza Hamilton sings about what she went onto do after Alexander's death and the legacy they all left behind and it's just beautiful in every way. The lyrics, the whole cast singing together one final time, Alexander appearing, it ends the show in the most perfect way.
Hamilton

Raise You Up/Just Be - Kinky Boots

To end this post, let's talk about the final song in Kinky Boots, Raise You Up/Just Be. God this show is just so empowering! It shows that everyone can really be who they want to be, we should all do our best to accept ourselves and be happy with who we are and I think it's such a positive message to spread. It genuinely feels like you've just left a concert afterwards because it's a song where everyone can get involved, everyone's on their feet and you all feel like you're part of something together. I can't see a musical ever topping this one for me.

Whilst there are so many songs I love from a myriad of musicals, these are the ones that really stand out to me and always leave me wanting to see the show either for the first time or a repeat visit. I just can't quite put into words how special some of these are to me. I'd absolutely love to know if you have a fave musical theatre song? Have you seen many shows or are there any you hope to see one day?

Similar - My honest opinion on each musical I've seen so far

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Monday, 16 December 2019

The Body Shop Pear Body Yoghurt Review

It's been quite a while since I last shared any sort of proper beauty review, I've just been enjoying sharing recipes and all things books instead but there is one product that I want to talk about before Christmas. I've made no secret of my love for The Body Shop over the years on my blog and each Christmas I tend to pick up a few bits when they release their festive range. Last year I was all about their peppermint candy cane range which is honestly one of my favourite scents they've ever released but for some reason, they haven't brought it back this year. Along with their Rich Plum & Warm Vanilla, they instead released Juicy Pear. I ended up having a smell of it when we were in Leeds for the Emmerdale Tour recently and OMG it is gorgeous.
The Body Shop Pear Body Yoghurt on heart shaped wooden chopping board, small silver xmas tree next to it, red candle holder
After not planning on buying anything from TBS this Christmas due to the peppermint range not coming back, I ended up treating myself to the Pear Shower Gel, Body Yoghurt and a few bath bombs. Soz bank account. I've always been keen on trying one of their body yoghurts so I finally decided to grab one and now it's currently a product I'm reaching for every single day. The body yoghurts are still a relatively new product I would say and I really have only ever seen positive things about them. Whilst I'm a massive fan of their body butters, as I'm sure many are, the body yoghurt's are a little different and make a really nice change actually.

So what is a body yoghurt? Well, made with Community Trade almond milk from Spain and completely cruelty-free, they are a fast absorbing lightweight gel-cream. The texture genuinely is a bit like yoghurt! Each tub is 200ml which I don't think is too bad for £8.50. Don't get me wrong it's not the cheapest skincare product out there but The Body Shop ALWAYS have some sort of sale on or discount code available which cuts down the cost and I do feel the price genuinely reflects the quality. The way the body yogurts work is that you just apply onto damp skin and massage in and it leaves you with glowing, healthy looking skin. It recommends about a handful if you want to apply pretty much everywhere but I find a little really goes a long way so the tub is lasting me extremely well and I've had it weeks already.

I use this straight after a shower and what I love about it the most is that it really does soak in within seconds. None of that sticky or greasy feeling afterwards, just uber soft skin that feels amazing and looks rejuvenated. It's a wonder on my legs after shaving too so I reach for this more than any other moisturiser now. I just always feel so much better after using it, it just picks me up a little. Oh, and did I mention how long the scent lasts? Genuinely for hours after applying I'll still be able to smell the juicy pear goodness. Whilst this scent is obviously my current fave, they have so many others to choose from too including British Rose, Ginger, Almond, Mango, Strawberry, Moringa, Pink Grapefruit and of course their current festive range.
flatlay of The Body Shop festive range. Pear Body Yoghurt and Shower Gel on heart shaped chopping board, small bath bombs next to them. Red candle holder, silver xmas tree
I just can't get over how good the Juicy Pear scent is. Whilst it's incredibly fruity and refreshing, it really does have a festive feel to it aswell. I love that it'll be a product that I can use pretty much all year round, not that I'm particularly fussy like that anyway. The Body Yoghurt has definitely become a new fave of mine from The Body Shop and I'll 100% be picking another up in future, I'm thinking the Pink Grapefruit one next as that has a real zing to it! I think these would make a lovely gift for Christmas too if you still need to finish your Xmas shopping so if you want to grab any of the festive range, now's the time to do it!

