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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!

When will the blogosphere implode?

I've had a blog for over four years now, and for me it's always been a place of self expression. I feel like it's that way for a lot of people! Until recently I'd always found the blogging community a pleasant one. I never seemed to follow or associate with bloggers or YouTubers that caused 'Twitter drama' or engaged in cyber-bullying or subtweeting (whatever that even is). But that seems to have changed now, and to be frank it's bloody spoiling it for everyone.

I'm not dumb enough to think that what's grown to be a huge online space full of bloggers with aspirations to grow and possibly even make a career out of what they're doing is always going to be a nice, fluffy lovely place to be. Putting half our damn lives on the internet there's always going to be realness, negativity and disagreements.

But lately it seems like some bloggers can't move without being criticised. Can't try to make a living without enormous backlash. Considering that many of us dream of being paid to collaborate on our blogs, Instagrams and YouTube channels, would we want to be treated that way by our followers? This 'industry' - and I'm not even sure I could call it that anymore - is propped up by people aspiring to do the very things they berate others for.

Everything anyone says is wrong - it's not inclusive enough or doesn't present every viewpoint or isn't 'relatable' (whatever that really means). How can anyone win? The more I see of it, the more I want to log off and disengage. The more I see of it, the more I want to ditch my Twitter account and go back to the real world.

Sooner or later something has to give. The backlash against the backlash is just as strong. I see people taking long breaks from blogging and social media for the sake of their own sanity. I see people picking fights on my timeline just for a bit of validation. It's not OK. Having an opinion is fine. Forcing it upon others is not. And for me it's all getting a bit boring.

I've seen multiple posts this week on Twitter/blogger hate and why it's OK to unfollow people. Of course it flipping is. You should unfollow people. I unfollow people daily at the moment because for some reason there's some kind of poisonous virus spreading where everyone forgets their manners and just leaps right whatever 'drama' of the moment is without really thinking about it.

You don't have to support someone who doesn't echo your values or produce content that you love, but you don't have to lurk around ripping them to shreds either. This whole thing is INSANELY draining.

I have NO idea where this post is going, but I had to get it off my chest. Maybe that's part of the problem. I don't know. We're all aching to be heard and feel validated in a sphere that's so overcrowded that recognition is hard to come by. But we will never achieve anything by going at each other's throats day in day out.

You didn't ask for my advice, but God damnit I'm gonna give it to ya cos recently I seem to have grown a pair. Step away from the laptop, put your damn phone down and go get some fresh air. We all need a nice, healthy dose of perspective. Blogging in its current capacity won't be here forever if we carry on like this.

I'm exhausted after trying to formulate this rant into something that makes any sense at all, so I'm off to make myself a cuppa. Night guys.

A holiday essentials haul

I'm not sure if I'm alone on this one, but I quite enjoy a bit of pre-holiday planning. It usually involves a spot of shopping, putting a few outfits together and thinking about itineraries. I recently hit the shops for a little splurge after realising I was missing a few essential getaway bits and bobs for our trip to Crete , so I thought I'd share them with you!

First on my list was storage. I picked up a set of travel bottles from Tiger for a couple of pounds so I can save on weight and ditch massive bottles of shampoo and shower gel. Then I spotted a triple set of toiletry bags in Primark in shiny copper and couldn't resist. Who doesn't love to be matching? Plus they were just £8!

When it comes to summer holidays, it doesn't get more essential than SPF! This year I've gone for Nivea's Protect & Sensitive range, to help prevent the prickly heat rash that seems to plague me when faced with a week of sunshine and swimming pools.

I picked up some nail polish remover pads too - they do the job without weighing down your suitcase like a bottle would. And of course, no sight-seeing trip is complete without aching feet, so some heel cushions are also coming along for the ride.

Makeup-wise I've also purchased my first ever CC Cream from Bourjois. I've been meaning to try one for a while and although it's a little heavier on the skin than I was expecting it's still lighter than foundation and I love the way it looks. There's an SPF of 15 in there alongside three different colour correcting pigments so I'll definitely be taking it with me! I picked up a mini palette from Collection too, that contains a highlight, blush and bronze in one. There's just no way I would take my gigantic Kat Von D one all the way to Greece with me.

