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Lush Christmas 2019

It's been a while since I last blogged about an event, but I wanted to share what I learned at the Lush Cambridge Christmas range launch. They kindly invited me to their event so that I could tell you all about it. I've got some awesome product recommendations for you all and my own Christmas list is getting longer!

I love giving people Lush gifts for Christmas (and birthdays!) because they're the kind of little luxuries we sometimes don't think to treat ourselves to. Plus, if you do choose to wrap them up and put them under the tree, your house will smell amazing.

The Christmas range includes soaps, bath melts (some of which are designed to hang on the tree until your Christmas day bath, various lotions and potions, and of course... bath bombs! My absolute favourite Butterbear bath bombs sadly aren't in the range this year, however the cute little bear is back in soap form and is super moisturising. Snow Apple and Yog Nog are divine fragrances I've not tried before, and of course Snow Fairy is back in stores.

The thing that impressed me most about the range is that so many of the products are free of packaging or designed to reduce waste. From naked shower gels and body lotions (solid to liquid formulas that don't require plastic bottles) to bath bombs that come in two, or even 3 pieces, they've thought of everything.

You can find the Lush Christmas range both in store and online right now - I love to get my Christmas shopping done nice and early so I'll be back again shortly. 

Every Book I've Read in 2019 So Far

This year I promised myself I'd read a lot more books. I've gone all in, with themes from crime and romance, non=fiction, mythology and even rock 'n' roll!

Since I learned to drive and said goodbye to the train commute I had turned to music and podcasts for entertainment, and my evenings are usually spent at the gym or in front of the telly. I fell into a book slump, feeling uninspired and unable to stick at any one title long enough to immerse myself the story.

So, in January, I made myself a promise - I was going to read 20 books before 2020 and get back into the reading groove.

Here's every book I've read so far in 2019, along with a few thoughts and recommendations. And don't worry, they're spoiler free!

book pages by window while reading

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, John Edward Douglas and Mark Olshaker 

If you’re into true crime, you’ve probably watched the series of the same name. Mindhunter is an inside look at how Special Agent John Douglas used behavioural science to profile some of the most prolific serial killers in America. It’s fascinating and disturbing and gives you a raw insight into what it’s really like to sit across the table from a stone cold killer. 8/10

Normal People, Sally Rooney

I thought that this book would be a little overly ‘romantic’ for my tastes, but I’m happy to admit that I was wrong. This is a down to earth exploration of the complicated, raw emotions that come with young-adult relationships and growing up. While the characters lives are certainly more dramatic than my own, there was a lot I could identify with. A big twist towards the end of the book had me picking my jaw up off the floor. I couldn’t put this one down. 9/10

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton

The premise of this novel is as complicated to read as it is to explain. Let me attempt it: During a night of celebrations, Evelyn Hardcastle is murdered. The narrator, a guest at the party, must live out the day's events in the body of a different guest each time, again and again, until he identifies the killer. I expected a lot from this Sunday Times best-seller, but to be honest, it was all over the place. There are so many different tiny plot threads being strung together with very little in the way of clues or an explanation of why this is happening to the narrator. The author really wants you to work for it. So much so that I made it two-thirds of the way through and completely gave up. This had so much potential but didn’t do enough to keep me reading. 3.5/10.

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

After enduring and ultimately DNF-ing the above, I turned to Neil Gaiman for some good old-fashioned myths. I wouldn’t say I’m a history buff, but Gaiman’s retellings of some classic Norse legends are succinct, humorous and beautifully written. It’s more like a collection of short stories or fables. If you’re even remotely familiar with the Marvel world of Thor and Loki, you’ll really enjoy learning about where their characters come from. 8/10

The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living, Mark Boyle

I read about Mark Boyle in an article somewhere and while the concept sounds extreme, I felt like there was a lot to be learned from the way he lives his life. Mark left his job and gave up all money for an entire year, relying on second-hand items, self-sufficient food and energy production and the goodwill of others for an entire year. While it’s not something I’m sure is for me, it did make me hyper-aware of all the unnecessary purchases I’ve made in the past, and made me conscious of how much waste our capitalist-fuelled lifestyles produce. A really important read. 7.5/10

