Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #22

I’m not going to lie, over the past few months these posts had become quite hard for me to write. Whilst I’d like to think I’m usually a reasonably positive person, I’ve found the events of this year to have got on top of me. I’ve been demotivated (for blogging, for study, even for going out and seeing friends), and spent far too many evenings just mindlessly scrolling down my Instagram feed. This last fortnight I’ve had some good news for what feels like the first time in a while (which I’m sure it isn’t, but when the sad things start rolling in it’s far too easy to concentrate on those). This is definitely the happiest I’ve felt whilst penning up this post in a while!

So, what’s made me so happy…

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  1. I passed my exam! I mentioned an exam pass last time, but if I’m *really* honest – that one doesn’t count. I have to do it to qualify but it’s not particularly difficult nor time consuming. However last Thursday the results came out for the exam I took way back in April and I passed! I wasn’t expecting to if I’m really honest, but it was a nasty exam I had no wish to sit again (5 lever arch files full of notes, 6 hours of exam time over 2 days – no ta!). I’m looking forward to sending the folders up to my parents garage asap!
  2. Possibly shouldn’t class as an additional one – but not only passing the exam, but getting pretty clear over the pass mark. It’s upped my confidence for sure!
  3. Oh, and all the emails I got from my team at work. I have actually had study days since the results came out so I’m looking forward to actually seeing people today!
  4. My current role at work. Being on graduate scheme I get the opportunity to rotate into different areas – and whilst some aren’t exactly for me, the role I’m in for July is SO interesting.
  5. Getting my hard around a particularly nasty mathematical proof. It’s been a while since I’ve done proper statistics, it took me a couple of hours, but fully understanding it was worth the stress. (Yep, studying again. September’s going to be here before I know it!)
  6. Fresh fish. I love fish but it’s pricey – I’ve discovered mackerel which is both super-healthy and super-purse friendly. Two whole ones (head removed because W got squeamish the first time I bought them!) cost us less than £2 and were perfect with an orange, chilli and watercress salad.
  7. Brighton. Perhaps one of my all-time favourite places. I met my girls for a catch-up in the beach, a spot of shopping and a flight on the i360.
  8. Ben & Jerry’s Topped Salted Caramel Brownie ice-cream. Perhaps my favorite flavour. Soooo tasty!
  9. Wedding chats with a fellow bride-to-be. Being a young bride I do worry about talking too much about it with most of my friends, so it’s good to spend a whole evening talking all things wedding.
  10. Buying a pack of sausages for 34p on yellow-sticker. Sausage, mash and veg for £1.50, with plenty of veg leftover was my idea of a bargain (tasty too!).
  11. Duck & Waffle. My mum bought us a giftcard for Christmas and we finally booked ourselves in for breakfast. Worth the wait! It also turned into a bit of a celebration as I’d coincidentally booked it for the Saturday after results day and after Will’s diss hand-in. Perfect!
  12. Buying a matching set of luggage. Am I a fully-fledged adult now?!

What’s made you happy recently?

Travel: 10 Things in Brighton

Oh Brighton. With the exception of Edinburgh (and London of course!) it’s probably my favourite UK city. I mean, gorgeous shops to browse, sea to paddle in AND fish’n’chips to nom on?! There’s not a lot more this gal can ask for!

Now, generally I just spend a few hours. With one of my best friends living close to Brighton, the other in Kent and me in London, our meetups are split over the three locations. It generally means we spend a lot of time catching up (and shopping!) and not a huge amount of time enjoying where we actually are. That said, my main holiday of 2016 was a few days in Brighton – and there’s definitely enough for a short-break…

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1. Go up the British Airways i360

Now, I’m in two minds about this one. We went up a few weeks ago, and whilst the views are stunning – it’s over-priced. At £13.50 for an on-the-day student ticket it was an expensive half-an hour. With no shade in the ‘holding pen’ before you board and it being basically a fish-bowl it was also extremely hot. Perhaps as a date-night (taking advantage of the cocktail bar) or timing it for sunset would be better!

