Friday, 31 October 2014

FIVE FOR FRIDAY #1



I used to do a 'feature' (of sorts) every Friday, 10 things, so anything that I was excited about over that week. I loved it and the only reason I really stopped was because of travelling, and well, everything made me happy while I was travelling! So I figured I would revamp it, bring it (all) back (to you) - anybody else a little excited of S-Club 7 reforming?

My Friday Five is going to be a mix over the weeks - things I'm excited about, things I've loved that week, random things I've seen and enjoyed. I also would love it if you guys would tell me five things you've been enjoying this week or are excited about for the coming week(s)!

Being enthusiastic about the gym
I've been really enjoying being back in the gym and getting stuck into daily workouts and classes. I feel like I've got real focus with it again. The post-gym feeling is leaving me feeling good.

Simple breakfast-esque dinners
I have always been a big lover of breakfast but nothing beats a breakfast dish for dinner. This week I've been enjoying poached eggs, asparagus, spinach and grilled tomatoes. A little bit of smoked mackerel has made an appearance too, something I've loved since I was little!

Keeping hydrated
I've been making a conscious effort lately to try and drink even more green tea and water than I usually would. I've found that it really keeps my head feeling clear, makes my skin so much better and it's making me feel, overall, much better.

George Ezra
I have had his debut album on repeat all week. It hasn't failed to keep me in a great mood and it's made tedious tasks at work seem a little bit easier. If you haven't already listened to his new album, you really much - his voice is beautiful. I've also downloaded Nick Mulvey's album; I've always been a fan but felt like it was so long since I had given his music a proper listen.

Monochrome Outfits
Over the past few months my obsession with Instagram has grown more and more - the foodies, fashionistas and bloggers that can be found on their make not only for great discoveries but also have allowed me to try new recipes and find new blogs to read. My biggest love of late - Monochrome. It's not secret that I'm a big fan of all black errthang but I'm loving the monochrome trend that's spreading like wildfire across Instagram at the moment. I recently bought the most beautiful dogtooth trousers from, can you believe it, F&F at Tesco. So much of the F&F range is incredible this season and I have bought so much from there recently!

xo

Thursday, 30 October 2014

ATE AT: Duck & Waffle, Heron Tower

First things first...WOW! I have been dying to try Duck & Waffle for an incredibly long time. I had heard wonderful things about the food, the service and...THAT VIEW.



I insisted on this visit down to London that we needed to go to Duck & Waffle for breakfast. Unfortunately, deciding this four days before my arrival - we could only get a 7.30am booking (which I am most definitely not complaining about as I know people who have had to book weeks and weeks in advance before!) Thankfully for two very lazy breakfast-goers, the clocks had gone back so waking up at 6am to get ready, perk ourselves up and get across to Heron Tower didn't feel so bad (plus I was that excited - and you know what, it's okay to get this overexcited about food and/or a restaurant!)


We entered the building and after being asked for our reservation details, we told those fateful words 'go up to floor 40 please!'



In under a minute we were up there, entering the D&W doors.








We took our seats and spent a good 15 minutes staring out of the window before even thinking about the menu - I loved how still London looked. The hustle and bustle that can normally be seen wasn't there; it was a sleepy Sunday morning and the streets were virtually deserted. 



After ordering a pot of tea each - now it was down to business - food time.



Now, I can't lie, I'd already looked at the menu...more than once. I had already decided on the Colombian Eggs with a side of Bacon. And, naturally, a full English was ordered from the other side of the table.






The food arrived. We weren't disappointed. My eggs were perfect, seriously, perfectly cooked. You wouldn't believe how bloody difficult some people seem to find cooking eggs to perfection. D&W nailed it. The flavour combination was great, the bacon was great. I was laughed at because apparently the bacon, being organic, was more of a reason I would big it up (not wrong!)

We sat in there for a while, discussing the weekend, work, various other things. The atmosphere was perfect and it felt like we were in our own little bubble up there. I can assure anybody reading this - it may have been my first visit but it will certainly not be my last. Brunch is definitely on the cards before 2014 ends.






To make a reservation, head to their website.

xo

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

VISITED: Borough Market and The Poppies


I've just had a lovely trip down to London - I must say, that's one of the main perks of having relocated; such a short train journey smack bang into central London.

This weekend I won some tickets to a Yoga Exhibition, my friend and I were going to go along and see what was going on, however, one housewarming later, a 4am Uber and waking about midday with a splitting headache...well, downward facing dog was the last thing on my mind.



We decided to do two things I desperately wanted to do that weekend (other than a trip to Duck & Waffle, which I will tell you about in a separate post) - Borough Market and seeing the beautiful display of poppies at The Tower of London.





Thinking it would be sensible to hold out eating until we got to Borough Market...well, VERY silly idea. After having to stop off at Pret for an emergency Green Goddess juice (something I've become addicted to, despite the less than appealing sound of the ingredients list) to perk my energy levels up a little, we took a nice stroll down to Borough Market via Leadenhall Market. 



