Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016: The Best and Worst Bits

I did a similar post last year to this one; although my year hasn't been as busy as 2015, I thought it would be nice to round off the year with a review.

January was a slightly difficult month for me, as I found adjusting from my month off spending time with and friends and family, to suddenly living away from home again tricky. But, I did have a lovely trip to London to see Wicked the musical for my friend Tabitha's birthday and I also travelled to see Matilda the musical later on in the month as a treat to myself.

Not that much happened in February but I did go on a trip with my college to see a graduate as the leading role of Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys with amazing seats in the stalls! I also got given an early birthday present of a Kindle which I've loved using this year.

I had my nineteenth birthday in March which was slightly depressing as I had to spend it away from home, without seeing my family. However, I was thrilled to find out that my Dad and Sister had planned a belated birthday trip to see my favourite musical Les Misérables. During the month I also had my first trip to Move It, a dance convention in London, where I was so happy to watch members of my college performing. I also saw Mrs Henderson Presents in the West End as well as a trip to Church Farm with my family. As part of the we held chicks, fed lambs as well as watching a few being born!

In April my friend and I planned to see Phantom of the Opera and I was also able to see the Play That Goes Wrong within the month.

I got a dance injury during May which left me on crutches for just over a month; this was really hard for me as it meant that I wasn't able to dance for over a month; instead I had to sit and watch everyone else dance. My friends and family were however great at cheering me up; my friends and I visited Creme for the most amazing cake and my mum treated me to some Afternoon Tea!

June was the month that the Tiffany Theatre College prom was held, where I had a lovely night.

The most jam packed month of the year was definitely July! Firstly I travelled down to London with my friends to spend a few days living in an apartment in London and rehearsing for the Tiffany's end of year show. During the trip we spent a day in Camden and also saw the play version of The Woman In Black. Then it was time for the show where I absolutely loved performing at the Shaw Theatre (near Kings Cross Station) for two performances. Later in the month, mum and I travelled to Sheffield to see the tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and managed to meet the cast at stage door! At the end of the month, I finally had the foot surgery that was needed to fully repair the damage in my foot from a few months before, as well as attending my auntie's wedding the day after!

In August, I spent a day in Brighton with my mum and sister and we had a great day in the arcade, walking round the Lanes, getting ice-cream from Boho Gelato and playing mini golf. I also had a holiday to Blackpool with my dad's family. We had a great time visiting Madame Tussaud's, riding trams, going up the Blackpool Tower (as well as seeing the circus and tower ballroom), spending a day at Pleasure Beach and visiting the zoo.

I finally got to feed Giraffes' in September which I'd been dying to do for years; it was a great experience and had to be one of the best days of my life. I also started my second year back at Tiffany Theatre College as well as walking the Southend Pier (the world's longest pier) with my mum.

In October I decided last minute to see Beautiful the Musical and celebrated Halloween by carving a Stitch themed pumpkin.

I attended my first ever Bloggers event in November at Creams Cafe in Peterborough. I had a lovely time seeing everyone and definitely left the cafe in a sugar coma! I also saw the hilariously funny play Peter Pan Goes Wrong during the month.

December was another busy month as I spent the majority of it working in my new Christmas temp job and being ill with a rather nasty case of Bronchitis. But I did enjoy a bit of my time off treating my mum to tickets to see Mamma Mia and I spending some time with friends and family which was the best!

I have to say that this year has gone pretty quickly with lots of ups and downs. I'm so excited to see what happens in 2017; I hope you have an amazing year filled with tons of great experiences. Thank you so much for reading my blog!

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Friday, 30 December 2016

Let's Talk About: New Years Resolutions

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Every year I sit down in December and make resolutions for the New Year; my intentions are always good. I want to drink more water, eat healthier, to go to the gym everyday; to make meaningful changes will be a positive difference in my life. 

And you know what, I never end up seeing them through! In my experience, my New Years resolutions are generally forgotten mid February and by going back to my old habits I always end up feeling like a failure. What's worse is that research shows that only 8% of people who make New Years Resolutions stick to them... does that mean that the other 92% end up feeling defeated like I do?

