Our first BBQ in the new house…

You may remember reading about our house move that took place a couple of months ago. One of the things that really stood out for us when viewing this house back in October was the garden. It has a sumptuous patio area that is a brilliant size and absolutely perfect for barbecues. From that moment on I was on countdown to Summer when we could invite our buddies over and bust out the barbecue. I’ve decided to try and have a barbecue once a month and think it’s a wonderful excuse to have a few people over for a catch up and to stuff our faces. With the warmer weather slowly creeping in (snow one week, heatwave the next?!), last Saturday was a great day for a barbecue. Although a little cooler than the weekend before, the sun was shining and the fire pit burning. Oh how I adore a barbecue!

The hubby and I made a trip to the supermarket to stock up on supplies the night before. We decided to make rocky road and frozen yoghurt as sweet treats for our guests. The rocky roads were so tasty I could have happily hidden them away for myself. Damn you conscience!

When people arrived they brought a wonderful array of goodies from burgers, lemonade, halloumi, right down to this marvellous cheesecake made by our friend Sarah. It was lovely that everybody brought something and meant that we had a gorgeous variety of food on offer.

It was so nice to be out in the garden enjoying the sunshine. Holly loved having lots of people to fuss over her and the new addition to our garden – the Egg Chair – got some use too.

We hung out, caught up and played Heads Up which is an app version of charades and terribly fun. It records the people acting out the cards and is such a giggle. I would highly recommend it. The girls team won – hurrah!

There was ten of us in total and all eight of our guests were part of our wedding party. It’s not very often that we all manage to get together, but it’s so lovely when we do because everybody gets on brilliantly.

We were chatting away in the garden when we realised that Eurovision was on later that evening, which resulted in us deciding to have an impromptu Eurovision party. I have never been massively into Eurovision and have only rarely watched the whole show. A few people popped out to top up our alcoholic stash and then we all put in some change and drew countries out of a hat. I picked The Netherlands and Ukraine and was convinced I wasn’t going to be winning any monies. Flash forward a couple of hours and I had morphed into Eurovisions biggest fan, shouting at the telly and critiquing away. I was convinced that Australia had won (which they had), right up until the last second. I was super pleased when Ukraine won. Hello seven quid!

I had a great time hosting our first barbecue here and can’t wait until our next one in June. 

Have you had your first barbecue of 2016 yet?

L x

A cruise around London Town…

Aaah, London. One of the most beautiful cities in the world, and thankfully the one I call home. Underneath its often grubby exterior, London is such a gem. There’s always something new and exciting going on and I have so, so many fond memories that were created here. That’s why I was extra excited when PGtips invited me along to their Green Tea boat party on the Thames. I literally couldn’t wait to go. 

Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not your stereotypical British tea lover, but I am a big lover of the iconic PGtips Monkey. My Mum is besotted with PGtips and I loved collecting everything they were dishing out when I was a child from hologram fridge magnets down to cuddly chimps, we’ve always embraced the brand. Fortunately I was allowed to take a plus one on our boat trip, so took along Mumsy to try out the various flavours of green tea, mocktails and tasty nibbles.

We had a little walk around town before finding the pier and boarding the boat, ready for our little adventure.

The boat was really nice, and I loved spotting Monkey hanging around.

We found a little table with comfy chairs ready for our trip along the Thames before spotting the nibbles that had been laid out for guests. Ever a fan of food, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and had a delicious plate of chicken satay, sandwiches and fruit. 

Soon enough some of the lovely folk at PGtips brought over some strawberry green tea and iced tea mocktails. The strawberry tea was super lush, even I (who is quite fussy), enjoyed it. I love that PGtips have created some gorgeous flavours for their green tea. Life is about variety and it’s great that they have expanded the brand. 

I would say that the colour palette of the trip was green, and rightly so as PGtips have carried out a new research report which has found that green colours in the home and workspace help boost productivity and positivity. I think that green is quite a zen colour and reminds me of warm summer days out in the sunshine. I’m always most productive on sunny days, so I imagine that this report is quite accurate.

After having a nibble and refreshing our palettes with some green tea, we stepped out and enjoyed views along the river Thames. When you are familiar with London, it’s often easy to forget about the sumptuous architecture and gorgeous skyline. The trip reminded me of the amazing sights that we have in London and it was nice to take a few moments to take it all in.

