Six things I've learnt since trying to grow my own vegetables

One thing I have fallen completely and utterly over in heels in love with is growing my own vegetables and fruit. It's something I've been meaning to do for a couple of years as I've become more passionate about food. But there was always an excuse on why I never took the plunge. Having to fill my time after being furloughed finally gave me the kick up the bum to do it. Now I don't think I will ever not grow food in my garden. I'm already planning what I'm going to grow next year! I have been completely making it up along as I go but here are six valuable things I have learn along the way.

1. Keep an eye on cats
Connor kindly built me a gorgeous raised vegetable bed using railway sleepers. But I noticed as soon as we put the soil on top we had a sudden influx of cats deciding to take an interest in our garden. We had never had a problem with cats going to the toilet in our garden before! All of a sudden I had a lot of number twos on my veg patch. It was so frustrating and completely destroyed my vision of living the good life! We ended up buying one of those cat alarms which send off a high-pitched noise to help scare them away. I also put down some lemons and oranges cut in half as cats don't tend to like citrus. Keep in mind cats are creatures of habit so it will take about seven days before anything starts to work.

2. Be patient
I am not a very patient person by nature but you have to be when you're growing veg. You won't get edible food overnight! I specifically grew vegetables I knew didn't take too long like radishes and lettuce. This kept me interested as I could see the end result quicker. It kept me keen to try other vegetables.

3. Google is your best friend
Growing vegetables is a minefield! Soil, sunlight, pollination are just a few things you need to think about. Treat Google like your best friend. I can guarantee there will be an answer to every single one of your questions. It really isn't as simple as planting a seed and hoping for the best. But that's part of the fun!

4. Don't be afraid to experiment
I really didn't have a clue on where to start so I bought a few seeds  of my favourite vegetables from the garden centre. I planted them in pots to begin with and waited to see if they decided to grow. I had some which took off and others which didn't even get started. Some didn't work because I didn't water them enough, some got completely destroyed by birds and some didn't have the correct soil. You won't have successes 100% of the time. But that just means the successes you do have will be even sweeter!

5. Grow in pots before planting
I found it was easier to start off vegetables in little pots on my windowsill. It stops the seedlings from being eaten by critters and it allows you to keep a close look on how they are faring. I usually transplant them around three times in different sized pots before taking the plunge and planted them outside. Make sure you acclimatise them before you fully plant them outside. I tend to leave them outside for a few hours in the sunshine for a couple of days before leaving them overnight.

6. Make sure you have lots of flowers in your garden
You will need to rely on bees to help pollinate your vegetable so it grows successfully. Bees won't come to your garden unless you have lots of lovely flowers. Something I found out the hard way! I invested in a gorgeous lavender bush and a few wild flower bombs to help entice them.


Deciding on a new routine when you no longer have a weekly routine

Floral cotton dress: H&M (similar)
Brown and gold sliders: Matalan (similar)
Red lipstick: Kat Von D Everlasting lipstick

I got furloughed in the first week of April and I won't going back to work until 3rd August. So when this is all over, providing it doesn't get extended,  I will have had four months off work. Wow that looks absolutely mental now that I see it written down! On paper it sounds like a dream. When else are we ever going to get months off work when all we need to think about is what series to watch on Netlix and what to cook for dinner? The first few weeks were absolutely fab if I am honest. It was a novelty. I suddenly had all this free time and felt incredibly productive. I was cooking elaborate dishes in the kitchen, working out five times a week, going for evening walks and never setting an alarm.

But as it came up to a month my mental health took a bit of a nose dive. I started slacking off the workout routines, ordering takeaways, struggling to sleep and never leaving the house. It picked up again after a few weeks but the month of June has been tough. Maybe it's because it is starting to feel relentless. Maybe it's because I'm struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it has been tough. When work is so central to your routine in life it's bloody difficult to know what to do when it suddenly isn't there. My round trip commute is four hours so I am out of the house for more or less 12 hours a day. I don't have to think about anything during the week as it's set in stone. I wake up, commute to work, do my job, come home, go to the gym, cook dinner and go to bed. As regular as clockwork. I might jazz it up with a dinner after work in London with friends but that's as wild as it gets. I didn't realise how much I craved a routine until it was no longer there. My brain is doing overtime and running at 100 MPH. I like being alone but I don't like being alone to think.

It's taken me a while to realise I need a routine and how much one benefits me. My boyfriend has started working back in Southampton this month so, twice a week, I'm on my own all day. Watching 6 episodes of something in a row was not doing me any good when he is working away. So I started implementing a routine this week after realising I was spiralling. Two days in and I already feel better.

