Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A Week in Singapore

It has always been on my dream travel list to go to Singapore. I had a friend at university who used to live there and seeing her photos was enough - but something about the small, relatively new little Country has always intrigued me. We managed to score plane tickets to Singapore (via Istanbul) and back from Bangkok for £490 each, which is unbelievably good, through the wonderful STA travel.

Singapore was therefore our first stop on our recent Asia 'tour' - we opted to spend almost a week there to recover from the jet lag and get our bearings properly. Because the Country is quite small, this allowed us plenty of time to get to know the different areas within it well. 

All I can say is - Singapore didn't disappoint. We spent the first few days exploring Chinatown, Little India, Downtown, and discovered the wonderful drinking district of Clarke Quay. We also met up with Trig's friend Theresa who lives out there (I swear he knows someone everywhere in the world!) who gave us a great local tour of street food places and took us to the best view in Singapore at the Sky Bar, and we visited the nicest little haunts. Local secrets are always great. I will say that Singapore isn't the cheapest, a few drinks in Clarke Quay can set you back a bit - roughly £9 a pint, but the atmosphere is great and if you can get past that, it's a great place to party. We saved money by drinking 2 for 1's during happy hour, between 8-10pm, although this seemed to vary right up till 2am in some places, which made it a little more bearable on the bank balance!

We learnt a lot about the way Singapore has been built and has become prosperous whilst we were there. You could really see the difference between the financial district, where Theresa informed us that the average wage was around 13k (£6000) per month, and in some of the poorer areas, where there was no minimum wage. We met a new friend in our favourite Chinatown bar (which had nothing to do with it being called 'Knobs and Knockers') who informed us that in many places in Singapore didn't have employment rights for the worker, which he knew from experience working on a market stall in Chinatown. Poverty seemed to be relatively hidden, but it seemed that there was a disparate and vast disconnection between the working class and the prosperous. It was interesting to glimpse at the two very different ends of the scale.

Another highlight was definitely the 'Alive' museum - which puts you in various different scenarios. We spent a really great afternoon here in fits of giggles.

We stayed in an Airbnb off the beaten track, which saved us lots of money, but wasn't easy to navigate around. We arrived late in the evening on our first night and google maps took us miles away from where we lived. Luckily a kind taxi driver rescued us 2 hours into our expedition, when we were on the brink of melting in the humid heat - (we British don't get any of that) and took us to the right place. Our airbnb host, Gwen, was absolutely lovely and had a beautiful home with a huge swimming pool, so we soon adapted! We then found some local eateries hidden off the beaten track, which although we were initially skeptical of, I think were much better than the main places we found in the city centre. It is certainly true that everything is very clean in SP, the fines were stern and people seemed to obey the rules. People also seemed ridiculously polite everywhere we went, too, which was really lovely.

We also visited Singapore Zoo. I never know how I really feel about zoos, though it seems to be the thing to do when you're in a new place. I felt that they did seem to really care about their animals, and had large open spaces for them to roam.  We had breakfast with the Orangutang's, and they seemed utterly unfazed around people. They also had a river safari which looked fantastic, but we had no time left to go!

On one of our last nights we took a visit up to Universal Studios in Singapore to see Halloween Horror Nights. This was absolutely amazing - with monsters and scary creatures roaming around a ghost town. People were hanging off buildings and zombies were roaming the streets. Halloween Horror Nights was split into 'zones' - from a scary clown house zone, to alien UFO abductors and scenes based on Horror movies, such as Bogeyman (complete with that all important never ending hanging clothes scene). There was a New York zone which was overrun by demons, a Forest of Disenchantment with the re-telling through screens of fairy tales with a twist, the characters are now trapped in their bad endings. We queued up for two hours to visit 'Jings Revenge' - an Asian horror themed haunted house, which takes place in a Chinese secondary school. I was jumping all over the place, Trig, however, was less easy to scare.

We opted to fly out a day later because there was a Queen tribute band at the Expo. It would have been Trig's dads birthday, it was also nearly the anniversary of his death, and his dad was probably the biggest Queen fan, so we thought it was fitting to stay. This was a really touching way to end our stay in Singapore. Though there may have been a tear shed or two we also found some fake moustaches, so all in all a great Saturday night!

Singapore, we will be back!

Have you been to this part of the world before? I would love to hear your stories!

Alice x

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

5 Reasons why I used to hate Christmas, and 5 reasons why I now love it

Merry Christmas!

It finally feels like the festive season! I know this because Trig and I managed to get our first Christmas tree up the other day in our flat and, within 24 hours the cat had smashed 80% of the glass baubles, all around the house. He'd hidden glass in some areas too. That was excellent.

