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Friday, 30 December 2016

There's not a lot to say about 2016 except that it's been a funny old year. I spent the first half of the year very much trying to live life to the full - attending music festivals, partying in Ibiza and going on random drives and weekends away - whereas the second half has been the complete opposite. Instead, I've turned into a social hermit, choosing to buckle down with freelance work and push myself for every opportunity going. Some of it has paid off but it has meant I've spent a severe lack of time with my friends. This is understandable, however, with my contract at work ending in September, leaving me to pick up part time and freelance work and spending more time on earning/saving money than spending it. 

I hope next year I try to find a decent balance between the two! Still, I'm just going to jump straight into it - my 2016 in review!

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | My 2016 In review | Year in Review

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?
I passed my driving test! And I was a little more forward with travel - I definitely took advantage of having my own car by having a couple of little weekends away to places like Sunderland and Blackpool. Blackpool I went to alone and that was scary, but it was ever so rewarding to. And I also went to EDC which was way out of my comfort zone - but was tons of fun! As was Lost Village Festival - something else that was entirely out of my comfort zone but one of the best experiences of my life.

2. Did you keep your New Year's Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I can't even remember if I made resolutions this year! But I have made some resolutions for next year, and, as always, I also plan to travel more.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My sister gave birth! I can't tell you the feeling of being an aunt - it's so lovely and my niece is an absolute beauty. I can't believe I never used to like children...!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, but we seemed to have lost bloody everyone in the celebrity world this year..

5. What places did you visit?
Ibiza, Blackpool, Sunderland.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Still a rockstar boyfriend!

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched in your memory, and why?
I really don't know. I've spent most of the year feeling quite numb if I'm honest, not much has really stood out for me. Maybe after seeing twenty one pilots live in London, sitting on the hill outside of Alexandra Palace and overlooking London, listening to emotional songs and talking about how lucky we are with Briony - that was a nice moment. And the gig itself will forever remain etched in my memory too I think! And, Lost Village of course.

8. What was your biggest achievement this year?
Passing my driving test! I cannot begin to tell you how desperate I was for this to happen.

9. What was your biggest failure?
I wish I'd travelled more but there's still time for that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Umm gig tickets?

12. Who's behaviour merited celebration?
My brother and my sister - they've been so supportive this year and I cannot thank you enough.

13. Who's behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
One or two people, but again, nothing worth mentioning on my blog.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Gig tickets and my car.

15. What did you get really excited about?
Reading! Lost Village Festival and gigs.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
Umm probably Lane Boy by twenty one pilots because, bless it, it is overplayed massively, but I still love it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you :
a. happier or sadder? Sadder probably - it's been a tough year too.
b. thinner or fatter? Fatter! I think I've put on a bit of weight over Christmas!
c. richer or poorer? Poorer! So much for saving this year...

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I'd travelled more or at least stopped talking myself out of taking chances to travel.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Nothing!

20. How did you spend Christmas?
We didn't, really. We spent it the same as last year, a quiet one at home, but to be honest, it feels less and less like Christmas each year.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Nope, not unless you count rockstars, or music.

22. What was your favourite TV program?
Scream probably.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate at this time last year?
Yes, ha.

24. What was the best book you read?
I haven't done much reading this year!

25. What music did you get excited about?
Busted! Haha. And twenty one pilots.

26. What did you want and get?
I didn't want anything, but I got some real thoughtful gifts for Christmas.

27. What did you want and not get?
N/A

28. What was your favourite film of this year?
Umm probably either one of the Star Wars movies or Deadpool. Yes, sorry, I've gone with the predictable ones.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 27 and had some friends round before a night out at our local rock club. It was fun.

30. What one thing would have made your year more satisfying?
Getting further with trying to break into music journalism, but I've still made a lot of progress.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Lazy. Terribly lazy still.

32. What kept you sane?
Music, friends and family.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Probably either one of the twenty one pilots boys #SorryNotSorry

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Again, probably just all the terrorism going on around the world right now. It just seems to be neverending and every week we're hearing something new.

35. Whom did you miss?
My beautiful mum.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
No one I can think of. I buried the hatchet with an old 'friend' so to speak though, and I'm really glad I did. It's nice to have them back in my life.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
I haven't learned anything new, other than just the same thing I put last year: life is unfair but you can't change it.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.'
Peace will win and fear will lose'

How would you sum up your 2016? Let me know!

