Saturday, 26 December 2015

9 New Year blog post ideas that don't involve relolutions


I don't know about you but I'm just not that into New Year's resolution making. What's the point in setting yourself a (far too broad and unrealistic) goal for the sake of the occasion if deep down you know it'll get dropped within a matter of weeks? I never keep anything up that I decide to do on a whim!

So while the blogging world makes outlandish promises to itself left, right and centre this week I thought I'd put together some post ideas that are more related to reflection, intention setting and renewal. No crash diets or grand revelations here! Here they are:


  1. Did your life change a lot this year? Talk about five things you learned in the last year
  2. Give your readers a sneak peak of what they can expect from your blog this year
  3. Take an end of year survey or poll and publish the results - a great way to learn what makes your readers tick
  4. Share your favourite posts from other bloggers from the past year
  5. Share your favourite posts from your own blog from the year!
  6. What were your favourite books, films, beauty products etc from the past year? Film them in a vlog or write a post about them
  7. What was your most popular post of the year?
  8. Talk about what blogging has taught you this year
  9. List 5 things you're looking forward to in the next year, whether in blogging, life or work.
Stuck for regular post ideas too? Check out these awesome prompts.

Share your own ideas below too!


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Monday, 21 December 2015

5 unexpected things that happened in 2015


They say that life is what happens when you're busy making plans. Or, someone said that. I'm just sure it wasn't John Lennon like everyone says it was so I'd hate to misquote him. For me 2015 has been that kind of year. You think things are trundling along nicely and bam - life throws you a little curveball.

Sometimes it throws you a slightly inconvenient but mostly manageable curveball. Other times you're gifted with a boulder-sized curveball. Sometimes life picks you up and throws you as well as the curveball. Then suddenly it's six months into the year you declared was going to be 'your year' and you realise your several paces (or maybe) miles away from where you wanted to be by that point.

But it's not all bad - plenty of things have happened to me this year that I hadn't really banked on, and many of these have turned out to be great changes that have made my life all the richer. I thought I'd have a little look back on the last 12 months, including everything from blog to real life and in between.

My blog has finally taken off - I should preface this by stating that this hasn't been down to luck. I've worked a lot harder on the quality of my content, bought a professional layout and an putting more time than ever after work into the blog. I was invited to events, got my first sponsored post, my pageviews have tripled in 12 months and I'm investing in a new camera after Christmas that will give me the clean and crisp images that my 7 year old bridge camera just can't. I'll be outlining my intentions for this blog in another post next week but watch this space because it's world domination is next!

I 110% leave 2015 as a Belieber - I'm actually not even sorry. Who would have thought that the annoying Canadian kid everyone loved to hate would have won us all over with a seemingly reformed maturity and a serious banger of an album. I can now regularly be found singing along in the car and it's not that much of a guilty pleasure. Love you, Beibs.

I left the job I thought was the one for me - If you'd told me I'd be in a different (read: better in every way) job by now this time last year I'd have laughed in your face. But somewhere along the line everything went sour, the working environment became unbearable and that was the tipping point. It was a stressful and difficult time but ultimately I've come out empowered and on top and I couldn't be happier where I am at the moment.

I've grown some strong friendships - I've never been the type to have tonnes of friends, just a circle of very select humans with whom I might be social with from time to time and even cry on occasionally. Through university I grew apart from some of those friends but this year I've made a concious effort to keep in touch, set aside time to spend with people and to remember I'm not the centre of the universe. The result has been much closer bonds and many a good night out. Go sisterhood.

I've grown in confidence - I've made more of an effort to embrace the crap that life throws at me. To be a bit more headstrong in the face of bullshit. I think I'm all the better for it and it's made me want to speak up for myself more and have a bit of self belief. I'm more tactful in social situations and not so afraid of asking for what I want in a professional capacity either. I'll always question myself in some way or another - it's just how I am - but I'm learning that most of the time doing this will only hold me back.

Here's to silver linings and more unexpected events in 2016!!


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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The ideal 'hard to buy for' Christmas gift (plus 20% off at Thorntons!)



I love Christmas shopping - at least in theory. Spending a day seeking out the ideal gifts for loved ones by ducking in and out of festively decorated shops, stopping off for a hot chocolate to warm up and then heading home to wrap them to the sound of carols. But the thing is, it's not always so easy!

In my circle of family and friends at least, there's always someone who's very hard to buy for. They either have everything they could possibly want or I just can't find what I'm looking for. As December 25th approaches at the speed of light I usually find myself stressing about that one last present!

Novelty gifts are one way to tackle this problem - they tend to be readily available and there's probably something that the recipient will sort of laugh at and maybe half appreciate. It probably won't make their face light up upon opening though.

When Thorntons approached me about their Christmas gift finder the email couldn't have come at a better time - I've never really thought about getting someone a box of chocolates at Christmas before, but it suits this purpose perfectly.

I mean, think about it. A pair of Keith Lemon socks doesn't really say 'I saw this and thought of you' (no offence Keith, love you long time), a hand soap set sort of screams 'I picked this up in the supermarket Christmas isle at the last minute' and don't get me started on buying somebody a celebrity chef chopping board as a gift because you seem to remember they like cooking a bit now and then. Why.

Chocolate on the other hand has a real 'I appreciate you and want you to take some time to totally treat yoself' vibe to it. You can either go all in and get something really luxurious like this Prosecco hamper (ideal for mums, aunties or gal pals), or give the gift of yum in the office Secret Santa with these cocktail chocolates. There are even personalisable gifts made to order by Thorntons' chocolatiers.

There's definitely something for everyone when it comes to giving a sweet treat at Christmas. Unless they don't like chocolate, in which case you should consider excommunicating them.

Thorntons are also currently running a 20% off everything promotion (ends 9am Mon 21st) with the discount code 'XMAS20' so get in there while you can. Other than the box of chocolates Thorntons sent me as a thank you for collaborating with them, I was not compensated for this post in any way - what you read is my own honest opinion.