Daisy Jones and The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid

The premise of this book sounds pretty cheesy: Daisy Jones, a musician and socialite, joins The Six, a fictional rock band on the cusp of greatness, and drug-fuelled rock ‘n’ roll escapades and melodramatics ensue. But the reviews led me to give it a chance, and I loved it. The book tackles issues like addiction, abortion and infidelity addressed in a very real way. There’s also a little twist at the end that brought a tear to my eye. The book is structured a little like a Rolling Stone interview or some kind of rockumentary, with each character giving a journalist their view on what happened. For this reason, I’d strongly recommend getting the Audible recording. The chosen voice actors are brilliant. It’s so atmospheric and gritty that I kept having to remind myself it’s all fictional. My favourite read of the year so far. Just get it. 9.5/10

Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Everyone’s favourite true crime podcast hosts have finally released their book. I had my reservations, with many celeb/influencer book deals often leading to underwhelming ghostwritten coffee table books. This one is different. Taking it in turns to write the chapters, Karen and Georgia explore how they got into true crime and the events of their past that brought them to where they are today. Their voices are very distinct, as though chatting with a friend, and as you might expect from these two, there’s plenty of swearing! If you love the podcast, you’ll love this. I only wish it were longer as I wanted even more tales of their escapades. Again, the audiobook is a must. 8/10

American Gods, Neil Gaiman

This is a tricky one to review. American Gods has everything a Neil Gaiman novel should have: history, the supernatural, mythology surrounding the old and new gods of America, really weird characters. For some reason though, I feel like it’s missing something. The main character is a bit dense, it takes a while to get to the point of why any of the events of the book are even happening, and it feels like a much longer read than it needs to be. I’ve yet to watch the TV series adapted from this book, but I can see why the drawn-out plot would do well as a show as there’s plenty of suspense as well as a lot of travel from one place to another. I wanted to like this so much, but for me it fell a bit flat. 6/10

What's Next?

In the spirit of pushing myself to read even more I've joined a local book club! The next book coming up is The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. I've read some of her work before so I'm excited to see what this has in store!

Have you read any of the books listed above? What did you think of them? 

I Got a Lash Lift for the First Time – Thoughts and Before and After Photos

If you know me IRL, then you probably know that I don't really wear eye makeup anymore. I used to love a thick cat eye, but a series of allergic reactions to mascaras have lead me go bare most of the time these days. I'd been thinking about getting an LVL Lash Lift for well over a year, but as my eyes are sensitive I put it off. 

My lovely friend Yasmin offers the treatment at her home salon, based in North Cambridge. She very kindly offered to let me try out the lash lift* free of charge so that I could see how I got on with it, and share it with you guys!

The treatment is normally £35 and can be repeated every 6 weeks should you wish - or you can simply have them now and again to treat yourself. Yasmin's lash lift products are completely vegan and cruelty-free, which is a huge bonus for me as I'm trying to make sure my beauty and skincare are as kind to my skin and the earth/its inhabitants as they can be.

How the Lash Lift Works

As my skin and eyes can be temperamental, I made sure I went for the patch test a couple of days before. A small blob of each part of the treatment (the dye and the keratin solution) are placed discreetly under a small plaster, and if 24 hours later you haven't experienced a reaction, you should be good to go.

The LVL Lash Lift treatment takes around an hour - 15 mins to prep you and gently apply guards to the eyelids, then three separate solutions to curl, colour and set the lashes in place. We used a medium roller to give a good amount of lift with a natural looking curl. My lashes are fairly long and dark when natural, but need a helping hand to stay curled!

Although it does feel bloody weird to have your eyelashes in a roller, it's not uncomfortable or irritating at all. In fact, after half an hour with my eyes closed, Yas is lucky I didn't fall asleep.

My Lash Lift Result

Top: Before
Bottom: After

I'm honestly so happy with the result. Thanks to the lash lift my eyes look more open and my makeup looks more put together even without any mascara or eyeshadow. The lashes are a little darker (great if you're blonde and have light lashes!) and perfectly curled.

No filter needed with these natural lashes!

Over the next 6 weeks, they will gradually go back to normal, so it's a very low maintenance treatment. Perfect for me as with sensitive eyes lash extensions aren't an option. I'll definitely be going back to Yasmin's Cambridge home salon for another treatment before my holiday later this year!