Last year I picked up a mini argan oil from Schwarzkopf at the airport on the way to Turkey and despite using it ever since there's still half left. It tames my hair despite the humidity, meaning I can leave other styling products and fancy masks at home for the week and let my mane drip dry instead.

Now, I know that facewipes are something of a taboo in the beauty world, but when I'm away I just find them so convenient. No annoying bottles of cleanser or muslin cloths required, just wipe makeup away and hit the hay! These oil balancing wipes from Simple really agree with my skin, helping to refresh it after hot and humid evenings.

And lastly, I always pick up a pack of anti-bac wipes - great on the go (again, no pesky liquids) for messy hands and yucky seat-back trays on the plane.

Everyday Summer Makeup Staples

Hi guys.... long time no blog! I took a long break from posting (it's an even longer story!) but I'm happy to be back in the swing of things again. I'm writing this on the hottest day of the year so far, so I thought it'd be the perfect chance to chat about my summer makeup routine. These products are what I use virtually every single day in the warmer months and have seen me through some pretty sweaty situations!

The Base

Now, I'd love to be confident enough about my skin to forgo foundation altogether on a hot day, but the only places you'll ever see me totally makeup free are the gym and the beach! I have very oily skin and some acne scarring so I tend to opt for a light layer of something medium coverage and mattifying - the last thing you need on a hot day is an oil slick going on.

Last year I discovered Maybelline's Fit Me Matte & Poreless foundation and I've been using it on and off ever since, for when I'm worried about my skin getting its shine on. It keeps the dreaded sheen at bay for longer than my other products and doesn't feel heavy on the skin or cling to any dry patches.

The Concealer

I've yet to find a girl that doesn't own a Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer, and for good reason. It does the job and it stays put all day! I use the no. 1 shade, which is probably a touch too light for me, but no. 2 is a little orange on my skin. A bit of blending hides that completely though and I feel a lot more confident with scarring and spots covered.

The Contour

When Kat Von D Beauty hit Debenhams last year I was so bloody happy. One of my first purchases was the Shade and Light Contour Palette and I think I must have used it every day since. You can tell by the photos in this post that my favourite shade is the lighter cool tone for daytime wear, but I do head to the darker shades and highlighters in the evenings. I use these as a contour and as a bronzer too to add a bit more of a glow,

The Blush

I've spoken before about how much I love the Soap and Glory blushes. They're pigmented but blendable and 'Rosy Chic' is a beautifully natural looking colour. Admittedly if it's a day as hot as today I'm already so beetroot that blush isn't needed, but most days I'll splash this across my cheeks with a Real Techniques brush to look that bit more awake and alive!

The Brows

I don't wear any eye makeup, so brows are my go-to area when it comes to giving a bit more oomph to my look and looking 'done'. I'm currently crazy about Soap and Glory's brow pencils - you can either get them with a brush at the opposite end or a liquid tint, which is handy! The pencil is fine so that you can add lots of small strokes and get beautifully filled-in brows in no time.

As my eyebrows are quite long and bushy (SO glad that's become trendy by the way!) they can get messed up easily. I go over the shape with Maybelline Brow Drama mascara just to fix the shape in place. I use the Medium Brown shade despite having dark hair because I find the end result is far less harsh.

The Lips

If winter is for matte berry lips, then summer is about muted glosses and going natural. I received an Arrow Boost lip balm in a Birchbox a while back now and I use it all the time. The stick of balm is totally clear but when applied the PH of your lips causes the product to change colour and provide a flush of pink along with some serious moisture. It means that no two users of the product end up with the exact same shade!

What products to you always reach for when it comes to summer makeup? Let me know in the comments below!

The Olympus Pen E-PL8 - worth the upgrade?

I've been the proud owner of an Olympus Pen E-PL7 for about 18 months now. I absolutely love it, but like many I found myself wondering if it was worth an upgrade when the shiny new E-PL8 was unveiled. A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to try out the new model at Campkins Cameras in Cambridge. Here's how I got on.