I needed meat; nothing cures a hangover, in my eyes, than something meaty - 'man food' if you will. We wolfed down our Pulled Pork sarnies, without taking a photograph and still feeling like we could eat several more pork-related things, plus a few brownies here and there.










After having a wander, seeing all the lovely things that were on offer - the decision was made that we would definitely return, less hungover, at a later date and make the occasion into a walk-around buffet. After all, food markets are possibly in my top ten of favourite things (no, really...they are!)

After a stroll part-way down the Thames, we got down to Tower Bridge - which was absolutely inundated with tourists on this particular occasion, meaning a 20 minute queue up the stairs to cross the bridge to get to The Tower of London. It made sense really - the poppy display is only there for a few more weeks.

If you don't know what I mean, this is what I'm talking about:






Created by Paul Cummins and Tim Piper, 888246 ceramic poppies are being displayed around the moat of The Tower of London to commemorate the lives of those lost during the First World War and to mark one hundred years since the first full day of British involvement within the war. The display is absolutely beautiful and, I think, such a fantastic idea. It's only around until November 11th and I really would recommend seeing it if you can get down to London.

We spent a while wandering round, taking in the appreciation of the crowds of people that were there before slowly making our way back to Liverpool Street.




We had planned for a drink around there but being jam-packed Monday to Friday, weekends are relatively deserted, so it was shut. Instead, we hopped on the tube and made our way back and went to 'the local', ending our very touristy day with a Bloody Mary each and a lazy evening of films. 



Despite starting the day a little fragile - taking in the sights, getting some fresh air and embracing my new found love of London was exactly what was needed. And our Sunday plans sealed the deal of London lovin' - stay tuned!

xo


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

LET'S TALK: Me Time and Learning To Be Selfish


Most people would believe that, as an only child, I could be quite selfish...well, until now, I don't feel that's been the case. If anything, I have always tried to put other people's wants, needs..even their happiness, before my own...again, until now.

Last month, I came out of a fairly serious relationship and although I feel a lot more content in myself and within my life, or should I say new life - I have relocated for a job, I'm meeting new people and I've just joined a new gym - CRAZY TIMES - I'm adjusting to this new life I now lead and it amazes me when I sit back and think how much everything has changed since the start of last month (in a really, really good way!) The things I used to think made me happy, well not everything has completed shifted, but I'm realising more and more what does result in me feeling whole...feeling more like 'me'.

That said, adjusting to 'me time' feels a little weird but I really bloody like it. I like spending my days working hard in the office (yes, really lame but true - I'm loving my new job! Which I can't call new soon as I've been there nearly 5 weeks now) and then finishing at 5 and thinking 'so, what do I want to do tonight?' because, I don't feel like I've had that luxury for YEARS. I haven't had that novelty of not having to call a boyfriend, our housemates or discuss with people whilst travelling about what we're doing since my first year of Uni. Five. Whole. Years. Ago?! I like company, I'm a sociable person, really I am but it is so nice to just think 'well, I want to go to the gym tonight' or 'I want to come home, binge on a jar of Nutella and watch old episodes of Grey's Anatomy' (I am yet to do this...well, to do this with a jar of Nutella) without having to actually check in with somebody first to see where they are, what they fancy doing and compromise on 'a plan' for the evening. I can just do what the hell I want AND THAT FEELS GREAT. I can go and do three classes at the gym, wander around Waitrose and not feel rushed or I can come home, put my pyjamas on, read a book ALL NIGHT if I want to. These sound like such boring twenty-something things to do but hey, adult life.

This weekend, I'm heading down to London again for a really jam packed weekend -a house warming, a yoga exhibition, sight seeing, a long awaited trip to Duck & Waffle, amongst other things. I haven't had to check with anybody about going, I'm quite happy to trot off with my Oyster card on my own and explore (not that that's the case as I've got tour guide Barbie escorting me round!) but it's nice, y'know. I don't feel guilty about making my own plans, for myself.

To anybody reading this - you might think 'well duh, this sounds really obvious and why wouldn't you make plans for yourself' but sometimes, honestly, you feel like you just have to please everybody around you and, as a result, you kinda stop pleasing yourself,

WELL NO MORE, SISTER! I keep making Beyonce/Destiny's Child references on a regular basis...but all joking aside...I feel independent, I feel strong and I pretty much have the next 6 weekends (at least!) booked up with plans, which for me, is surprising. I like having things to look forward to but quite often, in the past, I've changed my mind last minute because I've had an anxious day or felt like I had to bail because of somebody else but now, I'm doing things for me and I'm throwing myself in feet first. It feels really, really great.

xo

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Feel Good Blogging Challenge #7 - A Topic People Hold Strong Opinions About

It's Day 7 - THE FINAL DAY of The Feel Good Blogging Challenge - WOW, that's gone fast.

If you want to read from the beginning, then here you go:
Day 1 - An Introduction
Day 2 - A Passionate Post
Day 3 - A Tutorial or 'How To'
Day 4 - 10 Things People May Not Know
Day 5 - A Helpful Post
Day 6 - A Vulnerable Post

For Day 7, Alex wants a hot topic within our own industry or niche...something that people hold strong opinions about...and with that, she wants our personal opinion on the matter.