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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

You may remember that this time last year I was preparing to take part in Veganuary 2016, which involved me going vegan for the entire month of January.

Only, I didn't actually prepare all that much. I printed off some recipes, I looked up what foods were accidentally vegan and that's about it - which made the whole transition pretty damn hard, if I'm honest.

Unsurprisingly, I'm choosing to take on the challenge again this January. But, unlike last year, I'm going to be a lot more prepared. Now that I've done it the one time, I know how important it is to put together meal plans and do big shops in advance.

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I'll likely put together quite a few posts related to both Veganuary and preparing for Veganuary, but for now I'm sharing something I wish I knew when I first chose to go vegan: a vegan starter kit.

And even though we're still a few days away from 2017, now is about the time to start thinking about what basic go-to products you should be getting in. I've already put together an online shop and if you're choosing to try Veganuary or go vegan entirely, this is something you should be doing too.

It might sound silly, but it's well worth doing a shop now or putting in an online shop. Last year I left it really last minute, so by the time I went to order my food, no delivery slots were left until around the 3rd. Not many shops were open on New Year's Day, I was hungover, hadn't really thought about anything in advance and certainly had no vegan products in my house. I tried to buy some basics from the local shop (and failed, I accidentally bought things that weren't vegan) and eventually succumbed to a bowl full of rice, which was okay in the end as I was hungover and not starving, but it still wasn't ideal.

You don't want your first day of being vegan to be stressful and you don't want to leave your shopping until really late, resulting in having nothing to eat at all on your first day - trust me!

Therefore, here is my vegan starter kit; aka basic products you should have in your kitchen for the moment you turn vegan.

Please note, I am not an expert, but these are the types of products I wish I had in my kitchen ready in advance and are also the kind of products I used over and over again during my month of being vegan.

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Also please note that, for ease, all these products are from Tesco, totalling to £13.36.

THE BASICS
The basics are, of course, the Vitalite dairy free butter, Tesco Wholemeal bread, Violife cheese and Alpro almond original milk. Technically, you could do a whole month of being vegan with just these four products (though it would be terribly boring), making things like cheese sandwiches and using the milk for cups of tea. The butter and the milk is a massive staple, so these are things I'd stock up on. The cheese is about as good as a vegan alternative gets - it's still not amazing and isn't ideal for cooking but it's tasty with other products and has been the best I've found so far. It's notoriously hard to find a nice vegan cheese in the UK, especially if you're looking for mozzarella or something. Finally, the bread is just what I'm ordering and can be substituted. I've chosen wholemeal as it's just that bit more healthy, although I prefer white bread overall, this bread is used in a recipe I'll be trying. A lot of bread is actually vegan, but it helps to check Tesco's vegan friendly food list here just to be sure.

FOR RECIPES
These are just a few staples that come up a lot in vegan recipes, depending on what you're cooking. Butterbeans are used loads and are a good source of protein - something you'll want to be stocking up from, as you'll be losing protein by not eating meat. They're especially good for curries, chili and soups. Organic plain flour is another must-have if you'll be doing a lot of baking and Tesco free-from milk yogurt is another staple for breakfast items like smoothies, fruit filled yogurts etc. It's also useful to thicken up sauces in recipes too.

TREATS
Nakd bars were my savour when I went vegan last time so there's no doubt I'll be stocking up on these again. The Bakewell Tart flavour is the best (although they're all nice) - but be warned! For some reason in my local Tesco, this flavour isn't stocked with the rest of the Nakd bars and is instead stocked alongside a couple of other flavours in the baking aisle. I have no idea why but, alas, if you have the same problem as me, it's worth asking a member of staff where this particular flavour is kept because it's so yummy. Avocados aren't really a necessity either, but they go with so much and I actually relied on these a lot towards the end of last January. I'd often have a filling lunch or tea of avocado on toast and found this was my perfect go-to meal if I was in a rush or couldn't be bothered to cook - it's super tasty but can also be really filling too.

So, there you have it. A vegan starter kit including necessities, a few baking products and a couple of treats too for under £15. As a whole, most of these items should be on your shopping list week-in-week-out, except for things like the flour which last longer or anything you buy in bulk.

