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Sunday, 6 January 2019

2019.

2019 goals

hello 2019. i'm back. maybe...


It's been a hot minute (that's the new in phrase, right?) since I've even opened blogger, let alone published any content on this blog. 6 months actually if we're going to be precise. I can think of, at least, 506 excuses for not blogging for half a year but the shortened version is a mixture of working way too many hours, pure laziness and losing all motivation for the blogging world as a whole. I'm still debating a regular return to blogging but for now I thought I'd give you a little update on my busy year and what I'd like to achieve in 2019.

A round up of 2018.


2018 has been good to me. Obviously there have been a few minor bumps in the road but on the whole, I've been really content. Over the last couple of years, I've worked on myself a lot; I used to want to be the best at everything, compete with everyone and I was a pretty bitter individual. In recent years, I've just learnt to chill out a bit. Life is not a competition. Almost everything I do now is to make me, my family and my friends happy and I'm not too fussed about what everyone else is doing around me. I have a brilliant family, a roof over my head, a challenging but rewarding job and a wonderful group of friends. That's what is most important to me and I'm extremely grateful.


Image of Golden Circle, Reykjavik







My personal 2018 highlights: 


- travelling to Reykjavik, Krakow and Sardinia.
Read more: A Comprehensive Guide to Visiting Reykjavik 
- a sobering experience visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau
- fulfilling my childhood dream watching Eminem live at Twickenham
- taking part in an Inflatable Colour Dash and a Race for Life for charity
- celebrating my parents 30th wedding anniversary
- a lovely girls weekend in Manchester
- covering my face in glitter and sparkly gems to watch my favourite ever girls Little Mix for the second time















Like many of you, I'm so over setting myself crazy goals to keep up with the Joneses; there's a crazy social media pressure to ensure your plans are as elaborate as possible - jumping out of a plane, swimming with dolphins in the Maldives, backpacking across the globe but I personally just want to take things back to basics and keep it more simple, y'know?

things I would like to achieve in 2019.


Keep travelling - I'm incredibly lucky to have visited 3 new destinations this year and I'm hoping to take a few more trips this year if I can. I'm looking forward to visiting Mexico for 2 weeks in March and although nothing is set in stone, I think one or two cheap city breaks will be involved in the coming months too. Possibly Vienna and Bratislava or we may continue our Scandinavian love affair and opt for Copenhagen.

Volunteer more - I started volunteering with the homeless this year; it's not something I want to detail too much as there have been so many people posting their charitable actions all over social media for praise and for personal gain. What I will say though is that it's been an incredible feeling to help people and equally the amazing homeless community in my city have also contributed greatly to my personal growth. Volunteering will be a much bigger feature for me in 2019.

Dwell less - 2019 will be my year of just trying to let go. I dwell on tiny details constantly until I drive myself to distraction. If I'm irritated for example, I will think about that small irritation for hours or days and the only person it's having a negative impact on is myself. So I'm making it my mission to just take a few deep breaths and try to let it go. I know this one will be really difficult for me because it's a trait that is deeply ingrained in my personality but I'm going to try my best!

Make more time for my good friends - I have a not-so-great habit of cramming way too much into my life and always maxing myself out until I'm exhausted. I didn't see it as too much of a problem until one of my friends said "I can never book in anything with you Fran because you're busy every single weekend." She wasn't wrong, I've been sacrificing quality time with the people closest to me and that's something I will definitely be changing.

And a few other little aims...


- get a new piercing
- improve on my work performance from the previous year
- get right back into reading blogs
- share and support the content of other bloggers consistently
- be more active
- read 45 books as part of the Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge
- continue to educate myself on white privilege

Let me know about your 2019 goals in the comments below, I love finding out what challenges people have set themselves, no matter how big or small.

