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Thursday, 31 March 2016

It's that time again.

Here's what I've been listening to this month.

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As I've just bought my Reading Festival ticket (yay!) a few artists playing there are featuring on this month's playlist. Personally, I'm most looking forward to Twenty One Pilots, Die Antwoord, The 1975, Sleeping With Sirens and Fall Out Boy (even though I've seen them a million times before, but never at a huge festival like Reading so that should be an experience).

Twenty One Pilots I've been loving a lot lately anyway so it seemed natural to have them in there, and I'm really loving Biffy Clyro's new stuff.

Halsey is a surprising one for me as I don't really tend to listen to female singers a lot. I don't know why really but I don't like Paramore (I feel they're very overrated) or any popstars such as Beyonce so to speak. But I do really like The Pretty Reckless. I am loving Haley's album though, I've been listening to it a lot when driving and it reminds me of summer. Roman Holiday will get you feeling like that, trust me.

There's not much else to say in regards to the rest of the playlist, except I know I'm sure slow jumping on the bandwagon with Walk The Moon. Most of these songs came from Spotify Discover, which I've been checking out a lot lately.

So, enjoy..!


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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Since taking part in Veganuary 2016, I've been cooking a lot more and trying to be more experimental in the kitchen. So when I was offered the chance to review Katherine Frelon's Shop. Cook. Eat., I jumped at the chance.

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I don't have many cooking books - that was always my mum's area - so to have one to cook from myself is a welcome change.

French cooking is one of my favourite cuisine's also, so this book is right up my street.

I absolutely love the style of this book which is, as described in the blurb, more than just a cookbook. For starters, as well as starters, mains and desserts, there's also recipes in this book for sauces, spices and marinades, which is a nice idea and something I know very little about.

Each section has a little introduction too, telling us the authors thoughts on food and her recommendations when it comes to different methods of baking and cooking. 

I love how rather jumping straight into the recipes we get to read more about Katherine's past and about the time she'd spent in France.

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But onto the recipes.

Easy to follow, there's a real mix of things to cook in here and I've already got my eye on a few. 

The tomato tartare with freshly smoked mackerel and wild rocket looks absolutely delicious and although it's probably a little complicated for me, the super simple instructions have given me the confidence to try it. Watch this space. 

The salad section is super useful too because that's another thing I struggle with - trying to eat more healthy with more salads for lunch, but not really knowing how to mix them up a little. I always tend to make the same things over and over, so I've already spotted a few salads I can't wait to try out such as the figs, buffalo mozzarella, sun-blushed tomatoes and basil salad with roast garlic and fig dressing.

Cooking for the French is what social media is to teens!

Not a phone, but a kitchen, a place to gather, a necessity, a reason for being, a place to learn, debate, laugh, cry and celebrate.

I love this quote because I can totally relate to it. Getting together to cook in a kitchen is more than just about making food, it is more of a social event. The one and only time (so far) I threw a dinner party for my friends, no one cared how bad my food was or how long it took for me to serve the main. What mattered was the help they offered me, the giggles we shared in the kitchen over the mess made and the topics of conversation over food afterwards.

Katherine seems to get this and comes across as ever so down to earth in this book.

Overall, I really love this cookbook and can't wait to make a start on trying out some of the recipes in it. My sister is a huge fan of french cooking too, and we enjoy cooking together every now and then when we can so this will be something nice we can do together.

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Wednesday, 23 March 2016

This Saturday just gone, my childhood dreams came true. 

I GOT TO GO ON THE CRYSTAL MAZE.

If you haven't already heard, this awesome company basically set up a crowdfunder (I think that's the right word!) to create an immersive experience based around one of the nations best loved TV shows - The Crystal Maze.

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The public went crazy. Within months, they'd not only achieved their goal, but raised £933,798 which was over 185% of their original goal. WOW.

Luckily, as soon as I heard about the crowdfunder, I bought a couple of tickets pretty cheap by donating money and sat back eagerly, waiting for the whole thing to be completed.

The wait was long, but worth it.

The only few differences between the TV show and the experience are that it's not on TV (obviously), it's not presented by the amazeballs Richard O'Brien (although he was involved a little in the production), and it doesn't have an ocean zone (health and safety).

Everything else is spot on. A maze master even shouted out WILL YOU START THE FANS PLEASE (definitely the best bit), whilst we got our game faces on in an actual crystal dome. AMAZING.

I don't want to give too much away because it'll spoil it but if you ARE a fan of the original show, then you won't be disappointed. There was nothing better then running from zone to zone (or climbing up walls and crawling through tunnels in some cases) to the sound of the original theme song - although we heard apparently one die fan was rather disappointed that the 'mood' music between zones was replaced with the actual theme song. Silly, silly man.

My only complaint was that it didn't last very long. I WANTED TO STAY IN THE MAZE ALL DAY. But depending on the size of your team, you'll get two games (some of our members had three games as we were a member short) and it is kind of tough once you're in there. It's so easy to shout answers at the TV when watching at home, but when you're actually in there, it's definitely a surreal feeling.