If you're in the Cambridge area I can't recommend this girl enough! She's a boss at what she does, whether you need LVL, extensions or a spray tan. Visit Yasmin's instagram here, and book yourself an appointment here.

*This post includes products or services that were provided at a discount or free of charge. That said, I will never promote something that I wouldn't love, use or purchase myself and all views are completely my own.

Life Lately: Finding Balance, Learning Not to Give a Shit, Making Plans

I've noticed a shift this summer in the way that I've been spending my time. No doubt the eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that I haven't written anything for you in a while (it's now autumn), and that I've taken a few breaks here and there from social media. It's been a bit of a revelation, to say the least.

The more time I spend offline, with friends (old and new) and family, the more I feel like my real self and the more I've let go of wanting to fit into a certain 'blogger girl' mould. I've been far less critical of myself, less concerned with trends, and much better at "self care". Living with anxiety is hard enough without the internet adding to my worries.

Being More 'Present'

I've spent so much time eating, drinking, socialising, taking road trips, throwing a frisbee around, chilling in the garden, and working towards a new qualification for my job, that I just don't have the time to give to mindlessly scrolling anymore.

I'm using apps like Instragram less, but with much more intent (more on this here). I spend time following the accounts that make me feel good, and the same goes for other social media too. I've made some great memories instead of aaaaalways having my eyes on my phone. I've just gotten back from a holiday where I only took TEN photos. Unheard of for me, but I was just enjoying the rare chance to relax and recharge.

Learning Resilience

Something I've also been working on is growing a thicker skin, and learning not to take everything to heart. It's definitely easier said than done. I'm happy to admit that I've always been a sensitive person, and that taking things personally is my default setting. I'm guessing I'm not alone here.

BUT I'm continually telling myself that the way someone speaks to me or the words they choose to use are always more of a reflection on themselves than an indication I've done something wrong. I think it's working?

Personal Development

I've also embarked on a new marketing qualification, which involves a lot of work outside of my usual working hours. My evenings and weekends have suddenly been consumed by it for the last few weeks, and it's really testing my knowledge and helping me to improve my skillset. 

With any luck we'll also finally be buying our first house soon, so there will be plenty to do when it comes to moving. The timing of the move and my assignment dates are about as clashy as it could get, but I'm also aware of how lucky I am and how hard I've worked to be able to do either of these things at 26. 

I'm telling myself that all will be fine and go smoothly (fingers crossed!), and looking forward to making some serious interiors plans for when I've got a set of keys in my hands and an assignment submission receipt in my inbox.

So really, life for me at the moment has been about prioritising the things that truly serve me and setting myself up for the future. Sadly that means that blog posts may continue to be sparse into the autumn months, but I still enjoy sitting down to post every now and again so just know that I won't forget about it completely! I could never give up this space that I spent so long creating.

How to (easily) cut down on your social media usage

If you ever feel like you spend too much time on social media, then know you're not alone. There have now been countless studies into the negative affects of social media on mental health, and it has even been classed as an addiction by psychologists. So how can you cut down without a) going completely cold turkey and b) making yourself feel guilty about it?

This time last year I went from a job in marketing to going full-on social media, and while it can be a lot of fun I began to feel like the lines were blurring between 'me time' and the amount of time I was spending scrolling various social media apps. It's not good for your mental health, with comparison and F.O.M.O. having serious negative affects. It's not good for your physical health either, with a rise in "text neck", repetitive strain and poor sleep all attributed to our growing dependency on social media.

Here's how I've managed to cut right down, while making sure I am spending the time I've saved wisely.

Get an Alarm Clock. Like, a Real One. 

Remember those? Head straight out to the nearest supermarket or Argos and grab yourself a basic electronic alarm clock. When you go to bed, set the alarm and put your phone on the other side of the room. That way when you wake up there’s no danger of being sucked into an Instagram vortex. If the loud buzzing isn't for you, you can even set them to wake you up with the radio - the wonders of ancient technology! You might even leave for work on time.

Download the Moment App

This app has been a huge help in reminding me just how much time I waste scrolling my social apps. Moment tracks your phone usage, pickups and more, and helps you train yourself to be more disciplined. The app allows you to set a daily time limit and will notify you when your time is up, and you can even set yourself extended challenges to help you cut down. It’s a little hard on your battery, but you won’t need that power for scrolling anyway so it’s a win-win. Since downloading Moment I've gone from spending up to five hours a day scrolling my phone aimlessly, to two and a half hours or less most days. The time limit means I'm more focused about what I do when the phone is in my hand.