 I've started growing vegetables in my garden so I make sure I get up to water them first thing and check them for the dreaded bugs. I allow myself one episode of something on Netflix when I'm eating my breakfast. I do a work out, usually kettlebells or abs, before having a shower. I choose something to bake and do some pottering around the house. Usually a washing load or some tidying up. I read a couple of chapters of my book in the garden or on the sofa if it's a bit chilly. Then it's time to start dinner,  my boyfriend finishes work and I finally have some human interaction. I'm going to push myself to go on a bike ride at least 3-4 times a week to ensure I get some fresh air in my lungs. Knowing what I'm doing each day is giving me some of purpose and a kick up the backside to get things done. My days will hopefully stop blurring into one. Only six weeks left to go at home...

What is your new weekly routine since we went into Lockdown?

Why cooking is so important to my mental health

It's been six weeks since I have been furloughed from work and let me tell you, I'm all over the place. I always thought I enjoyed my own company and relished in being alone. But I have discovered that whilst I do like my own company, I just don't like to be alone with my own thoughts. I am complete over-thinker of situations and a worrier by nature. This current situation has made me into a complete bundle of nervous energy and I feel utterly exhausted in my day-to-day life. So I have, like so many other people, turned to my kitchen as a coping mechanism.

I've always been a keen cook and this seems to have intensified during the restrictions. I find pouring over a recipe for an hour or two can really help to clear my mind. My mind concentrates on what is in front of me rather than whirling away like a tornado and causing me to feel on edge. For a moment, after I've made something delicious, I feel normal again and not trapped in this 'new normal' everyone seems to be banging on about.

What I put inside my body each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner seems to be the only thing in my control at the minute. I can't control anything else in the world. This is something very difficult to comprehend for someone who is an obsessive planner and control freak. But if I want to have a lasagne for dinner then I can make that lasagne!

I am cooking and baking far too much than a two-person household needs. We try to eat it all but sometimes we just can't before it goes bad. So we are doing numerous drop-offs on our daily exercise during the week. We're lucky we live within walking distance of most of our friends so we haven't felt as isolated as some people. Dropping off a slice of banana bread or a loaf of sourdough is my way of letting friends and family know I'm thinking of them. That 5 minute wave from the top of their path does all the difference to my mental health.

So, I'm not going to stop cooking up a storm any time soon. Even when I have to load up the dishwasher for the fourth time that day. It's bringing me so much joy and I have never eaten so well in my life. Long may it continue!

Have you been cooking or baking as a coping mechanism too?


An engagement story

It seems only fitting to end the year with the news which has defined my 2019. In fact it seems a nice way to end the decade as I have spent the whole decade in this relationship. I do like it when things go a full circle and are tied up nicely.

Back in October we took a trip over to Northern Ireland for a long weekend with some friends. We had an almighty Causeway Coast road trip planned, showing our friends all our favourite places and discovering a few new ones along the way. We landed in Belfast around 9am, picked up our car and went on our way. After ticking off a few places we spotted a sign for the Torr Head scenic route by Cushendun Caves. We'd seen this sign a few times but never done the route so thought it would be lovely to do something new to us and new for our friends.

We followed the long and winding roads up to the top of Torr Head. It's not a route for the faint hearted! Those roads seem extremely narrow when you spot a car coming towards you and you have to scoot over... We parked at the bottom of Torr Head, took a deep breath and began our climb up. Apart from a group of four people coming back down, the area was completely deserted and we soon had the whole area to ourselves. The one thing I adore about Northern Ireland is that you often have the sights all to yourselves. We trekked up to the top, had a look around the rather grimy derelict house at the top before wandering around.

After noticing that Connor was wandering off, I decided to follow. I've always been someone who is scared to miss out on the good stuff so when someone wanders off I follow! I looked behind me and noticed our friends had stayed at the viewpoint. Thinking this was weird, I just assumed they had had an argument! I climbed over the wire fence to be greeted with a gorgeous view of Scotland. Connor carried on walking but I called out that I was going to sit on a rock to admire the view. He came back and took a seat next to me. From now it is all a bit of a blur, he cracked a joke then grabbed the ring out of his pocket and asked me to marry him.

Obviously never one to keep it cool, I had to sit for a good few minutes with my head in my hands to take it all on. I'm not very good at receiving surprises (and a surprise this was!) so needed a few minutes to get it all together and process what exactly was happening. Not the best situation for Connor to be in! The girl he just asked to marry him sitting there with her head in her hands exclaiming she may have a panic attack... But I said yes!