The attention to detail was amazing also. The Aztec Zone was hot, and the Medieval Zone definitely had a chill about it. I still have sand in my converse trainers...

" WILL YOU START THE FANS PLEASE "

Tickets are around £60 at the moment although this is more than worth it for the once in a lifetime experience. However, you won't have much luck booking in with your friends as it's mostly single slots few and far between.

It was just me and my bestie who headed down and got paired with other team members who didn't know each other either. Although I admit I'd love to do it again with a group of my friends, taking part on a team of strangers didn't lessen the experience one bit. We worked well together and had a laugh.

And there was a real mix of people too, from a younger audience to older participants.

Nonetheless, after seeing the success of it all, I wouldn't be surprised if they expanded their run or even looked at launching the experience permanently.

It was a bonkers afternoon but so, so fun and I honestly feel ever so lucky that I got to participate in what was, in my eyes, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Never would I have dreamt I'd be able to take part myself back when I was a teenager watching it all on TV.

So I'd recommend signing up to their mailing list and keeping an eye out for when more dates are hopefully released, but don't be scared of doing it alone or with just one other person. You'll honestly be far too busy running round and scrounging for crystals to care...

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Monday, 21 March 2016

I've always talked about how London is a hub for quirky cinema experiences and although I'm planning to do a post rounding up some of these for this summer, today I'm blogging about my recent Drive in Film Club experience.

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As usual, I haven't been paid or prompted to rave about this particular experience, unless you count how much fun I had as a prompt to write about it! So basically Drive in Film Club is a take on that classic American drive in movie experience - y'know the ones I mean, as seen in Grease and other popular American movies. It's something I've always wanted to experience myself so I was chuffed when I found out there was a chance to do that without, y'know, actually going to America.

It takes place at Alexandra Palace in London (I tried very hard not to point out and shout about the vague area where myself and my favourite rockstars once got drunk. I failed.)

Drive in Film Club is by the same people behind Rooftop Film Club which is something else I'd like to get around to trying. I suppose I kind of stumbled across Drive in Film Club by accident really - I'd been researching quirky film experiences for the blog and had come across another drive in cinema experience but wasn't really sure if it was still running and besides, it wasn't so local.

So the Internet must have taken note of my google searches and an advert popped up on my Facebook advertising Mad Max: Fury Road at Drive in Film Club. I wasted no time in booking tickets; £22 for a car, regardless of how many people are inside.

Keeping in mind that an average car can seat five people, that could cost as little as £4.40 per person. 

Such a bargain.

Now that I'm driving, I can book stuff like this all the time without having to check if I can get there or not, so that's a really lovely feeling.

When Tuesday rolled around I took an early leave from work just because I didn't know how the traffic would be and also because I'd never driven to London before, since passing my test I haven't had much time to go much further than work and back really.

But driving there was fine. And home too, especially since I at last braved the motorway.

Upon arriving, our tickets were checked, we were handed a couple of menus, one of which was for the hot dog van (!) and the other for food you can order to your car window, along with further details of the experience and what to expect. Then we were shown to our car space which was sort of near the front but obviously it didn't matter because we could see over the cars anyway.

We parked up and immediately ran to the hot dog van - well we didn't run but y'know, rushed, because I love hot dogs. The hot dog van was Popdogs, who we'd actually stumbled across at Winterville just before Christmas and I ordered the delicious Clinton's Lovechild. It was the perfect menu for a drive in cinema.

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Then we headed back to the car and settled down for the movie.

The whole process and running of the event was spot on and I couldn't fault it one bit. From just the right amount of tickets being released so that it was busy but not too busy (so we still felt looked after), to the ease of simply flicking on your hazzard lights mid-movie for someone to skate over with popcorn, drinks and snacks for you - it was just great and ran so smoothly.

I particularly loved that for the audio to the movie, you had to tune in through your car radio - so genius! It would be a shame if an event like this had to stop because of loud music and such for people living nearby but this simply wasn't an issue.

It was without a doubt worth driving to London for and I just thought it's such a unique but affordable idea. I love big nights out with my friends now and then but with something as fun but relaxing at this, I'd happy pay £4.40 to drive down and have the experience again every weekend.

And of course, there was no faffing about with getting trains, a taxi to the train station and then trying to find the venue because, well obviously, it was a drive in so you needed your car. But saying that, a friend had met us there as he'd been in London that day already and they were happy to let him just jump in my car.

Even on a Tuesday night it was just right.

My friends and I are already looking at booking ourselves in to another showing. There's also a huge variety of movies too from classics like Labyrinth (a must do), Grease sing-a-long and even more recent films like Mad Max obviously (I've seen this a million times now so admittedly spent half the movie explaining to my friends what was going on, proclaiming my love for the crazy guy who plays guitar atop a speeding truck and murmuring inappropriate comments about Tom Hardy beneath my breath).

Without a doubt I'd recommend this - for dates, groups of friends or even family. The feel of the whole evening can be changed from romantic or just hilarious depending on the type of movie you pick, so there really is something for everyone.

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Drive in Cinema Club is currently running until 24th April and tickets can be booked here.


