Wednesday, 21 March 2018

How to Cut Animal Testing Out of Your Make-up Bag

When I stopped buying beauty products that are tested on animals, I thought that it seemed like a really big decision. And that it was going to be hard. And now it's 5 years later (already?!) and it's easy breezy. So to celebrate my 5-year cruelty-free anniversary, I've compiled a list of my best tips for making the transition as easy as possible. It's something that I'd really recommend doing. Whilst I try to remain open-minded, I just cannot justify the use of animal testing in cosmetics when there are so many great brands producing great products without it. I don't think that a mac lipstick or a Revlon lipstick justify it.

So these are my tips for anyone looking to stop buying beauty products tested on animals. I promise it's easier than you think.

1. Check out own-brand items

Generally, most own-branded items will not be tested on animals. From places like Boots, Superdrug, supermarkets etc. This is great news for you because this stuff is often the cheapest. Excellent for things like shower gels, toothpaste, hairspray, shaving foam, nail polish remover etc. You have to try Sainsbury's shaving foam. It smells AMAZING. Superdrug is also my go to for skincare. I love their naturally radiant range and it's cheap too. 


Sunday, 18 March 2018

What I Ate in a Week: Vegetarian

Going vegetarian has always been something that I've toyed with the idea of but never been able to fully commit to. I've struggled with my eating in the past and have always been a little scared to approach a veggie lifestyle in case it resulted in a spiral in unhealthy behaviour. I recently watched a Ted Talk video that discussed how reducing your meat intake still has an impact. Whilst I know that it's not all that is needed, I was much more comfortable with the idea of having several meat-free days a week than with the idea of converting totally. 

However, I wanted to try eating vegetarian for a week just to prove to myself that I was capable of it. And I did it! Honestly, it was much easier than I thought it would be, in fact, I hardly noticed it. That being said, I didn't eat out during this week. And I do tend to eat only meat meals when in restaurants. But I digress. I wanted to share this post to open about a discussion about vegetarianism on my blog. I also wanted to show that real life isn't all Instagram friendly meals and 'whole foods'. Life is frozen chips and whatever is in the freezer after a long day.

Realising how much I didn't miss meat when I stopped eating it, had really inspired me to begin to really cut meat out of my diet.

Breakfast: Orange juice, bran flakes and satsumas. 
Lunch: Sweet potato, carrot and coconut milk soup with pitta bread. 
Dinner: Mac and cheese with a side salad.


Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah oh nah nah.

Half of my heart is Savannah oh nah nah. 

Wait? What do you mean those aren't the lyrics?

When Jess and I went to Charleston for the weekend, we could pass up the opportunity to sneak across the state border to Georgia. Savannah is a beautiful, relaxed city located about 2 hours from Charleston. The two cities are very similar but also very different. Savannah is like Charlestons, cooler, more relaxed younger sister.

When looking at things to do in the south, plantations come up time and time again. And we were both a little uncomfortable with the idea of visiting one. We took our time to select one that would not ignore how those plantations came to be. We settled on the Wormsloe Estate which has this beautiful driveway covered in Spanish moss. The night before I went to check the opening hours and we found they were closed on Mondays (the day we were planning on going). We decided to go by anyway to take some photos with the Spanish moss and realised it was actually open for the holiday. However, we'd already planned out our schedule without going in so we didn't have time to properly go in. 


Saturday, 10 March 2018

For The Love of Bread

When it comes to food, my favourites are often the simplest. 

That's not to say that I don't enjoy exotic spices and rich textures. 

But there's something special about the sweet tang of freshly picked raspberries, the crunch of freshly fried chips and the smooth flavour of good vanilla ice cream. 

And bread, don't get me started on bread. In fact do, because this is a blog post about bread. A love story to bread. An ode to bread. Bread.

There's just something so magical about good bread.

Freshly baked bread, warm from the oven, laden with salted Lurpak. Butter slightly melting into the bread with cool unmelted patches.

The crisp, outer edge of a grilled cheese sandwich. The crunch of the bread with oozing cheese so hot that it almost burns your mouth but crucially cold enough that it doesn't. Eaten with pleasure and speed at peak hunger. Buttery fingers cleaned later and crumbs brushed from the corners of the mouth. 


