Monday, 16 September 2019

The Selfie Factory Pop-Up ~ Bluewater Shopping Centre

After seeing The Selfie Factory advertised as a pop up at Bluewater shopping centre earlier this year, I knew it was the perfect outing for a girlie day out.  

With plenty of photo opportunities available set out in individual sets the only difficulty was getting all the photos you wanted within an hour (unless you opted for the unlimited ticket which then allows you all day to snap away to your hearts content).  

Not only did we all get a camera roll filled with photos but we laughed, a lot too.  Who knew that taking photos to fill up your Instagram grid could be such funny business.

Sometimes time spent with good friends is all the medicine you really need.

The Selfie Factory is returning back to Bluewater Shopping Centre this November, be sure to check it out if your close by.  Perfect for that little break from the Christmas shopping  or even something to keep the little ones entertained for an hour.  Pre-sale tickets are on sale now via their website

~ Gem x

Monday, 9 September 2019

Returning to East Sussex

I've now lost count how many times myself and James visited East Sussex and in particular Freshwinds Camp Site near Hastings, however I'd not been back since our break up, well until April this year.  I was looking forward to returning and seeing Tim, Anne & Holly again.  It had been quite some time since I'd seen them last.  And I was missing East Sussex, it's a really pretty part of the country.

On the way to Pett I stopped at Rye to wander the streets of the little fishing village.  For such a small village there is so much beauty to been seen, I'd say you'd only need a couple of hours to see it all if that.

After settling in to the Shepherds Hut, home for the next few nights, it was off to Hastings for a walk along the beach to see the sunset.  I'd forgotten just how much I had missed this place.

The next morning I drove back into Hastings for a wander in daylight before driving on to Battle, a favourite place of mine in East Sussex, it feels like you are stepping back in time and is so pretty.

The best thing of all though was time on the farm.  The views are just breath-taking, it is so peaceful and calming and those little lambs are just adorable.

And as the sun set on the last night it was the perfect time to light the fire and rip open the chocolate biscuits and marshmallows to make some smores, I mean is it really a camping trip without smores?

It felt so great to be back.

~ Gem x

Friday, 6 September 2019

New York City

Back in February I was lucky enough to jet of to the big apple for 3 nights, yep New York City, so great they named it twice.  The catch, I had to escort 34 teenagers, now I know you're jealous.  All joking aside though, apart from it being a really full on, hectic and tiring  trip, it all went without a hitch and I had a great time.

Once we had arrived and checked into our fantastically located hotel (which lets just say was very basic and not quite the standard I'm used) it was straight back out again to visit The Empire State Building.  Now I've been to New York before but I don't think you could ever tire or not be amazed by the sites of this city.  It really is something quite special, and for the second time I was not disappointed.  What was even nicer this time around was seeing the faces of those around me who were seeing this for the first time.  It was a great way to end the first day.

The next morning we headed out on a superheroes tour.  Probably not the best thing to have done on our first morning as we were all still tired from the previous day and not feeling quite as energetic as our tour guide, but she did well to keep going in an attempt to entertain 34 unresponsive teens.  For me having not long before found a love of Marvel films this was a great opportunity to see filming locations for some of their films as well as many other superhero films such as Hulk and the highlight for me Superman.  Being able to step inside that famous News Building and seeing it for real was pretty cool.

After the tour we had a quick stop for a coffee and in my case a cake to go with my coffee, before we hopped onto the Staten Ferry, which I will be completely honest about, I was dreading.  I don't do very well with boats at all so I was panicking big time about this. As soon as we got on board I made a beeline for the stairs to get myself outside in preparation for the onslaught of vomit I was bound to be producing.  I spent so long worrying about this expected course of events but in reality I was absolutely fine.  I don't know whether it was the fear of it happening that stopped it or whether it was just genuinely an OK journey, needless to say I managed to snap some great photos of the New York skyline as we sailed away.

The fear I'd been feeling for the journey was all worth it.  During my last visit to New York I hadn't done this, it was nice to see the city from a different perspective but also being able to get up close to the Statue of Liberty and wander around Liberty Island.

Back from the island we walked to the ground zero memorial.  It actually felt quite chilling walking towards the site where the twin towers once stood.  Walking those same streets that all those years ago I had witnessed people running from, covered in the dust and debris of the huge buildings that were burning and crashing to the floor on my TV screen.  The fear, panic and pain etched on their faces.  I visited this site when I last visited in 2006, but back then it was still a building site.  It is lovely to see what they have done in honour of all those who sadly lost their lives on that day, a really beautiful memorial.