*Photos provided by Rooftop Cinema (apart from the hot dog one) with permission.

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Friday, 18 March 2016

You may remember that back in January I launched a new blog series called The Rise of the Blogger. This was all to do with celebrating what makes us bloggers special - to move away from the negativity of blogging and stop comparing ourselves and our blogs to the bigger more sucessful bloggers. 

The truth is, we're all pretty damn successful in our own way and that just because we don't earn thousands of money from YouTube or have our own book deals (one day!), it doesn't mean we're not doing well. 

It's a series that also focuses on all the lovely bloggers that started out around the same time as me and who's blogs I still follow religiously now. One of these bloggers in particular is Cat from What Cat Says. She might have been blogging a tad longer then some of us, meaning she was already blogging when I started out, but she started blogging for the same reason as me - which was because of university.

I've come to love her blog because she is super stylish but down to earth as well. She's just a really lovely girl who actually blogs about things obtainable - for example, I hate sitting down and watching vlogs of bloggers huge shopping hauls filled with staple pieces from designer brands. Cat isn't like that (and I don't mean that in a bad way!) - she's relatable to the majority of us and when I see her fashion posts I do actually think 'yeah, I could buy that and try that look out' etc.

So I'm super happy to include her in this series!

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Let’s focus on the very beginning, when you first launched your blog.

What made you want to go into blogging? Were you reading any other blogs at the time? Was there anything in particular that pushed you to take the plunge and actually create the blog, rather than just thinking about it?

I was first told about blogs at university and we were asked to make a blog to document our art work. It didn't take at first, because it wasn't something I wanted to do but after finding out that blogging was a thing people were doing to document things and finding a few bloggers on twitter I started reading blogs and wanted to write my own. I remember the first blogger I ever read was The Notebook Doodles and she drew the most gorgeous typography and is still going but on Instagram now. I liked that she used it as a way to express herself and just share her work and inspired, I decided to launch my own blog just for myself. It began as a personal blog to express anything I wanted to when I felt like it, and then it soon developed into a lifestyle blog, and eventually being inspired by so many other bloggers through twitter and other blogs I integrated a fashion element as I always loved fashion and found my blog was a great outlet to share and document my style!

Is there a story behind the name you chose?
My blog was originally called 'Something Said' because at the time it was just a place to for me to express myself. I wasn't ever really attached to the name and when I really got into blogging I decided to change it. I don't know how it came to mind really but I knew I wanted my own name in my new blog name so I could have a personal element to my blog and eventually decided to call it 'What Cat Says'. I wanted my blog to be diverse and I didn't like the idea of tying it down to a particular blog category like a fashion or beauty blog. I wanted it to be a name that would allow me to be flexible and allow me to transition between categories if that would ever happen again.I love my blog name now and I don't think I'd change it again (unless I came up with an amazing new blog name).

Do you remember your first posts? What were they about?
I can't remember any of them but I do remember writing things about feelings I had at the time and things that were happening in life. There were a couple of art posts in there too. I don't dare look back because I know they'll make me cringe!

Did you ever think you’d still be blogging five years on?
I didn't even give it a thought back then because it didn't ever cross my mind. I love blogging and now I worry where it will end up and think oh gosh, could I be blogging still in five years? Will I be too old for it? And then I remember I'm being stupid and I can't ever be too old and I shouldn't be worrying about any of that because I don't think I could imagine what I would be doing for fun instead if I'm not blogging! It's such an amazing community and it makes me happy. I wouldn't ever give it up!

Do you feel like your blog is still the blog you wanted it to be five years ago – are you still covering the same content you’d wanted to when you set it up?
It's completely different. I care for it so much more now so it's very different in terms of what I wanted it to be then and what I wanted it to become after I became more serious about it. I think I'm kind of still covering the same in terms of life diary and lifestyle posts but I wouldn't say it's exactly the same.

How much do you personally think the blog has changed over the years? Are you happy with its progress? Do you feel like you’ve done what you wanted to do?
I think it's completely changed. If I could see my blog 5 years ago vs today's blog I can imagine I'd feel a sense of nostalgia as well as cringe a little! Now, my blog layout is more sophisticated I'd say, the content is very different and my photography will have improved greatly. I'd definitely say it slowly improved year after year and right now I'd say it's exactly where I want it to be. I'm working really hard on it this year because I've made it a goal for the year, but I couldn't be happier with the blog that I have and how far I've come.

Can you see any major differences when comparing your first few posts to your most recent ones – if looking at them, what would you say?
I've just taken a look back on those posts (even though I said I wouldn't) and I'd say that the way I write has improved. I think I used to try to hard to say something meaningful back then, and I don't think I was a very happy person either. Now I write as if I'm speaking to my readers and I also use so much punctuation. Gosh - the days when I thought it was cool to not use capital letters... I also now use all my own photography rather than trawling through the internet to find something fitting and then linking it back.

