Take a Break You Deserve It

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Raise your hands if you’re guilty of overworking… yep me too. I am one of those people that finds it almost impossible to turn my brain off, instead choosing to worry and stress about every little thing going on in my life. It reached a peak during my final months at university when I was struggling to juggle work, university exams and trying to find a job as well as day to day dramas. It left me unable to sleep or relax and created huge tension in my back which resulted in a doctors trip and physiotherapy. It became clear to me that although this was a time of great change in my life and many important things were happening it was ridiculous that at the age of 21 the stress of it was affecting me so badly. The physiotherapy was the last straw as I decided something had to be done as living under so much self-enforced stress wasn’t healthy for me mentally or physically. I would like to mention now that I am by no means any sort of expert on this topic but I just thought that I would share with you guys what worked for me in the hope that it might be helpful for one of you now or in the future.

The first thing I tackled was sleeping as I knew that with a decent night’s sleep I’d at least be able to tackle my issues with a clearer and more rational head. I decided to stop reading university related articles before bed as this often left them plaguing my mind as I slept, and instead chose one of the many fictional books I had gathering dust on my bookcase. This helped almost immediately as my mind was occupied on the fictional events on the page not to mention it majorly improved the subject matter of my dreams as well! I also stopped using electronic devices in bed as I read that the blue light they give out is a major issue in achieving deep, peaceful sleep (here’s the article which will better explain it than I ever will). I stopped using my laptop in bed and limited myself to one Instagram check before I started reading to make sure there was enough time for it to not affect my sleep as much, and the improvement was incredible.

Exercise was the next big one as I was often spending all day either at the library or running around at work, giving me very little time outside. I started by attempting at least a half hour walk outside every day which slowly increased to an hour or two or even a short run. It gave me time to think outside of the stuffy work environment, as well as giving me some fresh air and a chance to enjoy the nice weather. This provided me with an escape and a chance to gain some perspective, as well as helping to tire me out just enough to help improve my sleep.

The last is a much simpler one and I think the most universal and that is simply just taking the time to relax. Whereas before I would feel guilty about taking a long bath or some time out to have a cup of tea and read a magazine, by emphasizing to myself that I deserved it slowly allowed me to relax and enjoy it. It was difficult to begin with but once I’d acknowledged all that I had achieved and accepted the fact that no matter how much my brain may have been whirring away no work was being done for the next half hour, it helped to alleviate the stress massively. It also helped physically as I hadn’t realised how tense my body had been until I was able to relax and loosen up. Not to mention once you’ve learnt to enjoy the act of relaxing it becomes a treat that you can look forward to and actually helped my productivity as I wanted to feel that I had deserved my reward. My current method as you’ll see is a hot bath with an assortment of bath bombs and bubbles, lighting a candle (my current favourite being my Jo Malone) and reading my book with my bath pillow at the end of the day.

It’s like they say in one of my all time favourite films Zombieland “Enjoy the little things” and I think that’s what I’d recommend more than anything. Whether it’s a walk in the park or a coffee with friends it’s the little things that make the bad things not so bad, so don’t be afraid to make the most of them because it’s the only life you’ve got. I know this is a little deeper than my usual posts but it’s something I really wanted to write and I hope you enjoyed it or it at least encouraged you to take a break because you deserve it.

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Summer Party Family Style

As my family lives far and wide across the U.K. it’s not often that we all manage to get together in the same place. But with my great Uncle’s 70th looming, him and my Aunt decided to celebrate with a big blow out to make the most of the sun with good food and good company, and boy they didn’t let us down.

We arrived and walked round the corner of the house into what must be as close as England is going to get to being a tropical paradise!

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While the children made the most of the pool the rest of us relaxed in the sun and had a good old fashioned catch up.

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For once in my life I forgot to photograph the food which should tell you just how good it was! They had laid on enough for a small army with everything from hams, salads, fresh bread, salmon, and anything else that you could possibly want.

But a special mention has to go to the wine which I did manage to photograph, which had been flown in all the way from the Alps! Crisp, fresh and fruity it was a perfect accompaniment to the delicious feast.