If you've yet to start your Christmas shopping (naughty!) then don't forget to check out my gift guides for him and for her!
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Friday, 11 December 2015

Three to try: Lush


It's come to my attention recently that I'm a creature of habit. Even when I discover a new brand it's through reviews etc that I judge whether or not I should make the purchase, and then I end up sticking to the same product or line for years. I reckon I'm not the only one.

Lately though I've been trying to explore other products from brands I enjoy, so every so often I'll be featuring a short round-up of whatever I've discovered. These won't be sponsored posts or anything, just products I really want to rave about. Today I thought I'd share a few products from Lush, a beauty brand which I've always loved, but which has such a huge range you could probably never try it all!

First up is the Grease Lightning spot treatment gel. I use this on alternate days between treatment with a somewhat harsher medicated spot cream to combat bad breakouts. It's cooling on the skin and really works to combat redness and oil. I tend to apply a thin layer over spot-prone areas and dab a bit extra on actual zits. Yummy.

The Rose Jam shower gel had been on my radar for a while but I was unsure about the expense as my skin has reacted to bath products with strong fragrances in the past. I'm pleased to report that not only has that not happened in this case but that this stuff smells seriously good - that signature Lush smell that lingers on the skin all day. No perfume required.

Something I hadn't heard of before but then received in a gift box was the Buffy scrub bar, which has since become a regular feature in the shower. I don't use the entire bar but instead break off a chunk and rub into the skin. It exfloliates and moisturises at the same time and is amazing on nobbly knees, elbows and dry patches. Perfect for parched winter skin in need of rejuvenation.

So what are you waiting for? Go try something new from Lush!

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Saturday, 5 December 2015

A cute little delivery from jewellerybox.co.uk


On Black Friday this year I tried not to get caught up in a mega spending spree that might make me wince come the end of this month. That said, I did make a few gift purchases and also ordered myself a little treat from jewellerybox.co.uk

I'm not sure how long this jewellery website has been around but it seems everyone's talking about these guys at the moment. I saw the rose gold studs on offer for just £1 and just had to snap them up. While I do like rose gold jewellery I hadn't found anything to add to my own collection yet, so I thought something simple and chic would be a good place to start. I also snapped up a 9ct gold nose stud with a little black gem. I generally prefer wearing my nose ring but it's not always appropriate for work-related stuff and sometimes I just fancy a change.

I was surprised how quickly the little package came (it arrived on my doormat on the Monday) and the box inside was beyond diddy. Bonus points for cuteness. The earrings are such lovely quality with a perfect finish, long posts and snug-fitting backs. The nose stud is also pretty darn fab and another steal at a mere £4. 

So yeah, I'd highly recommend these guys for your jewellery needs. Great service, low prices and a seriously lush selection of products. Some of the pieces would be ideal as little Christmas stocking fillers, or there are of course some more expensive gifts!

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Tuesday, 1 December 2015

4 reasons to watch Marvel's Jessica Jones right now


Here's the thing. Until now I had really not been a fan of these superhero spin-off shows. I couldn't get into Arrow, found Agents of Shield wooden and cheesy, and zoned out of Daredevil within two episodes. My experience watching the Jessica Jones series, all of which is currently on Netflix, could not be any further from this. 

It. is. brilliant. This raw, gritty and totally unapologetic anti-hero is right up my street and the focus on girl-power has me hooked. Here are 10 reasons you should 100% binge watch this right blimmin' now.

1. This is not your stereotypical female superhero. Jessica Jones is a straight-talking, take-no-shit private investigator, who just happens to have a few super powers to help her along the way. There are no tight costumes, no saving babies from burning buildings and some of her actions are sort-of morally questionable as she struggles to come to terms with the fact that only she can stop the story's villain.

2. It gets close to the bone. The story is heavily focused around PTSD and also deals with the concept of sexual consent, It's extremely well done which makes it so believable. I think it's about time issues like are tackled head-on and the impact that these things can have on someone's life are dealt with in a way that doesn't paint victims as weak. Expect drinking, sex, and gore throughout as the show isn't restricted by ratings and censorship the way the Marvel film adaptations are.

3. It's totally hoes over bros at all times. My favourite part of the series is the relationship between Jessica and her best friend Trish Walker. The two couldn't be more opposite but will defend each other 'til the end, even to the point of near death. Their friendship is a pivotal part of the plot's conclusion and it had me welling up.

4. The cast is amazing. The show starts Kristen Ritter, who I adore, as Jessica Jones. She's just perfect for the part with a balance between total badassery and vulnerability. Rachael Taylor and Eka Darville also really stood out to me. David Tennant stars as a mind controlling villain and I can't think of anyone who could have made Kilgrave's character any creepier. 

Have you been watching the series? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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Sunday, 29 November 2015

The Christmas Gift Guide - For Him


Now, I don't know about you but I find men the hardest to buy for when it comes to Christmas. They don't have Amazon wishlists ready to throw at you the way girls do and its easy to fall into the boring trap of socks and novelty t-shirts (not that these ever go unappreciated). 

I've had a browse and tried to think a little more outside the box with this gift guide. Whether you're buying for your boyfriend, dad, brother, uncle or grandad there's hopefully something to suit any taste or budget!



Under £30
2. Remote control helicopter, £25.00, Boots

Under £50
3. Crew neck cable knit jumper, £32.00, Asos
4. Reiss luxury mens collection, £35.00, Boots
5. Jack Spade leather card holder, £45.00, John Lewis

Over £50
6. Crosley Cruiser turntable, £79.99, Argos

Has this post inspired your Christmas shopping? Let me know what you think!
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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

The Christmas Gift Guide - For Her



Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate the inspirational women in your life, and what better way to show them how much you appreciate them than by nailing their present. Whether you're searching for the perfect prezzie for your mum, gran, sister or best bud, I've found some great gifts I wanted to share with you all in this guide.