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Sunday, 24 June 2018

Interior: Bedroom Details

Image of Copper Metal Wire Ball, Maisons Du Monde
Homeware. Now, I'm currently sat typing out this blog post and trying to figure out at which point in my life I suddenly stopped obsessing over how many shots I could down in a club on a Thursday night and started obsessing over unnecessary but beautiful accessories for the home instead. I swear it's a new form of coming of age, right?!
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Sunday, 17 June 2018

A Comprehensive Guide to Visiting Reykjavik, Iceland

Image of Blue Lagoon Reykjavik
I can almost hear the eye rolls if you've opened this post "oh, not another blogger in Reykjavik" but I can confirm, yes, yes I am a walking travel blogger cliché and I love it. In February of this year, I finally fulfilled my decade long dream of travelling to Reykjavik, Iceland and it more than exceeded my high expectations. It's a breathtakingly beautiful, frozen paradise with untouched, stunning scenery in abundance. Here's my comprehensive guide to visiting Reykjavik- including where to stay, what to pack, what to do, recommended excursions and some top tips.
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Monday, 22 January 2018

NYX Lip Lingerie Liquid Lipstick Favourites

Image of NYX Lip Lingerie Liquid Lipsticks
Liquid lipsticks have taken the beauty industry by storm over the last couple of years - I think it's safe to say we're all incredibly grateful to the innovative soul who decided to combine staying power with pigment and changed the entire lipstick game. I love lipstick, but I love liquid lipstick even more; granted, they can be a little drying but I'm so here for the I'm-not-budging-an-inch-for-several-hours kinda formula. I've lost count of the amount of liquid lipsticks I own, let alone the number of brands I have tried and tested.  There's so many options out there but the NYX Lip Lingerie Liquid Lipsticks come out on top for me and they're the ones I reach for the most. There's an impressive 24 shades to choose from, here's my six favourites:
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Sunday, 7 January 2018

A 2017 Round Up.

Image of 2017 round up blog post
Happy New Year. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, another year has passed. I'm a little late with this but I can't quite believe it's 2018 and how quickly the years seem to fly by as you get older. Nothing groundbreaking happened for me in 2017 - I haven't got engaged, I haven't bought my own house and I am most definitely not pregnant. I am, however, happy, content and healthy which made 2017 a fantastic year. It was about spending time with the people who are most important to me, working on myself and enjoying adventures in new countries. Here's my round up and highlights of 2017.
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Thursday, 4 January 2018

A Perfect Winter Getaway in Riga, Latvia

Image of Riga from St Peter's Church

Fifteen countries down and our trip to Riga in Latvia was one of my favourites by far - it was everything that we could have hoped for and more; lively, welcoming and quirky with all of the historical beauty and a touch of the modern thrown in too. We opted to visit at the end of November for a short, relaxing break before the Christmas hysteria set in. It was ideal but absolutely freezing so I'd make sure you're prepared with plenty of thermal clothing for venturing around the city in the bitter weather. The weather didn't dampen our spirits though, we marvelled at the intricate architecture, feasted on delicious food and navigated the dainty, cobbled streets.      

Here's the lowdown on our perfect winter getaway to Riga and my recommendations for a wonderful adventure in the Latvian capital: 
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Sunday, 29 October 2017

Travelling the World: Things I've Ticked Off My Travel Bucket List


Picture of Dubrovnik scenery Croatia
I was scrolling through my iPhone photos the other day and it got me thinking how lucky I really am that I have been able to just about afford to travel the world and experience so many different countries (thanks to my sister who is an expert at trawling Expedia and pin-pointing some ridiculously cheap deals). For me, travel doesn't have to be extravagant - you don't have to be bungee jumping, sailing around on a yacht or staying in the most expensive hotel, it's about enjoying the atmosphere, your surroundings and simply being in another country. Most of my favourite experiences abroad involve looking at beautiful landscapes and eating way too much food. I wanted to share the highlights of some of my travel adventures with you; I love reading these kind of posts as they give me so much inspiration and I always take something away to add to my own travel bucket list.
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Sunday, 15 October 2017

Four Steps to Keeping Combination Skin Hydrated with Elemis Skincare

Picture of Elemis Skincare products
Elemis products are by far my favourite when it comes to skincare - not only do they work really well with my skin, it feels to me like a little luxurious spa experience on a daily basis. While it's definitely not a necessity, my personal preference is to spend a little more on a quality, high end brand when I'm purchasing skincare products. There are currently four steps (and one optional extra) in my routine that allow me to keep my combination skin hydrated:
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Sunday, 24 September 2017

How To Spend 72 Hours in Stockholm

Picture of a bridge in Djurgården, Stockholm‎
Back in June, I was lucky enough to tick off one of the cities on My Ultimate Travel Wishlist when I took a short trip to Stockholm with my sister and our two friends. The city is absolutely beautiful with a rich history and stunning architecture. On the whole, I have to be honest and say that it wasn't one of my most favourite places in the world - mainly down to the expense and how spread out everything is - but I would still highly recommend taking a trip here; those tiny little negatives didn't stop me thoroughly enjoying myself. Here's my tips on how to spend 72 hours in Stockholm:

