Guide to Costa Rica : Monte Verde & Tamarindo

Part one of my trip around Costa Rica can be found here and part two can be found here!

Whilst driving down the roads of England you may be lucky enough to see a badger or fox crossing the street. In Costa Rica however we often stopped on the road to look at sloths or iguanas loitering by the roadside. On the journey to Monte Verde we were also welcomed by the most beautiful views of the rolling hills, something so different to the other landscapes we’d experienced thus far.

The windy roads did lead to a couple of upset stomachs along the way but a few pit stops later we made it to Hotel Belmar. It almost looked out of place in Costa Rica, the wooden panels and scalloped edges of the window pains suited it more to a ski resort in the Alps. An incoming tropical storm however soon reminded us of where we were as we darted into the hotel for shelter. My family shared great amazement in the storm that illuminated the whole horizon but as a person who is petrified of lightning I stuck my head under a pillow and gave that show a miss. My interest was sparked again however when the mention of a hot tub arose. Cosies’ on we sprinted through the rain to the bottom of the garden where nestled amongst the trees was a glasshouse. We could see the steam filling the windows and the vibrations of the bubbles tickled out toes as we crossed the patio. Were it not for the infestation of, what I could only imagine were, mosquitos that also lay claim to the hot tub I could’ve easily stayed there all day.

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All suitably heated and reenergised it was time to leave the compound of the hotel and head back into the rainforest. We were taken on a Cloud Forest tour through the canopy, spotting the likes of snakes, tarantulas and bats harbouring high in the safety of the tree trunks. The species that stole the show however were the birds. Likened only to the noise of bees around a hive, we were swarmed by hummingbirds drawn to the sweet aroma of the sugar water. In the blink of an eye they would flutter from one drinks post to the next, their wings stopping only for a millisecond to rest before taking off like planes in the night. Flashes of sapphire and emerald lit up the canopy and if you stood still enough you could feel the brush of their tiny wings against your ears. The highlight came for us however when we were lucky enough to spot a Quetzal, the national bird of Costa Rica, taking refuge on a nearby power cable. Almost like a robin mixed with a parrot, I had never seen so many bold colours on a bird and the way its blue wings shone against the sun as it took off was unforgettable.

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Having had so much success in the daytime we decided to return in the evening for a night tour. With nothing but a torch we followed a guide deep into the rainforest. It is crazy how much your other senses heighten when your sight is restricted, every rustle and rumble made me jump out my skin but in the end it all seemed to be for nothing. The only animal we came across was a mouse. Scary stuff! At that point we decided to bank the amazing sightings we had already had over our holiday and draw a line under our animal tours. To end our tour in Monte Verde on a high, or in hindsight a low, we partook in a yoga lesson in the wooden halls of the hotel. As someone who has taken a couple of classes before I found it rather enjoyable but, as I watched my own father crawl out the hall when the instructor turned her back, I gathered it wasn’t for everyone.

By this point we had wandered museums in the capital city, searched for sloths by boat in the rainforest, zip lined over volcanoes and ventured deep into the unknown in the dead of night. It was definitely time for some TLC and relaxation! We hoped on board a plane and before long were kicking up sand between our toes as we dived into the warm ocean water surrounding Costa Rica. Our accommodation for the last few nights of our trip was the Hotel Capitan Suizo, located directly on the beach and within walking distinct of the vibrant town of Tamarindo.  Monkeys and racoons traversed the tress above us whist we swayed in hammocks to the sound of the crashing waves, pure bliss.

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Failing to sit still for longer than an hour or so however we were soon back on our feet, following the curves of the ocean around to the town of Tamarindo. Brightly coloured buildings and quirky market shops lined the roads. We took refuge under the shade of the palm trees as the difference in temperature outside the cover and dampness of the rainforest was overwhelming. My favourite purchase from the market place was a small wooden surfboard, no bigger than a dinner plate, with the words “Pura Vida” engraved by hand into its edge. It now sits proudly above my cupboard and reminds me each day of the pure and happy lifestyle embraced by the people of Costa Rica.

