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My Scrapbook Story

I have always loved scrapbooking. I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't hoarding little notes, old train tickets, and other mementos from days out, in the hope that one day I'd have the time to stick them all into a scrapbook. My Mum bought me a gorgeous new doughnut-covered scrapbook from Paperchase for Christmas last year, which gave me the perfect excuse to sit down and record some memories. It is by no means finished yet, and some of the pages that I'm going to show you today are very much a work-in-progress, but after receiving so much encouragement from the lovely friends with whom I have shared my scrapbook, I decided to give you all a little sneak peek...

The first section of my book commemorates my day out at Cheltenham Races with some of my gorgeous blogger friends. I printed out some photos that we had taken on the day, and combined them with cuttings from the race day programme. I used old birthday gift wrap for the background of one of the pages, and simple additions like travel tickets from the day and my winning betting slip made these pages really come alive! You may notice a sticker from my friend Ellis's online shop there as well!

I must also admit that my scrapbook is by no means in chronological order, as directly after my #BloggersAtCheltenham experience, I stuck in my mementos from the Winter Ball that I attended back in December of 2016! I used some custom-made snowflake stickers for the background, as well as including the ball programme, some photos and frosty blue writing to stick with the wintry theme! This page is really simple but oh-so effective!

Next up comes a couple of pages dedicated to my participation in the #beechat snail mail scheme, which I've been a part of for over a year now! I write to four or five other bloggers very regularly, and I cut up some of the first letters I ever received to form the background for this page! In the envelope on the right hand side, I placed some of the letters which are most special to me, so that I can keep them safe and take them out to read them! The left page was designed to look like the front of an envelope, using brown paper and an old stamp (obviously I'm covering up my address)!

Now, I told you that this book was definitely not in chronological order, and we're actually going on a throwback to 2015 for these photos! The left hand page has a photo from a feminist shoot that I took part in, where the idea was to write across your body the message that you have for other women on International Women's Day. My message read "You define beauty, not Barbie", and I also had plastic-surgery style hatchings across my neck and face to show just how unrealistic Barbie's proportions really were! For the background to this page, I used flecks of multicoloured paint, which turned out so well. The right hand page shows mementos from another uni ball that I attended in 2015.

On these pages, I decided to stick on some of the academic awards that I won during my time at Oxford and turn this into a page celebrating achievement and self-love. I wanted to remind myself that I am absolutely capable of being engaged in the academic work that I am still doing, so I cut out letters from a newspaper to spell out "YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH" and then I found other positive adjectives throughout the paper and cut these out as something to look back on if I'm having a down day.

On the left here, we have a Beauty and the Beast themed page, which has fake flower petals on to allude to the Beast's rose! I went on a solo date to see Beauty and the Beast and I wanted to commemorate the beautiful film with something equally eyecatching in my scrapbook. I'm really proud of this page, but I need a little something extra to finish it off, I'm not sure what yet! I decided to do something a little different with the photo of Belle and the Beast, slicing it diagonally all the way across and then sticking the strips onto the page. I really like the effect of this, you can still see what the photo represents but it gives the page an extra summin' summin'.

The photos above show some of my most recently created pages. In November, I went on a trip to the Hepworth Wakefield art gallery with my PhD funding body and I was blown away by their exhibition of Alina Szapocznikow's work. Szapocznikow is a 20th Century artist predominantly interested in the human form. She was incredibly inventive, using casting to create works that were at the same time cute/beautiful and somewhat grotesque. I found her art so interesting that I just had to create a few pages inspired by this exhibition viewing. I purchased some postcards of her sculptures from the gallery, and cut up a flyer about the exhibition for some extra imagery!

And finally, the remaining photos just show some backgrounds that I've created, ready to stick things on to! Using a colourful background instead of leaving the page just plain white is a super easy way to jazz up a scrapbook. Gift wrap is my favourite thing to use - you can stick it on to cover the full page, or cut shapes out of it like the circles I made below! I've also saved everything from paper bags which Etsy orders are delivered in to tissue paper from shoeboxes for backgrounds! Once you start getting creative, there's no end of ways to re-use things that would otherwise just go in the bin.

My favourite thing about scrapbooking is that you can really let your imagination run wild and create some really beautiful pages! You can add extra texture using paperclips and glitter, punch holes in the pages to add on tags, and use pencils, crayons, and felt tips to decorate as well. One important thing to remember if you want to start a scrapbook is this: you can NEVER do it "wrong"! Your creation will be entirely unique and purely yours, and you can make your scrapbook look however you want it to! You could follow my lead, or take it in an entirely different direction! Just go for it!

