Monday 3 June 2024

AD | Making our house baby-friendly with Rex London

As you may or may not know, I'm an aunty - I have a niece and nephew, and of course I'm also Aunty Katy to some of my friends' kids which is lovely lovely lovely. But being childless (by choice) myself, I often find that our house just isn't particularly baby/kid-friendly. That's all about to change, though! I've got some bits and bobs from the wonderful team over at Rex London to share with you, so without further ado here's what I'm adding to our home to make it a bit more baby-friendly!

When my mum has my niece during the week, she sometimes brings her round - and let me tell you, this child LOVES her food. The issue is that we simply don't have any bowls, spoons and so on that are quite 100% suitable for babies. Luckily, Rex London stock some in really cute designs. I opted to pick up some bits from their Cookie the Cat range: a melamine bowl and spoon, as well as a beaker and snack pot. The pink is so lovely, and the cat design is adorable, and they're really good quality. I'm hoping she loves them when she tries them out. The four pieces come to £13.80 all in, which I don't think is a bad price at all for a little set she can use when she's here.

Alongside this, we were seriously lacking in the toy department; I have a few kids books, but she doesn't always want to be read to and prefers getting involved - but then again, I didn't want anything too garish! I picked out a gorgeous wooden puzzle featuring a tiger, elephant, crocodile and lion. Again it's fantastic quality and vibrant while remaining stylish, and puzzles are great for little hands. I know this is something she'll get some joy out of when she visits, and it's not too big meaning we can store it away nicely.

And of course, I couldn't leave my nephew out! He's a teenager now, but he still loves having fun with his favourite aunty. I got us a 'make your own spring motor-powered racing car' that we can do when he stays over, and I'm very excited to put this together. It's something a bit different to just watching a film, as we usually do, and it was under a tenner which I think is perfect. It would make a great gift idea if you have any kids' birthdays coming up. Along the same lines is a little Spy Eye - a secret agent-style spyglass that allows you to see around corners. It's a wonderful little addition to a present, especially if you're shopping on a budget as it's under £2!

Last but not least, I also got my hands on a make your own dog treats kit; I don't have a dog (yet...) but my niece and nephew do, as do my parents, so I think this would be another really fun activity to do with my nephew. It comes with five recipes and some cutters, as well as a storage bag, and they look really simple to make. I'm definitely looking forward to doing this together on a rainy day, which seem to be all too frequent right now.

Rex London are fantastic for cute kids products and homeware - they stock everything from toys to cutlery and fridge magnets to bamboo toothbrushes. Everything is fantastic quality, and really stylish - nothing is cheap/tacky looking, and if you're looking for kid-friendly additions to your home that won't disrupt your vibe then it's definitely worth a look!

Thursday 9 May 2024

Vichy skincare review

I've touched on it on the blog already, but I have recently been diagnosed with a bunch of contact allergies which makes safe skincare pretty hard to come by. I'm always on the hunt for MI-free skincare to try out, as well as anything free from Balsam of Peru as these are my two main allergies. I use the SkinSAFE app to determine whether products contain any of my allergens, and I was thrilled to discover that a lot of Vichy skincare products are 'safe for me'.

I have tried Vichy in the past, years ago when I was at the peak of my beauty blogging "career", but they've not really been on my radar in the past couple of years. When they had a 3 for 2 offer on at Boots, I decided it was high time to place an order and give you my thoughts on the products I picked up...

Minéral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Booster

This is a serum that I absolutely love - I've been wearing it under make up mostly, and it really helps add a bit more moisture into the skin to stop my make up going all patchy! As someone with dry skin, this is a dream; because of the texture, it also doesn't go greasy which is a win win. It contains vitamins to strengthen the skin barrier, and squalane for extra hydration. It's so gentle, thanks to the minimal ingredients, and if you're looking for a serum that doesn't contain Balsam of Peru or its many cross reactors, the Vichy Minéral 89 is a great option. 

Vichy Intensive 48-hour Roll On Anti-perspirant 

Ahhh, deodorant. So many of them are fragranced, which is a big no-no if you have a Balsam of Peru allergy! It took me a while to find one that works for me, but the Vichy deodorant is brilliant - I always used to notice a flare up under my arms, which has pretty much cleared up now! The deodorant is gentle and unscented but does the job in terms of stopping me sweating etc. It's a lot pricier than most other deodorants, but it's worth it to not have sore and broken skin in such a delicate area.

Vichy Normaderm Phytosolution SOS Sulphur Paste

Alongside my eczema and allergies, I also have really blemish prone skin. It's a whirlwind for sure. But again, there aren't many spot treatments which are safe for my skin, no matter how natural they are. I typically opt for the hydrocolloid spot patches, but I don't actually find they do much. The Vichy Normaderm SOS Sulphur Paste is really good, though - it definitely reduces redness and helps shrink spots without drying out or irritating the skin. It's not a miracle worker but it does a good enough job!

