Come on 2018, let's do 12 in 12

Come on 2018, let's do 12 in 12

Completely unrelated picture.

You know what's hilarious... when I originally wrote that title, I put 2017. Because I am stupid and, as I'm writing this, it's that weird bit between Christmas and New Year where I don't know what day it is, who I am or what the hell is going on... Typical, eh?

So, 2018 is going to be a bit of a big one.

It's the year I turn thirty.

Yes, the big 3-0. The one with the baby face is going to (supposedly) be an adult. It feels weird.

Next year is going to be the year of seeing and doing. Mostly seeing. Since I left uni, I have pretty much just worked. It took 6 years for me to go on my first proper holiday for ages and I now spend most of my time planning things I want to see. So I'm going to do it.

I have seen a lot of people doing 12 in 12 and have been desperate to do it myself. I'm not talking about 12 trips away to exotic destinations though, I don't earn enough! BUT I will be having 12 little trips. Whether that means a weekend in Bath, it counts because I have never been there.

We have a couple of things already in the pipeline which is awesome. But I do have another 9 that I need to plan. At the moment anyway.

Where am I going

As with most people, January is pretty much going to be a write off while we all recover from the Christmas induced poverty and the dreaded five week month. It's going to be SO HARD.

In February though, I have TWO WEEKENDS booked, one after the other. Yay for me!

Prague

Picture from Charlie, Distracted 

I have wanted to go to Prague for, like, ever. When I was a teenager, it was because AFI filmed the video to Silver and Cold there and I wanted to stand where the beautiful Davey Havok stood.

I'm not going to lie, I'm still going to do this. Now as I am wiser in my years (lol, no) I want to go because it looks absolutely gorgeous. I want to ride along the river, admire the architecture and see THAT CLOCK.

Picture from Charlie, Distracted 


And drink cheap beer. All the cheap beer...

I booked the trip for Gary's anniversary present so I really hope he enjoys it as much as I do. If not... oh well. I win *laughing crying emoji*.

Cyprus

Another Bangarang weekend on Holiday. Yay!! Thanks to James Villas, the girls and I will be jetting off for a spot of winter sun. At the moment, we don't really have a plan about what to do other than RELAX but knowing us lot, the group chat will turn into mini itineraries and top destinations. I know there are vineyards so we'll inevitably end up in one at some point. 

All I know right now is that I am very excited and cannot wait. We will have the best time. Again. 

New Zealand

We have no definite plan for this one yet, Gary dropped the bombshell last week! It's going to be our one BIG TRIP and we're going to start all the planning (with spreadsheets, coz I love a bloody spreadsheet) in January. At the moment, I have mostly been looking at the best times to go, and June is looking promising.

As far as I know, because it's the other side of the world it isn't exactly going to be hot, but I really don't care. New Zealand has been on my Bucket List since I first saw the Lord of the Rings and all of Charlie, Distracted's posts on it have filled me with such Wanderlust. The root plan is to spend time with friends who moved back over a couple of years ago and we only really speak to now on drunken nights out when we get them in Skype. Top of my 'I MUST DO THAT' list is obviously Hobbiton. I mean, why would you not?

We're thinking of around 2 weeks, we can spend a week with friends on the South Island and seeing things around there before we hire a car and shoot off on our own adventures. But we'll have to see. 

The North Coast 500

This is my plan for the birthday. I love Scotland, it's part of me and will always feel like home. If you haven't heard of the North Coast 500 yet, it's pretty much like Scotland's version of Route 66. 500 miles driving around gorgeous and cold coast lines and stopping off in random places in between. It's another one we need to plan properly but I'm hopping we'll actually be on the road for my birthday, 30th October. It's also Gary's birthday in October but because he's not having a big milestone, I get to be a little bit selfish, right?

Also, question... As we'll be staying in lots of places I have never been to before, would this count as one of my 12 in 12? Or multiple? Thoughts on a postcard please.

Where I want to go

Germany

The only place I have been to in Germany is Stuttgart as a stop off point for our awesome drive to Italy when I was 16. A bloody long time ago now!

There are so many places in Germany I want to go to that I don't know where to begin but I think I'd like to see the Christmas Markets for my Nanna. As you may know, my Nanna passed away in 2016 (the WORST year) and she bloody loved Christmas and I want to do something for her.

Whitby

Ahhh, the home of Dracula. It's far from exotic but there is a goth festival. I'm a proper bookworm so always love wandering around places of Literary significance. Just like Oxford, the home of the Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, His Dark Materials and the  Lord of the Rings.

Bath

Already mentioned this one in passing but it's definitely somewhere I want to go to. I also have friends nearby which is handy. 

Somewhere random in Wales

I *have* been to Wales. My Uncle is in the RAF so we used to go and spend Christmas with them in Cardiff. But that's it. 