DSC03278DSC03281  DSC03286  After all that feasting we decided to wander around the tropical paradise (and take a few photos as well).  DSC03311 DSC03312

Hidden behind these Hydrangea’s which had me swooning they were so beautiful, I discovered a little hideaway from all the craziness, squirreled away in the tropical forest.
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What I wouldn’t give for one of these in my back garden as my own little office/ reading nook.

Swooning over, I couldn’t help but strike a pose against the beautiful flowers.DSC03361Dress: Zara (Similar here, here and here), Denim Jacket: Topshop (similar here), Bag: Kate Spade (similar here), Sunglasses: ASOS, Pumps: Topshop.

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Usually I am the type of person who dreads these sorts of ‘smart/casual’ occasions as I often end up either too smart or too casual, but this recent Zara purchase has saved me. The more eagle eyed of you will recognise this as the dress I graduated in which emphasises just how versatile it is, not to mention how obsessed I am with it! Paired with my favourite Topshop denim jacket and pumps and my Kate Spade Saturday bag which I picked up in New York shortly before they closed, I think I’ve finally nailed the smart casual brief.
DSC03408DSC03398 DSC03412  After all that ‘hard work’ there was nothing left to do but enjoy the rest of the day, which is already one of the highlights of my Summer. I’d love to know if any of you have any tips of how you strike the balance of that dreaded smart/casual dress code and your favourite ways to have fun with your family this summer!

Morning at The Mac

One of my favourite things about Belfast are the amount of hidden gems there are hidden around the city, and The Mac is one of the best of them. Hidden away in St. Anne’s Square it has played home to collections of greats such as Andy Warhol and has recently been shortlisted for the Art Fund Museum of the Year award.
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Opened in 2012 it’s still a relatively new addition to the ever blossoming cultural scene in Belfast and with three art galleries, two theatres, an artist-in-residence studio and workshop spaces it’s definitely helping to ensure it continues to. Not to mention it’s a perfect way to lose an afternoon as you wander around the amazing space, so we picked up our brochures and followed the rainbow.
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The current exhibition is curated by Gregory McCartney which explores the end of things; of personal and social empires with art from Adrian Ghenie, Pieter Hugo and Olaf Brzeski. I first found myself in the photos taken by Pieter Hugo which were haunting glimpses into his violent landscape of his native South Africa and I have to say I have never experienced photographs with the ability to conjure such feelings. You truly got a sense of the brutality and conflict that Hugo was trying to convey through the pictures which made me so uncomfortable but thus emphasized it’s brilliance.DSC02811DSC02813

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The strangeness of the booklet I feel best surmises the atmosphere of the exhibition, with the strangeness of the masked man conveying the other worldliness of the environment of the photo with a slightly eerie, potentially violent inference to be made due to the man’s choice of a mask.

DSC02820    To try and clear our heads we wandered down to the lowered gallery where the vast space was taken up by an explosive sculpture. Olaf Brzeski’s art is described as representing iconic situations having gone awry, such as the below “Dream – Spontaneous Combustion” reflecting Olaf’s attempt to clean out his chimney. Although this explanation renders any possible imaginings harmless, it was hard for me to shake my initial reaction which was noting the marked similarities between the sculpture and the mushroom cloud made by nuclear explosions. Although I am certainly nothing close to any semblance of an authority of art, I’ve always thought that anything that can conjure a genuine human emotional reaction has succeeded and this exhibition, no matter how darkly definitely succeeded in that.DSC02831DSC02795

It’s fair to say though that after all that exploring we were physically and emotionally exhausted, and that meant only one thing, brunch! Luckily for us The Mac cafe is often heavily featured as a recommended place to eat in Belfast, and with this spread it’s easy to see why.

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After being thoroughly spoilt for choice we decided to stick with the classics (and come back for cakes later). With produce from local farms and bakeries it’s probably one of the most authentic breakfasts you can have in Belfast, and believe me the freshness of the food makes it one of the tastiest. And I bet you can’t guess which breakfast is mine….DSC02780

Of course I had to go for my ultimate breakfast choice of eggs benedict and it didn’t let me down being one of the tastiest (not to mention prettiest) ones I’ve ever had.

