Travelling in 2016

Thursday, 24 December 2015
2016 will be the year that Matt and I purchase our first house together, hopefully. That's the aim and we are on track to make that happen. Of course there is the "we need to find a house we actually like" - but trivial things aside this will mean that a holiday abroad is likely not to happen this year.

In the 7 years that we have been together we've done a few trips in the UK but these have been mainly in the Southern part of England. One of my favourite places we have visited already in the UK has to be Longleat.

We've visited Longleat three times in the last few years, twice where we've travelled up and back in a day and once we stayed over in a nearby Travelodge. My 21st was when we made is a proper staycation and we both really enjoyed it. Coming back home we'd actually felt like we'd been on holiday!

Another place in the UK that I really enjoyed visiting is Harry Potter! Matt and I are meeting up with our friends Leanne and Tom there next month which I am far too excited about, especially as there is the addition of The Hogwarts Express now.

We are going to make a bit more of a weekend out of it and spending time with Leanne and Tom. Hopefully we will get to head to a few shops near them, I know Leanne is a fan of the Swindon outlet because there is a really good makeup shop there. I'm sure the boys will end up playing on the playstation and we can head shopping.

Talking of shopping, I've heard so many things about Birmingham's Bullring, yet I've never been! It's a fair drive for us to head up that way so we'd definitely head to a hotel. I'm pretty intrigued to see the building in general! Looks very... strange!

I'm not quite sure how my claustrophobia would fair up - can anyone tell me if it's that stuffy looking when you are inside? What are the best shops in there? I would hate for the visit to just be like visiting my local shopping centre of St David's 2 which is what Cribbs Causway felt like - hated it!

Where are your top staycations? - we are going to need some ideas to compensate for no sun in 2016!

Hope you have a lovely Christmas! Doesn't feel like Christmas Eve at all! 

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Getting ready for Christmas

Tuesday, 22 December 2015
This film is what makes me feel instantly in the Christmas spirit. I'm not sure about you, but I've really struggled this year. The weather is warm and rainy, plus I'm working all over Christmas - how is Christmas on Friday!? I think elf might be my favourite Christmas movie, I have it on the TV for the 500th time this year. As I took this photo we were preparing the Christmas tree and it's become a tradition in the Parkin/James household to have this on and make the flat look like Santa's Grotto.

This year I've got my hands on some faux candles. These were from The Range and were around £15. Burning candles is one of my favourite homely touches, but these come with an LED remote control which means no change of fire damage. The candles look so realistic too, recently Matt and I were at his Dad's and it took me all night to realise that on the mantlepiece were fake candles.

Another brilliant Christmas item comes in the form of a box of chocolates from Tesco. Again I first saw this at Matt's Dad's house where his Step Mum had actually bought one for me and hidden it upstairs. Thinking it was just a light feature was exciting enough, but then I discovered it had chocolates inside! (They were like Lindt!)

Matt bought us our own named stockings a few years ago (I think from Ebay) and every year they go up on our "fireplace" in the lounge. 

Our tree this year is white and silver, pretty much the same as last year. I love white decorations on Christmas trees as it makes me think of snow. Being as my mum moved house this year we have inherited the decorations that I grew up with. It's been lovely to see them on our tree (and thankfully they match) because they bring back such lovely memories of Christmases that have been and gone. I do have a little smile on my face even more so walking past our tree this year. 

Finally, this years Christmas Jumper is from ASDA* and I am in love with it. Last year I had a huge novelty penguin with a bobble hat, which was even 3D. However this year I wanted something a little more tasteful this year. A cream jumper goes with pretty much anything and I'll probably wear this with jeans, new boots and a black shirt underneath for Christmas Day. 

What are your festive routines? 

#rehomingangels My pets adoption stories...

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

I know, I know - another post about my animals, but they are such a huge part of my life. Not that I need another excuse to talk about them, but I couldn't say no when asked to blog about the RSPCA's latest campaign #rehomingangels and their page about rehoming cats & dogs

The only way I can really get across just how much rehoming animals means to me is to go through the stories of my animals and touch upon the dogs home where I volunteer at.

In just a quarter of a year the RSCPA (just one charity) received over 3000 calls relating to abandoned animals. That is just unacceptable. I know just from the volunteering that I do, the numbers are similar all over.

Bertie was an abandoned animal. He was left in a cardboard box outside a farm near where I live. I visited there six years ago with my mum and my nan, saw him in a small hutch being poked at by kids and knew in that instant that he would be mine.
Luckily my nan bought me a hutch for Christmas and I took him home that same day. He's been the absolute best and I really don't know how anyone could have dumped him. A part of me is very glad though, because I wouldn't have had the chance to meet him otherwise.

