April 2017: a life update

So nearly at the end of yet another month. Gosh this year is just zooming past isn't it? I quite enjoyed the chatty update of my March post so thought I'd carry on. It feels a bit like how blogging used to be when I first fell in love with it.

It's been nearly a month since we got the keys to our house and it looks like a tornado has swirled though it. We discovered that everything looked a little make-do and nothing has really been completed of that a high standard so we had a lot more work to do than we originally though. So off we went ripping the house apart! We took down a stud wall, blocked and unblocked a couple of doors, ripped up the floors and stripped the wallpaper of the rooms. We're concentrating on the living and dining room at the minute to get it into shape and leaving the rest of the house to fend for itself! It's slowly getting there with a plumber and electrician coming today to do some bits before a plasterer in three weeks. I lol at that girl who thought back in October when her offer was accepted that she could give it a lick of paint and move straight in...

I'm also on countdown to my trip the French Rivera next month. Hannah, Sarah, Michelle and I are off to Elodie's neck of the woods for a weekend away. We'll be spending a day in Marseille before heading down to her coastal town for a couple of days of relaxing on a beach, drinking too much rose and going into a cheese coma. Who knew those strangers behind a computer screen could be so much fun?

Politics seems to have got itself all in a tizzy again following the announcement of a general election on June 8. The time when I start deleted people of Facebook because they don't agree with my views. This loony, raging leftie is only half-joking... Seriously though, this election is so incredibly important and perhaps the most important election I will have voted in. Please register to vote before May 22. Brexit is something that will change the history of our country and it needs to be approached in the right way with a level head. It will not only affect us but generations to come. We need a strong government to guide us through these rocky waters. I'm not here to tell you who to vote for as I believe everyone should do their research and vote for who they believe is the right person. But please do your research and really look into what each party represents. I know for me, one of the most things I'm most passionate about is safeguarding the NHS. My mum  and friends work for the NHS and I have family members who simply wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for that health service. It's such a precious thing and we are so lucky to have it. It's not perfect by any means but it deserves to given the chance to grow and flourish. Another thing on my list is education. I'm a firm believer in the fact that everyone should be given the right to the same level of education regardless of their background. The wealthy shouldn't have more privilege simply because of circumstance. My best friend is a state school primary teacher and I hear about the daily struggles she goes through to help her children achieve their potential. It's so, so hard without the resources that she desperately needs. She really is an angel. Four million children live in poverty which is astonishing for a country such as the UK. This really isn't good enough.

So, make sure you tick a box on June 8!

Exploring London: Keats House, Hampstead, north London

When Gem came down to London to visit over the Bank Holiday weekend, she suggested a day out to Keats House in Hampstead. This part of north London isn't a place I visit to often so I was game for exploring it a bit more. It turned out to be an insightful and fascinating afternoon!

Dedicated to the memory of the poet John Keats, we arrived just in time for a tour which I highly recommend. I'm not as much of a fan as Gem so I wasn't too up-to-date on the background of Keats. The tour guide was very enthusiastic and really knew her stuff. It's owned by the National Trust and costs £6.50 to visit - I think tours usually start at 3pm.

On a nice day it's a wonderful place to sit in the gardens - which are free - and think back to John Keats. His life was tragically cut short at 25 and he never fulfilled his potential. His work was only actually in publication four years before his death and he never really had an success until after he died. 

It still amazes me that decades after I first visited London as a child that there are things that I still haven't seen. Make sure you pop into Keats House next time you take a stroll in Hampstead!


Creating the perfect nook for blogging

It's hard to believe I've been blogging since 2010. Something I started in my boyfriend house because I was bored he was watching Man Utd on the telly has somehow snowballed into this. I honestly can't imagine my life without it but as I've got older, finished university and started my career, it's becoming harder and harder to make time for it. So I like I create a little blogging nook once a week to help to get focus and write without any distractions. Here are a few tips that help me settle down to business...

As much as I love lounging in bed, I find it doesn't really make me productive when I'm trying to work so I make myself a little work station. First things first is to make sure there is enough light coming in. My room is pretty dark so this white colour changing desk lamp from Omrod* is perfect. It also has a built-in USB charging port for my phone and is dimmable via touch control.

I also like to treat myself to a fresh bunch of flowers to brighten the area up. Tulips seem to be my bloom of choice at the minute - don't they look beautiful in this ceramic jug from Amara*? My favourite travel books provide a constant source of inspiration and these cactus candles from Pimark add a cute kitcsh element. Finally a picture of the BFF and I that makes me smile every time I catch a glimpse at it. I find it's always the little things that encourage your motivation.