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With plenty of food and tea to revive us we discussed what we had seen before finally taking one last look at the beautiful building and heading out to see what the rest of the day had in store for us.

Every time I go to The Mac there is something bold and imaginative to be seen and I can’t recommend it enough even if you’re not an art fan to just pop into the cafe and then have a wander because you never know what you might see.
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Summer Reading List Recommendations

DSC02654Nerdy as it is, one of my favourite things about Summer is the freedom that it gives me when it comes to my reading, with no school work or set reading to distract me. Not to mention the opportunities there are to read whether it’s on a beach break, a city escape or simply in your own backyard, it’s the perfect way to relax while finally getting round to read that book you’ve had on your nightstand for months. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you some of the books I’ve been loving that I think are perfect for a summer break no matter where you’re headed.

The Goddess Guide                                                                                                                      It seems now the markets are overwhelmed with lifestyle guides but this is my absolute favourite and one of the originals. From picking the right pair of jeans to secret city spots it is the perfect guide for any modern woman, not to mention it’s so beautifully designed it’ll be one of the prettiest reads you read this summer. It’s a great alternative for people who aren’t big readers or aren’t a fan of the traditional novel and it’s so interesting you’ll find yourself rereading it again and again.

The Maze Runner                                                                                                                           I was a big fan of the film last year and before the release of the second installment this Autumn I thought I’d try to get ahead of the curve and start the books. I’m a massive young adult book fan and since The Hunger games I’ve been searching for the perfect replacement and I think this is it. We start with Thomas who arrives in a glade who has no idea who he is or his past. He’s welcomed by a group of boys who live together in the glade which is at the centre of a mysterious giant stone maze. They too have no idea of their past of what has happened to the world outside. Every day they try to explore the maze but have to make it back by sundown before the doors to the maze close and the monstrous Grievers patrol. Then one day a girl arrives and everything changes. It’s one of the most gripping young adult books I’ve read so much so I devoured the first four books in record time, and perfect for those who like a bit of escapism in their reading.

American Psycho                                                                                                                            This is by far the weirdest book on my list as it’s definitely one of the most violent and gruesome books I’ve ever read, but also one of the most profound. The novel is a stark comment on the capitalist consumerism of society which was highly controversial when it was initially released, but has since then become a cult classic, It follows the murderous investment banker Patrick Bateman as he struggles to control his insanity as well as his fascination with his material possessions. I really do feel the need to put a disclaimer on this as it’s the most sickening book I’ve ever read in regards to the detail on how Bateman dismembers women, so I really wouldn’t recommend it for those under 18. But the deeper meaning to be found in the novel means that if you can move past the violence, there is an incredible comment being made about society as a whole that makes it a great holiday read for those looking for something a bit different.

The Great Gatsby                                                                                                                         I thought I’d include a classic for the more old-fashioned readers amongst us and this is my absolute favourite. It’s perfect for those who want a lighter option before they start tackling the more heftier classics, not to mention it’s one of the easiest classics to read. It has love, murder, beautiful imagery as well as a deeper discussion on the American Dream and perfect for those who like a bit of history in their fiction.

Paper Towns                                                                                                                                  Another young adult read I’d recommend before the movie comes out later this year which is a perfect choice for those who were a fan of A Fault In Our Stars. It’s about Quentin “Q” Jacobsen who after a mysterious night with his old childhood friend Margo Roth Spiegelman finds out the next morning that she has disappeared and sets out to find her. Unlike The Fault In Our Stars this is more of a mystery story, but again a story that every teenager will be able to relate to in one way or another. I’d definitely recommend it for any John Green fans or for a reader wanting to try one of his novels as it’s one of the easiest and most enjoyable reads I’ve had.

Yes Please                                                                                                                                       If you don’t know Amy Poehler by now then shame on you. Star presenter of the Golden Globes with Tina Fey for the past three years, past SNL cast member and star of the brilliant Parks and Recreation she is a pretty damn funny and impressive woman. She was already one of my number one woman crushes but after this book she moved to number one, as it is one of the best celebrity books I’ve ever read. It doesn’t take the form of a usual biography, instead she uses her past experiences as anecdotes to explain what she’s learnt from them in the funniest way possible. It’s the perfect book for those who aren’t a fan of fiction but still want a laugh along the way.