The cruise soon got extra exciting as we were presented with a six metre high monkey that had been made out of 110,000 leaves! It was a wonderful surprise and everybody on the boat got snap happy (including my Mum who has recently upgraded to a smart phone!).

It was great to see Monkey bobbing around with the London Eye in the background, the sunshine just breaking through and glistening upon the Thames.

Sadly all good things come to an end eventually and our cruise was no exception. We had a lovely time and will reminisce about our trip every time we have a cuppa!

L x

Exploring Hughenden Manor…

A sunny day in England is rather divine. Colourful, sumptuous and resembling the constitutions of heaven, when the sun shines over Britain, it’s impossible to be dreary. I love the positivity and motivitaton that oozes from a perfect sunny day. I love being outdoors and am in my element on a beautiful day. We became National Trust members before Christmas and I am super glad that we did as their sites make for a brilliant spontaneous day out. 

Last Sunday we chose to explore Hughenden Manor in High Wycombe. We all bundled into Phil’s Dad’s car and rode off in to the sunshine to explore this new to us National Trust site. Situated amongst rolling hills, the scenery devours you and it’s impossible to ignore such natural beauty.

We drove up the steep car park and began our trip downhill, already dreading climbing the hill back up again. The staff are super friendly and wonderfully knowledgable. We stumbled upon a tour of Hughenden Manor and learnt so much. It was brilliant. Considering we knew nothing about the place beforehand (I wasn’t even sure there was a house!), we came away feeling rather familiar with the place.

The manor is grand and voluptuous, and I loved imagining what it would be like to live there. Where would I put the couch? Would I move the library? 

Once we had finished having a jolly good nosey, we found a cafe and decided it was cake o’clock. 

The cakes were gorgeous and I had serious food envy after trying Steve’s apple and berry flapjack. It tasted how I imagine winning the lottery feels. 

We then had a stroll around the beautiful gardens and visited the bee hives.

Seeing the bee hives was great. It’s so good that Hughenden are supporting the tiny little creatures that help the world go round. It’s so sad to hear of how much the bees are struggling and hopefully these hives at Hughenden will help the little guys out.

There’s also a lovely walled garden which is home to some gorgeous crops. It’s a pretty little place to walk around and a great place to pick up a couple of plants. I chose a Holly Hock and Geranium. Our back garden is quite bare and I can’t wait for the little bursts of colour to brighten it up.

Soon it was time for us to make our way home, but not before a quick climb and some cow spotting.

Have you visited any National Trust sites?

L x

8 steps to choosing the perfect hotel whilst saving money…

It’s no secret that I love to travel. Exploring new lands is my absolute favourite thing to do and I’m constantly on countdown until our next adventure (right now it’s Munich next month). I adore planning all of the details from who we will travel with, what we will do and where we will stay. I feel like my alter ego is a travel agent and genuinely enjoy scrutinising reviews of places online and finding exciting places to visit. 

One of the most crucial parts of planning a trip is finding the perfect place to stay. There are a few steps that I follow when finding the ideal place to call home for the duration of our trip.

So you’ve decided where to head off on your next adventure… What next?

  1. Decide what you are going to do on your trip. We recently went to Florida with the intention of ‘doing Disney’ as well as Universal. I found a great hotel ten minutes’ walk from Universal. I’ve had some experience with theme park travel and have drawn the conclusion that if it is possible to stay within walking distance to the park, then do. It’ll save you loads on parking and general travel, plus your feet will thank you at the end of a long day. So lock down your ideal location for your chosen activities.
  2. Decide what it is exactly that you want from your accommodation. If I am hiring a car, then free parking is essential. I always look for free wifi too and an in room safe.
  3. Prioritise these in order of preference. There is a chance that you might not find somewhere that ticks all of the boxes!
  4. Set your budget. Know how much it is exactly that you would like to pay for your accommodation. Some people prefer to spend a minimal amount on accommodation so that there is more money to spend on days out. Personally, I base my decision on how much time I will be spending at the hotel.
  5. Start your search! I try to be a bit savvy and search a variety of sites online. Hotels.com offer a free nights’ stay after every ten nights booked with them, but they aren’t always the cheapest to book with. Lastminute have a great variety and you can often team their hotels up with flights. Plus they have ‘secret’ hotel stays if you are feeling risky. For the undecided, Booking.com have free cancellations on so many of their hotels, so you can change your mind easily. They also offer book now, pay later. Agoda often has great prices on popular hotels, so they are definitely worth checking. Expedia have an extensive range of accommodation, but aren’t always the cheapest. Airbnb is a little gem that I started using last year. Some of the places are incredible and they are often very reasonably priced too.
  6. Once you have found your hotel, see if you can get cash back. Many places offer cash back through sites such as Quidco. I once received over forty pound back on a booking through Lastminute, so it’s definitely worth checking.
  7. Stalk your chosen hotel for reviews. Before booking, check your decision. Trip Advisor offer a wealth of information for travellers and their reviews are genuine. I also look at traveller photos to see what the place is really like. Unedited images don’t lie!
  8. Book! Once your decision is final, get clicking and booking to secure your place. Then sit back and dream of your next adventure!