Turn Off those Push Notifications. Right Now.

How many times have you been minding your own business, only to see a message pop up from twitter or Instagram? You can't help but tap it, and suddenly you’re down the rabbit hole, totally engrossed in your feed. You blink and a hour has passed, it’s getting dark and your stomach is rumbling. Since I switched off all push notifications bar actual messages and personal emails, I’ve probably halved the amount of unsolicited scroll-athons I’ve got myself caught up in each day. You can check your apps a couple of times a day when you really have the time to and it doesn’t encroach on your life quite so much.

Find a Reaaaally Good Netflix Show

I’m not talking about binge watching old episodes of Friends here. Find something you’ve never watched before that reeeeally interests you and makes you think. For me at the moment that’s The Alienist. It's got crime, gore and psychological thrills aplenty. It’s also kind of intense and complicated, so if I look away for too long I suddenly have no idea what’s going on. And that means that I have no choice but to put my phone down and pay attention. I'm not mad about it.

Reorganise Your Home Screen

This one is kind of simple, but it will probably have a big impact on your behaviour. I moved a couple of my most used apps (I’m looking at you Facebook, aka time-sponge) to the last 'page' of my homescreen, put more productive ones at the front, and now I hardly ever open the ones I've moved out of temptation's way.

Listen to Podcasts

This time last year I hadn’t listened to an entire podcast before, and now it’s pretty much all I do! Depending on what I choose to listen to I can keep up with current affairs and social trends, or simply be entertained. The best thing about this is that I can be very hands off and just leave it to play. Whether I’m doing housework or just relaxing, it’s great to be preoccupied without feeling like I’m vegetating in front of my phone. I love My Favourite Murder for some light serial killer entertainment (are you sensing a theme in my tastes here?) and Happy Place with Fearne Cotton to relax and unwind.

Get an iPod for the Gym

I head to the gym to unwind, get a bit of a sweat on and move my body, but I was finding that taking my phone with me for music was leading to me getting distracted by Instagram and Twitter rather than giving my brain a break. Try switching to an iPod, preferably without a screen, and see what difference it'll make to leave your phone at home or in your locker for an hour.

These are just some of the ways that I've managed to make big changes to my social media habits. Every day is different, so go easy on yourself and find what works for you - it's all about having a healthier relationship with your phone and the internet. Good luck!

Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

We've all heard tales of women using their bodies as weapons, but what if they really were deadly? What if Women were something to be feared? Naomi Alderman asks these questions and more in The Power.

It's not hard to see why this book has attracted so much attention. In an age that many are describing as a 'fourth wave' of feminism, The Power plays out an alternative scenario to modern history, one that tears down the patriarchal constructs we know all too well. It was awarded the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction last year and is by all accounts a critically acclaimed best seller.

So what's it all about?

The book centres around 4 main characters, switching perspectives every few chapters. Young girls are suddenly beginning to find that they can awaken an almost supernatural ability to inflict extreme pain on others using a kind of electrical current, generated from a previously undiscovered gland called a 'skein'. Men everywhere are terrified, and the power is beginning to spread across the globe.

The novel is presented as a historical account, book-ended by letters between its male author and his female editor. There are even diagrams of historical artifacts between chapters - read the descriptions, they're pretty clever. As each section of the book passes, we inch closer to a cataclysmic event (which I won't go into detail about for spoilers' sake). As the power provides women with the means to take control of society and governments attempt to regulate its use, underground religious movements spring up across the globe, a drug lord's daughter finds ways to take advantage of the new order, and a male journalist finds himself helplessly trapped in a country on the verge of collapse.

As much as it pains me to quote cheesy superhero films in a book review, "with great power comes great responsibility". As previously oppressed groups of women begin to realise they can easily manipulate, injure and kill the men that once kept them in chains, the tables are turned and things get out of hand. Thousands of years if sexism and misogyny are reversed in the course of only a few years, resulting in sheer chaos. After years of lying dormant, the power is difficult to contain.

The Power begins as a kind of feminist sci-fi/fantasy tale, but as the pace intensifies (and rarely lets up for more than a beat) things turn violent, and at times graphic. It morphs into a bold fable against the dangers of oppression. Let it shock you - it's meant to.

