Royal Ascot: Wine, horses and pretty dresses

Royal Ascot: Wine, horses and pretty dresses

So, these pictures were plastered all over my Instagram so #SorryNotSorry for doubling up but I'm still so happy that I finally got to go to Royal Ascot... and my outfit was awesome.

Ascot has always fascinated me in some way. It can be considered as the height of British Fashion and with over 300 years of History, it's always been on my bucket list.

Appletiser invited me to be a guest of theirs and I was VERY excited about it all. I foolishly turned down the Queen Anne Enclosure tickets so some friends and I could be together but the Windsor Enclosure was equally as fun, plus we didn't have to stick to a much stricter dress code!

In typical 'me' fashion. The first thing my friend Frankie and I did was head straight to the bar... after swapping into our heels from our 'emergency flats'. Seriously, thank god we took some!

Yeah to buying all the bottles of wine.

When it came to my outfit. It was seriously stressful. As I mentioned, I feel that Ascot is of significant importance to Fashion so I couldn't make a half arsed attempt, even if I was 'slumming' it with the Riff Raff (LOL, I don't mean it).

I was stressing about it and decided the only option would be to buy something new. Turns out I was too lazy and the idea of facing Oxford Street after work would have been far too much effort. I ended up doing a (slightly drunken) dash to Accessorize to buy some variety of head device and hope one of my many dresses would go with it/was clean.

One dress went with it... but it did have a wine stain on it. Whatever.

Totally hiding the wine stain with my bag...

You've all probably seen this dress before as it was my 'dancing dress' from my cousin's wedding a few years ago but it's always good to get a good few uses out of something. Plus, it's blue and went with the fascinator.

In hindsight, we probably should have arrived earlier (my fault, I was faffing all morning... and slightly hungover) because when we got there, there was, like, nowhere to sit. We hovered near the bar for a while but when we decided to venture down to the race course to have a look, i started properly kicking myself for not accepting the Queen Anne tickets. All the tables were taken and every patch of grass had someone else's picnic blanket spread over it

BUT IT WAS OK! We found my other friend Rosanna who had managed to bag a SINGLE chair... but at least we had a table for our booze!

We weren't exactly front row but we could see well enough as there were screens everywhere and we could see the horses speeding past too so we were all good. I was mostly a massive ball of excitement when the Queen showed up. I love that woman.

We did the bet thing, with absolutely no god damn clue what we were doing. Originally we were going to bet onn horses that had the most ridiculous names but after speaking to my boyfriend and Grampy, we ended on a compromise; A horse with a stupid name + some decent odds = Cunco,

I didn't win.

Oh well.

Lack of winnings aside Ascot was awesome and I CANNOT thank Appletiser enough for the tickets. I got to spend the day with awesome people, wear awesome clothes and basically have the most fun I have had in a while.

Frankie and I plan on going back next year... we'll just see whether that will actually happen!!

Have you ever been to Ascot?

*Tickets were given to me for free by Appletiser but a blog post was not a requirement. They gave me the tickets so I could have a bloody good day. I did, so I wrote about it anyway.

Saving for the future

Saving for the future

Life is expensive. Like, very expensive. I remember days when I was younger and I thought £100 was a lot of money but now I cry bitter tears when I see that's all I have left, especially when I see half my salary disappear every month to cover things like rent and bills.

I don't make things any better for myself either though. Some months/weeks this year I have pretty much been living hand to mouth, wondering how life and the the things I enjoy can cost so damn much.

This year, I had tickets to Glastonbury but cancelled. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the two main ones are:

1. I didn't want to spend £200 to see Coldplay. Just no.
2. I couldn't guarantee I could actually afford to be there. Festivals cost a hell of a lot even after you've handed over the ticket money. UK Credit have put together an interesting article that shows just how and why.

Like many people, I have dreams to buy a house in the future but I also want to see a lot of the world. Next year we have plans to go to Mexico and have two 30th Birthday Celebrations to sort out (hopefully New York AND California). That's some serious pennies.