How do you decide where to stay? Have you picked up any hints or tricks?
L x

Seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland…

‘Are you going to see the Northern Lights?’ Is the question we were asked countless times when we said we were going to Iceland. The answer was always the same ‘hopefully’. 

In all honesty, I wasn’t fully aware of how it really is a game of luck when going on a Northern Lights hunt until we were going on a Northern Lights hunt. Whilst they are always present, they aren’t always visible and there are so many conditions that can affect whether or not you will see them. Ideally you want a clear night and need to be away from the city in order to avoid too much light pollution. The Northern Lights are beautiful, mysterious forces of nature and are completely uncontrollable. You can hazard a guess at where you might see them, but even if you’ve seen them there before, it’s not guaranteed. 

We booked our excursion through Reykjavik Excursions, who were absolutely brilliant. They were always on time and had free wifi on their transport too – hurrah! The staff were always very informative and their Northern Lights tour was great value. The best part being that if you don’t see the Northern Lights, you can come again another night free of charge. There was a lady on our tour who had tried four nights running. 

We made our way to the meeting point and I had looked at the weather as well as  the chances of seeing the lights. It looked okay and I crossed my fingers. I had booked it for the second night of our trip in the hope that if we were unlucky at first, we could try again every night until we found ourselves thrown back to England. Soon enough we were on a bus out of Reykjavik and into the uninhabited depths of Icelandic countryside. Pretty much as soon as we started out snow began to fall and I resided myself to the fact that cloud cover meant poor visibility for the Northern Lights. Ever the optimist, I crossed every part of my body and hoped that we would see them. Partly because I wanted to experience the gorgeous display, and partly because it was blimmin’ freezing and I didn’t want to drag myself out in sub zero temperatures every night of our trip (I know, what a bore!). 

We were driving along a dark road when suddenly the bus took a right turn and we found ourselves on the edge of a mountain and were told that they would be visible from this point. I was so completely excited. We jumped off of the bus and started gazing into the night sky. The snow had stopped and the night was clearer. I absorbed the navy sky and luckily enough observed a vibrant green stripe dancing. It was so magical, a natural light display. Soon enough another one appeared and another until I had seen too many to count. At times they would disappear for a few moments and we would think it was over, only for them to reappear in a spectacle of wonder and colour. I loved how they moved. They moved like they were dancing to the tune of the universe and carefree. Although it was absolutely positively freezing, for about twenty minutes none of that mattered. Just the beauty of the night. Here are a couple of shots from my phone…

When I realised that I could no longer feel my entire body, we hopped back onto the coach and back to Reykjavik, taking away our new memories. I feel so, so lucky that we saw them on our first night and would highly recommend it if you get the chance.

Have you been to Iceland? Have you seen the Northern Lights?

L x

Book review: Us by David Nicholls

‘Us’, tells the story of Doug, his wife Connie and son Albie. Doug is a middle aged British man who finds himself in a situation when his wife Connie announces that she will be divorcing him after their family travelling holiday around Europe which they are having as Albie will be off to university after the summer.