I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of my creative outlet! Do you have a scrapbook? Tell me in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

Winter Hair Hacks Busted*

It's not news to anyone that winter can be hard on your hair. During the colder months, the frosty temperatures outdoors combined with dry warmth inside from fires and radiators can leave your locks in a bit of a state, with breakages and split ends being common. However, help seems to be at hand as every year, beauty bloggers and YouTubers everywhere share their ultimate haircare hacks for the winter season, which will hopefully mean that nothing as dramatic as a hair transplant will be necessary. But do these hacks REALLY work? After the success of my beauty fads busted post, today I've put some popular tips and tricks to the test to see which I'd really recommend.

Starbucks Christmas Cup Craft

Ah, Pinterest. It's easy to scroll through page after page of beautiful looking crafts thinking "oh suuuuure, I could totally recreate that at home." Well, after my latest browse through those hallowed boards, I decided to put this confidence to the test and give a Christmas-themed craft a whirl. And I had all of the materials readily to hand. It's hard to resist a delicious frothy soy hot chocolate on a cold day, so I've been indulging in a Starbucks or two lately to curb the winter chill. But instead of throwing my cups away, I have kept them and turned them into a magical Christmas tree. Yes, you heard that right. If you're a Starbucks-aholic or a Costa craver, this is the festive craft for you.

Party Season Preparation

We're now halfway through December which means that Christmas party season is in full swing! Whether you're getting glammed up for your office Christmas knees-up, or if you've got a big New Years Eve event on the cards, often it's the getting ready which is the most fun part of the night! This year I've gone all out with my primping and preening (because WHY NOT?!) so prepare yourself for a mammoth post where I share all of my festive favourites! There's something for everyone, from a perfect recipe for silky smooth legs to luxurious skincare to keep you glowin' even if the snow's a-fallin'. Are you ready? Let's get started!

My Very Vegan Christmas Dinner

vegan christmas dinner food ideas

For many people, it's not the prezzies that are the highlight of Christmas Day but the Christmas dinner! Traditional festive fayre consists of a roast turkey dinner, stuffing, crispy roast potatoes, pigs in blankets and (of course!) sprouts, followed by a large helping of Christmas pud! However, things are a little different for me this year. About six months ago, I decided to become vegetarian and I haven't looked back! I've felt so much happier and healthier with a meat-free diet, and in January, I'll be taking on the Veganuary challenge. I'm not alone - the vegetarian and vegan movements are growing by the day. But that doesn't mean that the ever increasing army of veggies and vegans go hungry on Christmas Day, there are plenty of delicious options out there! To prove this to any doubters, I decided to put together a delectable and 100% vegan Christmas meal that will satisfy even the most discerning tastebuds! Keep reading to discover my cruelty free Christmas!

Blogger Book Nook #4: Christmas!

christmas book adult inspiration reading

Snow may be falling and wind is rattling the Christmas lights hanging outside, but you're all tucked up and toasty in your pyjamas by the crackling fire, a frothy hot chocolate in one hand and a festive read in the other. Sounds pretty perfect, right? In honour of this most wonderful Christmas season, this month's Blogger Book Nook theme is festive reads! Every month, Tabitha and I put together a reading prompt for the Book Nook, encouraging the club members to pick up a book and share it on their blogs. There's also a related Q&A which you can fill out if you decide to write a post on your novel of choice. It's never too late to get in on the action, so click over to our Facebook group to join the bookish community! For now, let's dive into my festive read with the Q&A and mini review!

festive reading christmas books adult

1. Do you have an all time favourite Christmas book? If so, what is it?

While I do have an all time favourite Christmas film (Elf, obviously - I love it and watch it religiously each and every Christmas), I don't have a festive read that I pull out every year. Instead I prefer to read something new each Christmas - the title I've reviewed a little later in this post is a new one to me, and I've also ordered A Dog Called Christmas, which I'm hoping that Amazon will finally deliver before the big day!! 

2. Are there any books from your childhood that you associate with Christmas time?

I absolutely loved reading as a child; my sister, brother and I would regularly decimate the shelves of our local library, reading everything we could get our hands on! In terms of Christmas stories, I remember quite a few, including J.R.R. Tolkein's Letters from Father Christmas. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen made me cry! I'm sure I had a pop up book telling the story of a postman delivering Christmas cards as well but I can't for the life of me remember the title!