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The only downside of the beautiful paradise we found ourselves in was the mosquitos. I have unpleasant memories of smothering the 50+ bites that plagued my legs in cream each night, just to get some relief from the constant itching. On our final night I could barely walk and didn’t want to face another night eating out on the beach where the bugs seemed to have me on the menu. It turned out to be one of my favourite dining experiences of the holiday however when my dad turned the storage trunk at the end of my bed into a table and we spent some lovely quality time together over a room service meal. The food was just as delicious, I got to spend some one-on-one time with my dad and my legs weren’t masquerade by a raging fleet of mosquitos, it was perfect! When the rest of my family returned from dinner, the holiday was rounded off by more competitive card games and laughter shared long into the night then I drifted off to the sound of the ocean. I couldn’t ask for a better end to the most amazing holiday if I tried.

On our journey home the next day we first had to fly to Miami and then catch the long flight back to London. Warn out from the adventures I’d been so lucky to experience I slept for a majority of the flight, woken only once by a friendly flight attendant who offered me warm milk and cookies before drifting back into a deep slumber. A smorgasbord of landscapes, climates and adventures waiting to happen, Costa Rica is a country destined to be explored. Whether its spotting wildlife, relaxation or an adrenaline rush that you seek to accomplish from a holiday this breathtaking island has endless opportunities to offer. Its true beauty however lies in the simple joy that radiates from all who live there, their infectious smiles can light up even the darkest of tropical storms as they embrace the “Pura Vida”. I implore anyone and everyone to visit Costa Rica and embrace the pure life that radiates through the entire island. Just make sure to pack the bug spray!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Guide to Costa Rica : Arenal Volcano

Part one of my trip around Costa Rica can be found here!

5 days in and we had already experienced the life in the capital city of San Jose and saw wild animals roam free in the rainforest of Tortoguero so what was next? A volcano.

Now we were back on dry land our new mode of transport was a mini bus that became more like a second home. The drive to Arenal took around 5 hours but as soon as we pulled through the gates of Arenal Springs Resort we knew it was worth it.  Situated at the base of the volcano this resort felt more like its own little village than a hotel. With multiple restaurants, a tropical pool, a spa and even a golf cart system in which you could order one to give you a lift, almost like an Uber, it was the little bit of luxury we’d been craving. The long drive left me with a killer migraine but it seemed to disappear instantly as soon as I found a spot by the in-pool-bar. Funny that!

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Just as soon as we had settled in however it was time to get back in the van and head out on our next adventure. Fabio, from Wave Expeditions, greeted us at the door with a signature Costa-Rican smile as he talked us through all the safety points of the day. We were driving up stream in order to turn right around and white water raft all the way back down. I have to admit I had been rafting before but this one set the bar so high even a giraffe on top of the shard couldn’t reach it. Paddles in hand we flew over rapids and expertly manoeuvred around waterfalls. It did get a bit scary when I fell out the boat but it wasn’t too much of a concern as I was only left with a mildly bruised hip and a realisation that I should’ve paid more attention to those safety points! I think the reason this white water rafting stood out above the rest however was the water was deliciously warm. We didn’t mind getting splashed by the waves and could even get in the water and float alongside the boat when there weren’t any rocks around. It is definitely a more enjoyable experience when you don’t feel like you’ve just had an ice bath. Once safely back down the river, beers in hand, we were taken to a sugar cane plantation and taught how to make moonshine from the juice of the plant. It is safe to say that we all returned to the resort that evening in a very, very jolly mood!

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If you hadn’t gathered already from these posts, my family are not very good at doing nothing so with a new day came a new set of experiences and on this day they took place amongst the trees. It kicked off with a Sky Adventures Nature Walk. We emerged at the base of some suspense bridges high above the canopy, birds escaped from the trees below us as the structure swayed in the wind. Normally I am quite good with heights but this left my knees trembling as I shuffled along trying my best not to look down.  Luckily the stunning views over the forest and man made Arenal Reservoir was enough to take my mind off the 230ft drop below me. This was only the start of the heights though; we were about to go even higher and faster on the Sky Trek Zip Wire! Made up of 7 zip lines, the longest being The Daddy at 850m long, and with views that will sweep you off your feet, literally, this was any adrenaline junkies dream. We flew through the sky, sometimes upside down, and looked across at the Arenal Volcano that had broken through the clouds. Definitely a ‘high’light of the trip for me!

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However amazing these experiences are, the thing I love most about traveling with my family is the fun we get to have together.  That evening we chose a table in the resort that looked out over the 1,670m Volcano and played endless games of Rummy and Uno. A rule was set that whoever picked the green 5 card had to run out into the rain and shout Uno. An innocent forfeit but that green card shook all our nerves to the core and resulted in us laughing more than anyone would think a card could! Now I never go traveling without a pack of Uno cards in my bag.

