Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Christmas Celebrations

Christmas day was a quiet one spent with family this year.  We exchanged a few small gifts, ate loads and played games.  Basically what Christmas should be about in my eyes.

The build up was somewhat different though.  I made sure I crammed in as many festive activities as possible.

A day was spent in London, wandering the streets and checking out all of the decorations and lights.  It is still by far one of my favourite cities to visit and especially at Christmas time.

I don't know about you but I find garden centres to be one of the best places to visit round Christmas time.  This year I tried two new ones and neither disappointed.  The first was the German themed market at Meadow Croft Garden Centre.

The second was Summerhill Garden Centre.  How I have never been here before I will never know, but I am glad I have finally made the visit.

A lot of Christmas films were watched.  Including a new release at the cinema, Bad Mom's and a couple of favourites at the drive-in.

I was even able to explore a new city, with a festive trip to Norwich.  Only a short train journey for me and yet somewhere I have never been before.  So many beautiful buildings and a good few hours spent taking in what was on offer.  It's definitely somewhere I would return to.

A very busy build up to Christmas but for me that is the best bit.  After all, Christmas is not just one day and I always endeavour to fill the season with as much as I can and this year I'm happy with what I have managed to squeeze in.

How was Christmas for you this year?

~ Gem x

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A Literary Dinner With Giovanna Fletcher

Just before I start, I want to make it clear that this is in no way a sponsored post.  I paid for my ticket for this event myself and am receiving nothing for this post, this is purely my own honest opinion.

A couple of weeks ago now myself and Ashleigh from Ashleigh's Tea Party had the pleasure of spending an evening in the company of Giovanna Fletcher at Chelmsford's ACanteen in partnership with Foyles for a literary dinner.  The event was all part of Giovanna's book tour for Some Kind of Wonderful.

I am a huge fan of Giovanna's work.  She is such an inspiration to women and great example of a true Essex woman (we are not all as they appear on TOWIE!).

How she manages to juggle everything in her life, I honestly have no idea.  However she does it and she does it well.  As a successful author, Vlogger, ambassador for CoppaFeel, a mum and a wife, plus everything else that she manages to achieve.  She is in my eyes superwoman. 

It is the second event I have attended now with Giovanna and both times I have been in awe of her.  I mean she really is one of those women where what you see is what you get.  She is so down to earth and easy to speak to, which came across so well as she mingled between tables, taking time to talk to everyone with a smile constantly plastered across her face, bearing in mind she had returned from her trek in Oman merely a few days before. 

The dinner was great too.  I have dined at ACanteen a fair few times in the past and have always been impressed.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they will be hosting many more of these types of events in the future.

Thanks to the team at Foyles and ACanteen Chelmsford for arranging a great evening and a massive thanks to Giovanna for being so wonderful.

~ Gem x

Friday, 1 December 2017

December 2017 Bucket List

December has rolled back round again.  There is a chill in the air and things are beginning to feel very festive, we've even seen some snow.

I did contemplate taking part in Blogmas this year but in all honesty the commitment right now is all just a little too much.  If I had of been more organised then I would definitely be taking part, however trying to wrack my brains for 24 blog posts between now and the 24th December was all just a little too much.  Maybe next year, I could start preparing now.  Instead this month I intend to:

* Write and send Christmas cards ~
A tradition that is slowly phasing out, but I am determined to keep it going.

* Attend a Christmas themed 'Drive-In Movie' ~
I have already got 2 of these booked up so I am really looking forward to a bit of chill time.

* Get to London to see all the Christmas lights and decorations ~
I've been meaning to do this for a few years now and never quite manage it.  I did go ice skating at Somerset House last year but we didn't venture any further round London.

* Attempt a Christmas movie marathon complete with lots of yummy goodies ~
Nothing screams Christmas like a Christmas film and there are some great ones to be seen.  I'll be sharing some of my favourites with you soon so watch this space.

* Go for a Christmas light drive ~
Somewhat of a new tradition to go for a drive to see everyone's efforts at stringing up lights across their homes, there are some gorgeous ones out there and some oh so very tacky ones (sometimes they are the best ones though).

I'm trying to keep it simple this year, I don't want to over do it but at the same time I want it to feel Christmassy.  Hopefully this should od the trick.

~ Gem x

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Chicago in a Day

Chicago is a city I have wanted to visit for many years.  Learning how close it was to Brook's home and the fact that I could spend a couple of nights in the city on a girly trip with her had me sold.  We managed to cram so much into the 2 nights and proved that it is possible to see the majority of the sites all in one day.

We arrived late afternoon and checked into our hotel.  Home for the next 2 nights was The Hard Rock Hotel.  The hotel was lovely, the location was fantastic and the beds were oh so comfy.

We awoke bright and early the following morning ready for a jam packed day of fun and frolics.  We had already talked about all the things we had wanted to see and do and discovered the Chicago City Pass included all of them.  It cost us just under $120 each, but worked out a lot cheaper than it would have been to of bought all our entrance tickets individually, so turned out to be great value for money.

