Life, Travel

Blogging break – I’m off to Stockholm

July 29, 2015

Stockholm guidebook

By the time this blog post goes live, I’ll be dragging my sleepy self around an airport trying to find a Costa Coffee. 

I’m off to Stockholm today with my Mum. As always, there won’t be any posts up while I’m away. 

I’ll probably be posting on Twitter and Instagram, depending on how much wifi I can steal. 

Hope you all have a fun week, and I’ll be back on Wednesday 5th with my belated Share The Love – July post. 

Photography, Scotland, Travel

Scotland travel roundup

July 28, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I posted my final blog post about my trip to Scotland in April. As I posted a few posts, I thought I'd stick them all in one post as a roundup in case you've missed any. 

Oban from Strone Hill

Oban & Strone Hill

On day one of our Scottish adventure, we battled through a snowstorm to reach Oban, where we were treated to stunning views. 

Rainwbows at Lochawe

Rainbows at Kilchurn Castle, Lochawe

At Christmas, Tom and I went to Kilchurn Castle on Lochawe and were stunned by it's beauty. We went back with my Mum in tow this time, and managed to actually find the way into the castle this time. This time, the weather stole the show from the castle and we saw the most beautiful, and the brightest rainbows I've ever seen in my entire life. 

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle

No trip to Scotland is complete without a trip to Loch Ness. To my surprise, it wasn't as tacky or touristy as I was expecting it to be. 

We took a boat up the loch to Urquhart Castle, which is perched on the edge of Loch Ness. It must have been a beautiful place to live back when the castle was in it's heyday. 

 

The Glenfiddich Distillery Tour

The Glenfiddich Distillery Tour

Just like a trip to Loch Ness, an adventure to Scotland isn't complete without a tour around a distillery. I'm not a whiskey fan, but even I can't deny that the place smelled absolutely wonderful. 

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh

A day in Edinburgh saw us wander around the city, visit the Hard Rock Cafe (of course), and conquer Arthur's Seat. It was more than worth the trek, and our reward was views across Edinburgh. 

Falls of Dochart, Killin

Killin & the Falls of Dochart

On the final day, we explored the area we'd been staying in and had a walk around Killin and spend some time at the waterfalls which run through the town. 

Glen Coe, Scotland

Glen Coe - the most beautiful place in the world? 

We passed through Glen Coe a few times, which is perhaps the most stunning stretch of road in the world. It's unlike any other place I've driven through. It's so untouched, for the most part, and you can imagine it being pretty much exactly the same thousands of years ago. 

Loch Tay, at Kenmore

Kenmore & castle ruins

On our final adventure in Scotland, we explored the other end of Loch Tay, tried to find a castle, saw a baby red squirrel, and wandered through some spooky castle ruins. 

I'm pretty sure I've used the word 'beautiful' far too many times in this post, but as you can see for yourself, it's such a stunning place. I can't believe that it took me 22 years to visit. There's no way that I'll leave it that long before I go back again. 

Where are you off adventuring next? 

Books, Books Posts That Aren't Reviews, Booktube Videos, Giovanna Fletcher, Joanne M. Harris, Maria Dahvana Headley

Vacation reading + video

July 27, 2015

Vacation reading video

It’s that time of year – holiday time – and I want to know what your vacation books are this year.

My vacation reading video is short and sweet at x minutes xx long, but if you don’t want to watch it, read on to find out what books I’m packing for Stockholm. 

I’m being pretty ambitious in taking four books with me (three physical and one Kindle). But you never know how much time you’re going to have, and as you won’t have access to your entire book collection, the more choice the better as far as I’m concerned. 

Here are the four books I’m taking on holiday this year: 

Magaonia – Maria Dahvana Headley

As I mentioned in my June roundup & July to be read post, I’ve been waiting to read this for a while. I heard it mentioned in an Epic Reads Tea Time video at the end of last year, and it hit my TBR shelf straight away. 

I read the Kindle sample chapters when it first came out and was hooked, but something told me to save it for my holiday. 

