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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

I've always wanted to travel and earlier this year, during my first time travelling in Mexico, I knew that that trip wouldn't be the last one. I fell in love with discovering new cultures, exploring thousands of years of history and travelling different landscapes, from sandy white beaches to plush green jungles. 

During my trip, I travelled with a backpack I'd hastily ordered from Amazon just a week before. I wasn't sure what type of luggage to go with and although I loved my backpack, I do wish I'd picked something more ideal for travel. It was a good size for my day-to-day activities - as I also brought a suitcase - but wouldn't have cut it for long term travel. One of the straps also broke within the last few days of my trip too.

So I was delighted when CabinZero got in touch recently and asked me if I'd like to try out one of their specialized travel bags (how ideal would this opportunity have been back in April!). I had a look at the brand before choosing my bag and was overwhelmed with how ideal this company is when it comes to what they're selling.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review | CabinZero | Travel

CabinZero are actually avid fans of travelling - just one look at their blog will tell you that. Posts range from their favourite travel instagrammers to guest blogs about America's best cities for fall travel. Basically, they know exactly what they're talking about and what exactly a travel bag or backpack needs.

I picked the Classic CabinZero which is ideal for zero-hassle travel - perfect for a new traveller like me! I ordered it in Lipe Blue and the website states that backpack’s colour is inspired by the sea’s reflection of the last rays of a stunning Thai sunset - how inspiring is that?

My first impression of the bag is that the colour is beautiful. It's bright and eye catching, meaning there's little chance of it getting lost, but the colour is also slightly subtle too. It's not too bright or in your face and I think it'll go with anything.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review | CabinZero | Travel

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review | CabinZero | Travel

The bag is super spacious inside with smaller zipped compartments for things like toiletries and important documents, and another large elasticated section which fits my laptop nicely. On the front of the bag there's also a zipped area which works for bits that need to be accessed quickly.

It's also very sturdy and a good size. It's more square than anything, which works really well, and as well as a zip to get inside, there's also four clips you can use to be extra safe if you so choose. My favourite part, however, is that there's also a handle down the left side of the bag. This means you can wear it as a backpack as normal, or you can carry it as you would a briefcase.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review | CabinZero | Travel

This is such a genius idea and one I haven't seen before. I'm used to backpacks with one small handle at the top and I always worry the handle will break with how much I've overpacked. So with a larger and more sturdy handle on the side, it also means when you pick it up you're lifting where most of the weight is, rather than the empty area/gap at the top of your luggage/items if you haven't packed to the brim.

I have yet to 'travel' with this bag (but keep an eye out as we're heading back to Romania after Christmas!), but so far, I use it when travelling between my boyfriend's flat and home. Normally I shove all my stuff into my day to day bag (which I take to work with me), which means it's heavy and weighs me down, or just in a plastic bag with my laptop in its separate bag.

Formidable Joy - UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | CabinZero's Classic Travel Bag Review

Lately, I've been able to keep everything in CabinZero's classic travel bag and it's perfect for that use. Of course it will obviously be perfect for travel - weekend, week or longer - but for the meantime, I've been getting plenty of use out of it.

Additionally, the bag is water resistant, designed to be the perfect cabin size, has a ten year warranty and has a lost and found tag built in - how nifty is that?!

Overall, I don't think I would pick anything else for a travel bag now. It's light but durable, it has all the compartments you need, it's got extra safety additions and it's really bloody stylish too.

What do you think? Would you benefit from a CabinZero Classic Travel Bag on your adventures? Let me know!

P.S Interested in purchasing your own CabinZero bag? You can use promo code CZLOUISEJOY for 10% off your entire order until 7th Jan!

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Monday, 27 November 2017

As you know, I always like to have my fingers in a lot of different pies (as dodge as that sounds!).

That's probably why I'm always so tired! As well as working full time and blogging, I also like to take on extra stuff whether it's for fun, for exposure or just to try something interesting.

Therefore I thought it would be nice to give you all and update on what other projects I've been up to lately.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | Recent Projects | The Growing Up Guide, Betamax Video Club, M.O.S.H

So in the summer I began working full time again, at H&M (again), but this time in St Albans. In my short time there I've been told I've made a good impression so far and although it's not 'official' so to speak, I am responsible for the accessories in the store. It started out with all ladies accessories - scarfs, shoes, hair bands - most cute stuff really. After Christmas, I'll hopefully be responsible for all accessories in store. At the moment, I mostly do delivery shifts (which means early mornings but early finishes too) where I help process delivery, however my main priority is processing the accessories. This sees me unpacking them, often checking if they are on offer or on delivery and taking them down to the shop floor and finding a place for them. It might sound easy but it's not really when you take into account how many accessories go on the shop floor with so little space. Often I have to move things around, put up and take down shelves, fill up the A area etc. It may not seem like a lot but it's really nice being responsible for my own (often stressful!) area in the store. I'm hoping to eventually become an official extra responsible (which means I'll officially be in charge of accessories but will also be a senior member of staff to some others), and then, in the long run, either department manager, a visual merchandiser or something press related. 