3. Which book are you hoping to find in your stocking this year?

Although it's not Christmassy in the slightest, I've also recently been reading Naomi Alderman's The Power, which has totally blown me away! I am so invested in the book and it is masterfully written - I'm about two thirds of the way through at the moment and I don't want it to end! Therefore, I'd love to receive another of her books for Christmas, perhaps Disobedience or The Lessons, which is set in my former home city of Oxford. 

4. Have you ever received a book at Christmas that you still have on your book shelf unread?

I feel super guilty for admitting this, but one year my Mum gave me a copy of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse and I never actually finished it! I am confident that I still have it on my bookshelf at home, so I will have to dig it out and complete it when I head home for the Christmas break. 

5. Where is your favourite place to curl up with a book in the wintry weather?

Whilst I'm still at uni, my bed is the place to be! I love wearing my cosy Primark socks, wrapping a blanket around me and cuddling up with a book and a cup of chamomile tea before heading off to sleep. When I'm at home, my favourite place is next to the woodburner in the lounge, with a dog on my lap! Just perfect!

christmas festive read reads novel books

Mini Review

No prizes for guessing that for this month's theme, I picked up The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. This was a Richard and Judy bestselling book, so I was excited to find out whether it lived up to expectations. I can tell you now that it most certainly did! 

The story is set in the 1920's and follows an elderly couple, Mabel and Jack, who left their hometown after Mabel gave birth to a stillborn child, as being part of a large community full of children was just heartbreaking for poor Mabel. They relocated to a remote farmstead in Alaska where Jack set to work farming the baren land, which was fruitful in summer but utterly desolate in winter. The couple struggle to make ends meet but on a rare moment of fun and frolicks between them, one night they form a little child out of snow outside their house. In the coming days, some strange happenings occur on the farmstead. A little girl is spotted wandering the woods, accompanied by a fox. Mabel and Jack are beside themselves - is this little girl real, or a figment of their imaginations, just like the snow child story that Mabel used to read as a youngster? 

What I absolutely adored about this book was that it was never really clear whether Faina, the little girl in the woods, really is a magical snow child or whether she is real. Even as events in the book transpire and you begin to suspect that Faina might be a real girl, something pops up to surprise you, making you wonder all over again! Despite the fact that even at the end, this is not cleared up, I did not find the book unsatisfying as it just added to the magic and mystery of the whole thing. I would not hesitate to recommend this book as I was utterly enchanted by it.

christmas read reading novel ideas 

Don't forget to head over to the Blogger Book Nook Facebook page to join in the fun, everyone is welcome! A big thank you goes out to Fleur, Abbie, Gemma, Beth, and Hannah from our lovely little community for penning Book Nook posts for last month's theme, they were a delight to read!

What are you reading this month? Any Christmassy recommendations for me? Do comment below!

Until next time,

A x

Winter Sun with Clickstay*

winter sun holiday ideas warm december

There's nothing like wintry British weather to make you crave a getaway. When it's dark by 4pm and the wind is blowing the sleet into your face as you shiver your way back from work, sunning yourself on a beautiful beach in Cyprus, or in a stunning villa in Thailand becomes ever more appealing. As you'll know from my Best Christmas Ever post, I'm no stranger to a little bit of winter sun. Back in 2012, my family and I went on a holiday to the sunkissed island of Cape Verde over Christmas, and we had an absolutely amazing time! Winter travel is something that I'd recommend to anyone, so today I've teamed up with Clickstay to share the destinations at the top of my travel bucket list, where sunshine in December is 100% guaranteed!

winter sun holiday vacation europe

Festive Flatlays

flatlay photography tips advice blogger

Whoever would've thought that I, a photography novice with a capital N, would ever be writing a post about flatlay photography? If you'd told me this time last year that a post such as this would be featuring on my festive content lineup, I would've laughed in your face! However, I've been putting a bit of effort into my Insta feed and my flatlay photography for blog posts lately, and combined with using a score of new hashtags, this has really paid off in terms of Instagram engagement. I have even received questions about how I take my flatlays and plan my Insta content, which has really shocked me, so today, here I am (in my Primark PJs) to give you a stripped down guide of exactly how I take my Instagram flatlays, and how I curate my feed.

