Thursday, 29 March 2018

A Cut for Charity

For the past three and a half years I have been growing my hair.  Okay, I understand that may seem like a strange thing to say as with each day that passes we are mostly all growing our hair.  But I had a goal in mind.  I was wanting to grow my hair long enough to allow me to eventually have it cut and then donate some to the Little Princess Trust Charity.  The charity provide wigs to children who have lost their hair through illness or cancer treatment.  Now if that is not a worthy cause then I don't really know what is. 

To try and even begin to imagine what these children and their families must be going through is just unimaginable, so to be able to give such a simple thing that to be honest is something that I just take for granted, really is quite heart warming and satisfying.  

Sorry about the blurry photo, this is the best photo I have of before the cut.

Yesterday the day arrived, it was time to put my words into action and go for the chop.  I've always had long hair so I knew I needed to grow it pretty long in order to keep some length to it.  I was able to keep the length to my shoulders and donate 11 inches which is more than I had initially intended and I am so pleased about that.  They ask for a minimum of 7 inches.  

Lets face it, my hair will grow back, and I am very lucky to have the hair that I have still remaining.  For many they are not so fortunate, so this really is nothing in the grand scheme of things.  The other thing to add is that I am doing this by choice.  I know that there are others out there who are loosing their hair though no choice of their own and it may seem like a very immaterial thing, but for them it isn't and I know for me it wouldn't be either.  So if by doing this I am able to help one person then that is enough for me.  However, if by sharing my experience of cutting and donating my hair encourages others to do the same, well then that is just a pretty amazing thing.  But please read the details on their website first as there are some details to be aware of before going and getting your hair cut.

If anyone does decide to donate their hair or have already done so in the past then I'd love to hear from you.  I find it so incredible to hear other peoples stories and if it can help to inspire others then it is all worth it.   

~ Gem x 

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Spring 2018 Bucket List

It has officially been spring for a whole entire week now.  So I think it is fair to say that it's about time I publish my 'Spring Bucket List'.

*Plant some seeds

*Bake biscuits

*Visit Columbia Road Flower Market

* Plant up a vivarium

* Sell at a car-boot-fair

* Walk over the O2 (Up at the O2)

* Make something (it's been a while since I've done something creative)

* Visit a garden

* Sit with a book outside

* Explore somewhere new

I have missed creating my monthly bucket lists this year, however that said, I used to dread that time of the month rolling around as I could never think of what to add to them so have been thankful for not doing them so far this year.  I figured the seasonal ones would be a lot easier but I will admit, I have struggled compiling this list.  Still at least I now have a couple of months before the next one is due. 

~ Gem x

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The Malmaison Oxford

Last month I visited the wonderful city of Oxford.  It had been on my radar for some time and the reason for this is purely down to this hotel after spotting it on Instagram.

It's housed within the grounds of Oxford Castle and was once home to Oxford Prison.  In fact keeping many of the features from it's day as a prison you could be forgiven for thinking that was still it's purpose and is the very reason I was keen to visit.

Walking onto the main wing I was blown away by the size of it.  Picturing it full of inmates all those years ago and imagining what life must have been like for them. 

It is definitely something to look into if you are planning a trip to Oxford and if not for a hotel stay then definitely for dinner.  It was quite possibly one of the best meals I have ever had.

Goats cheese and blood orange

Pumpkin and chestnut ravioli

Millionaire Valrhona chocolate mousse
So worth the visit to Oxford if only for this hotel alone.  I loved it.

~ Gem x

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

My Thoughts & Recent Moments on Instagram

Not only have I not been posting much here on the blog but I've not been putting a whole lot on my Instagram grid either.  I've just not been feeling all that motivated at all.

Cosy nights with Giovanna Fletcher

Do you ever get that feeling when you take a picture with all good intentions of posting it to Instagram but look at it and think to yourself, 'No, it's not how I hoped it would turn out' or 'This really isn't something I'm happy to post on my feed'?  I have been getting this a lot lately.  Even to the point of actually forcing myself to post something purely because I hadn't posted in a while. 