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2. Wander Around The Lanes

Oh, the lanes. My favourite part of Brighton. I’ve enjoyed many hours spent wandering around the jewellery lanes, staring at all the sparkly-pretty things. However it’s the ones further away from the seafront that I love. Cute homeware stores, vintage clothing, mulled wine in winter – it’s my idea of heaven.

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3. Relax on the Beach & Explore the Pier

Obviously I can’t do a post on Brighton and mention either the beach or the pier! I’ve spent many hours on Brighton beach – watching the sunset with W way back in 2012, sunbathing, catching up with my besties and eating far too many fish and chips! If you’re there for the day then I recommend pitching up early to get a good spot (it gets insanely busy in the summer – though walking towards Hove means it’s a lot quieter!). I’d also spend the pennies on some chairs, at only £2.50 for the day they are definitely worth it.

Then there’s the pier. I can never resist a round on the two-penny machines – and whilst the rides are over-priced they can be fun. There will be forever a soft-spot in my heart for my first loop-the-loop rollercoaster!

4. Play Mini-Golf

I do love a bit of mini-golf, and Brighton’s one was a goodie – and not just because I won! I’d recommend avoiding the one half way down the Volk’s Railway as we thought it was horrendously expensive for a game!

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5. Get the Train to the Marina

The Volk’s Railway, just to the east of the pier, is Britain’s oldest electronic railway. Originally built in 1883 it runs from near the pier to the marina – so is a great way to see more of the seafront. Note that it’s currently closed for restoration!

Fun fact: me and W took a picnic up to this end of the beach last year. We were halfway through before we realised we’d stumbled into the nudist area…

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6. Visit The Sealife Centre

Now again this is something that I question is worth the money – but only because I think the other centres are a little better – Brighton’s is a little small and cramped for my liking. That said we enjoyed a turtle feeding demonstration and, as we got in at 9am, it was a relatively quiet way to spend a few hours before the sun came out.

7. Walk Through the South Downs

I confess I’ve never actually done this – but this bit of countryside looks SO pretty from the train (and i360!) that I’ve always wanted to do it. There’s plenty of routes, plus the 100 miles of the South Downs Way to explore. There’s even foodie routes connecting pubs and afternoon-tea rooms! Perhaps that’s a goal to achieve in 2018…

8. Have a Night On the Town

Another one I confess I haven’t done, but Brighton is famous for it’s nights out. If you’re up for a quieter evening, try the alcoholic milkshakes at Burger & Cocktails, or All Bar One for strong cocktails and decent music.

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9. Explore the Museums

Whilst I much prefer to enjoy my time in Brighton outside, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some proper English weather. Whilst not really marketed well, Brighton does have some pretty good museums. I’ve visited and enjoyed both the Booth Museum of Natural History and the Toy & Model Museum. The Booth Museum is not for the faint-hearted (it’s basically full of taxidermy) but it’s free and I personally found it super-interesting.

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10. Eat – Lots!

The key to my heart, if you’ve not already guessed, is food. I’m definitely one of those people who live to eat! Luckily Brighton has a vast array of restaurants to keep all tummies (and budgets) happy. It’s home to some great chain-restaurants (Wahaca and Franco Manca I’m looking at you…) as well as some independents. We’ve loved Wai Kika Moo Kau for vegetarian and vegan food, and there’s enough cake shops in the Lanes to try a new one each visit. We’ve enjoyed afternoon tea, fish’n’chips, and of course there’s Choccywoccydoodah. I’m also desperate to eat at The Salt Room too…

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Have you ever been to Brighton? Any hints and tips for my next visit?

Lifestyle: Heatwave in Numbers

I can’t be the only one that’s ever-so slightly glad London has cooled down now! The heatwave of mid-June was, was frankly, a little bit too much for me. And that’s coming from someone with an air-conditioned flat, who gets the District Line to work (also air-conditioned) and an air-conditioned office. Even my 10-minute walk to/from the station was a little bit too much – and a midday walk to the highstreet left me feeling physically ill. In hindsight, going out already thirsty wasn’t the best plan, but what’s a girl gonna do when she realises she’s all out of moisturiser?!

 photo Battersea Park 1_zpsgnpzsvwe.jpg photo Leeds Castle 10_zpshikrmzbv.jpg photo Leeds Castle 7_zpsd5btlglp.jpgInspired by Rhyme & Ribbons ABC of Summer I’ve penned this little post. I want to try and be a little less scripted/organised when it comes to blogging, a bit more spur-of-the-moment (I kinda need to do that in general, but hey-ho).

