A look back at 2016

So another year over eh? The picture above is probably my favourite one of the year. I get such a huge grin on my face every time I spot it and it reminds me of some of the best two weeks of my life. I remember feeling so carefree. We'd been at a Hungarian festival all day, drunk £6 bottles of 'champagne', sat in the sunshine, made paper windmills in the art tent and were just about to watch Rihanna who just so happened to mine her way through the entire set. Sometimes the best moments in life aren't Instagram perfect or follow a careful script. Real life shouldn't have a filter.

I came into 2016 reeling from the shock of being made redundant, undertaking the uncertainty of being freelance and quite frankly at a loss at how to move forward. It's not until I look back at the period in my life that I realise just how unhappy I was during 2015. I feel like a different person now.

Luckily 2016 has been has been an improvement. It's been a year of extreme lows but also a year of extreme highs. Both in my personal and in my professional life.  Sometimes I just can't quite believe how much I have packed into 12 months. A year that feels like it has flown by but also a year that has moved at a snail pace.

In March I was made permanent at my current job after freelancing for a few months. I was and am still over the moon to be working with such a great team and for such a fab publication. I genuinely enjoy getting up in the morning and commuting to London. I absolutely love being back in the city and embracing the London lifestyle. I fully committed to seeing the big wide world with an incredible five new countries crossed off my list and six new European cities. It's made me realise just how much I thrive from going to to new places. It's only increased my desire to see everything out there! We have hopefully bought a house too which came out of nowhere! We wasn't really looking but one came up that we loved the look of. After a few tense weeks we finally had our offer accepted and are now just waiting for the whole process to go through. It's not completely set in stone but I'm quietly confident that it will all go through. I just hope it doesn't come back and bite me in the bum!

As a family we've taken a fair few knocks this year and at times things have been tough. Tougher than they have ever been. But if one thing they have taught me is that you knock us down, we get back up again. We will get through it as a unit. The rollercoaster is something that will probably carry on until 2017.

Despite that I'm looking forward to 2017. I'm seeing in the New Year in Glasgow with three of my favourite people, a city that I've never visited. Hopefully March sees me finally move out into my first home with my boyfriend - still working on a move date! I have a few weddings to attend and a holiday traveling around Poland to plan. Plans have slightly changed with Warsaw, Krakow and Gdansk on the list now but that's the beauty of planning a holiday!

Thank you so much for everyone who has read my little piece of the internet - sometimes I can't quite believe that I've been writing it so long. I honestly can't imagine it not being part of my life. I haven't quite nurtured it as much as I wanted to in 2016 but hoping to invest more time next year. I've got some big plans! This will be my last post of 2016 so I'll see you on the flip side!
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Three ways to style your shelves


If you're anything like me, you spend hours lusting over Pinterest at the interiors. Dream of perfecting the perfect shelves and having a room worthy of taking pride of place in a interiors magazines. But sometimes they can look a little too sterile. Like no one lives there, they simply exist to take pictures of. Here are my tips on how to add a little personality to yourself without giving into clutter!

Trinkets
Too much tat on a shelf can look untidy and cluttered. But adding a few trinkets can help give your selves personality. Pick a few things from your adventures, things that represent you and mean a lot to you. I have a collection of Russian Dolls from Budapest to remind me of my holiday. I have a Peaky Blinders pin badge that I was given in a secret Santa from Hannah.


Wall art
A few years ago I made a pact to pick up a different print from every city I visited. I'm missing a few as sometimes they can be hard to track down but now have a pretty healthy collection. Eventually I'd love to have a gallery wall above my sofa in my future house. But, for now I'm displaying them on shelves. They make a great talking point and bring back memories every time you catch them.

Books
Despite owning a Kindle, I still have a love affair with books. At the moment my obsession is with travel books. I think I might actually be keeping Lonely Planet in business... I spend hours reading them, making notes and dreaming about places I've yet to visit. I like to scatter a few of my favourites on my shelves and change them whenever I fancy a change. Coffee tables books look great too. I'm slowing building up my collection of Hygge inspired books!

How do you style your shelves?