Other items include lots of fruit and vegetables, and I personally like to still buy some crisps, like salted tortilla chips (delicious with guacamole) and a lot of Walkers crisps which are surprisingly vegan and good for home comforts and junk food.

Are there any basics I've missed out? Let me know with a comment!

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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

I've never been big on new year's resolutions, instead usually choosing to set myself general goals like being more happy and healthy.

But for 2017 I've decided to set a few more specific ones, although I'm choosing to make them more realistic. 

Here are some of my 2017 new years resolutions!

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LEARN HOW TO PLAY THE DRUMS
This is one that's been on my mind for a while now and I hope I'll stick with it. I once tried to learn the guitar to no avail (well, I can play two songs acoustically), but I've always been drawn to the drums, too. I think I'm pretty good at following a beat (and by that I mean I tap along with my hands when listening to a song - I'm a born drummer, aren't I?!) and, years and years ago when my sister ventured into learning and brought her own drum kit, I had a go on it and thought I was quite good. So I'd like to explore this option!

ATTEND MORE ICE HOCKEY GAMES
This one is self explanatory really. My sister and I used to attend ice hockey games a lot back in the day and over the past few years, I've been itching to get back into it. It's a fun and alternative night out with good music and an amazing atmosphere. They do games in Milton Keynes which is just down the road from me, so there's no excuse not to really.

BROADEN MY MUSIC TASTE
Over the past few years I've shamelessly stuck to what I know, bar a few songs I really like. In 2017, I'd love to get into more bands and rather than saving just one song I hear and really like, I'd like to listen to the said artist's other music too.

SAVE MONEY
I'm not being specific about this, but I'd just like to save money.

BEGIN POUND FITNESS CLASSES
I found details about this awesome fitness class which is inspired by drumming. It looks amazing and like a really good work out, and I'll be starting this class in the new year - I'm already booked in for a class on the 3rd.

GO SWIMMING MORE
Another self explanatory one - I just like swimming but make so many excuses not to go. The local swimming pool is pretty much just around the corner from me, so I'll be aiming to go swimming at least once a fortnight (and maybe then once a week).

CLEAR MY SHAZAM LIST
I always Shazam songs then never actually listen to them again. I've made a slow start on this already, having created 'The Shazam Playlist' on Spotify, and I'll also use this to discover new music too.

START WATCHING BLACK MIRROR
There's tons of series I want to watch next year but I really think it's about time I get into Black Mirror. It's right up my street and everybody always talks about it as it raises so many interesting issues, so this will be my first and foremost binge-watching session in 2017.

MORE BAND INTERVIEWS
I've had some really good feedback on the interviews I've already done, so I'd like to take this a step further and conduct some of these interviews on camera, or, perhaps, on radio.

BREAK INTO RADIO (SORT OF)
Which brings me to my next point - in the new year I'm going to consider volunteering for my own radio show for the local university. It'll be super fun and I appeared on my friend's show recently, which I really enjoyed. I don't think I'm quite ready to jump straight into getting my own show just yet, but I'll be taking part in my friend's show a lot more in the new year hopefully to get a feel of things and then go from there.

I think these are pretty realistic and achievable! Do you have any new year's resolutions? Let me know!

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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Wow! How fast has this year gone? 

I can’t believe that Christmas is nearly here, it is such an exciting time of the year. But for many people, it can be an overwhelming and fast-paced period and you can get completely bombarded with your “to do” list and things that need doing. 

So I can imagine that for some people, spending a little time and effort into a DIY craft or gift could be far from your mind right now. 

However, there are still plenty of options and ideas you could consider doing that don’t need too much of your time to create. In fact, some of them may add a unique touch to your get-together, or even help you out with last minute gift ideas. Interested? Read on to find out more.

A CHRISTMAS EVE HAMPER
There has been a sudden trend occurred for families that get children something called a Christmas Eve box. However, there is no rule to say that it has to be children who get one. Why not create a Christmas eve hamper for you and your partner, or perhaps even just for you? It could include wonderful things like hot chocolate and sweets, perhaps some pamper bits and a new pair of pajamas. Whatever takes your fancy. Even including things like DVD’s to watch could be a great way to spend Christmas Eve and extend the festivities a little bit.