I don't have any grand plans to save thousands every month. It's just not possible in London unless you're earning a ridiculous salary. Which I'm not. HOWEVER, I don have some variety of plan to sort my life out and save for these things without living in poverty (yeah, I know that's an exaggeration). I have rambled on about something similar in the past, but this time I am determined,

Step 1 - Cancun

After looking at flights and the resort we'll be staying at (boom for friends with timeshare), it turns out it's not going to be as expensive as I thought it would be. I'll only have to save £1000 to cover flights, accommodation and spending money and as we're not going until 2017, that means I only need to save £50 a month. Achievable.

Step 2 - 30th Birthday Celebrations

The main thing here is that they will be happening one month after the other. My best friend's birthday is in September and mine is in October. FORTUNATELY it won't be a thing until 2018 which means serious saving time. 

I haven't looked into the costs or logistics JUST yet but think if I can pop away £100 per month over the next two years, that should definitely be enough. It might be difficult saving £150 per month as I'm not exactly on the highest salary in the world, but as they're actual goals, I'm sure I can make myself do it.

Step 3 - Get a house

I am determined to not be stuck in generation rent for the rest of my life. I have decided that it's just not going to be a thing. 

My aim is to have saved enough for a deposit within 5 years. As long as schemes like Help to Buy still exist by them, it may be possible especially considering there are two incomes. 

I have no idea where to start with this one as house prices fluctuate and I have no idea where I plan on being in 5 years time. At least I have finally reached a point of determination rather than wallowing in my misery.

Saving is always hard, especially when you live in London, but as long as you can set some realistic goals rather than jumping on trends, you will get there.

Are you saving money for anything fun?

*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with UK Credit but I was going to write something like anyway. All plans are my own and I'm actually doing these things.

That time I went camping.

That time I went camping.

camping in Brighton

I love camping. Well, the only time I have ever been camping is at festivals. I'm not sure if that 100% counts but in my head it does. You're sleeping in a tent, after all.

Recently, a pair of my boyfriends's best friends have got engaged. This is all very exciting and a decision was made for all of us to spend a weekend doing something and camping was clearly the answer.

Now, let me make one thing VERY clear. I was very excited about this up until the moment I got to Victoria Station. Where all the trains were cancelled. I was going somewhere I had never been before. No one wanted to help me (I asked 5 different people and tweeted National Rail in anger), and I cried. Like, actual silent sobs that didn't seem to stop.

I got there though. And was rewarded for dealing with a traumatic journey with beer and tapas. Much better.

camping in Brighton

Our campsite, Housedean Farm, was beautiful and very quiet. Each pitch had a barbecue pit and I swear to God that the onsite showers are better than my one at home. All in all, a five star review for Housedean Farm campsite!!

It wasn't the actual camping part that I struggled with though... it was the fitness element and nature.

On our second day (technically first for me because of the travel drama), we went for a bike ride. I love riding a bike. I used to cycle to and from work every day until I wasn't allowed to anymore. I thought this would be a nice relaxing bike ride to the beach or something. Turns out it was mountain biking and I nearly died. Plus, swallowing flies, nearly falling off a bike and splitting the tyre AND getting stuck in field with angry cows is NOT the one.

Bike Hire Brighton
This is my really unimpressed cycling face...
To be fair, it was stunning, especially when we reached the top of Devil's Dyke, had a well deserved pint and admired the views. Just look at this:

camping in Brighton

camping in Brighton

The sky may be all grey and stuff, but it's still lovely. Plus, BUTTERCUPS. Maybe the 20km there was worth it in the end, who knows!!

On top of that, I had to be rescued by Gary from a Daddy Long-Legs in the tent, run away from bees and was highly annoyed when I trod is cow AND sheep poo. So pleasant.

I realised that as fun as the whole weekend was (really, it was), I'm definitely a city girl. I can't even deal with a house spider let alone the risk that they'll have snuck into my tent while I sleep. Also, having your air bed burst on the first day is really not the most helpful thing in the world. Sleeping on the cold, hard ground well and truly sucks metaphorical balls.

To me, camping is mostly getting drunk around a campfire after seeing a bunch of awesome bands on stage but maybe I'll up my camping game next time and won't be as useless... hopefully.