I am being somewhat reflective this year. I have in the past been a bit of a yoyo when it comes to my feelings about Christmas, as a child, obviously, it filled me with excitement. My dad used to type up letters from Father Christmas at his work and post them through the door, and that to me was sheer evidence that he must exist, as who else in the world had a computer when I was five?

But into my teens and early 20's, there were a number of things that did used to bother me about Christmas.

1. You couldn't leave the house. No one was around and - dammit, and (God forbid) I'd have to spend time with my family and watch re runs of 'A Miracle on 34th Street'.

2. Jumpers. So many jumpers.

3. Seeing the scales and feeling guilty. Actually this one still gets me, but also the guilt that a large percentage of this world is currently starving, and I have just eaten my weight in cheese and crackers.

4. The whole extended family would come to our house on Boxing Day and there would be nowhere to run or hide, especially with a raging hangover.

5. Too many parties, too little time.

It's interesting now how the tables have turned. I genuinely do believe I might be becoming a grown up. Here's why;

1. My life is now so busy and I work a lot, so one day a year in 'housebound' mode is actually amazing.

2. We have no central heating in my flat, so, this year I actually asked for jumpers.

3. I have started to really care much less about what the scales say and more about how I feel. I do try to eat food that makes me feel good, and I'm more conscious nowadays about the nutrients I'm getting, but regardless I'll definitely be tucking into the mince pies this year.

4.  I miss those family get togethers. Took me years to realise that not everyone has their families travelling all the way to see them on Boxing Day, and now that it no longer happens. I rarely get to see them, I really really miss the yearly get together. Most importantly, now my Grandmother is older and less mobile and lives quite far away, it's so much harder to see her. I have realised that she is the linchpin that brings everyone else together, too. Food for thought.

5. All my friends who once lived in one place now live in separate parts of the Country, so once a year it's really really great to get together and be festive. Though this year, I'm attempting to do so without drinking alcohol. Lemonade can be just as fun as cava, right? Hmm.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Alice's Adventures in Istanbul


I have been very much enjoying a month away - which means I have so much blogging to do now! My plan was to blog on the move but unfortunately my tablet helpfully self destructed, which means I now have a LOT of catching up to do.

Our first stop on our travels was Istanbul. I had heard so much about Turkey and the capital before I went, including that it was listed as one of the most beautiful places in the world. What started out as a brief stop off on our way to Singapore, actually ended up being a highlight of our trip away.

We stayed for three nights in the little district of Taxsim, which just so happened to also be the modern end of the city and its party central to boot. We opted for an Airbnb, and stayed with a lovely man called Melik and his girlfriend, who made us feel really welcome and included unlimited free tea! There are lots of cafes and bars around Taxsim square, and the area really comes alive at night. We found  solace in a little Irish bar called U2 (we didn't judge based on the name) whilst lost looking for our Airbnb, and ended up subsequently spending most of our evenings there. The bar owner was a lovely friendly Turkish man called Leo, who bought us stuffed mussels, local street food, and kept us stocked up with bar snacks. Leo generally gave us a great insight into what it was like to live in the city, and by the end of the three days we were all good friends, he even invited us back to stay with him whenever we wanted to! We also met lots of friendly Irish people, almost all of which seemed to have somehow originated from Tipperary (the same place as my Grandparents). It really is a small world.

Central Istanbul has so much to offer, including the Grand Bazaar in Sultanahmet, the Blue Mosque and the Spice Bazaar to name a few. I was really in awe of the buildings and architecture. You can do some serious shopping there too, which tons of knock off brands if that's your kind of thing, particularly around the Grand Bazaar area. Trig hated the Grand Bazaar as he said it was just full of bags and jewellery, which is conversely my idea of heaven, so we had to agree to disagree. It is absolutely huge, and to step into a side alley can easily mean hours of being lost. This reminded me a bit of the souks in Marrakech to me with the bartering and trading,  although it did seem slightly more structured. Although the drinks prices were similar to the UK, everything else seemed to be a lot cheaper and quite flexible, we found that with the exception of bars and restaurants, there often wasn't a fixed price for anything.

We really wanted to catch a Turkish show on one of our evenings but couldn't manage it. I was also very disappointed that we didn't make it to the Turkish baths! However if there's one thing I won't miss out on, that is sampling the local cuisine, and I have to admit doing so turned the whole concept of kebabs (pronounced 'kebabs' there) on its head for me. If you buy a kebab in the UK, it's usually because its 3am and you've had a heavy night drinking, followed by waking up by a greasy wrapper and a feeling of deep regret in the pit of your stomach. Not so in Istanbul. We had some amazing grilled food with incredible seasoning, which I think may have been some of the best food of the whole holiday for me!