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How to wear statement boots






Outfit:
Purple and grey ombre coat: ASOS (similar)
Grey distressed skinny jeans: New Look
White long line tailored shirt: H&M (similar)
Silver ankle boots: H&M (similar)

As soon as the cold weather hits, I'm all over ankle boots. I like to buy a few new pairs each winter to add to my collection. The more unusual and lairy the better as far as I'm concerned. This year I added these silver ones to my collection. I feel a little bit like David Bowie which is always a good thing. The cold weather brings with it bundles of layers so often an outfit is all covered up. This is where a statement pair of ankle boots come in handy as you'll always see them. They're a great way to jazz up a outfit.

See some of my favourite ankle boots below.


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2016: A year in travel

2016 has been an absolute whirlwind. I didn't think anything travel wise could beat 2015 but looks like I was wrong! I never made it outside Europe this year but it has made me appreciate just what a beautiful continent I'm lucky enough to live on. I have such a love affair with Europe and can't rave about it enough. So much culture, beauty and incredible food just a few hours away. I almost don't want to visit anywhere else... I also got to see a lot more of the UK this year which has been fab. A few weekends away in your own backyard are great for recharging your batteries. So where did I end up this year?


The Cotswolds
Back in Feburay I headed to the Cotswolds to help celebrate Sarah's birthday with all my blogger chums. It was my first time in that part of the world and it certainly won't be my last. Just three hours from London, it felt a world away from the hustle and bustle of the capital. We stayed in a beautiful National Trust property and spend the weekend eating cake, taking long rambling walks and putting the world to rights. Who says people on the internet are weirdos?

Cologne
After stumbling across £20 flights, it was off to Cologne in March. Despite only having previously been to Berlin, Germany is my favourite country so I was excited to explore more. Cologne was the perfect long weekend away. It's not a big place and if I'm honest, four days was probably a bit too long. But it gave us ample time to wander around aimlessly and truly relax. There was no strict timetable to stick too! I developed a love of German beer, ate a pork knuckle as big as my head and nearly died as we walked to the top of the cathedral.

Copenhagen
I booked this as a birthday treat for my boyfriend but ended up falling head over heels with the Scandinavian city. It was absolutely incredible and one of the best places I have ever visited. I could see myself very happily living there for the rest of my life. THE FOOD! Oh my the food. It was some of the best I've ever eaten. We ate like absolutely kings and came home like paupers thanks to the ridiculous prices. And I thought London was expensive. But it was 100% worth and I'd do exactly the same again.


Prague
The first stop on our epic Eastern European trip was the Czech Republic capital. After promising to visit for the past nine years, we finally made it. We had four days which was perfect. We'd done all the main sights within 3 days so we had one day to relax and soak up the atmosphere. The old town was absolutely stunning and it's probably one of the prettiest cities I have visited. The endless terracotta roofs were darling. We had some of the best food of our entire trip here, enjoyed the local beer, trekked to the top of a ginormous hill and battled the crowds on the Charles Bridge.

Vienna
We completely misjudged Vienna when we only scheduled in two days in the city. It turned out we actually only had 36 hours which wasn't long enough at all. I was so blown away by the stunning architecture and feel so sad we only scratched the surface. Unfortunately we couldn't inside anywhere but that just means we shall have to book a trip back.

Bratislava
This city was a game changer. Only put on the itinerary because it was somewhere to spilt the trip between Vienna and Budapest, it ended up being my favourite place I visited over the two weeks. The quaint Slovakian capital was hip, pretty and buzzing. I loved the cafe culture - endless locals spilling out into the street sipping on coffee and watching the world go by. Two days was the perfect amount of time.

Budapest
It took a while for me to warm up to this city. It was dirty, grimy and not that welcoming. After coming from three beautiful cities, it took a while to get used too. But after a couple of days I grew to love its quirks and ended up having the most fun during the trip in the Hungarian capital. We managed to grab some festival tickets and wandering past the stunning lit up Houses of Parliament at 2am with three of my favourite people is one of my favourite memories. However, getting up for the plane home the next day was not a fun memory...