I've recently began to contribute to the sleek but really modern website/publication, The Growing Up Guide. The website focuses on some great stuff - namely serious issues and things people want to really read about and acts like some sort of online guide to young women. But of course it's helpful for people like me and you too, as who can honestly say they have their shit together?! You can read some of my contributed posts here if you want to and I'll also be doing an Instagram takeover on their account on the 16th December. I'll be attending a quirky party in London that evening (part of my birthday plans) so make sure you check it out!

I'm a huge fan of 80s movies and I've recently really been getting into podcasts, so I found it really fun appearing on Rich's podcast recently - a homage to all the best movies from the 1980s (ish). We chatted about the epic Tim Burton classic that is Beetlejuice, and in the upcoming weeks I'll be appearing again to chat about another amazing 80s movie, Lost Boys. Give it a listen if you're so inclined, but I apologize for the way my voice sounds. I sound like a boy. I know.

I've also begun contributing to M.O.S.H, which is part of the Hit The Floor network! It's very early days yet but I have a couple of reviews submitted and I also like the range of feature ideas on here too. I think the key with music journalism is to just write as often as you can for as many eyes as you can. I still struggle a bit with writing reviews and using the proper technical terms for things, but I'm getting better.

Okay, lets face it, I'm no business woman. But I have had a somewhat unique fun idea which I'll be exploring more in the run up to Christmas and hopefully sharing in the new year. So keep your eyes peeled - especially if you like music and, er, cross stitch...

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Friday, 24 November 2017

Back in October, I was lucky enough to receive my own desk from Kit Out My Office and it's still one of my favourite blogging perks ever.

Having my own space and desk to blog at is such a great thing, I really appreciate having somewhere to call just mine at my boyfriend's place so I've been over the moon with this desk.

However, when the desk arrived, I obviously wanted to get a review post up as soon as possible so back then, the desk wasn't as personalized (or looking as pretty!) as it is now. Therefore I thought I'd do an update post (as I said I might) to show you all what it looks like now and to also talk about how it's held up.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | Home | Desk update with Kit Out My Office | Kit Out My Office | Blogger Space | Desk | Review

So because my boyfriend lives in a shared flat with some of his colleagues, we (well he) was moved to the smaller room recently, which has actually turned out to be a good thing. We've moved some furniture around to make more space, and I have the perfect little corner for my desk - plus a wall!

I have yet to get something sturdy enough to attach my board to the wall so for the meantime, this cute little wire board from Primark just leans against the back wall. I only have on it one postcard from Paperchase so far, and I have left the others that came with it as they're cute. This will be updated with inspiring prints and photos soon, hopefully.

Above that and to the left is a hanging bag set I got from Wish, which we both use just to store small bits and bobs like my hairbands, his vape stuff etc. Next to that is a sticker I stole from him, ha.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle |  Desk update with Kit Out My Office | Kit Out My Office | Blogger Space | Desk | Review

On the desk, I still have my week planner and my magazine holder, which is now filled with recipes, magazines, notebooks etc. I've added a fake succulent plant (also from Primark and just until I can trust myself to keep a real one alive), another cute (currently unopened) candle from Vinegar Hill and a jar full of gold paperclips from Wilkinson's. I don't use them, they just look stylish.

I picked up this colourful pencil case from TK Maxx and I finally have a chair! It's just one from the kitchen that will make do for now but I'll get my own chair likely when we move into a new place. I'm on the lookout for a nice stylish cushion for it - perhaps a seasonal one.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | Home | Creating my own blogging space with Kit Out My Office | Kit Out My Office | Blogger Space | Desk | Review

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle |  Desk update with Kit Out My Office | Kit Out My Office | Blogger Space | Desk | Review

The desk has held up exceptionally well - proving that despite being my first bit of DIY, I did do it properly and it didn't just collapse a few weeks in. We moved the drawer across a little in the end to give me a little more space when I have my legs crossed and my only qualm is that when the cat comes in and walks all over it to get to the windowsill, he always leaves lots of hair so I'm often having to wipe it down, ha!

Overall though, I'm still really pleased with it. It actually gives the whole room a more stylish but homely feel to it and being that it's such a small room that doesn't even belong to me, it's really nice having my own space and a desk of my own.

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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

It seems so long ago that I went on my trip around Mexico with TrekAmerica; my first time travelling, my first proper adventure and my first tour with Trek America. I'd wanted to travel with them for a long time so when I finally got the guts to take my much awaited Mexican trip, there was no doubt I'd go with TrekAmerica.

TrekAmerica offers many other tours though - including road trips - to and around places like the USA, Canada, Central & South America. In fact, there's almost too many tours to choose from, many more varied then the last.