Well, I found it hard to pick something to write about but then I thought...as this is a BLOGGER challenge - why not talk about something we all do, a hot topic I'm sure we all have an opinion on - blogging, social media, how to market our own blogs, what are 'the best' topics to write about etc.

Let's face it - A LOT of people have an opinion on this - the more established bloggers with their thousands of followers are giving us their advice and the things that have helped them so hey, why not give my spin on it. I just want to point out - this is by no means me telling people how to blog, this isn't even me saying 'hey guys, my blog is successful and I'm telling you all how you should do it'...this is basically about me saying go out there, write about what you want to - the things that interest you, don't just blog for followers, blog for fun. After all, didn't we all start blogging because it was something we enjoyed? - talking about things that interest us, promoting our posts through Twitter and meeting some pretty cool people along the way - that's sure as hell why I started, and exactly why I'm still doing it.

Let me start from the beginning - I love a back story! - I started blogging when I graduated from University so I could continue my love of writing, cooking, travel and the little things I enjoy doing in day to day life. I said on day 1 and also in my hello page - I wanted this as a kind of online diary - the fact I actually have regular readers is a massive bonus (and one that still amazes me everyday and every time I post something on here).

The blogging community teamed with bloggers on social media, especially Twitter and Instagram - I'm not afraid to throw my hands up and say I absolutely love it. I have my friends - from school, uni, work, travelling and many other random encounters during my 23 years but my 'online friends' - the bloggers, the tweeters - these guys are inspiring.

One of my favourite bloggers/writers Laura at Superlatively Rude - wrote a post today about finding your people - the ones that are inspiring, the ones that just get you. Through blogging, something you're passionate about, chatting to people (aka. occasional stalking) over Twitter - this can lead to great friendships with people who love to blog, love to write and just get the person you are and the things you pour you heart out over on your own little corner of the internet.

So my point - we can all give our own advice about blogging, marketing your writing over social media, SEO, writing about topics that attract readers...but you know what - your blog, first and foremost, ought to be for yourself.

I completely understand - people want to be the next Zoella, the next Londoner - I'm not knocking them - these are women that are passionate about what they do, incredible at what they do and people we should look to for the advice given, the topics talked about and the latest trends but I think there should be a little less focus on what and who we should be, what we are meant to write about and how we ought to be marketing our writing or attracting followers.

Blogging is about enthusiasm; a love of the things personal to you - no matter how big or how small. It's about making these friends over Twitter, supporting each others posts if it's something we also love or enjoy. We've got a good community going on here, we all need to remember why we started out here and keep that in mind as the reason we're still going, writing about all the nitty gritty in our lives, giving our viewers countless pictures of what we had for dinner, talking about where we went at the weekend or what we did (even if it's laying in our Primark onesies binge watching Game of Thrones!)

Write about what YOU want to write about and ENJOY your blog.
It's true what I've read - if you are passionate about what you're writing about, it shows and your readers will see that.

xo

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Feel Good Blogging Challenge #6 A Vulnerable Post

Did you catch Day 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 - if not, why not? Alex Beadon's Feel Good Blogging Challenge has been a lot of fun!

So, Day 6 - Vulnerability.
 
Source: Pinterest
 
Any regular readers will know that over the past year or so, I really haven't hidden from the fact I suffer with anxiety and have suffered with depression in the past. Anxiety and depression are things many, many people suffer with - probably way more than we all realise but now the media and mental health charities are stepping up and doing a bit more to help. And I am SO bloody pleased to see that.

I suppose as well as suffering with anxiety and depression, that's led me into feeling social anxiety. It takes me a big pep talk to get me to go out of the house sometime - especially if it's for something involving alcohol. Whilst at uni, I had a bit of a problem with drinking - nobody that knows me will really believe this to a certain extent because I was always up for a night out, always suffering with a hangover, laughing about not remembering bits of the night before...that's student life. Yeah, there's the learning but people go to uni (a lot of the time) for the social life that comes with it). So basically, I can't drink...I don't like it. It not only makes me suffer with a hangover (obvious) but it also triggers my depression/anxiety and not only that, I have been suffering with severe cystitis for around 5-6 years now. Alcohol and me are just a big no no - yet I still do it...I did it this weekend and boy, did I suffer.

Yesterday, I had probably one of the worst hangovers I've had since day 2 of my travelling in Bangkok over 12 months ago. I had really, really severe cystitis (and still do today) and well, my moods...they're turbulent. A task at work that should have taken me 10 minutes took me much longer because I got myself ridiculously worked up. But, that's by the by.

I suppose this post is really to address that fact - we are all vulnerable; some people talk about it and some don't. I talk about it because well, I'm not embarrassed about it and if I can help or make one person feel better or feel like they're not alone, then I will. I'm not embarrassed to admit I still suffer with anxiety on a very regular basis, I still have bouts of depression - they aren't things that are cured or solved overnight. And my chronic reoccurring cystitis - well it bloody consumes my life most of the time. EVERYBODY is vulnerable. In one way or another, we all feel vulnerable - whether it's mentally, physically...something big or something small.