Most New Years Resolutions set you up for failure; for the most part they're unreasonable goals that are hard to maintain for a few days, let a lone a whole year. Over the last few years, I've realised that I could drink more water, eat healthier or go to the gym everyday, but it's very unlikely to make me feel any happier. The beginning of the year is already depressing as it is, so why do we insist on making it any worse by depriving ourselves of the things that make us happy?

So that's why I've decided that I'm done with making New Years resolutions. Of course, I do still want to make a positive impact on my life. So my new strategy is to make daily to-do lists; this should allow me to accomplish what I want without the tons of pressure that year-round unattainable goals apply.

How do you feel about New Years resolutions? If you have made any please leave them in the comments, I'd love to know what they are. Thank you for reading,

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Thursday, 29 December 2016

What I've Read This Year | Goodreads Challenge

If you don't know I'm addicted to reading and likewise: Goodreads. I only signed up to Goodreads this February when I bought myself a Kindle; I love that you can save books you have read and review them, as well as finding new ones you may enjoy. I've also loved setting myself a yearly target of books to read, it's so satisfying to tick  them off one by one. 

This year I set myself a target of 52 books, which equates to one book a week. When setting my target I knew this would be challenging, but I was optimistic that I could read this much in a year and I did! I thought I'd share with you my 5 favourites ones (in no particular order!).

One Day - by David Nicholls

15th July 1988. Emma and Dexter meet on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that?

I absolutely adored this book, there were so many ups and downs and no spoilers but it's one of the only books that have left me in floods of tears! This novel deeply affected me, I haven't read anything in a while that has touched me this much; thank you David Nicholls for such a wonderful, heartbreaking read.

The Girl on the Train - by Paula Hawkins

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She's even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life-as she sees it-is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

This book was an incredibly good and fast-paced psychological thriller. It deals with issues like alcoholism, not being able to get pregnant and domestic abuse in a way that felt so raw and real to me. It was a little slow at the beginning to set up the story; once the main plot started it really took off and I was completely absorbed and engaged. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy thrillers!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - by J.K. Rowling

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

I picked up a copy of this book shortly after it was released and I hadn't managed to get tickets to see it in the West End... but I finished this within a couple of hours! It was everything I could have hoped for, even though it's not what I expected; I'm glad I was able to read it without any spoilers. It left me buzzing for a few hours after finishing it, I couldn't sleep, and that just says something about how good it was. I'm just jealous of everyone who has/is seeing the play...!

Dark Places - by Gillian Flynn

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in "The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived - and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club - a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes-locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She'll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club-for a fee. As Libby's search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started - on the run from a killer.

As I loved reading Gone Girl, I thought I'd try another book by Gillian Flynn and similarly it definitely didn't disappoint! I read this within the day and it's a book that will stay with me forever. It left me speechless from the psychological roller coaster it took me on. Sometimes I almost found myself too scared to carry on reading, but so captivated that I couldn't put it down...! Gillian Flynn is an amazing writer; when I thought I had guessed the ending she took it another way and ended in a place I never thought it would. The book is outstanding and I highly recommend it.

House Rules - by Jodi Picoult

Jacob Hunt is a teen with Aspergers syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, though he is brilliant in many ways. But he has a special focus on one subject - forensic analysis. A police scanner in his room clues him in to crime scenes, and he's always showing up and telling the cops what to do. And he's usually right.

But when Jacob's small hometown is rocked by a terrible murder, law enforcement comes to him. Jacob;s behaviours are hallmark Aspergers, but they look a lot like guilt to the local police. Suddenly the Hunt family, who only want to fit in, are directly in the spotlight. For Jacob's mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family, the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?

Ever since reading My Sister's Keeper when I was younger, I've been a big fan of Jodi Picoult, reading everything of hers that I could get my hands on. I love the way Picoult writes, she makes it flow so smoothly and knows how to rip your heart out and make you want more. House rules had everything I could want, it was an exceptional character-driven story that made me cry, laugh and captivated me right to the end. As with the other Jodi Picoult novels I've read, her extensive research allowed me to learn a great deal about a particular topic (in this case forensic science and autism) which I truly admire.