HOMEMADE WRAPPING PAPER
Of course, at this time of year, you might be sitting in a sea of wrapping paper. But if you were hoping to add a touch of craft to your Christmas festivities then why not create your own wrapping paper? Here are a few ideas to inspire you. 

USE PHOTOGRAPHS
Printing photographs onto large pieces of paper is a great way to ensure that your wrapping paper is personal. You could ensure the paper includes pictures of the person the gift is for, or just add a selection of your favourites so that the person receiving the gift knows it was from you. Do it in a theme of black and white or add a touch of colour, just get a little creative. People will appreciate the effort, even though it won’t take you much time at all.


PAINTED ITEMS LIKE LEAVES
A lovely therapeutic craft idea is to use the inspiration you have around you. Perhaps fallen leaves are in abundance in your garden or close to your home. Grab some of the driest leaves and use them as a way to decorate wrapping paper. All you have to do is dip the textured edge into the paint and then stamp your paper in a pattern. Use a mix of two or three colours for a marbled effect. It can make very pretty wrapping paper. For more inspiration on homemade wrapping paper ideas then check out websites like Pinterest.com.

A DECORATED DINING TABLE
Sometimes the easiest ways to add a touch craft to your home and Christmas is the decoration of your dining room table. Traditionally, many people come together around the table to eat a full on festive feast, so what better way to make more of this special occasion than decorating accordingly. 

CANDLES 
Candles have such a way of adding atmosphere to any occasion. Add a decent festive scent like a Yankee candle, and you are onto a winner. There are some amazing tablescapes online that will fill your mind with endless possibilities. But simply adding a few candles to the mix will brighten up your dining space and make it feel like an occasion.


FOLIAGE
You could also decorate the dining table and room with flowers or green foliage to be a little more festive. Perhaps offcuts from a Christmas tree or sprinkles of holly dotted around here and there. You could even place a small token of foliage or a flower on the table setting for each guest. Other things to consider would be handmade name place cards, homemade crackers and even create your own festive hat options. These would work very well if you have any children in attendance. 

HOMEMADE GIFTS FOR WHEN YOU FORGET
A great way to add some festivity DIY crafts and projects is to make some gifts. This works well if you have forgotten some of the all important gifts like work colleagues, for example. Here are some suggestions to consider.

EMBELLISHED ITEMS THAT MAKE PERFECT GIFTS
Plain photo frames can be a blank canvas when it comes to gifts. But almost everyone would love printed pictures, so why not combine the two and frame a wonderful photograph for someone. You could even embellish the plain frame and make it more to that person's taste. Perhaps adding a few gemstones or different coloured items. Thankfully, a glue gun with glue dots and dispensers will do an excellent job of sticking anything to the frame. This could also work for little gifts in mason jars, canvas prints or even embellishing greeting cards.

HOT CHOCOLATE IN A JAR
There are some great tutorials online that help you with quantities for making hot chocolate in a jar. Simply this is providing all the ingredients to make hot chocolate in a decorated festive jar. The perfect homemade gift. This also works well with cupcake and cookie mixes.


HOMEMADE BISCUITS OR CAKES 
If you enjoy the baking part yourself then why not make some homemade goodies like cookies and cakes to gift people. This will make you a favourite in the workplace by bringing a tin of freshly baked goods in there just before Christmas.

FOODIE CRAFTS EVERYONE WILL LOVE
Finally, there are some amazing foodie crafts you could do before the big day itself. Here is a little inspiration to get you going.

GINGERBREAD HOUSE  
These days in many stores you can buy a kit to help you create your very own gingerbread house. These make great decorations in the kitchen area. The DIY element, of course, is the assembling and decoration. 


CREATE A HOT CHOCOLATE STATION AND INVITE SOME FRIENDS ROUND
Create a hot chocolate station and invite some friends round Hot chocolate stations are becoming popular especially as you can use your slow cooker or crockpot to create a creamy taste. This is perfect for when you have a group of friends or family coming round for a few festive drinks.

FESTIVE TIPPLES 
On the subject of drinks if you want something more alcoholic then why not make a batch of mulled wine or create your own festive cocktails. This could be an added element to your festivities.

 I hope this has inspired you to create a few more things before the big day arrives.

*Please note this post has been contributed.

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Monday, 19 December 2016

This year for my annual birthday surprise, my sister took me to Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter.