To be honest much of this also reads as my letter to Santa for this year, so I'm secretly hoping someone I know 'irl' will get the hint! I've sort of divided them into rough price brackets, and I've kept fairly conservative with prices ranging from £9-£95 as I know that most of us aren't superstar vloggers making six figures. If I could buy every lady in my life a Chloe bag then believe me I would but let's be real!

I've tried to think outside the box as I love giving and receiving unique things, but have also included some classics like Soap and Glory and Olivia Burton because they just make ideal gifts.

Under £20 
1. Sass & Belle Copper Jewellery Stand, £9 (from Asos)
2. Bomb Cosmetics Mistletoe Kiss Gift Box, £12.99
3. Sass & Belle Awesome Cushion, £17.00 (from Asos)
4. H&M Pizza Pyjamas, £17.99 
5. Soap and Glory gift box by Philip Colbert, £18.00 (from Boots)


Up to £100
6. Urban Decay Naked3 Eyeshadow Palette, £38.00
7. Kate Spade Pearl Reverse Drop Earrings, £50.00
8. Olivia Burton Winter Garden Watch, £80.00 (from Selfridges)
9. Viktor Rolf Flowerbomb EDP 50ml, £74.00 (from Selfridges)
10. Lush Spa Hard Days Night Treatment Voucher, £95.00

Has this post inspired your Christmas shopping? Let me know what you think!

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Monday, 23 November 2015

My new favourite nail polishes


I've found a new make of nail polish to shout about and it's made my very happy. I love my nails looking 'done' but I'm too fickle to invest in gels because I like a new colour every week. That said, crap nail varnish that chips like crazy is also not all that convenient. 

Rimmel nail varnish has always featured in my collection because of their fab colour range, but the Salon Pro varnishes trump your classic 60-second speed dry paints by a long shot. I've been trying out the shades Urban Purple (a vibrant purple-magenta that's perfect for autumn/winter) and Soul Session (a soft pink from the Kate Moss shade range that's not too girlyfied), both of which only require 2 coats and dry fairly quickly.


When paired with a base and top coat these varnishes will easily last the working week, and I'll then repaint at the weekend so my hands are looking fresh for work on Monday. I don't know if that has something to do with the lycra that's in the formula but it would make sense. Not only this but they're a total steal at under a fiver each. Lush.

Have you tried the Rimmel London Salon Pro polishes?

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

The best pieces of advice I've ever been given


When I was younger I honestly thought that at age 23 I would have gotten everything figured out. To be fair, I also thought by this point I'd be married to a rich man with several of my own published novels floating around in Waterstones. Lolll. Thinking about it now this was obviously quite an ambitious vision. The truth is, feeling a bit lost doesn't really stop - ever. Luckily I've grown up surrounded by people that also totally get it. Adulting is hard but I've been given a few great nuggets of advice from people along the way, so I thought I'd share them with you.

Always make time to do things you enjoy - I get massively stressed over the silliest things. I always have. That said, Mat has always pushed me to switch off and sit and do something I love for a bit to take my mind off of things. I used to think he was crazy - what could possibly be more important than completing/stressing over the task at hand? Turns out it's really helpful to take a step back and to give a bit of time just to yourself.

Only you can change something you're unhappy about - My mum has told me this on countless occasions. It definitely holds true. If you don't like your job, find a new one. If a friend is taking advantage, ditch them. If you feel like a slug, change your eating habits. Nobody is going to do it for you.

The important people in your life will always support you no matter what - My dad is like the human embodiment of this statement. I swear me and my sister could decide to go into the circus clown business and he'd still be there for us all the way. If someone is nay-saying about a decision you've made or a career path you've taken, then they don't understand what's important to you. Stuff 'em.

What are the best pieces of advice you've ever heard?
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Monday, 16 November 2015

Nice things to think about


A hug at the end of a long day

The feeling of holding a warm mug in cold hands

Messy morning hair

Friends you can count on

Small acts of kindness




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Friday, 13 November 2015

Why I'm addicted to Fallout 4


Usually I hate apology posts. You know the kind: "oh sorry I haven't been blogging I've just been super busy/mildly ill/lazy" (delete as appropriate). I don't feel like anyone should be such a slave to their blog and readers that they need to ask for forgiveness every time they opt to spend a week or so in the real world dealing with real issues. This is just a website guys.

This week however I do want to talk about the reason why I haven't posted anything for 5 days - I've gotten addicted to Fallout 4. Really badly. And I wasn't going to even acknowledge it but I know there's still a stigma around girls and gaming. This game really changes that. It's a game changer. Pun intended. I tried SO hard not to say that.

I've always played games of some description. From Gameboys (good old Mario Tennis) to PS1 to Sims and beyond. I wouldn't describe myself as a girl-gamer as such as I don't do it religiously, but I am definitely a girl who enjoys a game. In college I spent my evenings playing Call of Duty in the dark. 

Since uni though I've all but grown out of gaming. There's always dinner to be cooked, family to see, blog posts to be written, stuff to be tidied, gym classes to go to. I've also struggled to find a game that actually grabs my attention enough that I'll go back to it after all those real life adulty things get in the way. It's all war games and robots and macho-men - not that I turn my nose up at those things, but nothing felt like it was marketed towards me. 

I knew all about the previous Fallout games of course, having watched Mat play them through and having had a go myself. They always seemed interesting, and stylish. The latest installment breaks the mold and raises the bar set by other game franchises, because not only does it feature the option of playing as either a man or a woman, but the female character isn't a complete joke.


Yep, ya heard me. You control her looks and proportions, so there are no massive, sculpted butt cracks and boobs protruding into shot, and it's pretty clear from very early on that she's a strong, independent 200+ year old badass that don't need no man. Also both the man and woman wear identical tight blue suits (X-men styley) so there's nothing to complain about in terms of unfair representation in the fashion department.