Looking back on them I realise it was more of a personal diary. I wrote about shopping trips and things I bought but never photographed them to show off on the blog. My favourite blog post is among the first though. I wrote about my favourite hot chocolate ever and I like reading back on that one because it's a memory I enjoy and am really fond of. I think I'd like to be more spontaneous like this sometimes. Write about little things like that - I think they make great posts. I think sometimes I get too sucked in by asking myself "who would read that!?"

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One of Cat's favourite photographs from a holiday to Zante

What are some of your proudest moments of blogging so far?

I was really proud of myself this month when I hit 600 BlogLovin followers because I'd only had 510 at the start of the year and I decided I would work hard to improve my blog and maybe reach a milestone of followers by the end of the year. It's not the most important thing to me, but I wanted to see I could improve my blog's content, photography and my own social interaction and if in turn it would broaden my blog reading audience.

I also was really proud of myself when I was reached out to for my first ever brand collaboration. I felt proud because I was so happy that someone liked me and my blog enough to ask me to collaborate with them on a blog post!

I also loved being on MSN Lifestyle's homepage for having an awesome outfit in 2013. I felt like that was a really cool 5 minutes of fame moment for me.

- Oh the days of MSN!

..and some of your toughest?
My first blogging event was tough I'll admit. As much as I loved being there I felt like the girl no one knew and super awkward and really scared too. I finally got chatting to a few bloggers and felt better but I felt like it was a tough thing to go through.

Also I've gone through a few rough patches where I wasn't blogging and though not blogging was making me unhappy, I also felt like I didn't have anything to blog about and felt like my blog wasn't doing well at all. It was all a learning curve though. All I needed was a work/social/life balance that didn't exist at the time.

Have there been any points where you’ve just wanted to give up? If so, what made you carry on?
Yeah. Last year, work and life was getting too much and I felt like I had no time for myself. I thought about it and I didn't like it - the thought of finishing up with blogging alone scared me and I knew I didn't really want to quit - I was just finding it hard to have the time to blog and do it happily. Just taking it slow and blogging the only ideas I had at the time got me through it as well as just letting the storm pass before building myself back up again!

What have been some of your favourite brands to work with and some of your favourite opportunities?
I loved my first brand collaboration which was with Sperry Top-Sider. I got to review the most amazing pair of leather boots and I STILL have them to this day though I need to get them re-heeled now from wearing them out completely. I also loved working with M&S, ASDA and Glamorous! I've worked with a few other great ones too, but I can't remember them from the top of my head!

Have you ever had to deal with any particularly tough brands or had any problems working with a company?
I have but they've only been about poor communication skills and ones that ask if you could write about them in a blog post for free. Now I'm not one of those bloggers who will only blog for payment or gifting because I'm consistently posting about brands that I'm loving because I genuinely love them. But I think it's a little rude to ask for a feature without any sort of incentive.

I've also had problems with brands that ask for a certain amount of words because I have struggled to write 600 words for certain posts and I've always thought that it's not about how much writing is there but that it's more about the quality of the writing. I feel embarrassed by the couple of these that I've done because I don't feel they're true to my thoughts. I've learnt from it and won't be accepting these again.


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Are there any blog posts or campaigns you’re particularly proud of?
I'm particularly proud of my most popular post where I reviewed L'Oreal's Wild Ombré kit because it's been so popular and as mentioned before I love looking back on my hot chocolate post. I don't know of any others really - I haven't got any particulars that stand out for me.

What do you think you’ve learned from running a blog for this long – have you improved your photography skills or taught yourself HTML for example?
Running a blog I've learned that it takes effort and time to build up a great following and that it's a community! It's all about being social too - you can't expect people to read your blog and follow you if you don't reply and socialise yourself. I've improved my photography quality by reading lots of hints and tips and trying out new things but I've completely given up on the idea of HTML. I'm still learning and I hope 2016 can be my year of learning in terms of all the technicals of blogging (i.e. linking, social stats and html).

What do you think about your blogs presence among some of the other big bloggers – are you happy with its success? Do you ever find yourself thinking about your blog compared to other blogs launched around the same time as yours?
I'm always comparing myself to others and I can't help it, it's a natural thing I think and I can't help that it does make me wonder if I'm doing something wrong sometimes but it doesn't ever bother me that the successes are different. I'm actually quite proud of those people and look up to them as bloggers! Though my blog hasn't bought me a career or as many opportunities as it has to some, I still love blogging just as much. If my blog is to boom one day, my time will come. But if it stays the way it is, I won't be upset and I don't think it'll make me any more or less happy with it than I am now.

How do you feel blogging has changed overall since you began? Do you feel like it’s hit its peak, that there’s no room left for anymore ‘famous’ bloggers? Do you feel like blogging is going to calm down a bit now and focus more on what blogging was about when it first began as opposed to gaining followers, getting Instagram famous etc? Or do you feel like blogging as a whole is still quite new and that there’s still a lot more phenomenon to come?
I feel like now blogging is a trend but it varies over so many different platforms. I think people think now it's a good way to become internet famous and 'get free stuff'. I wish people would stop thinking that because it's not all fame and free stuff. It's a community of people who love the same things, and like talking about the same things and relating to each other. That's what made me fall in love with blogging - it was the people, the community and getting to write about whatever I wanted to. I don't know if it's hit a peak or not but I think through 2014-15 there was a big boom in blogs and it might have calmed down now but I wouldn't be 100% sure. I feel it's all moved over to youtube now if I'm honest.