So there’s my selection of my favourite summer reads, I hope you like them and that I’ve maybe given you some ideas of some new books to try. If you have any favourite books that you like to read on holiday let me know as I’m always on the lookout for new books to try. But more importantly, enjoy your summer where ever you’re going!

Graduation Belfast Style

So as you will probably know last week I headed back up to Belfast to finally pack up the remnants of the past three years of my life, and probably more importantly to graduate university! I’m still waiting for it all to sink in and the possibilities that now lie ahead of me, but in the meantime I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite parts of the day.

After the ceremony (which went by in the blink of an eye) I finally got my piece of paper proving that those three years of hard work weren’t for nothing and left me severely needing a drink. With the family in tow we headed to the newly opened Miel et Moi which is Belfast’s first licensed patisserie for some cocktails and cakes (my favourite combination).

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And boy did we have plenty to choose from! From tarts and eclairs to cakes and gateaus they have everything you could dream of, and with them all freshly baked every morning it was hard to resist not getting one of everything.
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In the end we managed to cut it down to just four deciding that dividing and conquering was the best way to tackle the amazing treats on offer. Trying to tick every box we went for viennese whirls, lemon madelines, a strawberry and white chocolate eclair and a rosewater gateau.

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Note the problem of ‘resting bitch face’ (of which I am a chronic sufferer of), but I can assure you that faces actually translates into me having the time of my life haha.DSC02943 DSC02948

As you can see they were so good it was impossible to get pictures of them all before we’d sneaked a bite. I have to say as a girl who has tasted her fair share of cakes and pastries the bar was set pretty high, but I can honestly say these blew me away. I have never tasted a viennese whirl so buttery and crumbly with the lemon curd cream filling perfectly providing a balance of tartness to the sweet. The lemon madeline (which I had to order to channel my inner Sansa Stark, Game of Throne fans you’ll know what I’m talking about) was so incredibly moist and fresh I could’ve eaten hundreds of them. Now while eclairs aren’t exactly my bag, my eclair obsessed sister assures me that it was the best she’s ever eaten, but my favourite has to be the rosewater gateau. I have never experienced a sponge like it,, it had the texture of air while melting in your mouth and the delicateness of the rosewater can only be described as the taste of summer. Paired with a combination of teas and bellinis with freshly made coulis it was the perfect high tea to celebrate the end of my time at university. Not to mention the setting was pretty idyllic too.DSC02917DSC02972

After all that it’s probably not really a surprise that we couldn’t resist going home without picking up a couple for the road. But with pastries this delicious it’s just too hard to say no!  DSC02912

If any of you are in or around Belfast, or even visiting in the future I highly recommend you swing by for a visit as with breakfast, lunch or dinner menus it’s perfect for every sort of celebration or even for an everyday treat. I’m still coming to terms with the post graduation blues so I’d love to hear your graduation stories, or if you have any cute places you like to visit I am always on the lookout for new recommendations. And if you haven’t graduated yet, good luck!

Culture at Cultivo Lounge

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As I write this I am packing for my final trip to Belfast to graduate (when did that happen?), so you can expect some posts from there popping up soon. In the meantime I thought I’d share with you all I recent trip I made to one of my favourite haunts when I’m back home to catch up with one of my oldest friends for some delicious food and a catch up!

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Proof that everything is amazing on the menu, I couldn’t decide between a cappuccino and their specialty sherbet lemonade. An amazing mix of lemon juice, sugar syrup, soda water and crush sherbet lemons, it’s something i’ll definitely be trying to recreate at home!

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Warning: The following picture may arouse severe food cravings.

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Urgh look at it, able to draw a stomach pang from even the pickiest of eaters. Eggs benedict is my absolute favourite and Cultivo Lounge nails it with super gooey eggs and a perfect, not too sharp hollandaise sauce and the inclusion of salty, crisp bacon really takes it to the next level.