15+ flat viewings. Not pleasant in the heat.

3 naps. It’s the only thing I have energy for when it’s hot.

1 dumped duvet. It lived on our sofa for nearly a fortnight as it was too hot to even sleep on top of it.

4 loads of extra washing. Cos apparently we have a limited number of summer clothes.

2 snapped scrunchies. I like to pineapple my hair overnight when it’s hot, but I have a LOT of hair.

8 early alarms. I refuse to get even the relatively cool District line in rush-hour, so was leaving at least half an hour early each morning.

 photo Leeds Castle 9_zps1hxwcprr.jpg photo Cronut_zpsaa7nzudk.png1 evening picnic in the park. Very middle class with falafel, quinoa salad and fresh strawberries (+ cream and homemade meringues).

5 lunchtime picnics. Various parks.

184 (approx!) moans of “It’s too hot.”

2 arguments with dogs owners. Do NOT leave your dog in a car, and do not talk it for a walk along the pavement in 33 degree heat. The poor thing was hopping as it’s feet were so hot! Grrrrr.

4 nights when I refused to put the oven on (1 where I refused to eat anything hot). Our Cusinart grill machine was a life-saver!

25 seconds in the flat each evening before I turned the air-con on.

 photo Battersea Park 2_zpsdwrkex5x.jpg3 Mars Bar ice-creams. 1 Mr Whippy 99. 1 tub of sorbet. 1 bowl of semi-frozen lime jelly. Basically ALL the frozen things.

And now I have a craving for a Mars Bar ice-cream…! How did you find the mini-heatwave? Are you enjoying the slightly cooler weather or praying for it to get blisteringly hot again?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #21

I have a feeling these next few months are going to be busy! I’m trying to catch up with the study I should have started a while back, we’ve got a little holiday planned – and now we’re moving. Around 8 hours after arriving back from our holiday. With no free weekends in which to pack. Impeccable timing!

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  1. 460 days to go until the wedding! I know it’s still ages away but the days seem to be flying by now.
  2. A new flat. We’ve found a lovely one, had an offer accepted, now we’ve just got to get through all of the referencing bits and bobs. They don’t make it easy, do they?
  3. Brunch at The Dynamo. I had the same as last time (with an extra slice of toast) and it was just as yummy as I remembered!
  4. Go Ape at Leed’s Castle. A beautiful location, a demanding high-ropes course (physically and mentally – with no upper body strength and a fear of heights/wobbling I found it tough) and my best girlies. I’m so proud I got all the way round with only a bit of sitting back in my harness and pulling myself along!
  5. A night in. W stayed at a friends so I watched girly films, had a bit of a pamper evening and…cleaning the kitchen. I know how to have a good time!
  6. Some good books. The Murderer’s Son was a highlight last weekend.
  7. Spending some time with my future in-laws. It was good to catch up and hear about their recent trip!
  8. Passing my first professional exam. It was a weird one – I had to take part in an online forum for two weeks, do a bit long workbook, and then finally a multiple-choice test a month later. It’s all done and dusted now and my name should be on the pass-list when it goes live later today. I also find out about the biggggg one I took in April next week so I’ve got my fingers crossed!
  9. An ice-cream shop has opened in Putney. I plan to make the most of it!
  10. My office summer party, in the grounds of the Tower of London. Such a gorgeous backdrop!

That’s it for now – hopefully next time I’ll be able to talk about a signed and sealed flat, packing, study and other dull things!

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: The Art of Sleeping Well

Sleep is something which, in phases, evades me. Most of the time I’m a pretty good sleeper. I can drift off within half an hour of so, and generally stay asleep most of the night. I’m a tad grumpy if I don’t get 7-8 hours a night, so it’s best for all those around me! That said, the stress of the last few months have meant my sleep has been disrupted.