I think blogging for the new generation is a hot instagram account worthy of thousands of followers and youtube channel hitting the 10,000+ mark. I think the focus on blogs isn't as strong because instagram and youtube is so much more accessible but blogs are sort of a support to a youtube channel or instagram.

Do you still think you’ll be blogging in five years’ time?
As much as I think I'll be too old at that point and I'll be saying it's my blog's 10th anniversary, I'll still be blogging. I love this community, writing, photographing and creating content and I don't want to leave it any time soon. I'd miss you bloggers all too much! There's always something to blog about no matter how old you are :)

What do you see next for your blog – what are your short term and long term hopes and plans for it?
Next I see my short-term goals being reached. I see new ideas being brought to life and more adventures documented on my blog. I see a good year ahead of me. Long term I hope my blog brings me more opportunities and that I love it just as much as I always have.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nope! Just a big thank you for letting me be a part of your project! I loved answering all of these questions and I look forward to reading everyone's answers! <3

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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

A few weeks ago, my sister and I visited Derma Spa for a facial and to spend some vouchers she had given me for my birthday.

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My sister had visited this place before and had raved particularly about their Bespoke Yonka facials they offer, which left her skin feeling silky soft and clear. So of course, when she bought me some vouchers for my birthday, I had to book myself in for the same facial. 

I was a little nervous though when my sister explained it was kind of a facial and skin peel in one - in that, by skin peel, they practically scraped off your top layer of skin.

I'm not even lying.

I mean, it's not like they cut my skin with a knife and then scraped it all off - it was more of a process of (somewhat) gently getting rid of dead or dirty skin, like the blackheads on my nose.

But I digress.

First of all, the spa is super chic and plush and we were looked after wonderfully, offered cups of tea and drinks and being updated to how long we'd have to wait (around ten minutes or so, as we were early).

We were led to a room each, mine was cosy and stylish but very relaxing too with quiet music and burning candles. I got myself comfy and settled down for what was actually my first ever facial.

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Now this review isn't going to be very good because I don't know the names of what the lady did or what she used, especially as I was far too relaxed. But I can tell you it was bloody amazing.

She used various lotions and potions on my skin, taking time to massage everything in properly and, when needed, gently patting it off with a hot towel (perfect temperature too). She even gave me a little shoulder massage which made me feel so much less tense afterwards (I'm always really tense and need to look into going for regular massages).

When it came to the peeling-of-the-skin (for lack of a better explanation), it was nowhere near as painful as I thought it would be. In fact, it was mostly like a kind of nice pain in that you know it's getting rid of your blackheads and the pressure is nice if that makes sense. There were one or two slightly painful moments, but nothing I couldn't handle.

This was done using a machine that, I guess, scraped the skin off, but I can't be entirely sure.

The point is it didn't really hurt and it did work.

Upon finishing the treatment, I felt so relaxed and felt like I could just fall asleep but alas I couldn't. Later that day I noticed my skin looked fresher and felt so soft, but there wasn't a huge difference in the removal of my blackheads. A few had been removed and my skin did look clearer, but I think my sister had blagged it up a lot and left me expecting there not to be a single spot on my face afterwards.

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This goes to show that the facial is really beneficial but for long term results you do have to keep it up and do have to look after your skin!

I suppose it depends, as well, as my sisters skin looked super clear after hers but then she has always looked after her skin well. So it really depends on the state of your skin too.

However, my skin was so ridiculously soft and the facial left me looking refreshed and less tired. I was definitely in need of a facial because I know I haven't been looking after my skin very well lately!

Was it worth the £50? Yes - depending on what you go in expecting. If you're expecting every single blackhead to be removed and your skin to be 100% clear, then I wouldn't recommend it. If, however, you're looking for a clean up of your skin and a boost - and you genuinely want or need a relaxing facial then yes, it's totally worth the price tag along with the experience that comes from being looked after as well.

A few weeks later and my skin is still ever so soft (I can't stop touching my face) and alongside getting back to my usual skin routine, is looking clearer!

Derma Spa is based in Milton Keynes and you can find a price list here.

*Photos taken from Derma Spa's Facebook page with permission.


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Sunday, 13 March 2016

You might remember me posting a while back about how I headed down to London with a friend to help participate or at least be part of the audience for the filming of ASOS's/ASOS Like's #DigiDating show. 

This was super fun and the team really looked after us with a few free drinks and stuff so I was really surprised that they also sent me a gift card as a thank you - how nice of them! I was so appreciative of this and knew immediately that I was going to put it towards some bits and bobs for my holiday/upcoming summer plans. Here's what I bought...