Dinner that night was in Times Square.  Possibly one of my favourite spots in New York.  I'm a sucker for lights and every time I see Times Square it always makes me think of the Usher music video for My Boo with Alicia Keys (I love that song).

Second morning and it was another day of new experiences in New York as we took an extremely cold (so cold even the water fountains had frozen over) walk to the NBC Studios for a tour.  Definitely one of he advantages of going on an educational visit, I ended up doing things I would never have done on a trip by myself and I enjoyed all of it.  The tour was fantastic and so interesting.  There is no way I would have done this on my own accord.  The highlight was being able to go back to see the monologue rehearsal for the Seth Myers Late Nigh Show which was really funny.


Waking up for the third and final day I honestly felt sad.  Even with 34 students I didn't want to come home.  I had laughed so much during the trip, it was just what I needed.  A small group of us decided to head to Central Park to spend a couple of hours exploring.  I mean the place is huge, you could spend a couple of days alone to see it all, so a couple of hours was really only just a whistle stop tour, but we spotted some great things during that time and worked off a fair few doughnuts and other naughty treats we had devoured during the trip.

It was then one final walk back to the hotel via Times Square before our transfer picked us up to drive us back to the airport for our flight home and the end to an unforgettable trip.

For the second time New York was incredible.  I will definitely be returning one day for sure.  There still a ot ore to be seen and a lot more to do so I know I will be heading back.  And if you got this far, well done, this was a long one.

~ Gem x

Friday, 30 August 2019


Having not blogged for seven months I'm now feeling like I have a lot to catch up with.  There's way too much to do a general update so I'm going to publish a number of posts over the next few weeks with what's been going on, starting off with a short break to Bath back in February.

It's a place that holds memories for me from a time in my life where I was very happy, but also a part of my past which I often try not to think about, just because it's easier to try to forget.  I felt really apprehensive about returning and in fact on reflection,  a lot of this year has been about re-visiting places from my past which, at times has felt very difficult and still quite raw but I want to create new memories and to push myself forwards.

The trip turned out to be really lovely, especially returning to the Therme Spa, that place really is such a treat.  I love all the different scented steam rooms, and that rooftop pool, well I could spend hours up there. If ever you are visiting and time allows you to visit I would really recommend it, although aim to get there as early as you can, ideally at opening time as it does get busy and once they reach capacity it then works on a one out one in basis and the queues can get pretty long. 

Of course all of the main sites and tourist attractions of the city were visited.  A visit to Bath would not be complete without stopping by the Roman Baths.  It is hard to imagine how it all must have looked around the area all those years ago but I love how they've introduced the new with the old in the city, it really does work quite well. 

The weather was lovely during the weekend I visited.  It was cold but the sun shone the entire time and it felt like Spring.  It was perfect for walks past the circus and up to the Royal Crescent.  I often wonder who lives in those huge houses and what their lives must be like having people continuously snapping photos of their front doors.  Talk about pressure to keep it looking in tip top condition.  Then again I can't imagine it is cheap to live there so they most likely have staff to do that for them, but I think if it were me I'd much rather do it myself.   

Walks along the river and through the park were also enjoyed.  Finished off with coffee and cake in the cute little tea room inside Pultney Bridge where I finally managed to get one of the tables by the window (*enter smug expression here*).

Another highlight of this trip was the accommodation.  I stayed in an apartment that was literally about a five minute walk from Pultney Bridge (annoyingly I can't remember the name of it right now but I will update this post with the name if I can find it).  It was beautifully decorated and had a great view of the city out the window.  I could literally lay in bed and see the cathedral, it was perfect.  I'd happily stay there again if it's available should I be staying in Bath in the future. 

I'm really glad I returned to this beautiful city and I've no doubt that it won't be my last visit either.  There are more memories to be created there yet.

~ Gem x

Monday, 19 August 2019

A Plan For 2019

There is no doubt about it, I definitely lost my writing mojo.  I originally started writing this post back in January (hence the title), it's crazy to think that was seven months ago already.  Back then I spent a lot of time reflecting on all that I had achieved in previous years and spent time thinking about what I wanted to achieve in 2019.  Usually I head into the year with lots of plans already made, but this year was different and I struggled to find the desire to want to do a lot.  In all honesty that feeling hasn't left me throughout the year, there is no reason for it that I can put my finger on but it is still there.  I usually find that I love having things to look forward to but recently it has made me feel so anxious. 