I love Harry Potter and have been wanting to visit the studio tour for years now. I'm not quite sure why I hadn't been already, considering it's just down the road from me, but going as part of my birthday plans was really fun, especially as it was all seasonal.

I loved all of our visit, but my favourite parts would have to be the beginning - the entry into the great hall and exploring the great hall, because this felt really magical and like we were stepping into another world. It looked so beautiful done up for Christmas and I loved seeing all the decorations.

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Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

I also really enjoyed attempting to ride a broomstick (admittedly, my sister and myself weren't very good at this!) and the part where we learned all about the special effects, studying the masks and 'robots' of all the creatures that were in the film. 

It's amazing how much work goes into it all and all the attention to detail. We also didn't realize quite how many different creatures appeared in all of the films until we visited this area and learned about it all in more detail.

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Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | The Making of Harry Potter

And, of course, seeing the giant castle model at the end was a really special moment. I've seen photos from the tour before and knew something along those lines was coming up but had completely forgotten about it of course and didn't expect it to be that breath taking.

We walked into the room - which oddly smelt of cinnamon and Christmas - to see the model basked in a stunning blue light and I can't lie - it took my breath away and actually made me gasp out loud. It truly was amazing and was such a lovely moment.

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At the very end, we entered a room praising all the thousands of people that had worked on the movies and that was pretty moving too. They were practically a family - I can't imagine how it must have felt to work with someone day in and day out for ten years and to have to say goodbye to that.

All in all it was a lovely evening and I'm so glad I finally got to go. 

Also, the butterbeer is delicious - don't let anyone tell you otherwise! (So many people told me it was horrible).

Thank you so much to my lovely sister to yet another fun-filled birthday evening - she never fails to make it extra special for me!

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Friday, 16 December 2016

One of my favourite parts about Christmas is definitely wrapping - well, shopping for Christmas wrapping anyway.

It's the actual wrapping part that really stresses me out. I lose the sellotape, I end up with a sore neck and the end result never looks as good as I'd hoped.

But the fun part is definitely shopping for Christmas wrapping as I love the presentation of presents - whether it's bold, bright and out there or more refined and traditional.

Here are some of my favourite wrapping sets from this year.

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ONE
Next is always my first choice for Christmas wrapping because although their designs are limited to only three or four themes a year, I love that you get everything in one. It's a complete lifesaver for me and when we do do presents in my family, normally one set covers me for the presents I buy. It always looks so lovely matching under the tree, and I really love this cute but classic set.

TWO
This classy design from House of Fraser is really modern but ever so beautiful too. With this wrapping paper, the pattern is quite eye-opening, so I probably wouldn't over complicate it with bows or ribbon and would probably just add some plain gift tags to keep the whole look simple.

THREE
I absolutely love these Be Merry tags from Rifle Paper Co. They're so cute and offbeat. I reckon they would look great with just brown wrapping paper and some red or white string. I always love the stationery from Rifle Paper Co, but have never thought about shopping there for Christmas wrap before, but after spotting these, I likely will next year.

FOUR 
After Next, Paperchase is always my next stop for wrapping paper because you can always find something a bit different in there. I love this Animal Antler paper, which is a bold take on the popular stag trend at the moment. I love the different coloured antlers which are attached to animals such a polar bears, donkeys, stags, penguins, bears and sheep!

FIVE
Finally, I've absolutely fallen in love with this Peacock and Snowflake wrapping paper from Not On The High Street. In fact it's so beautiful and exotic that I'd probably use this for birthday gift wrapping too - although I do like that it includes small Christmas trees for a little traditional nod. I think it's the beautiful colours that get me the most though.

From the bold and colourful to the more traditional, these are just five wrapping sets/Christmas wrapping I'm really loving this year, although I don't think I could pick an ultimate favourite. What set do you like? Let me know!

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Wednesday, 14 December 2016

On Sunday, I headed into Milton Keynes to attend my first ever event with the Milton Keynes Blogger Network - their Christmas party!

I'd heard good things about their previous get together's but have never been able to make them, so I was really excited to finally meet everyone. This was also my only Christmas party of 2016, since I now work from home so it's not like I get a work Christmas party to attend.

I was attending alone, so I was a little nervous, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about because everyone was super lovely. The event was held at Revolucion de Cuba, which I've wanted to visit for a while now.

