Thursday, 15 February 2018

Why I'd rather spend money on memories than makeup... Am I no longer a beauty blogger?

It's come to my attention lately that my beauty blogging days have passed me by. There I said it. I hold my hands up. I'm no longer bothered by the latest weird beauty trends, the must-have products, or the looks that are taking Instagram by storm. In fact, I have a number of holy grail products that I use on the daily, a few gorgeous palettes that I save for events and nights out, a range of lipsticks and glosses, and... that's pretty much it. 
Honestly, there are a few reasons that my makeup haul, and I guess my interest in makeup in general, has lessened. Firstly, I don't have the space for hoards of makeup in my flat. I've got a drawer in my bedroom where I stash my hair and beauty products, and that's all I can give. Secondly, makeup costs so much money. Now that I'm starting to think about buying a home of my own I'm trying to save as much as I can spare each month, and that new £60 palette just ain't worth it, honey. I dread to think how much I've spent on makeup that's barely been used over the years. And finally, I've just realised that I'd rather spend my money on memories than makeup. 

When I first started blogging I was obsessed with finding new beauty products. I'd try all the big beauty bloggers' recommendations, regardless of whether I actually wanted to try it or not. I would buy products for the sake of buying, for something to blog about, something to Instagram. Now, I think it's safe to say from my last few month's worth of blog posts that my interests have changed completely.

I think it really hit me when we went on our trip to Paris (read all about it here), and I walked out of Sephora empty handed. It was my first time visiting Sephora, after missing the closing time by a mere ten minutes when my mam and I were holidaying in Greece, and while it was exciting, I felt pretty underwhelmed by it all. We spent about three minutes scouting the shelves and, much to Dan's delight, I decided it was time to leave so that we could explore more of Paris. 

Maybe it's something that comes with age? (Lol, totally aware that makes me sound eighty-seven, not twenty-four.) I'm far more keen to travel, to learn, to invest these days. I want to spend my hard earned cash on something that will last forever, or at least longer than the durability of a Kylie Lip Kit.  

There's no denying that makeup is important to me. I wear it daily. I love experimenting. I spend lots of time perfecting different looks ahead of events and nights out. I even enjoy rocking vibrant lip shades on a basic day in the office. I'm not, in any way, trying to undermine the amazing work that so many fantastic beauty bloggers do. I think I've just moved away from that category, due to lots of changes in lifestyle, I guess. And that's fine. People change, and interests change. I just don't really know if I fit into a strict beauty blogger category anymore...

Do you have a makeup obsession?
Lots of love. xoxo

Friday, 9 February 2018

A first-time visitor's guide to Paris | Our weekend in the French capital.

One thing I listed as part of my 2018 goals post was to travel more. I wanted to visit new places, experience and learn new things, and I wanted to do it with my favourite person by my side, so last weekend's trip to the beautiful city of Paris was the perfect way to kickstart the year.
I'd wanted to visit Paris for ages. It's been on my travel bucket list ever since I started blogging (nearly) five years ago and fell in love with photography. The streets looked beautiful, the architecture was fascinating. I wanted to visit all the tourist hot spots, to climb the Eiffel Tower and get a panoramic view of the city, to visit the old cathedrals and buildings, and to eat crepes and croissants galore along the way. And that's exactly what we did. 
We had the best weekend ticking everything off Dan's (neverending) itinerary, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. One of my favourite moments was watching the sky behind the Eiffel Tower turn from blue to pink to purple as the sun set over the city. We sat on a step watching the world go by and it was amazing how peaceful it felt when you were slap bang in the middle of this global cultural hub. The perfect way to end our time there. 
There really is so much to see and do, and we managed to squeeze in pretty much every iconic tourist hotspot over the weekend, even though it resulted in us covering 50km on foot over three days and taking over 81,000 steps! Definitely not a relaxing break, but so worth it! We took so many pictures, ate so much great food, and generally spent our time looking up at all the beauty there was to be had. 
I thought I would write today's post a little differently from my usual travel diaries, because a lot of people commented on my photographs on Twitter/Instagram saying they were heading to Paris at some point this year. Instead of sharing my stay with you, I thought I'd help to influence your trip to the French capital. I have to admit I'm seriously jealous of anyone who is jetting here in the next few months. 