 

The Gospel of Loki – Joanne M. Harris

It just feels right to take a book about Norse gods when visiting Scandanavia. 

 

Dream A Little Dream – Giovanna Fletcher

I read Giovanna’s second book, You’re The One That I Want, last year and absolutely loved it. I picked this up the day after it came out and I can’t wait to read it. 

I think it might be a good bit of plane reading. 

 

The Royal We – Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

You would think that it would be logical to take more ebooks than physical books, and while it is logical, that’s not what I’m doing. 

I heard about The Royal We a few weeks back and pre-ordered it. The release date got pushed back, and it’s finally out! 

The Royal We is loosely based on Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge’s relationship, in which a ‘normal’ person falls in love with a Prince. 

I’ve heard that the similarities are obvious, and you can tell which characters are based on members of the royal family. The one startling difference is that our lead female character is an American student. 

One thing this book covers that I’m really looking forward to reading about, is the downside of being in the royal family. It must be nice to be a part of something so special, but it must also be incredibly restricting. 

 

I’m not sure where I’m going to start. The Gospel of Loki is quite small, so it would be good for hand luggage, but I think Dream A Little Dream might be better plane reading. 

What book do you think I should start reading first? And what’s on your vacation reading list? 

Beauty, Beauty Reviews, Lavera

Lavera Exotic Body Wash & Lotion* – My Mum & I Review

July 24, 2015

Lavera exotic body wash and body lotion

The joint reviews my Mum and I have done before went down well, so we’re back at it today, reviewing Lavera’s Exotic Body Wash and Exotic Body Lotion. 

 

Lavera Exotic Body Wash 

What my Mum says: I recently tried these two products for the time and the first thing that struck me was the smell of summer holidays, which I always associate with anything that contains coconut. 

The shower gel really does smell of coconut and this clear gel is not too thick, although that does mean that if you don’t start to rub it on quickly, it does wash off before you get chance to use it. The gel goes on nicely with your hand or a scrubber without creating too much lather, which I like because that means that it doesn’t take much rinsing off. 

If you don’t use the body lotion afterwards the smell disappears quite quickly, but it does leave skin feeling very soft and smooth.

 

What I say: It’s a clear gel that lathers really well. For me, this has more of a vanilla scent that a coconut scent, not that it’s a bad thing. It reminds me of a really vanilla-ry cake mix, with a hint of coconut underneath. 

This is cruelty free, vegan, SLS and paraben free, and has no synthetic ingredients, so this is exactly what I’m looking for in beauty and skincare products now. 

At £6.45 for 200ml, it’s not the cheapest shower gel, but it’s definitely cheaper than LUSH’s £9.50 for 250ml. Lavera have a few other delicious sounding shower gels in their collection; I really want to try the rose one

 

Lavera Exotic Body Lotion 

What my Mum says: The Coconut body lotion smells more of vanilla than coconut so has a very sweet smell and is quite a thick cream, despite the label claiming that it is light. I tried this on damp skin and on dry skin and both times I found that no matter how little I used, it still took a lot of rubbing in, so don’t use this if you’re in a hurry get dressed. Once it finally soaks in and loses its tackiness, this cream does leave your skin really soft and smelling of coconut and vanilla.

 

What I say: This is a fairly thick lotion, but it absorbs quickly so you’re not stood around in the bathroom freezing for minutes while it soaks in. 

Like the shower gel, it has a very vanilla-ry scent with a little bit of coconut underneath. Putting this on reminds me of being on holiday and putting suncream on, which is never a bad thing. It’s nice to be momentarily transported from your bathroom to a beach somewhere. Though, it’s a little disappointing when you open your eyes. 

It’s not an overpowering or super strong smell, but every now and then you get a pleasant whiff of it. 

I’m terrible at remembering to put body lotion on, but I actually look forward to putting this on. It smells delicious, and it’s made my skin feel soft and taken away the dryness on my elbows and knees. 