For our last day in Arenal we began by getting in a lot of exercise, 400 steps of exercise to be precise. We cascaded the side of a mountain to reach the beautiful Catarata Waterfall and took a dip in the icy pool at its base. The current turned out to be a lot stronger than we anticipated so, like something from an episode of Bear Grylls Born Survivor, we all linked arms and waded through the icy stream to the safety of the bank. The waterfall stood tall at 230ft and was a hidden gem nestled amongst the forest trees. After the mammoth task of climbing back up the 400 steps we were rewarded with one of my favourite things on the planet – chocolate. Unlike your classic bar of Cadburys however this required a bit more effort. We went to a cocoa bean plantation and carried out each step of the dark chocolate making process in the style of a blue peter ‘here is what I prepared earlier’ segment. For those wondering it is…

  1. Plant the cocoa seeds
  2. Wait for them to grow
  3. Pick them when they turn yellow
  4. Dry them out
  5. Sift the husks
  6. Grind the beans either by hand or with a machine
  7. Add sugar and bean butter from the pod to make a paste
  8. Add toppings and flavourings

For my younger brother the chocolate indulgence didn’t end there either. All a bit worn out from the week we decided to head back to the resort and make full use of their spa, after all it would be criminal not to! Most of us were lathered in rich oils and massaged till we were on the brink of sleep but Lewis opted for the children’s package and the oil was swapped out for melted chocolate. I will never forget the sight of my younger brother sprinting out the spa smothered in dairy milk like the swamp monster from Scooby Doo.

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Like every good thing in life this part of the holiday had to come to an end. I think our adrenalin levels peaked, pardon the pun, in the shadow of the volcano that stands proud at the centre of this town. We flew like birds through the trees and waded through the water like sloths (I didn’t realise they swam either!) but most memorably grew closer as a family. We waved goodbye to the resort but unfortunately not the rain. That wasn’t done with us quite yet!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Guide to Costa Rica : San Jose & Tortoguero

Pura Vida. In English “Pura Vida” is simply translated to “Pure Life” but in Costa Rica itself it means more than just words, it is a way of life. It means to live life with a smile, to embrace any new adventure but most importantly to find joy in the simple things in life. It shines out through any local you meet and gives the whole country a sense of peace and joy that I had never experienced before.

We landed in the capital city of San Jose where a friendly driver eagerly awaited to transfer us to our accommodation for the night, the Hotel Gran de Oro. The corridors were all laced with thick wooden panels and hanging plants dangled from every crevice. The building centred around a grand courtyard restaurant where we gathered for a quick snack before setting out to explore the capital. For me the highlight of San Jose was the National Theatre of Costa Rica, founded in 1897 it is one of the most breath-taking buildings I have ever seen and I would’ve loved the chance to experience a performance there under the hand painted dome and blinding chandelier.  Whist reflecting on the trip as whole, San Jose felt quite underwhelming, but it was interesting to learn more about the history and culture of the country at the National Museum of Costa Rica. It was a great kick-start to our holiday but I wouldn’t prioritise it as a place to spend a large chunk of your holiday in.

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The morning light brought with it our first introduction to a tropical down pour and I think the next 2 weeks were spent in a constant state of dampness. We drove for what felt like hours down bumpy country roads and past rushing waterfalls till we reached our transfer to Tortoguero at the local harbour. The boat sped through the winding rivers blanketed by dense tropical trees, an American Crocodile watched us with one beady eye from the bank, and before we knew it we were out of civilisation and into to the depths of the rainforest. We stayed at the Manatus hotel, named after the old manatee scientific monitoring station that used to be situated there, but we only had time to drop our bags off at our huts before heading back on the boat to the local town. I think if anywhere was to sum up “Pura Vida” it was the town of Tortoguero. It wasn’t a place of wealth or blinding beauty but children ran playfully down the streets whilst their parents gathered under corrugated shelters, sharing food and stories of days past. The sense of community was overwhelming; our tour guide lived locally and was welcomed by everyone with open arms and bright smiles. Even the gushing rain couldn’t dampen the carefree feeling that enchanted the town, it did however leave us shivering so we made our way back to the hotel to hide out from the storm.

