A World Full of Prettiness

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Out of Office

As you read this I'll be on my way for a 3 week stint in America. 5 nights in NY before flying to Orlando for a further 2 weeks of Disney fun!

Flashback to the castle - Sept 2015
We have lots planned and I'll be keeping my Instagram up to date, so if you want to see what we're up to, come and join me over there at @kateld85

I'll also be giving filming a go again. I always film when I go away, however I don't vlog as such, but I'm going to give it a go, and if I succeed, you'll be the first to know about it once I begin uploading to Youtube again!

For NYC & Disney blog posts, stay tuned!

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Thursday, 17 November 2016

HelloFresh Subscription Box Review

Some of you may (or may not!) know that I am a subscriber of Pink Parcel (a cute 'time of the month' subscription box filled with all those womanly essentials, plus some treats for us around 'that time'). In last months box, a £20 off gift card for Hellofresh was included, which meant I could purchase 5 days worth of meals (for 2 people) for £30 (instead of £50). Considering each meal consisted of some form of meat or seafood, I thought £30 was pretty damn good! So we enjoyed 10 days worth of yummy and creative recipes.

My thoughts on HelloFresh...

Packaging

I was always impressed with the packaging. As you can see from the photo, there were boxes within boxes to separate the food. The refrigerated foods were stored in an insulated blanket complete with large ice-packs to maintain freshness.






Ingredients

I think the idea behind HelloFresh is to have the exact amount of ingredients so it takes away the hassle of weighing food/spices out. I found that with some food items, I could make them stretch a little further than what the recipe suggested and save for something else! (i.e. we had 2 bags of spinach for 2 recipes - I found this a little too much so I always kept half a bag and used for a shake the following day!). I never had any problems with freshness of any fruit/veg, and they all appeared really good quality.



Recipes

I can't praise these enough. They come attached to each other similar to a little booklet, but each had a perforated line to rip and store away individually. Each recipe was so detailed, it had a photo of each ingredient that was required, the amount, a step-by-step instruction guide, photos, nutritional value.. basically everything you need for a successful recipe from start to finish!



Taste

Now I understand that this will be down to individual preference but each recipe differed on the taste scale for me, some where to-die-for and left me wanting more, others not so much. But, I never had a bad meal. Some ingredients were new to my palette but definitely brought out the adventurous side in me, in terms of cooking anyway! Below were some of my favourite meals...





Convenience

Even though these recipes took a little more time and effort than most recipes I tend to do after a full day at work, because I was reading off a recipe and knew I had each ingredient to hand, it motivated me. There's something I love about reading off a recipe, knowing I'm ticking off the steps in my head. However I will say one thing - I found the preparation time (that was stated by hellofresh) to be a little out. I don't believe I'm awfully slow in the kitchen, but for example it may have stated prep time to be 30mins, when in fact it was taking me 45 minutes. That was my only bugbear.

Service

When writing this blog post, there wasn't a lot I could fault HelloFresh on, however unfortunately I've had to edit this section as things took a nosedive shortly afterwards. I had used up my vouchers, and didn't intend on paying full price for the box afterwards, so I unsubscribed. I went through the process via their website and everything seemed hunky dory, all settled. It wasn't until I was at work a week or so later that I received an email on my phone that stated a delivery was on its way. I was confused but I knew I wasn't expecting anything. I arrived home to another Hello Fresh box. I checked my bank and low and behold, they had taken £50 from our account. I was not happy. For one reason or another, I knew I had definitely done the process properly. I emailed HelloFresh and unfortunately they weren't overly understanding, and refunded me just £10 to show that they 'had made no profit from the box'. This whole thing really got my back up because only a day prior we had been food shopping ourselves, so we had almost 2 weeks worth of food, half of that stuff being fresh vegetables which I later had to dispose of. I do believe I had completed the unsubscribe process properly, but it was my word against theirs, and they weren't budging.

Price

For people on a budget, this box probably isn't for you, coming in at £5 per meal per person. Each meal did consist of either meat or some form of fish, so they were really nutritious tasty meals, however you then have to consider all the other essentials that you would normally get in a weekly shop (i.e. milk, bread), not to mention food for breakfast and lunches, because this box only covers 1 meal per day. I don't think I would ever pay full price for this box, but it made a nice little treat coupled with the vouchers.


Have you ever tried HelloFresh before? What were your thoughts?


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Tuesday, 1 November 2016

October Round Up - Country Walks, Travel Planning & Halloween

October has been so quiet for me, the main reason being because we're now on the last stretch before our holiday (4 weeks to go!), so we've been careful with our money.

I've really got into walking this month with my mum. I started in September and we've gone 3 times a week since. This has been my current method of getting exercise, and I've actually really been liking it. I've enjoyed getting in touch with nature, as sad as that sounds! We end up walking through fields and occasionally venturing into the prettiest (and most expensive!) village ever, with houses to die for. It also enables us to catch up and just chat. It's great if I need to vent too!