Istanbul was just intended to be a short stop over for a few nights, that we took because it was on the way to Asia, and not necessarily to visit in its own right. However after spending the few days there, I did fall for the charm of the city and would now quite happily go back and visit Leo, do some budget shopping and eat some amazing 'kebaps' again in a heartbeat!

Alice x

Saturday, 18 October 2014

5 Autumn Favourites

I absolutely love the colours that come with autumn, and the rich, earthy tones that you get to play with when the leaves hit the ground. This year, I am trying to stop myself from making too many seasonal purchases, as I'm off to sunnier climates in Asia for a month this week, so when I return we'll practically be into winter! However below are my top 5 picks for the autumn season that still carry over into winter, too.

1. Pencil Kimono Dress - Asos £42.00 - I love this dress and I always associate this sort of green with autumn. It's one of my best colours with my pale skin and red hair so I was all over this on Asos! This is a perfect work to evening dress, which can be quite versatile depending on how you dress it up or down.

2. JF Alex Boots, JustFab, £28 - Every girl needs a good pair of boots, especially at this time of year! I find it hard to find good flat boots (especially with my gigantic feet) so I need a bit of a heel that is still easy to move about in, and I feel most comfortable in this kind of style. For you UK girls, Justfab are doing two pairs of shoes for £35 at the minute too. Bargain!

3. Rimmel Kate Lipstick in #1. £5.49 Dark red is perfect for autumn, and this rich hued lipstick doesn't break the bank, but delivers a great lasting colour nonetheless. Plus if it's good enough for Kate..

4. Smashbox Fade to Black Photo Op Palette £21 - £59 (found on Ebay and Amazon). After initially lusting after Tom Ford Fall Quad Palette in Nude, and then realising it was out of my price range, I actually really fell in love with Smashbox whilst searching for an alternative. I love mixing the darker hues and rich shades with the autumn brown colours of this palette - this is a real day to night toolbox.

5. June Jacobs Pumpkin Peeling Enzyme Mask £24 (found on Ebay, around £50 found elsewhere online) This is a lovely seasonal mask and I've heard rave reviews about it, so I'm currently eagerly awaiting it's arrival at my door! According to its description, this mask uses Pumpkin Enzyme to essentially digest dead surface cells (not the nicest process I'm sure) which in turn stimulates new cells. Pumpkin is rich in essential fatty acids, and Vitamins A and C. Plus I love the smell of pumpkin, it reminds me of fun times giggling around bonfires and carving ghoulish shapes with my best friends.

What's your favourite thing about Autumn?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Review: Lush Haul!

I remember the first time I wandered into Lush, by accident, perhaps about 10 years ago now. I was in a different city, so I was already in explorer mode, on the look out for new exciting finds. I remember walking down the stairs into what felt like a strange magical cave like place, filled with an apothecary of rich and interesting flavours and scents. From that point on, I was hooked.

Sometimes, the strongest memories are linked to your sense of smell. It was when I walked past our local Lush base the other day and a familiar lavender scent hit me, that this memory came back, of a wide eyed younger me walking out of that Lush shop, clutching a selection of bath bombs with a big smile on my face. I felt all tingly, like I'd just stepped out of the shower. Lush has since been a great form of escape and retail therapy for me, because I know I'm investing in all natural, ethical products, and also in some much deserved chill out time. It's a small luxury, but you could spend your money on a lot worse than natural products that fill your bathroom cabinets and make the house smell nice.  Lush employ a clever marketing technique that most businesses don't tap into, by using your sense of smell in such a way that it physically lures you into their shop. Personally though, I'm glad that they do.

It's been a while since I treated myself to a few bits from Lush, but I have to say I'm really impressed with some of their newer products. This off the cuff visit resulted in about a £40 spend, but all has since been put to good use!

1. Light Pink : I have tried this once before and absolutely loved it, because I'm a pink toned redhead that can NEVER find a foundation that doesn't somehow always turn me slightly orange or look a little mismatched. This works for me because I am so pale, and allows me to wear foundation in the daytime that is a bit lighter and doesn't weigh my skin down. It works really well when you mix it with your foundation, for those days when you don't need much and you want a bit more of a healthy glow :)

2. Movis - A cleanser made of wholemeal bread? I didn't understand it myself, but apparently this sweet little bar includes wheatgerm oil, hop oil, and cocoa butter to soften. It lathers up very nicely and leaves my skin feeling really clean, although occasionally it has left it feeling every so slightly dry too.

3. Avocado Bath Bomb - As I touched on above, I have to be really careful when I walk into Lush, so as not to walk out with a whole basket full of bath bombs. Considering I've recently moved into a flat which doesn't even have a bath (sob) these can only be used when visiting my parents anyway, so I went for a moisturising, fizzy avocado bomb. This was lovely and did the trick. You appreciate it more when you don't get to soak as much!