Basil and Rocky were adopted from the Pets At Home adoption centre as they had become too old to sell in the shop. A slightly different story here, but the thought that these two were "past their prime" in selling age is just really upsetting. They were still very easy to tame despite being older - I'm all for adopting older animals. 

Mouse, the hamster. I absolutely love this little man. I adopted Mouse from a local hamster rescue who I support with donations as often as I can. The girl who runs the rescue is amazing and Mouse was in her care because the little boy who Mouse belonged to wanted a hamster in a different colour. The irony here is Mouse changed colour not long after I got him from an all black hamster to a grey fluffy hamster with a black face and a ginger bum. Adorable. 

I made a little video to go along with this post, please feel free to laugh at how uncooperative my crew was!! 

The charity I volunteer for are: Friends of the Dogs, Wales.  There are plenty of dogs in and out all the time. There's not really much more I can say than I do on the video - otherwise I would be ranting for hours and hours!

If you do have any spare time in your weeks, I would suggest volunteering - it's not your money that makes the difference, it's the time you give.

Christmas Wishing...

Monday, 7 December 2015

Yes, the big "bloggers love marble" but I love it and I want it. H&M have just opened up a huge store in Cardiff and I can imagine I would buy most of it. Probably the reason why I'm staying clear of the store. 

Luckily just a short walk from that new H&M store is the Vivienne Westwood and I can see up close the Vivienne Westwood Bags* for real! I really like the design of the two birds on this bag and it's part of an ethical fashion initiative. 

A few people seem to have these in their homes and I want to be one of them. A friend uses hers to house all her comfy blankets in her lounge and I'm very close to copying it. I'm a sucker for copper and this basket is a really subtle way to add the colour to my living room. 

When we get our first house we are going to have seasonal bedding. I'm being very well restrained at not buying Christmas bedding this year, despite so many great designs being on the market. I think my favourite is this one from Very and at the moment - it's in the sale! 

I'm very surprised I like this colour because I'm not one for pink at all, but this blanket would fit really nicely with the brown sofa that we have. It's not too expensive either, could this be the blanket that weans me off the cheap ikea ones?

Cooking with SimplyHealth for a whiter & healthier smile #SHhealthysmiles

Sunday, 22 November 2015
Friday nights go one of two ways, I either really fancy going all out in the kitchen or it's takeaway time. Last weekend I chose to cook, well cooking was chosen for me because I had been sent a couple of huge boxes full of organic food from Abel & Cole.

Included in my box was chicken, gluten free sausages, vegetables, cheese, milk and nuts. I have to say, I love milk - probably more than I should because I know it's not the best for you. This milk is the best tasting milk I have ever drunk. All these foods are good for your teeth

To say I felt incredibly lucky when these boxes arrived was an understatement. Shopping on a budget like most people have to do can sometimes be incredibly testing and to be gifted with these lovely ingredients is a lovely opportunity.
I decided to do something a little different when I cooked with these, I filmed it! I've been off youtube for a while so this was my "get to know your camera and tripod video" again.

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Friends of the dogs, Wales - Instagram

Monday, 16 November 2015

Recently I have taken over the Instagram page for Friends of the Dogs, Wales. In case you have been under a rock when reading my blog/social media, this is the charity that I have volunteered for every weekend for the last year and a half.

The charity is invaluable for helping these dogs find homes and the twitter and Facebook following is huge.

My mission to get the dogs seen on Instagram. 

So, consider this a sales pitch, I can promise:
  • Amazing dogs that are all looking for homes.
  • Cute photos.
  • Funny photos.
  • "Pulling at your heart strings" photos. 
  • Videos of dogs snoring. 
  • And loads more
Would you follow and help me spread the word out about our woofs? 

Pets At Home - Haul

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Last week driving to pick Matt up from work I had one of the worst panic attacks (whilst driving) I have ever experienced. They are so much more scary when you are in charge of a car. The attack was bought on by some really aggressive driving by the male in the car behind mine.

Needless to say when Matt finished work he found me in the car, in tears. I needed to go to Pets at Home to purchase cat litter for Bertie, OH THE GLAMOUR, but this time I was allowed to coo over all the animals and I met a little Staffie called Radar.

£20 later and I had picked up a few things for my furry crew.

Guinea pigs are hands down the messiest animals I've ever owned. Ever. I'm not sure if it's just my two but they are just so messy. That's why I bought them the hay holder? If that's what it's even called. I am very close to ripping the bell off the end though haha. I like how the hay is kept clean and they don't throw it out of the side anymore. I think Basil and Rocky have to use so much energy to get at the hay they won't waste it.