The Spice Is Right at Cinnamon Kitchen, Oxford

When the newly revamped Westgate Shopping Centre opened in Oxford earlier this year, I was not the only local very keen to see what the cool £440m spent on the renovations had achieved. As well as three floors of shops, covering everything from Primark to Ted Baker, the Westgate's rooftop terrace has a plethora of restaurants and bars to tickle your fancy, overlooking panoramic views of the breathtaking Oxford skyline. This is exactly where you'll find Cinnamon Kitchen, which bills itself as a chic and contemporary restaurant, serving up innovative Indian cuisine influenced by classic British traditions. After I sadly missed out on attending their launch event, I was instead invited to dine at the restaurant earlier this week to see exactly what they have to offer!

Christmas Crafting: Gift Bows

christmas craft bows gift tutorial DIY

Even though we're still in November, Christmas is already in full swing in shops up and down the country, as well as on my blog! I've already shared a delicious Christmas cookie recipe which you all seemed to enjoy, so today I'm here with another crafty activity, allowing you to create gorgeous DIY Christmas wrapping. I learned how to do this myself at the recent Jingle Mingle blogger event hosted by the lovely people at PrezzyBox, and the results are so effective that I think you'll be BOW-led over by them! You've guessed it, I'm going to teach you how to create these gorgeous (and very professional-looking, if I do say so myself) bows for your Christmas gifts! This festive craft activity was just one of many on offer at the PrezzyBox Jingle Mingle, but more about the event later! Let's get stuck in to the tutorial!

What will you give this Christmas?

What will you give this Christmas? When I ask this, I’m not thinking about standard things like that box of smellies for your Mum or new slippers for your Dad. I’m talking about giving that little bit extra and making a difference in someone’s life. Because, after all, that’s what the Christmas spirit is all about. It really doesn’t take a lot of time, money, or effort on your part either. A small gesture from you could be exactly what’s needed to transform someone else’s Christmas from just another day in a miserable year to a truly magical occasion. To help inspire you to be that positive force in someone else’s life, I’ve come up with a list of what you can do to spread a little festive cheer. The lovely Hayley has already published a charity gift guide, which you can also turn to if you need extra help!

Pass The Love On with Thorntons, intuDerby*

Visiting Willy Wonka's fabled chocolate factory was the dream of every Roald Dahl fan back in the day. Just imagine it: a chocolate river, sweets growing on trees, lickable wallpaper, the list of delights goes on! What could be better? Well, what I have to share with you today might just top it! Recently, I was invited to the launch event for the newly revamped Thorntons' Chocolates store and cafΓ© at intuDerby! My morning at the store involved taste testing some of Thorntons' best products, watching the chocs in production, and lots more besides! But don't worry, nobody was turned into a giant blueberry during our visit and I didn't meet anyone called Veruca either, phew!

Blogger Book Nook #3: Young Adult

I can't quite believe we're into our third month of Blogger Book Nook posts already! Doesn't time fly? For those of you who may not be familiar with it, the Blogger Book Nook is a reading group set up by myself and Tabitha to bring together a group of book-crazy bloggers for discussions, book swaps, recommending authors, and reading motivation. Each month we share a reading prompt and a related Q&A to encourage the group members to pick up a book and write about it on their blogs too. October's spooky theme was really successful and the lovely Hels, Fleur, Gemma, and Llinos all produced fantastic blog posts sharing their Halloween reads! To help decide on November's reading prompt, I started a poll on the Blogger Book Nook Facebook group to ask our members what they'd most like to read and Young Adult came up very strongly in first place! So without further ado, let's dive into the YA themed questions...

Getting Bus-y on the River Rapids Route*

oxford henley bus go ahead river rapids wallingford reading

This post is going to start off with a pretty embarrassing fact about me. Are you ready? WELL, even when I was 18 years old, I used to think that going on a bus was rather exciting. I'm weird, right? Hear me out. I grew up in the very rural Suffolk countryside where our nearest neighbours were about half a mile away - public transport was not something that was even an option because no bus routes really went by our house and the one that did was incredibly unreliable to say the least. Moving to Oxford as a student and having things like buses on the doorstep was an amazing novelty for me and I still get a little childish buzz whenever I get to use public transport. Yes, you can tease me about this and no, I don't care!

For today's post, I've partnered with Go Ahead, who have asked me to share a few destinations that I'd most like to visit (as well as some I've already experienced!) along their brand new River Rapids bus route, which connects Oxford, Henley-on-Thames, Reading, Wallingford, and surrounding areas. Whether you're local to Oxfordshire or if you're just planning a day-trip, there will hopefully be something new for you to discover! Riding the bus is a fantastic way of exploring, public transport is not only an eco-friendly option but the free wifi capabilites of the new Go Ahead buses will ensure that nobody is bored on the journey either! Contactless payment on the bus also means that travel couldn't be easier. So, let's get bus(y) *teehee* with planning a fantastic day out!