For me personally it has a lot to do with the new algorithm thing, I hate it.  I don't like to be negative, but that is just how it is.   It seems to me that those with huge follower numbers get all the engagement and those with fewer followers are forgotten about and hardly ever seen. 

The most perfect date for brunch with this handsome fella and his Mummy

I know it is not all about the likes and follower numbers, far from it, but when I look at the number of likes I get to the number of followers I have it just doesn't add up, the numbers really don't seem to align at all.  The amount of likes and comments I receive now in comparison to before the new algorithm has dropped dramatically and it has left me feeling a little deflated, I'm sure I am not alone in this.   

Chelmsford Cathedral captured through the snowfall 

I know I just need to find my way again and I'm sure it will come.  It's time to try and forget about the numbers of likes and followers, take my time with it and continue posting what I want more for myself than anything else.  

~ Gem x

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Returning to a Routine

I have seriously struggled to find my blogging mojo recently.  I want to blog, I just feel like I have nothing to say and nothing much to blog about.  The weather really hasn't helped the situation.  It's been very cold, we have even had a fair bit of snow here ,which is unusual, but I generally just don't have a lot to say.  Surprising really as for anyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I rarely ever shut up.  Even as I type this I am reading it out aloud to myself.

I used to try publishing 3 times a week on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, recently I have been wondering if I may be better dropping it to twice a week on a Tuesday and Thursday.  I won't be putting any pressure on myself to religiously stick to the new routine but I am going to try.  Besides a new routine may be good to help with the continuity of it.  Anyway, we'll see how it goes.

I have a few post ideas, nothing spectacular, in fact far from it but fingers crossed it will hopefully help to spark something new and kick start my brain into action again.   

~ Gem x

Friday, 2 March 2018

A Weekend Break in Oxford

We are really lucky in the UK to have so many lovely places to explore and discover and it dawned on me recently that I really haven't taken advantage of that enough.  Oxford is less than a 2 hour drive from me and yet up until a couple of weekends ago, I had never visited before.

Having booked the Friday off work I set off mid morning to make the most of a full afternoon to begin exploring the city.  I had done lots of research on places to visit and booked myself 2 nights making sure I had plenty of time to properly explore and discover all that is on offer.  

On arriving the first stop was the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.  I was keen to check out the gorgeous Grade 1 listed Victorian Gothic building which houses the museum, and was not disappointed by it's grand ceiling, especially as the light was pouring through it.  Another thing I was excited to see was the dinosaur skeletons I had read about being there.  Having seen the T-Rex skeleton in Chicago late last year at the Field Museum, I couldn't believe there was another so close to home.  Sadly this was a great disappointment as they were in fact casts and not the actual real thing, but it was still nice to see them.

The next stop was the Ashmolean Museum.  Another stunning building, and the oldest purpose built museum that is still in use.  I didn't spend all that long in here.  I will admit to not being the biggest museum fan, I much prefer the architecture, of which in Oxford there is plenty to admire.

Saturday morning, and another glorious sunny day, in fact it is hard to believe how lucky I was with the weather considering the snowy scene I am currently looking out my window to right now.  A very touristy morning spent wandering the streets and photographing the sites.  The grand university buildings, the Radcliff Camera and of course the famous Bridge of sighs.  It truly is a beautiful city.

After exploring the city on street level I decided to climb the Carfax Tower to check out the view from above and was pleased I had made the climb.  It isn't overly tall, however the height definitely gives an advantage view point in which to see the city from a different perspective.  It cost a mere £2.50 entrance fee but on a sunny day like I experienced, it is worth checking out.  

Another place I was keen to visit during my stay was Biscester Village.  I have an outlet shopping village close to home that I regularly pay visits to, so I was keen to shop somewhere different.  I clearly planned my visit at the wrong time though as the place was absolutely heaving with Chinese tourists visiting for the Chinese new year.  There were queues to get into shops and the shops that didn't have queues to get inside were just rammed full of people.  Certainly not an enjoyable shopping trip and I only ended up staying for about half an hour, but I would love to return one day as the d├ęcor and little displays around the village were absolutely beautiful.     