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That night I was awoken to a noise that I can only compare to a hailstorm (well if boulders were falling form the sky).  The rain trickled silently down the window pains but above us came a whole series of crashes that made the entire roof shake. Had the risk of getting soaked not been so high I would have ventured out to investigate but it was a good job I didn’t. After raising the issue at breakfast the following morning I was told by a waiter it was a pack of howler monkeys that often used the metal roofs of the huts to crack open nuts and fruit for their dinner. Talk about noisy neighbours!

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For the rest of the day we got to experience the majesty that is the Costa Rican rainforest. All loaded onto the boat our guide Luis took us deep into the lush green canopy, his eyes so fine-tuned to the surroundings that he could spot even the most camouflaged of creature. Three fingered sloths draped from trees, giant Christ lizards lapped up the sun on overhang leaves and monkeys flew through the sky like trapeze artists in a circus.  There truly isn’t anything more captivating than seeing an animal in their natural habitat, though I definitely wouldn’t want to get any closer to the Caymans than we did.  The guided tour finished around lunchtime but our feet didn’t stay on solid ground for long. If I’m ever asked to recall my most memorable moment traveling this is always the one I turn to. Accompanied by my dad, we were kayaking back down the river when a rustle in the trees caught my attention. Camouflaged by his algae ridden fur the three toed sloth was certainly hard to spot but luckily, due to their laid back approach to life, we were able to sit and watch him for what felt like hours. I decided to call him Cedric.

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Tortoguero stands for the “Land of the Turtle”, something that we were lucky enough to experience first hand. Instead of a comfortable evening tucked up in bed, we clambered back onto the boat and sped across the river in the dead of night. Our destination was a beach on the edge of the national park. Our purpose was giant turtles. In the warmer months of the year, female turtles clamber upon the beach to lay 100s of their eggs in the sand. Seeing as turtles don’t have schedules we sat in a hut in the dark for around an hour or so before one was spotted. Following the glow of a red light (Turtles use the white moon light as a guide back to the ocean so torches aren’t allowed in case the turtles get them confused) we tiptoed across the beach. Deep in the sand lay a humongous female turtle who was kicking up a sand storm with her back legs. They dig holes in order to lay their eggs then fill them back in with sand to protect their children from predators. It was an emotional experience to then watch the mother turtle crawl back to the ocean knowing that only 1/1000 of her offspring have a chance of making it to adulthood. The people of Costa Rica put in a great effort to protect these beautiful creatures and it was such a humbling experience to see them in their natural surroundings and contribute to the cause.

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Just as quickly as we had arrived it was time to get back on the trusty boat once more and head out of Tortoguero.  The sound of the rainforest stayed with me long after my feet were back on solid ground though. The trickle of the rain, the rush of the boat along the river, the rustle of the wind through the trees and the constant hum of the life rummaging around the forest floor echoed through my ears. The calmness of Tortoguero amongst the madness of the environment it was situated in was something very special and after only 3 days there I can honestly say that I now truly understand the meaning of Pura Vida.

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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I want to be a travel blogger…

It wasn’t until this day, my 8016th day on earth according to google, that I really understood what I want to do with my blog. For the last year I feel like Out of Tea Bags has been a pot luck meal, will it be a fashion post, some kind of advice post or a lamb chop this week? Who knows (spoiler alert: not even me).

After a late night facetime with my brother, who is currently somewhere up a mountain in Canada, and listening to some very inspirational podcasts by Twins That Travel I realised that my favourite thing to do in life is just to do something. Whether that is jetting across the world on holiday or just going for a walk in a field out the back of my house I have such a passion for exploring and trying new things, something that doesn’t come across on my blog.

Yes I love fashion but I am only as fashionable as any girl with an ASOS account. Yes I like handing out advice but in reality I have as much common sense as a toddler. Yes I love design but to me that is more of a job than a passionate hobby. So what does that leave me with?

Destination.

From now on I will be focusing Out Of Tea Bags on my travels, my experiences and all the destinations that I will hopefully explore. I won’t be going half way across the world daily but I am going to challenge myself to try something new every week. If that isn’t possible then I want to delve into the world of the amazing things that I have gotten up to in the past – I mean are there a tonne of people who can say that they have zip-wired over a volcano in Costa Rica? or seen their own dad get married in a treehouse in Kenya? Can I sound any more pretentious if I tried? Will I stop with these rhetorical questions?  The answer to all those is probably not. So those experiences are what I now want to focus on.

