16 January 2017

Exploring New York with CityPASS

In November I headed over for my first ever trip to the wonderful city that is New York!  As we had just five precious days to see as much as the city as we could (and one of them was Thanksgiving, where the city shuts up shop!) we had to plan our time well.  With it being our first visit, hitting all the must see tourist stops was a priority, but typically these are busy and the costs can soon add up!  Luckily this is where CityPass stepped in.

CityPass is, as the name suggest, a passbook full of tickets to some of the city’s biggest attractions, at a much cheaper price then on the gate.  They have them at various US cities, but the New York version offers 6 tickets to top attractions that can save you $80.  Here is what's included in CityPass:
The Empire State Building
The cool thing about this ticket is that it actually gets you in to this most famous of buildings twice, once in the day time, and again on the same day at night. So you get to see this fantastic view in two different lights, perfect for this changing city skyline!  Our time was limited and as we went here on Thanksgiving day (in fact, it was one of the only things open) so we only got to see it at night, and it was stunning!  With CityPASS you skip the ticket line here so no waiting around, just right into the elevator.  View aside the interior of The Empire State Building is stunning, It’s the most beautiful Art Deco style that looks like something straight out of a movie set.
The American Museum of Natural History
We had come to New York to celebrate my other half's 30th Birthday and I think this was on the top of his must visit list.  He’s really into space and included in this is a ticket to the planetarium, which is unlike anything I have ever seen. The whole museum is huge!  Our last day was spent here, and we focused on just two areas, the planetarium and the dinosaurs. With CityPASS you not only get faster with the dedicated CityPASS queue, but you get a ticket to either the Hayden Planetarium Space Show Dark Universe or a giant screen film in either 2 or 3D.  We went for DarkUniverse and I can’t recommend it enough.  I learnt so much and the narration and presentation are all amazing.  The dinosaurs also have a new edition, the aptly named 122 foot Titanosaur is one of the biggest things I’ve ever seen!  It barely fits into the room it’s housed in, literally owe inspiring.  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
We were only in New York for five days, and with the museums and galleries closed on Thanksgiving we didn’t get around to visiting here unfortunately.  It’s the number one museum in the world according to TripAdvisor with over 5000 pieces of art so maybe we missed out.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum
For the rest of these you get the option of places to visit, so if one isn’t for you, fear not!  However if you want to do both, then usually CityPASS includes a discount for the other, so you get one included and a discount for the second, so you’ll never miss out!
The Guggenheim is one of the world’s finest collections of modern art in the world including those of Picasso on Van Gogh.  The building itself is a masterpiece of architecture, so if the The Empire State Building ticks the skyline view for you, this is one to look at.  However for me, I just had to check out Top of the Rock. I had heard differing views of people who preferred this vs The Empire State Building view and I’m glad I got to do both.  I went to Top of the Rock in the daytime, so I got to see the famous skyline in the day time.  Turning up with your CityPASS ticket you will enter a separate queue where you will receive a timed ticket to head on up in the elevator.  Unlike at the Empire State Building the view here is on multi-levels all included in your CityPASS ticket and through glass, so no trying to fit your camera in between mesh to get an Instagram worthy shit!  The view you get of central park here is second to none.
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise
With New York's Island structure a boat trip is a must for any visit.  With CityPASS you actually get a choice of five, the State of Liberty and Ellis Island Trip, or one of four boat trips with Circle Line; Landmark, Harbour Lights, Statue of Liberty or BEAST speedboat cruises.  After a lot of research I decided to go with the landmark tour, a 1.5 hour trip around lower Manhattan that takes in all the sights.  Because it was off peak season out daytime cruise ran just once a day, but the timing was perfect. We headed out with the perfect lighting for sightseeing, and headed back as the sun was setting.  It was a romantic (although rather chilly) way to end our last full day in the city.  Getting on board couldn’t be easier, we just turned up with our CityPASS and on we went.  I honestly can’t recommend this tour enough, there was indoor seating if you didn’t want to brave the chill like us, food and drink available, and our guide had such a natural pater you felt like you were listening to an old friend!  
9/11 Memorial & Museum or Intrepid Air & Space Museum
We headed to the 9/11 Memorial & museum with our passes which again had it’s own CityPASS line, and although it was moving and thought provoking, both myself and Harry had some mixed feelings about it, which I will leave that for another post.  The memorial outside is a fitting tribute to all those who lost their lives on that tragic day, and it truly is a sight to behold.  I think if we had more time we would have loved to head to the Air & Space Museum, we caught a glimpse at some of the exhibits when we were heading for the Circle Line cruise which is just next door and it looked really great!   