Bristol
June saw a trip down to Bristol to visit a good friend for a girls weekend away. Boy did the four of us cackle the whole weekend. We stuffed our faces with pizza, took strolls along the harbour and danced until 5am. We realise that maybe we were too old for the latter... I couldn't recommend Bristol enough for a weekend away. It positively shines in the sunshine!

Plymouth
We had such a good time in Bristol that we scheduled another girls weekend away in October to my BBF's old university town. I'd been to Plymouth before but never really ventured any further than the student union. We ate gorgeous Thai food, got the boat over to Cornwall, got stranded in Cornwall and had beautiful Autumnal sunshine.

Pic taken from Bow Dream Nation

Glasgow
This hasn't actually happened yet but I'll be in the Scottish city this time in two weeks. We're flying out on Boxing Day for a wedding and NYE. With a full week in the city, I can't wait to really sample all the foodie delights on offer. I've heard such GREAT things. I want to see a few sights but am also going to try and take it easy so I go back to work in 2017 feeling nice and refreshed.
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Five series on Netflix to watch over the Christmas break


1. Peaky Blinders
If you know me in real life you will know just how obsessed I am with this programme. It features two of my favourite actors - Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy - so I was always going to tune in. Set in Birmingham just after WW1, it follows the Shelby gangster family as they struggle to go legitimate. With six episodes in each series, it's perfect to binge watch. Keep in mind that once you start you won't be able to stop! The cinematopgraphy is stunning, the acting is superb, the costumes are gorgeous and the storyline is addictive.

2. Medici: Masters of Florence
Florence has been on my travel wishlist for years and Robb Stark is my favourite King of the North. So when I found out a new series starring Richard Madden based on the Medici dynasty in 15th century Florence, I started counting down until it dropped on Netflix. The Medici family was an Italian banking family who clawed their way up in society. I knew nothing of this family so have found the series to be so interesting. with the beautiful backdrop is a plus too.

3. The Crown
A Netflix original, there's been a lot of hype around this series about the British Royal family. Despite growing up in the UK,  I don't really know too much about our monarchy. The series is full of scandal and makes you realise that the Royals could be just like us after all. Matt Smith gets under my skin as Prince Philipp and Claire Foy is superb as the Queen.

4. Homeland
The first series of this programme is up there as one of the finest I have ever seen. I think I watched the whole thing in less than a week. The American political thriller is fast paced and strangely topical at the moment. Claire Danes will exhaust you and Damien Lewis will once again keep you enthralled.

5. The Office UK
An oldie but such a goodie. For some reason the Ricky Gervais comedy always reminds me of Christmas. The mockumentary sitcom following the day-to-day lives of office workers in Slough makes me belly laugh every time. It's so unbelievably cringe worthy. David Brent really is the best character Ricky Gervais has created.

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How to wear a leopard print coat







Outfit:
Leopard print smart coat: Next (similar)
Distressed black skinny jeans: New Look
Grey chunky knit roll neck jumper: New Look
Tan faux suede ankle boots: ASOS (similar)
Red poppy red Lily: Mulberry

I have such a soft spot for leopard print in all forms. Shoes, coats, dress and bags. But sometimes it just doesn't work. You want to look classy not tacky. Now I much prefer more muted, understated animal prints. I feel like they can be remixed better as the more gaudy patterns can make an outfit look too busy. As much as I love clashing prints on other people, I just don't like them on me. So what are my tips on how to wear a leopard print coat?

I like to wear a neutral top underneath, This chunky knit gray jumper is a bit less boring than black or white but still offers a good base. It keeps in with the snuggly winter theme I was aiming for. A white crisp shirt will also work well. These distressed black jeans again add a neutral base. But the ripped knees and frayed ankles help to keep the skinnies interesting. Finally the tan boots bring out the browns in the coat to bring the whole outfit together and the red bag brings a pop of colour. I think accessories are great to jazz up an outfit.


