Sunday Spiel #2

Sunday, 29 October 2017
Life has been pretty hectic. I've had some amazing trips all over the US and had some fantastic opportunities and experiences. But sometimes I feel like that's really taken over my blog and that I've not written anything about my regular day to day life in forever. So I've decided to write about 10 things that have been making me happy recently so that you all don't think that I spend my entire life jet setting across the US because I a) work 40 hours a week and b) mainly use trains because flights are super expensive here.

1. Updating my blog design.
I absolutely loved my old Water Painted Dreams header but after rebranding a few months ago to Honestly Russell, my blog's just had basic designs that I made myself. I wasn't super keen on them and I finally got around to commissioning a new piece of work. My new header is an abstract art design that the lovely Kelly did for me. I absolutely love it. I had some colours in mind but gave her the freedom to do whatever and I'm totally smitten with the results. I'm maybe considering updating my layout too but for now, I'm happy with this little revamp. 


An Autumnal Weekend in Vermont

Wednesday, 25 October 2017
There's something magical about fall in New England and I knew that I really wanted to get out of Connecticut and experience it up north. And hence this trip occurred. Some friends and I took a little road trip up to Vermont for the weekend to relax, go hiking and immerse ourselves in the true American 'fall' experience. I met them in Hartford and from there it was only two hours or so to drive up. We rented an amazing cabin on Air BnB and despite arriving in the middle of the night on Friday the 13th, we survived! It was totally dark by the time we arrived so we lit our wood burning stove, watched Mean Girls and then fell asleep.


A Visit To A Pumpkin Patch

Sunday, 22 October 2017
At the beginning of October, me and a few friends decided to visit a pumpkin patch. A quick google later, we discovered that there was one in our city, just a short drive away. We headed up on a Saturday afternoon not quite knowing what to expect except that it would be a very stereotypical American experience and the chance to get some good Insta photos (I won't deny doing it for the 'gram). It actually ended up being a great day out. The place we visited was Eden Farms in Stamford, CT. It wasn't huge but it was good to keep us entertained for an hour or two. They had a pumpkin patch, pony rides, hayrides, a maze and a haunted house. Most of these were aimed at children but we had fun being big kids!

There was also a farm store that had fresh produce and homemade chutneys and preserves. I bought some peach preserve which I'm really looking forward to using in some sort of bake soon. I was thinking maybe doing some jam tart style baking with it. I don't really have much else to say about it just that I really wanted to show off these photos, some of which I've shared on Instagram.


Travel Bucket List: Scottish Islands

Wednesday, 18 October 2017
One of my favourite things about Scotland is that there are so many fantastic islands to visit. My family visit the Isle of Arran almost every year. So even though I've spent a lot of time on the islands I've not actually been to that many of them. My trip to the Isle of Skye makes it an even two which is pretty pitiful if you ask me. I'd like to make more trips to the islands so that I can take in the diverse landscapes, amazing beaches and fantastic seafood. These are some of the islands that are on my bucket list. 

The Isle of Bute
The Isle of Bute is also situated in the Firth of Clyde so I'd like to visit this one on a combined trip to Arran. If I remember correctly, there is a small ferry service that connects the two. The island is split by the highland/lowland line as well which is pretty unique and I think it would be a great island to visit without having to head too far north. 

My USA Fall/Autumn Bucket List

Sunday, 15 October 2017
One of the things that I was most excited for when moving to New England was fall/autumn. I'd heard that the leaves changing is so much more vibrant and that the UK just doesn't get autumn quite like the US does. So I've decided to write myself a Fall/Autumn bucket list for all the things that I want to get done whilst I'm here. I've already ticked off a few on this list and that was super fun but I'm hoping to do things like the sports game and smores over the coming weeks. I've also got a trip to DC booked for two weeks so I'm excited to do some exploring there too.


Exploring Dallas

Wednesday, 11 October 2017
Texas is one of those places that seems like a dream, it's shown on tv and movies as wild, fun and hot. But I finally got the opportunity to go there myself. My friend Sarah was doing some work in California this summer and we wanted to take a trip together for Labour Day Weekend- the closest the US gets to a bank holiday. We eventually settled on Dallas as it's between both coasts and our wonderful friend Jessica lives there too. We both arrived at around 3pm on Saturday afternoon and headed straight to our hotel to check in. We stayed at the Downtown Dallas Crowne Plaza Hotel and I've already written a full review. It was a fantastic hotel in a great location.

We chilled in the hotel for a bit as we waited for it to get a bit cooler (Texas heat is no joke) before heading out for dinner. I'd found a place called Twisted Root on Trip Advisor that advertised great burgers and a relaxed atmosphere which was just what we were looking for. I opted for a build your own burger and got a bacon cheeseburger with peanut butter. It was absolutely delicious! The restaurant had a really cool vibe. When you ordered you'd get a card with a celebrity on it and when your order was ready they'd call out the celebrity name and make a few jokes etc. It was fun. I wish I was 21 because this is the sort of place I could see myself getting dinner at then stopping for a few drinks.

8 Free Resources That Will Improve Your Blog

Sunday, 8 October 2017
Over the last five and half years I've tried a lot of free resources and apps that I'd hoped will improve my blogging/photography/social media game. Some have been fantastic and others have fallen a bit flat. Over the last year or so I think I've consolidated my favourites and now use the same resources time and time again. These options are all free and are a great to use to help you produce content and also to share that content with as big an audience as possible.

I had never used Grammarly before but had heard of it through advertising. It was actually recommended to me by the lady who runs the chemistry blog I occasionally write for and I've been using it since about October/November. It's a free spelling and grammar checker then you install onto your browser. It's really good and I couldn't quite believe how bad my grammar actually was when I started using it. Not only does this help me pick up on my mistakes but I also find that it's slowly correcting my bad habits so that I don't make the same mistakes in the first place. It's so much better than the automatic spell checkers that come on browsers and I can't recommend it enough.


48 Hours in Rhode Island

Wednesday, 4 October 2017
Rhode Island is not at the top of everyone's US bucket list. And that's not surprising as it's the smallest of the 50 states. However, it's very easily accessible from Connecticut and therefore was a great place for me to go to with my friends from Edinburgh who are on exchange at the University of Connecticut. We stayed in a town called Warwick but spent most of our time on the island of Newport which is connected to the mainland by a toll bridge. I'm so glad that we decided to make this trip as the weather was absolutely stunning and the scenery was beautiful. It felt very 'New England' and was also a beachy paradise. Despite doing a lot of travelling and being busy, I felt so relaxed afterwards!

My friends rented a car at their university and I got the train from Stamford to New Haven where they picked me up. They were a little later than expected so I popped over to Maison Mathis - a cafe that I visited on my previous trip to New Haven. I had a quick cup of tea and a chocolate and sea salt cookie whilst I waited for them and then it was time to hit the road. 


September Reading Wrap Up

Sunday, 1 October 2017
Another month has come and gone and it's time for another reading wrap up. I read a few good books in August but mostly I read some books I wasn't too keen on. But this means I'm super excited to read some new and exciting books in September. I need another library run soon! I'm also excited for the weather to get a bit cooler so that I can enjoy cosy evening reading. I'm not sure why but it's still extremely hot in Connecticut. I never thought I'd see 30 degrees weather at the end of September!

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
This graphic novel is about a girl who is really interested in producing the set for her school's musical. I picked this up because it looked bright and fun but when I started reading it I realised this is actually written for preteens. That's fine by me as it was fun and heartwarming. This book also introduced LGBT characters which I think is really important. I gave it 3/5 stars. It was ok.