I will still be adding in touches of the other things I love through outfit diaries or amazing artwork I find in a city but this will now be a space filled with travel posts, holiday stories, travel advice/reviews and just a space to grow with me as I experience new things.

Plus I thought it was time to make this whole “Out of tea bags” phrase actually have a meaning! So I will add in a cheeky review at the end of each place with a review of their cups of tea – clearly the most important facts.

Let me know if you have any suggestions of places for me to add to my ever-growing list of destinations and I hope you are as excited for this change as I am.

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Disney on Ice with Ocean Florida

Around 2 months ago I was having a mundanely average morning at work when a message came through that nearly made me spit tea across the whole desk. The lovely team from Ocean Florida invited me to watch Disney on Ice at the O2 with a bunch of other Disney loving influencers and from that point on my day went from zero to hero (I will try and keep the Disney quotes to a minimum promise!)

Christmas came and went, New Years flew by and before long I was on the jubilee line with my invitation in hand and ready to watch my favourite films be bought to life on the ice. We gathered at All Bar One and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t starstruck by the other Disney influencers I was able to spend the night with (All of whom are as genuinely lovely in real life as they are in their videos!) I had such a pinch me moment as I didn’t feel big enough or important enough in the Disney community to deserve to be there but everyone was so welcoming and it made me proud of my little blog and the opportunities it has bought me! Enough of the self love speech though, let’s get back into the actual show.

Each more excited than the other, we followed the Ocean Florida team to their box in the stadium, which was decked out with the most amazing looking cakes, and after a bit of mingling took our seats for the show. As someone who has as much skill and grace on the ice as Bambi I was blown away by how effortless and talented the skaters were. The show opened with Minnie and Mickey and then progressed to tell the key parts of a range of classic Disney stories like Moana, Tangled, Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. If the skating and stunning costumes weren’t enough they also had some amazing sets and visual effects like snow and fire (which still puzzles me to this day in all honesty). Instead of singing they just danced to the soundtrack of the most beloved Disney songs, which in my opinion was probably for the best as I can’t imagine it is easy to stay in tune when you’re being spun above the head of a man who is simultaneously spinning on ice.

During half time, as if the team at Ocean Florida hadn’t already been generous enough, we were presented with an array of food and snow cones in novelty Disney goblets, (why does everything always taste better when it comes in a fancy cup?!) and dreamed about how much we would each love to be able to skate. The second half seemed to be over in the blink of an eye! It focused mostly on the story of Frozen, which makes sense given the whole context of the show, but I must admit it wasn’t my favourite as it included the most terrifying looking Olaf anyone could possibly imagine! The show concluded with all the characters on the stage dancing around Cinderella’s beautiful carriage and it really managed to capture the magic of Disney that could make any grumpy Grandad feel like a child again.

Overall I thought the whole show was amazing and even though to me it felt a bit short, I imagine it would be the perfect length for any young child and their family to enjoy. If you’re looking for a magical experience that will have you singing along to your favourite Disney moments whilst also leaving you in awe of the skaters incredible talent then I couldn’t recommend the show more.

I would also like to say a massive thank you to the team at Ocean Florida for giving me the opportunity to see Disney on Ice! They were incredibly accommodating and if they can make one show in London feel so magical then I can’t imagine how amazing they would make a whole holiday to Disney World in Florida be!

Have you ever been to Disney on Ice? I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Princess Em x

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New bedroom decor and tour

Over the last few months I have not only moved away from my student house in Norwich but also sold and moved out of my childhood home. All this change called for a fresh start and I decided to work so hard to make my new room perfect for me. I spent a few weeks collecting some new bits from a range of stores (mostly Primark) and finally it is all in place and I couldn’t be happier with how it has turned out. My new room came with inbuilt wooden wardrobes that take up all of one side so I mainly focused on decorating the other side and my bed. I decided to go for a mustard and dark green colour scheme as I thought it would compliment the furniture the best.

BED

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The bed itself is from M&S and I think the neutral headboard colour blends in so well with the heavy wooden furniture. The mattress is also from M&S and it is so comfortable I literally spend hours at work dreaming of getting back into it!