Since I'm looking ahead to my travels and adventures next year, I thought I'd compile a list of TrekAmerica tours I'd like to try.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | 5 TrekAmerica tours I want to try | TrekAmerica | Adventure | Mexican BLT | Mountie | Best Of The East | Hawaii Big Island | Mexico City To Playa Del Carmen BOLT | The Great 48

I'm not a huge fan of the outdoors but I could definitely wear in my walking boots if it involves a trip like this. This eleven day tour involves exploring British Columbia and Alberta in the Canadian Rockies - can you even imagine the photos and views you'll end up with?! Highlights include a stay at a rustic guest ranch, relaxing in hot springs and a visit to Lake Louise - well, visiting this lake has always been on my bucket list (a lake named after me, ha!). Let's not forget the amazing alpine scenery and entry to national parks too.

This tour offers an in depth look at the East Coast, with travels to New York, Nashville, Chicago and Niagara Falls to name just a few. Each visit to New York is different too, with the tour leader sharing their favourite places - recommendations straight from a local! Highlights include a bike tour of Chicago's highlights and a visit to Mammoth Cave National Park. So though you'll be visiting a lot of cities, there's some nature and outdoorsy stuff thrown in too just to keep it varied.

For those of you who like your adventures short and sweet, Hawaii Big Island is a big favourite. This tour mixes the right amount of plush scenery and adventure; it offers an island cruise and snorkelling, hiking trails at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and camping by remote beaches. If you're new to the idea of travelling - or looking for your first TrekAmerica tour - perhaps this is it. It's not too long and isn't too much to take on for the first time.

I've obviously done a Mexican tour with TrekAmerica - and cannot recommend it enough - but when I chose to do that tour, it was actually a close choice between the Mexican BLT and this one. Mexico City to Playa Del Carmen involves seeing more of a range of Mexico and includes a visit to Mexico city of course. The tours are quite similar in content, but this one includes a visit to a Mexican market and San Cristobal de las Casas. If I were to do another Mexican tour, it would be this one to coincide with visiting Mexico city during the famous Day Of The Dead celebrations.

And, of course, I can't not mention The Great 48. Anyone who is anyone has a full American road trip on their bucket list - myself included - and this tour makes that dream a reality. Visiting 48 of America's 50 states (you'll have to look for yourself to see which two are missed off!), this tour offers pretty much everything. The highlights are amazing: a party bus tour of Las Vegas, seeing the famous faces of the presidents at Mount Rushmore, watching the sun set over the Grand Canyon...need I go on?

If you've ever felt tempted by the idea of travelling, I can only recommend a tour with TrekAmerica. They're perfect for first time travellers or adventures wanting to really get a feel of a place - and the tours are so varied too.

Would you ever (or have you ever?!) gone on a tour with TrekAmerica? Let me know!

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If you're considering booking a tour with TrekAmerica after reading my recommendations, you can visit their website to see the full variety of tours on offer.

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Yes, I am well aware of the fact that we're still only in November but if you're anything like me, you'll already be looking ahead to the new year and what 2018 will bring.

It's scary to think that 2018 isn't far off but if you are planning to start some big new projects once 1st January hits, chances are there's going to be one or two you'll want to start prepping for now.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | 2018 projects to start now | Bullet Journal | Vegan | Fitness | Planning | Budgeting | New Year

I've toyed with the idea of starting a bullet journal for a while now and it's taken me a good few months to even get my head around the idea of it all and the system it uses. I've also spent around six months pinning beautiful images for inspiration. The thing is, a bullet journal is no longer just a system people use to sort their sh*t out. A lot of people get hella creative with it. I get really anxious staring at a blank page I need to fill in creatively and I know that pressure is going to be massive on 1st January. So if you're planning to start a bullet journal in the new year, you should choose a notebook now and do a few practice pages. Practice your system until you get used to it and until you get used to how much upkeep it needs. Have a go at layouts and designs so that come 1st January, you don't mess up your first proper layout.

It's not to everyone but if you're thinking of going vegan or even just tempted to try going vegan once or twice a week, you'll want to start your research now. Get book smart now about where you'll be getting your vitamins (and weekly shop from!), bookmark some recipes and get your online order in stat. Don't do what I did and wake up really hungover and unprepared on 1st January and end up eating ice and rice for your first day of being a full vegan. Not good. Also consider checking out my vegan starter kit.

I actually wrote a post about this for The Growing Up Guide, but if you're set on overhauling your fitness goals in the new year, start as you mean to go on: now. Make a timetable of all your favourite local fitness classes or any you'd like to try (so if you ever get the urge to go after work one day you already know when and where you can get your sweat on: there's nothing worse than really feeling a workout class and then realizing there's none to attend that evening), buy some cute workout gear and maybe even purchase a health planner.

Scrapbooking can be started whenever but even if you just want to scrapbook your year, it's best to get your supplies in early: a decent scrapbook, cute stickers, washi tape and the like.