Needless to say, I fell in love with CityPASS!  It was super easy and convenient to use, it saved me money and time!  As a first timer to the city it was perfect, as all the main tourist attractions are included.  Here’s a quick round up of why I loved using CityPASS!

It saves money
This is the main reason people are going to use CityPASS let’s face it.  The ticket can save you as much as $80 per person then buying at the Box Office and 41% off regular admission of some attractions.  

It saves time
New York is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the world, so then you are headed to visit its icons you can expect to find them busy.  With CityPASS you can skip the ticket queue, and some attractions even have CityPASS entries to pass the queues.  Of course, there’s always going to be some waiting involved but with CityPASS we definitely saved time during our precious five day visit.  The tickets also last 9 days from the first use so there’s no need to rush through them.

There’s extra discounts too!
In the back of your CityPASS you will find discounts to other great city attractions including restaurants, shops, souvenirs, museum shop discounts and more.  For example at the time I used them they include Macy’s, Bloomingdales's and discounts on Hop On Hop Off tour buses.

Easy to purchase
Once you order online the passes can either be delivered to your home, hotel or just print out a voucher that you simply exchange at your first attraction.  Ours was waiting for us at the hotel so we could start exploring straight away. Decide you want to get one while you're already there?  That’s fine, just head to any attraction working with CityPASS and purchase your pass there.  

I had such a great experience with CityPASS that I would definitely use them again.  CityPASS is available in 12 different US cities and I am currently planning another trip in the next few years so I will be getting one of these again.  Also if you think this is full on, they now do a C3 ticket, where you can pick from 3 of the above attractions if you have less time.  

Have you ever used CityPASS?
CityPASS sent me two passes to use in New York that I could review if I wished to, and I did because it was honestly fab!  All words and opinions my own. 

13 January 2017

Moments: December 2016

So I finally bring my rather late December wrap up to you all, the end of the year always seems slow and fast all at once right?  I have loved documenting my year in this way, but it takes a lot of work and It’s done in a format I am currently totally happy with.  Going forward in 2017 I think I’ll be doing these wrap ups quarterly instead of monthly, and there maybe be some format changes.  I’ll try and suss something out in the next few months.
I’ve Visited
Winter Wonderland
Although visiting Winter Wonderland on the last Saturday before Christmas might not necessarily have been the greatest idea, I had a blast hanging out with Harry’s family in the lovely, Christmassy atmosphere.  It’s become somewhat of a tradition, bring on 2017!
Langsett Reservoir
I had a gorgeous walk here with some of my friends and our dogs, so beautiful. Yorkshire is really stunning, it's one of the things I love about being home.  
The Lakes
I spent less than 24 hours here, picking Harry up before spending Christmas in Yorkshire with my family, but it was as lovely as ever.  
I’ve Read
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
I am one of those annoying people who never reads books that are popular at the moment, or really any book that’s generally out in the last five years. However I thought this would be a good holiday read (although I didn’t end up reading much when I was in New York and finished it in December).  I didn’t really know what to expect and although I do think it is a bit over hyped, it’s an interesting and dark story.
The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
I don’t know how I feel about Hemingway. On one hand, he is more readable than I first expected, but on the other I sometimes I just don't enjoy the stories at all.  The short stories didn’t work at all as stand alones for me, and they felt more like chapters of a book that didn’t make sense together. It was a struggle to get through.  
I’ve seen
Trailer Park Boys Live
I got Harry tickets to see this as an early Christmas present, as it is one of his favourite shows.  If you’ve ever caught the show on Netflix you will have some idea what to expect.  The boys try to save Christmas and of course, hilarity ensues!  It is one of the craziest shows I’ve seen in awhile.
Bullet for my Valentine and Killswitch Engage
I took myself along to the Brixton Academy to see two of my favourite bands, and I had the best time!  I’d not been to see a band in a while and I was on my own so I was feeling a little anxious and might have been a bit tipsy, but I had one of the best nights I’ve had in awhile.  
Rent at the St James Theatre
This musical classic is currently on in London so I had to check it out. It was ok but I didn’t adore it if I’m honest, but it's another tick off the must see list.
Christmas Partying
We ended up having three christmas parties in one week at work, all of varying levels of craziness!  Needless to say it took it out of me and I drank way too much prosecco but it sure was fun.
Virgin Extravaganza's Pagan Christmas at the Rosemary Branch Theatre.
My favourite drag queen was back with her own, unique take on the Christmas story. Well she is the mother of Jesus Christ after all!  As always she was poignant, funny, and her vocals are out of this world!
Rogue One midnight release
I have a feeling me and my other half will be at midnight releases for every new Star Wars film over the next few years.  This was our second year running and I love the buildup and excitement.  This film was really good, technically incredible and the most war related of the star wars films to date.  There are so many details that can be missed so I need to go see it again, oh and like most of the world I fell in love with a certain sarcastic robot...
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Then
I hardly ever go to the cinema but I went twice this month, of course this was one I couldn’t miss.  I loved the world of it all, especially having been to New York recently and the 1920's was such a perfect setting   Personally I couldn't think of a better time to live in NYC then the 2190's so even without the magical elements this was beautiful to watch, and don't get me started on the clothes...
I’ve been up to
Choosing and decorating our first Christmas tree
I’ve been looking forward to this ever since we moved in, our tree was beautiful and I loved having the house decorated. I miss it already.
Learning to cook at Jamie’s Cookery School
Just before Christmas I headed over to check out the Taste of Japan class at Jamie's Cookery School.  As someone who can’t/won’t cook I was amazed that I not only managed to make something without burning it but also tasted good too!  Check out my full post here for a more in-depth review.
Vlogging
My Youtube channel is up and running!  I have so much content to put on there and some big things planned for the new year. I’m really enjoying it at the moment as an alternative to blog writing, but I don't think I'd ever do that instead of blogging.  
Spending time with family
I spent Christmas shutting the world out and catching up with my family and a handful of friends, it’s important time and it’s never long enough.