All of the bedding is from Primark which is one of my favourite places to go for homeware. Technically the dotty side of the duvet cover is actually the reverse (on the front there are loads of bright colours and patterns) but I think it is so subtle and cute. The fluffy blanket is so soft when you wrap up it is like having a cuddle from a teddy bear, the only warning I will have about it though is it moults…a lot. At first I thought I was going to go wild with hundreds of cushions but in reality I just put them on the bed probably once a week, when I can be bothered to make my bed, and other than that they sit on the floor. For that reason I went for 2 that I really loved and can easily chuck on the bed as I run out the door in the mornings.

DRAWERS

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Seeing as I don’t have much shelf space I had to limit all my items down to things that I really loved. This record player used to be in our lounge but there wasn’t any room for it in the new house so I decided to adopt it for my room. It is such a beautiful piece and I love the sound it produces. I got the Disney artwork books for Christmas one year and they are so stunning to flick through. Next to that is my scrapbook which I will do a blog post about soon! I couldn’t find a lamp that I liked so I decided to create my own by simply adding some fairy lights to a large mason jar. I think it fits in so well with the theme and lets out the most beautiful light when it is on.

I bought the HAPPY print at a market place in York and the colours could not fit in better with my theme. I love using prints and designs to brighten up any space. Of course I couldn’t have a green theme and not get a plant in there somehow so this fake leaf plant is from Primark and it came with the stunning mustard glass jar. I do want to get some fresh flowers in my room at some point but I don’t seem to have any luck at keeping them alive. For ages I was debating what to fill the empty wall space with but I just couldn’t find any designs that I liked so I decided to make my own. The heart frames are from the British Heart Foundation and I just spray painted them cream. For the design inside I bought some cards with artwork on from the V&A and then used my label maker to print off a quote I love – “she designed a life she loved”. I think they turned out so well and really fit in with the natural/vintage look I am going for.

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I couldn’t be happier with how my room turned out. I am now just waiting on some blinds and I need to finish off my dressing table then it will be perfect!

What are your favourite places to get some room decor?

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Binge-worthy TV shows

The increase in cold weather also means an increase in time getting cosy in front of the television. Nothing makes me happier than grabbing a cup of tea, a blanket and my laptop to binge my way through a TV show. Saying that though I do have the attention span of a new born puppy so a show has to be good to keep my attention and here are a list of some of my favourites…

1. Pushing Daisies – In my opinion this is one of the most underrated programs ever! Its like Sherlock meets desperate housewives and I don’t know why it isn’t raved about. It follows the story of a pie maker/detective who can bring the dead back to life with a touch and his relationship with a dead girl. The story line is always interesting but lighthearted and you fall in love with all the quirky characters instantly. If you like romance, comedy, mystery and just all around kookiness then stop whatever you’re doing right now and watch Pushing Daisies!

2. Game of Thrones – Seeing as I only had 5 contact hours a week at uni I used to find myself with a lot of time on my hands and what better way to spend it than to watch Game of Thrones! I won’t lie it took me a couple of series to get into (I think it’s because there’s so many storylines I found it hard to keep up) but once I became more familiar with the characters I was hooked. It’s like entering a whole new fantasy world filled with drama and dragons and is the perfect show to watch if you just want to escape from reality for a while! Be prepared to laugh, cry, wince, scream, smile, dance and just end every episode thinking “did that really just happen?!?”

3. Gilmore Girls – By this point in my life I have watched every episode of Gilmore Girls at least 4 times and find myself thinking “what would Lorelai do” everyday of my life. This program will always have such a soft spot in my heart as I found it a relaxing thing to watch when my anxiety was acting up, you can just put in on and feel safe in the world of Stars Hollow. It’s such a homely program and you will grow to love the Gilmore Girls like they’re you’re own family (I wish they were!) as you watch Rory grow up through the series. Only side effect of this program is you will gain a coffee addiction and will probably start googling small towns in America to move to.

4. Black Mirror – Onto something very different now, if you want something thought provoking then put black mirror in this instant. Every episode follows a different story but they are all set somewhere in the future and revolve around a new kind of technology. I think it’s going to become more of an iconic programme as time goes on because before long some of the ‘futuristic technologies’ might actually become real things. Every episode has a dark side too it, sometimes its sad sometimes its scary but each is more captivating than the last (some of my favourite episodes are: S1 The Entire History of you, S2 White Bear, S3 Nosedive, S4 Hang the DJ)

5. Grace and Frankie – I don’t know if it is just because I relate to Frankie on so many levels but I find this program hilarious. It follows 2 elderly yet lively women who end up living together when their husbands come out as gay and marry each other. It is so different to anything I have ever watched on TV and every episode is funny yet heartwarming. If you’re looking for something to watch in the evening to wind down then I think this will be the perfect program for you as it makes for really easy viewing (as in your brain doesn’t have to work hard). The character development is amazing and with every program you’ll love Grace and Frankie more, as well as their dysfunctional families.