How do you keep productive when you're writing blog posts?


My top 10 travel highlights

1. Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
Sadly we got our timings wrong - thanks to a heavy night the day before - and missed our time slot to go inside the cathedral. But even just seeing it from the outside completely blew my mind. It's probably the most stunning building I've ever seen. The intricate detailing is mesmerising and the sheer size just takes your breath away. I'm gutted I never got the chance to make it inside but I'm definitely going to be visiting Barcelona again so will no doubt cross it off my list soon.

Image via Pinterest via Into Flow

2. A lot of people had recommended the Top of the Rock to me before my NYC trip so it was put top of our list when we were planning out trip. There's a reason why its so highly rated! It was a wet and windy night but when we stepped out on the viewing platform and saw all the twinkling lights of the Big Apple below us, I got all chocked up. And nearly blown away by the gale force winds... There's just something unbelievably special about being above such an iconic city. You feel almost insignificant as you look out over the skyline. It's one view I won't ever forget.

3. The Skydeck, Chicago
On the top floor of the tallest building in the western hemisphere, the Ledge is a glass box extending out about four foot from The Skydeck. Looking below at the sprawling city is such a surreal feeling. With wobbling jelly legs, it's a heart-in-the-mouth moment as you soak it all up. Something I won't ever forget and something I'm not even sure I enjoyed doing... But I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

4. Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C
I'm still not quite sure if I was a fan of Washington DC but seeing the Lincoln Memorial was the highlight of the trip. It's so imposing and iconic - pretty special to see something in the flesh you've seen numerous times in films. I couldn't get Forrest Gump out of my head...

5. The Highlands, Scotland
The Highland has been on my bucket list for year and to finally tick them off was fantastic. It's such a stunning part of the world and standing on some rocks, watching the sun go down, listening to the soothing sound of waves crashing against the rocks and seeing seals playing in the water is one of my favourite memories. I don't think I never felt as much at peace as I did that moment.

6. Szechenyi Thermal Baths, Budapest
The biggest thermal baths in the city, the Szechenyi Baths should be on everyone's list when they go to Budapest. Yes they are tourist central and yes they are extremely busy, but they're amazing. Over a 100 years old, it's pretty special sitting in 38 degree water in one of the 18 baths and thinking back to all the people who have passed through these doors.

7. Ballintoy Harbour, Northern Ireland
Ballintoy is a place where I feel like I can sit for hours and block out the world. Sometimes Mother Nature is just so bloody amazing isn't it? Clambering over the rocks trying not to fall into the Atlantic Ocean made me feel like a kid again and without a care in the world. Gosh Ireland has completely stolen my heart - I knew there was a reason why I found a boyfriend with Irish heritage.

8. Arc D'Triomphe, Paris
I'd been to Paris a handful of times yet still had never made it to the top of the Arc D'Triomphe. So when I went back to the city in January, it was top of my list of things to do during my whistle stop tour. After a long slog to the top, this view made it all worth it and it fast became my favourite place in Paris.

9. Galena, Illinois
During my Illinois road trip we stopped off at in Galena, a all-American town that feels like a movie set. I love all the big cities but to me, this is the real America. These is the small towns that you hear about with the iconic water towers, where everyone has known each other since the day they were born and where you go in a shop to buy a bag of crisps and come out two hours later knowing the shopkeeper's life story. It's laid back, picturesque and so unbelievably different from home. I could have stayed for a month.

10. Nyhavn, Copenhagen
Oh how I wish I was Danish. Surrounded by multi-coloured houses, the harbour is the perfect place for a wander, soak up the city and people watch for hours. Despite being overrun with tourists, it was my favourite place I visited during my trip.

How to wear a pleated midi skirt

Black jersey roll neck: Topshop (similar)
Pink pleated midi skirt: H&M (similar)
Tailored grey coat: New Look (similar)
Black mid heel courts: Primark (similar)

I'm so pleased to be dipping into my spring/summer wardrobe again! I feel like I dress so much better in the warmer weather. All midi skirts and dresses galore. It's so much easier to throw something on and look presentable. I love jeans but I struggle to pull of the effortless LA chic and look more like lazy Essex girl who woke up too later and had to get ready in a rush. This hot pink pleated midi skirt was a bargain many moons ago from H&M for about £8, it comes out year after year and never gets old! It reminds me that I need to add a few more pleated skirts to my wardrobe... Paired with a simple roll neck tee and a tailored coat, the whole outfit looks smart and presentable when you haven't really made that much effort at all.