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle blog | Fashion | My ASOS Haul; Formidable Joy; Formidable Joy Blog; Fashion; Clothes Haul; ASOS Haul; ASOS; Asos Loves; As Seen On Me; Access All Asos

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle blog | Fashion | My ASOS Haul; Formidable Joy; Formidable Joy Blog; Fashion; Clothes Haul; ASOS Haul; ASOS; Asos Loves; As Seen On Me; Access All Asos

I absolutely love these chunky studded heels which will be perfect for the transition from day to night on holiday. I think they'll look great dressed down with skinny fit jeans and a nice top when going out for food in the evening, and then I can just pair them with a dress to go dancing afterwards. They're a really versatile colour too.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle blog | Fashion | My ASOS Haul; Formidable Joy; Formidable Joy Blog; Fashion; Clothes Haul; ASOS Haul; ASOS; Asos Loves; As Seen On Me; Access All Asos

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle blog | Fashion | My ASOS Haul; Formidable Joy; Formidable Joy Blog; Fashion; Clothes Haul; ASOS Haul; ASOS; Asos Loves; As Seen On Me; Access All Asos

First of all, I really love this laid back but cute printed white dress. I think it'll look lovely in Ibiza for those lady beach days, but also especially for Lost Village festival, where everyone seems to take on a kind of boho vibe for the weekend. The simplicity of it means it can be dressed up very easily and also means it's rather versatile, whereas the cute pattern at the bottom gives it a stylish twist. The material is fairly thick too and, with the bottom being quite flowly, it means I don't have to worry about it being see through.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle blog | Fashion | My ASOS Haul; Formidable Joy; Formidable Joy Blog; Fashion; Clothes Haul; ASOS Haul; ASOS; Asos Loves; As Seen On Me; Access All Asos

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle blog | Fashion | My ASOS Haul; Formidable Joy; Formidable Joy Blog; Fashion; Clothes Haul; ASOS Haul; ASOS; Asos Loves; As Seen On Me; Access All Asos

These pale pink shoes I actually had in mind for work and work events as they're smart as well as stylish, but again, I think they'll be perfect for everyday wear and drinks with friends and things like that. I wouldn't necessarily wear them on a night out to go dancing and such, but for laid back drinks or a classy outfit with cocktails, they'll be perfect.

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I think the chunky shoes and dress go together really well and will no doubt be my go-to outfit this summer and especially on holiday!

What do you think? Do you think I spent my gift card wisely? Let me know with a comment!

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Friday, 11 March 2016

Casual dating has never really been my thing.

I'm definitely a hopeless romantic and when it comes to dating, I can be very old fashioned. Yes, I use Tinder, but only because everyone else does, making it near impossible to get a date in any other way. I believe in waiting a fair while before giving up the goods, I like to be taken out on actual dates and I really bloody hate the idea of playing the game - so I don't understand how showing someone you like them is a bad thing.

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But, lately (in the past year or so) I've been trying to make more adult decisions and one of those decisions has been to be more laid back about the dating scene. To stop only going out with guys I see a future with, to stop looking for something more (not that I was specifically anyway), and to be happy to just see where things go.

The first thing I learned about this approach (after praising Tinder, of course) was that sometimes you should not have a type when it comes to looking for love or, in my case, just browsing Tinder.

DON'T HAVE A TYPE
I've found that in the past few years, there have been dates I've gone on that, in all honesty, I wasn't looking forward to.

Okay, let me rephrase that.

It wasn't that I wasn't looking forward to going on these dates. It's just, there's been dates in the past where I've felt sick to my stomach with nerves because I fancied the pants off the guy I was about to meet and was so nervous.

But by going out with cute guys who don't necessarily give me these crazy butterflies or don't necessarily make me want to drop all my other plans to go out with them, it's made a difference.

I've found I've had some of my best dates with people who, well, I thought wouldn't be anything but an average date. I've clicked really well with some of these people and it's made me realize that by not looking for a specific type and instead just putting myself out there to meet some great people and maybe just have that experience of normal dating for once, it has actually led into some really great things.

Which brings me onto my next point...

DON'T BE TOO PICKY
If you're looking for your future husband then yes, if it's something like they don't want kids but you do, this is a legitimate excuse to be picky. But we all have an idea in mind of things we do and don't like in a relationship and, although I say you shouldn't give up all your morals and let them treat you like crap, it's okay to be leniant on things.

If you're attracted to someone but they're not into the same movies as you, in this case does it really matter? You're unlikely to be spending much time watching movies anyway...

DON'T OVERTHINK THINGS
Something else I've realized is that it's good to not overthink things. It's entirely okay to just enjoy seeing someone, whether you see a future with them or not.

Not that I ever condone leading anyone on, but if it's far too early to tell if someone is boyfriend material or not and you both know where you stand, it's okay to just enjoy it.

It's okay to enjoy being treated and having that one regular date once a week and yes, when the time comes, it's even okay to enjoy having sex on a regular basis without having a talk about whether or not either of you are exclusive.

It's not always easy. Sometimes it's not easy because you might actually really like them and you might actually want to be exclusive (in which case, maybe you should have the talk or try and scope out whether or not they feel the same).

And sometimes it just feels weird that it feels so normal to not worry about everything.

I know it did for me. I'm used to being that batsh*t crazy girl with my mind racing with excuses when a boy doesn't text me back, or constantly analyzing every date to as of whether or not the guy will want to see me again.