I really want to see more of that beautiful place and Gary and I have discussed going camping there together. Will probably be a summer activity so I don't get too cold.

The Peak District

Driven through it many times, but have never actually been there. Maybe it could be a stop off for the night before we hit the North Coast 500? That's definitely an idea.

Bordeaux

I LOVE France. I used to holiday a lot there when we were kids and two years ago, Gary and I went to Nice and had the best time. 

Really, I mostly want to go to Bordeaux for the wine. That's what it's famous for! Plus, it gives me the perfect opportunity to polish up my very rusty French.

Back to Paris

I'm considering this one of my 12 in 12 because last time I went was with an ex boyfriend and I really want to experience it with Gary and have better memories. Plus, I don't think he's been before.

When I last went, we had 2 days in Disney Land with 2 days in 'Proper Paris' and there's so much I didn't get to do or see. Like visit Montmartre, pop by Oscar Wilde's grave (and try REALLY hard to give it a sneaky kiss)... be a proper tourist down the Champs-Élysées and see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Pretty much all the things.

A flying drive through visit... on that same drive to Italy when I was 16


Amsterdam

I mean, it's not exactly far, is it? Skyscanner is an absolute blessing with return flights from £40 and there's always the train from St Pancras. No excuse not to go really. Plus, it looks awesome.

Budapest

Another cheap one east ways that's been on the list for years. After going to Bucharest last year, I desperately want to see more of Eastern Europe and that's not just because it's cheap AF...

Budapest Mini Adventures
Budapest parliament building from 12 Awesome things to do in Budapest by Milly

If I keep going, this list will be absolutely ENDLESS but here's a snapshot of destinations I think will actually be achieveable for my attempt at 12 in 12. It'll probably all change when I see bargain flights or train tickets somewhere but I am determined to do this thing and have the best 30th year full of adventures.

Why I actually love Winter Wonderland

Why I actually love Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland 2017

I'm one of those people who loves to hate Winter Wonderland. It's busy and full of tourists, you'll be queueing for days and every time I go, it always bloody rains. But I love it. Despite always having a bit of a moan...

It's not very often you can get a lot of mates together (for me, it's next to impossible... I'm looking at you, Bangarang) but every year, all of Gary's uni mates + me gather together for yearly shenanigans at Winter Wonderland. Every year we've been, we've been a bit rubbish about it and mostly hung out in the Bavarian Village getting pissed (which is still awesome) but this year, friends who live further away stayed at our house so we had a full day of it.

Winter Wonderland London 2017


Things I like about Winter Wonderland in General

Everyone seems to be cheerful

I don't know what it is, it could be the copious amount of booze, the fact that the arrival of Winter Wonderland shows that Christmas is SO CLOSE, or they're just genuinely happy people.

I'm always miserable but find the happiness of our friends and the people at Winter Wonderland infectious. Meaning I tend to smile all day.

All the Mulled drinks

Mulled Wine and Mulled Cider are one of the greatest inventions on this Earth. This year I discovered Hot Toffee Apple Cider and was in my own little Heaven. That was before we discovered the Apple Pie Southern Comfort though... which actually tastes like Apple Pie in a cup.

It's not as expensive as you think

one of the main things people complain about is how expensive Winter Wonderland is, but in reality it isn't. For example, I bought a pint of Cider and Blackcurrant (classic me) at it was £5. Considering the exact same thing in my local pub is £4.90... I really don't think that's too bad.

Things I liked about Winter Wonderland this year

Oh, the things you can do when you plan on spending more than just an evening there...

We barely had to queue

Could be because we got there around 2:30 rather than 6... but we barely had to queue at all. Maybe we just got lucky!

The night before, we booked tickets to the Magical Ice Kingdom which meant we got to go into a separate queue and jump the horde at the gates. When we got to the roller-coasters, we seemed to just walk straight through and get on them, and we barely had to queue at the bar until around 8pm. Pretty good running I'd say.

Winter Wonderland London 2017


The Roller-coasters are actually amazing

I LOVE roller-coasters. When I was growing up, my mum and brother were very much the 'bag holders' and I found out recently that my dad really doesn't like them either. BUT he came on every single one with me so I didn't have to go on alone. Legend.

I've normally avoided put up and take down roller-coasters at fair grounds because I didn't imagine they'd me all that safe. However, with an event as big as Winter Wonderland, you'd think they'd go under many, many safety checks!

You know, what? They were amazing. We didn't go on every single one but the ones we tried were fantastic. First round we went on Ice Mountain, which was very similar to Space Mountain at Disney Land. Gary became Designated Bag Holder for the BIG ONE though that had around 8 loops. I have discovered that after 4 years in a relationship with that boy, spending a whole day at Alton Towers may be off the cards...

