Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Sometimes it’s really easy to be lazy on the weekend. I am extremely guilty of this. My commute amounts to 15 hours a week on top of working full-time so by the time the weekend rolls around I just want to sleep, eat and maybe catch a film. And of course there is the boring stuff to do – food shopping, household chores, y’know the drill.  However, I always regret this come Sunday night/Monday morning. Nothing worse than a wasted weekend. So me and David decided to take a leaf out of Lynne from Cocktails and Daydreams book (blog) and join the Alphabet Dating bandwagon.

Alphabet Dating is basically where you plan dates according to the letter of the alphabet you are one. So could be aquarium, art, arcade etc… you get the idea. A nice suggestion is to take it in turns to plan so it’s a surprise for the other person.

For our first date we decided on A for Arboretum. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is located between Gloucester and Bristol in the Cotswolds and is home to some 15,000 trees, 17 miles of pathways and even plays host to concerts.

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

The treetop walkway is a new addition to the park and offers views a birds (nest) eye view of the start of the Silk Wood section of the forest. We took the Summer Trail around the Silk Wood which was 1.6 miles and took us just over an hour at a leisurely pace.

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

The above image is of a 2000 year old lime tree and a sculpture made from cuttings from it. Really! Even though it doesn’t look like what you might expect.

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

What’s the Time Mister Wolf? I loved this tree sculpture. There were a few dotted about (including the Gruffalo) so it would be cool for them to add to this.

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

After this walk we stopped at the cafe for lemonade and scones, which were lovely. However, this rather pleasant a civilised morning came to an abrupt end when I discovered a tick on my wrist! I think that it hadn’t quite burrowed all the way in as it wasn’t engorged (vom) and David was able to pluck it out of my arm fairly easily but I was absolutely horrified! I have a fear of bugs so it was all I could do not to burst into tears.

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

We did then walk around the Old Arboretum Summer Trail (1.2 miles) but we had a bit of a case of the heebies so the pace was picked up quite significantly! The Old Arboretum shows subtle differences in how trees used to be managed and displayed. There lots of information as you walk round and additional activities for kids to do such as a digital “Tree Quest” if you so wish.

Days Out | Westonbirt Arboretum

Entry to the Arboretum was £9 each which I did think was quite dear. Luckily the prices in the restaurant seemed fairly reasonable, so not the cheapest day out but not the most expensive either. We did pack a picnic but unfortunately the weather wasn’t great and we didn’t like the fact that the picnic tables were just in the carpark. Had it been a nicer day (and I hadn’t already had a tick trauma) we might have just sat on a blanket in the Old Arboretum part of the park which doesn’t allow dogs so is generally quieter.

We’ll definitely revisit Westonbirt. I think the Enchanted Christmas Illuminated Trail looks wonderfully festive and I would love to see it. Plus all the ticks will be dead by December!

Overall, we enjoyed the first instalment in our Alphabet Dating adventure. I just hope the next one doesn’t involve any insects.

Advertisements

Long Time, No Blog

20160612_122043

Well then. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve managed to publish a grand total of one blog post since the end of the January and, to be honest, I have mixed feelings about this.

I’ve been a bit disillusioned with blogging recently. I’m not into the whole SEO, monetising, numbers thing and it seems like there is a lot of pressure to do exactly that. From this being the focus of blogger chats to the flood of how-to posts, it’s easy to feel like you’re doing blogging wrong. Don’t get me wrong, all this is great for people who want to take their blog in a more professional direction, but for me it feels like I don’t have a place in this world.

So I’m making my own blog world. I’m going to continue blindly down the hobbyist path. No analytics, no adverts, no stress. I’ve missed having something to do and I enjoy writing and taking photographs (albeit on my phone – but hey, seems to be appropriate) so I am going to get to it now.

20160515_095506

So what else have I been up to? The reason I took a break in the first place was because we finally completed our house purchase in early February so we spent two months packing, decorating, moving and unpacking. And shopping. And decorating. So much decorating! I’m going to share some room tours soon so look out for them if you like interior posts.

Anyway, I would love some inspiration. Whether you’re a fellow hobbyist or a pro, let me know what your favourite thing about blogging is in the comments.

Ali  xx

Bathroom Inspiration

I’ve mentioned it in passing on this blog before, but me and David are buying a house this year. Soon. Imminently in fact, pending certain solicitors doing their jobs. The very first thing we’ll be doing when we finally get the keys is completely replacing the bathroom. It’s liveable in the state it’s in now but only just. It’s got a pretty gross carpet in there (why?) and cork tiles underneath that: double gross. So I’ve been pinning away and I thought I’d share the kind of look I’m going for. We’ll see in a month or so whether I manage to achieve it!