Reclaiming the word 'Nerd'

Reclaiming the word 'Nerd'

Recently, I have had conversations with my boyfriend and Little Miss Katy about what it was like for me at school. I didn't have the ABSOLUTE worst time there but it certainly wasn't all the fun in the world. I met my best friend at secondary school and genuinely have a lot of good memories... but there are also some not very nice ones that have stuck with me my whole life.

It's only recently that I have started to accept myself and feel confident in my own skin. Whether that's having some variety of body positivity (I'm sure that's a post to come later) or just dealing with the fact I'm a little bit odd. Accepting who you are is always hard, especially when there are a couple of things lodged in your head that have had you questioning yourself your whole life. This isn't a 'woe is me' post and I'm not after sympathy but, I promise, despite how long this post will inevitably be, it does have a point. 

I have never been 'cool' and that's fine. But when I was at primary school, I had to ask people whether it was OK for me to play with them at lunch time. Yeah, how horrible is that? The vast majority of the time they would say 'no' and I would either end up having lunch by myself or going to volunteer and help out with the younger children just so I had someone to talk to. 

I was a boffin/ a nerd/ a geek/ a weirdo. No one wanted to be seen with me at lunch time as it would obviously affect their 'play ground cred'. This was really the point where I started to realise a lot of girls were mean so I started making friends with boys instead. I had more in common with them. I was never really a tom-boy but they accepted me more than any of the girls did. We would play cops and robbers/ Sonic the Hedgehog (I would always be Tails), we played pogs and traded Pokemon Cards... all while the girls would do dance routines to the Spice Girls but I couldn't join them because they already had five people...

Even outside of school I didn't have a lot of friends. My parents used to joke that I was 'a princess in my tower' (all light-hearted because for a while they had no idea what I was going through). I preferred to stay in my room and read Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings and The Magical Far Away Tree rather than be exposed to further ridicule outside my own home.

Then I went to secondary school. It was slightly different because half of my primary school went to Lord Grey while the others (me included) went to Leon. I thought things would be better here but I quickly realised it wasn't true. There was one particular boy who only spoke to me when he needed help with homework, the rest of the time he would call me names. I desperately wanted to be accepted so I dealt with it. I wasn't exactly a high achiever but because I was reasonably intelligent, calls of 'Boffin!' would greet me pretty much every day I walked down the school corridors.

Then I discovered music. I had already been learning how to play the Trumpet but when I met Mr Hills, he encouraged me to do more than just have lessons. There was an orchestra, a choir and the music room was always open at lunch time. The music room became a safe place for some of us outcasts. We would play music and sing away and be genuinely happy... but then the bell would ring and we would become the 'band geeks' again.

For an entirely different reason I ended up moving secondary school. Again, I thought maybe this was a chance to have a better time. But I was wrong again (at least a little). 

On my very first day, I overheard something at lunch time that made my stomach sink. "Have you seen the new girl? Yeah, I thought she was pretty cool at first but it turns out she's in W (higher set) with the rest of the nerds. Yeah, she'll never be one of us". I couldn't understand what I had already done wrong, I was being punished for being smart before half of the year even knew my name. 

My first lesson of the afternoon, I met Charlie, Distracted. I was put on her table in English class because there was a spare space. I was really quiet despite her efforts to talk to me but I had already got into my head that this girl was too cool to be friends with me. Clearly I was VERY wrong because 14 years later, we're still best friends and I barely go a day without talking to her. 

Charlie introduced me to more people, some older and loads who had a similar, if not the same, taste in music. I had a little circle. I had genuine friends. And even though the 'nerd'/ 'boffin' taunts still followed me, it didn't matter. I had PROPER friends now.

Charlie and I celebrating A-Level results day.
It's while I've been putting these things together that I have realised that all the things I was mocked for at school have become cool and the internet has been a driving force for this. When I was teased for reading Harry Potter because it was a kids book, I am now a part of a massive online community/family. When I used to play the PlayStation with my brother and try talking about the games I've played, I was told that was 'for boys'. Now gaming is one of the most popular past-times in the world, people will always anticipate the release of the next console and it's cool to be a 'gamer girl' these days. 