Abbey Bakes: Christmas Cookies

christmas cookie easy recipe

Is it EVER too early to start thinking about Christmas? If you're on social media you'll know that the answer is a resounding no! The second the clock struck midnight for November 1st, there have been discussions of Christmas decorations, present buying, and what everyone's having for that all-important Christmas dinner! I'm not gonna lie, I am pretty excited to press play on my favourite Christmas film (Elf - obviously) this year, so to get me feeling even more festive, I decided to whip up a batch of Christmas sugar cookies! My cookies are very loosely based on this American recipe, but I've adapted the amounts a little and converted the measurements into grams for my fellow Brits. Shall we get started?

Meet my November Advertisers

Welcome to November! The dark evenings have crept in and the weather has taken on a new cold bite as we realise that Christmas is already on the horizon! Guy Fawkes night will signal bonfires and fireworks in just a few days time, and Children In Need will be hitting our screens towards the end of the month. A very special day that you may not be aware of will be occuring on the 19th of November - you guessed it, it's World Toilet Day! Please let me know how you'll be celebrating this momentous occasion in the comments below! Some people that you definitely won't want to be flushing away this month are my November advertisers - these gals really are the shit!

🌟 www.thehelsproject.com 🌟

It is my great pleasure to introduce the wonderful Hels as my first November advertiser! Hels's blog is genuinely one of my all time favourites to read, covering lifestyle, parenting, mental health and much more. Hels is a talented writer who makes any and every topic she covers on her blog personal, relatable, and interesting - I think that she could even write about her favourite brand of loo roll and I'd still lap up every word! Hels's Instagram is also TO DIE FOR and provides me with a source of inspiration every day, encouraging me to keep up with my flatlay efforts! I credit Hels with any success that I have when taking photos nowadays because she's been such a big influence on me! Hels will have plenty of fab content coming up this November as she is getting married and jetting off on honeymoon to glorious Mexico, so make sure you follow her to keep up with all of the fun!

My November picks from Hels's blog:
  1. How to be the Perfect Autumn Blogger
  2. Wedding Excitement
  3. All the Little Things: October
Follow Hels on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

🌟 www.theenglisheverygirl.com 🌟

I'm also very excited to introduce the gorgeous Sian as my second star advertiser! Sian is now in her fourth year of blogging and is going from strength to strength! She juggles blogging with her Masters degree and she is the queen of what I call cosy content! Cosy content is a blog post that you want to curl up with a cuppa and enjoy, and Sian's gorgeous pastel imagery and friendly tone to her writing give you exactly those vibes! Sian shares regular goal setting and progress report posts which I find super motivating for pursuing my own ambitions! Her makeup reviews always come from budget and high street brands that you could easily pick up yourself and her thoughts are 100% honest and trustworthy. Sian also posts really touching posts when the feeling takes her - her blog post in honour of her Dad on Father's Day sticks out to me as one of her best!

My November picks from Sian's blog:
  1. Autumn TV Watchlist
  2. Peek Inside my New Flat
  3. October Goals
Follow Sian on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest 

🐝 www.sunshinesarahxo.com 🐝

It's a welcome back for this month's first Bee Advertiser - it's the lovely Sarah once more! If you're in need of a little ray of sunshine in your life, this is the blog to visit! Just like mine, Sarah's blog is super varied - last month, for example, she wrote about everything from vegan beauty and chocolate recipes to Christmassy books and saving the bees! Sarah's endless enthusiasm never fails to impress me, I know I'll always leave her blog with a smile on my face. This month I'd really love to help Sarah reach 4k Twitter followers, a goal which she is rapidly approaching! Make sure you pop her a follow over there to help her smash that target!

My November picks from Sarah's blog:
  1. Veeno Wine Tasting in Harrogate
  2. Kiehl's Skincare Saved My Life
  3. Film Reviews 2017 Part II
Follow Sarah on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook


🐝 www.chronicallystrong.com 🐝

My next Bee Advertiser is the inspiring Shawn, who blogs over at Chronically Strong! Shawn's blog is split into three sections: wellness, lifestyle, and chronic illness. Shawn is a powerful advocate in the chronic illness community, using her platform to discuss mental health and inflammatory bowel disease, destigmatizing conversations on the subject as well as empowering others! I am constantly impressed by Shawn's sheer strength and energy in her writing - even if you do not personally suffer from a chronic illness I would definitely suggest that you set aside some time to read her content as you will nevertheless find it eye-opening and engaging!

