Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Happy Place Festival

Back in August I headed into London with a friend to visit Fearne Cotton's Happy Place Festival in Chiswick Park.  It was a two day event, for which we had booked our tickets for the Saturday.  The ticket included general admission plus the main talks stage, although at the time of booking we had no idea who the guest speakers were going to be as these were not announced until a bit later.  There was the option to book additional sessions for various workshops, including yoga and extra talks but these all sold out pretty quickly and to be honest as it is the first event of this kind she has done, we were unsure what to expect and so just stuck with the standard entry ticket.

The day was pretty perfect.  We were extremely lucky with the guest speakers who literally filled our days timetable so we felt kind of pleased that we hadn't booked on to any of the other sessions as it would have meant missing out on one of the talks. Personally I would say if you were wanting to take advantage of some of the yoga sessions or other workshops taking place as well as the main talks, you'd be better off booking a 2 day ticket or you just need to be prepared to miss out on something you may want to do.  

You could tell that a lot of thought and effort had gone into making the place feel relaxed and chilled out and I loved all the little touches.  Even the businesses that had been selected to be there had been thought about and were all great for supporting healthy lifestyle choices and mindfulness, plus there were some great little spots for photos, perfect for the Instagrammers attending.

The highlight for me was listening to Rylan Clarke and dare I say it Russell Brand (I am not a Russell Brand fan at all) Both were great speakers and I feel as though I took something away from both of them.

It was a really great day, and is definitely something I would look out for again in the future.

~ Gem x

Monday, 14 October 2019


This years summer holiday took me to Greece, to the beautiful island of Zakynthos.  For me, a big part of a holiday is being able to explore somewhere new and different.  The world is a huge place, and I'd love to be able to visit everywhere.  Although there are definitely places I would happily visit again and again, I do prefer to travel somewhere new, just to be able to cross another destination off the list.

 I would usually spend the entire holiday travelling around all the different places and really exploring the island or country I'm visiting to the fullest.  This holiday was a little different though and was mainly spent relaxing by the pool, which is so not like me at all but was very much needed.  

One day was spent in Zakynthos Town, although I'll have to admit to being somewhat disappointed by this.  I was expecting something like Corfu Town which really is beautiful but sadly it wasn't comparable.  There didn't seem to be all that much there and it looked very run down and not as pretty as I had hoped.

I'll admit to feeling a little guilty about spending the majority of the holiday within the confines of the hotel but like I said it was very much needed.  There were plenty of evening strolls along the beach though to catch those dreamy skies at sunset, one of my favourite things to do on holiday, so not all was lost.

And all of those pool days meant that I was able to read 5 whole books.  In less than 2 weeks, that is unheard of for me, I was super chuffed.

So not quite the usual holiday for me this year but a good one none the less.

~ Gem x

Friday, 4 October 2019

40 Before 40 Update - Year 2

Back in July I reached the two year mark of my 40 Before 40 list and thanks to my first year I'm still making good progress.  In the past year I only managed to cross off 4 things from the list, however this still means I've crossed off a total of 11 things so I'm still ahead of target. This past year I managed to cross off:

2: Learn and Develop a New Skill.

I have wanted to complete a calligraphy course for as long as I can remember.  This year was the year to finally do it and I loved it just as much as I thought I would.  You can see how I got on here.

14. Complete a run at one of the Disney Parks.

This has been by far one of the best things I have achieved from this list, possibly one of the greatest things of my life EVER.  I still can't quite believe that I've done it.  You can read more about my experience here.   

24. Go and see a pantomime.

Last Christmas I saw my very first pantomime at Southend's Cliff Pavilion starring Diversity.  It was amazing, although I have to sat it was Diversity that made it for me as opposed to the pantomime set up itself.

32. See the seals and their pups at Blakeney.

I travelled to the coast with my parents in December to see the seals with their pups.  It was such an amazing thing to see.  They really are so cute.  We didn't actually go to Blakney but it was more the seals and pups I was interested in as opposed to the location of where they were.

It wasn't the most productive year, but still making good progress, and the Disney Run was a pretty big one too so I'm very happy with that one.  I'll just try and cross off more this coming year.

~ Gem x

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Lydia Packham Calligraphy Workshop

For a long time I have been wanting to learn calligraphy.  I love how fancy and professional it looks and would love to be able to write out cards for loved ones in a fancy scrawl.  I'd often looked at classes but found that they were either midweek which isn't ideal for those who work full time during the week like me, or they have been mega expensive and so I have never bothered.  Well until earlier this year.  

I had found Lydia Packham Calligraphy via Instagram and noticed she was running beginners workshops for modern calligraphy local to me in Chelmsford.  I headed straight to her website and booked myself on one of her workshops being held at Moto Pizza on a Saturday morning.

The set up was great.  Everyone each had their own little pack including a nib, nib holder, ink, paper and calligraphy guides all cutely laid out on the tables ready for the workshop to begin.

Lydia demonstrated how to get started and explained how to hold the pen and when to apply pressure to get the letters looking their best.

It was a fairly small group which allowed her time to move between us all guiding us as and when needed and giving us pointers and tips to help us improve our writing.  I was amazed at how well my work turned out, it was much better than I ever imagined it would be.

I've probably not practised anywhere near as much as I should have and writing this has made me think I really ought to get the pen and paper out and get practising again but that aside it was a really great workshop which I enjoyed from start to finish.  If you're local to the Chelmsford area and are keen to learn Calligraphy then Lydia is definitely your girl.  She is so friendly and a great teacher in a very relaxed environment.  I'm really glad I booked on.

~ Gem x

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