4. Charity Pot - This was only £1 towards a good cause, and with winter fast approaching chapped lips are no fun. This has been living quite happily in my handbag. Bargain!

5. Feeling Younger - This was my favourite finds and reminds me of Benefit's Moon Beam. It achieves a similar effect, except it makes me feel a bit smug because it's a fraction of the price (and I know it hasn't been tested on animals). I've found that applying it before foundation under the eyes deflects my dark circles, especially after a late night. I also discovered that applying a thin line straight down the nose under makeup makes the nose appear straighter (blend though, obviously, or you'll just have a white streak!) I have been using this everyday since my purchase.

6. Brazened Honey - Aahh, I do love a good natural face mask. This mask is designed to wake up and stimulate, with a mixture of fennel, ginger root, coriander, parsley, juniperberry, rosemary, lime juice, honey, you name it, all the invigorating ingredients you can think of have been condensed into this little pot. I love the fact that if you bring several empties back you get a free one, too. I'm all for making your own face masks, but Lush face masks really do feel very well put together. I like the way they put a name to the person who has made your pot that day. I like to imagine that that is a really fun job, and that Lush employees get to stand over a huge cool vat (like a big chemistry experiment) throwing in a concoction of natural ingredients and mushing them all up. I really don't think for the price that they charge (about £5) that it would be much cheaper to make yourself, so I think it's a justifiable treat every now and again!

Are you a fan of Lush? What are your favourite products?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A Skincare Overhaul

Lately I've been really thinking about my skincare routine, and what products to keep in and which ones to ditch. I have too many products and can't afford to spend hours on my skin, but at the same time there are staple items which don't break the bank and I think are worth using. I thought I'd share my favourite skincare products with you, and justify why I love them so much!

My night time routine is actually much more complex than my daytime routine, as I really do believe a good routine aids you in your beauty sleep. Listed below is my nighttime routine (except for the nights that involve too many glasses of wine, for these occasions I do leave face wipes by my bed!)

1. The Clarisonic Mia 2. I actually wrote a post on this here, I love it so much! I use this in the evenings, used to use it twice a day but now I try and at least use it twice a week. It gives my skin a really deep cleanse, which keeps breakouts away, shrinks pores, and makes my skin feel really refreshed, too.

2. Olive Oil & Castor Oil mix - When I am not using the Clarisonic, I use a 30% castor oil mix with a 70% olive oil mix to cleanse my skin which works really well and moisturises too. Plus it's totally natural. If this sounds like a really weird suggestion, check out my post on this method here, I've explained myself as best as I can and I promise it does work!

3. Retinol A - I actually bought this off Ebay, initially skeptical, I've now moved up from a 1% to a 10% strength. Vitamin A is extremely powerful - I once spoke to a 50 year old who looks like a 25 year old and swears it's because she uses it religiously! I also originally learned about Retinol A when I started using Environ products - one of the reason they are so well received as a brand is their use of Vitamin A in their products. Sadly Environ is a bit rich for my blood - but this makes my skin look great so I see no reason not to stick to it.

4. Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate - This is an absolutely beautiful product and moisturises my skin with just a few drops and the lavender smell is lovely too. It calms stressed skin and I've noticed a glow since I incorporated it into my routine and replaced my night moisturiser with it!


In the morning I wash with my olive oil and castor oil mix again (honestly, I know it sounds mad but it's the best cleanser I've ever used).

1.  Murad Perfecting Day Cream - is a good SPF day moisturiser and I am trying to get into the habit of using SPF even in the winter months. This doesn't leave my skin looking greasy and sinks in nicely.

2. Pro Genius Omega Treatment oil - I use this instead of a serum as just a few drops in the morning provides ten active plant oils enriched with omegas 3, 6, 7 & 9 - it really hydrates my skin.

3. Environs Colostrum Gel - I had a skin review and they noted that my only major problem was redness. Since using this product my redness has decreased a lot - still not completely, but I am a pink skin tone as opposed to yellow so there's not much more I can do about it!

None of the above were too expensive - the omega treatment oil arrived on my doorstep in a beauty box and the rest I have sourced on Ebay for a fraction of their normal costs. For the most part, even store bought they shouldn't break the bank and are definitely products worth investing in.

What skincare products or regimes do you swear by? I love finding out about new products, so I'd love to hear about them. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Treading the Boards

A few years ago, I completed my Masters degree in Contemporary Theatre and thought, what now? I've never wanted to act full time. I was commissioned initially to develop a piece of work that I wrote and direct it in London and Cambridge, and I did that with a really wonderful cast. And then I let work swallow me up, and put my passion to one side.