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How to spend a lazy weekend


Mustard pattern cushion: Rooi*, grey ombre throw: Next*, Lonely Planet guide books: Amazon, 36 hours 125 Weekends in Europe: Amazon, pineapple candle: Primark, white chair: second hand

Due to a few things happening in real life, I've really scaled back my weekends and taken a step back. Usually I spend both days frantically fitting things in and constantly back and forth on trains into London. By the time Monday morning rolls around, I wake up exhausted ready to start the working week. The last few weeks I've very rarely left my Essex town instead choosing to spend my free days at home. I feel so much better for it and haven't even really felt the FOMO. It's been so nice to mooch around at my leisure and spend some time with local family and friends.


I've been setting aside one day at the weekend where I literally don't leave the house. Sometimes I don't even get dressed! Boy has it been good for the soul...

I never set an alarm and even if I do wake up early I like to lounge around and very rarely get up before 11am. I love to treat myself to a indulgent breakfast - smashed avocado, crumbled feta and chili flakes on crusty tiger bread is my brunch of choice. Then I like to potter around to do a few life admin bits and bobs that I have missed out during the week.


After lunch I like to settle down with a book underneath a cosy throw with a cushion and a candle flickering in the background. Sometimes it is my Game Of Thrones book on my kindle - on the third book now! - or it something from my collection of travel books. I'm absolutely obsessed with travel books. It could be researching places I've already booked or looking for inspiration for must-visit countries in the future. My list grows bigger by the day! I'm forever making wish lists on Air BnB in far flung places.

I've been really enjoying to put aside a Sunday to bake or cook something new from my mountain of cookbooks. So I usually volunteered to cook dinner for the evening.

How do you spend a lazy weekend? I recommend you take a day out for yourself!

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Travel plans for 2017

2017 is the year we finally move out - fingers crossed! - so travel will have to take a bit of a back seat. That's not to say I'm going to be sitting at home twiddling my thumbs but there won't be any huge holiday plans. We'll be visiting a few old favourites again and trying to keep it cheap.


Paris
I've never been a massive fan of Paris but keen to explore more as I really don't think I have seen the best of it it. I stumbled across some cheap Eurostar tickets thanks to Hannah so decided to treat my mum for Christmas as she's never been. We're heading over for the night in January for less than 24 hours in the French capital. We probably won't do much sightseeing preferring to eat cheese and drink wine. But I can't wait. It'll be so nice to introduce my mum to some things I've seen before. If there's someone who enjoys stuffing their face as much as I do, it's her!

Image taken from My Sentimental Heart

Ireland
Originally the boyfriend and I had big plans to spend our ten year anniversary - say what?! - in Marrakesh. But buying a house has put a serious strain on our finances so that idea soon went out the window. Instead we're heading off to Northern Ireland for a few to spend time with Connor's family and embark on a Game of Thrones tour around the country. This has been high on my list for ages! Despite the fact I'll probably freeze to death, I'm so looking forward to it. Northern Ireland is absolutely beautiful and I've never explored the countryside, only the city. We're going to be doing the Causeway Coastal Route with the Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the Dark Hedges and Ballintoy Harbour on our list to visit.

Image taken from Little Winter
Brighton
This year I managed to squeeze in two girls trips to Plymouth and Bristol. They were so much fun that we've decided to need to do one next year. I've been to Brighton quite a few times but it's one of those places that never gets old. There's always somewhere new to eat, to drink and to wander. We've got a few days plans for when the weather starts to warm up in the spring.

Image found on Pinterest via All That Is Interesting
Poland
Our big holiday next year is a two week trip in Poland with our partners in crime - can't quite believe that will be our fifth annual year of going away with each other. We're heading back to the place that started it all. Warsaw. My friend's family have a flat in the city so it will be cheap and cheerful. Plus there's so much more to Warsaw to discover! After four days in the capital we will be heading about an hour away from the city to spend a few days with his grandparents in the country then catching the train north to Gdansk. Here we'll be basing ourselves for a week whilst exploring the beach of Sopot, Hitler's chilling Eastern Front headquarters Wolf's Lair and the port city of Gdynia. Despite it being a budget option, I'm really looking forward to it. I stumbled across Gdansk on Pinterest earlier this year and looks so beautiful, my friend also has some great things to say about Polish beaches too!