So I felt super weird just letting go of all that and just seeing where it went, but once I got over those qualms, I learned to just enjoy the fact that I'd met someone who willingly wanted to see me again.

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 Obviously I don't actually think I'm flawless, I just really love this pencil.

IT'S OKAY TO BE UPSET...OR NOT.
If things come to an end during 'casual dating' it can be hard to know how to feel. Do you even have the right to be upset, considering the whole relationship was so laid back and neither of you were exclusive?

Well, yes, of course you do.

Whether or not you have the right to be upset at them is a whole different kettle of fish, depending on why things ended. But in general, I've personally found that if I've dated someone for a couple of months or so and they've decided they don't want to see me again, I have a right to be upset but not at them because, in my cases we both knew where we stood, so he had every right to decide that.

Of course it doesn't stop you feeling sad, if you do. But I think if I was going to give any specific advice here, it would be to be careful about how you address your emotions.

With casual dating, it's so easy to walk away from things and avoid drama getting messy. Don't get mad at a guy for breaking things off when you both knew where you stood anyway - it just doesn't make much sense.

It's not like you were in a relationship and he cheated - it's two very different things.

And it's okay to not be upset too.

That's another thing I found hard to not be guilty about. When me and a guy have broken things off in the past, I have been upset, for a day or two, but I've later realized it was just because I was going to miss the idea of him or just having someone to date in general, as opposed to him specifically.

I soon realized that we were dating casually for a reason - we both liked each other, but weren't too sure whether we wanted to be in a relationship with each other, we were both attracted to each other but didn't have a lot in common etc.

Once I realized that, I didn't feel so bad.

So although it hurt briefly, it also opened my eyes a lot. It made me realize that I can give in and go with the flow when I want to, and that not every single person you're attracted to has to be potential boyfriend material. It made me realize that hey, it's totally okay to just give in and do something you enjoy - people aren't going to judge you and, as long as you're both clear about where things stand, you aren't going to get heartbroken.

And then I actually felt good. Good that I'd done a grown up thing for once - I'd met someone, taken an adult approach of not over thinking things and happily just enjoying the time we spent together, and then we went our separate ways - no mess, not many tears and somewhat still on good terms.

It's the type of thing I wished and wished I could do when I was younger but I guess, maybe only recently, I've had the confidence or the ease with myself to do so.

So, to sum up this blog post, I guess I'm not really sure what this is. Perhaps it's an advice post, advising you all to realize that even if you are looking for love, it's okay to have a bit of fun along the way. Maybe it's just me rambling on. And maybe I just wanted to talk about the fact I finally managed to do something I (and other ladies too maybe) ever dreamed of - enjoy myself with a few hot guys (not at once, mind) and just let go and see where it leads.

How's that for casual dating?

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Wednesday, 9 March 2016

It's been a while since I've sat down and treated myself to a good book, so when I saw I Just Haven't Met You Yet recommended by chick-lit queen Sophie Kinsella, I decided to go ahead and purchase it.

I immediately took a liking to the front colour which was colourful, cute and simple without being too cutesy, which a lot of chick-lit books tend to do. The title also, obviously, reminded me of the famous song by Michael Buble but, although a smaller side plot links to the singer, I figured the title suited the plot fairly well.

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The blurb reads -

Percy James has everything a girl could want: a comfy flat, a steady relationship and a truly lovely group of friends.

Then she is approached by Eros Tech. Eros is 'the future of love' - an agency that brings together soulmates using phone data. Percy has been identified as a match for one of Eros's super posh clients.

The only problem is she already has a boyfriend...but what if this is destiny? Would you - could you - pass up a chance to meet your one true love?

So to begin with, I really loved the premise of this story. Anything to do with modern dating (and ideas of the one) actually fascinates me, so the idea that there was this company that took all the searching out of the question was definitely an interesting one (and reminded me of How I Met Your Mother).

The story was a light read and a good length, I finished it in about a week but probably could have read it sooner if I didn't put off finishing it so soon (not because I didn't like it, I just tend to finish books really quickly and have nothing to read).

One thing that I loved about the book was how modern it was and, SPOILER ALERT, how the idea of Percy being with a woman was addressed within the story. I liked that there was no qualms and it was super honest - she didn't see herself as gay, but did begin to worry that she might be what with being with a woman. It was handled really well and it was a nice change to see this idea approached in a typical chick-lit book.

I liked the ending, I thought it was simple, without dramatics and made a lot of sense. I also feel like the idea of Percy being so intrigued by her soulmate whilst already in a relationship will definitely divide people.

'How do you know if someone's your soulmate?' I ask.
She thinks for a long time. 'I think it comes down to the amount of chatter in your head. When a relationship is right - really right - you don't need to talk yourself into it. There's no question or debate, it just...is. The way I see it, if someone's your soulmate then there's this feeling of inevitability, sort of like - "Oh, there you are, I've been waiting for you", and that's the end of that.'

It definitely got me thinking. If I were in Percy's position, would I do the same?