Connor really couldn't have chosen a more perfect place. It is a place which means a lot to us both and we go back fairly regularly to. Connor's dad and family are from the country and I just fell in love with it from my very first visit. Ireland really does make my heart happy. I love the fact it's a place which is just an hour from where we visit Connor's family so we can frequently go back. Maybe even take our children if we ever have any! I'm a sucker for sentiment and adore the fact the ring is an emerald. Pretty fitting for the Emerald Isle!

Five ways I'm trying to cut down on food waste

1. Freeze vegetables/fruit in portions
I have every intention of using up my vegetable box but things get in the way and it turns out I'm only home twice that week. As a result my vegetables are left languishing in the back of the fridge. I have now gotten into the habit once a week to look through my fridge and decide which veg is looking a bit sad. I make sure to chop them up and freeze them in useable bags to be used at a later date. I always bag them up in portions so I can use them in one go.  Root vegetables tend to go a bit watery but they last longer in the fridge so I don't tend to freeze these. I always freeze slices of lemons and limes as they work great for G&T's when you have guests over. Butter, milk and bread are always great to be frozen and I do this regularly.

2. Make stale bread into breadcrumbs
We tend to treat ourselves a nice loaf of bread for the weekend as our go-to breakfast is poached eggs on toast. But as we never eat bread during the week it starts to go mouldy. Now I either freeze it in slicers or I pop it in the food processor to make it into breadcrumbs. I freeze these and use them as toppings for various things such as gratins and cauliflower cheese. My New Years resolution next year is to start getting into making my own bread so I never have to buy a loaf from the supermarket again.

3. Freeze sauces in ice cube trays
We always have a jar of pesto or curry paste in the larder but it doesn't always get used up in time before it went off. In a household of two, unless you use it everyday you're never going to use up a whole jar within three days. So I started freezing it in ice cube trays as soon as I opened it. I find three cubes of each tends to be enough when I am using them for dinner. This also works well with fresh herbs - just make sure you add some water. If you freeze rosemary this makes a good gin garnish.

4. Don't follow best before dates
Before I moved out from home I was a stickler for best before dates. I would throw something away on the day it had printed because I didn't think it could be consumed anymore. Not only is this incredibly wasteful but also very expensive! Now I go by looks and smell. Most food have at least a couple more days left on them past the best-before-date. You just have to use your common sense. Most veg which looks a little sorry for itself perks up in a soup or roasted.

5. Batch cook for the week and freeze
If I know I'm going to have a busy week but got a full fridge, I make sure I cook up quite a few different meals to use up all the food when I have the time. Mostly on a Sunday afternoon. I either pop them in the fridge for lunches throughout the week or freeze them for dinner for the rest of the week.


Can you ever get rid of imposter syndrome?

Yellow polka dot dress: Zara
Black faux leather jacket: New Look (similar)
White plimsols: Converse

I've been working at my current job for over three years now and yet I'm still waiting for the day to be pulled into a separate office and be told that they've made a terrible mistake employing me. And it's not just me that has these irrational thoughts. Nearly all my friends agree with me. Despite being well established in our careers, we still have a massive fear that someone will find out that we've been winging it all this time and we're not qualified at all. It's all complete rubbish of course, as if we honestly couldn't do our jobs then we would be long gone and replaced with someone who could.

Imposter syndrome is very real and it can be very difficult to get the invasive thoughts out of your head. If you let it, it will continue to fester. I've had it ever since I've started Uni if I'm honest and I'm not sure it'll ever go away. But you can learn to bat it away.

Remember it's natural to do things wrong at work. The only way we learn is if we make mistakes. Use those mistakes to try and make yourself better, learn from them, adjust the way you work and then lock the thought of them away. Talking things through with friends always helps. As I've found, they often feel the same themselves and friends make a great sounding board. They'll often tell you what a Queen you are and trust me, that's a surefire way to make you realised that actually you do know what you're doing after all. Finally, sit down and think. Think about everything you've achieved at work. Did you manage to pull off a successful project? Did you kill a presentation when you were nervous as hell? Did you do a piece of work and get praised for it? The chances are you've definitely pulled something off that you were worried about. And if that doesn't prove you don't deserve your position in the company, then what will?

How do you deal with imposter syndrome? Tell me I'm not alone in having these thoughts!