FIVE PLACES YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST VISIT:

1. Climb the Eiffel Tower

On our first day we strolled from our hotel in Cambronne for about 25 minutes until we reached the Eiffel Tower, and it really is amazing. I showed my true tourist colours when we were travelling on the Metro from the airport that morning as I got really excited when I spotted the Eiffel Tower (yep, did a little scream) for the first time and a local French man looked at me as if I was on Mars, but nonetheless it really is something to be excited about. 
Standing at over 320 metres tall, about the height of an 80 storey building, climbing is definitely not for the feint-hearted, but it's something you absolutely must do if you can. We paid 10 euros to climb the steps to the two open floors and, although pretty scary while ascending, the views are absolutely stunning and so worth it. On each floor there is a little shop and a restaurant and cafe to explore (though it's super expensive) and there are lots of  There is an additional floor too, which is accessible via lift, but it was unfortunately closed so we couldn't go up any higher on our trip there. It's also worth mentioning that you can get elevators to the first and second floors, but they incur a higher charge and the queues are much longer. 
The views of the cityscape are really stunning. Everything about Paris is gorgeous. The Seine (which was pretty flooded on our weekend there, though we bypassed the crazy snow!) meanders its way through the city, and everywhere you look you can see beautiful cathedrals and churches popping up amongst the buildings. I also found it was really useful to do this on our first day as you could kind of pinpoint where the major attractions were, so it helped us to figure out which areas of the city to explore and when. 
There are also lots of little spots around the city to snap the Eiffel Tower, but if you walk across the river from the North entrance of the tower, you'll come to *those* steps where every Instagram influencer under the sun poses for the perfect shot (lol, we were so guilty of doing this too). It's a really stunning view of the tower and its surroundings, and it really puts the scale of the tower itself into perspective. Loads of people gather here, and we actually saw two proposals going on amongst the hundreds of tourists taking snapshots and the street performers and skateboarders. It's a really gorgeous scene. 

2. The Notre-Dame

I wanted to visit the Notre-Dame because I used to love the Disney film and even had an Esmerelda doll when I was little. I also just love the architecture of city cathedrals, and we have been to a few on our travels. We queued for about ten minutes or so to get in - it's free to enter - and just enjoyed walking around the building and seeing all the pretty stained glass windows and the candles flickering. There's a lovely sense of calm in the Notre-Dame, and it's worth a visit even if you're not religious. There's also the opportunity to climb to the top and have more views of the city, however it was pretty pricy and we'd already climbed the Eiffel Tower the day before so passed on this.

3. Musee du Louvre

From the Notre-Dame you can stroll along the Seine to the Musee Du Louvre, the largest art museum in the world and a Parisian landmark in itself. It's situated just off the Seine, and to get to it we passed Pont Neuf and bought a love lock to add to the bridge (we also spent about ten minutes arguing over the best place to put it, but there was no love lost in the end). The pyramid-like glass roof looks amazing, and it's placed at the Louvre Palace which houses the museum. There are definitely lots of photo opps to be had there!

It costs 15 euro to visit the exhibitions in the Louvre, but you can get down into the main lobby area for the museum for free, and from there, there are lots of shops and foodie places to have a look at. We didn't end up paying to go in to see the exhibitions, due to being short on time and budget, but it's definitely something I would like to do when we next go to Paris.

4. Arc Du Triomphe and Champs-Elysees

If you continue West along the Seine, passing through the pretty square that makes up Place de la Concorde with its giant ferris wheel, you will get to Avenue des Champ-Elysees. It's frequently described as the "world's most beautiful avenue" and it is very pretty with beautiful buildings and shops filled with pretty treats. It's gorgeous in the day and night, and it's worth mentioning that when we visited there on the weekend the avenue was pedestrian-only and our bags were searched before entering the Avenue. It's like this in a lot of places around the city. You are searched and your bags are checked before entering any large landmarks or places where lots congregate, just because of France's current security threat. This is nothing to worry about and the guards who check your bags are mostly really friendly.