And like the quote above says - being vulnerable isn't such a bad thing and it can lead to great things. We all feel vulnerable but it does one of two things - makes us strive to do better or it can make us crumble. And that's the thing, we need it to do the first. Tackle your vulnerability head on and just keep taking each day as it comes - that's what I have to do now. I'm a planner and I like to have things pencilled into my diary but, sometimes, anxiety/depression/vulnerability can come out of nowhere...literally out of the blue - it can throw your plans out of the window. When this happens, I write the day off and try and just carry on, thinking of the tomorrow as a brand new day to show the world what I can do.

An anxious few days has left me feeling like I'm ready to fight again. I am probably in the best position I've been in for a long time - so my vulnerability is going to play a part in leading to great opportunities for me. I just know it.

Keep going. Talk it out. Try yoga and meditation. Get some sleep. Eat healthy food. Go get some fresh air...and if it helps, get on Pinterest and get some positive quotes in your life (it's a little thing each day that I find really uplifting.)

xo

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Feel Good Blogging Challenge #5 - A Helpful Post - A Healthy, Balanced Lifestyle

Did you manage to catch day 1, 2, 3 and 4? Have a look!
 
I think day 5, a helpful post, has possibly been the one I've found the most difficult. Maybe I'm lacking inspiration? What's helpful to one, well, it may not be to another. But I do hope some of you find help in this (please let me know in the comments section!)
 
I decided to talk about something I'm attempting at the moment - let me give you a little back story...
 
Back in September 2013, I set off on a one way flight to Thailand for 9 months of travel. Prior to that I went to the gym at least 5 times a week, ate well (as well as you can eat for somebody that blogs about food - 80/20 was my rule but when I baked at the weekends...I can't promise I didn't lick the spoon!) I've always been into health foods, superfoods and, fortunately, I like salads, fruit, vegetables and I would much rather find a healthy version of a takeaway (see healthy curry here) rather than a fatty, I-can-feel-it-on-my-hips meal that you spend days regretting.
 
Then I went travelling...I wasn't exercising, I was drinking pretty much daily (and I'm not the biggest drinker so that made a MASSIVE difference). I didn't really notice I had gained any weight as such (maybe a few pounds here and there...mostly my big bottom!) but I felt sluggish and it got to the point where I was hating how I looked. Australia and New Zealand are fairly health-conscious countries and do the most incredible food, so that was helpful. I decided when I got home to rejoin the gym, carry on and up the amount of yoga I practice and kick start my healthy eating in full force again.
 
It's now October (I got back in June) and I'm only just doing that. I did rejoin the gym but I was driving up and down the country on a weekly basis and time just seemed to zoom past me with no warning. I'm now heavier than I was pre-travelling, I don't particularly like looking in the mirror (too much) at the moment but I'm eating healthily again and it's making a difference. I have noticed that as I'm managing to get a hell of a lot more sleep that I feel more energetic too.
 
 
Day #5, a helpful post - well for me, that is learning the basics of healthy, balanced lifestyle.
 
The first thing I need to stress - NO DIETS. Diets are a temporary fix that are bad for your body in the long run.
 
My (unintentional) motto seems to be - plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water, get fresh air and do some exercise. Oh yeah, and EAT WELL.
 
These things make a huge, huge difference and really compliment a healthy eating mission.
 
I'm not going to bang on too much about what I do...if you read back through my blog a little you'll know I practice yoga and you'll see from some of my recipes that they're fairly low cal (most of the time...if you ignore the cookies...brownies...erm...)
 
My top people to learn about healthy eating from:
Madeleine Shaw
Deliciously Ella
Honestly Healthy
Hemsley & Hemsley
Skinny Taste
 
- you will, no doubt, have seen these names EVERYWHERE at the moment but they seriously know what they're talking about. My starting point was a combination of Madeleine, Deliciously Ella and Skinny Taste...more simplistic, I find, than H&H and Honestly Healthy (although they are still fantastic and I use their recipes often)
 
I've also heard A LOT about the Paleo diet (not a diet, a lifestyle diet - IMPORTANT). If you have a read, it's basically 'The Caveman Diet'. I'm definitely going to give this a whirl soon.
 
I think the most important thing to remember is: everything in moderation - but definitely, things like vegetables and protein need to be a big focus. It's not about cutting things out, it's about finding the balance but making sure your body has all of the nutrients and 'goodness' it needs. Many live by 'Food is Fuel' - which is obviously true but you also get so much enjoyment from nutritious and healthy meals. You just need to listen to your body - if it doesn't react well to a certain food (makes your stomach hurt, gives you headaches, makes you feel sluggish...etc) then don't eat it!
 
Have a look at some of my past recipes - there are many, many more to come as I'm always attempting something new in the kitchen.

I also cannot recommend Pinterest enough for finding new healthy recipes - it's full of them.
 
xo

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Feel Good Blogging Challenge: #4 10 Things Most People Don't Know About Me

Did you manage to catch Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 - check them out!