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I’ll still fall asleep easily, but then I’ll be up and awake a few hours later. Still exhausted, but too many thoughts rushing around my mind to drop back off again. And that will be it, until around an hour before my alarm is due. I’ll listen to the planes starting to land at Heathrow again and know that I’ll feel dreadful in the morning. This will go on for a few weeks, myself getting more and more grumpy and irritable, then it will suddenly stop. I’ll go back to sleeping through. Peace will be restored.

I like to claim that my general good sleep can be credited to a decent bedtime routine. That said, with my recent stint of dreadful nights spent tossing and turning, I’ve switched things up a bit. Thankfully I’m back to *just about* sleeping properly, though the hot and muggy nights aren’t helping!

A Good Bed

Oh, this is key! I very rarely have a good nights sleep in a non-comfy bed – and as I’m quite particular that’s a bit of an issue. I like quite a firm mattress, nothing soft at all. I hate too thick-duvets. I’m one of those people who likes to have a summer weight duvet (say around 4.5tog) then a slightly thicker one for winter. And it can’t be higher than my neck.

I’ve been lucky so far in that all my university rooms and rental places have had fairly decent mattresses. In fact, the one in our current flat is almost too firm for me. I’m not entirely lying when I say the floor might be softer… We recently received an Eve Mattress Topper* and it’s shared the bed entirely. The mattress is still firm, but there’s now a supportive layer to sink into. It’s made getting up in the morning VERY difficult! I’m so, so gutted that we’re moving to a flat with a different sized bed now…
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Wind-Down Time

There’s no point me typing up a blog post, or watching an exciting TV drama (how gripping was Three Girls?!) and then trying to get straight off to the land of nod. It just won’t work. My brain will be too fired up and I’ll be up for hours with my mind racing. Better is to spend half an hour really getting ready for bed. I’ll light a candle, put on my fairy lights (I have a cheap-y Primark set wrapped around the ladder shelves that W built for me) and read a book.

Having said that, I’ve recently had to change the style of books I’m reading – turns out gripping psychological-thrillers aren’t conducive to a good night’s sleep!

Washing Before Bed

Linked in with wind-down time, I like to wash before bed. I actually shower in the evening, when I get home from work – I find this works best as I don’t have to rush, my hair is fully dry before sleeping, and (more selfishly) there’s a full tank of hot water! However I do like to redo my face before bed, washing with water (I’ll take my makeup off earlier) and moisturising. Obviously if it’s been a particularly warm evening I’ll also wash other more personal areas too!

My bed is so cosy this morning. If I am late for work I am blaming @sleepypeopleuk!

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Sleep Inducing Smells

Obviously lavender is high on the list for most people, but for me this breaks me out into insanely angry acne – it’s the worst thing for my skin! Instead one of my ‘sleepy’ smells is the Bodyshop’s Argan range. I find it so soothing and calming! I keep the Solid Oil by my bedside and apply a little to my wrists if I’m feeling particularly stressed. It’s also great rubbed into my nails and the ends of my hair!

Another one is malty, milky drinks. A favourite is warm milk with honey but, as I don’t have a microwave (and heating milk in a pan is a faff) I do like a mug of Horlicks made with boiling water and topped with plenty of milk. Of course, I’d prefer a hot chocolate but I’ve got to make some kind of an attempt at gaining a summer bod right…?

Cutting Out Sugar & Caffeine

This is something I really need to do – I’ve managed to cut down my cuppa addiction over the last few years, but since January my sugar habit has gone through the roof. I’ve used some difficult personal times as an excuse but now I’m craving sugar constantly and I’m pretty sure it’s affecting my sleep. I’ll keep you posted on how cutting down helps!