Avenue des Champ-Elysees has a huge array of shops, and I really surprised myself by going into Sephora and leaving empty handed. I guess my love of beauty has been taken over by a love of memory-making, but that's all for another post! However, if you really want to do some serious shopping then you must head to the Galeries Lafayette, which is the most gorgeous shopping mall. The stained glass roof is what dreams are made of.

Stood proudly at the Western-end of Champ-Elysees is the beautiful Arc de Triomphe. It stands at the centre of Place Charles de Gaulle, and is seen frequently in movies and television series about the city. It stands in honour of those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. It's really beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Again, you can climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe by using a pedestrian underpass located at the Champs Elysees and the Avenue de la Grande Amee. A lift takes visitors to the attic, where there is a small museum, and you can climb a further forty or so steps to the very top for panoramic views of the city. I believe this cost about 12 euros, but again due to timing we weren't able to do this this time.

5. Montmartre and Sacre-Couer

We went off the beaten track a little on our weekend in the city and explored Montmartre, which is situated on a large hill in Paris' 18th arrondissement. It's quite a way out, but definitely worth the visit as it has this beautifully "French feeling". The streets are cobbled, with beautifully painted buildings stood either side, and they wind their way up the hill to the striking Scare-Couer Basilica. It's known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, and is a Roman Catholic church boasting beautiful views of the city. We loved Montmartre. It had a cosy little square, where a lady was playing the Accordion and little children skipped amongst the puddles. It just had a different atmosphere to the centre of Paris and we really enjoyed grabbing a coffee and just chilling out there for a while. From Montmartre you can also walk down to the Moulin Rouge. It's pretty cool seeing it in the flesh, but this is a seedier part of the city and contrasts completely with the chic-ness of the rest of Paris, IMO. 

WHERE WE STAYED:

We stayed in Cambronne, in an Ibis which is a stone's throw away from Cambronne Metro station and close to a number of restaurants and shops. I wanted to choose a "branded" hotel for our first stay (if that makes sense), just because we hadn't visited the city before and we wanted an option that would be safe. It posed the perfect position as we were able to explore the city both by train and on foot very easily, and I'd definitely stay there again. 

FOOD AND DRINK: 

One of the best pieces of advice I had before going was to steer off the main streets in search of a bite to eat. The food, particularly on the Champs-Elysees, can be pretty expensive, but you can hunt out some amazing little places if you go slightly into the side streets and quieter areas. We had a delicious meal on our last night on a street corner just hidden away from the Eiffel Tower. It was the cheapest meal we'd had there, but the plates were filled with food and it was the most tasty. It's definitely worth searching off the beaten track a little and not settling for the first place you see.

There are also bakeries and crepe stands dotted all along the streets and in the larger parks, so we used to find somewhere to sit down and eat for breakfast, and would grab something on the go for lunch as we were in full tourist mode by then. Food can be pretty expensive but you can get Nutella crepes for 3 euro, and in some of the bakeries croissants and bread is rather cheap, so definitely worth doing that if you're on a tight budget like we were. Additionally, look in the mini markets instead of the street stalls if you're after drinks or a bottle of water. We found things were much cheaper there. 

GETTING AROUND:

We mostly walked, but one day we did decide to get a Metro day pass for Zones 1 to 3, which I think cost us about 12 euros each. The Metro is set up in a similar way to the London Underground, although we did get a little confused at first when trying to find our way around. Google Maps can show you exactly which Metro line and stations you need to start/stop at in order to find your chosen destination, however. Most of the city, though, is accessible easily on foot. You can just walk along the Seine and see most of the sights, which we discovered on our last day after zooming around everywhere in the most backwards fashion for the rest of the weekend... No wonder we covered so many steps! 