It's Day 4 already! Today's challenge - 10 things most people don't know about me.

This is a tricky one - I'm a pretty open book and being a lifestyle blogger, I tend to talk about all areas of my life, including the personal ones but I'll give it a whirl. Any of my readers, let me know 10 facts about you too - I love getting to know more about you all!

1. I want a sausage dog called Oscar
I've always loved Dauchshand's but even more so after seeing Sergio the Shoehunter at LFW this year. The Outnet put out a brilliant marketing strategy in the form of Sergio and seeing him in his little Burberry trench has probably made my whole year

2. I have 5 tattoos 
They're all fairly small ones but all signify something from a certain point in my life. I love tattoos and have plans for three more - one extension, one big one and a smaller one (plus so many more than I haven't thought of a spot for yet!)

3. I want to live by the sea
I grew up and lived in Nottingham until going to University and living in Sheffield for four years. After that I had a few weeks back home before setting off on a 9 month adventure around the world. I've always wanted to, but after seeing the beach/surfing culture in Australia, it's made me crave a little cottage near the sea even more. I can imagine the evenings curled up under a blanket in front of the logburner with Oscar snoozing on my knee...

4. I still love the OC and try to re-watch it all once a year
Laguna Beach, The Hills...all things I love because of the OC. You know what, they don't make TV shows like it anymore; I'm not sure if it was my age or my infatuation with Seth Cohen but it was a bloody good show and one I can watch and re-watch until I know each episode word for word.

5. Despite my want to see more of the world, have a successful career and go after my dreams...I really want to get married and have kids.
I still want to do all the 'oh do it while you're young' things and go off gallivanting, stay up until 4am laughing and joking and having those seriously deep conversations you have after several glasses of wine. I love my job and can really see this being the start of my career...and I have my whole life ahead of me to be an adult and to stay in every Friday night watching Strictly Come Dancing...but I guess I want to get married and have lots of little babies. I'm an only child, I have a small family and the realisation that I may one day have nobody (REAL TALK) terrifies me. I'm laughing as I type this as it sounds so dramatic but I like looking after people and I can't wait to have babies of my own to look after.

6. I'm not a big drinker
Because of my anxiety etc. I've never been good when it comes to alcohol - my tolerance is terrible. So if I do have a few drinks, it really doesn't agree with me. Thankfully, I'm learned over the years that if I don't want to or don't enjoy it, to just not do it.

7. I like being surrounded by people
It's not that I don't enjoy my own company - since I've moved, I absolutely love having time to myself to cook nice food, go to the gym, blog or read to my hearts content but I feel much better with good company.

8. I'm 23 going of 63
I like reading, Harry Potter, funny animal videos on the internet. Although I am interested in fashion, I am by no means fashionable. I am more likely to be found in my pyjamas, baking in the kitchen and watching a cheesey film than I am doing anything remotely sociable that a 20-something year old does.

9. I try and act like I've really got it together but, well, I really haven't
AND THAT'S OKAY!! I'm 23, I have at least another 7 years, AT LEAST, to get my shit together and figure things out. Our 20's are for making mistakes, learning from them, probably making them again and just trying to get to grips with who we are and what we want. I've just been through some massive life changes in the past few months and although I truly am happy...it's not been easy and I am still coming to terms with my new lifestyle.

10. I used to be really good at speaking Spanish
Unfortunately, used to be. I really want to go back to college/do a night course to pick up my language skills again. I believe it's such a brilliant skill to have and I'm annoyed with myself for not keeping it up!

xo

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Feel Good Blogging Challenge #3 How To Prepare Yourself for a Backpacking Trip: A Beginner's Guide


Did you manage to catch Day 1 and Day 2 - have a sneaky peak.

So here's Day 3 - a tutorial...a 'how-to' for my readers.

I can't help but laugh to myself...all I can hear in my head is 'Andie Anderson, our resident how-to girl' and then start giggling about my love of How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days - amazing film!

Aaaanyway, my 'tutorial' post as instructed by Host Alex.

How To Prepare Yourself for a Backpacking Trip: A Beginner's Guide.


As I've spoken about many, many times (aka. bragged) I have recently returned from travelling the world. I had a beautiful trip across South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. I said in my post for TFGBC Day 2 just how much I believe people should travel and see the world. We live in our tiny little bubble day to day and forget what amazing places there are out there.

For my trip, I suppose, minimal planning went into it. My friends and I booked our first flight to Bangkok and first nights accommodation and that was it. We pretty much winged it the whole time with hostels, booked flights along the way etc but the one thing you need to do: 

1. PLAN A ROUGH ROUTE

It really helps to have a route in mind - this not only allows you to plan your time (if you're restricted - by time or by money) but it also means you always travel in a geographically logical way - ie. you wouldn't start in Thailand, fly to Australia, fly back to Cambodia then go to New Zealand - big time waster and a huge strain on your bank account.