I headed to the Campkins store along with a few other bloggers from the #CambMeetUp Facebook group. They're ladies I've gotten to know at events over the last year or so and a really lovely bunch! A special shout out is in order for the lovely Alice who organised the event. After a couple of minutes spent setting up the cameras with our memory cards and connecting them to the Olympus sharing app, we set out on a photo walk around the city.

It was a beautiful Spring day and despite stopping every hundred metres or so to take a snap, we covered a lot of ground around some of Cambridge's prettiest streets. David, an Olympus specialist, lead the walk and was on hand with his reflector and insider know-how to help us get the most out of the E-PL8. He gave me a tip on how to get the gorgeous starburst effect below in the afternoon light.

In terms of the user interface and software features, there's virtually no difference in capability between the E-PL7 and E-PL8. What I love the most about the Pen series of cameras is that there are functions for all abilities, styles and interests. If you don't know how to go fully manual or you're finding it tricky to get a particular effect, the auto mode has an extensive menu of sliders that allows you to tinker with things like exposure, warmth and background blur to get professional looking images.

The other thing that impresses me so much about these cameras is the clarity. I moved to the E-PL7 from an outdated Fujifilm bridge camera that struggled to focus and ran on 4x AA batteries, and the results are just dreamy. On this particular day we just used the kit lens, but I also own a zoom lens that produces amazing results.

My favourite feature of the Pen range is the Wi-Fi sharing. The app creates its own connection, so you can be in the middle of nowhere with no signal and still be able to quickly import photos from your camera to your phone. You can also use your phone as a remote, with an in-app viewfinder. It's helped me take a few outfit photos in the past when no one's been around to take them!

The E-PL8 hardware is very similar in design to the E-PL7, just slightly sleeker in terms of the hand grip being less bulky. It's such a pretty piece of kit that I strategically and quite deliberately place mine on the bookcase to look at in-between shoots.

There are a couple of possible negatives to consider if you're thinking about investing in either of the Pen cameras. Firstly the weight - being a compact D-SLR the Olympus Pen is much lighter than your usual large Canon or Nikon camera and is perfectly portable in a small handbag. However, don't expect to be vlogging on it for more than a few minutes before your arm goes dead. Luckily, YouTube isn't my bag so that's not an issue for me.

Again, if YouTube and selfies are your bag, you might get a little frustrated with the flip out screen, as on both models the primary direction of the screen flip is down, not out to the side. This has never bothered me and you can also pull the screen up and out so you can get some weird flatlay angles without having to contort your body to see the screen.

And finally, there's the price. I was lucky enough at the time I purchased my E-PL7 to find a 25% discount code online, but these are few and far between. Olympus Pen cameras are gorgeous, good quality and well worth  the investment in my opinion, but be prepared to part with several hundred pounds for the standard kit and an extra lens.

All in all, although the Olympus Pen E-PL8 performed fantastically, it isn't quite different enough from its predecessor for me to make the upgrade just yet. I'd highly recommend getting your hands on either if you're after a camera that's easy to use but allows you to learn more and use high-tech features as you go. As for me...I'll be waiting to see what the E-PL9 has in store!

4 reasons to embrace the digital detox

If you're anything like me, when you're finally conscious enough to to turn off the snooze on your morning alarm, you'll spy a little red notification symbol on one of your apps and fall down a social media black hole. You scroll through reams of tweets and Instagram photos, and before you know it it's twenty minutes later and you're gonna be late for work. It's a struggle not to check the likes and on your latest posts as you go about your day, and come evening you fall into a comatose state on the sofa watching cat videos and makeup tutorials on YouTube. If this is the story for you most days, it might be time for a digital detox.

The term itself sounds a bit faddy, and it's a trend that seems to have been created by the very influencers who depend on our technology addiction to make a living, so I have to admit I was a sceptic at first. But I've been paying more and more attention to just how much time I spend consuming digital media, and it's worrying. I've tried to keep count of how many times I check my phone throughout the day and I can't. I have to put my phone and iPad in another room or zip them away in my handbag in order to resist the compulsion to use them. And that just doesn't seem healthy.