Naomi Alderman's writing is page-turning. It's action-packed enough to push the story along at lightning pace, but at times is also beautifully descriptive, slowing down occasionally to let the message sink in. It's also packed with humour and sarcasm, which balances out the seriousness and makes it a truly entertaining read. The perspectives used each have distinct personalities and voices, and Alderman uses them with finesse to imply powerful observations about human nature and, of course, gender.

Like most, I expected to read The Power and come away feeling empowered. I definitely enjoyed (in an almost sadistic way) seeing women take control in situations where they would otherwise have been powerless. But also felt as though Alderman was warning us that it will take difficult and by all accounts extraordinary events to truly chance the state of play. This is more than just a revenge story.

I urge you all (whether you're a woman or not) to read this book, if only so I can talk at length with more people about it. This is a book that forces you to hold a mirror up to the current state of play  and to question the unwritten rules of modern society. How acceptable would the atrocious acts of oppression committed against women every day in the present day be if the roles were suddenly reversed?

Budapest Diaries - Day Two

So, I left it a little longer than intended to continue my account of our trip to Budapest. I became a bit of a couch potato over Christmas (which was bliss) and then I contracted a cold-flu-plague hybrid virus that's only now exorcising itself from my body, so let's leave that there and move swiftly on now that we're back in the swing of things. Here's what we got up to on day two of our Budapest city break.

The Thermal Baths

I am now a firm believer than you cannot visit Budapest without indulging in the local tradition of heading to an outdoor (or underground) thermal bath for a good soak and a steam. On the morning of our second day we headed up to perhaps the most well known, the Szechenyi baths. Built in 1913, the huge but ornate yellow building has some serious Wes Anderson vibes going on and is consequently not hard to locate once you get out of the metro.

Sitting around in warm water with the locals might not be to everyone's taste, but personally I enjoyed it. It was a quite morning without too many tourists around, just a few locals. It was about 16 degrees outdoors so it did feel odd to walk out in a swimming costume, but I wasn't freezing either. We booked online through this website - although you don't strictly have to we wanted to make sure we didn't get caught in a queue if it was busy.

There are pools of different temperatures, with the warmest around 40 degrees centigrade. This was my favourite as it felt like a very hot bath. You can feel your pores opening and muscles relaxing as you step in. There are also medicinal baths that are prescribed by Hungarian doctors, as well as traditional spa treatments available indoors. I can see why the locals think this stuff is good for you because I hadn't felt that relaxed in months.

The Best Donuts in Town

I knew we'd be digging into a traditional chimney cake or two while in Budapest, but another delicious find on our travels was The Box Donut. There are at least two of these bakeries in the city, with a variety of these signature square donuts available. They were bloody delicious, and to be quite honest with you they didn't actually make it into their box before we'd scoffed the lot. I'd highly recommend swinging by. If you fancy trying to get some home with you then they fit snugly (some might say deliberately) inside a small box. I'd recommend the Creme Brulee flavour. The smoothies are good, too.

The Shoes on the Danube

We decided to visit this particular part of the Danube after walking around the impressive parliament buildings. If you know the story of what happened on the Danube during the Second World War then you will also know how deeply moving it is to walk along this riverside memorial. This blog provides some more details on what happened in the city during that time period. The Shoes on the Danube is one of many monuments to Hungary's bloody modern history that you'll find across Budapest. More on that later. 

It was sad to see that even to this day, members of the Jewish faith come to leave flowers, candles and ribbons in the 60 pairs of iron shoes tacked to the river's edge. While many WWII monuments are grand and impressive, the shoes are life-size and hard to spot until you're upon them. I think that gives them even more of an impact.

The Unexpected Journey

We left our second afternoon free since we weren't sure what the weather might do. We walked across from the Shoes on the Danube to a nearby boat stop (covered by our 72hr travel passes) and decided to hitch a ride to Margaret Island. 

The island is a piece of land in between the Buda and Pest sides of the river, and while it is mainly home to a hotel and casino, the vast park grounds are open to the public. An old water tower at the centre of the island keeps the Wes Anderson vibes going, and there's also an old church, rose gardens and a huge singing water fountain. Although each area of Budapest is beautiful in its own way, the island was so unique.