I bought one for Bertie too, he's not been that bothered with it, but it does mean that he isn't walking all over his food.

I've been a bit disappointed with the vegetable holders, mainly because they don't actually fit a carrot inside? In the shop I thought that they were a bit thin, but as they are metal I had hoped that I would be able to stretch them open a bit more - you can't. Basil, Rocky and Bertie were so frustrated when they suddenly had to work for their vegetables, but it's kept them entertained for longer than usual and that's always a bonus.

Picture of Basil thrown in just because he's cute.

Snapdragon Printed Washbag

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Recently in an online auction for a local charity I won this amazing Snapdragon Washbag - look how cute it is! 

Snapdragon is a Scottish company started back in 2000, you can read the backstory of the company here, I'd recommend having a read as I love to know the history behind companies and even more so the people behind those companies. 

These would make awesome Christmas presents - it's November now I can say that word - and I've got a couple of people in mind for them, especially as you can get personalised ones! 

The matching cushion has my name on it.

Winter Wishlist

Monday, 9 November 2015
1  //  2  //  3  //  4

Barkbeats Box for Dogs

Friday, 6 November 2015

This month the amazing people at Barkbeats treated the woofs of Cardiff Dogs Home to a subscription box. I love getting the box in the post because I know the dogs absolutely love their treats, see the last picture for reference, Lucy loved the biscuit lollypop. 

This month's box was awesome (pawesome?) and full to the brim of goodies. 

First things first was a garden trip for Bernie who LOVES his toys and who I knew would really appreciate a new one. Bernie's favourite was the tyre toy and I was so pleased to see this not come to the same fate as most of the other toys at the home - he couldn't break it! I can see this being a good toy for dogs who love to destruct. 

Next up, I played treat fairy to the kennels and popped a little Molly's Tomato treat in each kennel. Every single dog loved them, even the fussy ones. I ended the round of the kennels at Lucy's to treat her to the lollypop! 

Thanks Barkbeats - they love it!

Christmas Gift Guide

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

I never thought I would be one to blog a Christmas gift guide type of post, but here I am sat on the sofa whilst Matt plays Call of Duty, blogging about Christmas gifts. I won't hide the fact that it's because I have been sent a couple of things in the mail to review and feature in a Christmas gift guide, but as I've been wearing the jumper and throwing the fairy lights everywhere... I've honestly just been thinking I would love these in my Christmas stocking. 

This jumper and sock combo* is from The Sock Shop. They are of the heat holder variety and I have not stopped wearing them since coming back from Greece. Every year for Christmas, without fail, I have some new dressing gown, fluffy jumper, jumper dressing gown, fluffy socks or thermal slippers - you get the idea. Right now I'm sat here with a hot water bottle and I even have one in work. The socks I wear every weekend dog walking because my feet get so cold out on walks. I have a purple pair that I was bought last year for Christmas just without the grips. EDIT: Have now got duvet as well as heat jumper on.

Fairy lights, if Matt didn't reign me in I would have the flat covered in them. At the moment I have two sets of lights in the flat. One in a glass bottle, I think they are a cheapy set from Wilkinsons and these string lights* from IWOOT around a whiteboard in my bedroom. I did have a similar pair from Primark, but unsurprisingly they broke after only a few days. The ones from IWOOT are much sturdier and they don't get hot even when you have them on for hours and hours. Plus they take one less battery than the Primark ones. 

Make up brushes, another one I am happy to accept at Christmas. These ones from Real Technique are just absolutely beautiful and I think that the metallic look really makes them fit the specification of a Christmas gift. I have been on the RT hype ever since the first brushes were out and I'm glad I have these in my collection. To add to the makeup theme and a gift I have had many times is makeup palettes. A recent addition, one which was a long time coming, is the Naked3 from Urban Decay. 

Finally the washbag from Snapdragon and a nail polish gift set from Essie are all great gifts to give at Christmas. Every year I have a gift set of some sort and then that's what I use for a good while after Christmas and end up neglecting every other makeup I own - oops. But that's what Christmas is for isn't it!? 

What's on your Christmas list this year? 

Brantano - The Wishlist

Monday, 2 November 2015
1 // 2 // 3 // 4

I'm the type of person that will buy a pair of shoes and if they don't rub my feet to shreds I will wear them non-stop. I had a favourite pair of black kitten heels - yes I know kitten heels, but they were for work. They didn't rub me once and were just so comfortable for work. However I was lazy and when the heels started to wear too thin, I just ignored it and now they are in the bin. 