I think that maybe if I had had the internet when I was younger, then maybe I wouldn't have been so excluded but, to be fair, I don't really need it. I think that, unlike most people, these things have actually made me stronger and more willing to accept myself. Recently, a friend introduced me as 'the resident nerd' and I was not ashamed. I was proud. I love her for it and after all this time (Always...) I have managed to accept who I really am. 

I am a Potterhead, a Whovian, A Band Geek. A nerd. Yes, a NERD. I am a nerd, it is my label and I wear it with pride. I'll shout it from the roof tops if I have to.

Be proud of who you are. YOU are awesome. It's a shame it's taken me so bloody long to come to terms with it myself but, in the words of Oscar Wilde:

Oscar Wilde Quote

I love the 90s: Little Nan's Rio Bar

I love the 90s: Little Nan's Rio Bar

Little Nan's Bar Dalston

I don't really DO East London, if that makes sense. I lived on Old Street while I was at University so I think I just eventually fell out of love with East London. The 90s, however, are something I will NEVER fall out of love with. I was brought up on Britpop and have loved bands like Pulp and Blur for as long as I remember. I'm adamant that some of the best music and best films came out of the 90s and I refuse to admit that songs from my childhood now class as 'old school'. Just no.

Little Nan's Rio Bar in Dalston, pretty much combines a bunch of my favourite things - from childhood nostalgia to ugly teapots. The whole thing was decorated as though it could have been your Nan's living room but some kind of rebel had also taken over. It was amazing. Mismatched furniture with doilies on the tables yet surrounded by posters of Pulp Fiction and Fight Club (hellooooo Brad Pitt topless) with toy dinosaurs in random places.

Little Nan's Bar Dalston

Obviously, this is the kind of place that would send us #Bangarang girls into all a frenzy. Seeing as we were the first people there, we automatically ran around everywhere taking pictures of everything before we got down to the business of the day... Alcohol, Obviously.

Little Nan's Bar Dalston

I love a good cocktail and I'm one of those people who loves it when they're served in teapots and tea cups. I have a collection of teapots at home so should probably start making some myself!

We left Erica in charge of ordering the booze and we ended up with three tea pots one with gin, one with vodka and one with rum. All of my favourite things. We were so excited that we hadn't even noticed a cocktail tea pot had already been left on our table as a welcome. Erica was very happy that there was a little card on it saying 'Lady Erica' so she completely over looked the extra pot of booze.

Little Nan's Bar Dalston
I only chose this cup because it reminded me of Beauty and the Beast
After choosing our mugs/tea cups for drinking purposes we sat down and enjoyed some Uncle Jon from Jamaica, Queen Kitsch Bitch and another one I can't remember. My favourite was Queen Kistch Bitch and wish there was more of it. Once we were happily settled in and on our way to merry, we sat back and did what we all do best; gossip. We can talk for hours on end, and didn't even realise how long it had been until we were offered more drinks but had barely made a dent in  the ones we already had!!

When it came time to head home, the first thing we did was obviously abuse the photobooth room. Complete with props AND WIN MACHINE. Half of the videos I put on my snapchat don't make any sense now but I'm sure they were perfectly valid in the evening. Here's a snapshot:

Little Nan's Bar Dalston
Little Nan's Bar Dalston
Emma Inks
All in all, a wonderful evening was had. If you get a chance to go down and indulge in the 90s nostalgia of Little Nan's, do it and do it soon. It's going to be there until August. You pay £39 for a block of time with unlimited cocktails (plus pick 'n' mix AND popcorn) or you can pay as you go. There were talks of reserving a table again some time in the future so I'm excited about the prospect of going back!

From the brain of AJ: Shower Thoughts

From the brain of AJ: Shower Thoughts

Sometimes I do wonder how my brain works. Especially if it's first thing in the morning and I'm not entirely with it. To me, a shower is more than just a place to wash... Sometimes it can involve popping my phone in a strategic gap by the sink to amplify Spotify, in the vain hope no one can hear my warbles along to Les Mis (obviously doesn't work. I am NOT Anne Hathaway) and if I'm having a bath I have a tendency to perch my laptop on the toilet seat so I can have my Netflix fill and binge through some 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Most of the time though, I end up thinking of the most ridiculous things, anything from where the word shampoo comes from to remembering that stupid thing I did when I was ten years old and still cringing over it. It turns out that I'm not the only one to have weird shower habits though, recent research from Mira showers show some of the odd things we Brits go through. Apparently 10% of Brits pretend they're a water fountain, I'm not one of these people but I'm definitely one of the 29% of Londoners who think of witty comebacks to arguments that have already happened.