The power of an accent

Faux leather jacket with fur collar: New Look (similar)
Polka dot midi dress: Zara (similar)
Black leather ankle boots: ASOS (similar)
Teal mini rucksack: Mulberry (similar)

I read something - don't ask me where as I never remember - that in the UK you can tell a lot about someone by the way they speak. You can tell their education, upbringing, region and class. You can pinpoint what region they're from just by the way they pronounce their words. How you're judged by peers can depend on your accent. This particular article by Faiza Shaheen after TV presenter Adam Boulton mocked her east London twang struck a cord with me. How dare he mock her for the way she speaks?

I was born and bred in Essex  - and I sound like it. When I'm around family and friends, I get lazy and drop my Ts, use shortened words and slang that sometimes doesn't sound like it comes from the English Language. When I meet someone new, I start talking like someone I don't even recognise. I pronounce my words more clearly and speak 'proper' because god forbid someone tells me that I sound like I'm from Essex. I have a completely different accent at work then I do at home. My dad once phoned me up at work and asked me 'why was I speaking like that? It didn't even sound like me...'

But why is this? I'm not ashamed of where I come from, I'm fiercely proud my working class roots and being an Essex girl. My parents have grafted over the years and taught me to never be afraid of a bit of hard work in order to achieve what you want. But yet I change my accent depending on who I am with. I hate the thought that someone will automatically judge the type of person I am. I've heard the sneers and jokes when I mention where I'm from more times than I can count. It's got to the point of almost reversed snobbery as when I'm introduced to someone with a cut glass accent, I sound almost like a parody of myself, almost daring them to judge me. We can have all the intelligence in the world and the best education yet we will always be judged on our accents.

It's odd isn't it? The power of an accent? We are all quite attached to how we speak, believing it to help keep a tie to where we're from. When I'm abroad my accent is even stronger as if I'm self-consciously trying to hang onto my Essex roots despite the fact I'm thousands of miles away from home. Shouldn't we be proud of the multiple regional accents we have all over the U.K? An accent should be a celebration of our roots, not used as a weapon to make us feel small and unworthy.


Mother's Day with Moonpig

Moonpig is famous for it's thousands of personalised cards but that's not all they have to offer. The brand invited* my mum and I to their head office for an afternoon of crafting activities and a yummy afternoon tea. We tried our hands at flower arranging, making cocktails and posed up a storm in a Photo Booth to create our own cards. We both had such a lovely Sunday afternoon, we don't very often get to spend much time together anymore so we made the most of it.

One thing we found out during the soirée was the large array of products that Moonpig sells as Mother's Day gifts. Not only personalised cards, but beautiful flowers, yummy chocolates, thoughtful hampers and all sorts of personalised gifts. Call me lazy but there's nothing I like more than one website where you can buy absolutely everything from. You don't have to shop around, simply buy a card and present all from one place. After taking part in flower arranging, I was really impressed by the quality of the blooms for such reasonable prices. We were kindly gifted a bunch last Sunday and they're still going strong in my living room. Did you realise you're suppose to change the water every few days? I had no idea and have really noticed the difference.

Thank you so much for such a lovely afternoon Moonpig!

Pictures are a selection of my own and Elouisa Georgiou.


Nine years of blogging

Nine years ago this month I sat at my boyfriend's dads house bored as he watched Man Utd on the telly. I'd been reading blogs for a few months after a lecturer on my journalism course encouraged us to read them and perhaps start one of our own. I was trawling though my favourite ones on my laptop and just decided there and then to bite to bullet. I clicked on Blogger, created one and wrote my first post. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I was going to still be writing on this little piece of the internet nine years later.

Blogging has evolved into a monster and it's something I hardly recognise now. It's been a wild ride for everyone involved. I never quite kept up to speed with my peers and got left behind in the blogging world. But my passion for it has never diminished. I may not wrote as many posts as I used to and I may not read that many blogs at all but there's something quite special and therapeutic about writing down your thoughts. I love having a visual diary I access at any time. I love having something that is all mine. I don't have to follow any rules and I don't have to please anyone. This URL is mine to do what I want with.

I have made some of my best friends because of this blog. I speak to them every day and feel like I can tell them absolutely anything without any judgement. I have been able to do some incredible opportunities that even now I still have to pinch myself. My life certainly would have been a lot duller! I have been very kindly been gifted some amazing products over the years and it's been amazing to be able to take my loved ones to events, to show them how the 'other half' live.

If I'm honest I can't quite imagine my life without this blog. As life gets busier my blog suffers. I don't have the time to invest in my blog anymore and it does make me sad. Gone are the days of writing 15-20 posts a month. Now I'm lucky if I manage one a week. But even though I neglect this space sometimes, I don't think I'll ever be able to pull the plug on it. It's become part of me as cheesy as it sounds. It's probably one of the things I'm most proud of in my life.

