Sunday, 29 January 2017

Read & Reviewed #2

Hi there! I'm back again with the second instalment of Read and Reviewed; you can check out the first here. I've really loved getting back into reading this month, and making a dent in my 2017 Goodreads target of 60 books this year. Keep reading to find out what I thought of these 4 books - no spoilers included!

Room - by Emma Donoghue: 3/5

It's Jack's birthday, and he's excited about turning five. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures 11 feet by 11 feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real - only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there's a world outside...

Although the story was a great idea, especially with the whole thing narrated through the eyes of a fiver-year-old, I felt that the story ran out of steam. I'm annoyed that I didn't enjoy the book more than I did, as I did love the first quarter. But the rest of the book left me waiting for something bigger to happen; it's definitely worth a read though as it does really make you think.

Every Day - by David Levithan: 3/5

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl. There's never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. It's all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin's girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with - day in, day out, day after day.

This book has a really interesting concept; who hasn't thought about what it would be like to be someone else? I particularly like the wide range of characters, each more different than the last, and I loved seeing who A was next. The problems created by each person made the story more realistic and really added something to the book. I also liked the message that the book left me with: be happy with who you are, what you have and for all the people around you.

The First Phone Call from Heaven - by Mitch Albom: 3/5

The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. 

When I found this book about a small community getting phone calls from their loved ones in Heaven, I knew that it was a book that I had to read. It was thought provoking and made me reflect on faith, love, hope and unexplained 'miracles'. Not my favourite book but I really liked Mitch Albom's style of writing and I'm not disappointed that I spent the time reading it.

Bridget Jones's Baby - by Helen Fielding: 2/5

Before motherhood, before marriage, Bridget, with biological clock ticking very, very loudly, finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at the eleventh hour: a joyful pregnancy which is dominated, however, by a crucial but terribly awkward question - who is the father? Mark Darcy: honourable, decent, notable human rights lawyer? Or Daniel Cleaver: charming, witty, notable fuckwit?

I have always loved Bridget Jones; she will forever be one of my favourite heroines as the books and films are just like comfort food to me! However, in this case I felt that the film was better than the book; it basically followed the films plot, but with less happening and not explained as well. If you're a Bridget Jones lover like me, then I'd definitely recommend it along with the film.

I hope that you've enjoyed seeing what I've recently finished reading; even found a new book or two to get stuck into! What have you recently read? Thanks for reading,

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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Recipe | Bramley Apple & Cinnamon Loaf Cake

I'm back with another recipe, and this time it's a Bramley Apple & Cinnamon Loaf Cake. As soon as I saw this I knew I had to make it; it's a rather delicious cake, which I like to think of as healthy... but honestly the sweet cinnamon-y chunks of apple nestled into the moist, tasty cake make it quite irresistible. If you want to have a go at creating your own cake, then keep reading!

  • 1 Bramley Cooking Apples
  • 1/2tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 113g Unsalted Butter
  • 2 medium Eggs
  • 175g Self Raising Wholemeal Flour
  • 1tsp Baking Powder
  • 2tsp Cinnamon
  • 113g Unrefined Golden Caster Sugar
  • Sprinkle of Demerara Sugar
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°c (160°c fan, 350°c F, gas mark 4)
  2. Grease and line a rectangular baking tin (27cm x 20cm) with parchment paper
  3. Peel, core and slice your apples and put into a bowl
  4. Add your lemon juice to the bowl and set aside for later
  5. In a large bowl place your butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour, cinnamon and baking powder and beat until smooth and fluffy
  6. Spoon half of your cake mixture into your baking tin, then add your apple mixture and top with the rest of your cake mixture
  7. Sprinkle your demerara sugar on top
  8. Bake in your oven for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and springs back when you touch it
  9. Leave to in the baking tin until completely cooled then serve and enjoy!
I hope you enjoy making this cake recipe just as much as I did, let me know in the comments if you made your own. Thank you for reading,


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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Y Spa at Wyboston Lakes*

Last weekend I finally experienced my first ever spa day, and seriously why did no one tell me to go sooner?! I was kindly invited to the spa at Wyboston Lakes with my friends to try out their facilities and have my first ever facial! I had no idea what to expect beforehand, but I had the most relaxing day; I'm already planning another trip.