I'm on countdown to the Easter weekend - gotta love those four day weeks. I'm going out for a few drinks for  tonight for Kim's birthday and have a date with Gemma to see Don Juan in Soho tomorrow. The rest of the weekend will be spent watching my boyfriend showing off his handiwork in the house and getting in his way, providing bacon rolls from Dorringtons. Renovating a house isn't my strong point - I'm much better when there's plaster on the walls as seeing just a shell sends my blood pressure through the roof...


Restaurant review: Chick N Sours, Seven Dials, Covent Garden, Central London

Chick n Sours has been on my to-visit list for ages but like so many restaurants in London, I just had't made it round to visiting. They're popping up quicker than I can visit! But Elodie came over to London for a visit so it seemed like a great excuse to get all the girls together for a feast of chicken, laughter and gossiping. I left wondering why on earth I had left it so long to visit...

We entered to dark mood lighting - a blogger's nightmare-  and banging indie tunes, immediately putting us in a good mood. After consulting Hannah for advice as she had been before, we ordered an insane amount of food to keep us busy for the next two hours. Sadly I didn't try any of the cocktails as I'm on a budget but they're definitely on my list for next time!

Keen for all the chicken, we ordered hot crispy chicken wings covered in an addictive sweet sauce, straight up chicken tenders tossed in seaweed crack and spicy Szechuan aubergine sprinkled in sesame seeds for the token veggie dish. The chicken was succulent, the coating was deliciously crisp and the flavours were punchy. They all provided a great introduction to the menu.

As soon as I saw the K-Pop burger on the menu I was sold. Sandwiched in between a toasted brioche bun, the tender Korean chicken thigh was coasted in gochujang majo and chilli vinegar. The finishing touch was lashings of fresh Asian slaw and lettuce. It was an absolute beauty of a beast. The other dishes on the table included house fry served with unusual pickled watermelon and seaweed crack, and the guest fry coasted in a sweet and sour sour sauce with a soy pepper and pineapple garnish. A few bowls of fries and a selection of inventive dips completed the meal.

We all left nursing very full bellies and sore jaws from laughing too much. Chick n Sours was absolutely delicious and I really can't wait to go back again. The food was superb and it arrived nice and quick, leaving us with plenty of time to gossip during our two hour time slot. Make sure you book in advance and come feeling hungry. You will want to order EVERYTHING!

Why everyone should buy a yellow dress for the summer

Yellow bardot summer dress: ASOS
Black faux suede mid heels: Primark (similar)
Poppy red Lily: Mulberry

Last weekend we took advantage of the sunshine after lunch at Hannah's and strolled down to the river in Putney to catch the rowers warming up for the Oxford and Cambridge boat race. After a few visits to Putney, I've really grown to love the area. It doesn't feel like you're in the city at all and when you're down by the river in the warm weather, you could almost be on holiday! I think I was a little too optimistic with this dress as when the sun went in, it was a little chilly. But it was just too pretty to have hanging in my wardrobe unworn. I've been eyeing it on the site for months but it kept coming in and out of stock. I finally managed to nab it at the right time and think it's going to be a staple for the next few months.

This weekend has been a busy one. Yesterday we celebrated a family 50th birthday and managed to squeeze in a tasty Bills brunch too. Today we're off out this afternoon to celebrate a friends birthday at Top Golf. It's been so nice to stay local for one and away from all the tubes!


Restaurant review: Dip & Flip, Brixton, South London

Dip & Flip had been on my list for an age but as the restaurant are based in south London, it somehow slipped under the radar. South London is so far away from me - east London represent! - that I very rarely make it across the river. But last weekend we were on the Victoria Line and thought we'd make the detour to Brixton to finally tick it off our list.

Dip & Flip are famous for serving their burgers with gravy. Have you heard of anything more perfect? We ordered a potent gin based sour cocktail to kick off the night. Then I decided on gooey cheesy chips. Covered in squeezy cheese, these were wickedly indulgent and covered in a spicy salt to give them a bit of a kick. For the main event, I kept it simple with the Dip & Flip signature burger. A medium rare cheeseburger topped with ribbons of roast beef dunked in gravy alongside ketchup, mustard, slaw and pickles. It was glorious! Probably in my top three burgers I've eaten in the capital. It was simple yet effective. The patty was perfectly cooked and the roast beef was a welcome addition. The rich pot of gravy was the finishing touch. Because we're greedy piglets, we also ordered a bowl of crispy chicken wings with a refreshing blue cheese sauce for the table to share.

Dip & Flip was well worth the wait and I'm slightly annoyed I haven't been sooner. It was well priced, the staff were very friendly and the food was excellent. It's such a shame they all seem to be south of the river but I guess I'm just going to have to start venturing further. I can't wait to go back!

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

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