The best way to see the island is to rent a tandem bike or covered bike (the one's that the Chuckle Brothers used to ride?!). For a small fee you can easily cycle around the whole thing in 30-60 minutes, depending on whether or not you stop at one of the many bars/stalls for a drink and a Langos. These deep fried bread snacks really are the stuff of dreams when you're a little worn out from peddling! 

The Ruin Bars

At sunset we made our way back to the Air Bnb to change, and then we headed out to explore the district of trendy 'ruin bars'. These bars began popping up about 15 or so years ago in abandoned apartment buildings, and are probably the coolest places I've ever had a beer in my life.

Szimpla Kert is considered the original ruin bar, with a huge maze of connected rooms on multiple floors all filled with mismatched furniture, street art and festoon lights. The busy, vibrant atmosphere is something to really soak up in this place.

As Szimpla Kert got busier we walked a little way up the street to another huge ruin bar called Instant. This place is made up of smaller club and bar-like rooms, each with a slightly different vibe. We heard some music we liked coming from the basement (a dive bar called Robot) so we wandered down. It terms out that a band called DLRM were playing and the whole underground tunnel vibe made me feel like I was in a Kerrang music video! Check out my dodgy phone pic...

Since we hadn't yet had dinner we took a walk in search of food, which didn't disappoint. We found a street food park called Karavan where we went slightly overboard at all the different food trucks, enjoying fried cheese, goulash and chimney cake, washed down with some locally brewed beer. It was so cheap, insanely tasty and the long picnic benches filled with people created a great atmosphere.

I'd like to say we partied on into the night but if I'm honest with you guys it was about 10pm at this point and we were pooped! We went back to the apartment to bed and I don't regret it one bit - party animal I am not.

Budapest Diaries - Day One

Before Mat booked this trip for us, I'd felt as though I would like Budapest. I had heard there was plenty to do, and that it was a very affordable place to visit. What I didn't bank on is just how much I would fall for it. 

The Perfect Apartment

This was very much a budget trip for us back in October, having just been on our main family getaway to beautiful Crete, however we found that our money went so much further than we expected. We did everything we wanted to do and ate everything we wanted to eat (which is the most important thing!). Our flights were the usual Ryan Air cheap fares, and luckily they weren't among the many that were being cancelled at the time!

We stayed in a lovely little Air Bnb apartment, located on Andr├íssy Avenue, that was only £36 per night. It was about 15 minutes walk from the famous Szechenyi Baths in one direction, and 10-15 minutes from the Parliament building taking metro line 1. 

This was the perfect location for us, and we found public transport really easy to navigate. It was also a bargain, with a 72-hour travel card costing only £11 each. We were able to use these on the metro lines, buses, trams, boats - you name it! Of course, if you prefer to walk a lot, everything in Budapest is also doable on foot. 

The Craziest Views

Once we had been shown to our apartment and had dumped our bags, we headed straight into the city. Although we weren't initially sure how we wanted to spend our first day in Budapest, we ended up walking across the famous chain bridge and making our way up towards the very picturesque Fisherman's Bastion. 

You have to pay the equivalent of a couple of quid to walk along the top, but it's worth it. It's essentially a big terrace, designed to look like something straight out of the Gothic era - except it was actually only built in 1902. I felt a little bit like Cinderella walking up the (endless) steps. There was even a wedding party in full swing on one section of the terrace.

We had arrived just as the sun was starting to go down, and boy was it a sunset and a half! I hadn't seen too many pictures of Budapest before going - the whole time we were there I kept finding myself taken aback by how pretty this city is. I could've stayed up on the Bastion all day!

On a clear day, you can see for miles, with the majestic parliament building standing tall and Margaret Island separating the Buda and Pest banks. 

The Grand Palace

With the sun still setting, we decided to walk from the Bastion over to the other side of the hill, and see the Royal Palace in all its glory. I should add that it's worth seeing these impressive buildings both from up close and from the opposite side of the river. By day they look ornate and Gothic, and by night they're lit up and make the whole place magical.

After taking so many pictures that my Olympus Pen battery finally gave out, and my feet started to feel like they might drop off, we decided to get back down to river level via the Funicular Railway. It's a very quick trip down, but it's worth the experience of being on a train that's moving completely the wrong way!