Whether you're looking to go travelling or just want a nice holiday, it's best to do your research now. Start looking at places you want to go and when obviously, but once you're set on these things, you'll hopefully be ready to get your flights whenever they come up cheap - perhaps even in the January sales. You can also start budgeting now or putting money aside bit by bit so by the time the holiday comes around, you're not going to be out of pocket!

By the time January hits, this should be easy, but if you want to save money in 2018, I'd suggest starting to track your finances now. By the time Christmas rolls around, hopefully you'll have a better idea on your spending which you can use to then create a budget.

My goal next year is to create a staple wardrobe. For anyone else wanting to do this, it's going to take time. It takes a while to find that perfect fitting pair of jeans, to create your ideal style and, well, to buy everything. But there are ways you can prep now; sort out what you don't wear and get rid of it (Ebay it, head to a car boot sale or drop a bag full of clothes to H&M to get a £5 off voucher), start compiling a list and add things to a wish list in case they pop up in the January sales. Also think about sorting out your wardrobe and putting summer stuff away for winter. This will also free up space for new stuff.

So if you're planning to really get your sh*t together in the new year, start prepping now. I mean, totally spend some time binge watching Christmas movies and being lazy too, but don't wait until 1st January to start these projects and then fail immediately because, y'know, you don't have the supplies for a bullet journal or no vegan food at home.

What other projects can be prepped now? Let me know!
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Friday, 17 November 2017

Or, in other words, is Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus still relevant in this day and age?

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus is a book that everyone is aware of and most women have read at least once in their life's. It has sold more than 50 million copies and is still a huge part of popular culture; constantly being referenced in movies, TV shows and more. It's Georgina's 'boy bible' in Angus, Thongs & Perfect Snogging, and I myself used to steal my mum's copy and read it when I was a teenager, in hopes to get into the mindset of why men acted the way they did.

Some parts of the book have stuck with me since then but when I found it in my room the other day, I decided to re-read it to see if it was still relevant, not just in this day in age and in the way that modern dating is, but also now that I'm a bit older and I'm in an actual serious healthy relationship.

The whole basis behind the book is that men are originally from a different planet than us ladies, and that's why there's so many differences between us, especially when it comes to the way we deal with conflict.

I've never thought guys were that different, until I sat down and re-read this book and realized that expecting my boyfriend to communicate and deal with things exactly the same way I do isn't helpful!

So I thought it would be fun to go through and briefly touch upon each section from the book, noting whether or not it's still relevant!

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Dating | Relationships | Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

The general idea behind this chapter is that when a woman is upset or stressed, a man tries to fix the problem rather than comforting her. On the other hand, it also focuses on the fact that women like to 'improve' men by helping them grow - causing him to feel controlled as opposed to accepted. 

Do I think this is still a problem (or ever was a problem?) in relationships? Yes and no. I can definitely agree with the 'home-improvement committee' theory - since getting with my boyfriend, I have wanted to help him a lot. I do tend to nag at him to sort all his bills out and stuff like that, but luckily I tend to pull back sometimes and remind myself that he's a grown man who can look after himself! I think women wanting to help their man grow and be their best selves is definitely still very relevant, but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing anymore. These days, Facebook is filled with meme's about woman being ultra proud of their other halves which is good. 

I've never been the type of person to go to a boyfriend about my problems - usually I just let everything get on top of me and throw a tantrum! So I can't say I have a lot of experience with 'mr. fix-it'. I do sometimes have to remind my boyfriend that if I'm upset, usually I just need a hug or a cuddle to feel better, but likewise, he never really tries to 'fix' my problems.

Still relevant? The jury's out on this one. The home-improvement committee is still at large to a certain extent, but I think men have learned to give Mr Fix-It a rest.

According to this chapter, when men are upset or stressed, they like to go into a man-cave until they feel better. Women like to talk, talk and talk.

THIS. This is super relevant. I never actually noticed the whole man cave thing until I re-read this book and then was like 'ooooh so that's what Vincent does when he games'. The boy can go into a world of his own and whilst I'm missing his attention, I now see it's his way of distressing from work (or me). 

On the other hand, I definitely talk when I'm stressed or upset. Though I usually need a hug, rambling helps a lot too and helps me get things off my chest.

The idea of man caves has actually really helped me be more supportive of my boyfriend when he needs his space. I know now to just leave him be and do my own thing, and he knows to reassure me to let me know he just needs a bit of space and will come back to me when he can. I still struggle to accept this when we have an argument (I tend to think it's not fair that he should have space when the argument/he has upset me), but it takes time.

Still relevant? Yes. 100% yes.

This chapter is a little confusing, but from what I can gather, it focuses on the circle of a woman giving too much or too much of herself in a relationship and a man therefore not giving enough. Men need to feel motivated to give support and if they see the woman giving a lot, they assume they don't need support.

I don't feel this is relevant. There have been times in the past where I've felt like I've given too much - too much romance, too much support, too much effort etc - but usually this has been resolved by communication or by ending things when they weren't right in the first place.