So, these are my thoughts on some of the Vichy skincare range I've been trying recently. They're definitely more high end skincare products, but I would say they're worth the money. Allergies can be super expensive, but it's necessary in order to live as normal a life as possible. Let me know if you've tried any of these products and what you think...

Tuesday 7 May 2024

My April 2024 reads

April (and the beginning of May) was a much better reading month for me, and I got through quite a few good books. I thought I'd share them with you and let you know what I thought! A few of these were NetGalley ARCs, so they're only available now on pre-order, just FYI.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

This is a really cult thriller, and I actually consumed this as an audiobook - it's a format I'm still getting used to, but I love listening while I'm in the bath or tidying my room or weeding the patio. And in regards to this book, I thought it was good; a lot of characters, who got slightly lost within the story but all had such depth to them. The story was full of twists, turns, secrets and surprises as well as a really dark undertone. If you like thrillers then I'd recommend giving it a go, just because it's SO popular! Buy The Paris Apartment.

Better Left Unsent by Lia Louis

I absolutely adore Lia Louis and this book was no exception. It follows receptionist Millie, who has been diligently keeping any and all complaints or snarky comments in her email drafts where they stay hidden until one day, they don't... With all her secrets spilled out to the entire company, and her friends and family, Millie is understandably shaken. The book follows the aftermath of all this as she navigates cleaning up the mess, falling in love, and deepening some incredible friendships. READ THIS BOOK. Buy Better Left Unsent.

Last Call for Love by Rebekah Crane

I have read so so so many Rebekah Crane YA books, and when I saw this on NetGalley my fingers were on that request button SO quick. Not actually a YA, it's set on a tiny Irish island and features two pubs at war - as a frequent pub dweller, I love books set in pubs so this thrilled me from the get go. Maeve, reeling from finding out her estranged biological father has left her a pub, and Briggs - grieving his own father, running his own pub - are such wonderfully well-rounded and interesting characters, and the enemies to lovers plot was truly *chefs kiss*. There's just a lot of fun in this charming tale and I can't wait to re-read it... Pre-order Last Call for Love.

Enemies to Lovers by Laura Jane Williams

One of my favourite tropes, I was excited for this one - and it didn't let me down. Set on a beautiful Greek island it follows Flo (recovering from a breakdown) on a family holiday, which should be the perfect chance to relax but is immediately spoiled by the arrival of her brother's best friend, Jamie, who she hates. Obviously. He's her enemy. No awards for guessing whether or not they fall in love... A little predictable, perhaps, but the spoiler is literally in the title. And I ate it up like a big fat gyros. Highly recommend. Pre-order Enemies to Lovers.

Nosy Neighbours by Freya Sampson

This one took me a fair while to get through, but ultimately I really liked it. A nice, fun British novel about a wayward girl (Kat) who returns to the town she grew up in, hoping nobody will notice her, and takes a room in an apartment block on the brink of being sold off and torn down. The neighbours all have their own stories and secrets, but the main focus is on Kat and long-term resident Dorothy Darling. As they band together to save the building, everything comes tumbling out and they end up helping each other more than they could imagine... A very sweet read! Buy Nosy Neighbours.

A British Girl's Guide to Hurricanes and Heartbreak by Laura Taylor Namey

I absolutely love a bit of YA and this was great - from a quaint city in England to the coast of Miami, we join Flora as she decides what the hell she wants to do with her life while grieving her mum, figuring out how she really feels about her best friend, learning a new skill and getting ready for a friend's wedding. It had me laughing and crying, and I loved the blend of British and Cuban culture throughout. A really fun YA pick, if you're in the market. Buy A British Girl's Guide to Hurricanes and Heartbreak.

Side note I just learned that this is actually a sequel - the first book is called A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow which is actually about Flora's brother and the Cuban girl *he* falls in love with. It's being turned into a movie featuring Heartstopper fave, Kit Connor. So that's VERY exciting.

The Baby Plan by Emma Bennet

This is a family-focused romance, set in Brighton, following high-flyer accountant Sophie. She goes from not even knowing she had a niece, to grieving the death of her sister and suddenly having to play the role of parent - alongside the baby's dad, who also didn't know about the baby until just now. As they figure out their new normal, with plenty of ups & downs, they find there might be something more to their relationship than co-parenting... A fairly standard but nevertheless enjoyable romance! Buy The Baby Plan.

The Dixon Rule by Elle Kennedy

This is the first Elle Kennedy book I've actually finished, having DNF'd another of hers last year. But I just loved this one - a fake relationship trope, hot people, pool parties, a LOT of spice, dancing, college, it had everything I love in a romance and if you're into any of that, pick it up asap. Pre-order The Dixon Rule.

The Perfect Guest by Ruth Irons

Let me start by saying I HATED the narrator - so so so unlikeable, and this made it quite difficult to read. The premise of the thriller (woman stays at a holiday home, becomes obsessed with the people who own it, infiltrates their life) is actually really good, I just wasn't totally sold on anybody in it. I know the main character is supposed to be a bit of a 'weirdo', but god she was infuriating. On that basis I probably wouldn't recommend but if you're someone who can get past annoying narrators then go for it... Pre-order The Perfect Guest.