Wyboston Lakes is located in Bedfordshire, midway between Cambridge and Milton Keynes. Since 2012, Y Spa has been located within Wyboston Lakes' 4 star hotel, situated within 380 acres of rural countryside (which is even bigger than Hyde Park). The spa itself includes a Hydrotherapy Pool, two relaxation areas, a Thermal Spa as well as eleven treatment rooms with well-trained therapists.

Therefore being incredibly excited, I threw all my essentials in a bag last Saturday, jumped in the car and headed to Wyboston Lakes for a day of relaxation. The first thing on the agenda was brunch; we were generously greeted on arrival to The Waterfront Restaurant with Blackberry Bellini and Bloody Mary cocktails.

The chefs produced an unbelievable array of healthy but delicious food for us to sample their buffet spread. It pretty much included anything that you could think of; ranging from smoked salmon on toast to chicken liver pate pots and even topped-off with made to order omelettes. We were definitely spoilt for choice, and I had to try everything... it would have been rude not to! My personal favourite was the grilled melon, Parma ham and poached egg on toast; I'll definitely be trying to replicate this for myself at home!

Feeling very full and content, it was then time to don my fluffy white towelling robe, complete with a matching pair of slippers and try out the spa itself. The spa was a lot bigger than I had previously imagined with many different elements to explore and enjoy.

We decided to head straight to the eleven metre Hydrotherapy Pool, which being much warmer than a normal swimming pool is literally therapy through water. This meant that even though the outside air temperature was close to freezing, it didn't stop us chilling out in the warm bubbles with a glass (or two!) of Prosecco; letting all our tension float away.

As it was 2 degrees on Saturday, you can imagine how challenging getting out the pool was; luckily for us there is a cosy outdoor area where we were able to curl up by the fire with fluffy blankets to warm ourselves up.

To change the scenery from the watery surroundings, we headed to the Time Out area for even more relaxation time. In this area there were reading pods as well as three waterbeds warmed to body temperature. This area was perfect to curl up with a book or to even have a nap before the rest of the day's schedule, and I made full use of this area!

We then headed to try out the variety of saunas and steam rooms that Y Spa had to offer. My favourite was the 'Some Like It Hot' Kelo Sauna, with its temperature surpassing 85 degrees; I also really liked the Salt Steam Room where the 42 degree temperature and humidity were great for purifying my skin. I really enjoyed having a catch up with the girls while the heat cleansed my skin; I could have stayed there for ages...

As if the facilities weren't enough, I was lucky enough to be booked in to have a Murad facial. I had the Pom-Power facial which uses the powerful antioxidants found in Pomegranates to power away dirt and impurities. As it was my first facial I had no idea what to expect; with a comfy bed, fluffy towels and calming music, I don't think 30 minutes has ever gone as quickly! I left feeling more relaxed than I've ever felt and I found that my skin was fresh and glowing for days afterwards.

I was very sad that my day at Y Spa came to an end. It was exactly what I needed to start the New Year with; it was an incredibly relaxing experience that stayed with me for days afterwards. I will definitely be returning for more relaxation time and I really would like to try out more of their treatments in the future.

Have you ever been to a spa? What treatments would you recommend? Thank you for reading,

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* Disclaimer: My day at Y Spa at Wyboston Lakes was complimentary. However all views and opinions shared on Just Amara are always unbiased and honest regardless of whether or not an experience or product has been gifted. I truly had the best day and I really want to visit again!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Review | Lush Grease Lightning Spot Treatment

Although I'm not complaining about the winter weather we've got in Britain as it's a good excuse for a cosy night in, the change in weather has caused me to get more spots recently. I thought I'd share with you the miracle treatment that has kept them at bay!

