2018: a year in travel

So we still have a good few weeks until 2018 is over but I've wrapped up all my travel for the year so though I'd do a round up. This year has been pretty full on despite me declaring I was going to start taking it easy. It seems I just don't have that much self control when it comes to booking trips away. Here is where I've been lucky enough to visit this year - it's been a blast!

The first trip of the year saw Connor and I head to Bordeaux for a couple of days in January to celebrate our 11 year anniversary. We found £20 flights with Ryanair and a great Airbnb just a few minutes walk to the centre. Bordeaux is a brilliant size for a few days of exploring, eating and drinking. The architecture reminds me a lot of Paris and it's very pretty. I think anymore than two days you would run out of things to do. It has made me keen to explore even more of France now. I've got Toulouse and Lille on my list next.

New York
Ah I never thought I'd ever have been lucky enough to visit New York a second time so this still feels like a bit of a pinch me moment. It was so nice to experience the city with my mum, to see it through her eyes, and she encouraged me to see it at a much slower pace. I'm guilty of rushing everywhere on a city break, so desperate to fit everything in. We had such a fantastic week together and I was so sad it was over. Hopefully this will be the start of a new city break tradition for us.

May saw 13 friends and I headed to Magaluf for our friends wedding in Mallorca. What an experience! I never thought I'd have a holiday to Maggers for the first time at the grand old age of 29. We all based ourselves in Magaluf as there was such a mixed crowd of people. Going out on the strip was a hilarious yet slightly traumatic experience but one where I had so much fun. It felt like I was 18 again!  The beautiful wedding venue itself was set in an olive grove around an hour inland, I felt like I was an extra in Mamma Mia the whole night! It was one of the best nights of my life, let alone the best night of my married friends!

A mere three weeks after heading to Magaluf, I was on my way to Benidorm for my sister-in-law's hen do. After nearly a year in the planning, I have to be honest and say I was absolutely petrified about this. But it went great, even if I do have to blow my own trumpet! We spent three days relaxing in a villa just on the outskirts with a private pool before heading into Benidorm for evenings full of dancing a lots of gin.

Northern Ireland
There first of my three trips to Northern Ireland was in August with my blogging babes. We stayed at Hannah's parents house in County Antrim for the bank holiday weekend. It was glorious. I don't think I ever stopped laughing or eating. We saw some incredible sights and int cemented the fact that Ireland really is my favourite country in the world. It's somewhere that just feels like home.

Next up was Belfast in September with some friends to see Biffy Clyro. Apart from a few hours, I hadn't really spent much time in Belfast so I was really excited to see more. I absolutely fell head over heels for the city. It's a city transformed with so much going on, such incredible places to eat and just such cool vibe. It's hard to imagine that it was in the midst of the troubles just 20 years ago. The transformation has been breathtaking. I honestly cannot wait to visit again.

My boyfriend's family live in Derry so it's a place I have a special place for my heart. We headed over last month for a few days to spend time with family and it was great. We didn't really do too much exploring, just choosing to spend our time in the city and sitting in front of the fire in the evenings catching up with a drink. Connor's cousin has just got an adorable Jack Russell terrier who was only 6 weeks old so we got to enjoy lots of puppy cuddles. My favourite type of cuddle!

Christmas gift guide: Five cookbooks for the foodie in your life

I might be biased but I think a cookbook is a great gift for Christmas for the foodie in your life. It can't be just me who loves thumbing though a book, making notes on the recipes I desperately need to make and drooling over the beautiful pictures. You can pick them up really cheap on Amazon if you keep an eye out and they make a great shout for a secret Santa as they're often involved in £10 and under promotions.

The Roasting Tin - Rukmini Iyer
I've waxed lyrical about how much this book has changed our weekday dinners and recommend it to everyone I know. It's a great option for cook who has only just started to experiment in the kitchen as the recipes are so simple and rewarding. The ingredients are always so easy to source and all store cupboards ingredients that you can use over and over again. There's nothing worse than buying an ingredient to use once and then it gathers dust at the back of your cupboard.

Simple - Ottolenghi
This is my first Ottolenghi cookbook and what a corker it is. I am obsessed! This is brilliant for cooks who enjoy spending time in the kitchen experimenting with different cuisines. It loosely follows a Middle Eastern theme and has some great vegetarian dishes to try. Despite the name, the recipes really aren't that simple to create so it's very much a weekend book. You do need a lot a patience to commit to a recipe!

Fresh India - Meera Sodha
Not just one for vegetarians, Fresh India is a delight full of absolutely delicious curries, mouthwatering desserts and tasty snacks. It's a must have for anyone who loves Indian food but are after something a little different to the norm. They're always so simple to follow and I really love Meera's tone. She really makes you feel like one of family and I love her stories.

Sirocco - Sabrina Ghayour
I love all of Sabrina's book but you really can't beat her second offering. Sometimes attempting new cuisines can be a bit overwhelming but Sirocco really makes you feel like you can tackle Middle Eastern food head on and always come out with a success. There are some fantastic fusion recipes. I feel lots more of a weekend book as the recipes are much better eaten in a mezze form - I don't always have time too attempt more than one dish during the week!

John Whaite Bakes at Home - John Whaite
This is one of my favourite baking books with everything attempted deemed to be a success. It's a great book for the more accomplished baker as the recipes really stretch you. He uses some really unusual combinations but just seems to know what works perfectly. You can tell he's really put in a lot of effort to find recipes that work.


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.

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