Whilst I do hope one day the Peppermint Candy Cane range comes back, for now I'm more than happy to indulge in the Juicy Pear range instead, I can't get enough of it.

Have you picked up any of The Body Shop's Xmas range this year? What's your favourite product of theirs?

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Friday, 13 December 2019

My Favourite John Lewis Christmas Adverts

I'm under no illusion that this might seem like a totally random blog post but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the John Lewis Christmas adverts. It's something I get excited for every single year, and as soon as November the 1st hits, I'm just waiting for it to air. A few years ago I did a post very similar sharing some of my overall fave xmas adverts including M&S's Paddington Bear, Sainsbury's Sharing Is For Caring which centered around the first world war, and even the Heathrow Bears which gets me every year. So many retailers are pulling it out of the bag each year but John Lewis is always the most anticipated. I do think the last few years have fallen slightly compared to some of their earlier ones but I still always look forward to seeing what they've come up with each Christmas. I really wanted to share my 5 favourite xmas adverts of theirs, and I'd love to get a discussion going with you! Let me know if any of these have pulled at your heartstrings too or if there are any others that I've not mentioned.
collage - John Lewis ads, the snowmen, monty the penguin, the long wait, the bear and the hare, excitable edgar

1. The Journey

Okay, at number 1 for me, now and forever is 2012's advert featuring the snowmen. To the song 'The Power Of Love' sung by Gabrielle Aplin, the advert showed a snowman defying the odds, tackling all weather conditions to get a Christmas gift for his wife, Mrs Snowman. It's fricking adorable, the music is gorgeous and it's just what Christmas is all about. It's one that always stands out as special to me because it was the first John Lewis advert George and I both sat down and watched together (this seemed to be the year everyone started to cotton onto it being a thing) and I still remember getting emosh the very first time and every year since then it's been something we've remembered and looked back on.

2. Monty The Penguin

This is one of the John Lewis adverts that is pretty much guaranteed to make me cry every single time. This time Tom Odell whose voice is just perfect for an ad like this recorded a cover of the John Lennon song 'Real Love' and it tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a little boy and his penguin friend Monty. Monty sees all of these loved up couples at Christmas time and wants that for himself though - it's just adorable.

3. The Long Wait

This is the 2011 advert and whilst I can't remember watching it at the time, though I'm sure I did, it's one I've re-watched loads since the John Lewis hype really started and I just adore it. Featuring the song 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want' sung by Slow Moving Millie it shows a little boy's impatience at waiting for Christmas. It leads you to believe he's excited for it to arrive for himself but it's actually because he wants to give a gift to his mum and dad - SOB. I am a mess.

4. The Bear and The Hare

I've always loved Bears and now I have my very own little Bear myself so for some reason this just makes me even more emotional now. 2013's ad was about a bear who always hibernates over Christmas, leaving the hare very sad so one year she (no idea if it's a girl or boy, doesn't matter) leaves the bear a gift that will ensure he'll be up to enjoy Christmas with the rest of the woodland animals. It's has a very classic Disney style to it which I think makes it even more special.

5. Excitable Edgar

Last up is this year's advert featuring Excitable Edgar. I do think now the John Lewis adverts are starting to become more about what merchandise they can sell i.e. the cuddly toys, books etc, and I get it but I do hope at some point they go back to their roots a bit as I do think it's a little obvious now when each year is more of a character than just a nice story if that makes sense. Anyway I still really enjoy this year's advert. Edgar, a young dragon gets so excited about Christmas that he can't control his flames even leading to him burning the village tree, but maybe his best friend will have a solution. It's extremely cute, Edgar's little face makes me want to cry everytime.
I hope if you're a fan of the John Lewis Christmas adverts, or just any festive ads that this has been just as much of a nice read for you as it was for me to write! I can't wait to see what they come up with next year.

Do you have a favourite John Lewis ad? or are there any other brands ads you prefer at this time of year?

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