I’ve eaten
Yuu Kitchen with Lucinda
It was so nice to see Lucinda of The Fashion Fictionary when she was in London briefly, and the restaurant she chose for us was just delicious!  Everything was cooked to order and had such a variety of flavours and along with the bubbles they went down very well! The place is really modern and edgy too. Take a look at Lucinda's much more comprehensive review here.
Pizza Express
Pizza Express has been going through a bit of an image change in its restaurants recently so I went to the Clapham branch to check it out my full review here.
Pizza at Homeslice
This isn’t your typical pizza restaurant, the menu is limited and unusual, no Hawaiians here, but it’s also really tasty.  If you want to branch out from your usual go to pizza this is the place to try, but come hungry as pizzas come in one size, and it’s a big one!


Onto 2017!  Hope you guys are having a great start to the year!

11 January 2017

Christmas Haul 2016

Can you belive this is my 4th year in a row of doing Christmas hauls!  This year with the notable change of making it into a video instead of a blog post to show them off better, I'm still getting to grips with this kind of thing so I'd love some feedback!

This year I got home-wear including lots of Disney Cath Kidston, yummy food, games and more! Just watch to find out.  If you want to see my Christmas Hauls from past years (and how my writing and photography have improved!) you can check them out here:
2015: https://goo.gl/ciTW7n
2014: https://goo.gl/8wJRbK
2013: https://goo.gl/HhXjtM

6 January 2017

Goals: Life & Blogging in 2017

I always have mixed feelings on these kind of posts, we all know by now that New Year's resolutions can often be more harmful than good, but goals can also be really motivating.  For myself, I know there are certain things it isn’t good to restrict myself on, but it’s nice to have something to check up on and and be able to say ‘hey, I actually achieved that’ or ‘I took a step to make that better for myself’.  There are always some we won’t manage and that’s ok, we can aim for the stars and hopefully some of them will be a success, even if it’s just a few!  


Lifestyle wise, I have a lot of grand plans as always, and not stressing myself out can be hard.  Here are a few things I’d like to focus on in 2017:

Life

Do More Traveling
It’s kind of crazy now to think that just a year and a half ago I hadn’t left the country in years!  2016 will be the year I fell in love with travel, I’m getting braver with my plans and slowly branching out.  I’ve already booked a solo trip to Edinburgh this month and flights to Krakow in May so plans are already underway.