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In the summer they just fling open the doors so you can sit out on the balcony, which is perfect for whiling away the hours people watching. With a menu that caters to both vegans and coeliacs it’s one of my favourite places to take people day or night, and luckily for me I have a lot of friends to catch up with….

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Summer-Proof Makeup

When it comes to Summer you seem to only have two choices makeup wise, either go completely bare-faced or strip it down as best you can so as to avoid the dreaded smudge when you inevitably wipe your face. I … Continue reading

The perks of being a poor (soon to be) graduate

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As a result of finishing university and leaving my lovely well paying job to my tiny, sleepy home town means I’ve had to become extremely creative when it comes to keeping myself amused while I try to get a job. Seeing as many of my friends seem to be in the same boat I thought I’d share some of the ways that I’ve found are most effective when it comes to staving off madness, in the hope that it might help some of you guys too. Although I have to warn you it’s a wordy one so better grab a cup of tea and get comfy because you’re in it for the long haul…

Exercise                                                                                                                                    Now for any who knows me this point will show just how bored I have become, as I am one of the most unathletic people you will ever meet. But since my move to warmer climates I have been trying to make the most of it and have been taking my bike out for a spin. I’ve even been on the odd run! Now while I am extremely lucky to be living in an especially green and picturesque town making said exercise much easier and more enjoyable, the effect I’ve noticed to my peace of mind is so great that I would encourage everyone, no matter what your local settings to take it up. Plus if you’re lucky and tan, it’s an excellent way to up your vitamin D intake!

Reading                                                                                                                                      As much as I have enjoyed my degree it has meant that the amount of what I call ‘fun’ reading has steadily declined over the years as I’ve tried to keep up with my workload. I came back home with over 30 unread books which were added to the many more I was unable to take to university in the first place, so I decided to make the most of my literary freedom and try to tackle the mountain. I’ve barely even started but already it’s made me realise just how much I love reading and has meant I’m finally getting round to reading those books people always tell you “you have to read”. So don’t be too surprised if there’s a Summer book guide appearing soon.

Home Projects                                                                                                                           An inevitable result when you come back home with eight huge boxes of belongings and nowhere to put them, I decided to tackle my room and update it from the Twilight posters (yep I admit I loved it) of my youth to something I little less mortifying. Although I am the least crafty person ever I’ve enjoyed being able to plan and decorate my room and uncovering some hidden gems that I’ve kept from childhood. Although there has been a throw out worthy of an episode of Hoarders, I’ve also found some items worthy of a home which has led me to attempt scrapbooking, but more on that later. Not to mention how nice it is to have a new, adult feeling room that is not only a lovely place to work, but a space of my own to relax and unwind in.

Reconnecting                                                                                                                            One of the hardest parts of moving to a university in a different country is that travelling home became a pretty expensive procedure. Although I was extremely lucky to have some best friends who made the journey over, there were some equally good friends that I never got to see. So now with all of us heading home for the foreseeable future at least, I’ve really enjoyed catching up with them all and whether we’re going out for a coffee or having a cosy night in, it’s become one of my favourite ways to spend my days.

Get Outdoors                                                                                                                                 I am a sucker for sunny days especially as they’re so rare in the UK, so when the sun pokes its head out I try to get out as much as I can. As well as my bike and my (very rare) runs getting me outside, I’ve been on the lookout for events in my area like the local town festival which is free to attend with free concerts and cheap rides and attractions.Having a look in your local paper is the best way to see what’s going on in your area and you never know, you might be surprised by what you find!

Write!                                                                                                                                         As a graduate intent on finding my place in the ever-changing, highly competitive world of publishing and journalism this is the most important item on my list, and one I’m actually really looking forward to doing. I’m planning my posts on here properly this time to attempt to ensure regularity as well as trying to make the most of the weather to up my photography game to hopefully make this blog better for you guys as well as for me.

This is only an initial list as I know I will most definitely lax on at least one of these (let’s face it it’ll probably be the exercising) but for the mean time I feel lucky enough to have this time to relax and refocus on what I want. I do hope this list helps give some of you some ideas of ways to enjoy the Summer without breaking the bank, and if any of you are in the same boat please do share any of your tips and we can try to keep our sanity together!