My November picks from Shawn's blog:
  1. How to Deal with Depression, Anxiety and Sadness
  2. Life of a Patient Advocate: Not Everyone Will Support You
  3. 7 Lessons OITNB Teaches About Mental Health & Illness
Follow Shawn on Twitter, BlogLovin, and Instagram

🐝 www.vickychatter.wordpress.com 🐝

I couldn't wish for a sweeter lady to introduce as my last Bee Advertiser for November! Vicky is a total darling, I always enjoy chatting to her and reading her latest posts, whether she's writing about mental health, her upcoming wedding, or providing handy hints and life advice! Vicky is also very talented when it comes to makeup, her speciality is glitter and I'd love her to use her skills on me one day because every photo she posts is pure magic! I couldn't recommend highly enough that you give her a follow over on social media - you won't regret it!

My November picks from Vicky's blog:
  1. Bridal Shopping
  2. Our Engagement Shoot
  3. Loving Someone with an Eating Disorder
Follow Vicky on Twitter and Instagram

🌹 www.debrabow.com 🌹

Next up we have the fantastic Debra Bow, a good friend of mine who writes one of the few beauty blogs that I keep up with religiously! Debra's product reviews are always really trustworthy - she produces quality content with stunning images, and each review is based on thorough, genuine testing. I know that if I buy a skincare product that Debra recommends, I won't be disappointed! Debra also isn't afraid to discuss mental health and talk about deeply personal issues such as losing her grandparents, and these are some of the most emotional and impactful posts out there!

My November picks from Debra's blog:
  1. Talkin' About Thailand
  2. Tackling Dry Skin with Superdrug's Vitamin E Night Mask
  3. Playing with #PixiPretties Favourites
Follow Debra on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram

🌹 www.emmajaderamselll.wordpress.com 🌹

Finally, please give a warm welcome to my final advertiser - Em! It might seem like a clichΓ© thing to say but one of my favourite things about Emma's blog is that her personality really does shine through in all of her posts! Even when she tackles serious subjects, she still introduces her own brand of humour and that's something I have a lot of respect for! Everything from lifestyle to listicles can be found on Em's blog - you never know what she's going to be talking about next! She has recently done an amazing job of completing Blogtober, so you'll find heaps of fresh content when you click to her page!

My November picks from Em's blog:
  1. Fave Blog Words I Never Use IRL
  2. Things That Get Me Through Anything
  3. "I Wish You Had More Faith in Yourself"
Follow Em on Twitter and Instagram

My advertising packages are all sold out for the rest of this year (hooray!) and they'll be undergoing a revamp with a new format in 2018, so keep your eyes peeled for that! In the meantime, please give my lovely November advertisers the warm welcome they deserve - you'll be seeing much more of them as the month progresses!

What have you got planned for your blog in November? Are you looking forward to Blogmas yet? Drop me a comment below!

Until next time,

A x

October: A Month of Firsts

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, chances are you'll have noticed that I'm not usually one for writing favourites posts, monthly roundups, and the like. However, I am a big fan of "favourites" style posts such as those written by Hels and Steph, who share not just the products they've been loving in any given month, but their favourite days out, moments, and life events too! Since October for me has been a big month, jam-packed with many "firsts" and new experiences, I thought that these would be worth commemorating in a dedicated post, which (surprise surprise!) is what you're reading right now! There's something for everyone in this post, from party dresses to historic days out! Let's dive right in to my month of firsts!

First Explorations

At the start of October, I began my PhD programme at the University of Leicester, which has meant relocating to a new city, sorting out my new student digs, and finding my feet in an unfamilar place. I've been spending time at the weekends scoping out what Leicester has to offer and I've really enjoyed it! A particular highlight was visiting the Richard III Visitor Centre, where you can actually visit the spot where king's body was excavated back in 2012, in the middle of a car park! The museum also showcases how the archaeologists identified Richard's body, how his face has been reconstructed, and why his skeleton is missing its feet! My favourite room of the whole exhibition vividly recreates the Battle of Bosworth where King Richard was killed, using immersive projections of the cavalry across the darkened walls - it's a must-see and well worth the £8 student entry fee!