At the time of planning and organising something I'm excited and like the idea of what I have planned but then once it's finalised and the day gets closer I get this feeling of dread wash over me, my stomach ties itself in knots, my heart races and I want nothing more than to drop out and cancel.  This isn't the first time I have had this feeling.  It happened a few years ago when I was going through my break up with my ex-husband but it used to come and go, this year it has been constant.  The thing is I have no idea why I get it because as soon as I get to where I've planned to be I always have a great time and end up asking myself what all the fuss was about.  But that doesn't stop it happening again and again the next time I have plans to do something.  Even writing this now is making me want to be sick, I know it is silly but I just can't explain it. 

It has meant that I haven't been saying yes to things as much as I usually would.  The second year into my 40 Before 40 list wasn't anywhere near as successful as my first and I have taken far fewer photos than I usually would. 

I know I need to take control of it and push myself to do more so that the situation doesn't get any worse and I am trying.  I have started making more plans over the past couple of weeks and intend to keep doing so.  Looking back over 2019 so far I have still achieved a fair bit but I don't feel as though I have done as much as I usually have by this point in the year and I want to change that for the last four months of 2019.  I guess it is important not to compare though, we are always changing, life is always changing.  It's a journey and it's a case of seeing where it takes us.

Writing this has reminded me though how much I enjoy writing and how much I have missed it, so hopefully I will be able to continue to post more frequently. I often think whether to continue with this space here or not but I do enjoy looking back on old posts.  It's surprising how quickly we forget some of the things we do or achieve in life and the little things can easily pass us by, so being able to document things here is a good reminder.  So for now it's time for a change, and time to take control back this life of mine.

~ Gem x

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

2018 A Year in Review

These round-up posts are definitely my most favourite blog posts of the year to write (even though I haven't posted here for a while).  It always amazes me looking back and seeing how much I have achieved in the year so it was a no brainer for me to complete another this year.


I started the year off in January feeling positive about 2017 and all I had achieved.  I was adamant I wanted 2018 to be much the same, however I started the year off in bed with a horrendous cold and feeling very sorry for myself.  In fact much of January was spent feeling a bit under the weather and generally out of sorts.  I did still manage to get out and about and achieve a few things though.  An evening at the theatre to see my first pantomime, which was a great disappointment that saw us leaving very early on.  A couple of cinema trips one to see the new Jumanji film the other to see Darkest Hour both of which I loved.  A day by the sea visiting Walton-on-the-Naze walking along the pier, playing in the arcades and admiring the many pretty coloured beach huts along the sea front.  Dinner out with a friend at Bills.  Lots of cosy nights in drinking tea and reading.  Plus making plans for the year ahead with a day out to France with friends, my soon to be sister in law's hen weekend and a trip to Disneyland Paris to complete their 10k run all booked, the diary was fast filling up.


This was the month that saw me focussing on my fitness.  I went to my first boot camp session and started running regularly on the treadmill at home, all in preparation for my 10K run in Disneyland Paris in September (little did I know at this point that it would not continue through the year).  A weekend was spent exploring Oxford including an amazing dinner at the Malmaison Hotel.  I had a delicious vegetarian afternoon tea at Le Bouchen in Heybridge to celebrate a colleagues 60th birthday.  Lots of Valentines themed doughnuts were devoured at work.  Brunch was enjoyed with a good friend and her gorgeous little boy as we caught up on all that is going on in one another's lives.  A cinema trip to watch the new Jumani film again but this time in 4D, it was fantastic, and far better then seeing a film in 2D.


Lots of snowfall in March.  Crisp walks listening to the crunching snow underfoot.  Lots of cosy nights in reading with the candles lit.  A night out with friends celebrating a birthday.  I had my hair cut short, donating my hair to the Little Princess Trust charity.  And a day trip to France with some friends.


The month of April started in the beautiful island of Malta.  We were treated to a few days of sunshine although it could have been a little warmer but anything was a bonus following the snow we had been experiencing a few weeks previously back in the UK.  A little drive out in Essex to discover the picturesque village of Finchingfield.  Another highlight of the month was meeting Jenny Colgan at the Women's Prize for Fiction Baileys Book Bar event in London, I seriously love her books. 
  I embraced Spring in April, there were tulips and peony's galore, my favourite.


May saw me leaping above the treetops at Go Ape then spending the afternoon exploring Bury St Edmunds.  A day out in London walking through Kensington and Chelsea seeing the gorgeous wisteria adorning the grand houses.  After 3 years I finally got to fly in a hot air balloon.  One of the most peaceful and calming experiences of my life and something I've had on my bucket list for years.  I spent another day heading back into London to see Aladdin at the theatre with my parents, a really good show and a great way to celebrate my Dad's birthday.  An annual trip to the Essex Young Farmers Show and of course you have to check out the steam carousel.  And lastly the second Bank holiday Monday was spent in Halstead stopping for a bite to eat and checking out the antique centre.