All in all, Paris is absolutely amazing and I wish I could rewind to last weekend so I could jet off there again. They call Paris the city of love, and it's safe to say I fell in love with the city. 

Have you been to Paris? 
Do you have any recommendations?
Lots of love. xoxo
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Thursday, 1 February 2018

8 things you learn when you have your own place.

I'm still quite baffled at the fact that I've now been living in my flat for nearly a year. I love living there even more now than I did when I first moved in, and after years of house shares, student halls and hostels, I'm thankful every day that I have a place I can call my own. 

It's safe to say that you definitely learn a lot about yourself when you move into your own place. I mean, I learned when I was house sharing that I pretty much didn't have the ability to live with people who couldn't clean up after themselves (oh god, how I missed my clean-crazy mum hoovering five times a day in uni), but living on your own makes you see yourself in a whole new light... 

1. Hoovering is good for the soul

Growing up with a mother who cleans constantly used to drive me insane. She hoovers several times a day; there would be no eating in the living room, shoes off at the door. It would drive me crazy, but now I have my own place I've realised I am exactly like her. I hoover daily. I'm constantly smoothing out my bed sheets so there's not a crease in sight. I'm plumping cushions, I'm wiping work tops. I even got up early this morning to mop my tiled floors. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! I think the main thing I've learned having my own place is just how house proud (read: how much of a clean freak) I really am.

2. How to master carrying everything from the car to the house in one trip

The art of carrying several shopping bags, a handbag and often a suitcase up the stairs to my flat in one go has really shown me the importance of training biceps in the gym. The ability to haul everything up the stairs in one trip, eliminating the need to go back down to my car in the rain/wind/cold to pick up more bags, is a truly admirable feat, I'm sure you'll agree.

3. It's totally acceptable to live in your pyjamas

Yep, that's right. As soon as I get in I change into my pyjamas, even if it's 2 o' clock in the afternoon and I'm going to be heading out later. I'm sorry but people who relax at home wearing jeans are simply not to be trusted.

4. The smell of fresh washing is a dream

Here's another thing I bloody love doing - my washing! There's something quite therapeutic about pairing up my freshly washed socks after they've just whizzed around the washing machine, and the best thing is the smell of my flat after I've just done a load. I've even taken to waltzing down the home products aisle in the supermarket, sniffing every fabric conditioner to see which smells best, and leaving feeling pretty buzzed off the fumes (get your kicks where you can, kids). Cherry blossom is a favourite, FYI.

5. Cereal is a totally acceptable evening meal

Ahh, this is where my housewife skills dwindle. I must admit that since living on my own I have experimented more with cooking. I can fry eggs now, and can make meatballs, but cooking doesn't give me the same satisfaction as other homely chores do. A bowl of cereal is totally acceptable in the evening. Or for breakfast, or lunch, or even a mid-afternoon snack...

6. The horror of someone coming over and not adhering to house rules is real

Dan has moved in now that he is working in Cardiff, and thankfully he knows the rules when it comes to keeping the house tidy. He takes his shoes off at the door, knows to close the kitchen door when cooking so the smell doesn't linger in the bedroom, and always washes up after we eat (he's a good egg). To be fair, all of my close friends know how crazy I am and that they must adhere to house rules, but I can't help but feel a twinge shivering down my spine when someone places a cup on the coffee table without a placemat underneath, or when they eat on the sofa and I see crumbs disappearing down the sides.

7. Who needs housemates when you have Coronation Street?

Okay, I'm sorry. But there's nothing nicer than getting in after a crazy day at work and having nobody to speak to. I love just sitting down, with a plate of hot food, some trash on the tv, and looking like a mess with a pineapple bun and a makeup free face. There's no one else's mess to clean up, no fighting over the hob, no listening to anyone or having to repeat the exact same conversations about your day with each individual housemate. Just me, my food and the latest Platt drama on Corrie - bliss.