To jump on the bandwagon, here are my favourite things that I have thought of in the shower:

  1. I spend more time of the day talking to people on the internet then I talk to people in real life.
  2. I wonder if my goldfish can understand me but just generally doesn't give a fuck... although he's probably pissed at me for calling him Fatty Boom Boom every day
  3. *flash back to that time I tried to do a cartwheel over a chair in front of the whole class and landed flat on my arse*
  4. I used to think posters in my room could see me, and thought I was weird, with their judgemental eyes. I wonder what they would think now. Did I get better or worse?
  5. My Patronus would definitely be a Cocker-Spaniel
  6. I wonder how long a trumpet is if you were to unwind it... I must remember to Google that (*forgets*)
  7. Whoever decided mint would be a good ingredient for shower gel is clearly Satan
  8. When I was growing up, blogging was something introverts and geeks mostly did, now everyone seems to be doing it. When did it become cool?
  9. If magic was real, I would totally want to be able to fly. I won't have to wake up at stupid O'Clock to sort my life out.
  10. Why is there any need for a creature to have 8 legs. It's completely unnecessary (after crying at a spider in my bathroom)
Honestly, this is just a selection of all the ridiculous things that go through my head on a daily basis. As well as day-dreaming and talking to myself, showers are clearly where the most important questions in life spring to mind... or it all just shows how odd I really am. 

What's the most ridiculous thing you have thought of in the shower?

Goosebumps Alive - Backstage Tour

Goosebumps Alive - Backstage Tour

Goosebumps Alive London

Remember that time I went to see Ghost Stories and I was terrified? How about that time I went to see The Woman in Black, cried and had to go and buy some shoes to feel better? Well, guess who thought it would be a good idea to go and see Goosebumps Alive... That would be me.

Last week, Milly from Mini-Adventures, invited me to go along as her +1 to see the show and go on a  backstage tour organised by Yelp London. I had been wanting to see it for so long because CHILDHOOD so I obviously said yes. Obviously forgetting that the Goosebumps books made me sleep with the lights on, even as a teenager.

No, just no. Glad I missed this room!
As the day went on, I realised what I had committed to and the nerves were kicking in. I pre-warned Milly about how much of a wuss I am and how it was pretty much guaranteed to scream and cry. She said she understood but then realised later in the night how I was really not exaggerating...

I do have one slight problem when I go to things like these, aside for being a complete and utter wimp, there's that whole Epilepsy thing I have. Fun times.

When we arrived I said 'One question, I have epilepsy...' (People started laughing immediately because it 'wasn't a question' despite the fact they hadn't even let me finish the bloody question out of sheer rudeness...), the dude on the front desk let me know which rooms would be safe and which ones I should avoid. Later on in the show, one of the crew members came up to me to take me into a separate show/room so I avoided the most risky of them all. Very kind. Very considerate. Hats off to you.

Image stolen from  Mini-Adventures

The show consists of disorientating corridors leading you to short performances of some of the original Goosebumps stories, set in a modern era, versions of 'Say Cheese and Die' with the new iPhone instead of a camera and 'Don't go into the Basement' showing the story of a young couple in love moving in for the first time.

I repeat. These books gave me nightmares as a kid. The first show we saw was 'Say Cheese and Die'. I was the only one in the room who screamed at the loud noises...

One of the rooms are also immersive where you're encouraged to participate. Normally this would be fun if it weren't for an evil clown man with Salad Fingers fingers who controls bloody Slappy the Dummy, the WORST of all Goosebumps baddies...

Goosebumps Alive London Review
Set for 'Don't go into the basement'
There are two rooms in particular that will stick in my mind for life. Actual life.

There's the Lift and the Grand Finale. 

Milly had already warned me about the lift. I don't like lifts. Especially when there are scary things happening. Even though I knew what was coming, I still ended up on the floor by Milly's feet, holding her hand and crying. She still loves the fact that one of the cast members broke character to check I was OK. I was a god damn mess.