What books have you read that you've loved? I'd love some book suggestions and if you have Goodreads, feel free to add me here. Thanks for reading,

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Sunday, 25 December 2016

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! December has flown by this year and I really can't believe that its already Christmas! I won't make this blog post long as I know that you'll probably be enjoying your day and spending it with your loved ones.  I would like the time to wish you a happy Christmas to each and every one of you and that I hope you've spent the best day ever with your friends and family, surrounded by Christmas cheer and tons of presents.

I have a few great posts planned for the rest of this year, and even more planned for 2017, watch this space! Merry Christmas and thank you for reading, 

Let's keep in touch

Saturday, 24 December 2016

25 Reasons Why I Love Christmas

Christmas is a time of giving and sharing; since I was a child I've anxiously awaited the 25th December. There is absolutely no question... Christmas is my favourite time of the year! Let's be honest, there are so many reasons to love Christmas that I could spend hours and hours talking about them. As the big day is very nearly upon us, and my excitement is through the roof, I wanted to share a list of things that I enjoy the most about this holiday season. 

1. Christmas Decorations - I love everything from the Christmas tree to the fairy lights and lavish department store displays. 

2. Christmas Knitwear - With the cold weather it's great to be able to wrap up all cosy in warm scarves and jumpers. Christmas jumpers are also a great edition to the festive season; there's nothing like getting in the Christmas spirit!

3. The Happiest Time of the Year - Everyone is just happier at Christmas.

4. Time with Family & Friends - I love spending quality time with my friends and family; I always have the best memories from Christmas time with my loved ones. It's also a great time to see people who I don't get to see a lot throughout the year, which is great!

5. Christmas Films - I am the biggest fan of Christmas films, you can even find me whatching them sometimes in July...! Here is a blog post of my top 10 favourite Christmas films.

6. Christmas TV Adverts - My favourite advert every year is always the iconic Coca-cola advert, but I also find it exciting to discover what John Lewis have come up with each Christmas.

7. Log Fires - The cold weather is the perfect excuse to sit by the fireplace, drinking a hot-chocolate and reading a book.

8. Christmas Scented Candles - I much prefer the scent of Christmas candles, with Yankee Candle's 'Savour the Season' being my favourite from last year. 

9. Christmas Shopping/Giving Gifts - I absolutely love shopping for other people's Christmas presents! I love putting a smile on my friends and family's faces as they unwrap their gifts; it may possibly be the best feeling ever.

10. Red Lips, Gold Eyeshadows and Glittery Nails - If you can't wear glittery eyeshadows and nail polishes for Christmas, then when can you I'm also a massive fan of wearing a red lip during December. 

11. Excitement in the Run Up - Everyday I get more and more excited about it being closer to Christmas Day.

12. Have I Mentioned the Food Yet? - It has to be one of the best parts! From the Christmas roast to the chocolate and much more, it is always something to look forward to.

13. Christmas Music - For some reason, Christmas music is one of the best types of music; it always manages to put me in a good mood. I have a playlist including 20 of my favourite Christmas songs, included in this blog post.

14. Advent Calendars - I love having a little piece of chocolate each day, it definitely brightens up my morning.

15. Boxing Day/Christmas Sales - I love the bargains you can pick up in the Christmas sales. I particularly like Lush's boxing day sale where you can pick up a gift set or two fairly cheaply.

16. Vlogmas on YouTube - I love watching YouTube on a day to day basis anyway, but there's something about Vlogmas that makes me feel twice as Christmassy and festive as I did before!

17. Christmas Themed Baking - Baking is always fun, but Christmas themed baking is even better! From cookies and cakes and chocolate lollies, I love trying new recipes each year.

18. Putting Up the Christmas Tree - I love putting up the Christmas tree with my family; I also enjoy taking turns with my sister to put the star at the top, I wouldn't have it any other way!

19. Christmas Cards - I love sending and receiving Christmas cards, it's a nice feeling to think that someone has thought of you and sent their seasonal good wishes. 

20. Traditions - Everyone has their own Christmas traditions; it just wouldn't be the same without them being the same each year!

21. Christmas Coffee Cups - I love seeing the designs for the Christmas cups at coffee shops, there's just something about having a hot drink in a Christmas themed cup that greatly improves it! This year I think Costa's designs are my favourite, who wouldn't want their Christmas drink in a Christmas jumper themed cup?

22. Stockings - Stockings are super cute and I love seeing what my mum has come up with for my sister and I to open each year.