In many ways Oxford did remind me of other cities I have visited in England, however it certainly stands alone in its own right as a city that is worth going to visit if ever you get the opportunity.

~ Gem x

Friday, 16 February 2018

Why I Decided To Go Cruelty Free

Don't panic, this isn't one of those posts forcing my views onto anyone who reads this, it is merely my reasons for making some small changes to my lifestyle recently.

I've often thought about becoming a vegetarian and looking at whether or not the products I buy have been tested on animals but that's as far as I ever got with it.  I annoyed myself because I couldn't work out why I had spent so much time thinking about something but had never done anything more about it.  Well all of that changed in December when I decided to act upon it and actually do something       about it.

It started by looking more at the products I use. I was shocked by how many of them are indeed tested on animals.  It annoys me that in this day in age with all of the knowledge and technology we have that this is still so widely done.  I know it is law in China for their products to be tested on animals but there really needs to be more companies who do not allow testing to be done.  

Knowing a few other people who have recently been swapping out their beauty products for cruelty free alternatives this has been easier than I thought it would be.  I have been using up the products I already own, however when it comes to replacing them I have been doing so with products that display that very happy bouncing bunny logo.  Although I have been very happy to see that some favourites such as Batiste Dry Shampoo that I use already, do not test on animals.   

I already knew about companies such as Lush and The Body Shop but it has been interesting to learn about others.  Superdrug has definitely been my go to shop for most of my purchases as their range of cruelty free products has been pretty impressive and I've also been really pleased with the quality too.  I have also found that the supermarkets own branded items are also cruelty free which seems interesting as they are also the cheaper items too.  It makes you wonder doesn't it.  

I personally think that branding is a big thing and I know from personal preference I have often swayed away from own branded products purely down to the packaging and the way it looks.  Oh how times have changed.

Having begun the process of swapping my products out for cruelty free, I questioned myself about the fact that I no longer wish to use products that have been tested on animals, however I am more than happy to eat one?! Madness right! And so it was at that point that I decided to go vegetarian too.

I honestly thought the whole transition would be really difficult and that I would struggle, in fact it has been really easy and I feel so much better for it.  It is a change that I have been very happy to make and I am glad that I have finally taken that step.

If anyone can recommend some good cruelty free bands I'd be really pleased to hear from you.  Once you know the places to look it makes it all the more easier to be more aware.

~ Gem x

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Plans for 2018

I had every intention of posting this at the very beginning of January, however there has been a bit of radio silence over here.  I've not been feeling all that well and so my energies have pretty much been focussed on me, so sorry guys.

On the run up to January I was thinking a lot about what I want form 2018.  Life for me over the past couple of years, as any of you who have read my blog for some time will know, has not necessarily gone as I had initially had it planned out.  But with all of that said, 2017 ended up being a really good year for me and I achieved a lot from it. 

For the past couple of years I have always completed a monthly to do list.  I have loved doing them and have found they have encouraged me to do the things I've been wanting to do for some time.  However, it was beginning to get to the stage where I was struggling to find things to add to each month.  It defeated the object of why I was creating the lists in the first place and so this year I have decided not to do them.  I have debated with myself about creating one for each of the seasons, which may well still happen, we will just have to wait and see.  

The two things that I would like the most from 2018 are memories and happiness.  Isn't that what anyone ever really wants?  If something doesn't make me happy then I know I need to change it until it does or get rid of it from my life.  I know that won't necessarily be easy (and sometimes perhaps not even possible) but life is far to short for us to be unhappy and why should we be?  I understand that there are a lot of things that are out of our control, but it is how we manage those things that are important.   I was very fortunate to create some incredible memories in 2017 and some of them I will hold very dear for a very long time, it really was a very good year for me.  Let's see if I can top them though in 2018, I'm certainly going to give it a very good try.

I do already have a couple of plans made for later in the year that I am so excited about and you will be hearing more about those in time.  I just want to make sure that I keep creating those memories and living life to the fullest at every given opportunity.

~ Gem x

Monday, 1 January 2018

2017 A Year in Review

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018.

I wanted to start the year off by recapping on what happened in my world during 2017.   It was certainly a very eventful year.