Spot treatments that actually work are few and far between, I've tried endless treatments, but my go to spot treatment is Lush's Grease Lightning. It is a gentle but powerful tea-tree spot treatment and is one of those products that everyone seems to love. And quite rightfully so. I can't remember when I started using Grease Lightning, it's been so long which definitely says something about the product; I wouldn't swap it for the world!

Grease Lightning's gel formula is very light weight and sinks into the skin completely once applied; I never feel that horrible greasy or sticky feeling that I do with other products. Another plus is that it doesn't dry out the skin either.

To use you squeeze a small amount of product onto your fingertip and apply to the problem area. The clear gel dries onto the skin and immediately gets to work as you leave it to work its magic. If I feel a potential spot coming on, it completely reduces all inflammation and the spot in question never appears. However, if I've already got a spot I apply the product and it helps to speed up the recovery process by at least a day or so.

I usually use Grease Lightning at night and by morning I find it's already decreased in size and redness, either less noticeable or completely gone! It does a brilliant job of tackling spots whilst I sleep and I find that a particularly stubborn spot has disappeared after two or three night time applications.

I love that this product is a lot less wasteful than other spot treatments I've tried out, you only need the smallest amount. This means that for £5.95 (for a 45g bottle) it's great value and lasts longer than other products. I cannot recommend Grease Lightning enough, especially if like me you've struggled to find a spot treatment that works.

What's your go to spot treatment?

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Sunday, 15 January 2017

My Cosy Night In Essentials

Sometimes after a hard day out in the cold, the best remedy is to have some 'me' time. Is there anything better than having an entire evening to yourself, to do whatever you please? Recently I've been making the most of the colder nights this winter; I've been trying to up my game to make sure my cosy nights in are just as exciting as going out. They are about being as relaxed and comfy as humanely possible; so here are a few things to make that lazy evening much more comforting.

Take a Lush Bath
First things first, get relaxed. Probably the best way to do this is to run a nice relaxing bubble bath and let your mind rest. Nothing says complete tranquility like a warm bath; my favourite products are from lush, such as my all-time favourite bath bombs: Intergalactic or Twilight. You can even put on some relaxing music or add a face mask to the mix as there's so many lovely ones to leave your skin feeling replenished.

Whether you dig out a set of old and loved pjs or have even treated yourself to some new ones, there is nothing better than getting home on a cold dark night and throwing your pyjamas straight on. Pjs are a definite essential for comfort, warmth and cosiness.

I don't know about you, but I always find myself a little bit cold. You can't really have a cozy night without a big, fluffy blanket; curling up in a blanket is definitely an essential way to warm up and relax; I have a lovely purple one from Primark that's so soft.

Finding a film to get lost in is a total night in essential! It can be whatever you fancy; pick one you've been meaning to see for ages, or even one that you already love. Reading a good book (especially if you're a bookworm like me) or listening to your favourite music are also great cosy night in alternatives! Whatever you choose it'll help you unwind and forget anything that's been getting you down.

Cosy nights in are all about treating yourself and what other way to do that is there than being  accompanied by lovely food. I feel like it's not a night in without a selection of snacks to hand.; whether that's a takeaway, a mix of your favourite treats or baking yourself something delicious food, snacks are always a good choice.

Hot Drinks
Your favourite hot drink in a nice big mug is a definite must have for achieving a cosy night in. For me, a hot chocolate complete with marshmallows is the perfect way to warm up my insides.

Spending a few minutes to make your room smell delicious is the perfect way to make sure you enjoy the night more; there is nothing better than filling the room with your favourite sweet scent. I love the aesthetic of them as well as the calming aroma that fills the room. Candles are the perfect way to set that cosy night in mood; my personal favourite is Yankee Candle's Salted Caramel.

Fairy Lights
Create a really cosy light, by forgetting that main light in your room and instead using fairy lights. They are my favourite and make your room just that little bit more magical. Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by fairy lights.

These are all of my essentials needed to have the best possible cosy night in! What are your favourite ways of relaxing in the evening?