Couple this with a really cool environment (set 200 years after a 1950s-retro-style America is devastated by nuclear war) and an awesome story development system that's just a little bit different to most open-world games, and I'm nothing short of hooked. It's beautiful and exciting and pretty addictive.

I know there are girls out there who might read this (most of my readers are ladies) and be baffled at the very idea of gaming. It's not everyone's cup of tea. That said I think more can still be done to make these big, blockbuster games more accessible to women. Too often we see them sexualised or presented as weak - Fallout 4 shows it doesn't have to be that way. 

So yeah, a game has totally taken over my life this week. Since Tuesday night I've literally just come through the door after work, fed myself as quickly as possible and then played until way past bedtime. The best thing? I don't regret it one bit. I'm sure normal service will resume as soon as I realise I haven't washed my hair for 5 days and should probably do something productive. 

Do any of you guys play games or are you put off by them?


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Monday, 9 November 2015

4 ways to make your blog look and feel more professional


Get a professionally designed template - When you're first starting out, paying for a professional blog design is probably not on the radar. As you become more established though it could be a worthwhile investment, especially if you're not in a position to design your own. A slick, user friendly blog will give the impression that you mean business, and make visiting your site a pleasant experience for readers. I recently installed a Blogger theme from Pipdig - it was really easy with no messing about with HTML needed. I was up and running within half an hour, it's very customisable and I'm already seeing positive results in the form of increased traffic and longer site visits. Go for something clean and organised so that people can easily navigate content.

Make sure your imagery is up-to-scratch - The biggest blogs out there usually boast some of the most beautifully composed photography on the web. If you want to really up the quality of your visual content then there are two options. One is to get to grips with a decent camera. This doesn't necessarily have to be an SLR, but choose something that allows for some kind of manual mode and has plenty of mega-pixels so you can get the crispest images. The second option is to look at using royalty-free stock images. There are lots of sites out there that offer images under what's known as a 'creative commons license' whereby you are free to download, edit and use the image for whatever purpose you want. My favourites for this are Pexels and Unsplash - no cheese here, just good, eye-catching photography.

Proofread eeeeeeverything - I mean everything. Headers, tags, captions, tweets, the lot. There is nothing worse than going onto a chic-looking blog only to find a spelling error in the first sentence you read. A well-written, perfectly proofed blog post just screams professional. That's not to say a few occasional errors won't slip through, but reading, re-reading and having someone else read your posts before putting them live could save you many a faux pas. I'm fairly hot on my spelling but just managed to find 3 typos in this post

Purchase a domain - This was something that I did fairly quickly as I noticed I always felt more drawn to and trusting of the blogs I read that had their own domains. Having '.blogspot' or '.wordpress' in your url suggests you may be a fairly new blog or not too well-established. You can actually buy domains really cheaply from places like GoDaddy and there are plenty of tutorials available to help you link the new url to your blog platform so you should be ready to go in no time.

Have you found anything else helpful in making your blog more professional? Share your tips in the comments below!
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Thursday, 5 November 2015

A simple 5 product face



There will always be days where you might find yourself either in a rush, or without the tools you need to go for a full-on made up look. I recently found this out the hard way when trying to change up my morning routine and get to work earlier, without sacrificing the precious commodity that is sleep. With this in mind I thought I'd share a simple, easy to apply makeup menu that consists of just 5 products. I can apply all of this in 5 minutes or less, so it's idea for throwing into my bag for use at the gym or touch ups after work before heading to meet friends.

Base - I'll never be a 'makeup free' kind of girl. If other humans are seeing my face I'll be damned if they see it totally naked. Plus I need something to keep oil at bay. The tinted moisturiser from Claudalie's Vinoperfect range in 'light' is just perfect for this, giving a light coverage and smoothing out any redness or imperfections. A little tip - it's a lot cheaper to buy in France if you're over there and is available in almost every pharmacy. I think I paid the equivalent of £15 whereas here it's about double. Luckily it's a worthwhile investment regardless as this stuff lasts forever!

Concealer - I'm rarely without spots thanks to both hormones and my insanely oily skin. I used to rely on Collection's Lasting Perfection concealer but found it got cakey towards the end of the day, however I recently discovered the Seventeen Stay Time concealer and I can safely say it provides the same thick, long lasting coverage but doesn't actually feel or look cakey on. It's also great under the eyes or on any general redness.

Cheeks and lips - I can cheat a bit here since there are so many products out there that can be used on both cheeks and lips. I really like using Posie Tint by Benefit to add a little colour and glow without getting too full on.

Brows - I recently discovered the Bobbi Brown Natural Brow Shaper gel in mahogany and it's probably the best match I've ever found for my dark brows. It's great for a more natural look than pencils give and helps thicken and fill in gaps. It's also so quick and easy to use - no forehead splodges here.

Eyes - When it comes to eyes, all you need to add a little pop is a decent mascara. I tend to prefer more budget friendly offerings as I go through loads of the stuff and brands like Maybelline and Rimmel have some really good ones. At the moment I'm back to the Seventeen VaVaVoom mascara in waterproof black (I said my skin is oily!).

What are your go-to products for a quick 5-product face?
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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

November Goals



So I made a last minute decision yesterday, and at the start of each month I'll be sharing a few goals for both my blog and life in general. Better late than never! Each post I'll also review last month's goals so that I can keep a record so-to-speak of my progress, and if I haven't hit a goal I can think about why. I have tried monthly roundups and other weekly/monthly post formats before and they aren't always easy to keep up - either I totally forget about them (oops) or I run out of things to say. That shouldn't be the case with goals as there will always be something to improve. A writer/blogger's work is never done!