A Beauty First

Now I'm sure that most people who know me would say that I'm a fairly low-maintenance gal on the beauty front: I barely wear foundation, a curling iron is entirely foreign to me, and as for doing anything to my eyebrows - forget about it! However, that changed this month when I was invited along to the opening of Leicester's newest waxing salon - nkd. The Leicester branch is the second owned by nkd's founder, Rebecca Dowell, complementing her existing store in Nottingham. During a cocktail and nacho fuelled evening at the salon, several prizes were handed out to the excited attendees, and I was lucky enough to be a winner! I was treated to my first EVER eyebrow wax, courtesy of the lovely Jade. I approached the treatment chair with a bit of trepidation, expecting it to really hurt, but I was pleasantly surprised not to experience any pain! Jade was very reassuring and knowledgable, sticking to my natural brow shape and giving me a great tidy up. Based on this experience, I'll definitely be returning to nkd. All of the staff were very friendly, and the treatment rooms are welcoming and stylishly decorated. This was my first visit but it certainly won't be my last!


First Time (in a while...) 

When I was younger, I used to be a bit of a water baby! I adored swimming lessons and racked up as many achievement badges as my Mum could sew onto my dinky pink costume. I used to swim twice a week as a teenager, competing in the occasional gala and even once completing the Swimathon. However, in recent years, I've been a lot lazier and I've barely been in the water besides the odd dip on  holiday. But with a swimming pool just around the corner from my new flat in Leicester, I decided not to make any more excuses and to dive straight in again (teehee). To help give me the push I needed, I was also sent some fab new goggles by the lovely people at SwimFreak. I was gifted the SilverSlick triathlon goggles* in white, which I was really impressed with. Completely leak-proof as well as comfortable, sleek and stylish, these googles are easily adjustable and come with interchangable bridges in order to fit them perfectly to your face. The free nose clip that was also included was a nice touch too! My only comment about the design would be that having two bands around your head instead of just one would make them even more secure, but really I had very few quibbles and would recommend SwimFreak's range.

First Class Friends

September was a fantastic month for meeting up with my blogger friends, as I made last minute plans to travel down to Leeds for the #BloggersBlogAwards, which was a brilliant weekend! October continued along the same vein, as I was lucky enough to meet up with Hayley for the first time. Hayley and I have been friends for what seems like forever, so to meet her in person was such a thrill! In addition, I also got the chance to hang out with two of my other blogger besties this month: Hels and Kate! We spent a wonderful crafty weekend in Hels' lovely London flat preparing all of the Pinterest inspired DIYs for Hels' upcoming wedding reception, with plenty of pizza and wine to boot! These two mean such a lot to me and I wouldn't change them for the world. Towards the end of the month, I also went along to PrezzyBox's Christmas #JingleMingle event with my garlic bread loving gals Debra and Chloe, who are both such good fun and absolute sweethearts, and I finally met the wonder that is Laura, who I've known since the start of my blogging career, too! I think I'm doing quite well on the socialising front...

First Signs of Christmas

Oh yes, the dreaded C-word! I know some very industrious folks who have already started buying wrapping their Christmas prezzies already and while I'm not quite on that level yet, what I have been thinking about is Christmas party season! There's nothing better than getting dolled up for the office do, and I've already got my outfit sorted! Quiz clothing gifted me this gorgeous Red Frill Detail Jumpsuit* from the recently launched Gabby Allen Edit, which I'm really looking forward to wearing more this festive season. I dressed mine down slightly (well, as much as you can dress down a fire-engine-red jumpsuit...) with a jacket and flats, but you could easily ramp up the glam with simple heels and a faux fur coverup too! Huge thanks to the lovely Kate for taking these photos for me!

Jumpsuit: Quiz Clothing*
Jacket: Next (similar)
Shoes: H&M
Necklace: H. Samuel (similar)

There we have it - my month of firsts! Has October been kind to you? What have you got planned for November? Comment down below and let me know!

Until next time,

A x

*This is a collaborative post containing affiliate links: I received the items marked with an asterisk free of charge in exchange for a feature on my blog.

Bistrot Pierre Leicester Review

Grab your baguette, beret, and Brie because you're in for a flight of French fancy with this post! But don't worry, there isn't a snail in sight! Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to review one of Leicester's highest rated restaurants, Bistrot Pierre. The Bistrot, centrally located on Millstone Lane, has recently undergone a makeover, and I took my lovely blogger friend Hayley along to check it out! The venue was originally constructed by a Victorian wine merchant, and has served as a restaurant dedicated to fine French cuisine since 2003. As a relative newbie to the Leicester food scene, I had never visited Bistrot Pierre before, but after a scroll through the glowing reviews on their Trip Advisor page, I knew that we were in for a treat!