I screamed a lot and got off each ride with a massive grin on my face. I'm still gutted that we didn't go into the Haunted House (because OF COURSE they'd have one...) but there's always next year.

Winter Wonderland London 2017


There's music everywhere

I can't explain how much I love music and how it has shaped me over years so if there's a bugger tonne of music, I'll be happy. We made the foolish attempt of a day of Whamageddon until we realised every bloody stall was playing the same music... after we had run away from one bar in different directions and I spilt Mulled Cider all down my coat (twat). In each main bar you have different stages with DJs and performers too. Towards the end of the night, we settled into one of the smaller bars in the Bavarian village and were delighted by the performance of a 60 year old man performing 'sexy and I know it' and 'Gangnam Style' before a traditional German brass band (which I loved). I haven't giggled that much in a while.

It's worth paying for more than just food and drink

As I've mentioned, we got tickets to see the Magical Ice Kingdom, an immersive experience of ice sculptures themed around under the sea. Cue me creating an Instagram story of everything using the lyrics for Under the Sea from the Little Mermaid. I'm cool, I swear.

Not only did we have the joys of skipping the queue at the beginning, but we also had the best time in sub zero temperatures.

The Sculptures were absolutely incredible and we discovered my coat is not suitable for an ice slide. All in all, it was so worth the £10 and if you get a chance to see it, you should.

Winter Wonderland London 2017


I probably had the best time at Winter Wonderland this year than I have at any other time. I'll definitely be checking out what new things will be there next year and will maybe go even earlier to make sure I actually have a full day of giggling like a maniac.

Winter Wonderland London 2017




Dobby the House Cat's First Christmas

Dobby the House Cat's First Christmas

Rescue Cat RSPCA

Summer 2017 was a wonderful time, Gary and I became cat parents when we rescued Dobby the House Cat from the RSPCA and welcomed a furry little ball of joy into our lives. As much as he does NOT look impressed in the above, he has gone from strength to strength and is loving every second.

Dobby is a former street-cat so he hasn't had a lot of love in his life. We're now counting down the days to his very first Christmas... as far as we know.

Being children of the internet, we were prepared for him attacking the Christmas Tree, trying to sneak snacks etc...


He's still trying to sneak snacks because he's a little fat boi but he really doesn't seem bothered in the slightest about the Christmas Tree. I feel like the internet has been lying to me for years. Or Dobby is just too god damn chill.

This Christmas, Gary and I will be going our separate ways. He's off to Scotland to see his mum while I'm going to the delightful Northampton to see my dad. Dobby hasn't left the house, bar going to the vets for check-ups, so I'm intrigued as to how he'll take this. He hates going in his carry case and when we brought him home for the first time, he hid under the bed for two days. I obviously want to make Christmas as safe and calming for Dobby as possible.

There are lots of ways to keep your pets are safe over Christmas, and it isn't just making sure they don't get into the chocolate coins... Our most important thing is making sure Dobby doesn't get stressed out on the car journey to my dad's and doesn't try to run away when we get there.

Fortunately, my vets are ahead of the game so I was able to address my concerns with them via FACEBOOK BLOODY MESSENGER. I then had an appointment with them for that week to go and pick up some stuff for him.

Feliway sell a range of products to help keep your moggy calm. We need some to not only stop Dobby freaking out in his first car ride (and potentially train ride home...) but also help him settle in at my dad's when we get there. The vets recommended a Feliway spray for his carry case, to be sprayed 15 minutes before he gets in, so he can have a comfortable journey and a plug in adaptor for when we arrive. Through science and hormones (I think, I don't actually know... science...) Dobby will hopefully be a super chill kitty.

As you know, Dobby is an FIV+ boy so he can't go outside. HOWEVER, my dad has a garden and I would love for him to have a little play outside. But I'm terrified he'll jump the fence and run away or get himself hurt. So I got him a little harness.


Many animal charities out there wouldn't recommend a harness... but I spoke to the vet about it and they were well up for trying. It's not like I'm going to be taking him on walks around the block or anything, it just means he can go in the garden and be safe. At the moment, he doesn't like it too much but that's just because he's been in it in the house. Hopefully when he gets to go outside in it, he'll be fine. If he still hates it, at least I know I tried and it will probably be thrown away.

Obviously, as it's Christmas, Dobby is going to be a little bit spoilt. He is getting a bit podgy so has been put on a diet so we're really going to have to control ourselves! Especially with young children in the house who will want to give him ALL the treats. One of the few things I actually have packed before we drive to my dads is a selection of treats, toys and his stocking (courtesy of More Than). I clearly care more about my cat's travel supplies than I care about me having enough pants... (no, I haven't packed for ME yet). Someone save me...