My friend recently became a published author for the first time, and then subsequently published his first play. He needed a cast to help to workshop it and perform it on stage for the first time. He put out a call for an actress in my age group on facebook, and I thought, why not? 6 months later and many successes and setbacks, and an 80 page play to learn, and we finally performed it in two shows on stage last week!

'My Lot' and is a two act comedy that is a tribute to the modern day family who, despite the issues with 21st century living, can and do still carry the strength and values family life needs. The characters within the piece all represented some sort of stereotype. I played an over the top mother who bullied her slightly downtrodden husband, the other characters included a gay son, a pregnant teenage mother, a very smart and misunderstood daughter, a fussy auntie and senile Grandpa! The seemingly dysfunctional family is struggling with a blackout and have to learn to talk to one another. Little moments and revelations occur throughout during this time that really bring the family back together. The whole play is also thread between the telling of a really long joke! If you'd like to learn more about Darren O Sullivan's work please do click here.

The whole process was a lot of work but I was really honoured to be asked to be a part of it. It sort of filled a gap in my life that until then I had been too busy to notice was there. The play is set in northern England, so I also learned that I can do accents if I really try, something I was convinced I couldn't do before!

Most importantly for me, I met a group of local actors and actresses that are keen to work together on new projects, which is really great. We have decided to revive the piece that I created years ago, through another show in the local area. I'm really excited about this because it is really close to my heart and was a huge achievement for me to direct such a talented cast. The performance is called 'The House of Secrets' and is based within an actual residential house, and was written to raise awareness about sex trafficking. The audience interact with the show by walking round the different rooms, which all have different stories told by actresses in various ways. The feedback we had last time was really moving and I can't wait to develop it even further. You can find out more about this and watch a promo video here. 

Have you got any hobbies you don't get to do enough? Let me know!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Well its been a fair few weeks since I last posted. I think its safe to say I've been on a self imposed hiatus, trying to evaluate whats actually important to me in life and what I want to write about. This may seem like an odd statement seeing as the title suggests that this is in fact a diet post, but I've noticed lately that more than ever, when I get so busy and let my eating habits slip (and when they slip, they slip badly) my whole life seems to follow into a kind of chaotic state.
First thing that's worth noting, just to set the context : I've got terrible willpower.

I'm not going to lie to you, I'd rather sit on my sofa than go for a run. I wish I was one of those people who loved going to the gym, but the truth is it bores me half to death. I'd rather be doing something, actually anything, other than step onto a treadmill. Of course, I enjoy the rush of endorphins after a bit of exercise just like the next person. But I know that I can cheat and get a similar effect by eating a bit of chocolate. This is ultimately my problem.

All things considered, I should probably be morbidly obese. But about a year and a bit ago, I decided that after the best part of a decade of half hearted dieting and going to the gym, followed by eating cheese then getting nowhere, that I was just going to bloody well get on with it and do it. I am an all or nothing person. I threw myself into a juice cleanse for a week, and then I followed this with two more weeks of combining juicing with home cooked meals, cutting out all white bread, white pasta or white carbs in general. I lost just over a stone, which is all I really wanted to lose - but it made a huge difference to me. (Then I went to America for a bit and discovered savory pancakes, but that's a whole different story).

After about ten years of saying 'I just need to lose a stone or so and I'll be really happy with my weight' it took some kind of inner revelation for me to just get on with it and actually do it rather than continuously fail. It may not sound like a great deal of weight loss - it's not much to lose, but it really changed the way I felt about myself. I felt able to wear the clothes I wanted to wear but didn't feel confident wearing before. Most importantly, the weight stayed off too, for about a year, despite my gallivanting and pancake eating adventures.

Everyone has different methods when it comes to merging a busy life with a healthy life. But I've learned that for me, the true secret is that you NEED to stick to a change in diet for at least three weeks, and try and be strict with it. After that, the odd camembert sharer is OK (although, as a general rule I don't share camembert). The reason this is important is because your body adapts to your new weight. They also say that after 21 days of doing something it becomes habit and a part of your new way of thinking. After your body has adapted to its new weight, your metabolism tends to keep you there, unless you're really really naughty.