The blog

  • Optimise my new layout - I got a fancypants new layout over the weekend and I'm in love with how much more professional it looks. There are various things I can play around with such as how things are positioned and how posts appear, so I'll be having a switch up to make sure it's super user-friendly.
  • Two Twitter chats per week - I find Twitter chats like #lbloggerschat really helpful for gaining insight, keeping in the loop and finding new blogs to read. I do sometimes miss them as most are in the evenings and much to my dismay I'm a busy bee at the moment. I've set reminders for them all in my phone so hopefully that will help me make time for them.
  • Interact with other bloggers in some form every day - I met up with some lovely bloggers from a Cambridge blogger Facebook/Twitter group last week and it was great to do a bit of networking. It can help you learn new things and grow your own readership. With this in mind I'm going to make a conscious effort to connect with other people's posts either through commenting or tweeting. I enjoy getting into conversation about things.
Life
  • Declutter my belongings - We're moving in the second week of December and as we'll be temporarily living with Mat's parents for a few months I need to dramatically reduce the amount of crap we own. There are drawers of random junk we haven't touched for months so I'm sure there will be plenty to throw away, recycle or pass on to others.
  • Read one book a fortnight (and make sure I review it) - I go through fits and starts with my reading as I get busy and then don't feel motivated to pick a book back up again and finish it even if I ploughed through the first half. I used to read a lot more than I do currently and I really want to change my habits and fix that.
  • Finish season 1 of Fargo - This isn't reeeally a goal but since finishing Sons of Anarchy on Netflix we haven't found anything else as addictive and there's not much that's interesting us TV-wise at the moment. Last week however we started Fargo, mainly as we fancied a bit of Martin Freeman, and we're getting quite into it so watch this space.
Do you have any goals for this month? How will you go about achieving them?
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Sunday, 1 November 2015

The High Tea Club, Cambridge


Photography from The High Tea Club website as my camera and the evening mood lighting did not get on well!
On Thursday evening I made my way over to The High Tea Club, a brand new concept that's popped up on Mill Road, for their press launch. You can imagine my excitement to be invited along for an event just about tea! I met up with some of the girls from the Camb Meet Up blogger group, which was lovely, and we sat down to enjoy a gorgeous range of teas and cocktails as well as afternoon tea.

The Mill Road area in Cambridge is widely known as a sort of 'cultural quarter' of the city, with various restaurants and speciality supermarkets available. Hop over the bridge however and it's all a bit gentrified, with coffee houses galore and quirky names and store-fronts to boot. It was refreshing to see The High Tea Club pop up, as its simple sign and friendly (but beautiful) décor bridge the gap between Shoreditch-style swank and that famous cosy Cambridge feel. Owner Danielle Xiao created the relaxed, modern space with this in mind, with the Club being one of the only places in town to offer such a wide range of loose teas. Her family back in China has been in the tea business for centuries, so we felt sure her recommendations on what to choose from the 55 varieties on offer would be perfect.


The 'club' is part cafe, part bar, and the menu is a fusion of Chinese and British food and drink. This means that you can opt for your standard afternoon tea stack, or venture into the oriental with dim sum. As dim sum isn't something I'd ever tried before until this point I couldn't wait to get stuck in. The flavours were divine, with our favourites being the marshmallowy, custard-filled dumplings at the bottom. The standard afternoon tea was also not to be sniffed at with an unusual range of pastries and sweet macarons to indulge in. The pastries were from a local supplier, although much of the menu is made in-house. We were all pretty hungry so it didn't last long, but either stack would be the perfect size for sharing!


Something rather unusual about the Club is that it's open until 11pm, with plenty of cocktails on offer as well as an evening menu that offers nibbles and cheese boards in addition to the classic afternoon tea and dim sum, as well as desserts. The cocktail menu is reasonably priced for Cambridge, and there are some funky tea-based cocktails on offer that I'll definitely be going back to try. My favourite thing from the menu was the range of flowering teas. A small dried ball is dropped into the water and slowly unfolds into a beautiful floating flower as it infuses. Cool or what? I can't wait to go back for more.

The High Tea Club can be found at 160 Mill Road, Cambridge and is open 9am-11pm (10pm on Sundays).

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Saturday, 31 October 2015

My creepy visit to Les Catacombs, Paris


It's Halloween! What better to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year (I was a witch in a former life, I swear) than with a nice, creepy blog post! We had been to Paris about 5 years prior and had no idea then that the catacombs beneath the city even existed. This time around I was researching some more unusual places to visit and when I read about this it went to the tippy top of my list.

We had to get the Metro out to the south of the city as the entrance is a little out of the way, but it was really easy to find - I would recommend going at the beginning or end of the day as we arrived at about half 11 and there was a considerable queue. As the entrance and walkway down underground are tiny it takes a while for people to be let in and out. It was quite a cheap attraction, about 8 euros each, as in France if you have ID to prove you're under 25 and live in the EU you get reduced or free entry to places like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We just showed our passports everywhere we went.



I thought it would be claustrophobic so I wasn't sure how I would get on, but the ceilings are deceptively high down there and some of the outlets are cavernous. If it wasn't for the dark and damp (although it's also fairly well lit as you're not permitted to use flash photography) I wouldn't have known how far underground we were. I felt absolutely fine.

A bit of fun history for you: The catacombs were formerly a very old (as in pre-12th Century) disused mine. In the 1700s a series of cave-in incidents led to them being rediscovered. They run for many kilometers (about 300 I think) with various pockets being connected by 'roads' underground. By the time they were discovered, Paris had a huge problem with overflowing cemeteries, some of which had mounds metres high full of the dead because there was nowhere else for them to go. As people had to live so closely to improperly buried corpses there were huge problems with disease, and an overwhelming smell of decomposing bodies. Yummo.



The ossuaries within the catacombs hold the bones of around six million people, making it the largest grave in the world. The bones are not arranged as whole skeletons but certain bones are grouped together and packed in so that they are structurally sound. They are however 'sort of' categorised as every so often a plaque detailing a hospital name, month and year is seen which indicates when these people's bones were brought down there. The final lot of bones was interred in 1860, and 7 years later the catacombs were open to the public.