I was determined to make 2017 a good year after the upset 2016 brought me.  I continued with my monthly lists as well as my 30 before 30 and 40 before 40 lists and generally threw caution to the wind in order to make the most of life and grab any opportunity I could.


Considering January is usually a month that many find quiet and depressing after the madness that is December, it was actually a pretty good and busy month for me.
I started the month off in Yorkshire with a beautiful walk at Roseberry Topping.  Back home, we saw a sprinkling of snow here in Essex, although it didn't stick around for very long.  I discovered a new love for Everyman cinemas with two visits within one week to see Live by Night and LaLaLand.  A day out to Maldon walking along the promenade.  Dinner at Bills.  A bloggers event at Homesense, Chelmsford.  An afternoon in London with a friend visiting the Sky Gardens. Getting my reading mojo back and picking up a book after a few months sat on the bedside table.  And a walk around the castle grounds in Colchester.


The shortest month in the year but by no means the quietest.
A day in Southend with a walk along the pier, I can't actually ever recall having done this before.  Getting a new ear piercing, I'd had the itch for a new tattoo or piercing since getting my last tattoo in September 2016, but I was sensible and went for a third piercing in my left ear.  An afternoon was spent exploring Battlesbridge Antique Centre, I was good and didn't buy anything.  And the month saw lots of pretty flowers around the flat and time for crocheting squares for my blanket.


Spring sunshine arrived in all it's glory in March.  I ate lunch in the local park near work for the first time this year.  Enjoyed a day exploring Dedham and Flatford to celebrate my mum's birthday.  I rode the slide on the Arcelor Orbital in Stratford, wow that thing was fast.  March also saw the arrival of Holly into my world, she is such a cutie and a real character, it's hard to imagine life without her now.  The first cream tea of the year as devoured at Paycockes House in Coggeshall and the walking boots were dusted off whilst admiring the spring blooms during a long walk 


The month started off in the best way, a weeks holiday in Tenerife, lots of sun and sea was just what the doctor ordered.  On return back to Blighty a day trip to Duxford finished off with a quick visit to Cambridge to wander round the beautiful colleges.  Celebrating my Nan's 80th Birthday with the most incredible birthday cake.  A walk around a local orchard to admire the pretty blossom.  A few visits to Hanningfield Reservoir, walking amongst the bluebells, truly breath taking.  And receiving my caterpillars in the post ready to watch them grow into butterflies.


A wet start to May but another good one finally meeting the lovely Brook from Red Head Reverie, we have been communicating for years now so to finally chat face to face while she visited London was amazing.  Drives out in the countryside including visits to Grinstead Church and the 2 churches in Willingale, plus the station at Ongar.  Walks along the river in Chelmsford close to where I live.  Cocktails sipped on the rooftop of Selfridges at their Roofdeck Bar & Restaurant.  A walk alone in the rain, I had no idea how liberating that would feel.  Watching my caterpillars grow into butterflies was a great experience and setting them free was so lovely.  A visit to a steam fair in Maldon and going on the rides made me feel like a big kid again    


I decided to take part in The Wildlife Trust's '30 Day's Wild' this month, it encouraged me to walk more and appreciate what is around me.  Picnics were had in the park and bike rides in the countryside were enjoyed.  I travelled alone to Stoke on Trent to visit the Emma Bridgewater Factory, somewhere I have wanted to visit for a long time, it was well worth the wait I loved it.  An afternoon in Dedham, hiring a rowing boat.  And a day out with a good friend and her little girl at soft play.


My birthday month and what a month it was.  I had great fun doing a cake smash photo shoot.  Dinner on the Epping and Ongar railway.  Visiting the Harry Potter Studios.  A spa day at Lifehouse spa with Mum.  A posh birthday dinner at Cote in Chelmsford.  Dinner at Bills with the girls from work.  A trip to Blackpool riding on The Big One and standing at the top of the Blackpool Tower.  Camping in the Lake District and exploring the countryside.  A day in London with a good friend eating ice cream from Milk Train and going to Alice Underground.  Arriving at my parents house expecting to be going out for dinner only to discover they had planned a surprise party for me with all my friends and family there.  Honestly the best month in a long time, made me feel so loved and spoilt.