Over the past month (and after a few more gluttonous adventures) my scales are tipping again a bit. This has spurred on my personal mission for finding ways to eat well and stay healthy, when you also work like a madman and can't afford a personal chef. Initially I went back and did a week juice cleanse again to set me back on the straight and narrow. It made me feel great, and I was full of energy. I made it to day 6, lost 8 pounds, then accidentally left the cable to my juicer over a hob and burnt a hole through it. I dare not plug it in now. Consequently, partly due to this, and due to a couple of days in Ipswich and a boozy wedding, I fell off the wagon and regained most of the weight I'd lost a week later. It is always best to aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week, but I find that when I eat healthily and do the following, my body loses what it needs to and that's OK. The most important thing, whether you lose weight or not, is just that you feel better in yourself, and it's taken me quite a long time to realise that this should be my main priority. Here are the steps I am taking to get myself back on track;

1. I am eating more vegetables, soups, and salads.
2. I'm generally forcing myself to walk everywhere rather than be lazy and catch the bus.
3. I occasionally dip into home exercise. I used to be great and go to the gym 4-5 times a week but those days are gone now (see above, terrible willpower). I actually find Results With Lucy to be the best, and I've tried a few different ones now. Very simple and easy to follow.
4. I'm buying a new juicer, and incorporating juices for breakfast back into my regime.  One a day is enough though for a long term healthy lifestyle. Throw some spirulina in too and your body will thank you!
5. Most importantly, and this is probably the key, I'm trying to not spend so much time judging myself.

For me, the three week rule works. My body adapts to the weight and then I relax a little on my diet, but by this point, I want to eat the good stuff and I'm less drawn to the bad stuff. When I'm juicing or eating more vegetables, I feel a huge noticeable difference in my focus, my work, my happiness, and my life. I just don't understand why, even armed with this knowledge, I still find myself surrounded by a load of refined sugar and junk food sometimes!

What methods do you use to incorporate healthy living, especially in busy lifestyles? I would love to hear your suggestions :)

Friday, 8 August 2014

Small Achievements, and the Little Friday link up!

I am now officially in my late twenties. This is a fact. At 27, I convinced myself I was still in mid twenties territory, or at least teetering on the border, but having just celebrated my 28th birthday, there's no denying it now. One of my friends yesterday told me she was getting botox at the weekend, and it made me consider it. Should I be doing the same? Are we all obsessed with stopping the passage of time? It seems like no time at all since I was running down the garden naked in nothing but a bobble hat (I am referring of course, to myself at roughly four years of age, and not the unfortunate incident last year where I devoured several bottles of wine to myself) or playing on the swings in the garden. Life was much simpler then.

One thing that I have noticed, is that all the little things about being younger now seem golden. I miss family holidays, and somehow, it's taken me over ten years to realise these rituals might be gone for good. We always went to parts of the countryside every year,  and, not being old enough to go down the pub, I remember feeling a bit bored sometimes, but I realise now that the benefit of this was that we had to talk to each other and spend time together (or in myself and my sisters case, usually fight). I remember being fifteen and sitting cross legged on the side of the water fountains in the shopping centre with my best friend, talking for hours, and I remember so well my first major heartache. Emotions seemed almost stronger back then, before I'd learned to put any barriers up and protect myself or prepare myself. There are so many other memories, some that would seem unimportant, but all of them form the rich tapestry of my own life to date, and I'm so thankful for them.

This is not my usual sort of post, but sometimes self reflection is important. Like many others I have tried all kinds of methods to tap into the elixir of youth and stay young forever, such as juicing, trying to curb my vices, experimenting with all kinds of face creams (I am also utterly convinced that by the time I'm 40 modern science will have invented a way to reverse the clock. They're working on nano technology right?) But in between what I am sure is a shared fear with others my age about crossing the threshold into a state of being fully grown up and mature, I know that it's so important to remember to be grateful. Age is a gift. The passing of time and the introduction of wear and tear, dark circles, and lines are gifts. No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow. The ability to get older, to continue learning and experiencing life, is a beautiful thing. Sometimes we're reminded of our own mortality, as I was the other week when someone I once knew passed away suddenly. It puts things into perspective. I welcome each day and I have always lived my life at the risk of burning the candle at each end, I'd like to think I try and make the most of it.

With that in mind, I've a checklist of things I'd like to achieve by the time I reach 30. Look at it as cosmic ordering if you will. Putting this list out there might just help me to achieve it. So here we go;

1. Grow the project I manage and make the work sustainable. I've been trying to do this for some time, but only recently have I developed the business plan to a place where I feel really positive about this.

2. DJ overseas - Mainly I just take on gigs here - but now I'm learning production and becoming more creative with my mixes, I'd like to keep working on it and eventually travel with it. Why not?

3. Be working on new creative projects - and take a show to Edinburgh! I completed an MA in Theatre a few years ago and have been commissioned to develop work in the past few years, but I need a new project to sink my teeth into. I'm acting in a local play in Sept, but I hope I'll be working on other projects in years to come.

4. I want to pass my driving test.

5. I want to explore and see more of Asia, Japan and China. I think this is realistic, since we're going to Singapore in Oct and Japan is next on the list :)

6. I want to develop my business ideas to the next level. I'm guilty of talking about things a lot and sometimes not acting enough. I have plans in place and I want to have developed them in two years.