I had such a funny relationship with this book. At times I couldn’t wait to delve further, discover more about this family and their life. At other times I felt like I could only read a couple of pages before my attention was averted. It took me a whopping two and a half months to read, and landed up coming to both Iceland and Florida as well as in my handbag when we moved house. Honestly, I was so glad last week when I finally managed to finish it and could start something new. I think it was partly because being a girl in her mid twenties, recently married and not pursuing a career in science, I didn’t really have much to relate to with the lead character, Doug. I also found that Connie was a bit annoying at times and didn’t relate to her either. I think that this is the main reason that I struggled with it. It is quite well written though and certainly wasn’t torturous enough to give up on. There are some truly humorous parts as well as some heart warming snippets and I really found myself routing for Connie and Doug to make it work.

Read it if:

  • You like a love story 
  • Enjoy a smidge of humour 
  • You like to be taken on a journey 

Best bits:

  • The way in which the story is told. It flips back and you slowly learn about Connie and Doug’s relationship and their past
  • The comedic value
  • Their journey through Europe

Worst bits:

  • I found Doug unrelatable
  • Connie is annoying 

Whilst I did enjoy ‘Us’ overall, I won’t be re reading it anytime soon. 

Have you read ‘Us’? What did you think? Have you read anything exciting recently?

L x

A birthday celebration at the Bluebird in Chelsea… 

I absolutely adore Chelsea and it’s one of my favourite places in the world. With its shops and gorgeous restaurants, it really is a gem. There is so much character bursting from the streets and it just feels rather lovely. London can be gritty, grubby, harsh and fast paced, but Chelsea is never any of those. Always calmer, cleaner and brighter. It’s also home to one of my favourite restaurants in the world – The Ivy Chelsea Garden. I am so in love with that cute little restaurant nestled right into the heart of London with its voluptuous garden. It is simply beautiful. Oh and the food is good too!

On this occasion, we were in Chelsea to celebrate my wonderful friend Kimberley’s thirtieth birthday and recent engagement (but it was mostly all about the birthday girl). Kimberley had opted for the Bluebird to play host to her celebrations and it was such a nice place to celebrate in. With its clean, crisp and modern interior down to its tasty menu with unique choices and delicious cocktails, the Bluebird was rather great.

We started our evening having drinks in the bar which is situated in the middle of the restaurant and littered with stunning flowers. Apparently a guy from Made in Chelsea was in our presence, but as I don’t watch the show, it went completely over my head!

After we had relaxed in the bar, we went to the mezzanine room for our private dining experience which was totally lush. The room was spacious and well presented. There is a glass wall which overlooks the restaurant. I think that this was a nice touch as it brought the sumptuous Bluebird atmosphere into our room whilst still offering upmost privacy. 

We had a three course set menu and for starters I opted for pate. A bit of a staple choice for me as I love a bit of pate and toast! Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations and I soon traded my starter with my hubby’s watermelon and beansprout choice. Although it sounds a bit wild, it was deceptively tasty and I much preferred it to the pate.For my main course I chose lamb with Cous Cous. It was absolutely delicious and I am quite convinced that I could eat it every day of my life and remain quite contented. It made much more of a positive impact than the pate!

Dessert for me was ‘Burnt Cambridge’ aka Creme Brûlée and was rather tasty, although I found it a bit too sweet towards the end.

Soon enough the evening began to draw to a close and we sang Happy Birthday to my lovely friend. Kimberley had a pretty cake chosen by her fiancé Simon and the staff at Bluebird were really brilliant at packing it all up for us to take a slice home.

We then popped back down to the bar for more cocktails and catch ups before the night carried us away along King’s Road and to the tube station, where we were super lucky enough to just catch the last train home. Phew!

Have you visited the Bluebird? Where is your favourite place to eat in London?

L x

Cinema dating…


Aah the cinema, the ultimate place to view the latest blockbusters, overindulge on popcorn and generally just switch off for a couple of hours. I’ve always quite enjoyed going to the cinema. It’s great seeing a movie that’s trailer has caught your eye. 

Watching the storyline unfold on a gigantic screen with perfect sound is always enjoyable, but I don’t think that this is the reason I adore going so much. I think that it’s more of the whole experience. The choosing of the seats (I often find middle of row G is pretty good!), to the choosing of the snacks (sweet popcorn, Diet Coke and Pic ‘n’ Mix please), I just love it. I love switching off for a couple of hours and being immersed in something that isn’t super ordinary. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore my life, but it’s nice to just switch off and relax too. Have uninterrupted time (unless your cinema companion is a talker). 