I have been emailed about Brantano recently and I went straight to the black shoe section to found these two. Both look suitably low in the heel height department, both are black and both are less than £28. I'm leaning towards the textured shoe being my favourite, which one would you choose? 

I shouldn't have looked at the trainers but they popped up on the side of the screen and I clicked. What a mistake that was, I now want two. The Nike ones are my "go to" trainer style. I have two pairs at the moment one nice gym pair and the other pair that used to be my gym pair are now my dog walking shoes. I usually hate the standard girlie colour on trainers but I think these have enough dark grey on them to balance that out. 

Sketchers!! Who remembers these?! I used to live in a pale blue pair when I was a child. I had the lace accessories, then changed over to the laces which were springs and you didn't need to tie them. They had glitter and sparkles!! Apparently, sketchers is also for grown ups? Am I the only person on the planet that seems to have missed this? These black ones have the right balance of adult "standard black trainer" and the fun multi-coloured stripes. I was pleasantly surprised at the price too, maybe Sketchers will be my next trainer?

Glamour Clinique Freebies

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Just a quick public service announcement on this lovely Sunday to let you know that Glamour Magazine have some great freebies this month. I picked up the mascara and nude lipstick! 

Blogger Bookclub: The Catch Up..

Wednesday, 28 October 2015
No not the title of the last book we read, I just need to catch up on last months book too. 

The Good Girl - Fiona Neill

Scratch the surface of any family hard enough and you'll draw blood...No one can believe it when straight A student Romy Field finds herself at the centre of a scandal, least of all her mother Ailsa - who is also the head of her new school. Ailsa is quick to hold Romy's new boyfriend and his parents responsible for what has happened. But as mother and daughter reveal their very different version of events, a much darker truth emerges. It soon becomes apparent that Romy isn't the only member of her family harbouring secrets and her disgrace becomes the catalyst for the unravelling of all those around her. It takes a split second to make a decision that can alter the course of your life. And a lifetime to undo the consequences.

I thought I was going to really love this book, the blurb sounded exciting with the promise of dark truths and scandals. You are thrown into the scandal straight away and then the book travels back three months where you find out the events that lead up to it. If you don't want to know the who is it part of the book, then don't read the blurb!

The author has thrown in, what I think should have been "exciting twists" to the book, but to me they just annoyed me. I also had a few "oh really?!" moments where I felt the book was a little predictive. The book covers so many topics which is quite good and I am sure there are young people that can relate to the issues covered, but for me it was a little blah and I really had to force myself to pick the book back up. 

 Overall thoughts - not for me. 

The Letter - Kathryn Hughes

October was the month that I got to pick my first book club book. How scary, picking a book that three other people are committing to, not only reading, but spending their money on is a pretty daunting task. In the end I went onto the Amazon store for Kindle and picked the first book I saw for 99p that wasn't a chic lit.

"Tina Craig longs to escape her violent husband. She works all the hours God sends to save up enough money to leave him, also volunteering in a charity shop to avoid her unhappy home. Whilst going through the pockets of a second-hand suit, she comes across an old letter, the envelope firmly sealed and unfranked. Tina opens the letter and reads it - a decision that will alter the course of her life for ever...Billy Stirling knows he has been a fool, but hopes he can put things right. On 4th September 1939 he sits down to write the letter he hopes will change his future. It does - in more ways than he can ever imagine...The Letter tells the story of two women, born decades apart, whose paths are destined to cross and how one woman's devastation leads to the other's salvation."

I'll let you in on something here, I have experienced times in my life where I have witnessed my Father (who I no longer have contact with) be highly violent to not only my Mum, but also myself and my sister. Something about this book touched a memory of mine that had been locked away for many years. I knew I would relate to this book instantly, not only that, a part of me wanted to read about a story line like this to see if what I experienced had happened to someone else. I also love the idea of things you buy having a history.

I'm not just saying I really enjoyed this book because it was the one that I chose, but I did actually enjoy this book. I'm guessing this was down to me relating with some of the story lines. The idea that one letter can change so many lives past and present, I think is lovely and very much reminds me of a message in a bottle type thing. 

The book flips between the 1940's and 1970's and is split over three parts, almost like three mini books, which once you read the book you understand why the author has done this. Annoyingly you can guess the plot from about a third of the way through the book, I'm noticing this as a theme for everything I read? Is this the same for all books? 

Don’t forget to check out LornaLizzie's and Leanne's posts to see what they thought of the book. 

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