For my trip we went Thailand > Cambodia > Vietnam > Singapore > Bali > Australia (then I spent a while in Oz before NZ then back to Oz)

You have to be realistic. And I would really stress, you don't necessarily need a time scale unless it's more of a backpacking holiday than a backpacking life-escape you're venturing into.

2. SAVE UP

I probably spent about 7 months saving up for my trip - I managed to get a fair amount in that time considering I was renting a property (an a pricey one at that! AND running a car too) but you really need to be a complete Scrooge for as long as you possibly can; it will not only make you feel more at ease but it will also mean you can do all of the things you want to do and, if you're doing an extended backpacking trip, not have to find work as soon. As well as putting away a chunk of my wages each month, I also sold bags and bags of stuff on eBay - one man's junk is another man's treasure - is that the saying? Well, whatever...people seemed to want to buy my twice-worn shoes and dresses! As far as Christmas/birthdays go - ask for money instead of presents because you really aren't going to need that beautiful polka dot teapot when you're traipsing round Angkor Wat with your hair scrapped back, no makeup on and a bumbag on, are you?

3. GET YOUR VACCINATIONS AND MALARIA TABLETS

Your travel jabs and malaria tablets aren't the cheapest of things - especially the malaria tablets is. Trouble is, you need this stuff - it will literally save your life should something go a little wrong (Ubud has MANY monkeys hanging around so it's worth it!) I didn't end up having my Japanese Encephalitis jab but I would 100% tell you you need to have the Rabies jab. Fit For Travel is a great place to check the ones you will definitely need depending on your travel route. Malaria tablet wise - I have always taken Malarone. Doxycycline are known to have side effects and I know a lot of people that have suffered nausea or sensitivity to sunlight so wouldn't personally take that risk, especially having had Malarone on numerous occassions and been fine!

4. RUCKSACK

You need to shop around for a rucksack - some places might offer a complete bargain but the quality may not be great and you could be faced with a stitchy-situation (get it...no?). I bought the Osprey 65 Litre Ariel outand it was AMAZING. Ridiculously sturdy, it opened in the middle (so no constant repacking which is always a winner!) and, even when full, wasn't completely unmanageable to carry. I found the most useful advice given to me was from staff at walking/hiking shops - I went to Outside in Hathersage (Derbyshire), which is where I bought mine too, and the advice they gave me was fantastic (they even molded it to my back as well - the backpack...not the advice, doh!)

5. TRAVEL INSURANCE

As with the rucksack, shop around for the best price and maximum cover - sounds obvious I guess! I got my policy with Explorer Travel after a lot of reading up on it - they had the best price and best policy for me. I even renewed with them after deciding to extend my trip.

6. VISAS

Most of the places I visited allow you to sort your visa out on the border/at the airport when you arrive. I seem to remember Vietnam being the only place we had to sort our visa out beforehand (which we did at the embassy in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.) With places like Australia, you need to have applied and had it confirmed beforehand. Australia has the tourist visa and the working holiday visa (note: you only get this up to the age of 30 AND you only get the one, so use it wisely!) A lot of jobs pay cash in hand so I do know people that did work whilst on a tourist visa but, if you're planning to do the regional work and stay an extra year, you need to ask yourself whether it's worth the risk of getting caught working without the appropriate visa. Here's some of the SE Asia visa advice I used.

7. THE NECESSITIES AND PACKING

Overpacking is inevitable! I made sure my backpack was 3/4 full, at most, and I still feel like I took way too much. If you're doing Asia, clothes and everything you could probably need is so cheap that you will end up buying things - so do not stress if you forget something. You really don't need that much, especially for the warmer climates. For places like Europe (ie. to inter-rail) you would probably pack very differently than you would for Asia/Australia/NZ. With the hotter climates, you end up just wearing light clothing, flipflops etc. If you're looking to do 'proper walking', you might want walking shoes/sandals but with the trips we did, I either did them in flipflops or Vans (for the more strenuous occasions - HA!)

8. CASHCARDS AND CREDIT CARDS

Keeping my money safe was probably one of the bigger worries I had while I was away and pre-trip. When you're carrying your whole life in a little shell on your back, it can be a daunting thought when it comes to how to look after things in the best way. I opted for the STA Cashcard - you deposit your money into the account online or instore and it's ideal - no charges for pretty much every country and it means it's all safe in one place (plus, you budget a little more when it's not all in your purse - which would also be CRAZY incase it got stolen/lost). For my credit card (which I would definitely recommend when booking flights as it acts as an insurance policy) I chose the Post Office Credit Card - this has no international charges and they are ridiculously helpful if anything goes wrong. 