Thank you all so much for reading. It wouldn't be what it is without you! Here's to the next nine years.

Five things I want to be better at in my fourth decade

So that's it. I'm 30! I feel like I've been waiting forever to reach it and am really excited to see what the next decade brings. I have a feeling it's going to be a corker! There's a few things I'd like to improve on to make myself a better person and nicer to those around me. Work on a better, improved me I suppose!

1. Educate myself more
I want to read and read and read. I want become better at knowing what is going on in the world around me. I want to learn more about Britain's dark history that we don't for some reason learn about in school. I want to understand politics more. I want to understand my white privilege better. I hope this will make me more compassionate, more understanding and more knowledgeable. I'd like to get out of the very lucky bubble I live in.

2. Make more time for those around me
Over the last year I've been really thinking about friendship, about the type of people I want to surround myself with. Turning 30 has made me feel so incredibly lucky to have such wonderful friends and family who went out of their way to make me feel loved. I want to make more time for them and be just as kind. I'm going to try and say yes to a lot more gatherings, have more evenings full of good wine and food and make more of an effort to keep in touch.

3. Be more present
It's so easy to be caught up in things when you lead a busy life and get distracted. I want to try and reduce my social media presence - although I'll never be able to give up Instagram! I'd like to be more reflective on things that go well in my life rather than dwell on the negative. Life is full of little joys so I'd like to spend more time finding these and appreciating them for what they are. It's not always about the big gestures!

4. Look after my body
I'm fully aware that I will never be as young as this again. It's about time I start looking after my body more. I'm a huge lover of junk food and a very lazy person. A combination which isn't the best! I want to be more mindful of the type of food I put into my body, I want to eat more vegetable and I want to move more. I don't think I'll ever be a slave to the gym but I do need to find something that keeps my heart rate up.

5. Listen more
I suppose this one also ties in with educating myself more. I want to listen to people more and truly understand the way they think, even if it's something that I don't agree with. I have the memory of a sieve which I think is down to me living too busy a life. So I want to take a step back and and really make an effort to engage with friends and family. Be the person who is always there to listen to them.

30 things to do in my 30th year

Now I totally stole this from my BFF but I thought it was such a good idea! It can be little things you've always wanted to do but never got round to or it can be something big that you finally want to tick off your list. Connor and I both turn 30 in the same year so we decided to put our heads together and come up with a joint list with some things we can also do together. I've cheated on a few things as I have already booked them so I know I'm going to definitely tick them off but they've been on my bucket list for years.

1. Learn how to cook 52 new recipes.
This is my New Years resolution and I'm already three new recipes down so it is going well so far!

2. See the sun rise over the Grand Canyon.
We head out to Vegas in April and have booked an overnight trip at the Grand Canyon, where our lodge is only a ten minute walk away. You can bet I'll be waking everyone up at 4.30am to see the sun rise!

3.  Try Guinness in Ireland
We're heading over to Dublin to celebrate Connor's birthday in the summer. I've had Guinness in Belfast and Derry and much preferred it to drinking it here in England. But I've heard it's even better in Dublin!

4. Go to the cinema at least twice a month
We both have unlimited Cineworld cards but have neglected them recently as we've become a bit lazy. We only need to go twice a month to make them worthwhile. We both really enjoy the cinema but have just fallen out of the habit recently.

5. See the seals in Norfolk
For the last two years I've wanted to head up to Horsey to see the seal pups at Christmas time. But time always runs away with me and we never quite make it. But this year I want to tick it off the list!

6.  Go see a Shakespeare at The Globe theatre
I've been wanting to see a play the the Globe for years. They do £10 ticket deals so I've decided that this is the year I'm finally going to do it.

7. Cook a three course meal for each other
I want to challenge myself in the kitchen this year and my boyfriend rather enjoys cooking too  so I'd love to go all out on two evenings and create a three course meal.

8. Go for a picnic in Epping Forest
We live 10-15 away from Epping Forest, an absolutely huge forest straddling the border between Essex and London. I remember spending a lot of time riding bikes here and wandering as a kid but I very rarely make it back as an adult. I'd love to take more advantage of it as its right on my doorstep.

9. Have a gin cocktail evening
Last year I was lucky enough to be gifted a Sipsmith Sipping Society membership. Every few months I got two exclusive flavoured bottles of gin with information on what to use them in. I haven't used them yet as I wanted to have the right ingredients to enjoy the cocktails. This year I want to finally taste them!

10. Visit a new country together
We're actually heading over to Malaysia in a few weeks to visit friends. We haven't made it to south-east Asia yet so very excited to tick it off our list!