The Best Burger

Just a short distance from the bottom of the Funicular Railway, we stumbled upon a restaurant called Meat Boutique. We decided to go in for dinner despite it being a little early at 6pm, partly because we were absolutely starving and partly because I thought the name was funny.

I wish I'd taken some phone snaps of our dinner - not only was the restaurant a gorgeous place to sit and eat, but the food was of a really high standard and the staff couldn't do enough for us. I think it may have been the best burger I've ever eaten, and I've had a lot of burgers!!

After that, we had a slow wander back to the metro and were soon back at the Air Bnb for an early night. Driving to the airport at 4am and walking 12km really takes it out of you...

I'll soon be posting what we got up to on days 2 and 3 of our break in Budapest, so I'll link them here when I do.

If you have any questions about visiting, just let me know in the comments!

A Christmas gift guide for the homebod in your life (under £15)

If there's one thing I love about this time of year it's starting my Christmas shopping. From searching for the perfect prezzie to give someone to sitting on the living room floor wrapping them up while Elf is on TV in the background - it might be my second favourite part of the season, after the food.

I've seen soooo many gift guides popping up all over the place, so I won't bore you with multiple posts. I did however round up a selection of wallet-friendly gifts that I think would be perfect for a pal or relative who loves to live life in the slow lane, get their hygge on and feed their Netflix addiction on the regular. Depending on your budget, you could even gift your recipient a little bundle of goodies for the perfect night in!

First up, who doesn't love a good scented candle! These jars from H&M home smell absolutely divine. My personal favourite is 'Firewood Figs' but Cinnamon Spice is lush too. Plus they're currently only £1.49 so a fab stocking filler.

Help your recipient add to a cosy atmosphere with some subtle but extremely pretty Firefly Lights from Primark. Again they're an absolute bargain at £2.50. They come in a variety of styles in the home section.

Speaking of Primark, they also do some very reasonably priced cosy furnishing. My Harry Potter blanket is kitten soft and super fluffy, and it was only £6. Why not give the gift of snug-ness?

When I'm not watching Netflix on the sofa, I'm usually scribbling notes and ideas down in a pad of some kind. I'm a sucker for stationery and can never resist a pretty notebook. I treated myself to a beautiful journal from Central 23 earlier this month and it's lovely quality. £12.00 might be a lot for a notebook but the design brings me so much joy when I go to scrawl in it. It would make a brilliant gift if you know someone who's into their journalling!

And finally, who doesn't love a good snack? Especially at Christmas (hello endless Quality Street and Matchmakers). Why not give a treat that's a little more luxurious, like a tin of shortbread from Crabtree and Evelyn - they can keep the pretty tin afterwards! Or, if you're buying for a chocoholic, Hotel Chocolat's Milk Chocolate Santas are incredibly moreish.

So there you go, those are my top picks for anyone you'd like to treat to a little R and R and home comfort this Christmas. Have you guys seen any other steals you'd add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Investing time in myself | The Trove Autumnal Workshop

When was the last time you went out and spent time doing something that was completely and utterly for you? If you're anything like me, you probably can't remember. I'm often so busy getting caught up in the things that 'must' be done (menial life admin, tidying, food shopping, working, etc, etc) that I don't set aside dedicated time to actually invest in myself.

Yesterday I decided to do just that. I had ummed and aahed about going on some kind of course or workshop for some time, and an event in Cambridge popped up at the right time. The lovely Stephanie, who runs Cambridge Creatives website, The Trove, held a gorgeous craft workshop that I just couldn't resist. The bonus was that this event was put on as a fundraising event for Cambridge Food Cycle (a fab initiative so deffo check them out!), alongside a craft and clothing sale arranged by Charlotte for her #CBGTown Indoor Market. AND there was cake!

I have to say, I was worried that since I'm not very 'arty' I might end up bringing home a pile of poo and committing it to a dusty cupboard once home, but thanks to some helpful tutoring my painting, flower arranging and (the best bit) glue gunning really paid off. My gorgeous golden ampersand is now proudly hung on our bedroom wall.

The other thing that struck me was how relaxing it was. If I'd have attempted this myself at home there would have been a lot of fiddling and mumbling 'oh shit' under my breath. But this was far less frustrating than those overly intricate adult colouring books and crazy craft kits. Knowing someone could help me if it went wrong and getting lost in some therapeutic painting left me feeling very chilled.