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Charleston Travel Diary

Now there's one thing the US has got on the UK: a bank holiday in February. Not that they call them bank holidays, but still the idea is there. February 19th was Presidents' Day, a national holiday celebrated on the closest Monday to George Washington's birthday. I don't get a lot of time off of work but I love to travel so this is something you just have to take advantage of. Luckily, I had Jess as a travel buddy. We both took the Tuesday as a holiday from work too and began planning our long weekend in Charleston and Savannah.


Sunday, 4 March 2018

The February Edit

If I go fully by what Twitter has to say, February has been a super quick month for everyone. And I mean, that's true. It's the shortest month though, are any of us surprised? February has been, for the most part, a really good month for me. I spent a lot of time with my friends, ate some good food and had a little holiday. What more can I ask for?

What I've been up to...

February has been a really busy month, which means that it's gone by really fast. Not that I'm complaining!

At the beginning of the month, I headed up to the University of Connecticut to spend the weekend there with my friends who are there on a year abroad. We went to go see their men's basketball team play against Cincinnati. They lost, but it was fun to watch nonetheless. I also got introduced to proper dorms for the first time and dining hall food. Oh.... and I ate tater tots, a classic American dish, for the first time.

The weekend after that, those same friends came to visit me in Stamford. We had a slow morning, went to the mall and watched The Post at the cinema. It was a good movie but very slow. Then my friends made mac and cheese for dinner and we drank wine and watched movies.

I still haven't gotten around to writing a big post about it, but Jess and I spent Presidents' Day weekend in Charleston and took a day trip to Savannah. Meaning I've ticked off another two states and grabbed some winter sun whilst I was at it. I have a lot of photos to get through but there will be posts soon I promise!

I'm writing this on the last weekend of February and I am planning to just relax this weekend. I'm heading to Chicago next weekend to start off March with a bang and I am excited!

What I've been cooking/baking...


Wednesday, 28 February 2018

February Reading Wrap Up

Sometimes, I just really find myself losing the motivation to read. And February was like that for me. I was busy, the weather was bad and I really just wanted to snuggle in bed watching Netflix rather than having to put in the energy to read. Also, it took me a while to read my first book of the month. I enjoyed it but found it to be the sort of book I could only read for a few pages at a time. That being said, I picked up towards to end of the month so hopefully, I'll read some awesome books in March.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
This is the follow-up book to The Rosie Project. I read it two years ago so I was a little hazy. Without spoilers: Don is a serious professor of genetics at an Australian university and ends up marrying Rosie who is a bit of a free spirit. It's implied heavily that Don has some form of autism but it's never explicitly said. In this book, they find out that they are expecting a child. Which Don has some struggles with. I enjoyed this book and it was a nice continuation of the story but I wasn't wowed by it. 3/5 stars.


Sunday, 25 February 2018

Butcher & Bee, Charleston

I've just gotten back from a trip to Charleston and Savannah with Jess. It was a fantastic break: good weather, good food and good company. Both cities have very relaxed vibes. Usually, I'm cramming everything into a city break so it was nice to take a slower and more relaxed approach to travelling. I've got some travel diaries coming up but be warned - they're long. So in the mean time, I'm writing a review of my favourite meal from the trip. 

When looking up places to eat in Charleston, Butcher & Bee came up time and time again. A fun, fresh mezze based menu with some bigger dishes too. All served up in a very light and open restaurant. It's a little farther out of the city centre but has great parking. We rocked up at 5pm on Sunday night with a reservation but to be honest, we didn't really need one. However, it was much busier by the time we left so I'd recommend making one anyway.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Moving to the United States Q&A

I get a lot of questions on frequent about moving to America, the logistics of it, the experience etc. So I decided to do a little Q&A. Over on Instagram, I asked for some questions and this is what I got! Such an easy blog post to write! I hope I've answered any questions you may have but if I haven't, leave it in the comments and I'll add it to the post! 

"What are you doing in the US and how did you find that opportunity?"
I'm doing an industrial placement year as part of my degree. It's like study abroad but working instead. My internship is a full year long and I'm doing research. I also have some university work to complete outside of work, but not a lot. The company I work for hire interns from my university every year which is how I found the programme.