Well even though there's a whole chapter on this, it isn't necessary. Men and women speak a different language nearly everyday. From the tone of voice to the words they use and the way they are perceived. Unfortunately this is just a common problem that can be solved with communication.

Still relevant? Yes. Perhaps not as severe, but I definitely encounter this issue regularly.

"We mistakenly assume that if our partners love us they will react and behave in certain ways = the ways we react and behave when we love someone."

So I kind of think this chapter is stupid but it also makes a whole lot of sense. Because men are d*cks, once they get close to a girl, they then like to pull away for some stupid reason (it is explained in the book but I can't be bothered to go and re-read it). It makes no sense, but, unfortunately, it's true. At least in my experience. Sometimes when you like a guy and he pulls away, you gotta play hard to get. But trust me when I say, a man who plays games like this isn't worth it anyway.

Still relevant? Unfortunately so.

Isn't this just another way of saying woman get periods? Yes, sometimes we're happy and sometimes we're sad. It's not always to do with PMS - going through emotions is just part of life - but I certainly get a little batsh*t crazy and over-emotional when it's around about the time for my period. Men should be more understanding. We shouldn't use our periods as an excuse to act out. But sometimes we just do.

Still relevant? Well, yes, we still get periods but no, I don't think men need a guide to dealing with them.

This chapter states that women need - in this order - caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation and reassurance in a relationship, whereas a man needs: trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval and encouragement.

These are most things healthy relationships should have anyway. Any normal person would know this already: skip this chapter.

Still relevant? Yes. But not necessary.

I'm not even going to go into this chapter because a) people argue for a reason and arguments are necessary to a certain extent and b) without arguments you don't get makeup sex. And quite frankly that's not a world I want to live in.

Still relevant? Nope!

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Dating | Relationships | Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

What even is this? It sounds absurd and has bullsh*t lists about how to support your other half, including things like give them four hugs a day and 'don't flick the remote control to different channels when she is watching TV with you'. People shouldn't need a list to show love in a relationship. Unless you're an idiot. In which case, this list is pretty helpful.

This chapter also states that men score women on what they do (10-20 points when he forgets to do something and she says it's okay!) but women give generally the same score depending on whatever the man does. So basically, woman see the little things just as important as the big, whereas a man gives more points depending on what the woman does. I don't even know.

Still relevant? No.
This is just about communication really but also suggests writing a letter if you find it hard to convey your feelings verbally. Writing letters always help, to be fair.

Still relevant? No.

Aka say would you instead of could you. I get the point behind this chapter, but every relationship is give and take - sometimes you do things to make your other half happy and sometimes they do the same for you. You shouldn't have to study what words you should use to ask them to take out the trash once in a while.

Still relevant? No.

"A woman should not be judged for needing this reassurance, just as a man should not be judged for needing to withdraw"

Finally, this chapter sums up the book overall, stating that woman should support men in their man cave and men should try not to fix women's problems, etc.

Still relevant? Partly.

So as a whole, this book is tricky, A lot of it is bullsh*t and stuff people should know anyway - but granted, if you don't know, it's quite helpful. There are some things I have taken away from it that I still think are really relevant in this day and age though, most notably man caves and the home-improvement committee.

It's always eye-opening to read a book like this and I think it definitely helps to remind you of the differences between men and woman but, if I'm honest, overall I believe that no good couple would need to refer to this book word for word. Sure, it's helpful to understand how to support your other half in things you don't know much about, but, generally, if your partner loves and respects you and makes you happy, who cares if he needs to disappear into a man cave every now and then..?

Nonetheless, it's been fun to sum it up in regards to modern dating. I'm lucky enough that I don't have to play the game anymore - though most of this book is spot on for couples as well as people just wanting to get a head start on understanding the opposite sex - even when single. If you're looking for ways to put what you've learnt into practice, why not try online dating? There's sites for everyone these days, including senior dating, Belfast dating agencyBerkshire dating agencyGuernsey dating and Isle of Wight dating.

But what do you think? Do you think Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus offers information and advice that is still relevant when it comes to dating in this day and age? Let me know!

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*Please note, as a contributor for We Love Dates, this is a sponsored post but all views and opinions are entirely my own.

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Saturday, 11 November 2017

It's my boyfriend's birthday tomorrow (happy birthday babes, you old man!) but as I'm working all day, we celebrated his birthday just between us on Thursday. I had a day planned out for him and we had a lot of fun so I thought I'd share what we got up to.

After presents and breakfast in bed (complete with candles!), we headed off nice and early for just under an hours drive to Amersham. It was here where I surprised him with a visit to Kew Little Pigs which is a pig farm if you haven't already guessed.

Vincent absolutely adores all animals (hence why we're vegan) and he's rather obsessed with tea cup pigs. In fact, I find it amazing that I've actually met someone who loves teacup pigs as much as me! We're always watching videos of them on youtube and making squealing noises at their cuteness; we've also already agreed that one day when we own a huge house we will have our own teacup pigs!