What do you do to make sure you get a good night’s sleep?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #20

Eurrrghhhh, anyone else struggling with the heat in London right now?! I’m not a huge lover of hot weather at all and having to spend Saturday flat-hunting (our landlord has decided to sell up) meant it was pretty much unbearable. It’s been too hot to even consider properly cooking – I am missing a Sunday roast but this gal definitely isn’t having an oven on for close to two hours! Enough of the moaning, here’s my recent favourites…

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  1. Meeting with our potential wedding florist. I LOVE her work so fingers crossed the quote works out and we can get booked!
  2. A gorgeous dinner at Rocksalt in Market Harborough. My spiced haddock Scotch egg was absolute perfection.
  3. Mocha over ice…an ice-cold Pimms. Anything ice-cold basically.
  4. Excellent feedback on my first business report and presentation at work. It was a tough project but was made all worthwhile.
  5. Exploring areas of Putney we didn’t know existed. It’s shameful how little we’ve seen of the area!
  6. Waitrose Chocolate Ice-Cream with Blood Orange Sorbet. It’s like a frozen jaffa cake and sooooo good.
  7. A much-needed haircut. It swishes so much better now!
  8. Short denim dungarees. I only bought them last weekend and I’ve worn them most evenings/weekend days since. My favourite new bit of clothing in what feels like forever!
  9. Ticking off another Michelin Star off my list. We went on a work meal to La Chapelle in Spitalfields. My crab lasagna starter was so insanely yummy.
  10. Mars Bar ice-creams bars. Nuff said.

Fingers crossed next Happy Post will mention a shiny new flat! What’s made you smile recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #19

Another fortnight, and another one where I’ve found it really difficult to write this post. Last week we buried my Granddad and it was a very difficult day. I then came down with a virus-type illness (sore throat, cough, earache, bunged nose – the lot), and to top if off felt nauseous and anxious for a good week. All the more reason to concentrate on the little happy things I guess!

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  1. A 7 hour round-trip drive in a pretty car. I had to go on a site visit for work, and the brand new Jaguar F-type made the 6.30am start a bit more bearable!
  2. Costa’s Peach Iced Tea. One of my guilty pleasures.
  3. My dad’s Caramel Swirl Brownies. He’s a great baker (check out his Malteser Blondies here) and these were great.
  4. Pink Prosecco on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. Bliss.
  5. Dying my hair a new colour. At first I thought it was a tad dark but I’m loving it.
  6. May’s Cronut – Blush Peach and Elderflower. The best of 2017 so far, just a shame that the outside area of Dominique Ansel clearly had a drain issue when we visited. The smell that followed each toilet-flush was NOT good….
  7. Pulling out light and floaty summer dresses for work. Generally I wear shift dresses (see here for my normal work wardrobe, minus my new favourite bits) but it’s just been too damn hot!
  8. Picnic in the park. Instead of cooking dinner I made a quinoa salad (recipe up soon!), whipped up some hummus and threw everything in a coolbag. It was bliss to sit outside and not have to worry about overheating our flat by using the oven.
  9. Flicking through recipe books. I’m trying to mix up our weekly meal-plan – let me know your go-to quick dinners please?!
  10. Doggy snuggles AND puppy cuddles. I went to my parents for the Bank Holiday weekend and caught up with my pooch – and snuck round to the neighbours to meet their 3-month old Westie. Nothing like squeezing a dog to make your troubles go away!
  11. The Good Widow. One of the best books I’ve read in a while!
  12. A long walk about the Thames Path. On Saturday we wandered towards London, only planning just a short walk as I am (still!) feeling rubbish. Nearly 4 miles later we caught a bus home! It was such lovely weather, I watched helicopters taking off/landing (I’m a bit of an aircraft nerd!), we ate a picnic in Battersea Park and pointed out our dream apartments and houseboats.
  13. Baking Cinnamon Rolls. In need of some cheering up yesterday (who didn’t?!) we spent the day lazy about, tissues in hand (I’ve kindly shared said illness) and baking some yummy things. Cinnamon Rolls are my ultimate comfort bake and these didn’t disappoint. I’ll have the recipe up in a couple of weeks.
  14. Homemade Chicken Satay. We both fancied my Asian Radish Salad (see here) for a light dinner, but felt like something different too. I whipped up an amazing satay sauce which we used to marinade chicken turkey (actually, as that’s all we had) before grilling. Yum yum!