"Is the best part about moving to America getting to hang out with me and my mom yes or no?" - This was from Leda.
YES. Second place is Swedish Fish.

"What's surprised you the most?"
What's actually really surprised me is how run down a lot of the US is, and how much poverty there is. In the town I live in, you can walk from houses that cost millions of dollars to really poor areas in about 10 minutes. Things also just generally seem run down, especially public areas like parks and the pavements (should I say sidewalks?). It's quite startling.


Sunday, 18 February 2018

Sunday Spiel #4

I'm sure you all know the spiel by now. The occasional Sunday blog post chatting about some things that have made my day recently and what I've been up to. A homage to the early blogging days where we just shared the photo's we'd posted on Instagram and talked about how much we wanted some litas. I haven't written one of these posts since coming back to the US and I'm now 1/4 of the way through this semester. It's going fast and I'm sure I'll be back in Scotland before I know it. However, this is a prescheduled post and if everything goes to plan I'll be living it up in Charleston with Jess by the time this goes live. Hopefully, I'll be fannying about it some warmer weather. I may even be wearing a dress with NO TIGHTS.

1. Having friends visiting. 
Some of my friends were in New York at the end of January and I went to spend time with them, then last weekend my friends from UConn came down to visit and we just had a lazy weekend in Stamford. We went to the mall, shopped and went to go see The Post at the cinema. It's so nice to have weekends that feel 'normal'. I have friends in Stamford and don't get me wrong, I do love them, but it's nice to spend time with people I don't also work with.


Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Best Things to Do in New York City

It's been about 8 months since I moved to Connecticut, and I live in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area. Which means that I have great access to the city by train and have visited quite a few times now. I've written before about why I don't love New York City but it's definitely grown on me now that I've adjusted a little more. Being able to come in for the day is much nicer, I find New York very overwhelming at times so it's been great to be able to take multiple, short trips.

Now that I've gotten more familiar with the city, I want to start sharing some guides to NY. Starting with this: my favourites. These are by no means original. If you're looking for a post about secret insider things to do in NYC, this is not the post for you. But these are the top things that I would do if I could only do 10 things in the city. Some of these are really famous, some not so much but all of them bring out the side of NYC that I love.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Is Ellen's Stardust Diner Worth a Visit?

When looking up places to eat in New York City, Ellen's Stardust Diner features on almost every list. This diner located in Times Square is famous for its singing servers, who are all auditioning for roles on Broadway. I'd been quite hesitant to visit as I'd heard that the food isn't great and I wasn't sure if it would actually be fun or a bit gimmicky. But when two of my friends were visiting NYC at the end of January and wanted to visit - I thought it was about time I tried it out for myself. 

Location and Wait
Ellen's Stardust Diner is located in Times Square at 1650 Broadway. It's a good location if you're right in the centre of New York and would be fantastic for those staying at hotels in the area. The B, C, D, E, F, N, R and W subway lines all run closeby too. We arrived around 6pm on a Saturday night so real prime time and waited around 40 minutes for a table. I don't think this is bad at all, it is not uncommon to wait at New York restaurants so it's actually a pretty short line for somewhere so famous. Although, do consider that larger groups will wait longer (we were a three).

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Hotel Review: The Embassy Row Hotel, Washington D.C.

The Embassy Row Hotel was where I stayed during my trip to Washington, D.C. and it was an amazing hotel. I love hotels but don't always have the biggest budget. However, my trip to D.C. was a little treat to myself after having a rough patch with my physical health and I wanted to treat myself. And that's where The Embassy Row Hotel came in. I use for all of my travel arrangements and it stood out because of its fantastic location, bright decor and price.

I stayed at the hotel for two nights during the last weekend of October. Upon arrival at the hotel, which is very close to the subway stop, I was really impressed by the decor and style of the reception area. The staff were super friendly and checked me in for my booking and gave me my room keys. Sometimes I find that hotel staff can be a bit snooty when staying in slightly fancier hotels but I didn't find that at all. 