11. Visit more of Essex
We're both Essex born and bred but we have hardly seen anything of the country. Being so close to London we always tend to head into town if we fancy a little adventure, but this year I want to explore someone closer to home.

12. Spend the day at the seaside
I have such a special spot for the British seaside and don't get down to the coast enough. I'd like to do it more this year!

13.  Do a UK road trip
We're always heading off on a plan and kinda forget what is on our doorstep. We have a wedding in the Cotswolds in June so looking forward to a little road trip in England.

14. Climb Monument
Monument is dedicated to the Great Fire of London and it's a landmark I've walked past more times than I can count. But I've never ventured to the top of it. This year I finally want to!

15. Have a trip away just us two
We spend a lot of time visiting friends or going away with friends that we very rarely just have a trip away with us two. It'll be nice just to have a few days enjoying each other's company!

16.  Go camping
We have a massive soft spot for camping and often try to go to Epping Forest. I'd love to get a couple of camping trips squeezed in this year.

17. Host a wine and cheese evening
Need I say more?

18. Read five books
I'd love to read more on my commute but more often than not sleep often takes priority. But this year I really want to start getting into the habit of picking up a book.

19. Have a drink at the top of the Shard
We've yet to make it to the top of the Shard as I really don't want to pay £25 for the privilege. But I would be more than willing to pay for an overpriced drink at the top. Go figure!

20.  Stay in a fancy hotel
Because we enjoy visiting lots of places, we always tend to stay in budget hotels or Airbnb's. I don't mind that at all as how often do you spend in a hotel room anyway? But I'd love to stay somewhere a little fancy this year. Luckily we have a pretty swish hotel planned for when we're in Langkawi.

21. Go to a football match
I love going to football matches and have grown up a West Ham fan. Although my boyfriend is a Man Utd fan, Manchester is a bit far to go for a match. So we're keen to see some football matches a bit closer to home.

22. Try a cuisine we've never tried before
We both love stuffing our faces and really enjoy trying food from all over the world. There's still quite a lot of cuisines we haven't tried yet.

23. Experience a sunset from somewhere new
Nothing quite makes you feel in awe of the world around us than watching the sun go down somewhere beautiful right?

24. Go on a bottomless boozy brunch together
We've been on numerous bottomless brushes but never just one with the two of us.

25. Visit a vineyard
I've never been to a vineyard before and it's been on my list forever. We're lucky to have a few within about a 90 minute drive from us. So I'd love to go for a weekend away and visit one.

26. Binge watch a TV show over a weekend
It's very rare that we have a whole weekend indoors with just ourselves. We either have people round or we have jobs to do. I want to spend one weekend binge watching something in our PJs with pizza!

27. Cook more vegetarian dishes
We love meat but we - or rather I -  want to try and cut down the amount of meat we eat. I would say I would love to help in environment but really I think it's because it will be cheaper. and I find once you take meat out of the equation that it really tests your cooking skills.

28.  See more live music
Back in our youth (ha!) we were obsessed with going to gigs. Throughout out late teens and early twenties we used to spend all our money on gigs and went all over London. When we first starting saving for a house around 3-4 years ago we stopped and have kinda fell out of the habit. This year we want to find that passion again! We've got Catfish and the Bottleman and Gerry Cinnamon booked so far.

29. Explore the different neighbourhoods of London
In my opinion, the best parts of London aren't the sights, although they're pretty special, it's the neighbourhoods that make up the capital. Each one is so different and we'd like to make more of an effort to visit them.

30. Send a postcard from every place I visit overseas
I read this on a travel blog recently and thought it was such a good idea. A fun way to have a souvenir from every place you visit.


Thoughts on 2018

So that's it. Nearly another year over and I'm sure I'll speak for everyone when I say, didn't it just fly?! 2018 has been a funny old year. Politically it has been utter mayhem. It's made me feel frustrated, helpless, ashamed and angry. It's been heartbreaking to watch my country descend into something I don't quite understand or recognise. I'm more than a little terrified to see what it is going to be like in March. But as the U.K goes up in flames, what has it been like for me personally?

This year I've been given a lifeline and been able to work every other Friday from home. It's no lie to say that it has completely transformed my life. I have a three hour round trip commute everyday and it was starting to get me down. Even just working from home twice a month has meant that I have gotten my work/life balance back. I'm able to do more things with friends from home on Friday nights. I can spend more time getting ready for the weekend as I no longer have to rush home. I switch off around 6pm and am already in my house! I can have friends round for dinner and have time to cook a proper meal rather than getting a takeaway.