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: A Few Days In York

This little break feels so long ago now. A few days away at the beginning of April, designed to make sure I was relaxed and well-rested ahead of my exam period. We wanted somewhere were we could eat lots and explore – and with cobbled lanes, plenty of museums, interesting little shops, cafes and cosy pubs York fitted the bill perfectly.

 photo A Few Days in York 26_zpszho4rki2.jpg photo A Few Days in York 5_zps4z8i7h5s.jpg photo A Few Days in York 6_zpsikgjsikj.jpgThe train up from London takes around 2 hours, and booking far enough in advance meant it was cheap. Rooms in a Travelodge were also a bargain (top tip: saying you’re travelling for business generally gets you a room on a ‘quiet’ floor which is great for a good nights sleep). This meant we were free to splurge on good food and wine for our trip – after all we were on holiday!

 photo A Few Days in York 1_zpso0fn5at9.jpg photo A Few Days in York 2_zpszqgxnip1.jpg photo A Few Days in York 3_zpsnyh8pzkq.jpg photo A Few Days in York 4_zpsb9mxwx4f.jpgWe kicked off with a meal at York’s up and coming best restaurant, Skosh. They’ve received rave critic reviews despite only opening in 2016 and I can see why. Everything we ate was absolutely delicious, the service fantastic – and we ate at the chef’s table so we could see all the cooking going on. We only managed to get a lunchtime slot as it’s pretty difficult to get a table, but if you can squeeze in it’s well worth it.

The evening we whiled away in Pairings; I would love something like this near me in London. Each order a flight of drink (red wine for me, port for him) and customised our own meat and cheeseboard. Several hours of chatting and giggling later, we both concluded it was the perfect way to spend the first night of our break.

 photo A Few Days in York 18_zpsahcpyiec.jpg photo A Few Days in York 16_zps1iw5r5rq.jpg photo A Few Days in York 15_zpswzu3qhxt.jpg photo A Few Days in York 14_zpsdtxjxfpp.jpg photo A Few Days in York 13_zpsryiettmn.jpg photo A Few Days in York 12_zpstqafbsau.jpg photo A Few Days in York 11_zpsc58rkmam.jpg photo A Few Days in York 10_zpsseskg0zp.jpg photo A Few Days in York 9_zpsojjnfly7.jpg photo 2017-04-03 13.05.05_zpsjkkv0uhg.jpg photo 2017-04-03 11.51.57_zpszcsxhckj.jpg photo A Few Days in York 7_zps6zatirui.jpgAfter a quick brunch in Pig & Pastry, we spent our first morning in the Railway Museum. Far more exciting than it sounds, we could have probably spent longer than the morning in there. However seeing as the sun came out and treated us to a very warm afternoon, lazing about in the Park felt like an amazing use of our time. I also picked up a gorgeous bath-bomb from The Yorkshire Soap Company – I had to make advantage of having access to a bath, even in a Travelodge!

 photo A Few Days in York 28_zpsc62bdu8l.jpg photo A Few Days in York 27_zpsig40e78g.jpg photo A Few Days in York 25_zpsknyl3fxx.jpg photo A Few Days in York 24_zps5cvviu3h.jpg photo A Few Days in York 23_zpsfztpnfai.jpg photo A Few Days in York 21_zps96tnngjt.jpg photo A Few Days in York 20_zps0tuww6ba.jpg photo A Few Days in York 19_zpsf8cga7e4.jpg photo A Few Days in York 31_zpsnxuxylsc.jpg photo A Few Days in York 30_zpsl2sw4odl.jpg photo A Few Days in York 29_zpsiwlfdrue.jpg photo A Few Days in York 33_zpscl5eeann.jpg photo A Few Days in York 35_zpszxxrek8m.jpg photo A Few Days in York 34_zps4asfi3jh.jpgOur final day started in Brew & Brownie, before a walk around the City Walls and a mid-morning nap (the breakfasts were huge). The rest of the day was spent wandering the shops, exploring the Shambles and generally enjoying ourselves. Obviously we hadn’t quite eaten enough food, because we grabbed lunch at Betty’s. We avoided the cliche of afternoon tea but enjoyed their Swiss food. I loved my carb heavy Alpine Macaroni, filled with bacon, potatoes and pasta, whilst W’s Rösti was pretty much perfect.