Image taken from Fat Frocks

Cardiff
In September I'll be heading into Wales for the weekend for a very good friend's wedding. I'm looking forward to an almightly catch up. I've been to Cardiff before so am really pleased to go back for some more exploring. I think the weekend is going to be one of the highlights of my year!

Image taken from Bow Dream Nation

German Christmas market
Finally I wanted to round off the year with a trip to a German Christmas market. We trekked to Bruges two years ago for a festive market but haven't been to one since. I'm sure I've mentioned before that Germany is probably one of my favourite European countries so I'd like to experience a proper Christmas market. I'm not 100% sure which city yet as I'm hoping to score some cheap flights but it will be somewhere in the country.

So now you know mine, tell me your 2017 travel plans!
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The top four places to visit for a weekend break in Great Britain

It's only this last year that I've really come to appreciate what is on my doorstep. For years I had dismissed Great Britain in favour of far away lands. I'm hoping to explore more too with Glasgow and Cardiff on the agenda for next year. While we don't have the weather we most certainly have the beauty. Here are my top four places I've visited in Great Britain - I think you should visit them too!




Oxford
I was whisked away to Oxford for a birthday treat last year and it fast became one of my favourite UK city. Even on a cold February day it was beautiful. I loved wandering around the colleges from Harry Potter, eating afternoon tea at a grand hotel, climbing to the top of a church tower and wandering around the independent shops. There's so much to take in and see, whether you fancy a weekend away with the girls or a romantic few days with a partner. We stayed at the Malmasion which I highly recommend!




Plymouth
Plymouth is my first venture into Devon and now I'm desperate to visit more. It's not the prettiest of cities but it offers the calming sea, good food and a whole lot of history. Plus a gin distillery! It's a fantastic base to explore more of that world thanks to being only an hour boat journey from Cornwall. It's a place I can definitely see myself seeing more of.





Bristol
If you love food, you'll love Bristol! Go on a wander down to the harbour, take a self-guided Banksy tour, mooch over to Clifton, enjoy the brunch scene and wander through the town centre. It has such a cool, fun vibe and is quite a young city thanks to the university. It's also a cracking night out if you fancy packing your dancing shoes!




The Highlands
The Highlands had been on my bucket list for a long time so when a friend moved there, I quickly organised a visit. Well quickly might be a lie - it took me two years! It is honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I really couldn't believe this was on my doorstep. To get the best out of Scotland, you really should hire a car and drive around all the little towns and villages. We saw castles, seals, lochs, waterfalls and lighthouses. I never knew I loved the outdoors so much!
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Restaurant review: Cooper & Wolfe, Clapton, north London


Clapton isn't a place I'd visited before and nor was it really on my radar but Hannah suggested we make the trek for her birthday to try a Scandi inspired cafe. Keen to relive my Copenhagen memories, I couldn't be happier to try it. Based a fair walk from Lower Clapton station, Cooper and Wolfe is located on Chatsworth road - a hustling main road connecting Hommerton and Lower Clapton.




The rustic cafe was full of yummy mummies and a warm, cosy atmosphere. It was welcoming and felt like the type of place where you could mill away for hours over cake and coffee. Which is exactly what we did! Having skipped breakfast I decided to opt for the traditional Swedish meatballs with creamy mash potato, topped with a creamy gravy sauce, pickled cucumber and fresh lingonberry jam. It was delicious. The tender meatballs were a generous size and the lump-free mash melted in my mouth. The perfect rainy day treat! No lunchtime outing is complete without a sweet treat though. After lots of deliberation, I decided to end the meal with a slice of the chocolate guinness cake topped with cream cheese icing. It was very rich but just the ticket.



Cooper and Wolfe was a delightful find. The staff were great, portions fantastic and the food delicious. We didn't feel rushed in the slightest making it a fab place to hang out for the afternoon for an almighty catch up. I paid around £12 for a drink, meatballs and slab of cake which I didn't think was too bad for an area that is fast becoming hipster central. Definitely somewhere to keep an eye out for if you ever find yourself in Clapton!

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

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sophie.warner89@yahoo.co.uk.

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