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Unfortunately I was driving, but their mocktails were just as delicious and impressive too. They were so pretty and I loved looking through the cocktail menu, deciding what I'd have next time I swung by (because I'll definitely be returning and I definitely won't be driving then!). 

The evening consisted of yummy cocktails and a delicious buffet of food. I didn't know what I was eating half the time, only that it was super tasty and that I now really like Cuban food.

What I loved about the evening was that there was really only a handful of us - 13 or so, in the end. It was just the perfect size to avoid being overwhelmed and although I only got to really get to know those I was sitting with, I still managed to say hello to everyone and have a quick natter with most people.

It really is surprising to discover just how many local bloggers there are around you! I was quite surprised to discover that Shaunii lives near enough around the corner from me - and that we actually have mutual friends.

It's one of those things where, until you attend an event, you really do think you're the only blogger in your area. And then when you meet all these lovely ladies, you realize you're not alone and there's a whole community of people who really understand what you do and why you do it, which is quite comforting really as my friends and family definitely don't really understand what blogging is, or the appeal of it.

We had a lovely night overall and I'm so thankful to Sophie for putting on such a lovely and welcoming event. I was also thoroughly impressed at the goody bags we got - I think it was even better then some goody bags I've received from 'professional' or 'brand' events so to speak, so to receive so much from what is essentially a blogger meet up arranged by a blogger is really impressive!

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Where do I even begin?! I really, really love this gorgeous hat from Mitchell & Ness, especially as I don't actually have a winter hat this year and have kept an eye out for one! I love that the company specializes in nostalgic sportswear, and you know how I love anything American, so I'll no doubt be shopping from here in future and will be getting a lot of use out of this hat (which is really comfy and warm, by the way!).

I also received a lovely (and generous sized!) hand cream from Lush, Milton Keynes, which you really can't go wrong with. This is actually another thing I've been after this winter as I don't really have any hand cream or anything to keep my hands super soft during these cold months, so this Handy Gurungu hand cream is perfect for me and I've already seen a lot of use out of it already.

There were also some really generous vouchers in the goody bag, too, such as discount at Rush Milton Keynes (perfect, as I'll be itching for a new hairstyle in the new year), Bo Concept (who again, have me eyeing up some gorgeous homeware for when I get my own place), and even an open day special flotation session at Flotation Life, which will be really beneficial in the new year!

I'd also like to thank Propercorn, Maaya Indian Kitchen & Bar, MK Biergarten (unfortunately my nan has already decided she will be using this beer in a recipe, so I'm unable to try it myself *sad face*, Stu's Oven, Urban Grilla, Fitness Milton KeynesMr & Mrs Fitz Fab Food, and of course Revolucion de Cuba for further goodies and vouchers.

It's so nice to receive vouchers and such for places so local for once!

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I really have been absolutely spoilt with my goody bag (and an amazing evening) and I can't wait to meet up with some of the other MK bloggers I met to use the vouchers together.

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Monday, 12 December 2016


Although I wrote in a recent post that we don't really celebrate Christmas much anymore as a family, I do love a good Christmas market.

Even if I don't buy anything, there's just something about grabbing a hot drink and walking around the market slowly, peering at all the different stores and gazing in awe at how pretty it all looks. 

It seems there are so many Christmas markets to choose from these days though, so here's a round up of five Christmas markets worth visiting in the UK.

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FRANKFURT CHRISTMAS MARKET, BIRMINGHAM 
I've not yet been to Birmingham's Christmas market, but I've heard good things about it, and so many people have recommended it to me. Treats include traditional and authentic German food and drink, like pretzels or bratwursts, and there's also live music, too. As well as gifts to buy, you can also purchase beautiful Christmas decorations - and the whole market looks ever so pretty.

WADDESDON MANOR CHRISTMAS FAIR
Waddesdon Manor's Christmas fair boasts up to 60 wooden chalets selling unique gifts, crafts, decorations and festive food, among the manors grounds. It's one of the most beautiful Christmas markets I've ever seen, and you can make a day out of it by exploring the rest of the grounds and the manor house itself, which is decorated beautifully for the season. This years light theme for the house is dazzle@Waddesdon, which offers a light and sound show outside the house every 15 minutes.