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Friday, 13 January 2017

Read & Reviewed #1

Being the bookworm that I am, one of the first things I did in 2017 was to set myself another reading challenge on Goodreads. Last year I set it at 52 books which I achieved, so I thought I'd challenge myself further and go for 60 this year. As reading is such a big part of my life, I thought it'd be nice to start a series of posts where I review books that I've recently finished - no spoilers included!

Sharp Objects - by Gillian Flynn: 4/5

Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows, a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims - a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story - and survive this homecoming.

This is the third book that I've read by Gillian Flynn; similarly to the other two (Gone Girl and Dark Places) this book only took me a day to read due to it's freaky and twisted storyline. It was faced-paced, with a lot of interesting female characters, which is rare to find in books these days. There was just something about the feel of the book and it's surprises that gave me chills. If you are a fan of dark and twisted thrillers, then this is one that you have to read.

The Guilty Plea - by Robert Rotenberg: 2/5

On the morning that his headline-grabbing divorce trial is set to begin, Terrance Wyler, youngest son of the Wyler Food dynasty, is found stabbed to death in the kitchen of his million-dollar home. Detective Ari Greene arrives minutes before the press and finds Wyler's four-year-old son asleep upstairs. When Wyler's ex-wife, a strange beauty named Samantha, shows up at her lawyer's office with a bloody knife, it looks as if the case is over. But Greene soon discovers the Wyler family has secrets they'd like to keep hidden, and they're not the only ones. If there's one thing Greene knows, it's that the truth is never simple.

I am a fairly big fan of thriller books and legal stories, but I felt this one was a bit lacking, especially in it's characters who didn't seem to come to life for me. Personally, I didn't really felt emotionally invested in them and I did struggle at times to keep track of who was who. But I did enjoy its quick pace and I liked its short chapters that kept me wanting to read more.

Handle with Care - by Jodi Picoult: 5/5

When Willow is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, her parents are devastated - she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain. Every expectant parent will tell you that they don't want a perfect baby, just a healthy one. Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe would have asked for a healthy baby, too, if they'd been given the choice. Instead, their lives are made up of sleepless nights, mounting bills, the pitying stares of "luckier" parents, and maybe worst of all, the what-ifs. What if their child had been born healthy? But it's all worth it because Willow is, funny as it seems, perfect. She's smart as a whip, on her way to being as pretty as her mother, kind, brave, and for a five-year-old an unexpectedly deep source of wisdom. Willow is Willow, in sickness and in health.

Everything changes, though, after a series of events forces Charlotte and her husband to confront the most serious what-ifs of all. What is Charlotte had known earlier of Willow's illness? What if things could have been different? What if their beloved Willow had never been born? To do Willow justice, Charlotte must ask herself these questions and one more. What constitutes a valuable life?

Even though Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors (so I'm probably slightly biased), this book was definitely one of the best books I have ever read. The amount of love and dedication expressed in this book is beyond measures; it's beautifully heartbreaking with crazy twists that will shatter you. Picoult is able to handle personal, ethical, moral and social topics making them feel incredible real. She makes you understand both sides of the story and you are left thinking about the book weeks after. I fell in love with each and every character and their backstory, due to the ease in which that she brought each one to life. No-one can tell a story like Jodi Picoult can and I couldn't recommend this book more.

I hope that you've enjoyed seeing what I've recently finished reading; even found a new book or two to get stuck into! What have you recently read? Thank you for reading,

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Wednesday, 11 January 2017

How to Stay Happy and Productive in January

It's very true, January is the most depressing month of the year; the days are colder, shorter and darker leaving Christmas as a distant memory. You may like me get the "winter blues" feeling more tired, less motivated or active as usual. These are my tips of getting over the most difficult month of the year, let's get through this together!

Spend time outside.
It is definitely easier to stay active during the warmer months, when it's nice to spend time outdoors. However, maintaining physical activity is just as important in January. Getting outside, even for a little while may change your perspective and remind you that spring isn't too far away. Exercise is also great for releasing endorphins that make you happier, even just a walk may raise your spirits.