We’ve recently moved home and now live within walking distance of a Cineworld, so the hubby and I have snapped up some Ultimate passes. They are bloomin’ brilliant. Going to the cinema is super expensive, by the time you have added on drinks etc, you’ve pretty much spent thirty quid each. With our passes we can go as often as we like for £16.90 per month. As long as we have gone a couple of times, we’ve made our money back. The passes also give us a discount at a few restaurants as well as drinks and snacks, so it’s a pretty good deal. There’s also an abundance of movies coming up that the hubby and I are keen on seeing, so it’s worked out quite well really.

It’s a great excuse to make quality time to spend with one another as sometimes it can be so easy to spend time together without really spending time together. If that makes sense? We are both quite busy and I barely see him in the morning. We get in quite late from work and often cook dinner together, but mostly the evening has gone, so it’s nice that we set aside any free evenings for a cheeky cinema date. It sounds bonkers because obviously we don’t talk to each other during the film, but we have a nice chat on the way there and discuss the movie afterwards. I quite enjoy our little cinema dates.

Have you been to the cinema recently? 

L x

Preparing for a long haul flight…

I know so many people who find flying absolutely terrifying. In all honesty, when you think about it, it is a scary thought being catapulted thousands of feet into the air, your life in the hands of the aircrew. I, however, absolutely adore flying. Maybe it’s the fact that I associate it with heading to a new land for exploration or maybe it’s because I love lounging around watching movies, stuffing my face and reading. Who knows?! Either way I know that I’m pretty happy at 38,000 feet. I have a little routine where I always unpack my books, sweets, hand sanitizer and headphones into the pouch in front before taking off my shoes and snuggling down for the ride. I also like a sneaky peek at the duty free booklet, although I rarely find anything I fancy!

A few weeks ago a dear friend of mine started to prepare for her flight to Mauritius and mentioned that she had been thinking about what was needed when you’re in it for the long haul.

I was also on the verge of flying stateside at that time and it made me think about the little things I do when flying.

To be honest, what I take with me is very similar whether it’s a long haul or a short haul, my hand luggage contents are pretty much the same because for me it’s more about having my must haves to hand rather than longevity.

Here’s my on board checklist:

  • A good hand luggage bag. This may sound obvious, but one that’s a good size (I can’t travel light!) my hubby uses a backpack which is handy as it has lots of pockets
  • A smaller pouch to house ready to grab items such as your passport, booking confirmations and foreign currency
  • Books. I am an avid reader and love using the time on the plane to delve deeper into a book
  • A spare outfit. My hubby has mocked me about this for years but I always take a spare outfit in case we get delayed and land up shacked up in a hotel without our hold luggage. This happened to a family we met in Orlando and they spent 48 hours in the same clothes. Not cool. It was also handy when the hubby had a nosebleed during take off from Hawaii and was unable to leave his seat to go to the bathroom. See, practical. I was very smug about planning ahead!
  • Food. I’m such a glutinous pig that I can’t go long without food. If I do I simply morph into a gremlin and it’s not fun for anyone. Therefore as a preventative measure, I always have a chocolate stash.
  • Laptop/tablet. Just in case you aren’t fancying the in flight entertainment. 
  • Valuables. I never leave valuables in my suitcase, so transport them in my hand luggage. Call me irrational, but I’ve had my case broken into and I’m pretty sure if there was anything of any value inside, it would no longer be in my possession.
  • Hand sanitizer. I’m super funny about germs and let’s be honest, flying is a form of public transport where germs are floating around in abundance. I’m certainly not tucking into my chocolate stash without clean hands.
  • Make up bag. Just to freshen up upon arrival.
  • Eye mask. I try and sleep on most flights because I find it helps with jet lag, so I always pack an eye mask.

For me, I think my absolute essential would be my eye mask. I love pulling it over my eyes and shutting the world out. It can be tricky to sleep on a flight and I find the eye mask really helps. I think it’s a good idea to sleep if you can, especially if it’s long haul as it makes you feel a bit more human the other end!

Are you jetting off anywhere soon?

What are your travel essentials?