8. You're a sassy, independent lady

I think the main thing I've learned is that I really love having my own space. I'm so much more independent; I have my own little routines and my own way of doing things, and I can honestly say that being homesick is now a thing well and firmly in the past. I was nervous to move into my own flat. Worried that I would miss the constant hum of other people living in the house, worried that I'd feel lonely and would want to pack up and head home at every opportunity. But in fact I've really embraced my own company. It's great now because Dan is here with me most of the time, so there's always someone to talk to and someone to help hoover when it all gets too much. But for the most part, I've learned to love being alone.

Lots of love. xoxo

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

24 things I want to do in my 24th year.

Today is my twenty-fourth birthday! I am officially in my mid-twenties, and surprisingly I'm feeling rather excited about it. Growing up I always used to think being 24 meant you were bordering on needing a walking stick, which of course isn't true, and I now feel like 23 was the year that I found my feet, and 24 will be the age I really embrace and enjoy it

I know that I natter on about how much has changed for me in the last twelve months in pretty much every blog post, but it's absolutely insane to think that on my twenty-third birthday I woke up in a hostel bed in West London, having a week's worth of work left in my temporary job and no idea what the future would hold. Today I woke up next to my boyfriend in my cosy flat in Cardiff, having booked a day off work ready to spend it at a luxurious spa with my mum. 
The past 365 days have been spent learning, working hard and forging a future for myself. I kissed goodbye to over 18 years of eduction and started taking my first steps along my chosen career path. I moved into my own flat and have learned that you really can survive on a healthy diet of oven food and micro meals. I finally settled living in a city away from home and made fantastic new friends and memories along the way.

It's all been rather exciting so for today's post, instead of looking back at the last year as I did when I turned 23, I've decided to look ahead to the next 12 months and what I'd like to do and achieve. Here are the 24 things I'd like to do in 24th year on this planet...

1. See more of the world: I explored the length and breadth of the UK in my 23rd year with my work as a runner, and I loved it. I got to visit Northern Ireland, Edinburgh, York and so many beautiful little towns and cities I would never have gone to. Now it's time to broaden my horizons, starting with a trip to Paris with Dan next weekend! Spending a weekend with my favourite person exploring new places, learning about different cultures and people, and taking all of the Instagram snaps is my most favourite thing.

2. Start saving: I would absolutely love to put a deposit down on a house this year, so I'm setting up a direct debit into my saving account to get the ball rolling. Plus, I've reduced the amount I dine out and am taking my own lunch to work every day in a bid to save a few pennies.

3. Buy a cook book (and use it!): My culinary skills have come on in leaps and bounds since my first year of uni when I asked my friend to help me cook chicken nuggets (for reals), so this is the next step in my pledge to becoming a domestic goddess.

4. Go to London for a weekend of fun: As happy as I am to be back living in Cardiff, I do often crave a little trip to the big city and now I'm just a two hour train ride away! A weekend of shopping, sightseeing and eating sounds amazing, and I'd love to see Dream Girls in the West End too.

5. Brave a festival: I love music, I love live gigs, I bloody love going out and just enjoying with the sun shining overhead and a drink in hand. BUT the thought of camping at a muddy festival fills me with dread (the thought of actually having to use a portaloo that's 3 days deep in shit makes me feel even worse!). I've decided this year is the year where I give it a go as I miss out on so many awesome experiences because I can't bear the thought of not washing my hair for more than 2 days, though it may be for just one night...

6. Watch Dirty Dancing: Yep, never watched it, even though my boyfriend apparently looks like Patrick Swayze.

7. Nail the art of outfit pictures: I always get my mum or boyfriend to snap an outfit pic for the blog before I head out, but I generally feel so nervous doing it and I get them to quickly take it before anyone else sees. Definitely want to improve on this this year! Who really gives a shit what others think anyway?

8. Buy a decent waterproof coat: Does this come under general life admin? Living in Wales and venturing out in my faux fur coats means I often look like a drowned rat. It's time to change.

9. Meet with my uni girls: It's been 3 years since I graduated and I've not managed to squeeze in a uni reunion just yet. My uni bestie Hazel is coming down to go to a house music night as a belated birthday celebration in February, but I definitely want to pencil a reunion with everyone in the diary.