THE CENTRE, MILTON KEYNES
This is more a Christmas display that includes a Christmas market, but I felt it was worthy of being mentioned. My parents used to take me here every Christmas but unfortunately, in the past few years, I've felt it went downhill a little, losing it's touch. However when I walked past it briefly last week, I realized this year it's gone back to its classic roots. The display is ever so classy, and the market includes lots of cabins selling original homemade jewellery and gifts. This year, Intu at Milton Keynes (or the new bit as it's locally known) also has cabins for the first time, selling hot drinks and gifts. Also, did I mention, it's all indoors? You won't feel the cold visiting these markets!

EDINBURGH
Another market which offers more than just stalls, Edinburgh's Christmas market has been on my bucket list for a long, long time now. Not only is Edinburgh super pretty anyway, but there's both a European Christmas market and Scottish Market to explore. The European Christmas market is the more traditional (and seasonal) of the two, and there's also rides as well, including a giant beautiful big wheel!

Although I love all the groupon deals that include mini cruises abroad for Christmas markets (and I can hands down say that Bruges is one of the best Christmas markets outside of the UK!), there's plenty on offer close to home.

ANGELS MARKET, WINTER WONDERLAND, LONDON
And, finally, the Christmas market at Winter Wonderland - how can this not be on this list? Yes, Winter Wonderland as a whole is considered to be overpriced, touristy and always so, so busy, but you need to go at least once in your life, and a visit to the Christmas market there is a must-do. There's over 200 fairy-lit chalets to explore, and, of course, if you get bored you can explore the rest of the attraction.

I can tick off three out of this list - how about you? Am I missing any? Let me know with a comment below!

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Saturday, 10 December 2016

If you'd said to me a couple of years ago that soon I'd be listening to and actually enjoying movie soundtracks, I'd have told you you were crazy. 

After all, movie soundtracks to me just scream that awkward year of my life when I listened to the Grease soundtrack on repeat, imagining I was Sandy (or more realistically that despite the fact that I can't sing, I played Sandy in the school play and my crush played Danny before he fell in love with me). But now I realize...they're actually kind of cool. 

Gone are the days where movie soundtracks are literally just taken from musicals and include corny love songs and dramatic scores reflecting the heartbreak moments from the films. These days they include cool bands and popular songs that weren't written for the movie but sound pretty bloody cool at pivotal moments in the story nonetheless. 

I've actually gone on to discover some great bands from my favourite movies which is why I usually sit with my iPhone, rewinding a film constantly to Shazam that awesome sounding song. Here are some of my favourites:

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Movie Soundtracks | Suicide Squad | twenty one pilots | Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist | Guardians Of The Galaxy | Going The Distance | Whip It | American Pie

SUICIDE SQUAD
I finally got around to watching this last night after waiting so long, and I have to say one of the best parts of the movie was the soundtrack. There's classics like Bohemian Rhapsody (admittedly a version by Panic! at the Disco) and some old school Eminem, and the really catchy Sucker For Pain, which just seems to be penned/sung by everyone (Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa and Imagine Dragons). There's also my personal favourite, Heathens by twenty one pilots, and I'm still amazed at how popular and successful it's gotten.

NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST
I absolutely love the soundtrack to this film (and the film, and the book the film was based on...) and this was the soundtrack that actually inspired me to write this post. The film is filled with indie gems and all those bands you expect to catch in basement clubs in New York. Bands that feature in the film include Vampire Weekend, The Submarines and, er, Hot Chocolate. There's also After Hours by We Are Scientists, which sums up the whole feel of the movie really.

WHIP IT
Whip It is all about girl power, and the soundtrack is, too. Dolly Parton, The Raveonettes and Peaches all appear on the soundtrack, but there's also been some awesome songs I've discovered from the film, such as Your Arms Around Me by Jens Lekman. Plus, the film introduced me to rockstar Landon Pigg, who I now absolutely adore and listen to regularly, even though he hasn't done anything in years.

GOING THE DISTANCE
The soundtrack to Going The Distance has a very similar feel to Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist's one, with lots of edgy, American artists. Some of the best artists appearing in the film include The Cure, The Pretenders and The Boxer Rebellion. I am also aware that all three of those artists are entirely English, but The Boxer Rebellion definitely sound like they're from New York.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Do I really have to explain this one?!