So for me, a digital detox is all about breaking these habits and curbing my phone/social media addiction. The anxiety I feel after a day of not checking on the Snapchat stories of those I follow closely just seems wrong. Like many, I use my devices as a form of escapism. Tired? Have a scroll. Bored? Watch a video. Stressed? Read a Buzzfeed article or two. It helps me avoid dealing with the day-to-day crap I'd rather not deal with, but it sucks the life out of me too.

The more I use social media the more addicted I become, but it also makes me jealous of others, negative about my own life not living up to the glamour of others, and sucks up a hell of a lot of my time. That's why I'm ready to embrace the digital detox. The idea is pretty much what it says on the tin. You switch of your notifications (or just turn your devices off altogether), abandon your emails and take a set period of time away from all the online crap in your life.

It's pretty sad that so many of us feel the need to do this, but I'm all for a bit of a change in the digital department having grown a bit too attached to my tech over the last couple of years. How many of us have found it hard to put our phones away for a family meal or seen people walking into things because they can't put their phones down?

Here's why I think the digital detox is a great concept.

You can be alone with your thoughts

Quiet time is good for us, yet we've grown so uncomfortable with it! When my brain isn't being bombarded with white noise and pinging sounds, I can actually get an accurate gauge of what's going on inside my head and be in the moment a little bit more.

You can read actual paper

Given that I've got a literature degree you'd think I'd always have my nose in a book, but since graduating my reading material is more 140 characters than 50 chapters. It's a huge shame that so many of us are in this habit, so if I'm taking time away from electronic screens I'll definitely be indulging in a spot of reading, whether it's with a new book or an actual magazine *gasps*. It's better for your sleep too!

Less time scrolling, more time doing

It goes without saying that if you added up the time you spend each day on your phone over the course of a year the result would be shocking, but think of all the things you can do instead! You could read, learn a crafty skill like calligraphy or jewellery making, play board games with family or head to the pub with friends. And you'll probably enjoy the experience a whole lot more if you're fully present rather than thinking about checking Facebook.

Focus on real interactions

That leads nicely on to my final point. I can't tell you the amount of times I've been in a social situation and suddenly realised absolutely everyone is on their phones. Wouldn't it have been cheaper to just sit at home doing this? What was the point in spending time together? I also regularly get told off for scrolling by the boyfriend when I'm supposed to be watching a film or chilling out with him. If we all made more of an effort to put our devices away we'd remember that real human interaction is far better than commenting on someones Instagram or posting a Snap.

Have you thought about doing a digital detox? Do you think they're necessary?

Current favourites 19.03.17

I feel like it's been months since I shared a favourites post on my blog, so what better way to spend my Sunday than telling you about the stuff that I'm loving at the moment. It's worth noting before I get into this post that not everything here is new! I've dialled back my spending a lot lately and am only investing in items I really love (read more about my savings mission here). That means finding new ways to enjoy/wear the stuff I already own and I'm actually loving it!

First up are a pair of gym leggings that I find myself struggling to want to take off for the shower. They're from FandF Clothing at Tesco, and I've found the fit to be far superior to my other workout leggings from brands like Nike and USA Pro. The material is so incredibly soft, the waist is high and flattering and doesn't slip down during exercise, and the mesh panels make them a little bit trendier than plain old black. They're so comfortable I'm considering going back for an identical pair to wear at home on lazy days. Not bad for £14.00!

While we're on the subject of Tesco, I picked up a gorgeous succulent plant while doing my weekly shop today. I love the copper and grey pot and am getting a bit addicted to adding greenery to our home. I also snapped up a beautiful Sea Salt and Lavender reed diffuser for a few quid in Primark last week - the scent is sooo relaxing.

I've also been having a love affair with a couple of jewellery pieces I got back at Christmas. My grey Olivia Burton watch is on my wrist every single day with its ornate midi-dial, as well as this beautiful silver ring from Regal Rose.

Makeup-wise I've been keeping it pretty simple lately (I blame early mornings!), but I've been bringing my MAC Retro lipstick into the mix to try and make myself look a bit more 'done' and put together.

Is there anything you've been loving lately? 