All images linked via Pinterest

The look I’m coveting is the very popular subway tile look with Victorian style patterned floor tiles. I like the dark grout look against the white subway tiles but the other half is not a fan so I think we’ll go for the white. I do also love the dark paint, but I need to see what the natural light in the bathroom is like – I haven’t seen it since the start of October!

For the fittings I am looking for smooth lines, no mouldings, no knobbly bits. I do like the look of traditional cross-top taps, but they are a pain to clean. So ease of cleaning is top of the list of requirements. I also want to incorporate wood with a bath bridge, duckboard and possibly a cabinet and I also want to include lots of green leafy plants.

We’re on a bit of a budget so I’ll be scouring the web for good deals (gutted it looks like we’re going to be missing the January sales), but if you know of any supplier that are reasonably priced please, please let me know!

My Slimming World Experience

My Slimming World Experience

Today I thought I’d do something a bit different and share my Slimming World experience. It’s not something I’ve mentioned much before on here except for saying that one of my best bits of 2015 was losing 2.5 stone. That was all down to Slimming World. I am the world’s worst dieter – I love food, I have a raging sweet tooth, and to be honest, I’m lazy. I can’t be bothered with weighing and measuring and counting and I definitely can’t be arsed with a diet that bans sugar. Fine except for at the start of last year I realised I needed to change something or my weight would keep creeping up and I really wasn’t happy with that. So at the start of May I went to my first ever fat club.

Joining was pretty nerve-wracking, I’d read what to expect but you never really know what to expect. Turns out it really wasn’t that bad. I had to join a group of about four or five other newbies to sign up and have the introductory chat from the group leader explaining all about the diet. This takes about half an hour and takes place while the existing members are queueing to be weighed (I went to a Saturday morning session and there were about 60 people). Afterwards those who stay (never more than 20 in my group) discuss how the week has gone for about an hour. Each member is spoken to but their weight is never revealed (unless they say), the only number mentioned is how much they have lost. After this is when the newbies are weighed once everyone else has filtered out so it is not at all intimidating.

My Slimming World Experience

In terms of the plan itself, the best thing to do is to read about it here or on their official website, it;s actually quite simple but it does sound complicated once you try to explain it. Basically you can have any amount of ‘free food’ – lean meats, fruit, veg, pasta, rice, potatoes, herbs etc, a measured amount of ‘healthy extras’ – cereal, wholemeal bread, milk, cheese etc and a limited amount of ‘syns’ – all the good stuff. Where it gets complicated is when you start looking into the free and superfree foods. So if you’re thinking of starting this I highly recommend going and joining a group, even just for one week, so that it is explained in person with the chance to ask questions.

My Slimming World Experience

I found that it’s not to difficult to stick too. I have a routine that suits me now.  I tend to have two Alpen Light bars for breakfast during the week and take a salad or crustless quiche to work along with fruit to snack on. Then David usually cooks something amazing for dinner and I have my ‘syns’ in the evening – usually in the form of some chocolate. It’s not a super super healthy diet – you can drink as much diet soda as you like (and I do) and some healthy foods are high in ‘syns’ so I tend to avoid them such as avocados (my babies), nuts and oils, but it is good for getting you on a better path.

The number one tip I can share is to meal plan. Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. Seriously, this is the best way to stay on track. This will allow you to see where your ‘healthy extras’ are coming in, if you have to use any ‘syns’ in your main meals and prepare food in advance. Slimming World is hard to do if you don’t do this, it’s a diet that requires a lot of home cooking so if you don’t prepare for this you’ll find it so difficult. I tend to meal plan for the week ahead and then do my weekly shop getting exactly what I need. If you’re going out and want to stick to plan have a look at menus online beforehand. It’s totally possible to eat out, but it can be tricky if you’re not pre-armed with what you are going to get and what you are going have for the rest of the day.

Here are some of my favourite main meals:

My Slimming World Experience

Spaghetti Bolognese.

My Slimming World Experience

Tuna with homemade salsa.

My Slimming World Experience

Peri Peri Chicken Salad

My Slimming World Experience

Spanish Quorn Sausage and Bean Stew

My Slimming World Experience

Burger in a bowl (this is the best!)