23. Lush Christmas Range - Christmas is probably my favourite time to use Lush products, as their range seems to get better and better each year. I love trying out their new Christmas products as well as getting back my favourites from the previous years.

24. Christmas TV - I love Christmas TV and especially getting the Radio Times magazine each year and circling everything that I'd like to watch; it wouldn't be Christmas without it!

25. The Nutcracker - I love watching the ballet 'The Nutcracker' each year on DVD; it's one of my personal Christmas Traditions and it wouldn't be the same without it.

I feel all warm inside and festive thinking about all my favourite Christmas things; if possible I may even be more excited than I was before about Christmas being tomorrow! What's your favourite thing about Christmas? Thanks for reading,

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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Vanilla Peppermint Cupcakes

The other day I really fancied cupcakes so I thought I'd make some Christmas themed ones. I decided to make a simple vanilla cupcake recipe, but make it even more festive by adding Peppermint and Candy Canes to some, and making the others into mini Santa Claus'. These are the perfect cupcakes to get you in the holiday mood; I think mint cupcakes would be fab all-year-round (but perhaps using green food colouring instead and different decorations). Keep reading to find out how I made mine.

For the cupcakes:

  • 50g Unsalted Butter
  • 180g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 160g Plain Flour
  • 2tsp Baking Powder
  • 160ml Milk
  • Cupcake cases of your choice
For the icing:
  • 500g Icing Sugar
  • 250g Unsalted Butter
  • 2tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1tsp Peppermint Extract
  • A few drops of Pink Food Colouring
  • A few drops of Red Food Colouring
  • Crushed candy canes
For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°c and line your cupcake/muffin tin with cupcake cases
  2. In a large bowl, cream together your butter and sugar until the mix is light and fluffy
  3. Add in your vanilla extract and your egg and mix
  4. Fold in your flour and baking powder, then slowly add your milk beating as you go until your mixture is smooth
  5. Spoon your mixture evenly into the cupcake cases and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool
To decorate:
  1. For the icing, mix together all the ingredients until smooth
  2. Transfer your icing into a piping bag, or make your own with a zip-lock bag and snipping off a tiny corner
  3. Pipe your icing onto the cupcakes and decorate how you fancy
I hope you enjoyed making these Vanilla Peppermint Cupcakes as much as I did. They are festive and minty without being too extreme for the tastebuds. They made me feel really Christmassy and my house smelt so good after baking these! Thank you for reading,

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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Finding the Perfect Winter Lip Saviour

Year after year I get a winter-long case of chapped lips; I've tried lots of different lip products but have found that nothing I've used so far has seemed to work. This year I decided to hunt for the ultimate lip saviour to solve my chapped lips once and for all, that I can use this year and winters to come. I opted to try Burt's Bee's because I had heard a lot of good things about the brand and I liked the idea that it was made from 100% natural products and is cruelty free.

The lip balm is held in a sturdy, simple but effective packaging that is small and easy to carry around on a daily basis. It's a swivel up tube that means you can apply it directly to your lips without the problem of dirty fingers afterwards (like you would get in a potted balm).

The balm itself is colourless and glides smoothly and transparently, without the weird white film left behind like other balms I've used. The best part was that it performed well, moisturising my lips and absorbing nicely without feeling sticky or greasy.

I absolutely adore it's fruity smell, the tropical mango scent smells good enough to eat; you can still smell it a little after the initial application.

I definitely wasn't disappointed with this product; this was the only lip balm that has worked for my sensitive lips so far. Applying smoothly, releasing it's tropical scent and leaving my lips fully nourished with a hint of gloss but no stickiness makes it the perfect remedy for chapped lips during winter. Burt's Bees Mango Butter Lip Balm has won me over and is now the only lip product I use and I will definitely continue to repurchase it.

Thank you for reading, what's your winter lip saviour?

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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Peppermint Christmas Tree Brownies

Back in July, I was browsing Pinterest to get ideas of what to make this Christmas. I came across a picture of Christmas Tree shaped brownies that looked incredibly cute! I definitely wanted to try baking some of my own; I thought I would add peppermint to the mixture too, as for me mint just screams Christmas. If you're a brownie lover (like me) then you have definitely got to try these out. They're so simple to make, but they look like you've spent a lot of time and effort making them. This recipe makes 16 Christmas trees; keep reading to find out how I made mine!