The natural brand that's changed my mind about soap

Bars of soap get a really bad rap in the beauty world. Traditional soap can be drying, and no one likes that weird residue that gets left behind when you rinse off the lather. But when natural soap company Sabai Soaps got in touch and asked me to review their bars* - made using cruelty free, vegan, organic ingredients - I took a chance and gave it a go.

The first thing that struck me when I unwrapped the (beautifully wrapped) package was the amazing citrus smell. The main essential oil in the bar I was kindly sent to review is from the mangosteen fruit. It sounded so exotic that I had to Google it, but it turns out this stuff is great for calming the skin, especially if you suffer from inflammation or a condition like eczema. The soap also contains Rice Bran Oil to hydrate and protect against ageing and olive oil for additional moisture.

I was pleased to find out that Sabai is both an affordable brand and an ethical one - the bar I was sent retails at £5.95 and given how often I've used it so far is going to last me a good 6-8 weeks at least. With no harsh chemicals the soap is as kind on the skin as it is on the environment, and with my sensitive skin and allergies that's very good news! Inspired by Thai soaps and the small family businesses that make them, the word 'Sabai' literally translates from Thai as 'happy'. The company also support a range of charities across the world, so bring happiness not just to your skin, but to disadvantaged families and children too.

I've been using the soap for almost two weeks now as I wanted to give you guys a thorough, honest review and I can safely say I've never loved a soap this much! As I said before, the scent is amazing, but the real benefit for me is how clean and fresh and soft my skin feels after washing. A little goes a long way, as the natural oils give the lather a moisturising feel. After continuous use I'd say my skin is not only much softer but brighter, and my foundation seems to sit better on my skin. I've noticed a reduction in redness around my spottier areas like my cheeks too.

If you've been put off soap in the past then I'd definitely suggest indulging in one of Sabai's bars as a natural and non-drying alternative to gel cleansers - they'd also be lovely as a gift and can be purchased in sets. I can't wait to try some more.

*Items in this post were kindly sent to me for review purposes, but all opinions are honest and completely my own. I will only share products on my blog that I would purchase for myself.

5 simple (and easy) ways you can save more money

I don't know about you, but these days it feels like I bleed money! Rent, bills, petrol, council tax, food shopping - it all adds up, and that's before we even get to the fun stuff. We're currently trying to save for a house, and although we're now the bulk of the way there, I'm getting real tired of seeing my bank balance trickle down each month as standing orders an direct debits fly out at an alarming rate.

I've recently taken a different approach to managing my money though, and it's already paying off. Before I'd spend the weeks leading up to pay day ignoring my dwindling funds and praying I wouldn't hit the dreaded overdraft, dreading the bill if I used the credit card on something without thinking. Now I'm keeping a much closer eye on things, and while it's definitely a case of spending some time forming better habits, I thought I'd share my top tips so far.


Now, I'm not the type to spend hundreds of pounds each month on clothes and makeup, just the odd budget purchase here and there, so that's not much of an issue. If you do want to make a big but non-essential purchase I'd suggest keeping a little money back each pay day for a couple of months rather than blowing your credit card limit. Then you'll be sure you really want it, too. You don't have to scrimp and deprive yourself of everything to save money, you just have to think your purchases through a bit more.

Our household has some unavoidable expenses (rent where we live is expensive and I have a long commute to work in the car), but we also spend wisely in other areas. We've got a Netflix subscription rather than an expensive TV package, buy second-hand PS4 games and don't mind heading to the local Wetherspoon now and again over a swanky wine bar. If you feel like you're spending a lot, have a look and see where you can make compromises. Even changing where you do your food shop could make a big difference. Take it from Waitrose to Aldi and you could save a pretty penny.

Use loyalty cards and reward bank accounts

I have so many loyalty cards and points cards that I always manage to forget to use. I had a look back over them and reorganised my purse, and put the ones I use the most in easy to reach card slots. These days there are loyalty cards and points programmes for everything from supermarkets and coffee shops to swimming pools and sandwich vans so it's worth asking when you shop somewhere new for the first time. 

My Tesco Clubcard and Boots Advantage card are the two that probably pay off the most Some programmes allow you to trade in reward points for boosted vouchers for the cinema, restaurants, attractions and more. These days even bank accounts provide cashback on your direct debits and certain transactions, so don't forget to look at those too.