There was a lot we didn’t manage to do in York. We just missed the reopening of the Viking Centre by a matter of days, and we didn’t manage to go and visit the Minster. We did manage (inadvertently I might add!) to have a little kiss under Heart of Yorkshire stained-glass window – legend says if you do you’ll stay together forever, though he’s stuck with me regardless. I’d have also liked to see a couple of museums, and we both want to explore the Yorkshire Moors – guess we’ll just have to head back up there soon!

Have you ever been to York?

Blogging: Turning Rubbish Photos into Insta-Worthy Snaps (Editing Tips & Tools)

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for months. I’ve become known for having a knack of taking terrible, terrible photos and turning them into Instagram-worthy shots.

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A flower stall snapped from the top desk of a moving bus? A bit of cropping and editing and it fits into my feed quite nicely! A picture of a house at a really dodgy angle? A few taps on VSCO and we have #housegoals. Unappetizing food? Upping the contrast and playing around with the saturation generally gets as close to food porn as my evening meals are gonna get. I can quickly take a snap and be pretty confident I’ll have something to post. I also wanted to buck the trend and write a post about Instagram that doesn’t involve moaning about their ridiculous algorithm… so here’s how I take and edit my snaps and plan out my grid…

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Getting the Angles Right (VSCO)

If you follow me over on Instagram, you’ll know I love pictures of pretty houses and architecture in general (along with food!) – but the key thing with these photos is to get the angles right. I hated most of the photos I took until Katy posted about this little trick (her post gives a step-by-step guide so check it out!). It was a serious game-changer!

The Vertical Tilt feature alters the perspective of the shot. Photos of houses can often have (frankly) dodgy angles because you’re generally not tall enough to take a centered photo – this tool fixes that issue. In a nutshell, you can tilt the top of the building towards you. It pleases my love of straight lines and can fix even the wonkiest of photos. With the exception of the York Shambles. That street was a straight-line-lovers nightmare…

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Cropping & Editing (Instagram)

I generally do all my editing in the Instagram app itself. The main reason is that I’m lazy. The other is I actually find it works quite well with my style of photos and it’s easy to keep things consistent. Too many steps means I’d probably forget something and it just wouldn’t look quite right.

The first thing I do is get it all nicely cropped. The one thing that annoys me about my phone is that I can’t force it to take square photos – and so I quite often end up having photos that simply don’t work in Instagram. Sure, I know you *can* use non-square photos but I’m not a huge fan.

Cropping can also be a lifesaver when you’ve got an ugly element on the photo. The snap above, for instance, was a shopfront near Portobello Market. As I took the photo, a pretty ugly transit van drove by – so instead I cropped out the shop front and ‘grammed the flats above.

Then I go in with a filter. I tend to use Clarendon on all my photos, bar ones that are on a really white background. However I will only use it at a maximum of 30% strength – double tab on each filter in the app to alter how strong it is.

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The main editing is then done ‘manually.’ Usually I do some or all of the following:

  • Up the contrast
  • Up the structure (by a max of 20 points as otherwise it can develop noise)
  • Up highlights and shadows
  • I’ll then go and adjust the warmth and saturation if needed, sometimes the highlight/shadow edit can wash these out slightly
  • Finally I’ll sharpen, usually by around 50%

I try to avoid upping the brightness as I find this was distort the natural shadows in the picture and the finished shot will look slightly flat. Occasionally I’ll also add a bit of Vignette, particular on a flat lay. I find it adds a little more depth.

Then I take a screenshot and crop it to show just the photo. Saving this then gives me a bank of Instagram shots, editing and ready to go. I can import these into my grid-planning tool, upload them to my laptop to use in blog posts and work out how long I’ve got being I need to go and visit a new pretty cafe to stock up on more snaps.

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Planning (Planoly)

Now, I wouldn’t say I have a theme as such. A lot of accounts I follow have a very clearly defined ‘look’ to all their photos, and it’s something I wish I could achieve. Frankly for me, though, it’s not practical. The every-changing weather means sometimes my skies are blue, sometimes grey and moody. I flit between countryside and the city. I spend more time working and studying that I do in pretty cafes. I like to document my food. So what I try and do is keep photos generally quite consistent in terms of style and colours. I’ll bring in a new ‘key’ colour to tie things together – at time of writing I’ve got a lot of green on my feed, a few months ago there was a lot of pink.