Also stolen from Milly but I did ask first!

But the last room was worse, There were clowns. I don't like clowns. They're evil and wrong and just need to be stopped. I managed to get myself into a safe spot to the side of the room (not the back or front, that's just bloody stupid, Are you asking to be killed by a murderous clown??) but, oh my, was I not safe. The bastarding clowns appeared out of nowhere and I tried to run. At one point Milly was hugging me where 'her boobs were keeping me safe'

Seriously, they should have paid me to be there because I brought so much entertainment.

Despite the fact I was terrified and crying and having all of the emotions... I loved it. 

The entire show runs on a military stylie scheduled with not only the actors being perfectly on cue for multiple performances in a day but also the special effects. When we went on our mini backstage tour, I was still jumping at things I knew were coming even though the show was over.

It's a shame the show is over now as I want to go again. Lord knows why, but I do. If it ever goes on tour/comes back, I urge you to see it.

* Disclaimer: I attended this event for free as Milly's +1. All hilarious tales of me being a pathetic mess and crying at everything are true. I'm not going to deny it. 

Reasons I don't think I'm an "adult" yet

Reasons I don't think I'm an "adult" yet

I am 27, I haven't lived with my parents for nearly 9 years now and somehow I'm doing this independence thing. Yet I still don't feel like an 'adult'. I'm sure I'm not the only one either. This has mostly been proven recently when Gary went away for a couple of days and I could NOT look after myself. At all.

If you look at some sitcoms, people of our age range already seem to have their sh*t together. In How I met your mother, at my age Ted was already an architect who then designed his own building in a very short time, Rachel was working in a fantastic position at Ralph Lauren before she was 30, and Howard from The Big Bang Theory went to God damn space. Yes I know they're all fictional, but still...

Sometimes watching these things just makes you think 'what am I doing wrong???' There isn't always an answer annoyingly.

There are a couple of things that make me think I'm really not a responsible adult yet.

1. Money

I never have any. I don't know what I do with it. All I know is that the 10% of every pay check I should have saved according to Ross and Monica's dad is definitely not there. I have a grand total of 8p in my savings account.

2. I can't plan for sh*t

I never know what the hell I'm doing. I have a diary in a pathetic attempt at being organised but I'm just rubbish at using it. Either I forget to put something in it or I forget I even have it. I tend to rely on my friends/Gary to know what I'm doing and when. I'm rubbish.

3. The idea of owning a house is oh, so far away

This isn't the same for everyone but, for me; owning a house = proper adult. Not just an adult, a PROPER adult. Being able to actually decorate the place you live in and make it your own. Unfortunately, I'm one of the people who is pretty much 'trapped' in London, or at least 'trapped' in private renting. The cost of living in this city is so high, a lot of people (me included) tend to go through stages of practically living hand to mouth. Yes, I'm stupid with money but it isn't all my fault. For the two bedroom flat in a house, which I do love, I could probably get a house with a garden somewhere else and still pay less.

Although salaries are definitely better living in London, it doesn't really balance out. Can you see how my thought process is a tad confused here?

4. If something goes wrong, my automatic reaction is to call my dad

*replace ginger kid with me and 'mum' with 'dad'*

Or Gary. Little things like getting lost, the first thing I do is call one of these and guaranteed they'd be able to help in some way. I can read maps etc and should really do the 'independent' woman thing more but when panic sinks in, regardless of the situation, I just need to call someone more sensible than me.

5. I fail at the basics

In 24 hours alone I managed to fail at pretty much everything. I forgot my lunch I prepared in an attempt to save money, I also forgot my purse so I couldn't spend money and therefore couldn't eat. I broke down in the bathroom because there was a spider and no one around to help me. I left the house in tights with holes in that I hadn't noticed AND MY UNDERWEAR WAS INSIDE OUT.

Seriously, what even happened. I can't believe it happened.

Adulthood always seemed to be a thing that would just hit me when I got to a certain age. It turns out it's really not, it takes hard work. Maybe I'll get there eventually, maybe I won't. I just need to guarantee that I'll never be left to my own devices for a long period  of time until I nail this sh*t.