Hoard your change

I definitely don't use cash as much as I used too, but when I do I regularly swipe the change from my purse and throw anything smaller than 50p into a jar. You can quickly build up 20 quid or more and take it to the bank to change up. Have a good rummage in old purses, under the bed, drawers and pockets too - we found £15 in our flat just while tidying up, and plan to spend it on a treat since we didn't expect to find it!

Use things up completely before rebuying them

I've become more guilty of this since I got into beauty blogging a bit more, but having multiple cleansers, perfumes, shower gels etc just for the sake of it is a bit unecessary. I'm instead trying to teach myself to resist the urge to try the latest new thing I saw on Instagram and use up the products I've actually got before splashing out on new ones. A quick look through your drawers and cabinets could reveal some bad habits. I've put spares and unopened alternatives into a box in the spare room, and I'll shop the stash I've created before buying anything else.

Monitor your habits

Although I've tried to make a note of what I'm buying and hold on to receipts, there are always things you forget to write down or pay for with coins and have no record of. I recently discovered a super helpful app called On Trees that gives you a combined view across all your accounts (including credit cards and ISAs) and allows you to categorise and set budgets on everything going in and out.

I was a little concerned about logging into all of my accounts via an app, but it's secured with a passcode and directly integrated with most major online banking providers, so it's definitely the best option out there. It means I can keep an eye on how many times I've been to Costa, as well as how much I've managed to save. I used to avoid logging into my bank accounts because I couldn't be bothered to download and set up multiple apps, but this was a doddle. I use it every day and couldn't recommend it more!

Do you have any top tips for saving extra money?

My (spoiler free) review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - #Keepthesecrets

The weekend before last I FINALLY went to see the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! It feels like I was waiting forever to actually go since buying the tickets, and that's probably because it was. I'm pretty sure it was over a year between getting them and actually going, but once it came round I began to get properly excited.

I managed to go the entire time between the play's premiere and seeing it myself without seeing a single spoiler. I knew who the cast was of course, as it was announced to the world, but I didn't buy the script, and luckily most fans that had the privilege of seeing it before me kept their lips sealed.

I'll be doing the same thing, too. If you're a fanatic about any book, film or TV series you'll probably know how it feels to have a juicy twist spoiled for you, but I've got to hand it to J.K. Rowling and co for bringing in their #KeeptheSecrets hashtag. At the interval they even handed out badges with it written on, to encourage people not to go out into the world and spoil the play for others. I do however want to talk about how much I loved it, and how it's totally worth going to see it even if you have to wait.

The Theatre

Our seats weren't very expensive, so we were very high up, and I found myself leaning over just a little at times to make sure I had a full view of what was going on, but we weren't so far up we couldn't see things, and I hardly noticed it really. We paid £15 per person per performance, and saw both 'parts' of the play on the one Sunday. I think you do have the option of splitting it across evenings but as we're not from London I didn't fancy two trips.

That meant that this was an event of stamina! The two parts are an hour and a half EACH including a 15 minute interval per part. There was a 2 hour gap in the middle where we were able to go out and get some dinner (The Palace Theatre is close to Leicester Square), returning at 6.30pm to the same seats for the second part. The boys struggled with 5 hours in theatre seating as the leg room is limited, and towards the end I did lose feeling in my toes. BUT.... it was worth it!

The Story

I'm not going to give away ANY plot lines here as I don't want to ruin it for anyone still waiting to see it, but the play picks up where that cheesy '20 Years Later' scene at the end of Deathly Hallows leaves us. There's a lot of focus around Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny's kids, but don't worry - there's plenty of stage time for our original favourites.

The story itself is every bit as magical as in the novels. I'm so glad that Rowling herself was involved in writing it, with every word uttered on stage oozing with her style. It gets pretty dark too, with a strong moral thread throughout, as well as some comic relief. 

The Cast

I had no expectations of what the acting would be like, although I was struggling beforehand to get my head around the fact that the golden trio were all grown up and I wouldn't be staring at Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. I have to say though that the actors chosen to portray them as older did an amazing job of bringing through the characters from their teens. Even down to small gestures and tone of voice, I really did see Harry, Ron and Hermione in them.