6. Luther/Sherlock – I couldn’t pick a favourite out of these two so I have decided to just put them together. Both are mystery/drama programs that follow a unconventional detective through a range of different cases. Luther has a slightly darker side than Sherlock, including some episodes that still give me nightmares, so I would avoid watching it before bed! The mysteries in Sherlock are often more complex but you can watch them in any order really, unlike Luther that has a more extensive running story in the background. To summarise though they’re both amazingly clever and the acting in them is superb (you can never go wrong with a bit of Benedict and Idris!)

RECENT PROGRAMS 

I am still working my way through a couple of these latest programs but here is what I am loving on the telly at the moment

  • Vanity Fair (a more tongue in cheek and fast paced Downton Abbey that follows the story of a rather promiscuous girl called Becky in the 1840s)
  • Killing Eve (an amazing crime drama involving a detective and an assassin that has a unique storyline and will leave you on the edge of your seat)
  • The Great British Bake Off (cake and comedy what more could you want!)

What programs are you all time favourites or are there any good ones on at the moment that I am missing out on?

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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LIKED THIS POST? read my other post on First time festival thoughts

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New Autumn fashion purchases and style

When it comes to fashion autumn is by far my favourite season. I love the warm tones and cosy fabrics that make you feel like you’re still wrapped in a duvet. As soon as the stores started flooding their shelves with jumpers and pumpkin coloured everything I was in my element and couldn’t resist a little splurge. Here are a few of the new pieces I picked up and my favourite ways to style them.

  1. Leopard print

I know I know I am about 3 seasons late to this trend but I can finally say that I am a leopard print lover. I was quite hesitant on this print to begin with as I found it to be quite garish and out my comfort zone but that all changed when I lay eyes on this shirt from New Look. It was hidden on the bottom of a sales rack and I felt like I had just won gold at the Olympics when I got my hands on it. It is a few sizes too big so I chose to tie it at the bottom and seeing as it is a busy print I simply paired it with black jeans and boots. I think this look would be the perfect day to night transition outfit as the shirt is smart enough for work but can also be made more playful for a night out on the town.

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  1. Orange tones

I have never felt more ‘Blair and Serena’ in my life than I did in this outfit and for that reason alone I love it.  I found this gem of a skirt in Primark and I think it is the perfect “autumnal leaves” colour and can warm up even the darkest of outfits. The leather look material looks so sleek and sophisticated it could be worn to any occasion but I think it would be a perfect outfit for a romantic walk through the park. Seeing as the cold winds are definitely starting to pick up I paired it with this high neck top and hat, (both of which are also from Primark). Who knew Oliver Twist could become such a style icon!

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  1. Bright shades

Even though autumn is known for being cosy and quite subdued I think it is also the perfect season for a pop of colour.  Every shop in England seems to have some sort of red or green jumper in stock but I fell head over heels for this one in Primark.  What better way to cheer up those inevitable rain days than with a bold top! It is thick enough to be warm but not so thick that you’d melt on those rush hour underground trains (if you know you know). Seeing as it was such an out-there colour I paired it with these grey patterned cigarette trousers that have a slight red check running though them to tie it all together.

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  1. Fluffy fabrics

From teddy bear coats to fuzzy socks softness is everywhere and I couldn’t be happier! It is the perfect season to just walk around shops stroking things on the racks and once my fingers got stuck into this grey jumper form Primark they never left. I can’t explain it any other way than it is like wearing a cuddle. I chose to pair it with the same trousers as the previous outfit just to show how much of a difference colour and texture can make to a look. Instantly this outfit feels cosier and makes me want to snuggle up in front of a bonfire – smores anyone? I think that is what I love most about autumn; outfits are so adaptable and can work for any occasion just by swapping out a bag or a top.

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  1. Accessories

For each of these looks I kept the accessories the same so I just thought I would mention them quickly here. I love anything black with silver hardware as I think it goes so well with anything and also matches all of my every day jewellery (rings from Pandora, a market and Ashes into Glass, necklace from Thomas Sabo). When it come to bags especially I like having one staple bag that I can just grab and go no matter what I am wearing and this cross body one I got in a market in Verona is the perfect solution.