If you go down with a guide, they will tell you all kinds of horror stories, but I was getting the heebie jeebies so we went it alone. It's very quiet down there, and you're so far underground that you can see layers of sediment in the walls from millions of years ago. The walls of bones go back meters and the ceiling drips with limestoney water. Despite it having a kind of deserted feel though you can see from the various signs and plaques, as well as intricate patterns put into the bone arrangements, that this is actually a project that was undertaken with great care and respect.

I would highly recommend a trip to the catacombs to anyone with a bit of a morbid fascination, but I think anyone would enjoy it. There were little kids in there who didn't seem scared but were just so fascinated.

Have you ever been anywhere as creepy as Les Catacombs?


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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

15 blogging prompts to help you get over writer's block



It happens to the best of us. One day you wake up and the inspiration has left the building. Sometimes with blogging I feel like I've exhausted all my content ideas, but I know I just need to take a step back and wait for the next big idea to come. To help you get out of that blogging funk I've put together a list of 15 post prompts to suit everyone from beauty bloggers to creatives! I'll be trying out a few of these over the next couple of weeks and I can't wait to see what you guys come up with!

1. Make a list of 5 happy things that happened this week

2. Write a letter to your 16 year old self - what would you say?

3. Go out walking for the afternoon and see where you end up. Write about it.

4. Share your thoughts on the last book you read.

5. If you could have 5 fictional people over for dinner, from books, films or TV, who would you pick and why?

6. Talk about where you see yourself in 10 years time.

7. Give readers a tour of your home or bedroom through photos.

8. Do you have a travel bucket list?

9. Visit a royalty free stock image site like Unsplash, pick a random image and describe what you think might be happening or the feelings it gives you.

10. List the best pieces of advice anyone has ever given you.

11. Show readers how you've organised your makeup/clothes/books/stationery or something else in the home.

12. Share your fondest childhood memory.

13. Write about something that really annoys you.

14. Put together a playlist.

15. Tell readers about your favourite place, it could be anywhere!

Comment below with links to your posts so I can have a read! Do you have any ideas you can add to my list?
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Monday, 26 October 2015

Wishlisting

It's been a while since I featured any kind of wishlist on the blog - I'm trying to consciously buy a bit less and that includes clothes especially as we'll be moving in a couple of months and . That said, I do have my eye on a few non-clothing items that will probably be making their way to me in the post by the end of the month!


Illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter colouring book - They saw me coming, didn't they? Not only has a beautifully illustrated version of The Philosopher's Stone but I've also really gotten into these stress release colouring books and there's a HP version available for pre-order. Gimme.


Canon EOS 700d - I've been researching cameras for a while now and after much deliberation I've decided on the Canon EOS 700d as the one for me. I need a camera that takes much crisper images than my now rather old bridge camera that just isn't cutting the mustard these days. I'll probably be using Christmas money to help pay for this one as it's a big purchase but I've waited 5 years to get a new camera so another two months will be bearable! 

Black foldover purse from River Island - I've had the same River Island purse for nearly two years and only now is it just starting to show real wear. I really can't fault the quality of their bags and purses, especially for the money. I also have two bags by them and I use them every day without fail and have never had them break on me despite stuffing them to the limit. This classic black purse looks like it'll do nicely as a replacement.


Maybelline Colour Tattoo 24hr Gel-Cream Eyeshadow - I see these used in tutorials all the time and while I usually hate the feeling of an eyeshadow cream I'm very tempted after seeing them in action. The shade 'Metallic Pomegranate' looks lush.

What are you lusting after lately?


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Saturday, 24 October 2015

How to have the ultimate cosy weekend


So I felt like a proper adult this year as I've managed to remember the clocks are going back tonight. With the extra hour in bed (read: extra hour to stay up scrolling Instagram in true zombie-like fashion), come darker evenings. I tend to go into hibernate mode this time of year and it takes a lot more effort to leave the house - I'll always stay in if I can - but there's more to do from the comfort of your sofa than just vegetate! Here are my fave cosy weekend activities, which can all be done whilst snuggled up with a blanket.

Whip out a box set - This one is pretty obvious, but TV gets so good around October and I don't need to tell you that Netflix is also there to amuse you. My favourite comfort watch though has to be my Harry Potter box set. Nothing like a trip to Hogwarts to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Paint those nails - Every weekend I sit and give my nails a file and a coat of something. It makes me feel like I've got my shit together come Monday. Plus it's a great excuse not to move for half an hour because they need to dry! My most used this time of year is always Bordeaux by Essie as its the perfect wine shade.

Read, read, read - If you're not the binge-watching type or want to get back into reading, this time of year is perfect for unleashing your inner bookworm, Whether you're into magazines, novels, poetry or self-help there's something out there to keep everyone entertained.

Ditch the makeup - Whenever I have a busy weekend out and about my skin gets a bit congested and the spots start popping up. A cosy weekend at home is a chance to go makeup free, stick your hair in a top knot and slap on a face mask. My favourite at the moment is Lush's Cosmetic Warrior which smells really weird because it contains garlic and apparently eggs (what) but has such a calming effect and you sort of get used to it!

Keep the hot drinks flowing - We like to keep  constant flow of teas and hot chocolate on the go when having a cosy day. I'm a big fan of Options as they contain less sugar but still satisfy my sweet tooth!

What are your top tips for a cosy weekend?
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Monday, 19 October 2015

6 reasons Mondays are actually pretty awesome


Yep, you heard me - I don't hate Mondays! The first day of the week gets such a bad rap, but there are plenty of reasons to embrace it.

1. A clean slate - Whatever happened last week at work or school, it probably doesn't matter this week. Treat every Monday like it's the first and you'll feel the stress melting away! Pack your lunch, hit the gym and own it. Set your goals and intentions for the coming week and keep them in mind as the days progress.

2. You just had the weekend! - Weekends are awesome (unless you work through them, in which case I'm sorry!) but don't hate so much on poor ol' Monday. If anything you should be fresh-faced and raring to go after a good Sunday reset.