There were a lot of young actors involved too, who were all fabulous. I want to give a particular shout out to Anthony Boyle who plays Scorpius Malfoy - He had the audience in creases of laughter one minute and put tears in my eyes the next.

The Set and Special Effects

I wasn't sure if seeing a Harry Potter production in a theatre setting would be a bit 'meh' in the visual department after experiencing years of digital magic in the films, but there was some real trickery afoot that I can't even mention without giving away a few too many details. Basically I have no idea how they did half of the stuff, it blew my mind. The set designs also had just the right Harry Potter feel and there was some very clever use of props. As a lifelong fan the attention to detail was a delight to behold.

All in all I found the play well worth the wait, and if we were ever treated to a follow-up, I'd be there like a shot!

My new Cambridge Satchel Push Lock Bag (a.k.a. the love of my life)

Every year I keep an eye on the Cambridge Satchel website during the January sales, lusting over their beautiful leather bags. And every year I talk myself out of getting one. I'm not the sort of person to splurge on accessories so I wanted to be totally sure I was buying the right thing! This year, however, I convinced myself to take the plunge on a bag from the Push Lock range - and I'm very glad I did!

Since my wardrobe is mostly made up of black, white, grey and muted neutrals, I decided that even though I wanted to go for something a bit different I would make sure the colour was wearable. I settled on the Damson shade since it's a change from standard brown or black. The colour is a deep purpley-brown and I love how sophisticated the bag looks (unlike the rest of me).

The craftsmanship is second-to-none, with the cut, stitching and embossing of the leather all done to perfection. For the embossing, I decided on blind rather than gold or silver, and opted for my Chinese birth year rather than my initials - that way it means something to me but not in an obvious way! The leather and closure are a little stiff at the moment since it's new, but I know from friends who own these bags that they soften a bit and develop their own 'personality' with continued wear.

One thing that I will say is that I'd recommend checking the measurements of the bag before buying. I spent a long time debating whether to get the medium or large size before getting a tape measure out. The large Push Lock bag is kind of small compared to the rest of my bags! It'll comfortably take my purse, camera, eyedrops, keys and a lipstick or two but that's about it. It's absolutely perfect for going down the pub, a weekend shopping trip etc but I would definitely need a bigger bag for work!

The Cambridge Satchel sale ends in just over a day, but there are currently loads of styles and colours in the sale for 40% off, and you can get a further 10% off (yep, half flippin' price!) by using the code 'TAKE10'.

The MAC lipstick shades you NEED in your life

OK, maybe I started off a bit strong there with the title of this post but hey, it's lipstick. I'm surgically attached to the stuff these days. I really never used to be a lippy person, but since I discovered that paying a little extra for a black tube of MAC goodness meant that it doesn't slide off after an hour.

I know that some beauty bloggers have huge collections of MAC, but I'd never use them all if I had them. They'd just sit in drawers in all their glory. Instead, I've built up a modest collection of shades that I know suit me and can be worn over and over for different occasions.

Velvet Teddy

This is probably the ultimate wearable lipstick - I've never found another like it. Velvet Teddy is a warm nude in a matte formula that makes your lips look like a super sexy version of themselves.


More of a brown/terracotta shade, Persistence is the first MAC lipstick I ever bought. The matte texture reminds me of the 90s, but in a good way.

Viva Glam I

One of the only reds I feel genuinely comfortable wearing and it's another throwback shade. The original Viva Glam shade has a matte finish and blueish tones running throughout. I honestly think it would suit anyone!

Peach Blossom

This is definitely the coolest-toned of the bunch. Peach Blossom was given to me for Christmas by my sister and I'm in love with the soft cremesheen finish. I can see myself using this up pretty quickly as it's a great shade for work/daytime.


Another new addition and a classic hue, Retro is subtly different from the other nudes in my collection in so far as it's more purple-pink in shade. It's a satin finish which means there's a subtle sheen, but with the staying power of a matte.

I'm sure there are more shades out there to add to my collection, but for now I'm quite content with this set of seriously good lippies in my arsenal!