7. I want to be able to hold a conversation in Spanish!

What are your key goals? I'd love to hear them!

This week I'm co-hosting the Little Friday weekly link up! Sign up below :)

Ash (Follow Here!) // Morgan (Follow Here!) //  Alice (Follow Here!)

Rules are there are no rules! 

Please link-up to whatever you like! 

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Happy Little Friday Everyone!

The Grits Blog

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Oil Cleansing Method

As a thrifty shopper, and a girl who is generally more switched on to using natural alternatives where possible, the oil cleansing method has really intrigued me for some time. I'd like to say I decided to give it a go out of interest alone, but actually, I completely ran out of cleanser and didn't have the time to get any more. I scoured my cupboards for some sort of alternative, and found this method again after reading about it before, and thought - why not?

Now you are probably thinking that this is a gross idea and wondering why on earth anyone would do it (I know my other half still doesn't get it). I too was initially skeptical, as my face can be quite oily, and I couldn't see how putting more oil on it could help things! Despite this, and because at the time I had no alternative and nothing to lose, I decided to ignore my reservations and go for it. Needless to say I was really pleasantly surprised, even after the first day. My skin was soft, it wasn't greasy, and my face felt clean. Since then, it's only improved, and three weeks on, my skin has actually cleared up significantly.

The principle of the oil cleansing method is simple. We often buy into mainstream skin products which promise to clear the skin and clean it, but in reality these products often strip our skin of its natural oils. The skin then tries to replace this oil, overcompensating by creating more oil! Added to this, alcohol and fragrance (even in non scented and expensive products) irritates skin on a level you may not notice but does affect you.

Now don't get me wrong, I have come across a few cleansers in my time that haven't caused me too many problems, but I've never found one that has actually made my skin look and feel a lot better like this, genuinely.  I'm actually so impressed. After three weeks of just washing my face in olive oil (and later, introducing castor oil) I've found my skin completely clear, clean, and less greasy! I think this might be because oil dissolves oil, when you wipe it away. Oil in itself isn't bad, your skin produces it because it needs it, the main cause of spots or breakouts is actually more often down to hormones, environment, and clogged skin. By working with your skin and not against it, the oil mixture will dissolve any natural oil that has become stuck in your pores and allow for a deep cleanse. I have found that not only is my face softer with less need for moisturiser, its now also much clearer and makeup sits much better on my skin!

Here is how it works;

You will need a blend of two oils. I started with olive oil for the first week or so, and honestly that worked well, but after reading into it more, I discovered that castor oil has anti-inflammatory properties, and is very cleansing. If your skin tends to be more oily or combination, you will want to use less castor as this as it can actually be quite drying. Castor oil isn't as easy to find as you'd expect, (try a pharmacy or the pharmacy part of your local supermarket). It takes a little bit of practice to get the mixture quite right, but as a general rule;

  • Oily Skin: Try a blend of 30% Castor Oil to 70% to olive/sunflower oil.
  • Balanced Skin: Try a blend of 20% Castor Oil to 80% olive/sunflower oil
  • Dry Skin: Try a blend of 10% Castor Oil to 90% olive/sunflower oil.
I've been reading up on this online and there are different verdicts about the benefits of extra virgin olive oil and sunflower oil, but I myself have been using olive oil and find it to be great!

  • Create desired blend (this might take a few attempts to get a mixture that suits your skin best) and apply to face. 
  • Massage in circular motions (anti clockwise around the eye area, I learnt this from a make up artist, you should take your eye makeup off in this direction too to avoid encouraging lines!) I usually do this for about a minute to two minutes, because I am impatient and often don't leave myself much time in the morning, but for optimum results do this for 3-4 minutes. Take time on the areas you have problems with. It gets the blood flowing and allows the castor oil opportunity to sink through and really cleanse. 
  • This removes makeup too and seems to work well on my eye makeup!
  • Lastly, get a washcloth and dip into hot water (obviously not too hot) and apply to face. This will remove all the oil.
That's it! Your skin should now be glowing :) As I said I've never been happier with any other cleanser my entire life - so I'm sticking with this one!

Have you ever tried the oil cleansing method? What do you think?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A Jaunt in the Big Smoke and a Review of The Monty Python Live Show!

So I don't normally do theatre posts (though, fun fact, I actually have a Masters degree in Contemporary Theatre), but last week myself and the other half hopped on a train to the big smoke to catch Monty Python - the last ever live show. I thought this most certainly deserved cementing in history, or at the very least, a blog post and a nod to the occasion.

I've mentioned my love of visiting the capital before, and nothing really excites me more than taking a few days out and exploring London. We decided to make a big deal of out of it and booked an airbnb for a couple of nights. We have an emerging tradition where we always find a good Groupon for a nice meal out when we go (call us cheapskates if you like, but its expensive to eat there) and this time was no exception, we found a lobster/steak meal for two with a bottle of wine for £30! Needless to say, I do quite like lobster.