I’ve recently restarted the diet since stopping about three months ago. I gained back 13lbs, which is a lot but I was expecting this as I totally binged on takeaways and junk knowing that I’d restart Slimming World in the new year. Not the best mindset I know. However, I know that I need to be made accountable which is why this plan and weekly weigh-ins work well for me. I haven’t rejoined a group as David is now also doing it so that is enough motivation for me. Now if only I had a gym buddy too! In my first week back on it I’ve lost 5lbs which I’m very pleased with anyway.

I have to say I don’t really miss the group, I wasn’t getting as much out of it towards the end as I was in my first few weeks, plus I missed my Saturday mornings. But, I might rejoin if I start struggling, or at least join up to the website. However, if you think that you need the support of others, the groups are great – you can say as much or as little as you like (and actually you don’t have to stay for the chatty bit every week or at all if you don’t fancy it), and everyone is friendly and very non-judgemental.

And that’s my Slimming World experience so far. Do let me know if you have any questions at all about the plan or the group experience. Also let me know if you’d like to see more posts about Slimming World – maybe food diaries, recipes or anything else you are interested in.

2016 Goals & Resolutions

Personal Planner Review

Happy New Year everyone! Hope there are a few sare heids out there this morning – a sure sign of a good Hogmanay. I’ll have been necking the Prosecco all night while watching Netflix (party animal) so likely still asleep when this post goes live. Yey for scheduling.

OK! It’s New Year Resolutions time! Whether you vow to change everything or nothing at all, I always think a new year is a good time to pause and think about what you want to do. I’ll confess, I never revisit my resolutions to find out if I’ve achieved anything, but I do like to set them. Even if only one sticks, that’s good enough for me. So here are my broad goals for twenty-sixteen:

  • Read 50 books. Make a least one a classic. Stop trying to finish books I am hating.
  • Put in more effort. At work. On this blog. With socialising.
  • Get the diet back on track. No more weekly takeaways.
  • Get creative. Do more DIY, crafts maybe even draw something. Work on my photography.
  • Stop being boring/bored. Do more stuff in Gloucestershire and Bristol. Museums, galleries, events etc. Go to them.

I prefer to set fairly loose goals as I realise that for me, it’s unrealistic to expect to change to much in the one go so I prefer broad aims I can work towards over the year and beyond. Bit by bit is my style.

What resolutions and goals have you set for 2016? Or are you not setting any?

2015 Best Bits

In a continuing bid to be a more positive person I have decided to share a list of my 15 best/most favourite things from 2015. This was a tough year for me so most of the things on this list are quite small (with a few exceptions) but they are all things that have made life that little bit more bearable.

20150504_214142

  • David & Tilly being best pals: The two I’ve spent all my time with this year. David was never a cat person before Tilly came along, it’s  too cute.
  • Books: My other best pal this year has been my TBR pile/Waterstones/Amazon.
  • Film events at work: Without going into specifics I’ve been lucky to work on some cool side projects at work and I’m hoping this can continue.

Recent Cross Stitches | Geeky Little Stitcher Club

  • Cross Stitching: I’ve got really into this this year thanks to the Geeky Little Stitcher Club.
  • My friends Laura & Dave getting engaged: My fave couple are getting married! So excited for the wedding in 2016 and I get to be a bridesmaid for the first time. AND plan a hen!
  • Makeup Revolution: My favourite makeup brand for 2015. I’ve been enjoying playing with their amazing eyeshadow palettes this year.

20151228_143543

  • I lost 2.5 stone: This is a cheat as I’ve gained back loads but this diet really worked for me and I’m determined to get back on it in 2016 to get to my target for summer.
  • Fall Out Boy: I’ve been loving their last two albums (Save Rock & Roll and American Beauty/American Psycho) on my walks to and from the train station.
  • Blogging: I lost my blogging mojo in the summer but I took a break and now I’m enjoying it again. I want to get back to it properly and start joining in chats again as they always made me smile.

20151228_143443

  • Inside Out: This film made me so happy and so sad! I just love it and Sadness especially.
  • Collecting fun jewellery: I’m really into acrylic jewellery at the moment and it’s great to support small businesses (that’s my excuse for shopping) so I’ve been enjoying treating myself.
  • Candles and wax melts: Another thing I’ve been enjoying is homeware and specifically home fragrance as a way to update your home with the seasons. My subscription to The Melt Crowd has been a big influence on this!