Sunday, 4 February 2018

The January Edit

My blog turned 6 years old at the end of January, however, I've been feeling a bit of discontent with my content recently. I don't feel like there's enough about my everyday life on my blog and that I portray this idea that I just travel about all the time and read 24/7. Which is a big part of my life but more the exception than the rule. So I've decided that I want to write a blog post each month talking about some of the things that I've been up to that just don't justify their own post. How horribly self-indulgent. But hey, this is a 'lifestyle' blog!


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

January Reading Wrap Up

January is always a good month for me in terms of reading. There's something about that fresh start that motivates me to get reading. Plus it's been so cold in Stamford this month that I've honestly been avoiding going outside if I don't have to (-10 no thank you!) and it's been perfect for snuggling up and reading in the evenings. I've also gotten into the habit of eating my breakfast whilst reading in the morning and it's such a nice start to the day, even if it does make it a bit harder to leave for work! I've set my goal for 2018 to read a book a week which I'm glad to say I've stuck to in January.

Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight
I'm a big fan of Sarah Knight's books and this fun guide to getting more organised was no different. She has a fun writing style and perfectly nails writing a self-help book that isn't condescending or annoying. She also shares her own past mistakes etc which is really helpful. This book taught me some really good lessons but also made me realise that I'm not alone is the way that I've been feeling recently which was very reassuring. I gave it 5/5 stars and I'm happy it was my first read of the year. 


Sunday, 28 January 2018

2018 Travel Plans

We're only a few weeks into 2018 and I'm already booking some trips for myself and thinking about where I want to go this year. This year I'm focusing on making those last few American trips before moving back to Scotland in June. Then after that, I'd like to see a little bit more of Europe. I'm so much more confident in my abilities to conduct an excellent weekend break but I know this won't be as accesible whilst doing a masters year. Therefore, I think most of my travelling will occur in the first half of the year. Although a little Christmas trip would do me nicely too! 

South Carolina and Georgia Road Trip
My first trip of the year (excluding my flight from Edinburgh back to the states) is a road trip through the American south with the one and only Jess! We're taking advantage of the President's Day long weekend and taking a little bloggers trip to Charleston and Savannah. I'm flying into Myrtle Beach SC, Jess is picking me up and we are driving the two hours to Charleston. We're spending three nights there and will be taking a day trip to Savannah which is just over the border with Georgia. I'm excited to spend time with Jess, experience Southern hospitality and escape the cold of the North East for a while!


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Return To Edinburgh

Before I went home for Christmas, I had all of these ideas in my head about the day trips that I was going to take into Edinburgh and all the things I was going to do there and well, that didn't exactly go to plan. I shrugged off chances to go for spending time with my family, my dogs and avoiding the rain. But I did make it through for one day and it was perfect just the right reminder of how much I love the city and enough to fill up my heart with its charm to tide me over the coming months. 

I'd made plans with my friends Kathryn and Imogen, to meet for dinner at 6pm after Imogen had finished work. Kathryn and I went in a little earlier to spend some time in the city. It was brilliant to see her again but she's actually doing her year abroad at the University of Connecticut so I've actually seen her a few times since we moved across (Rhode Island, Vermont). Our first port of call was the National Museum of Scotland. 


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Blogging is Not a Crime

Back in December, I wrote a blog post about being silent about things that matter. And to stay true to my word about trying to be more vocal about injustices I am writing today about a man's story that is very close to my heart. 

Raif Badawi is a 33-year-old writer and activist from Saudi Arabia. He was arrested in 2012 for being the owner of a blog called 'Free Saudi Liberals' that called for free speech in the extremely conservative country. He was convicted of several charges and sentenced to 600 lashes and 7 years in prison. This has since been increased to 10 years imprisonment and 1000 lashes. 


Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Meet Stan & Ollie

A few months ago, my family adopted two black labrador puppies: Stan & Ollie. Much to my amazement and also disappointment. Amazement because my mum had previously said 'we are never getting another dog' and now we had two. And disappointing because I was approximately 3'600 miles away and knew I wouldn't be home until Christmas. So after months of asking for photos and talking to the dogs on Facetime, I finally got to meet them myself on Christmas eve. And they are wonderful. So full of energy, love and personality. They are brothers and it's so nice to watch them playing with each other (and also fighting with each other because, boys). 