Apart from that, I've been working, and enjoying cosy nights in now the days have become darker. I've enjoyed nothing more than lighting a few candles, turning on my fairy lights and sticking a movie on. I'm not a massive movie kinda person, but just lately I've been loving them.

I've also started a bullet journal which is making me super productive! I love it and find that it makes me do things that I'd otherwise try and procrastinate over.

Top L Clockwise - My Halloween weekend - My view on one of our country walks - A naughty take-away night in - Travel Planning, can't wait to add another pin to this map!

With only 4 weeks to go till our big holiday, it's meant lots of last minute planning, booking of insurances, airport hotels, transport etc. The usual dribs and drabs that get left till nearer the date. I'm slowly (very slowly!) starting to gather things together ready for my suitcase. I hate feeling stressed on the run up to a holiday, realising I haven't got something at the last minute, so I figured slowly but surely has got to be the best way, right?!

Whilst booking all of the above, I had to book Take That tickets for their tour next year! So excited for that! Myself & Mike have been to the last 3 tours, so its tradition now!

I never celebrated Halloween this year. In fact I'm writing this on actual Halloween and I've deliberately turned off most of the lights and hermitted in the kitchen till most of the trick or treaters disappear! Call me scrooge but Mike's on a night shift, and I don't fancy opening the door - you just never know! Plus I never bought any sweets! Too much temptation! I did however drive home from work through a village today and saw the best house decorations! It reminded me of America, how much they go to town on Halloween. It then got me reminiscing about my childhood, and how we'd get home from school, have our tea then go out in our black bin-bags and plastic witches mask that used to give off so much condensation after a few breaths! I remember coming home and emptying my basket/bag out on the living room floor to see what I had. Then eating as much as I could before my mum used to take the sweets off me and tell me I've had too many! This time of year felt so much colder as a child compared to what it does now too! Ahhh, how times have changed.

What did you get up to in October?
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Monday, 24 October 2016

Travel: Top 10 Tips on Packing Lightly

As my holiday draws closer, I'm thinking more and more about how to save weight in my suitcase. Not only am I going away for the longest holiday yet (3 weeks), but I'm also venturing into 2 different climates. Both of these things combined could create quite a hefty weight to my luggage if I'm not careful.

Some of these tips will be more than obvious to the experienced traveller, but for those that are not regular globetrotters...

1. Pack mini's where possible. Or if you don't have mini's - decant larger sized products into smaller containers.

This Nuxe oil doubles up as both a body and hair oil, as well as a highlighter.
 2. Check out what your hotel offers before you leave. Nowadays, most hotel rooms contain a hairdryer and towels as standard, so there's 2 items you no longer have to pack. Also, if you're not fussy with hair products, most hotels include shampoo's and conditioners along with shower creams. Some decent weight to save on there!

3. If you're going away for more than a week and know that mini's wont suffice, why not purchase products when you're there? You would have only purchased them in the UK to take away...

4. Take versatile items. Coconut oil is great for doubling up as numerous products; moisturiser, hair serum, lip balm etc. I've got a great little palette that doubles up as both an eye-shadow and eyebrow gel/pencil that is a firm travel favourite. This goes for clothes too - with me, venturing into 2 climates could be quite tricky when packing clothing. I'm throwing in a few dresses that can be worn in the summer, but where I can also throw a cardigan/jumper over the top with black tights and boots for the colder weather.

5. Wear heavy clothes to the airport. This one won't be hard for us because we'll be leaving the UK in the winter, so I'll already have my winter coat and boots on.

6. Make use of your hand luggage! This is something I've only just started doing. My hand luggage usually only consisted of things I needed for the plane journey, and this wasn't a lot and I was always under my weight allowance. This time, instead of a holdall type bag, I now have a small cabin case which definitely offers me more room to put more items in and ensure I make full use out of my allowance.

7. This only applies to those travelling with others. Spread the weight! Usually, men don't take as many items as women on holiday, so if your case is overweight, throw a few things in someone else's case!

8. This one is really obvious but so many people still continue to do it. Only take what you are REALLY going to use. This is learnt more from experience, and the more I travel, the more I become familiar with my habits. 2 years ago, I took 4 different shades of lipglosses, and I only used 1. I also took 2 books, and I was so busy on holiday, that I didn't even manage to read 1. Really think about what you plan on doing on holiday and if you really need it.

9. This one ties in with No 1, but if its a product that is difficult to decant (i.e. spray) but you know you definitely don't need to take a full bottle/can away with you, start using it on the run up to your holiday, then by the time your due to go, you will be going away with less product, but still enough!