As with the shower gel, it’s free of all nasty things like SLS and parabens. It’s also vegan and cruelty free, so it ticks all of my boxes. 

 

Would we recommend this?

My Mum: I would definitely use the shower gel, but not sure that I would bother with the body lotion as it was a little too thick and took too long to soak in and lose its stickiness, especially as the shower gel leaves skin soft and smooth on its own anyway.

 

Me: I would definitely buy both of these again, which says something as I don’t really show any loyalty towards shower products because there’s so many of them. I think I’d be more likely to by the body lotion again.

 

It’s interesting how mine and my Mum’s reviews differ slightly. For example, my Mum things the lotion takes too long to sink in, whereas I think it’s fairly quick. I suppose it’s in context to other products we’ve tried, and I imagine that skin type may also affect how fast it soaks in. 

 

What scents remind you of holidays? 

* I received a free sample in exchange for an honest review. 

Adi Alsaid, Authors, Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Never Always Sometimes – Adi Alsaid book review*

July 23, 2015

Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid

I always love a good coming-of-age high school story, especially one that’s relatable. 

Last year, I read and adored Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid and adored it. It was one of my favourite reads of 2014, so I jumped at the chance to read his latest book, Never Always Sometimes. 

 

My synopsis

At the start of high school, best friends Dave and Julia wrote a list of cliched high school things that they vowed they would never do. As they reach the end of school, Julia decides that maybe they should give it a go, and they find that perhaps they’ve been missing out. 

 

Characters

Dave and Julia have been best friends for years and are part of the furniture of each other’s lives. They both have fairly detailed back stories, with Julia’s being explored a little more than Dave’s. 

They’re not popular kids, but they’re not exactly outcasts; they’re happy just being with each other and don’t really have any other friends. 

Both characters are flawed, which is something I always like to see in characters.

The only bad thing I have to say about the characters is that Julia is a manicpixieunicorndreamgirl, but it feels a little too forced. I suppose whether or not that’s a bad thing depends on whether you like manicpixiedreamgirls. Personally, I’ve had more than my fill of them. 

A good female character isn’t made by several weird and kookie interests and hobbies. Just because I didn’t like that, doesn’t mean someone else won’t, though. 

While Dave and Julia are realistic, there was something lacking for me and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it’s because I’ve read characters like this too many times before. 

 

Plot 

It’s hard to go into too much detail about the plot without ruining it. The story is fairly predictable, with a few ‘twists’ which are half-expected. That aside, it’s still an interesting story and you keep going because you want to know how it ends for Dave and Julia. 

As well as the ‘big things’ on the list, like ‘never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school, there are some more fun things explored, such as ‘never die your hair a colour of the rainbow’. There’s also a slightly weird item of the list which they try to conquer, which is ‘never hook up with a teacher’. I couldn’t quite figure out how I felt about that one. 

 

Conclusion

Never Always Sometimes is a fairly middle of the road book. It’s drawn comparisons to John Green, and it does feel a little like a copycat. There was nothing outstanding about this book to me, and it was fairly forgettable. 

The relationship between Dave and Julia is the best part of the book because their relationship feels realistic, and is bittersweet at points. It felt relatable, and I’m sure there are more than a few people who have found themselves in Dave or Julia’s position in high school. 

I feel that my experience of Let’s Get Lost probably coloured my opinion of this a little bit. I do try not to compare books, but I believe Let’s Get Lost to be the better book and if you want to read something fun, for the summer, Let’s Get Lost is the better choice in my opinion. 

Overall, Never Always Sometimes was a good, relatable, and interesting read, but in my opinion it’s lacking that something that makes is memorable and truly heartbreaking. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad book at all, it’s just lacking something. 

* I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Do you like coming-of-age novels? 

Never Always Sometimes Book Cover Never Always Sometimes
Adi Alsaid
Contemporary, young adult, romance
Harlequin Teen
August 4th, 2015

Never date your best friend 

Always be original 

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken 

Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they'd never, ever do in high school. 

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he's broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It's either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember. 

Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love. 