Sunday, 14 January 2018

Pizza Posto, Edinburgh

After 6 months of living in the states, I was itching to get back to the Edinburgh restaurant scene and get writing some reviews. So when I went through for the day to visit my friends and one of them recommended Pizza Posto I was more than happy to try it out. My favourite pizza of all time comes from a place called Paesano in Glasgow and a quick glance at Instagram showed that these pizzas looked very similar so I had very high hopes for this place!

The restaurant is located on the edge of Newington and the Old Town, right next to Surgeon's Hall. Despite having a pretty small front, the restaurant has lots of space on the inside and plenty of tables. We made a reservation for our Friday night 6pm dinner in case it was busy but we would easily have gotten seated without it. We sat in the window and caught up with what's been happening over the course of the last sixth months.


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

December Reading Wrap Up

This reading wrap up marks not only the end of my 2017 reading but also the end of 4 years of reading wrap ups which is pretty crazy. It doesn't feel like I've blogged for as long as I have so it's always strange to realise that I've been doing something this long. I didn't read a huge amount in December as I had a pretty big uni deadline but when I did, I was trying to read what's left on my Kindle because to be honest, it's been really cold and I don't want to walk to the library in that. I managed 4 Kindle books and should finish another in January so that was about half of the books I had on there. Pretty good going! 

No Filter by Orlagh Collins
This YA fiction is told from the perspective of two teenagers. Emerald is spending the summer living with her estranged grandmother in Dublin after her mother attempts suicide and is in rehab for alcohol addiction. Liam is celebrating his last summer of freedom before he has to start a college course on a subject that he doesn't want to do, but his father does. I only gave this book 2/5 stars because, to be honest, I found it to be pretty immature and found the characters kind of annoying. The blurb made it out that this book was more about Emerald's perception and struggle with social media which actually was a very small part of the book. 


Sunday, 7 January 2018

5 Goals for 2018 That Don't Make Me Feel Bad About Myself

I use an online calendar to schedule in my blog post ideas in advance. And a few months ago I scheduled in '2018 goals' for today. 2017 has been a really, really hard year for me and my mental health is not in a great place. Unfortunately, I really don't see this improving until I move back to Scotland in June so I'm feeling a real lack of motivation for 2018 because of this and kind of viewing it with a 'just get through it' attitude. So when I saw that post scheduled there I was a little apprehensive about writing it. 

Mostly, I just didn't feel like I had the motivation or the energy to commit to things like eating healthier or joining the gym, even if I do eat brie toasties for dinner more times a week than I'd care to admit. I decided to make goals that are more like 'fun things I want to do' rather than goals based on severe self-improvement which let's face it, never really happen anyway and just become ways to bash yourself when you're feeling down.

Am I being easy on myself? Definitely. But do I need to be kind to myself right now? Absolutely.

1. Visit 3 new US states.
I visited 11 new US states in 2017 which was pretty crazy. I don't expect to visit a lot more new states in 2018 because I've basically exhausted all of the states that are within driving/train/bus distance of Connecticut. But I would like to visit 3 new states in the new year. My friends and I are wanting to do a road trip weekend to Maine, a trip to Chicago is also definitely on the cards and that leaves me one other state to visit. There are loads I would like to visit but I guess I'll see how things work out. 


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

My Top 10 Reads of 2017

2017 was probably the year that I really rediscovered my love of reading. Moving away from university to a work based environment gave me a lot more free time for reading. That and moving to a city with an excellent public library so I've read more books this year than I expected to and spent a lot less money on them too. I read a lot of good books this year but to be honest, not that many that struck me as being amazing so it was pretty easy for me to pick out my top 10. I also discovered some new authors this year that I've fallen in love with and I can't wait to read more of their work in 2018. I've set myself my GoodReads 2018 challenge which is to read 52 books (ie a book a year). If you'd like to be my friend on GoodReads to keep up with my process here's my profile.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A Fuck by Sarah Knight
I feel like every blogger and their dug has read this book this year and well here I am jumping on the damn bandwagon. Sarah Knight's book is fun but serious at the same time and has really helped a lot of people (myself included). This book is funny and unlike anything else I've ever read. I'm not saying you should follow everything she says to a T but it's got some really great ideas and I'm very glad to have read it. 

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