An evening was spent under the stars watching Back to the Future at the outdoor cinema.  Riverside walks were enjoyed in the sunshine.  I was able to cross something else of my bucket list and ride in a helicopter, only I go to try my hand at flying it myself too.  This was followed by brunch with Mum and my Nan at one of my favourite little tea rooms The Doll's House Café in Harrow on The Hill.  It was during June that I picked up my new wheels after not having a car for a year and a half.  I celebrated this new piece of independence by driving to Wolverhampton with my Nan to visit the David Austin Rose Garden which literally blew me away with it's beauty, and of course we had afternoon tea to top of the day trip. I spent a weekend in Center Parcs celebrating my sister in law's hen weekend, it was here I got to try my hand at archery.  A day trip to Margate, walking along the beach and enjoying the rides in Dreamland.  Plus meeting the Gruffalo at Chessington World of Adventures with my friend and her little girl


The highlight of July for me was my brother and his now wife's wedding, it was such a beautiful day and I felt privileged to be a part of their special day.  I crossed the final thing from my 30 Before 30 list (only a year too late) and climbed the roof of the O2.  I celebrated my birthday with lots of cake and was treated to dinner at the Giggling Squid Thai restaurant in Brentwood, somewhere I have wanted to try for a while.  I spent a morning checking out the food festival at Cressing Temple Barns with a friend where lots of Disney chat took place.  I also got to visit the Lavender farm again this year, I last visited in 2016 and promised myself I would return.  This time I went along with my Mum, she loved it just as much as I did.


During August an evening after work was spent in London catching up with a friend visiting from America in Greenwich, the company was amazing and the sunset was beautiful.  A lazy morning was spent in a coffee shop, sipping on my Starbucks coffee and enjoyed my book with no interruptions.  Country walks were had.  After years of enjoying V-Festival on my doorstep in Chelmsford this year saw the arrival of RiZe Festival and it didn't disappoint with the highlight being Sean Paul who was just as good as I imagined him to be.  I took part in a 5K Bubble Rush run for a local hospice as part of my training for the Disney 10K Run of which little training has taken place and time was running out.


By far the best month of 2018 for me.  Finally after months of planning the month arrived that I would be going to Disneyland Paris and what an incredible trip it was.  I ran my first ever 10K, and it was such a great achievement.  I am so glad this trip happened.  September was also the start of the signs of autumn, my favourite season of the year and the return of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes to Starbucks and X=Factor to our TV screens of a Saturday night.


The month of all things pumpkin spice, a time when autumn becomes it's own. A visit to the Pumpkin patch, pretty much customary for October.  My Mum & Dad surprised me with a Mickey shaped pumpkin macaroon all the way from Walt Disney World that the managed to get back in their hand luggage.  A day tip into London to visit the Instagram famous Peggy Porschen Cakes to check out their Halloween décor and gorgeous cakes.  Pumpkins.  Country walks and discovering my first ever red toadstool. Pumpkins.  Lots of candlelit evenings with pumpkin scented candles of course.  Halloween night complete with carved pumpkins, I loved my Dracula Mickey pumpkin this year.  Did I mention pumpkins?


I managed to squeeze in two firework displays this month, the first the local display in Chelmsford and the second one being Disney themed which was pretty amazing.  A day trip to London to check out the 90th Mickey Mouse anniversary art exhibition in Shoreditch.  We spent the rest of the day checking out some of the museums around the city and spotting the first of the Christmas decorations and ice rinks.  A new destination was explored, a day trip to Ipswich, another place I have never visited before, the building were quite something.


Lots of festive days our were enjoyed during December including 2 visits to the Backyard Cinema on Clapham Common within Winterville.  The first to see Home Alone, the second to see Love Actually.  The lights around London were enjoyed including some festive cocktails in Covent Garden plus the beautiful festive displays in Liberty's, Covent Garden and Regent Street.  I picked up the keys to my new home this month too, a beautiful little cottage that I can't wait to share more on very soon.  A day by the coast to see the seals and their pups in Horsey was just what was ordered to blow away those cobwebs and to work off the Christmas dinner and all those hot chocolates I have been sipping on by the Christmas tree.  The month was ended nicely with a day out in Durham, such a sweet little city with beautiful architecture to admire.

And so another year draws to a close.  2018 you were certainly eventful.  I can't wait to see what 2019 has in store for us all.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.

~ Gem x