There we have it! I can almost guarantee that I will be wearing these outfits in rotation over the next 3 months but hey when something works why change it right? What are your staple autumn favourites?

All photos were taken by the lovely Alix who can be found here and I couldn’t recommend her more for anyone looking for a photographer!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

Why not become friends with me on Twitter and Instagram

LIKED THIS POST? read my other post on Verona outfit diary

First time festival thoughts

It seems to be a sort of right of passage now that when you turn 18 you have to pack up a tent, hide some alcohol in your sleeping bag, lie in a muddy field and listen to some music for 3 days. Or in other words, go to a festival. When I was a fresh faced 18 year old however I had low blood pressure that made standing hard and a crippling fear of crowded spaces so I decided to sit the whole festival thing out. Plus I’m a bit of a grandma so I didn’t think I was going to be down with the kids enough to go! It’s always been something I’ve regretted though so this year when the opportunity to go to SW4 (a dance festival in Clapham) arose I decided I was going to take the bull by the horns and go, it was only a day festival and was close to home so I figured if it went horribly wrong I could always just leave! Seeing as it was something I’d never done before I felt like David Attenborough crossing the Masai Mara for the first time and if I’m honest I can’t actually imagine it being that different of a scenario – crowded watering holes, creatures running around and loud noises coming from every corner. It was definitely like nothing else I’d ever seen so I thought I would recount some of the things I picked up on as a first time festival goer…

1. People come up with some very inventive solutions to getting alcohol pass the guards. I saw one guy unzip his trousers, reach into his boxers and pull out a pouch of, what I can only hope, wasn’t urine. There were girls going shots from tampon packets, people downing Listerine bottles and hip flasks appearing from every nook and cranny. All I could think was bravo for inventiveness!

2. Seeing as once you were in there was no way to go out and come back, they were able to charge ridiculous prices! £10 for a small margarita pizza, which you could only pay for with cash, and then charging £4 to get money out the atm if you actually wanted to eat. I’m not even going to mention £7 for a shot size bottle of wine or I might start crying again!

3. There are some horrible people pick pocketing so keep an eye out on your stuff at all times and if you don’t need something then just don’t bring it!

4. Girls in the toilets are actually like angels sent down from above. If you think club toilets are amazing then you’ve seen nothing yet! I popped in for a quick pee and left with my face covered in glitter, a million compliments on my outfit (which really wasn’t anything special) and even a shot from one of the previous mentioned tampon packets, something I never thought I would say!

5. As well as being tactical sneaking in alcohol people are also sneaky about ways to get to the front of a set. I heard “those are my friends over there” even though they were pointing at basically no one, “I was here earlier I just needed to pee” and “oh I think I dropped something over there I just need to check”. My favourite however was when one girl shouted “HE HAS TO GET TO THE FRONT IT IS ON HIS BUCKETLIST”

6. Mosh pits will break out anywhere and everywhere so be careful!

7. Festivals seem to have their own climates where one second it will be boiling and the next chucking it down with rain but I promise when you’re caught up in a crowd enjoying the music, you won’t even notice!

8. There does seem to be a pressure to dress like your the coolest little cat on the block but I’ve decided all that matters is you’re comfortable! Wear trainers, bring a light jacket and if it gives you a wedgie it’s not worth wearing no matter how nice it looks

9. It is loud! (Obvious one I know but just something to bear in mind!)

10. Your feet and back will ache like you’ve just been in a fight with Mike Tyson but it is honestly so worth it because there is no better feeling than being surrounded by a great bunch of people, all signing along to a song you love and seriously feeling like you’re on top of the world!2018-08-26 11:49:56.473

So there we have it, from one grandma to another, whack some glitter on your face, dig out your raincoat and go and enjoy yourself (just make sure you win the lottery first if you want a slice of pizza!)

BONUS TOP TIP – if it’s a day festival, or even a weekend one and you don’t want to camp, I would highly recommend hiring out an air bnb or cheap hotel nearby for the night. You don’t have to worry about travel and train times so you can party as late into the night as you want and your bed is ready to crash into only a few paces down the street. It honesty took so much worry off my shoulders and made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable!

Have you ever been to a festival? What was it like for you?

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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LIKED THIS POST? read my other post on Graduating uni and my plans for the future…