9. FINDING FLIGHTS (AND ALSO A NOTE ON HOSTELS WHEN YOU ARE AWAY)

Finding flights is similar to finding travel insurance and rucksacks - you NEED to shop around for the best price. It also will depend if you're flying direct or not too. I am a creature of habit and like flying Emirates (I've flown a hell of a lot with them and the service has always been fantastic) - so Birmingham > via Dubai > Bangkok with them was my first (and my one-way flight). This was booked online through Skyscanner - a great little company for booking flights as they allow you to compare all of the latest prices. I know a lot of people that have booked through STA but, from personal experience, have always found them to be more expensive. While you're away, again, Skyscanner are great. For hostels and nice but cheap hotels, Hostelworld are brilliant (I would also suggest checking reviews on TripAdvisor as well as the Hostelworld reviews - it doesn't hurt to get a more thorough and honest opinion of the accommodation pre-stay)

10. HAVE FUN!

It might seem like there's loads to think about but seriously, go and enjoy yourself. Have your wits about you, be cautious with strangers (SO many other backpackers and locals are ridiculously nice but remember to not make too quick judgement of people) Travelling and backpacking are two of the most amazing and fulfilling experiences so don't spend too much time worrying and overthinking your plans or whether you should do this, this or this - just go for it!


I hope this little how to will help anybody thinking about going away - there's so much more I could write and I intend to write many more posts related to my trip. Let me know if this is helpful!

Here's a couple of my travel planning posts from last year:
Planning a backpacking trip and How I made a start.

If you do fancy reading more about my trip, have a look at my Travel section.
I still have months and months of new updates so expect a lot more content over the coming weeks.

xo


Thursday, 16 October 2014

COOKED: Tiger Prawn and Spinach Curry for National Curry Week

I love a curry - something which hasn't always been the case. I've never been one to get overexcited about the prospect of whipping out the takeaway menus on a Saturday night to sit in watching the *insert cult reality TV show here*, order then gorge on too much food that's high in salt and leaves you gasping for water at 3am. Boring you may call me, but the only reality TV that I enjoy is Made in Chelsea...and I also have a new love for Strictly Come Dancing, which possibly shows I am nearing my mid twenties (and developing middle-aged tendancies, I blame my mother).

My original point - NATIONAL CURRY WEEK. And I love curry. You can't beat a 'proper one' from a nice Indian restaurant (big fan of Akbar's in Leeds) but I get just as much taste-bud-related-excitement from a homemade curry. The one in question, the tiger prawn curry, is a tomato based on I made in a little bit of a rush yesterday and, to my surprise, it was lovely. It contained very basic ingredients and maybe you wouldn't call it 'a proper curry' but it's a damn tasty one all the same. I will also post, later on this week, the beautiful chicken curry I made a few weeks ago that has a delishy thick sauce. Due to my dairy issues, I always opt for a tomato based curry and you'll find, quite often, that this keeps the calories and fat content low - this being my main problem with either supermarket bought curries or takeaways - you can almost taste the additives, calories and bad stuff (including thick creams - which kill me!) so I would always prefer a homemade one.

Anyway, enough rambling...

All you need for 3-4 people is;

1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder (or 1 tsp if you like it a bit spicier)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Fresh parsley, chopped (or dry mixed herbs if you're struggling for fresh)
1 onion, diced
1/2 courgette, diced (optional)
1/2 bag of spinach
1 pack of tiger prawns - I used Sainsburys ready to eat ones (or 2 if you prefer lots of prawns!)


1. Fry the onions on a low heat in a little oil for a couple of minutes before adding your chopped garlic and spices.

2. Allow the spices to blend and the onions to soften then throw in your courgette and mushrooms.

3. After a few minutes the chopped tomatoes can be mixed in but make sure you allow them to simmer for 10 minutes or so to reduce.

4. When the tomatoes have reduced, throw in your prawns and spinach. Your prawns nede to heat through and the spinach will wilt (but it's tastier this way!)

5. If you're using fresh parsley, serve with a little on top but, I know what you're thinking, that's it. It's that quick and that simple!


Here's some tips on how to make the perfect curry at home - it's not impossible

xo

The Feel Good Blogging Challenge: #2 A Passionate Post

Did you catch Day One of Alex Beadon's Feel Good Blogging Challenge?

So Day 2 - A passionate post.

I am one of those people that feels instantly passionate about something - I started learning the piano when I was young, loved it for a couple of years..then the passion died down. Next it was the clarinet. Same again, loved it for about a year, then decided it just wasn't for me.

I guess I'm pretty jealous of people that have mad passion about a certain thing. I've read a lot of the posts for day two people have put up- about their kids, about their jobs, their love of art etc. And I suppose I can tell you stories about the things I feel passion about but maybe they seem insignificant  to some? But then again, we are all different...it would be boring if we all felt passionate about one thing.

And there are SO many different levels of passion. I'm passionate about my love of avocados (SO UNDERRATED and SO versatile!!) I'm passionate about my quest to own a sausage dog called Oscar (guys, it's going to happen.) I'm also REALLY passionate about Chanel cosmetics - those geniuses create absolute magic.

But in terms of ACTUAL PASSION - travel. And, with that, came the quest to finding my own happiness. Anybody that actually knows me will probably laugh at this but, then again, they will know exactly what I mean. Over the past few years I can't always say times have been easy but that's life. Bad things happen, good things happen - you just have to keep on going.

It's taken me a long time to get to the point I'm at now - content in my own company, in a job I am truly passionate about (I mean, it's more than I could have seen for myself as a starting point in my career and I'm having so much fun with it even after a month), finally living somewhere more permanent (and not out of a backpack or suitcase!) So in my quest for happiness, my passion for travel played a big part because without it, I wouldn't have reached the point I'm at now.