For the peppermint brownies:
  • 200g Butter
  • 300g chopped Milk Chocolate
  • 300g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 4 large Eggs
  • 160g Plain Flour
  • 60g Cocoa Powder
  • 1tsp Vanilla Extract
  • A few drops of Peppermint Extract
For the decoration:
  • 3/4 Cup of Icing Sugar
  • Green Food Colouring
  • Sprinkles of your choice
  • Mini Candy Canes
For the brownies:
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°c and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper
  2. In a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water, gently heat your chocolate and butter together until melted
  3. Take the bowl off the heat and whisk in your sugar, then your eggs and vanilla extract, mix until light and bubbly
  4. Sift your flour and cocoa powder into the bowl, then add your peppermint extract and mix well until combined (try to knock out as little air as possible)
  5. Pour your mixture into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until it's set and crispy on top, but gooey in the middle (don't worry if there is a slight wobble to the mixture - it will continue to cook as it cools)
  6. Let the brownie cool completely in the tin (roughly 2 hours is best), then lift it out and use a sharp knife to cut it into triangles
To decorate:
  1. Use a sharp knife to cut the candy canes into 1.5" pieces
  2. Press the sharper end of the candy cane into the bottom of the brownie triangles
  3. Prepare the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and add water and food colouring until a semi-thick paste is made
  4. Transfer into a piping bag, or make your own with a zip-lock bag and snipping off a tiny corner
  5. Starting at the top of the tree, gently squeeze the icing out of the bag moving in a zigzag as you go down the tree
  6. Add your favourite sprinkles on the top
I hope you enjoy making these Peppermint Christmas Tree Brownies as much as I did, they are the perfect treat for a Christmas party or just for sitting around the fire with the family. Everyone loves a chocolate brownie, so with this Christmas makeover its bound to go down a treat. Thanks for reading,

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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sunday, 11 December 2016

My Christmas Bucket List | 10 Things I'd Like to do This Year

Christmas Cookies I baked last year - recipe here
As we are now in December, I've decided to share with you my Christmas Bucket List. I'm very excited for Christmas now I'm back home from Dance School; I'm really eager to get stuck into this list and feel even more Christmassy than I already do!

1. Go Ice Skating - Since I was little I've always loved Ice Skating, and there's definitely something about it that feels very festive. I haven't been in a couple of years so I would definitely love to go this Christmas.

2. Bake Something Christmas Themed - I love to bake anyway and adding a Christmas theme to the mix is even better; I spend hours on the internet finding festive recipes and I can't wait to try some out this year.

3. Visit Friends & Family - Christmas definitely a family time and so I'm really looking forward to spending as much time as I can with my friends and family this year.

4. Have a Christmas Movie Day - Christmas films are one of the best parts of Christmas, and so I'd really love to spend a day (or a week...) watching all of my favourite films curled up on the sofa in my onesie!

5. See London's Christmas Decorations - I always love the Christmas lights in London and even more so the decorations in Covent Garden. I'd love to spend a day this Christmas wondering around London basking in the Christmas spirit.

6. Go on Winter Walks - Winter walks are one of my favourite things to do during the winter, I love going on a walk with my family and my dog. It's lovely to wrap up and enjoy the cold and crisp nature around me; it's also a great excuse to have a nice cup of tea or hot chocolate afterwards to warm up!

7. Dance Around to Christmas Songs - This is probably the easiest one, and I can't believe that I haven't done this already. I will almost certainly be doing this as soon as this blog post goes up!

8. Stock Up On Lush Products - In my opinion, Christmas is the best excuse for a Lush haul purely because of their incredible selection. I may wait until Boxing Day to see what I can pick up in their sales and maybe even stock up until next Christmas!

9. Decorate my House - This is something that I cannot wait to do, now that I'm home my family and I can put them up. There's just something so exciting about making the house all Christmassy.

10. Watch a Pantomime - Pantomimes are perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit and it's lovely to watch my family revert to being bigger kids than the younger members of the family. My family have booked in to see Cinderella this year, and I can't wait.

What's on your Christmas Bucket List this year? Thank you for reading!

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