AMERICAN PIE SERIES
Finally, the American Pie series is still the only film series that successfully manage to include some real, proper pop punk/punk rock. You can expect songs from Third Eye Blind, Green Day, American Hi-Fi, SUM41, Good Charlotte, New Found Glory AND The All American Rejects - phew. Plus, punk rock gods Blink 182 appear a lot, and the band even have a cameo in the first film.

I do still have a soft spot for the soundtracks to old classics such as Grease and Back To The Future (I may or may not want Earth Angel to be my wedding song/first dance), but I'm so thankful for the films mentioned above for helping me discover new artists. If you find movie soundtracks just as important as the movie itself, make sure you check them out.

Are there any other films/movie soundtracks you can suggest? Let me know with a recommendation below!

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Thursday, 8 December 2016

I've been thinking a lot about what Christmas means to me lately.

It's only really recently that I've been getting into the spirit - only within the last couple of weeks or so have I seen houses decorated or listened to Christmas songs on the radio, which is a stark contrast from just a few years ago when I'd be in the Christmas spirit the day after Bonfire night.

However, since losing my mum last year, Christmas has taken on a different reason to me and my family entirely.

It's bittersweet, really, because she loved Christmas - and I mean absolutely adored it. I'll always remember the days I'd come home from school and find the house transformed into a winter wonderland all of a sudden, or the times we'd drive into Milton Keynes as a family to see the Christmas display.

Without mum around though, it seems for the most part, Christmas has lost it's meaning. We no longer give presents, or eat Christmas dinner. Many of those old traditions are long gone, although we do celebrate the day in our own personal way.

I thought it would be nice to share some of my favourite personal Christmas traditions though because even though we don't really enforce these traditions anymore (bar one or two), I hope one day, when the time is right, we will reintroduce them again.

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ITS A WONDERFUL LIFE
I absolutely love this movie thanks to my dad, and it's actually a tradition we still do, if even by accident as it's always on around Christmastime. It's one of those films I don't think I would enjoy if not for my dad, I can't say that it's the type of movie I would have settled on when flicking through channels if not for him. It makes me cry every single time, and one tradition was/is to watch it every year during the season. In the past, we've also made a point of watching Scrooged and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation too!

LIGHTS AROUND THE ESTATE
As a family, we'd always go for a slow drive around the estate to oogle at all the house lights and impressive displays in our area. Not as many people make an effort anymore, but the few that do still do go all out. My dad and I went out to dinner last night and on the way home we actually spoke about this tradition, as we drove past a few of the houses decorated.

BUFFETS
I don't know if this is a tradition as such, but I'd love the feeling of my parents coming home with a big Christmas shop. There would always be a few evenings throughout winter when no one fancied a proper dinner, so they'd put on a little spread of mini sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, cheese and biscuits, pringles etc and we'd snack on them throughout the evening - with a snowball too, of course!

DECORATING THE TREE
This tradition is probably the most bittersweet really, because my mum was an expert at decorating Christmas trees. Every year, the task would be left to her, and if anyone tried to help, we'd get told off. It got to the point where Dad would get the tree down from the attic for her and then we'd go and spend the day at the pub to leave her to it! She was very particular about how the tree should look and when I was old enough, I was allowed to decorate my own mini tree for my room - which she'd then redecorate to her own standard when I was at school anyway! I do miss this tradition the most, but I know even if I did try and decorate my own tree again, it would never be up to her standard!

CHRISTMAS PYJAMAS AND BEDDING
I'll admit, this is probably my own personal tradition! I always like to have a new pair of pyjamas for Christmas but, in recent years since growing up, I've also enjoyed the idea of Christmas bedding too. I think nothing beats that feeling of snuggling up in bed in Christmas pyjamas and cosy Christmas bedding, ready for the big day. I think that's the final touch for getting ready for Christmas. In past years, Boux Avenue and Tesco (yes, Tesco!) have been my go-to shops for cute Christmas pyjamas, whereas Primark and Yorkshire Linen always have lovely ranges of Christmas bedding.

So although I won't be recreating these traditions anytime soon, it's nice to reminisce on them and remember them fondly, especially for when we will be in a place where we are ready to embrace that special feeling at Christmas once more.

Do you have any Christmas traditions? Let me know!

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*Please note this is a collaborative post, but is one that is close to my heart and a post I wanted to write anyway.

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