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | Kew Little Pigs & Warner Bros. Studio Tour | Kew Little Pigs | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | Teacup Pigs | Piglets | Harry Potter | Harry Potter Studios

So I booked him/us onto a Piggy Pet & Play experience, which gave us an hour to get hand's on with the cute little creatures. Upon arrival, Olivia - who owns the farm - greeted us and explained a little bit about the farm and what they do there. She then took us to each pen, telling us more about each little piggy before leaving us to it.

The first thing we did was of course visit the newborn baby piglets - we were so lucky that they'd only recently been born meaning we could see them. Unfortunately some of the litter hadn't survived and the mum wasn't feeling too well so wasn't nursing the rest of the litter properly, but when we arrived she seemed to be getting back to it. Some of the tiny piggies escaped the small pen and waddled/trotted for freedom, bless them! Olivia let Vincent hold one and it was the cutest darn thing I'd ever seen.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | Kew Little Pigs & Warner Bros. Studio Tour | Kew Little Pigs | Warner Bros. Studio Tour | Teacup Pigs | Piglets | Harry Potter | Harry Potter Studios

Afterwards, we got muddy meeting the rest of them - from the tiny baby ones to the bigger fully grown ones - each was so cute and friendly and Vincent was absolutely over the moon with his surprise.

Being that the drive didn't take too long, we'll definitely be back. We were very impressed with the experience and Kew Little Pig's offer other hands on experiences too, plus courses if you are planning to buy your own teacup pig. I think this is a great idea as so many people purchase them without really doing the proper research. 

The experience was well worth the money and I think it's a really unique gift idea!

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After getting muddy, we drove into Hemel Hempstead for a spot of lunch at Woody's Vegetarian Cafe. We actually had a few hours to spare so after scoffing some yummy vegan food, we popped into the town centre for a mooch around the shops before heading to our next destination.

Vincent's second surprise was a visit to Warner Bros. Studio Tour. We both love Harry Potter, even if he's a bit of a bigger fan than me. I'd last been last Christmas for my birthday but this time the studios were still decorated for Halloween which was cool. It was a lovely moment watching the welcome video and then seeing the doors to the castle appear. I actually got a bit emotional!

We loved seeing all the floating pumpkins and learning about how the crew made troll's snot and the like. There was so much to do and see there; we loved every minute. And, vegans rejoice, the Butterbeer is vegan when ordered without the foam!

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We didn't take tons of photos but I particularly enjoyed visiting the Dark Forest this time round, as this wasn't there during my last visit. The attention to detail here was amazing too, especially the wind and thunder effects! It was almost impossible to think we were actually just inside a large studio when creeping through the spooky forest with a storm brewing above us..

We also got to go inside the Dudley's house this time which I wasn't able to do last time. I finally got to see that instagram-famous shot of the living room filled with flying letters!

Overall it was a great day and a really nice treat for Vincent. Both parts of the day were super fun; the first was really different and I'd definitely recommend a visit to Kew Little Pigs if you know any animal lovers. As for Warner Bros. Studio Tour, well, you definitely don't need to be a fan of Harry Potter to go here so I don't really think I need to recommend it - everyone loves it.

Have you ever been to Warner Bros. Studio Tour? Would you ever be tempted to visit Kew Little Pigs? Let me know! 

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Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Let's begin this post by looking at my life in a snapshot over the past three years.

Around about this time in 2015 I had just started my dream job. I was writing for a travel magazine, getting to write about (and sometimes review myself) attractions around the UK, working normal office hours and loving the benefits that came with the job. I'd finally passed my driving test in February and had recently purchased my first car. It was around about this time I found out I was going to be an aunt.

Fast forward to 2016 and things were a lot different. I was out of work. I wasn't getting on with my dad; in fact we had fallen out so badly that I had moved into my Nan's temporarily. My family was split, I saw no prospects for myself or any future and around about this time, I decided to put myself on a dating ban.

Now I'm back at an old job that I thoroughly enjoy, I get on with my dad better than ever and my whole family too, really. I live between home and my boyfriend's flat and I am now eight months into this serious relationship where we are planning to move in with each other.

As you can see, a lot has changed. I suppose it's natural for life to have it's ups and down's but of course the down's can be terribly hard. I've always stuck with the mantra that you have to get through the bad stuff to get to the good - and to learn from the bad stuff - but lately I've also realized that sometimes you have to take a step back too, whether that's to get a grip on your life and reevaluate where it's going or taking a step back entirely.

Don't believe me? Read on.

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Over the past few years, I've definitely gone backwards a lot - especially in the last year or so. I struggled a lot when I was out of work and ended up signing on to receive benefits. There's a huge stigma around this and it's easy to see why. I often thought that by signing on, people would think I wasn't good enough to get a job. Of course this isn't true and I was definitely entitled to the benefits I received, but at the time, I was super embarrassed.