20150619_153518

  • Trips home: I’ve had four this year – my birthday, summer (when Lisa was over from Canada and Jess over from Oz – the best week), a long weekend to spend crafting wedding stuff with Laura, and Christmas. All of them have been like therapy.
  • YouTube: I’ve been watching so much this year. My favourites have been Miss Budget Beauty/Diary of a Spendaholic, Lily Melrose (esp the vlogs) and Tilly Cutler.
  • Finding a house: lastly, a biggie: we’re buying a house. It’s not complete yet so I don’t want to jinx myself but watch this space for an update soon (hopefully!)…

What have been your highlights from 2015?

Personal Planner Review

Personal Planner Review

I do love a good bit of stationery and it seems like there are a whole community online of fellow stationery addicts. I’m not quite ready to drop £75+ on a designer planner and shed loads of stickers, but I did want to dip my toe in the planner addict world. So  I decided to place an order with the much more affordable Personal Planner UK and share with you my first impressions.

Personal Planner Review

Personal Planner Review

Personal Planner Review

Personal Planner Review

The defining feature of Personal Planner is that everything is customisable. I decided to go for the A5 size for £22.90 including shipping. You then choose the cover design, there are lots of options from a plain colour, patterns, images or your own photographs. I decided to go for the gold dots with the date in black and a black elastic. When it arrived I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t gold foil (although I think it does say this on the website), but I still like it. I think it looks quite Kate Spade-like. I added my name to the top using my label maker which I think finishes it off well. I might use some gold foil nail polish to pick out some of the dots to add an extra dimension.

The planner is covered with a thick protective plastic which is slightly textured. The inner covers on the front and back are a sturdy card so should hold up well.

Personal Planner Review

The inside cover has a little bit about the origins of the company which is quite a nice touch. The facing page is customisable – you can put your contact details, a motivational quote, fill it with emojis… I decided to keep it simple with my blog name (and a couple of anchor emojis of course) and leave space to stick a picture. I decided to pop in a card from a Lucky Dip Club box just using blu tack so I can switch it out when I get bored of it.

Personal Planner Review

There are a number of layout choices to decide between. You can go for vertical columns, squares, or a horizontal layout like I have. I went for the weekend split into two, but you can also get it separate with thinner weekdays. I went for this layout as it’s similar to what I’ve had in diaries in the past, but I’ll see how it goes. You can opt for plain paper, ruled or striped. I went for striped as it’s a bit more subtle than fully ruled but I can’t write straight without some guidelines! You can also go for the timetable option with time stamps if you need an appointment style diary.

Personal Planner Review

You also get options for three modules. I went for dinners, training and ruled on the facing page, but there are lots of options including to do lists, exams, graphs or leaving it blank. Plus, there are daily details you can add in such as weather tracker, work schedule (great for shift workers) and workout details. I left this option blank as I didn’t think I’d personally use any of them but I can see them being useful for others. I would love for them to include a water intake tracker in future – I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t say they need to drink more water and I would find this so helpful.

Personal Planner Review

Personal Planner Review

Another neat feature is the dates option. You can choose to have holidays and national days for your country automatically added, plus you can add personal dates such as birthdays, anniversaries and other memorable dates. You can choose to add them as a one off, or an annual event so that when you log into your account to make another planner, they are already there. I really like this feature and I love that you can choose to have ages added to birthdays. Very helpful for little ones and to make sure you don’t miss any milestone birthdays.

Personal Planner Review

In the interest of everything  being customisable, you can even chose the colour of the plastic movable ruler. Probably not that essential, but handy as a bookmark and at least you can match it to the rest of your planner if you’re so inclined. I just went for a clear one because I’m boring!

Personal Planner Review

Personal Planner Review

The final decision is what goes on the inlay and back pages. This was a fairly easy choice for me. I wanted a month overview at the start of each month so that I can have an at-a-glance view of my blog posts for that month. I also wanted the 2016 and 2017 overview which I find helpful for planning things like annual leave. Lastly I added lots of lined pages for list making. Other options include pages for teachers to plan their timetables, an address book, and fun elements like colouring pages or sudoku.

Personal Planner Review

Lastly, you also receive a movable plastic pocket which I popped in at the back to store some planner stickers. I got these water tracker ones from Dook Plook Designs on Etsy.

Overall, I’m very pleased with this planner. It reminds me of my high school one that I always found helpful! The order time for these is up to 2 weeks. I did receive mine quicker than that, I think it was 10 days. If you’re looking to order one for the New Year, I would do it now. However, you can choose to start the diary from any date so don’t worry if you’re a bit late to the party.

I’m looking forward to starting this soon. I’m also after some more cute stickers, if you are a planner addict and know some cool suppliers, please leave me their links below.