I've spent more time than ever in my house. 2018 marks a full year in which we have been paying a mortgage and living together. I've really cut down on going out and if I do, it's very much a local affair rather than trekking into London. We've hosted a whirlwind of BBQs, cheese and wine nights, World Cup parties and impromptu weekend drinks. Its become the home that I've always wanted to live in. It feels full of life and laughter, I love the fact that it's become a place where people feel at home. I secretly love coming home to full house. In fact it makes me feel a bit emotional thinking about all the happy memories we've already created over the past 12 months. I can't wait to create some more.

I've been on some incredible trips away with friends and feel like I've really cemented my friendships this year. A friend once said that friendships are like ATMs. You can keep drawing money out but at some point you have to replenish otherwise you're not going to get anything else out. Wise words! I've tried really hard to try and be a good friend this year. Sometimes I have fallen short and flaked out. But it's so true, the more you put into your friendships, the more you get out of them. They really do go both ways. They should never just be a one-way street. I feel so lucky to have such a great, tight knit group of friends. Especially here at home, where I've been friends with them for 12 years. I'm so excited to see our friendships go from strength to strength. Now they're all buying houses, it means we can pass the entertaining baton around! They just get me, I can totally be my awkward, opinionated, slightly hot-headed self and they just get it. I don't have to try to be someone I'm not.

It's not been a monumental year for achievements (unless you count not having our house reposessed) but it's has been a content year. Nothing extraordinary has happened but I have ended it feeling like it's been a good one. There's a lot to be said about being content with your lot. To not always think about if the grass is greener on the other side. I'm saying goodbye to my twenties in two weeks and I'm happy with how the last year of my 20s has ended. And I'm looking forward to the next decade.

A Christmas treat with Jet2 Holidays

A email popped into my inbox a week or so ago asking if I fancied a hamper from Jet2 to help celebrate the festive season. Well after a long week at work, it was such a treat to come home too! Using the theme of European Christmas markets, it was full of goodies to help get me in the mood. I can't wait to make that Yule log in time for Christmas Day and have already used those gorgeous milled wine mugs! Those chocolate coins went down faster than you can say Merry Christmas...

Coincidentally when I went to Magaluf back in May I actually used Jet2 Holidays and can't rave about them enough. We ended up delayed because of an awful storm but were kept well informed and given frequent cups of water to keep us hydrated. It doesn't sound too much but it's a lifesaver when you're stuck on the tarmac inside a stuffy plane. Inside the hamper was also a £60 voucher to go towards a trip. I'm hoping to take advantage of their Jet2 holiday city breaks if our funds allow us next year!


Buying a house 101: the truth about how we saved for a house

There are many reasons how people get on the property ladder. In a day and age where owning a house seems to be impossible, it is so handy to know how people get on the ladder. I think it's so important to talk about things like this. As how do you know if you're able to do it unless you know how others have managed to do it? It shouldn't be a taboo subject. It took us just over a year to save £14k for our house deposit. That was for a 5% deposit for a two-bedroom terrace doer-upper house valued at £240,000. Here is how we did it.

We wasn't given a lump sum of money by our parents but we did receive some help in lots of ways. We were lucky to both live at home paying minimal rent to allow us to plough most of our money into savings. That helped us immensely and was the main reason why we were able to save such a huge amount of money in just a year.

I was given some money when I passed my driving test which my parents had saved in a life insurance scheme from the day I was born. I wrote my car off after five weeks when I was about 22, long story, so I got a a sizeable lump sum back of around £2,000. I haven't driven since so put the money away into a savings account. This helped towards my half of the house deposit. I was also made redundant from my job around four years ago, so this went into my savings too. This was around £1500 as I dipped into for a cheeky holiday at the time.  Both these things really helped me get a start on my savings. I saved up £3,500 myself to help bring my hotel half of the deposit to £7k.

My boyfriend had some shares that his great uncle left him in his will when he was a teenager. He cashed these when we started to start seriously save for a house. He got a couple of grand and then saved the rest himself.

So that's how we did it! It was thanks to cheap rent living at home that we were able to do it in a short amount of time. Although rent is a lot cheaper in Essex than in London, it would have taken us a lot longer to save if we were paying rent.

Buying a house 101: why you should opt for a house survey

Buying a house is a minefield and it can be hard to navigate through. There's a hell of a lot of things to tick off the list as you're going through the process. One of those things is to decide if you would like a house-buyer's survey.