Eventually in the summer I found a job working at H&M again. To be honest, I didn't want to go back into retail, even though I had enjoyed it at the time. But I always said if I were ever to go back to a retail role it would be with H&M - a reputable company who are great to work for. Still, considering I'd left my job at H&M for my 'dream job' only for that to fall through a year later and see me return back to H&M, it's clear to see why I felt like I was going backwards.

On paper, it was going backwards in some ways - but for the better. I'm now in another store which, honestly, is in a lovely town and has nicer clientele, I'm on a regular income again and I work with a team who are really encouraging. People get promoted quickly in my store and just a few months in has seen my manager given me a lot of positive praise and promises about my future at the store. Although I loved my time at the Luton store, I was young and just wanted a job; I wasn't bothered about future prospects and none were available at the time. With just a few months into my new role, I already feel like I'm moving further than I ever did during my two years at the Luton store.

After my mum died, cracks started slowly showing in my family when in reality this should have been a time that our family should have been relying on each other and growing closer. In some ways we did, but in other ways not so much. Things got so bad between my dad and I that I actually moved out of my family home for a few months. I regret that time so much now, but it helped me get a proper grip on what was important when it comes to family but that sometimes a bit of space can be a good thing. Over time, my dad and I started repairing our relationship by going to dinner once a week before I eventually moved back home. I actually don't see him that much anymore as I now almost live with my boyfriend, but it works for us. He's met someone so I no longer feel guilty at not being home. Although there's still a split between immediate family and extended family, it has brought us immediate family closer together - my brother, sister and I are closer than ever now which is lovely.

Likewise, since meeting my boyfriend and since that time spent living at my Nan's, my dad has commented that I have grown up a lot. I can see it too. Most of my money goes on weekly shops now or home accessories, and there's something really nice about the regular routine I've settled into when staying with my boyfriend. My nan even gave us a slow cooker last week and I was over the moon!

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Before I met my boyfriend, I had been single for a long time. For the first year or two after my split with my last boyfriend, I sworn off men and relationships completely. Then when I came around to the idea again, let's just say I struggled to meet a decent guy and fell after f*cboy after f*ckboy. I dabbled with online dating websites which led me to taking a break from dating altogether last year! You know my reasons and it actually went well. I concluded in the end that I was going to be a lot more relaxed about dating and was only going to go back to online dating by reinstalling Tinder and using it a little. Of course I gave in and ended up signing back to other sites, completely backtracking and going backwards into that bad habit.

It worked out great in the end though because in February I was lucky enough to meet Vincent and I've never been happier. We've travelled together - a little in the UK and also when he showed me his beautiful home country of Romania - we get on with each other's family's so well and, well, he just makes me so freakin' happy.

So it's clear to see my life has been filled with ups and downs over the past few years and the bad times got so bad that last year I ended up suffering from small anxiety attacks. Not only did I feel like my life was going nowhere, but I also felt like it was going backwards if anything. I couldn't see anything getting better, though of course it did, bit by bit.

When living with my nan, I took a road trip up north with my uni friend Becky, to visit our old uni haunts and watch the airshow. During that trip, I purchased a beautiful art print stating that with each piece the picture becomes clear. At the time, this comforted me and I knew that hopefully better times were to come. In fact, I incorrectly took it as a sign that maybe the bigger picture was me moving back up north and having a fresh start! Thank god I didn't, despite announcing to everyone that I 100% was at the time - oops!

During this time, my ex and I also briefly-sort-of-stupidly almost gave things another go - now we've put our negatives behind us and actually get on really well as friends now but my god that would have been a disaster just waiting to happen. Though luckily we didn't go through with it - so no actual example of moving backwards here - we did consider it and I guess that's proof of why moving backwards sometimes isn't okay too!

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However, now I see that it was all part of a bigger picture. I can see that I had to go backwards to move forwards. I understand that my downs taught me more about myself and made me stronger as a person. It has comforted me and makes me feel better, knowing that in future if I do have to step backwards again, it's not necessarily a bad thing.

It sucked that my dream job didn't work out, but if I hadn't of been out of work for so long, I wouldn't have ended up working at H&M again. No, it's not a writing job, but it has prospects (including prospects involving that line of work) and if I hadn't have gone backwards and searched for work, I might have ended up anywhere miserable. At least I fell back into a role I know and love and that I have a future at. And I have that amazing discount again, let's not forget that! Other little benefits include the fact that I genuinely take an interest in my fashion sense again and have began building a wardrobe full of staple, must have pieces and I'm also in better shape. When you go from sitting down in an office all day to being on your feet going up and down stairs for eight hours a day, it really makes a difference, as you can imagine!

And not working gave me the time to finally give in and take my dream trip of travelling around Mexico! I mean apart from job hunting and this trip there wasn't much else I did when I wasn't working, unless you include falling in love with a boy and spending my free days binge watching a lot of things on Netflix...