3. You've probably planned your outfit - I always start the week with the notion that I'll plan out all my outfits for work the night before, and while it rarely lasts beyond Tuesday it means that every Monday I feel like I've really got my shit together.

4. Your hair is probably clean and straight too - Every Monday everyone turns up to work smelling of shampoo and face masks. Beautiful.

5. You get to catch up on the goss - I can't lie, it's always fun to hear about what antics your colleagues got up to!

6. Even if the rest of week isn't all you want it to be, there's another weekend at the end of it - It's a fact of life that even if you love your job, sometimes a day or two off brings a sigh of relief. There's still nothing like getting home on a Friday night and spending the next 48 hours eating pizza in your pjs.

What do you love about Mondays?
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Thursday, 15 October 2015

4 tunes to add to your October playlist

I must admit I don't blog about music as much as I should. I spent most of this year in a state of obscene business, and so didn't keep up much with music at all - that's all changed thanks to a new job and I've been spending many an evening listening to Spotify playlists and our DAB radio. Here are the tunes I'm loving right now:


Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart, Chris Cornell - This man can do no wrong in my eyes. OK maybe that Bond theme song was a bit out of character and the haircut was a bad marketing decision, but I forgive you. Soundgarden are one of my favourite bands of all-time and Chris's voice is so luxurious I could listen to him all day, so his new solo material is getting some serious play in my household. It's much more chilled than a lot of stuff I listen to. Have a listen to the whole of 'Higher Truth' on Spotify and I'm sure I'll convert you.


Better Place, Saint Asonia - When I first heard 'Better Place' on a Spotify curated playlist I was hooked. So catchy, so punchy, slightly angry, so new but strangely familiar. That's when I looked the band up and realised it's a supergroup! I'm a big supergroup fan - they mostly produce some really good music, and these guys are no exception as members hail from bands like Staind and Three Days Grace. Adam Gontier's voice is so gritty but melodic and I'm slightly in love with these guys. Can you tell?


The Other Side, Red Sun Rising - I can't believe I've never heard of these guys until recently, because Red Sun Rising are like the Soundgarden of their generation (sorry Soundgarden, like I said you'll always be my number 1 and I'm basing this statement on one debut album, but I'm placing bets!). They also have beautiful beards and hair but that's besides the point because it's about the music, don't you know. Anyway, one tune that's been getting a lot of airplay is 'The Other Side'. Check it out!


Don't Wake Me, Aranda - This band have been around for a little while now, but recently released a stonker of a single from their new album that is making the rounds and really putting them on the map. Aranda have also got a celebrity fan in the form of Kelly Clarkson, who has covered a couple of their songs. They are definitely rocky in roots, but also have some lovely ballad tunes in their back catalogue. 'Don't Wake Me' is the song that got me really excited - it's moody and catchy and perfect for this time of year.

What music are you loving this month?
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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

You can do anything if you put your mind to it (I promise)



The events of the last 3 or 4 months have been less than ideal for me, to say the least. I don't need to go into details (and if I did it would take me all day) but in a way I am actually grateful for the bad luck that came my way. In difficult times we find out who we really are.

I honestly thought I would struggle a lot more than I did with both situations, but I kept the wallowing and the panicking to a minimum and decided instead to dig deep and use all the energy I had to get things back on track. I have struggled since I was a teenager with my mental health - I've been medicated, had CBT, the lot - but this time around I knew how to deal without getting into a really bad place.

I feel like life is getting back to how it should be these last few weeks, which actually feels abnormal after what I've had to deal with this year, but I've come out with a stronger sense of who I am and what my strengths and best qualities are, and I've made some changes which look set to lead to even better things.

It's totally OK to feel down and to doubt yourself once in a while - it's part of being human. But don't ever let anyone tell you you're not good enough, don't ever let a situation dictate how you feel about yourself, and always believe that you have the power and the ability to achieve great things. You can do anything if you put your mind to it, I promise.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

6 awesome TV shows to watch this autumn



Autumn. Tis the season of endless cups of tea, dark evenings and blanket forts. What better way to supplement this cosiness than with a does of good telly. Here are my personal picks to keep you entertained:

1. Supernatural - So you may already know if you follow me on Twitter that I am a huge fan of Supernatural. Season 11 premiers in the US tonight, so if you're naughty and keep up with things on American time there's that. Season 10 however for those who are tracking behind with the UK will begin next Wednesday on E4. So much Winchester lovin'.

2. Downton Abbey - I have to admit I haven't kept up enough with the last couple of series, but Sundays won't be the same for many of us without Downton. The final series is already in full swing but you can catch up on ITV player in no time for a giggle and probably a few tears.

3. American Horror Story: Hotel - I have such a love-hate relationship with this show, and for good reason. American Horror Story is as gross and creepy as it is slick and cool. It's something I always want to watch but end up doing so with a pillow over my eyes. This season I'm intrigued by the casting of Lady Gaga, and the annual Evan Peters fix is of course catered for.

4. Peep Show - Cold, dark nights call for some comic relief, and so November will see Channel 4 airing the last ever series of Peep Show. This was one of the first 'grown-up' (a.k.a. slightly rude and sweary) comedy shows I ever watched, so it's going to be a nostalgic one for me! I'm not sure it's quite as funny these days as it was back in the earlier series, but Mitchell and Webb antics are always a good shout.

5. Luther - I'm so happy that Idris Elba agreed to come back for a mini-series of Luther. There is no exact date yet but we'll see our favourite emotionally unstable detective back on screens before the year is out. If you missed the original three series you simply have to go back and watch them (I think they're still available on Netflix).

6. Parks and Recreation - So technically Parks and Rec has sadly now finished after 7 seasons of hilarity, but luckily if like me you're still not totally over it, Dave is bringing Pawnee back to our living rooms. Season 5 will kick off this coming Monday (12th October) so be sure to tune in.