Day One: Capture the breathtakingly beautiful views in Riddarholmen
Picture of Riddarholmen in Stockholm
We spent our first day wandering around just familiarising ourselves with the area and accidentally stumbled upon these gorgeous views along the Riddarholmen waterfront. The weather was beautiful and we sat for hours dangling our legs near the water - it was so relaxing and much needed after walking a fair distance. I wouldn't recommend on a cold day (unless you wrap up warm) but if you happen to have good weather it's an absolute must. You can also enjoy the beautiful buildings in this area, especially Riddarholmskyrkan (pictured below) which is one of the oldest buildings in Stockholm.
Picture of Riddarholmskyrkan

Day Two: Spend the day exploring Stockholm Old Town (Gamla Stan)/Royal Palace
Gamla Stan is the medieval hub of Stockholm with the most incredibly well preserved buildings and intricate architecture. You can get lost in your own little world exploring Stockholm's beautiful Old Town - I'd recommend spending the day walking the winding cobbled streets, browsing quaint little shops and eating in cosy little cafés. The area does get pretty busy as it's a prime spot for tourists with souvenir shops on almost every corner so it's best to get there early if you'd rather avoid the large crowds.

The Old Town is also home to the The Royal Palace - you can choose to admire this from the outside or pay to go inside and explore. I'd definitely recommend the latter as it was one of the highlights of my trip and it's reasonably priced (160 SEK). The ticket allows you to view The Royal Apartments and catch a glimpse of the glittering Crown Jewels in the Treasury. I'd try and time it right and catch the changing of the guards too because it's a brilliant spectacle!
Picture of The Old Town in Stockholm

Day 3: Hop over to Djurgården - visit Skansen and the Vasa Museum

Djurgården is a beautiful island in the middle of Stockholm that is easily reached from the city centre via public transport. We hopped on the tram and made the short journey over there with a view to visiting the ABBA Museum (we couldn't get in though because they only take card and no cash). After that little disappointment, we opted for Skansen, the world's oldest open air museum. We were so lucky to experience this during the Midsummer celebrations (a national Swedish holiday) - it was great to be part of the hustle and bustle with traditional music, maypole dancing and stunning Scandinavian houses. There's a zoo inside for all of the animal lovers out there too. We did have to queue for an hour before we could get in but it was definitely worth the wait.

A short walk from Skansen is the Vasa Museum which is where you'll find a 17th century ship that was recovered from the sea floor after 333 years and restored - 95% of the ship is original! I wasn't overly impressed with the museum as it was way too busy and it was a struggle to actually read all of the information to fully grasp the history but the ship itself is absolutely incredible.

Other tips for travelling in Sweden:

1. Buy a travel card - this is by far the cheapest way to get around in Stockholm (as with everything else in Sweden, public transport is pretty expensive). A 72 hour travel card will cost 240 SEK (approx  £20) and you can use the train, bus, tram and certain ferry routes across the city.
2. Plan carefully to maximise your stay - in comparison to every other European country we have visited so far, the city seemed really spread out. We devised a little itinerary so that we could plan our route and ensure that we got to see everything that we wanted to see. This is especially important if you are only staying for a few days and want to ensure that you make the most of it.
3. Budget for alcohol - I nearly fell off my chair when I paid the equivalent of £24 for a Long Island cocktail in our hotel, it's a different level of expensive. I thought I had the genius idea of buying alcohol in the supermarket before going out to make it cheaper but they don't sell wine in the local shops. The government has monopoly on retail sales of alcohol so you'll have to locate a Systembolaget (store licensed to sell stronger alcohol) if you're partial to a glass of wine like me.

Let me know in the comments if you have any other recommendations for travelling in Stockholm!
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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray Has Had a Sleek New Makeover...

Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray Review
If you told me last year I'd be writing a blog post raving about a setting spray, quite frankly, I would probably have laughed in your face. I've always been sceptical about them and if I'm honest, I've dismissed them as extremely overpriced water. I've tried NYX, MAC Fix+, Maybelline and a couple of other setting sprays here and there and I've just not been overly impressed - they've either been too sticky, too drying or just generally pointless. Recently, I was very kindly gifted the Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray* and this product alone has meant that I've had swallow my pride and backtrack on every mean thing I've ever said about setting sprays.
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Sunday, 2 July 2017

How to Grow Your Pinterest By 3000 Followers in 12 Weeks

How to Grow Your Pinterest
As far as social media goes, Pinterest is a relatively new platform that most of us are still trying to navigate and get to grips with. It's taken a little while to get there, but according to Google Analytics, Pinterest is now the second largest driver of traffic to my blog each month. When I first created a Pinterest account, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing - I would crazily pin to one or two boards and couldn't understand why I wasn't able to grow my following.
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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Things to Do In Belgium: Visiting 3 Cities in 3 Days


City breaks are really my thing at the minute - with work commitments and financial constraints, it's the easiest way to explore the world without breaking the bank. Shorter breaks also mean I can fit more countries in to my tight schedule! I booked a 3 day holiday to Belgium in March with my lovely (picking my descriptors carefully as I know she'll be reading this) sister/travelling companion. We anticipated a quiet, relaxing break, but we couldn't have been more wrong. It was a jam packed few days and we managed to visit 3 cities in 3 days. Here's my recommendations for a city break in Belgium:
 
1. Take a river cruise in Bruges
 
Ok, don't laugh....I didn't actually go on the river cruise myself - my sister was really keen to experience it but I saw a curvy woman with a similar body type to me take one unsteady step into the very narrow boat and almost capsize the whole thing. So that put me off the whole boat situation as there was no way I was taking an accidental dip in that freezing cold river. For people who have no fear, however, the river cruises were extremely popular and at approximately £7 they're fairly priced for a 30 minute tour to take in those views of Bruges that you can't see on foot. We did walk a similar route to the canal boat and I can vouch for the fact that the scenery is stunning and well worth the trip.
 
2.  Take pictures of the colourful buildings in Bruges Market Square (The Markt)
Pastel coloured buildings are the 'in' thing in the blogosphere at the moment, so what's not to love?! The architecture in The Markt is outstanding and one of the main attractions for tourists - it's in the heart of the city where you can hop into a horse & cart for a tour, climb 366 steps up to the top of the Belfry for 360 views of Bruges or drink in the vibrant atmosphere in one of the many restaurants. If you're looking for something to eat on a budget, I'd definitely recommend avoiding the cafes in the market square area - I nearly fell off my chair when I realised it would cost £11 for a very basic cheese toastie. It's the perfect place for a drink and lots of people watching though.

3. Be underwhelmed by the Manneken Pis in Brussels
If you research 'top things to do' in Brussels, the Manneken Pis (peeing boy) statue repeatedly comes up as a must-see. I do love a bit of history and architecture so I always try to catch a glimpse of these type of things when I'm travelling in a new city. So, my sister and I set off on our little adventure on the hunt for this peeing boy and well....we couldn't have been more underwhelmed if we tried. Although it looks as though it's a pretty big and impressive statue, it's actually so small that we walked right past it. The only reason we went back to it is because there was a number of people congregating at a small alcove in the wall and we wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. I mean, I was straining my eyeballs to get a view of one of the most over-hyped statues in the world. It's probably the most famous landmark in Brussels though and this little fella has been around since 1615 so I'd recommend a quick visit just to tick it off your list!              

4. Absorb the beautiful scenery and architecture in Ghent
If you're all about exploring an Old Town and capturing some of the most beautiful views, then Ghent will be the place for you. In my personal opinion, this place is so underrated - I was absolutely blown away by the views over the canal and it was by far one of my highlights of the trip. It's a historical city with lots of hustle and bustle and plenty to see and do. It's only a short journey from Brussels and the public transport is easily accessible. I'd make sure you book out a whole day for this so you can take your time to enjoy the buildings and scenery.

5. Eat way too many Belgian waffles in every city
It's just not possible to visit Belgium without sampling scoffing some freshly cooked Belgian waffles. Now I thought I'd tasted some good waffles in my lifetime until I visited Belgium but I can tell you that no one else can make waffles quiet like the Belgians. As you can see, I treated myself to this Nutella/strawberry combination and it was absolutely delicious. You'll find so many street stalls/quirky little cafes that sell Belgian waffles and there is so much choice when it comes to the toppings. I think I came back from this trip about 3 stone heavier but I have zero regrets.

Let me know in the comments if you have any more Belgium recommendations!
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Vienna, Bratislava, Lake Bled, Ljubliana