The social element of a workshop like this is also a massive plus. I'm notoriously antisocial most of the time, but being able to sit and do something a little bit different with some of my fellow blogger pals and put the world to rights with a natter was a welcome way to spend the afternoon. In fact, I'd thoroughly recommend it. I felt proud of my little creation and I'd actively invested some time in myself!

If you're interested in getting to grips with some kind of craft workshop, Facebook or Instagram are amazing places to do some research and find out what's available in your area, from floristry and jewellery making to pottery, and more, there's probably something you'd really enjoy right on your doorstep.

Crete Photo Diary | September 2017


September took a long time to roll around this year, but once it did, I was grateful to be off on my way to a week spent in Crete with my family. It was a relaxed holiday, with a few trips out and about and many hours spent absorbing the last of the summer heat (and desperately trying to tan). 

There's something about the Greek islands that always leaves me wanting to come back. Beautiful landscapes, the food, some serious sun, nice people, and... did I mention the food? Who doesn't love feta and olives on tap?

I took my Olympus Pen along for the ride of course, and going through the photos I felt like they looked somehow nicer in black and white. They just seem more calming that way. The sense of tranquility that I had finally found by the time we were leaving Koutouloufari village took me almost the entirety of this year to find - I kind of want to hold onto it when I look back at these images.

One of the best things we did on the holiday was go out on a day-long jeep safari across the middle of the island. Crete has some seriously impressive landscapes and, away from the more built-up touristy areas, some beautiful bays. We were treated to hours of stunning vistas during the safari, but this is my favourite. We were pretty high up in the hills when I snapped this, and I was instantly smitten with how it turned out. Ansel Adams eat your heart out? (Maybe not...)

Oh, and did I mention that I actually drove the jeep on this safari? I was going to shy away from taking the wheel since I was a little nervous about getting in the drivers seat of our dusty little 4x4 on what can only be described as the top of a mountain, but I ended up really enjoying it. My first task was to get us over this narrow old stone bridge (one car at a time as it couldn't take the weight, which wasn't disconcerting at all). Needless to say, I smashed it and felt like a total badass. Until I then took a wrong turn and a convoy of 6 cars had to stop and wait for me. Oops.

We also stopped at a village with a population of about 12 people and an average age of 70-odd! They grow so much of their own produce, with grape vines and olive trees everywhere. At one point, when someone's car broke down, we even ended up in someone's back yard. He offered us grapes and let us play with his dog while we all waited for the mechanic! The Greeks are an incredibly hospitable bunch.

No visit to Crete is complete without a visit to Knossos. It's a huge site that was inhabited as far back as 7000 BC, but the vast palace that is the main attraction dates back to around 1900 BC. I love a bit of history and mythology, so we braved midday heat and a small crowd to wander in and out of the many rooms and columns that still stand today. It's a must-see if you've ever heard the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, since the story originated here with Minos, the son of Zeus and the 'first king of Crete'.

The village of Koutouloufari was quite and traditional, with tavernas aplenty and a sense of slowness that you just don't find in an everyday British town. It's a stones throw away from a larger town, but up in the hills this place had a chilled vibe of its very own.

I took a lot of photos of the beautiful buildings in Crete as well as the landscapes. The white walls and heat-cracked exteriors make for an interesting texture. The strategically parked scooters and bicycles seemed cute and quaint, but were mostly there because the winding streets were too narrow for big cars. I lost count of the amount of times mum told me to "mind out!" and hug the side of the pavement as a taxi came flying past!

I don't know if Greek buildings seem so much prettier to me because we just don't have this style back at home, or because I associate them with holiday vibes. Either way, coming back to my boring brown brick block of flats the week after seemed depressing.

It was sort of fitting that we spent our final full evening on the island on a beautiful sunset cruise. The boat owner barbecued up some of the best pork and chicken I've ever tasted while we went for a dip in the sea, and we set sail again just in time to watch the sun disappear over yet more Cretan hills. I'd recommend a sunset cruise to anyone on holiday in this part of the world. We also took one in Turkey last year and there's something about them that brings me a nice injection of inner peace.

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this post. It was a little long, and probably a bit different to what you guys are used to, but I wanted to share! I hope you enjoyed a little peak into my snaps of Crete, and are maybe even thinking of going there yourself!