L x

    Visiting Universal in Orlando…

    It was in January of twenty-twelve when I first set foot in Universal Studios and fell in love with the place. If you can fall in love with a theme park that is…

    I had travelled to Florida before, but there is always so much to do in the sunshine state that we never got round to visiting. With gorgeous beaches, Disney World and a mountain of other theme parks, it’s almost impossible to squeeze everything in to one trip and poor Universal was previously overlooked. Not on this occasion though, with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter littering our screens and magazines, it was quite clear that we needed to go. Needless to say, we had a super fun time and it became transparent that this wouldn’t be the last time that I would hold a ticket to Universal Studios firmly in my grip.

    Flash forward to Summer of 2015, and my newly wedded self was found at Universal Studios in California during our honeymoon. It was a completely different experience, with the park set on two levels. It was much smaller than in Orlando, and we managed to see and do literally everything in one day. 

    This Easter break we decided to return to the sunshine state, Florida. We hadn’t been since 2012, and felt like it was time to go back. I hadn’t been to Disney World in Florida since I was a child, so we decided that we would hit up Disney and revisit Universal whilst we were stateside.

    We chose to stay at Rosen Inn, a hotel that was only a ten-fifteen minute walk from Universal Studios, a decision I was very pleased about. I love walking and it saved us $20 a day in parking too. Most hotels have shuttles to the theme parks, but you have to book and I’m a free spirit who doesn’t like to be tied down to bus timetables, so being able to walk was rather fabulous.

    We could also see quite a few rides from our hotel room, which was cool and it had everything you could need from a nice restaurant to a swimming pool. We enjoyed our time there.

    We were meeting up with friends further into our stay and had planned to go to Universal with them. On the first day of our Floridian adventure, we were due a beach day at Anna Maria Island. Unfortunately we were forecast thunderstorms for part of the day, so we decided to visit Universal instead. I mean it couldn’t be that bad in the rain, right?!

    When we arrived in our jet lagged early risers state, it was a bit grey, but sumptuously warm. The park wasn’t terribly busy and we managed to hop on a few rides before the thunderstorm landed. We bought ponchos and just rolled with it!

    It was great because the weather pretty much emptied the park and we hardly queued for rides at all – hurrah!

    It also only lasted for a couple of hours and soon enough the sunshine was back on top form, drying our rain soaked feet and my hair into it’s natural wavy glory.

    Top: Next ,Shorts: Topman

    Top: Project Social Tee ,Skirt: River Island
    We had such a fun day, just the two of us and we even managed to grab a Christmas decoration – something that has become a little tradition on our travels.

    We were quite surprised by just how much the park has changed since we last went. There is so much more to do now and the Harry Potter section has pretty much doubled in size, spread out across the two parks. They are also opening a new ride later this year – King Kong – and it looks pretty rad!

    We visited Universal another two times whilst in Orlando this time with our friends. We all had so much fun and the park really does make a great day out.

    Top: Topman, Shorts: River Island Playsuit: Topshop

    Playsuit: Topshop , Top: Jack Wills, Shorts: Next
    We were also super lucky as that first day was the only day we saw rain for the duration of our trip. 

    Following on from our three trips to Universal, I’ve picked up a few tips that I like to use.

    • Stay as close as you can to the park. The last thing that you want after walking around all day is a long journey back to bed. Likewise, before starting a long day, you don’t really want to have a long journey. Plus if you can save on parking, it’s always a bonus!
    • But your tickets in advance. There are so many deals to be had and it means that you don’t have to waste precious holiday time sorting out tickets. I swear by Attraction Tickets Direct.
    • Work out what things you absolutely must see/do and prioritise them. There’s a good chance that you might run out of time and you don’t want to feel like you’ve missed out.
    • Choose comfortable clothes/footwear for the day. I know that this may sound blindingly obvious, but short skirts and flip flops aren’t terribly practical for rides!
    • Try and stay as late as you can because the crowds filter away and queue times drop dramatically towards closing time.
    • Download the Universal app. It has ride wait times and a map, which is super handy. There is free wifi at Universal too – hurrah
    • Take advantage of the single rider lines if you don’t mind riding on your own!

    So there you have it, a snippet into our time at Universal!

    Have you visited any of the Universal parks?

    L x