Set goals.
Whether short term or long term, making goals to work towards is one of the best things to do for finding motivation. It may be the thing that gives you a sense of accomplishment and make you that little bit more productive. Start with a small list of achievable goals you'd like to complete by the end of the day, or the week; then as your motivation grows try looking a bit further ahead. Make sure you write them down, as they are way more likely to be accomplished than easily forgettable ideas in your head.

Plan Something Fun/Treat Yourself
Maybe you want that chocolate bar; to treat yourself to a meal out. Or even to binge watch Netflix once you've completed your to-do list. Whatever you choose to reward yourself with is up to you, but it's definitely important to focus on the positives and have a reward system for your hard work. It will both boost your motivation and give you something to look forward to.

Don't deprive yourself
January is already the most depressing month of the year, so why make it worse by depriving yourself of the things that make you happy? Personally I love carbs and ... so why would I want to change that when I'd rather be under a duvet watching Netflix, with a hot chocolate feeling really content? It's a good idea to indulge yourself sometimes during the month, not quite as much as during December but enough that you strip yourself of things that comfort you. Above anything, make sure you don't deprive yourself as it tends to limit happiness and leave you overcome with guilt and negative feelings.

How do you stay happy and motivated in January? Do you find January a difficult month too? Thanks for reading,

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Sunday, 8 January 2017

OOTD | New Years Eve Velvet

Dress: ASOS | Tights: Tesco | Boots: Boohoo

As we are now just over a week into the new year, and I'm currently contemplating the new start, I thought it would only be fitting to look back at what I wore for NYE. Every year I hunt for the perfect New Year's Eve dress, and usually its in the form of something sparkly. However this Royal Blue Skater Dress from ASOS caught my eye immediately when I was shopping online. I think it's the perfect smart/casual dress. 

I thought that my days of wearing velvet were over but trying this dress on I felt great; it's flattering and perfect to wear for a celebration. I particularly like the low back as I feel it makes it different from a lot of other velvet dresses and the material is both soft and comfortable. The colour is gorgeous and I have to say that I am very much in love with it. I've paired it with black tights and my favourite pair of heeled boots.

What did you wear for New Years Eve? Thank you for reading,

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Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Good Things From December

Writing this post about the good things from December has been really easy for this month; I'm still in shock how it's already January and now 2017! As apart from being ill for the majority of the month, December has been really happy, chilled and fun filled! I swear, everything is just more magical and everyone is happier at Christmas time. I'm going to stop rambling and get on with the happy things from December.

Christmas Temp Job

At the beginning of the month, I managed to get myself a job for the Christmas season including lots of overtime. It was really helpful to have an extra income during December as it's definitely the most expensive month of the year to say the least! Which leads me onto my next good thing...

New Camera

With all the extra money I'd been making I finally saved up enough money to buy the Canon DSLR I've had my eye on for a long long time. It's such a great camera and I'm well on the way to make my blog pictures look better.

Time With Family & Friends

Apart from working lots, the month off from dance school has been great as I've been able to spend a lot of quality time with my family and friends. I love being at home and it's been one of the best things ever to see all of my favourite people this month.

Nicest Food

From the Christmas dinner to extra chocolates and yummy treats lying around, December definitely has the best food out of any month of the year. I was really looking forward to Christmas dinner this year (like every other) and it absolutely didn't disappoint; I spent the nicest day with my Dad's family.

Lush 50% Off Sale

I was sad when I found out that I was working both boxing day and the bank holiday on the day after, as it meant that I wasn't able to go into store to shop in the sale and also couldn't have a browse online. However, there was still sale items left over when I managed to visit the store on the 30th December. Although I wasn't able to buy any gift sets, I was able to pick up a fair few bath bombs and the biggest bottle of Snow Fairy Shower Gel I could get my hands on!

I have absolutely loved this month and all the happy things that happened; it definitely was one of the best months of 2016. What good things happened to you in December? Thank you for reading,

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