Friday 3 May 2024

Hickory's, Chester | brunch & lunch menu 2024

If you're looking for a taste of the USA, then you can't go wrong with Hickory's! I was recently invited to the Chester location, situated on the River Dee, to try out their newly updated brunch and lunch menu - and it didn't disappoint...

We visited on a Saturday, and it was busy but not *too* busy - the staff were attentive and efficient, which was great, and we were overall really pleased. They seated us in a booth and brought over some water and popcorn, while we perused the menu to decide what to order. When our waitress, Ruby, came back to take our drinks order she asked if we wanted a little masterclass at the bar so we could learn to make them ourselves - and of course, we couldn't turn that down!

So I headed behind the bar with barman Johnny to make a Tip-Top Triple Choc milkshake for my fiancée Kate and a frozen pornstar martini for me. It was so much fun and just made our visit a bit more special, and I believe this is something anyone can do - not just because I was there for my blog. So definitely ask if you're interested, then enjoy your yummy creations...

For food, I ordered off the brunch menu and I went for pancakes with Louisiana fried chicken; there was a huge range of options, and this just really called out to me. Kate was going to order the Pastrami & Pickle Toasted Sub off the new sub 'n' soda menu, but sadly the deal only runs during the week - it's £11.99 for a sandwich and homemade soda, though, so well worth keeping in mind if you visit Monday-Friday. Kate wasn't too disappointed though as she instead ordered the double Oklahoma Smash Burger and fries which she loved.

My pancakes were fluffy and delicious, and the fried chicken was very spicy but still super tasty - and the maple syrup helped! I couldn't not order sides as well, and opted for the mac & cheese as well as the star of the show: poutine tater tots. They're essentially just tater tots with cheese and chicken gravy but my GOD they were delicious and soooooo moreish.

The ambience in the restaurant was just great, with country music playing through the speakers and the staff decked out in checked shirts and varsity jackets. Both of the managers on shift came to say hello - shoutout to Kim and Matt who were just great! Hickory's in Chester also has a little cinema inside, playing kids films, so little ones can be entertained while waiting for their food; a genius idea if you ask me.

Good hearty food in a stunning location - what more could you ask for? Everything was delicious and the prices aren't too bad either, so if you're looking for somewhere nice for lunch in Chester then have a look at Hickory's for sure!

Tuesday 23 April 2024

What we've done so far as 2025 brides

If you follow me outside of this blog at all, you probably know I'm engaged to the love of my life and SO excited about it. Planning a wedding - they say it's one of the most stressful things you'll ever do, and I won't lie it has been a *bit* stressful so far. I thought I'd write a post about what we've done, where we're up to, vague plans and so on in case anyone's interested or in the same boat!

Chosen a date

We've chosen our date - I won't put the exact date here as I'm never sure how much to give away, but it's in the Autumn of 2025 giving us plenty of time to get everything sorted. We have gone for an Autumn date as we didn't want to go for Summer, get our hopes up for good weather only to have it pour down... plus I just *love* an Autumnal colour scheme!

Booked the ceremony & reception venues

Ah, the venue. This has been pretty much our only big stress as we could NOT find something that worked for us. Essentially we're having a tiny ceremony (family only, at the local registry office which is also where my Grandad got married) and then we wanted a big, laidback party. Everywhere we looked at was either £12,000 plus extra for bloody chairs, or didn't have a bar in the room, or would only fit about 60 people, or was next door to a supermarket...

We've found somewhere now, though, and again I won't say exactly where but it's exactly what we want - not too posh, big enough for a dance floor AND seats, does good food, has plenty of hotels nearby and so on. We've paid the booking fee for the registry office to secure the date, and we've also paid a deposit for the reception venue. So that's that sorted!

Made a spreadsheet

When I say 'we', this one's just me. But I value a good spreadsheet, and I think mine's up to about 7 tabs now - guest list, what we need to book/pay for and when, decor ideas, running order and so on. You just can't go wrong.

Started buying little bits

I haven't gone mad with buying stuff yet, but I'm well aware that the costs will pile up and I think buying bits as you go is a great way to avoid having to pay out a huge chunk of money at once. So far I've got a box for people to put wedding cards in, a cake topper, and some little wooden hearts for the tables. Oh, and a TEMU basket full of fake flowers, ribbon, etc etc etc...

Planned the decor

Following on from that, I know exactly how I want the decor to look and what we need to get in order to achieve that. I just really hope I can pull this vision off - but I've planned plenty of trips to car boot sales, flea markets and so on to source the perfect 'bits and bobs' we need!

And that's pretty much everything we've done, aside from starting to eat a bit healthier so we can both be in good shape for the big day. Let me know what I need to add to my to do list that I'll have inevitably forgotten...