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If I hadn't have given in and signed back up to online dating websites after my dating ban, I would have never have met my boyfriend who makes me so happy. The idea that I may have never met him otherwise scares me and makes me sad.

If I hadn't have moved out of my family home and into my nan's, my relationship with my dad and I might have been irreparable at this point. We were both so angry and so stricken with grief still and had I stayed at home for us to be at each other's throats all the time, we could have fallen out for good. Living with my nan was tough - in fact we actually argued a lot too (she doesn't even believe in the internet so imagine how hard I found it to blog all that time!) but it made me really grow up and stop being so selfish.

So although this post may seem a bit rambly and like the story of my life, I hope it helps some of you if you're ever in a similar position. If you ever have to leave a dream job to go back to an old one or find your relationships with family members suffering, remember, everything happens for a reason and it could always be a lot worse. Use this time to take a step back from things and remember what's really important. Understand that going backwards isn't always a bad thing and sometimes it can work out for the better in the long run.

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Saturday, 4 November 2017

Despite the fact that Halloween has just passed, I'm already in the Christmas spirit thanks to my visit to Roof East Stratford on Thursday.

I was lucky enough to be invited down (or should I say up?!) to the iconic rooftop for their winter makeover with Social Fun & Games Club. I was invited alongside some of the girls and boys of Love Pop Ups - London and I have to say, it was one of my favourite blogger events/events with Love Pop Ups - London yet. I'd last visited Roof East Stratford for Rooftop Film Club last summer, so I was definitely intrigued to find out what it was like during winter.

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Upon arriving, we headed through a tent area donned with Christmas decorations such as a Christmas tree, twinkling lights and a mannequin in a ski suit - to keep in line with the theme of the Slider's curling, of course!

We were then shown to one of many inflatable snow globes which offered one, singular round lamp in the centre of the table and twinkling blue fairy lights above us, complete with a few snowflake and bauble decorations. The seats were covered in a soft and warm fur also, giving the igloo the perfect winter touch.

Being the press/preview/launch night, we were lucky enough to have a waitress on hand who was more than helpful when it came to recommending and bringing us our drinks and food. There are two bars on site with a large array of both winter themed and classic drinks to choose from. Some of the seasonal drinks included Boozy Hot Chocolate, Jager Ski Shot (four shots of Jager served on a ski!), Gin Fizz and Proper Snowball.

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The boozy hot chocolate went down a treat and was filled with tons of flavour, whereas the Gin Fizz (gin, pomegranate and cranberries, served with sparkling water and garnished with fresh rosemary) was entirely Instagram-worthy and gave me a warm/tipsy buzz too which was good!

For food, we had the choice between two vendors: Jimmy's Lodge and Crazy Pig. Both offered a lot of yummy canapes and traditional winter food (such as hog roast), and we chose to sample a few tasters from each. The mini burgers really hit the spot (the veggie one was particularly tasty!) and the hot dogs were piled high with yummy toppings. We also sampled some nachos and a cheese/meat board; we were spoilt for choice but not one thing disappointed.

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We ate until we were full and drank until we were merry inside our snow dome which was actually so warm that we had to remove our coats. Chatting amongst each other, drinking warm seasonal cocktails and listening to a great soundtrack - overlooking the beautiful view of London at night too - was really nice and definitely put me in the Christmas spirit. 

Once we left the comfort of our personal dome, we headed over to the retro neon curling lanes where we attempted to crown a champion between us. Playing in pairs against each other, we soon got the hang of the game and it wasn't long before we realised how addictive it was. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be too, despite having never played before!

All in all, it was a really lovely evening that I don't think I'll forget in a hurry. It was so nice to go as a group and just relax in such a great atmosphere. We were looked after so well and I can't believe how Christmassy I felt so soon after Halloween. It really did give me that excited feeling in my tummy!

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Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | SFG @ Roof East Stratford | Social Fun & Games Club @ Roof East Stratford | Social Fun & Games Club | Roof East Stratford | Sliders

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Whilst exploring, we also found a talented gentlemen playing piano in one of the covered seating areas which also hosted a bar. I noticed the benches had blankets on them for guests to use when it got chilly too which was a lovely touch!

If you're looking for something to do in the run up to Christmas: this is it. It's so much fun with a group of friends because you can get merry and try and beat each other at curling, but it was also kind of romantic too with many twinkling lights and the transparent warm snow globes providing views of the capital. It would be perfect for date night too and the best part about it is that you can spend a whole evening there because it has everything you need: delicious hot and cold food, seasonal and classic drinks, entertainment, fun and games and just a genuine great feel to it all.

I'd like to thank Love Pop Ups - London for the opportunity and the team at Roof East Stratford for inviting us and looking after us so well. I'll no doubt be visiting again this winter and believe me when I say you'll be kicking yourself if you don't pop down yourselves before Christmas ;)

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