Weather wise a bit of an odd month, it literally went from one extreme to another with a fair few rainy days thrown in for good measure.  The colder days were spent with cosy evenings reading with the candles lit.  Hotter days were spent walking along the riverbanks with the sun beating down.  A visit to my Grandad's bench was enjoyed with my Nan.  A lovely day out visiting Bourne Mill in Colchester.  An evening was spent exploring the corn maze by torch light.  And I booked my flights for America in October.


A really busy month at work so a somewhat quieter month socially but I still managed to squeeze in a fair bit.  I moved back to my childhood home with my parents.  The first Starbucks Pumpkin Spiced Latte was had (and second and third and fourth, I'm sure you get the idea). A second visit to Cambridge, this time a full day to explore the colleges and wander the streets.  An afternoon in Lavenham, Suffolk, such a pretty part of the world and oh so quaint.  Preparations for Autumn began with decorations being brought out and some autumn baking, making and tasting my vey first pumpkin pie which was amazing even if I do say so myself.  An afternoon trip to Layer Marney Tower, gorgeous grounds but a spooky building, not sure I'll be rushing back haha.  And a pit stop at Norpar Barns to check out this year's Halloween barn and selection of pumpkins.


One of my favourite months of the year and a very busy one in 2017.  A visit to the pumpkin patch, a tradition I really love.  Knitting my very first chunky knit blanket using my hands and arms in place of needles.  Trying my hand at clay pigeon shooting, I'm certainly no pro but it was good fun.   Going to the Burnham on Crouch Carnival, something I haven't done for many years.  Playtime and cuddles with my favourite little lady.  Dinner at a friends first home was lovely and of course we made cocktails.  Flying out to America to spend time with my long term blogging  friend Brook was obviously the highlight and one of the greatest experiences.  Going to my first American Football game, experiencing tailgating and spending Halloween trick or treating in Iowa.  After meeting up with Brook face to face for the first time in May, I seriously had no idea then that I would be staying at her place later in the year and spending over a whole week with her, honestly so thankful for this memory.


An incredible start to the month in America, sadly having to say goodbye to the boys, then setting off for a girls trip to Chicago, exploring the city and taking in all the sights.  A tearful goodbye to Brook, but heading back home to the UK in time for Firework Night and going to the local display which was brilliant (I've not been to this display since I was a kid).  After watching some sports in the States I was keen to see what was happening near me and so my first ice hockey game was attended. A literary dinner with Giovanna Fletcher, such a lovely lady and so down to earth (a potential new bestie in the making perhaps).  Bratwurst was enjoyed at a German Christmas market in a neighbouring town.  Christmas light switch ons were witnessed and the festive spirit was well and truly kicked off including a baking session with chocolate gingerbread men.

Attended my second ice hockey game.  Sipped on the most gorgeous clementine hot chocolate from Hotel Chocolat. Wandered the streets of London to take in all the Christmas lights and decorations.  Witnessed the first proper snow we have had here in Essex for the past 6 or so years.  Endless Christmas films were watched including 2 drive in movies and Bad mom's at the Everyman.  Christmas jumpers were embraced.  Garden centre Christmas displays were explored.  Festive afternoon tea followed by cocktails with my work colleagues was devoured.  Dinner out with friends.  A spontaneous trip to Norwich, exploring a new city and admiring all the lights.  Christmas Eve dinner  out with family as sadly we were not all going to be together on Christmas day, and then Christmas day itself, a much quieter one than usual.  A second trip to London this time to see the English National Ballets Nutcracker which was just beautiful.

I think it is safe to say that 2017 was a pretty good year for me, mind you it wasn't hard following on from 2016.  It still had it's downs but the up's thankfully outweighed these this year.  I feel as though I have grown a lot this past year, I have been really selfish and focussed on myself and what I want.  It may sound bad but I know that it is what I have needed to do and I intend to do the very same in 2018.  I know 2018 will have it's struggles but I'm ready for them, so let's see what this year has to offer.

~ Gem x