Read less

I know this sounds like a strange one but hear me out.  I love reading, and I read whenever I can.  However, as I’ve filled my social hours with working on my blog and now Youtube, I struggle to fit it in at times. Then hitting my Goodreads goal becomes a chore.  I don’t want this, I want to be able to put my book down on the tube and play on my phone or my new Nintendo DS more without feeling guilty.  I’m going to drop my reading goal from 40 to 30 this year and try and not worry about it.

Relax more

This goes along with the above issue, I sometimes struggle to switch my brain off.  I have a list of home, blog and youtube projects that needs doing and I often think I will do something fun as a reward after they are done. The problem is they never are!  Usually, my ultimate relaxation and switch off time is playing Fallout 4, however I can go months without ‘finding the time’ because I won’t let myself have it.  I need to let myself put my laptop down and finish the cross stitch I’ve been working on for 8 months or the jigsaw I’ve had for over a year.  I need to learn to stop being such a slave driver to myself!

Stop having negative people in my life.

I’ve always prided myself on the fact that I will give people a second or 3rd chance but there are people in life who just make you feel bad instead of good.  This year I need to be stronger with myself and step away from the people who make me feel this way.I need to be brave enough to express myself without fear and surround myself with positive, supportive people.

More self care

never look after myself because I am too busy working on something (there's a theme here) but I should. This is the reason I never stick to a skincare routine, do my hair and only painted my nails once last year.  I need to find time for me.
Blog more for myself and less for companies
I think this is something I started to do last year and it made me fall in love with blogging again, I will not be a walking advertisement, filled with reviews.  I want to have the time to write about whatever I want.

Continue living London life to its fullest

I did so much in the first half of the year, and in the second I feel like it just stopped.  I don’t know if it’s because I just got settled and lazy or my lack of funds due to traveling but I stopped searching out all the great in this city.

Be more proactive

I need to stop procrastinating and wasting the little time I have and stressing myself out.  If I get on with things I will have more time to relax at the end of the day.

Be healthy

I have got so unhealthy this year, constantly eating bad food and moving far too little. I don’t want to be out of breath and uncomfortable anymore!  I need to move my ass and cook better and stop being so damn lazy!

Learn to Budget

At 28 I really should have got this down but I have not, living in London isn’t cheap and I am terrible at wasting money on things like lunches because I forget to take anything to work.  The money I could save could go towards my traveling!

Blog

Have a real go at Youtube

I don’t really know why I have fallen into making Youtube videos suddenly but I am currently really enjoying it!  I have about six videos sitting waiting to be edited and a crazy Youtube series I want to have a go at creating so hopefully I can have a real go at pushing content there this year. Currently I have 164 subscribers but I don't really have a growth aim.

Continue to improve my photography and writing style

My writing style and photography both improved this year, with my writing I felt like something finally clicked with my written voice, but it still need work.

Twitter

So we are onto the numbers!  As of writing this I currently have 3331 twitter followers, in an ideal world I’d love to hit 4500 or maybe even 5000. I want to do it by just using it like I do now, for fun and chat and not forced.

Instagram

I worked hard to improve my Instagram this year and it’s been a slog.  I want to improve my images and editing further and try and hit 2k from my current 1457.

So that’s some of my plans for the year, of course they can, and no doubt will, change.  What are your aims for this year?

4 January 2017

A Taste of Japan at the Jamie Oliver Cookery School

Let’s be real, I can’t cook and I don’t enjoy cooking, so jumping right into a Japanese cooking class might seem a little crazy right?  Well I figured if there was anywhere to learn, Jamie Oliver’s Cooking School was the place to be!
I choose this Taste of Japan class as it involved one of my favourite cooking styles without going near fish, which is great for me!  It’s also something I’ve never attempted at home, so I was learning from scratch.  Thankfully this is suitable for all abilities, and the chef was very patient.
Working in pairs under the instruction of the chef (whose name I have totally forgotten, I am the worst with names!) we made the following: Pork Gyoza, Green Vegetable and Brown Rice Stir Fry, Chicken Teriyaki, Gomadare Sauce and Miso Dofu.  I brought a friend, Gemma, along and working in a pair definitely helped as we balanced the multitasking of creating the dishes.  I am the kind of person who likes one pot cooking usually so I don’t have to worry about doing more then one thing at once, thankfully the chef split the lesson up into sections so we didn’t get overwhelmed. He did a great job and explaining to us the different techniques and timings in a way that didn’t leave me feeling panicked like I often do in the kitchen!  Some of the meal is part-made or prepared by the staff before we arrived, so that helps keep the whole lesson to under two hours.
On arrival we were given a drink or prosecco to loosen up our nerves, but the friendly and humorous staff soon puts or mind to rest and are more then happy to help everyone out as needed.  The atmosphere was relaxed, humorous and warm, a great informal ambiance for learning a new skill.
Afterwards we all ate our meal together and everyone came away with something really tasty, and not badly presented too!  There was more than enough for  a very filling meal and I really enjoyed everything I’ve made, which isn’t something I can often say after I’ve been in the kitchen!
This class really has helped build my kitchen confidence and make me want to try new things.  After the meal, the recipes for everything we made were sent over to us so we can practice at home.