My de-canting pots
10. Returning from a holiday is where the worry usually kicks in, especially with all those souvenirs! This is where you have to be lethal. If you've got a quarter bottle of shampoo left, throw it! If those flip-flops are battered from all those trips to the beach, throw them! That bottle of sun-cream? Bin it because it'll probably be out of date by the next time you use it! I hate throwing things away that still have life in them, but if it meant keeping those V a possible £50+ charge at the airport, I know which one I'd rather do!

Sometimes its wise to take some luggage weighing scales with you (the hand-held type), especially if you plan on buying a lot of gifts. It'll help you keep track as the holiday goes on how much weight you have left to play with, so you know whether you can keep on buying or not! The worst thing to happen would be to end your holiday with extra costs at the airport for being over-weight!



I hope these tips have helped you know how to pack light for any future holidays!

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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Review: September's Degustabox

September's Degustabox was a mixed bag for me. Some things I enjoyed, others not so much.


Lets take a closer look...


Hartleys No Added Sugar Jelly Pots (50p each)

I think everyone has tried jelly at some point in their lives. These are nothing knew, but was nice to have a sweet treat in the fridge to enjoy every now and then. They're relatively healthy, easy on the pocket and great for kids too!

Cape Drinks (£1.59 each)

These carbonated drinks were hit and miss with me. I liked the pineapple and passionfruit flavour, however the peach & lychee, I unfortunately had to pour down the sink (I hate wasting food too!).

Emily's Crisps Crunchy Banana (£1.75)

Lovely packaging, however the taste of these will be a bit like Marmite, you'll either love them or hate them. I still can't make my mind up, however I shared these with a few people at work and none of them were keen. They are exactly how they sound - dried banana. There's only a limited amount of dried fruit that I like, and I can't decide if banana is one of them. Till then, I'll just admire the packaging design....

Say YES to No Bread Chips (£1.49)

These were a combination of break and crisps.. a little like croutons, but bigger and not as crunchy. They were pretty addictive and the flavour was yummy. I can imagine these to be perfect for dipping!


Teisseire Framboise & Cranberry Juice (£2.99)

I love this! I brought it to work with me and feel really posh with my almost flask-like juice bottle! Add water to this and away you go. The flavour is gorgeous and with the zero sugar, everyone's a winner!

Cirio Borlotti Beans (£1.89- pack of 3)

I'll be honest - these are still sat in my cupboard, I have no idea what to do with them. I've never heard of them before and don't know what recipe they'd go best with. I need to do some researching!


Get Fruity Bars (Tangy Pineapple, Coconut & Lime - £1)

These gluten free oat bars are the perfect friend for any health people out there! They're great to sling in your handbag on the go and have as a healthy mid-morning snack. A little expensive though for just 1 bar

Mrs Crimble's Fusilli (£1.99)

I cooked this last weekend for lunch and I'll be honest, I wasn't a fan. It tasted like proper diet food (which I'm guessing is the lack of gluten) but I definitely wasn't a fan.

Metcalfe's Popcorn Thins (£1.99)

I've really got into corn/rice cakes, even more so if they are topped with chocolate. Its a perfect guilt-free treat. These are really mourish and I'm not gonna lie - I sat and ate the whole pack.. in one. So light but yummy!

Chia Bia Whole & Milled Chia Seed Sachets (2 x £1)

Another item that's sat in my cupboard. No matter how many times I try these health things, they just wont agree with my palette, and chia seeds are one of them. I originally tried chia seeds in a recipe a few months ago for the first time and I hated them, so I wasn't too enthralled when I saw these in my box this month.

If you like the sound of Degustabox, I have a whopping £7 discount to offer you, just enter BLDEG15 at the checkout and you're away! Maybe you know a foodie who would like a box for Christmas (or even a small subscription?). What a perfect present!
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Monday, 10 October 2016

Travel: Top 5 Things to do in York

I've visited York several times now, and the more I visit, the more I fall in love with it. I love how much character and quirkiness it holds, and how its steeped in history. It makes such a change sometimes to go somewhere less 'cosmopolitan', instead surrounding yourself with culture.

After visiting a few days ago, it's made me want to go back, but next time spending a night there instead of being stuck to a time limit, knowing that we can't venture too far because we have to catch our train back home.

Its one of those cities that the more time you spend there, the most you discover, and the more you'll fall in love with it.

Here are my top 5 things to do in York.

1. Wander round The Shambles. This area reminds me a little of Lincoln's steep hill, but with more character and more shops. Each shop is independently owned and with it's narrow cobbled streets and high open wooden window shutters, I often feel like I'm in a different country (especially in the summer..).

 
2. Experience Afternoon Tea. For me, this is always a must when I venture into a new city. I had the pleasure of having afternoon tea at The Grand Cedar Hotel back in 2014, and since then I've experienced so many more, however nothing quite compares to the one I had that day... There are so many little quaint places to go for afternoon tea in York, or if you prefer something a little more grand, opt for a hotel like I did. So many places you'll be spoilt!