Crafty, Dressmaking

Simplicity 1609 60s mod dress – dressmaking

July 22, 2015

Black and white 60s mod style dress Simplicity 1609 pattern

Last weekend, my best friend’s parents had a 30s – 60s themed party, and in my wisdom, I decided I would make my own dress.

What I was thinking given that I’d only made two things before (one of which being my polka dot skirt which I completed a couple of weeks back) I don’t know, but it actually went really well. 

I really like the mod style, so I hunted down the Simplicity 1609 pattern and picked up some black and white fabric. I considered using a funky print for the main body, but I would be unlikely to wear that again. Black and white is a huge part of my wardrobe, so I’m sure I will get some more use out of this dress. 

My main concern was making sure the dress would fit properly. I’m one of those stubborn and determined people who believes that if you follow the instructions and are careful, it will work well, but I was really worried about it fitting. Dresses have to fit well in multiple places which I was quite nervous about because my measurements span a few sizes, so I couldn’t use just one pattern size. I had to blend a couple, which worried me. 

It ended up fitting perfectly. It’s not too tight, or too baggy, in any places and I could move around easily. One of my main concerns was that I would be able to stand in it, but not sit down comfortably, but it wasn’t an issue at all. 

In general, it was a fairly easy pattern to follow. There were a few times where I really struggled to understand what the diagrams were showing, so I’d like to see some more images or some clearer images. Though, I don’t think this pattern was for complete noobs like me. The instructions were fairly easy to follow, but I think they could have used a little more detail to make things clearer. 

The dress took around 15 hours to complete, and I’m so happy with how it turned out. It’s not perfect, but I’m proud of it, and I think this is probably a pattern I will remake. 

My next dressmaking adventure (‘adventure’ sounds more fun than ‘project’) is going to be a pair of short, which I’m hoping to complete before I go to Stockholm next week. 

Do you like 60s style? 

Photography

Shropshire Medieval Fair & Lavender Farm

July 21, 2015

Shropshire Medieval Farm

Lavender farms

Every year, my photography club holds a ‘Jaunting Competition’, where we all go out on the same day and judge photos taken on the day. This year we went to the Shropshire Medieval Fair and the lavender farm. 

The fun thing about our Jaunting Competition is that it’s highly dependant on the weather. Last year, it rained all day, so you have to try and make the best of the weather and be creative. When we first arrived at the medieval fair, it was quite sunny, so we had a wander around the fair, the lavender farm, and the beautiful gardens. 

The first thing was a fight demonstration, where they explained how people would have joined guild’s and the kind of weapons they would have depending on their background. 

Shropshire Medieval Fair

Shropshire Medieval Fair fight demonstration

Shropshire Medieval Fair fight demonstration

Shropshire Medieval Fair fight demonstration

It looked like a lot of fun. I’d like to have a go at re-enactments / LARP to see what it’s really like. I wonder if there’s anywhere in the Midlands that does Harry Potter / Hogwarts LARP. I’d love to take part in a Battle of Hogwarts re-enactment. That’d be so cool .

A knight's helmet

A collection of axes

They’d got all kinds of things in the fair, including medieval armour and weaponry, which got Tom all excited. He really wants a battle-axe now… 

After lunch, we took a wander around the lavender farm, which was full of bumblebees. 

Lavender farm

Bee on lavender

The gardens reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland; they were lots of maze-like alleyways leading into more parts of the garden. I desperately wished I’d taken a book with me, because they would have been a perfect place to sit and read. 

Daisy

Raspberry ripple rose

Does this rose remind anyone else of a raspberry ripple? 

We finished the day off watching the falconry display. I always love watching falconry displays, they’re such beautiful birds. 

Shortly after that last photo was taken, it began pouring down with rain and hail. The show ended early and we all raced back to the car. I don’t think I’ve ever been so soaked in my life, apart from in the shower / bath of course. 

We had a great day out at the medieval fair and lavender farm, and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s photos in September. 

Have you ever been to a medieval fair?