I was invited to try a cooking class here in exchange for a honest review, if you want to book your own class just head to http://www.jamieolivercookeryschool.com/ and you can find them on facebook and twitter. The price of the two hour Taste of japan class is £65, or £60 each if booking as a pair.  This includes all ingredients and a glass of prosecco.

Have you ever attended a cooking class?

2 January 2017

Travel: Winter in New York

In November I spent Thanksgiving week over in the city that never sleeps, New York!  It was cold, and gorgeous, and energetic and frankly amazing!  I have a whole host of posts coming your way, but in the mean time, here's a little video to wet your appetite.

30 December 2016

Life & Blogging Goals of 2016: In Review

Another year is on the horizon, and it’s hard not to use the old ‘where has the year gone’ cliches.  This year is one that has been notorious for it’s cruelty, with social media bursting with ‘worst year ever’ memes.  However, has it really been so bad?  On a personal level, it’s time to take stock and celebrate all the little achievements this year. Personally I moved to London and got a flat with my boyfriend, two big things that have changed my life for the better, but how did I do with my other goals? Let's take a look:

Make Friends- This was a big one for me as I was moving to London and starting again, and if I’m honest I don’t think I did a great job.  Yelp was a huge help for me at the start of the year, but now it’s disbanded I’m feeling alone again, and a lot of the friends I had made haven't kept in touch.  Hopefully if I work on it I can gain some close friends this year.

Work Hard- I have but as always I could do better 2017.  Both in my personal and work life. Learning to code is a big one for me to help with my day job.

Make the Most Out of Being in London- I honestly feel like I really did this for most of the year, then around September I got a bit lax.  I think this was partially due to me saving money for the traveling I did at the end of the year, and partially because I just got out of the loop. In fact I have a new vlogging series starting based on seeing more of London, more on this soon!

Be healthier- This started off well but realistically, it’s failed. I feel more unhealthy then ever and I’ve put a lot of weight on.  This NEEDS to change in the new year!

See more live Music/ Theatre- Theatre wise this has probably been my biggest success. I’ve seen loads this year, at least two shows a month and a fair few gigs too!  Money permitting I’d like to see more gigs in the new year.

Blog Goals:
Live Outside my Blog- This is hard to quantify but I think on the whole this came true this year.  Finding a work/life balance isn't easy and I think working with companies less and concentrating more on what I want to write has helped cut out some of the stress so I can enjoy life.  However, not working is something I still really struggle with, so I need to learn to just let myself relax.

Give my Blog a Makeover- This has been done although it' not finished, it will probably always be a work in progress.

Improve my Instagram Photography- I don’t even know what my Instagram follower number was last year as it was so bad I never recorded it. I think I have improved my images this year and it’s really helped push my Instagram on.  I can still improve as always but it’s great to be able to actually see a change.  I said if I passed 1000 followers I’d be happy, and I’m currently at 1381 so a success!

Be More Social on Social Media- Well I still never find the time to join in official chats but I do enjoy just talking on social media more then ever, especially twitter. I love the community there!  I stated that if I managed to hit 2500 I’d be really happy and I’m currently at 3257 so I’m over the moon really! However, it’s about people not numbers, and that's why I enjoy using twitter so much.

Carry on Blogging and Have fun with it!- I have and I do!  Changing my focus slightly and realising what about blogging I enjoy has really helped towards this, and it will be an ongoing challenge.  

So there you have it, a mixed year but that’s life!  What are you most proud of for achieving this year?

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