What are you looking forward to watching this autumn?
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Sunday, 4 October 2015

12 Autumn home buys under £20

Autumnal homewares are everything. This time of year I always find myself lusting after home ranges - dark colours, rustic metallics,serious cosy vibes. Before I know it I've racked up a massive basket total on Urban Outfitters and am sobbing silently as I click the 'leave page and abandon this beautiful, beautiful basket' button. 

But this year I've spied some more affordable brands jumping on the chic seasonal interiors bandwagon. The below are all from George at Asda, Wilkinsons (apaz they're called 'Wilko' officially now?!), and H&M Home, which are in my opinion the best places to nab a home-related bargain. I set myself a £20 max limit when searching for these as it's enough to get something pretty lush - or even a pair because, y'know, symmetry - without feeling like you've dented your bank balance massively for a pair of sodding cushions.


George at Asda
2. Copper vase, £5.00
4. Copper letter rack, £10.00


Wilko
7. White LED star, £15.00
9. Check cushion, £7.00


H&M Home
10. Metal bookend, £7.99
11. Metal leaf dish, £7.99
12. Tealight holder, £1.99

Have you found any bargain home pieces for autumn?


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Sunday, 27 September 2015

The ULTIMATE book tag

tea books eyeliner

After a very stressful few months in which I really didn't have much time or energy for reading. I thought it was time to break up the monotony of random book reviews and travel posts here and there and give you a sizeable bookworm post to sink your teeth into. I chose the 'Ultimate book tag' questions because I think they give you a pretty good idea of the kind of books I like to read, and hopefully you can get a few recommendations from me while you're at it. There are a LOT of questions and it took me ages because I'm an indecisive human, so here you go!

Book Q&A Rules:
1. Post these rules
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover
3. Answer the questions below
4. Tag a few people to answer them too
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

1984 Orwell

What are you reading right now?
I'm currently reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. It's my first Gaiman experience and while I'm only 60 pages in I can already tell why he's so popular. Such a distinctive style!

Do you have any idea what you'll read when you're done with that? 
I have a few in mind. I keep wanting to read Elizabeth is Missing but I can't seem to get myself into the right mindset. I think it's going to upset me! 

What 5 book have you always wanted to read but haven't got round to? 
I don't know if there are 5 but White Teeth by Zadie Smith comes to mind. I love post-colonial lit. I also really want to read The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, and The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson. I'll probably go and order all of these tonight now!

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now? 
I go through fits and starts with magazines these days. Some months I look at the shelves and they just don't grab me and right now is one of those times, so the closest I have to a magazine is the George home catalog!

What's the worst book you've ever read? 
During my university studies I had to read a very chunky novel by John Lanchester called Capital, and I'm sorry to say I absolutely hated it! I can't put my finger on exactly why but the whole thing felt so contrived and just too topical to be believable!

What book seemed really popular but you didn't like?
I'll have to be obvious here and go for 50 Shades...I actually gave it a shot but the quality of writing (the structure, the descriptors used, everything) was just so poor. It might have been good as fan-fiction but I can't believe any editor let it go to print like that. The promotion of abuse also left me feeling pretty stale.

What's the one book you always recommend to just about everyone? 
Either The Hunger Games Trilogy or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Both changed by perspective in some way and I think anyone of any age can find meaning in these books.

What are your three favourite poems? 
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, for it's classic horror feel, The Lady's Dressing Room by Jonathan Swift, because it's hilarious albeit kinda gross, and Ode to a Nightingale by John Keats, because I love his work.

Where do you usually get your books? 
Mostly online but I do make a habit of buying things in bookstores when they grab me. I can't afford to pay £12.99 for every book I read but it's nice sometimes to go in and pick up a hardback.

Where do you usually read your books? 
I used to read on my commute but these days I drive to work, so if I ever get time for a lunch break I'll read a chapter or two, but mostly these days I read at home on the sofa at the weekends.

When you were little did you have any particular reading habits? 
Only if you count writing my name (badly) in the inside of the cover!

What's the latest you've stayed up reading? 
When I was reading Mockingjay I stayed up until half 3 to finish it. That's saying something for me cos I like my sleep!

Have you ever 'faked' reading something?
No - I don't get that. I really think it's fine if you haven't read a certain classic or very popular book as reading is a very individual thing.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?
Not solely. Often a pretty cover attracts me to read the blurb but if it's of no interest to me I'll put it down.

What was your favourite book as a child?
Well I got started on the Potter pretty early and we all know how that ended up!

What book changed your life?
I'll refer you to the above...

What is your favourite passage from a book?
'Together, they would watch everything that was so carefully planned collapse, and they would smile at the beauty of destruction.'

What are your top five authors? 
J.K. Rowling, Sebastian Faulks, Daphne du Maurier, Suzanne Collins and George Orwell

What book has no one heard about but should read? 
The Bone People by Keri Hulme is such an amazing read and I never would have encountered it if t weren't for my uni course. It's set in New Zealand and is primarily a tale about domestic abuse and parental love but the story also draws deeply on folk culture, to the point that there's a sort of Kiwi dictionary in the back. It made me cry my eyes out.

What three books are you an 'Evangelist' for? 
The Book Thief, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Station Eleven. Look 'em up.

What are your favourite books by a first-time author? 
I cant actually think of any although I'm sure I've read some! I think Anita and Me was Meera Syal's first novel, which sticks out as something I really loved. It paints such a vivid cultural picture.

What is your favourite classic book? 
Probably either Dracula by Bram Stoker or Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, Both turned out to be total page-turners when I was expecting them to be drab and old fashioned. Everybody should read them.

Five other notable mentions? 
Regeneration by Pat Barker, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, A Summer of Drowning by John Burnside, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe and Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell.

I found this tag on a few blogs while hunting for something fun and bookish to write for this post, but they were all from over a year ago so I reckon most people have done this already. Hooowever, if any of you lovely lot have yet to do so, I'm tagging you all! Please make sure you link to your answers in the comments below so I can have a cheeky ganders!

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© kelly anne rist

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