I've always been well traveled and I have my parents to thank for that; our holidays when I was little (and even into my 20's) ranged from the Caribbean, to Kenya, to Israel, to Malaysia, to America...I've been, and still am, incredibly lucky (my parents are brilliant, might I add!) So, pretty much from birth, I caught the travel bug. After a bad break up, a couple of tough years and a job with no progression, I booked a one way flight to Bangkok last year and never really looked back.

Going travelling was one of the best things I have ever done and I cannot stress enough how much EVERYBODY should see the world - it's such an incredibly beautiful place and it really helps to step out of your comfort zone, see different ways of life and gain new perspective on things.

Through travel, I made new friends, saw different ways of life, experienced new cultures, saw sites and visited places that I had daydreamed over after hours spent reading up about it on the internet or trawling through National Geographic. I learned new things (how to cook like a Cambodian, surfing...), I met people from all over the world. I controlled my own happiness - if I wasn't enjoying somewhere, I booked a flight or made different plans. I learned to be selfish and ignore or avoid the negativity I had, for so long, in my life and I guess I rebuilt myself, regained my confidence and found what truly made me happy. Along the way I became intrigued by the Buddhist culture, yoga and the simple way of life (don't all backpackers!) but in running away (yes, it was definitely running away!) it taught me not to take shit from anybody and that if I wasn't happy with someone or something, to change that and to be in control of my own happiness. I'm not saying travelling miraculously cured anything BUT it not only kept my travel bug happy but it allowed me to find passion in the little things, the big things...the things I had forgotten even made me feel passionate.

So through my love of travel, my want to see the world and to just get out there and live, I completely reignited my passion and optimism for the future; for a career, for my writing, for my health, for love and for my mind. Passion in life can lead to such wonderful things. Do not let any other than you control your happiness. 

xo 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Feel Good Blogging Challenge: #1: A Simple Introduction

I have become a part of Alex Beadon's 7 Day Feel Good Blogging Challenge - for those of you that don't know who Alex is, then you should - she's a big believer in helping and coaching people in successful ways to go after, get better and achieve their dreams. Read a little more about her intentions, she may be what you've been looking for.

So,The Feel Good Blogging Challenge - It's all about encouraging one another to blog AND for others to encourage you with your posts to help improve your own skills and make you feel like a real part of the blogging community. Feel like something you would be interested in? Sign up here.

Day 1 - A simple introduction - 5 questions..let's go!



1. Who am I?
I'm Natasha *waves* and I'm originally from Nottingham (England). I've recently got back from backpacking around South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand and have recently started a new job in Events and Marketing within the footwear industry (and I'm REALLY excited about it!!) 

I'm a lover of food, travel, yoga, afternoon tea, sausage dogs, fairy lights, burgers, walks in the countryside, spring time, duvet days, lemon tea, vintage and antique furniture, horse riding, floral print, dip dyed hair, berries, spontaneous decisions, Mulberry leather, daisies and Nutella.

2. Why did I start blogging?
I graduated two years ago (where did that time go?!) with a degree in English Literature, Language and Creative Writing - after three years at uni, I missed writing and learning...so I started my blog. Time seems to fly by so quickly so I decided, as well as have Unorganised Chaos as my online diary, that it would also be a good way to keep my creative juices flowing and, one day, do something with the degree I had worked so hard on (...okay so, I only worked REALLY hard in my final year...)

3. Who is my blog for?
Probably an answer many bloggers would respond with - but my blog really is for me. Blogging is my hobby and something I love. I suppose over the past 12 months it's become a place for me to air my thoughts and talk about my travels. I've spoken about my struggles in the past or passed on advice related to these kind of things. And the good thing, people seem to read my rambling posts (which makes me super happy and I'm so flattered!)

4. What's something I have been working on lately that I'm really proud of?
Honestly? Getting my life back on track a little - nothing too overdramatic but I spent 9 months backpacking after a turbulent couple of years and getting back to normality was a bit of a shocker. Not as bad as I had thought but figuring out who I was in everyday life, not just who I was as a care free spirit on another hemisphere as well as trying to find a job I really felt passionate about AND just adjusting to the terrible British weather wasn't ideal. I've now got the job I feel passionate about (tick!), eliminated the things that don't make me happy or make me feel negative (tick!), I've got a lovely new home (tick!) and I'm getting back into strict healthy eating and back on top of my fitness (but we can ignore the big slice of cake a colleague gave me yesterday - oopsy!)

5. What's one message I hope people take away from my blog?
I hope people can see that what I write is 'real' and honest. If I'm writing about more serious topics, none of it is patronising or preaching - it's just my take on it, advice I can give, ways I've coped. Like I said, my blog is first and foremost for myself - anything I can give to anybody reading my posts is a bonus! AND I love the blogging community - everybody is so bloody nice so get in touch!!


I'm on Twitter and Instagram so don't be a stranger!

xo