First stop was the 360 Chicago Observation Deck at the Hancock Building.  It was a very cloudy day and we had been told that there was 0 visibility at the top, but we had decided that as we were there we would still go up and risk it, plus we both really wanted to try their new attraction TILT.  I am so glad we risked it because the view was insane and TILT, well if ever you visit you have to try it.  I loved it.  It was the most un-natural feeling in the world and it certainly got my heart racing.  It really was fantastic.  For anyone that isn't sure what it is, there is a window panel that is basically fixed to a hinge at the bottom, you grab onto the hand rails and the window tilts forward 30 degres over the city down below.  It is a must for anyone visiting Chicago.

Next stop was the Shed Aquarium.  This place had me mesmerised, I could have spent days here.  There were so many beautiful creatures, and being able to get up close to them was amazing.  Highlights for me had to be the jelly fish, sting rays and some of the tropical fish in the coral tanks, they were so colourful.  There really is quite a lot to take in here so you would need to factor in at least a couple of hours if not more but it is definitely worth a visit..

Next on the agenda was The Field Museum.  Walking into the main atrium I was blown away by Sue, their T-Rex fossil, the most complete t-rex fossil that has yet been discovered.  I am a dinosaur fan so this was pretty cool to see.  Looking at their website a few days ago it looks as though our visit was timed well, as she is being taken down in Feb 2018 to be reconstructed in a new gallery in Spring 2019, so changes are afoot for the museum.    

Next was a quick visit to the Art Gallery.  We didn't spend too long here.  To be perfectly honest with you, we were both shattered.  By this point we had already done so much walking and our feet were in agony.  There was a great collection of paintings and portraits in the gallery and I'm sure all would be of great interest to anyone with a passion for art but it's not really my kind of thing.

We decided to head for pizza next, firstly because we had worked up such an appetite and secondly to rest our weary legs.  I mean come on, you can't visit Chicago and not sample some of their famous pizza.  That in itself was an experience.  Pie crust base topped with cheese then the tomato puree topping, so a bit of a back to front pizza if you like, however it tasted amazing. 

After dinner it was onto the last stop of the day.  We headed over to the Willis Tower so that we could view the city at night.  Again we were told that there was 0 visibility but having been told that earlier that morning we decided to risk it again, and once again the risk paid off.  In fairness at times we were above the clouds but it shifted and we were able to see some breath-taking views.  It was the perfect end to the perfect day and I couldn't have asked for a better full last day in America.

We both slept well that night and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast the next morning, which involved pumpkin spiced pancakes for me, I mean if ever there was a breakfast invented for me this had to be it.  We then decided to take a stroll along the river which was just lovely.  I felt like I was in a movie. 

It honestly was one of the best trips I have ever been on.  I am truly, truly thankful to Brook and her family for making my time in America so unbelievably amazing.  Our friendship grew even stronger over the week and already I can't wait for us to meet up again.

~ Gem x 

Monday, 27 November 2017

My American Adventure

I'm actually finding it hard to believe that I'm writing this post.  There is no way that I would even have begun to imagine travelling to America at the beginning of this year, let alone on my own.

Back in May I met up with the lovely Brook from Redhead Reverie.  She was visiting London on holiday and had contacted me about meeting up, which I was thrilled to do after communicating with her online since 2011.  It was great to chat to her over coffee and we got on so well, it was as though I'd last caught up with her the previous week.  We talked about travelling and I had mentioned how I'd love to see more of America.  I remember how I felt getting home that evening, the buzz and excitement of meeting up with her.  Little did I know we'd me meeting again later in the year, this time in her home town.

Having booked my flights in August, by the time October rolled around I was ready.  Although feeling nervous, I was so excited for the 8 nights that lay ahead I couldn't wait to see Brook again and finally meet her family, whom I had heard so much about. 

The trip was certainly very different to any other visit I have made to the US before.  Fitting myself into everyday, American family life was a great insight, plus it meant plenty of quality time with Brook.  Enjoying breakfasts out with bottomless cups of coffee and my body weight in pancakes was something I could easily get used to. 

During my stay I got to experience my first American Football game, it was a no brainer knowing that they are a football mad family, but that was OK with me.  It was insane and I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would.  The atmosphere was amazing.  It would have been better had the temperature been a little warmer but even still I had the best time. It is an experience I won't forget and I am so glad I was able to experience it. 

I had also timed my visit in time with Halloween.  A celebration that the Americans do very well.  Trick or treating was never really a thing when I was a kid so this also meant that I was able to experience it for the first time too.  It was so good seeing how much effort everyone went to, and of course I had to dress up and get involved, you can't let the kids have all the fun can you!  I was even able to visit the boy's school and help out with their Halloween party.  I spent a little while reading to some of the children, which was an experience in itself as it is not something I would ever of had the opportunity to have done before.

The trip didn't end here, but I am going to save the rest for another day.  For now I just want to finish by saying how thankful I am for this trip.  It's an opportunity I have gained through blogging that I would not have been so fortunate to experience if I had not come across Brook's blog all those years ago.

~ Gem x