10. Go to an event where I have to wear a fascinator: There are no weddings on the horizon this year, but I think a day at the races where I get to dress up all glam and wear a fancy hat is definitely on the cards.

11. Donate to charity more regularly: Working for the BBC means I donated a lot to Children In Need last year, but I'd definitely like to start donating more to a range of charities. I'm hoping to raise some money for charity when Dan and I (eventually) sign up to do a half marathon this year.

12. Keep my houseplant alive for another year: My 90 pence plant from Aldi that Dan bought me back in 2015 is still going strong, despite it nearly dying on several occasions, either due to drowning or lack of water. I just can't get that balance right...

13. Go out for Sunday dinner with my nan and grandad to our favourite pub in Pembrokeshire: We had a little tradition when I was growing up to go to this pub for pumpkin soup and a roast every year around Halloween before exploring the surrounding countryside, but I haven't been able to go with them for a few years due to uni/work commitments. I'd love to do that again this year, as spending time with my grandparents is one of my favourite things.

14. Arrange a girls' trip with my fave gals: I missed out on a little girls' trip when I was 23 due to getting mumps that made me look like a permanent Instagram filter, so I definitely would love to go away with my ladies at some point this year to dance, drink and take all of the Instagram pics.

15. Get a puppy: Okay this is a long shot and probably won't happen, but Dan and I have been on about getting a puppy since we first got together over 5 years ago. We've even named it and I've bought Dan a dog training book in preparation! Could this year be the year?!

16. Help Dan tick some things off his travel bucket list: I'm thinking a weekend away zip-lining in Snowdonia, North Wales, should definitely be on the list somewhere, or maybe even further afield? Paris has always been on my travel bucket list so it would be rude not to return the favour!

17. Run 10k without stopping: I can just about run it now, but that's with a little break here and there, and a few minute strolls in between. This year will be the year that I compete one without stopping, as it's also the year that I want to run a half marathon. (God help me.)

18. Upcycle an old piece of furniture: I've wanted to try my hand at this for some time, and have even got some old brown wood furniture in my shed back home ready for renovation. I'd love to take something old and make it into my own new piece, plus I'm kind of obsessed with interiors since moving into my own flat.

19. Spend a sunny day hiking along the Wales Coastal Path: My mum is a keen rambler, so I'd love to join her and get to explore more of the pretty places on my doorstep along the way. I love the coast too, and we'll definitely end the stroll with a good pub meal.

20. Join a new fitness class/club: This is such a great way to socialise, and I always think it's nice to have a group of people who you can identify your fitness goals with. It's a great form of motivation!

21. Expand my skills in work: I'm finding my feet in my first researcher job and have my first shoot as a researcher on the weekend which is really exciting. It's been great seeing everything coming together and I loved delving deep into stories, and learning about people and places. As I settle into the role a little more I want to really expand my skills and training. I'm looking forward to pushing myself with my career goals this year!

22. Make spa days a regular thing: Yes, yes, yes!! I spent today relaxing in a beautiful spa overlooking Cardiff Bay and I definitely think they need to become a part of my regular routine. I mean, I feel so good right now. I'm refreshed, I'm happy; my skin feels great, my hair, mind and body too. Of course, they're rather pricey but I think even scheduling one in for every few months is a must.

23. Stick to eating as well as possible: My clean eating regime fluctuated last year, and I really want to stick with it in my 24th year. For me, when I've eaten well I feel so much happier in myself. I'm less sluggish and bloated, I'm generally more energetic and upbeat, and I just look and feel so much better.

24. Be positive, happy and true to myself: A huge lesson I learned last year was the power of saying no to plans in order to look after yourself when it's really needed. I always feel this overwhelming need to be busy and to please everyone, squeezing as much as possible into each and every week. Sometimes you just need a night in with a ready meal and trashy TV to make you happy! I definitely want to exercise more of this this year; your health always has to come first.

Happy birthday to me!
Lots of love. xoxo
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