I use the app Planoly to plan my feed – it’s probably not the best out there, but it does the job and works well on my phone. I’d love something that can work offline (this one tends to drain my data if I use it away from the flat), and there is a monthly upload limit but it’s working fine for now. Any other Android recommendations out there?

Yes, sure, I’d love to take the perfect photo first time, but I’m finding that this works well for me. My phone also doesn’t have the ability to take ‘square’ photographs, so knowing I’ve got to crop them and play about anyway means doing this doesn’t create any extra work – and it means I have more chance of having a bank of ‘grams ready to post.

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And Finally…Some Instagram Accounts I Love

This is so hard to write – there’s so many accounts I love and my preferences change depending on my food. Generally though my favourite accounts are – rhymeandribbons, farewellmayblog, flatlaybreakfast, fridayfaye, londonfoodboy, jetlagontheroadnatbeesfashion and poppyloveslondon. And obviously so, so many more. If I listed all the ones I loved we’d be here for days…

Are you a fan of Instagram? Send me your account link!

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #18

This post was difficult for me to write, very difficult. I’ve mentioned it briefly on social media, but 2017 is proving to be an extremely hard year for me. In the space of just over four months, I’ve lost both of my granddads. Both matriarchs of the family. Both loved, admired and respected both within our family and their community. The 9 days have been a struggle for me, and trying to see the good bits in my day-to-day life has proved a little difficult. But I wanted to try, to write this post to remind myself just how much I still have in my life to be grateful about.

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  1. Gardening. My company arranged a Global Day of Giving, with offices worldwide closed to allow us to go and volunteer in the community. I went to Alexandra Palace to do some gardening – an activity I love (oh, how I wish I had a garden!). Despite the rain it was a great day, and we were allowed on a tour of the old theatre whilst it’s being renovated.
  2. A good catch up with my parents. The night before I got The Phonecall I’d spent over an hour chatting with them. After a busy time at work with only a few short conversations it was what I needed.
  3. Visiting Columbia Road Flower Market for the first time. It was scarily busy but I bought some succulents and now feel like a proper blogger…
  4. Cheese Toasties at Maltby Street Food Market. The Cheese Truck is now a permanent fixture in my foodie highlights – my fav was the Goat’s Cheese, W loved the Queso & Chorizo. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve dreamed about them since!
  5. Picking up the perfect Gingham Dress from Marks & Spencer. It fits well, is really good quality and the perfect length for wearing with thick black tights and boots, or bare legs and sandals. And I had to get a Size 6. #winning
  6. Starting to firm up our wedding cake arrangements. Though given her *amazing* chocolate chip cookies I’m tempted to just have a cookie tower instead…
  7. An evening at the pub, even if I was mistaken for being in my thirties. Note to self: wear makeup after crying!
  8. Beginning to plan our trip to Switzerland. I spent a good few hours trying to work out the cheapest train tickets
  9. Enjoying National Vegetarian Week. Other than some meat stock used in one of my freezer meals, I didn’t eat meat for the entirety. We had some amazing meals – a chickpea curry with tandoori roasted cauliflower was a particular highlight. Whilst I love meat too much to be veggie full-time I’m definitely going to up from one meat-free dinner a week to at least two and cut it out at lunchtimes.
  10. Playing with my new Kenwood Stand-Mixer*. They make baking so much easier, and I’ve always been a little bit scared of breaking W’s Kitchen Aid! Is two stand-mixers in a tiny flat excessive…?
  11. The BBC drama Three Girls. Not exactly a happy thing as it was based on the child sex trafficking in Rochdale, but it was such a gripping three-part series. Raw, emotional and it really got me thinking. Definitely recommend having a watch on iPlayer.
  12. A raspberry and blueberry crumble with peanut butter topping. As good as it sounds.
  13. Will. He’s been my rock these past few weeks despite being insanely busy. I don’t know what I’d do without him!

What little things have made you happy recently?