I really don't know. If I knew the relationship I was in was wrong, I would probably be quite likely to. But at the same time, I think the idea of being set up with your soulmate is kind of wrong and that you should meet them in natural circumstances.

All in all, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it for a holiday read this summer - however, having read it once and knowing the outcome, I can't say it's a book I'd likely be to pick up and read over and over again.

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Monday, 7 March 2016

In line with my new blog design, I also announced that I'd been blogging for five years now which is crazy. 

I mentioned in my 'confession' post beforehand, how I'd considered giving up blogging and that it was then realisation that I'd kept it up on a regular basis (more or less) for five whole years that stopped me.

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To celebrate me blogging for five years, here's a photo of me hugging a tree at Warwick Castle. In this case, the tree is my blog.

Five years is a long time and I'm beyond proud that my little blog has lasted that long. It may not be the biggest or most popular. My photos still stuck sometimes and my content isn't always up to par - although I am trying to change this - but it's still lasted this long.

So after reading this lovely post by Amanda celebrating her five years of blogging, I thought it might be a nice idea if I did something similar, to reflect on the past five years.

It helps that I've never really deleted any of my posts, not even the super embarrassing ones from when I first began blogging, as I think it's nice to see my progress I guess. It can be a little daunting knowing there's some not-so-flattering outfit posts in the archives if you look hard enough, but I guess that's a risk I'm willing to take..

So, with full idea due to Amanda, here's some of my favourite posts from the past five years.

LONDON FOR THE COOL KIDS
I like this post because it paved the way for more London based posts, something I wasn't too sure about doing originally as obviously not all my readers live in or near London. But I've gone on to feature London based events quite a lot since then and this post was a nice way to start that. It's good because I'm forever stumbling across cool things to do in London so it seemed silly not to blog about them.

APOCALYPSE NOW PLAY LIST
This cute little post is just sharing the music I listen to when I run with my Zombies, Run! App, another thing I enjoyed writing about.

MUSIC
I haven't written a lot of music posts - this is something I'd like to feature more of in the future - and the reviews I have done aren't very good. But my review of The Maine's American Candy album is one I'm particularly proud of.

CASHBACK
Although looking back on this post now makes me realize how messy it is and how I'd like to do an updated version, I do like this post because I think it's so helpful and something I was ever so passionate about when starting the blog - which was inspiring people and helping them with even small stuff like grabbing a bargain here and there or saving money. So I really like the subject and content of this post, if not how it's written overall!

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I enjoyed writing about my long weekend in Bruges, which was a beautiful city.

TRAVEL
I haven't been to many places, but there's a few travel posts I'm particularly proud of overall. These include my favourite South East seasonal adventures post, and underrated getaways in the UK for Valentines Day. Some of my most favourite though are visits to Bruges and Amsterdam, which again are good memories for me as well as favourite content. Oh, and I also like this little suggestion post of cool UK music festivals people should be going to this year.

WE ARE THE MAINE TOUR
I really enjoyed blogging about this adventure with me and my friends, and not just because I enjoy reading back and reliving all the memories. I felt like I produced some really great content from it - not as much as I'd like to have done (remember when I said I'd do an outfit post for each day?!) but more so than I feel most people do when they go away. For example, I included a playlist post, an Edinburgh at a glance post, as that was my favourite place I visited on the tour, as well as a couple of overall lifestyle posts.

And although it wasn't featured on the blog, I set up a Tumblr for the tour and spent ages working out a way to make sure all our updates featured on it. I'm not just talking about twitter - I went full on behind-the-scenes-feel-like-your-along-for-the-ride shit. I made it so our Foursquare, Instagram and Facebook statuses all posted without prompting, each with specific tags on Tumblr too. I went full on geek, but thought it was a great idea to keep other fans informed with what we were up to.

I mean, when I think about all the bands that tour around the US that I don't have to see, I really wish someone would do something like that and post not just reviews of the gigs, but cool stuff like 'Hey, we just spotted this band member here and had a chat about this subject' or 'today's road trip from here to here has consisted of a singalong to this particular playlist' etc. And as it goes, we got loads of lovely comments where people had mentioned they loved our updates as they weren't on the tour themselves.

And, also, the whole tour was a hell of a lot of fun and something I'll tell my grand kids one day (if I have any).

MONTHLY ROUND-UPS
And finally, I'm quite proud of my monthly roundups - or introductory monthly posts, depending on which way you want to look at it, which talk about what's new each month. Again, this is probably a feature I like more for the fact that I enjoy writing it, as opposed to how my readers like it, as it can be quite broad and varied. The music I mention, for example, tends to be rock music, which not everyone enjoys. But some of my favourite ones I've done so far include June 2012 (where I recommend swotting up on a zombie survival plan), September 2013 (where I openly admit how bad I am at giving fashion advice) and October 2013 just cause.

So there's just a few of my favourite posts over the years, the ones that have done me proud whether it's in terms of writing, content ideas, style or just because they brings back good memories. I think it's important to read back over your blog every now and then, to see how you've progressed and maybe even to give you more ideas in future.

Do you have any posts that you're particularly proud of? Let me know!

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