There are three different surveys to choose from and you will be able to arrange them through your bank with whom you have you mortgage with. The three include:

1. Condition report
This is the most basic and cheapest survey you can have. It won't provide you with too much detail but it will let you know a summery of the property's defects and possible risks that may occur in the future. It usually costs around £300.

2. Home buyers report
This is the one which we opted for. It will immediately let you know of any obvious major problems such as rot, subsidence and structural damage. Keep in mind the surveyor will not investigate too deeply so they won't lift up floor boards or move furniture top get a closer look. This option usually costs around £450.

3. Building Survey
Priced from £500, this is the most expensive one out of the three. It is the most extensive and will provide you with a detailed report once they have completed it. the surveyor will go into the loft, check behind walls, check above ceilings and look between floors. They will also include the best advice on repairs and provide estimated timings and costs.

I couldn't recommend having a survey done enough. When you go to a house viewing it can be very overwhelming especially if you're being shown around by the vendors. You don't want to appear rude so you don't really investigate, instead taking the house at face value. Even when you go view it a second or third time you never really take it all in. And unless you're a tradesman, how on earth are you suppose to know about the roof? Or the wiring? Or the boiler? The survey investigates all of this and can really help you when you start budgeting. You will know exactly what you will have to replace and what can wait a few more years. The information will be invaluable.

I hope you're enjoying this house buying series! Is there anything else you would like to know?


Is travel burnout actually a thing?

Black skinny jeans: Matalan (similar)
Black tunic: ASOS (Similar)
Checked blazer: Miss Pap*
Adidas trainers: JD Williams*
Red leather backpack: Michael Kors (similar)

Even just writing the title of this blog post has made me cringe a little bit. It's a bit of a tragic first world problem isn't it? I realise how incredibly lucky I am to have had the opportunity to see much of the world that I ever thought was possible whilst I growing up. Not every one can have the privilege of travelling and I completely understand that. It took me to about the age of 24 when I went to Berlin to realise that people like me could travel and see anywhere in they world they wanted too. No where was really out of bounds, I just had to save up and work hard to make it a reality. Since then I feel like I'm been eager to squeeze in any many countries, cities and towns as I possible can just in case I can't manage to see everything I want to.

This year I will have taken seven flights by the time 2019 rolls around. I never thought I'd say this but I feel like it was too much. I feel like I've hardly spent any time at home and my year has been spent living out of a suitcase. Seeing the world is such a beautiful thing but it can be exhausting. Constantly getting used to new cities, never really having a base for more than a few days, unable to settle into a routine and constantly feeling like you have to be 'on form' to make sure you make the most of your surroundings. I feel like I'm neither coming and going. I've been so incredibly busy that I feel like I'm on the verge of a burn out. It's no longer enjoyable.

Admittedly next year I do have two big trips to take and I'm so excited to tick Malaysia and Las Vegas off my bucket list. I still can't quite believe I'm going! But after April I'm going to take a step back. Take things a bit slowly and enjoy my home I've made with my boyfriend. I want to spend a lot more time within these four walls and spend my weekends in my home town. Not words I ever imagined I would ever say! I've always been so keen to leave it behind... Here's too having friends round for wine and cheese, spending evenings wrapped up in a blanket watching Netflix on the sofa and experimenting in the kitchen with my collection of cookbooks.


Why it's ok to put your own happiness first

Adidas trainers: J D Williams*
Star print Bardot dress: Topshop (similar)
Light wash denim jacket: Primark (similar)

We're always told we should put other people first in order to be a kind and thoughtful person. That not thinking of other people's feelings and needs is selfish. Whilst we should always be kind and thoughtful to other people, this shouldn't be at the expense of our own happiness. I don't know about you but sometimes I try so hard to make the other person happy that I completely forget about myself and end up feeling miserable. It could be something so simple as agreeing to go out because you know how happy it make the other person feel yet feeling so down in the dumps yourself the entire time.

You are just as important as the people you surround yourself with. It isn't selfish to refrain from doing things if they don't make you happy. Happiness is something that is so precious and you really don't realise just how much it helps your mental health. It really isn't that simple to find either. It takes a lot of work on your behalf. It's ironic that I've started feeling the most content and happy I've ever felt since becoming much more of selfish person. I've started saying no because I know deep down I don't actually want to do it. I'm only doing it because because I feel it is 'expected' of me and I don't want people to talk about me behind my back. But I'm a much better person to be around if I put my own needs and wants first. Being unhappy invites resentment and spitefulness and these are traits that no one wants.

You are always worth prioritising over everything else.


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A Essex based lifestyle blogger who lives a champagne life on a lemonade purse!

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