Grand Cedar Court Afternoon Tea
3. York Dungeons. I will admit, I've never experienced York Dungeons, however I have done the ones in London (by the same company). Reviews suggest that York is more impressive than London, so I would only expect good things. It's a good laugh, you learn a little and it adds something different to your day.

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4. Boat Rides. There are several boats you can jump on throughout the day, and prices are pretty reasonable considering. This allows you to experience York from a different perspective, and learn things along the way too! It's definitely a great way to kill an hour. Like many cities, different boats offer different things (i.e. sunset cruise, mermaid cruise, afternoon tea cruise etc...). I would recommend booking before to avoid disappointment though.

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5. Jorvik Viking Centre. The name gives this attraction away. Steeped in history revolving around The Vikings, this attraction is apparently one of the most popular attractions in the UK! The attraction offers a variety of audio and video, as well
as a ride that enables you to learn as you go along.

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Have you ever visited York? What were your favourite attractions?




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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

NOTTINGHAM: PARK PLAZA HOTEL REVIEW

A couple of weekends ago we revisited Nottingham after 8 years. Booking the hotel was last minute - literally less than 24hrs before we were leaving! However after trawling through a few hotel sites, I came across Park Plaza. It ticked all the boxes, and knowing I was getting a good deal sealed it for me.

Unfortunately, because we were only there for 24hrs, we didn't get to use most of the hotels amenities, so this review will focus purely on the bedroom and the service in which we received.

Parking

Let's get the boring bit out the way with first! I always search for a nearby car park before I visit any hotel so I know what postcode I am entering into my Sat Nav. I noticed NCP was a popular car park within Nottingham (as with most cities..), however I found a really good deal that I must share with you!
We parked in the NCP on Maid Marian Way, which is very central in Nottingham, and this was also the road of our hotel. This car park charged a mere £4.20 for a full 24hrs. There are other NCP car parks nearby that was charging a whopping £17+ for 24hrs. Go figure. I don't know what decides the parking charge (admittedly our car park was looking a little weary and old, but it was undercover and had CCTV so jobs a good un!). Just a little tip for any of you visiting Nottingham soon!

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Service

I had interaction with 2 different members of staff whilst there, and they couldn't have been more helpful. Checking in was smooth, as was checking out. On the evening of our stay, I realised I hadn't printed something off that I should have done (in relation to our Tesco club card vouchers). After stressing that this would interfere with our plans, I popped to reception and asked them where I could find printing facilities. They stated that although they do not offer such service, I could forward them the email in question that I needed printing off and they would do it for me. I'm not sure if this is just standard practise for them, but I thought it was kind nonetheless, and instantly made our problems disappear. On the day of check-out, we asked the hotel to store our bags whilst we did a bit of shopping before heading back to the car park. This again, was no problem. I am aware that some hotels charge for this service, but its appearing more "normal" for it to be free of charge. Service wise I couldn't fault them.


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Hotel Room

When walking down the coridoor of the hotel, I couldn't help but notice the carpet that was laden with life quotes. I don't think I've ever seen a 'quote carpet' before, so this was unique for me. The carpet also looked new, so I'm assuming this has been replaced fairly recently. Said carpet also continued in parts of our hotel room. I loved the contrast of both carpet and wooden flooring within the bedroom. The bed sat on shiny wooden flooring, whilst the remaining of the bedroom sat on carpet. This gave it the feel of almost 2 separate areas.
Another tick box for this hotel - they had plugs on each bedside table! Round of applause Plaza! It's not often I find a hotel room that does this - they're usually across the other side of the room, which means in a morning when your phone alarm is going off, you're having to fumble in the dark, half asleep trying to switch it off! (It also denies you of any late-night internet browsing before nodding off!) - Maybe that's why they do it, who knows?! Either way, this was a blessing.

The bed was super comfy, with lovely bouncy duvets and pillows.

The mini bar was fully stocked with an arrangement of chocolate, nuts, sweets, alcohol and soft drinks. All very tempting but at not-so tempting prices, but this was to be expected. There was also a safe which we didn't use, but it would be convenient for more long-term guests.

The bathroom had all standard amenities, plus a selection of complimentary Elemis products to choose from. It's not often you come across such a well-established brand in hotel rooms! This was much appreciated and I definitely had my hands all over them in the shower that night!



Price wise, their standard price per night is approximately £75-£80, however with a little bit of digging you may be able to pick this up cheaper. I settled on a price of £54 for a Friday night, which I was more than happy with. Knowing you'd pay close to that for a Premier Inn helped me seal the deal with Park Plaza!

All in all, a great stay, and although it's not the grandest hotel I've ever stayed in, it definitely ticked all the necessary boxes and I wouldn't hesitate in staying here again.

Have you ever stayed at Park Plaza?

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