The new-look restaurant is packed with charm, combining all of the expected modern features with vintage twists. The dark blue walls, dotted with classic French posters and signs, were illuminated by the atmospheric low lighting. The spotlights perfectly positioned above each table provide ample light for enjoying your food whilst retaining an intimate feel. The jazz playing in the background also contributed to the classy air. The restaurant is split into four main areas, each decorated with its own individual and eye-catching quirks. Hayley and I particularly liked the gorgeous crystal orbs hanging over the main part of the restaurant, giving the place the aura of a 1920's ballroom. All of the decor comes together with lively and welcoming charm.

Another advantage of the restaurant being segmented into four areas is that even during busy times, the restaurant is unlikely to seem too swamped. The tables are positioned quite close together but this was not a problem for me and Hayley on our visit as we dined on a fairly quiet Thursday evening. At a similar off-peak time, Bistrot Pierre would be the perfect venue for a romantic dinner for two to celebrate a special occasion. The Bistrot offers a couple of different Prix Fixe menu options for lunch and early evening which present very good value for money - any two courses will set you back just £13.95 on the early evening menu, an excellent deal which I'll certainly be taking advantage of in future.

Now, let's move on to what you REALLY want to hear about - our meal! Hayley and I are both vegetarians, and we were delighted to find enough options on the menu for us to order completely different dishes. From the A La Carte menu, I opted for one of the Bistrot's new additions, the Crottin de chevre, baked goat's cheese with toasted walnuts, marinated beetroot, chicory, watercress and grain mustard dressing. The goat's cheese was of high quality; rich, creamy, and melt-in-the-mouth. Beetroot is an accompaniment that I don't often enjoy, but it formed a tasty component of the salad in this dish. My only reservations were that the starter was served with iceberg lettuce which seemed a bit of a shame. The delicious goat's cheese would have been complemented far better by some baby leaf salad. I didn't find the walnuts or watercress promised by the menu on my plate. Hayley tucked into the Brioche et champignons, toasted brioche with a fricasse of mushrooms, served without the bacon. Hayley had no complains about her starter and found it very filling.

Moving on to main course, we both selected options from the lighter dishes section on the menu, and I am glad that we did because the portions again were very generous! Hayley tried the Tarte a l'oignon, a warm tartlet of caramelised onions and Le Saint Mont des Alpes cheese, served with roast garlic aioli. This was an attractively presented dish which Hayley thoroughly enjoyed. I was tempted by another new dish on the Bistrot's menu, the Gratin Mediterraneen. This comprised ricotta and spinach "veggie balls", served with lashings of rich tomato and creamy bechamel sauce. My dish was well cooked and perfectly seasoned with basil - spinach and ricotta is indeed an unbeatable combination! I would say that it perhaps could have done with some variation in terms of texture; everything in the dish was the same texture which made it a little difficult to finish despite it tasting delicious. Between us, we were served potatoes and seasonal veggies, which went down very well. The vegetables were well cooked; firm (because nobody wants soggy, limp broccoli), flavorful and well seasoned.

And finally, it wouldn't been rude not to sample the desserts! It took us a very long time to decide, but eventually Hayley and I ordered a Tarte au citron and a Delice au chocolat between us. The lemon tart took the prize of best dish of the night for me! It was crunchy and caramelized on top, velvety smooth below, complemented well by the fruity tang of the raspberry sorbet with which it was served. The brownie, coated with thick chocolate sauce, was absolutely delicious but very rich. The salted caramel ice cream helped to mellow the taste, and there was a nice mix of textures with the crunchy bits on top too. Our meal was washed down with a bottle of Cuvee 94 rosΓ© which was light, refreshing and did not overpower any of the delicious flavours of the food.

A note has to be made of the delightful service that we received on the night, courtesy of Mihai. Mihai is a real asset to Bistrot Pierre - he is welcoming, friendly and very knowledgable about the restaurant and all of the dishes on the menu. He provided top quality service from the get-go. Sadly our first experience of the restaurant's serving team wasn't the most positive, as upon our arrival, I was snapped at by one of the waitresses for taking photos, despite me explaining that I was there to write a review. To her credit, she did apologise to us at the end of our night, but it didn't contribute to a very pleasant first impression. Nevertheless, Hayley and I had a wonderful time at Bistrot Pierre and the gorgeous food is more than enough to tempt me to return!

Are you a fan of French food? Which of Bistrot Pierre's dishes would you most like to try? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Until next time, 

A x

*This meal was provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.