We had a bit of a wander around Camden town during the day, I threw a new outfit together with one of my favourite Bershka shirts, and it also gave me an excuse to take out my new handbag that I picked up from 'Asylum'. My best friend runs the shop and honestly, I can't walk past without being coerced into buying something, (but I do love it all).

Now onto the show itself - I'm going to start by admitting that I felt like a bit of a sham going to see Monty Python. Trig got the tickets for us, but in reality my parents are much bigger fans than me and I've barely ever watched it. I almost felt guilty going, because I thought someone else should probably be in my seat! Every MP fan I've ever met can usually recite entire sketches by memory, which is just an indication of its cult following, really. Although they were initially only going to do one show, it sold out within 45 seconds so they kept adding new dates until it stopped selling out. We got tickets for the second night, and I tried to get myself up to speed before we went without watching too much MP at home and ruining it for myself.

We met some of Trig's workmates and chilled out in the Sky VIP lounge beforehand int he o2, which was a really nice touch! The staff were so friendly and made us feel so welcome.

I happen to have what we could call a minor fear of heights (OK - I really don't do well with heights) and luckily for us our seats were the very top of the arena on the absolute highest tier. Once I got over that (and begged to swap with someone for the end seat so I didn't have to climb over anyone) everything was splendid. The show itself was about 2 1/2 hours long. They did recycle lots of their famous sketches which they have been slated for in the press, but if you're doing a last show of an iconic comedy spanning decades, you would be silly not to. That is what their audience and fans clearly wanted. There were sketches even I recognised, their famous dead parrot sketch, for example, which was really great to see live.  Others I didn't know but would now like to watch. John Cleese was phenomenal on stage - a natural comic, they were all great. I have an odd sense of humour, and the slapstick elements don't usually tickle me, but I enjoyed it immensely.

They also added new material - with guest spots from Lee Mack live, and recorded material with Stephen Hawking and Brian Cox (Stephen runs him over and flies off into the sky to 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life'.. perfect) John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones all had such great chemistry and it was fun to watch, especially when things didn't go to plan.

What I loved the most, was that you could tell that they were old friends with history, getting together and having a laugh, remembering the good times, and nodding in respect to the late Graham Chapman, one of the original Pythons (they jokingly titled the show '1 down, 5 to go!).

The show closed to 'Christmas in Heaven' and 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' which everyone was on their feet to.

Overall I loved it - some things you just feel fortunate to be a part of.

Have you been to the Theatre lately or are you planning on going? Let me know! x

Monday, 7 July 2014

TRAVEL: Portugal & The Beautiful Algarve!

I've recently been on a series of little jaunts and the Algarve was the second installment. It's been an absolutely amazing few weeks!

Myself and my friend Penny visited Albufeira and stayed for 5 days.  We've been twice before, and this is actually my fourth visit to the same spot in two years, so its starting to feel like a home away from home. Now normally I'm not really a creature of habit and like to spend my holiday visiting new places, but, we've gotten to know a few people who work in the bars, I know the nice places to eat, the drinks are cheap and the temperature and surroundings are just perfect. Something about the place has got me hooked and I need my regular fix! Part of me really wants to spend a summer there, working or DJing in bars, and it's a fantasy I allude to everytime I go back. The beautiful Mediterranean sea is calling my name, and if I could easily do it, I would!

In some ways, Albufeira is ridiculously touristy and that would normally annoy me. But Albufeira has something about it, a cheeky charm, friendly locals, and I love that. I know that when I go there, I will be mostly going to chill out, eat and drink, and I'm okay with that, especially with a pretty stressful job back home. Relatively speaking, a meal out with wine will cost you about £10, so as long as you don't go mad you won't break the bank. Even in the height of the season, our hotel was £60 each for the week, and flights were £50 return, so we knew we were getting a cheap holiday.

In between chilling and more chilling on the beach, we did venture out to the zoo in Lagos! We saw a whole number of animals, including some cats and some monkeys, which was to be honest the main reason we went..


We also went on a bar crawl, where the average age of everyone seemed to be about 16 and there was copious amounts of people using water guns to squirt sambuca into people's mouths, but we did make some cool Irish friends so it was 20 euros well spent.

And some robot friends.

The bars are great fun in Albufeira, and either in or out of season, you will usually find us in a little kareoke bar called Albertus! The staff are friendly and the atmosphere is great, which really is all you need.

A good relaxing week well spent! We also found pictures of Cliff everywhere..

Are you off on holiday anytime soon? I'd love to hear about your exciting summer plans!