Things to do in London at Christmas

Things to do in London at Christmas

Christmas in London 2017

I have been saying it for years and I won't stop... London is one of the best places in the world at Christmas. I have so many friends and family who have moved here that I always bring up 'I can't wait until you see London at Christmas. There's something magical in the air which means I'm always in a jolly mood... even if Marketing at Christmas is one of the most stressful jobs ever.

It's just over a week before I leave London to be with my family for a week and It's occurred to me that there's so much of my usual Christmas activities that I haven't had time to do so I'm going to be ramming in as much as I can this weekend. In between last minute Christmas shopping, of course...

There are so many things to do in London that sometimes it's difficult to know where to start, but there are a couple of things I look forward to every year and some I'm looking forward to doing.

See as many Christmas Decorations and Trees as you can

London Really is a festive wonderland right now with lights on pretty much every street. I love seeing all the different trees in their different styles. The giant one in the red plant pot in Covent Garden has always been a favourite but this year it has been trumped by the beautiful one in St Pancras, decorated with over 1000 flowers.

St Pancras Christmas Tree

Get on the Rooftops

The roof top pop up has been growing for years. Wig Wam Bam on the roof of the Queen of Hoxton was always a place to be for me but I have been travelling further afield to see what else is out there. 

South Pole Saloon Brixton

For our Annual  'let's try and get Bangarang in one room for a Christmas Party', we headed down to Brixton for the South Pole Saloon. There were only 5 / 11 Bangarang Girls but that's pretty impressive for us.

The South Pole Saloon is the winter replacement for Brixton Beach, all decked out like a little winter wonderland with wooden huts and fairy lights everywhere. 

South Pole Saloon Brixton


Although the loud music (like srsly... too loud) left much to be desired, the overall atmosphere was lovely. There was so much different food to choose from, especially a stand that specialised in Mac and Cheese (they know the way to my heart) and a bunch of Christmassy Cocktails and mulled wine to really get you into the Christmas Spirit. Definitely worth a visit if you're heading south!

Food South Pole Saloon Brixton

Winter Wonderland et al

Now, I really don't like Winter Wonderland as a whole. I love it in theory but it's shockingly busy and expensive... yet I am still going at the weekend. 

There are lots of alternatives though! Winterville is the newest on the scene down in Clapham, everyone I know who has been has said it's glorious so I think I'll give that one a go next year.

Hunt down mulled wine/cider

It's the ultimate warming thing. I look forward to that first glass / mug every year. Guaranteed most pubs will be serving it about now but it's at the Christmas markets where you'll find the best. 

Mulled Cider London

Last year a colleague of mine went to Leicester Square JUST for Mulled Wine, last weekend the European Market in East Finchley swung by to spread Festive Cheer and if you head down to the South Bank, you''ll find your fair share of warming alcohol. Perfect for dark and cold December evenings

Find yourself a Christmas Carol performance

They. Are. Everywhere. St Martin's in the Field do Carols by Candle Light, there are buskers on pretty much every street corner and local musicians performing in shopping hot spots. My Orchestra will be playing in Spitalfield Market this weekend and I'm already dreading the cold but will love every second when I'll be playing. 


At the moment I'm listening to Christmas Jazz surrounded by endless paper chains and fairy lights. After writing this I'm feeling proper Christmassy and am now going to hunt down Pigs in Blankets for lunch

What are your favourite things to do in London at Christmas?


Christmas jumpers galore with Boohoo and the Teenage Cancer Trust

Christmas jumpers galore with Boohoo and the Teenage Cancer Trust

Boohoo Christmas Jumper


What a weekend!! I've helped a friend move house, been to see Beauty and the Beast Live at the Royal Albert Hall AND THEN we were surprised by snow and I spent all day in it. I'm so tired, but it was seriously the best weekend.

We are so close to Christmas now and I'm incredibly excited. I'm that kind of annoying Christmas person in the office who insists on wearing Christmas Jumpers on the 1st December and will definitely have already put my tree. What with the snow falling and mulled cider FINALLY available in my local pub, what better chance to properly get into the festive spirit for an ENTIRE DAY.

Red Christmas Jumper Boohoo

Christmas jumpers are one of the many things I look forward to every year. I always buy a new one just to make sure that I'll always have one on hand if the situation calls for it, especially with Christmas Jumper Day just around the corner. I don't even know how many I have now but my collection includes a Frozen's Olaf, Merry Christmas ya Filthy Muggle and a really tacky work one that I adore. I don't know how and when Christmas Jumpers suddenly became acceptable and a fashion statement again. I'm just so very glad it happened.

reindeer chirstmas jumper boohoo

My latest Christmas Jumper is this happy looking red number from Boohoo. This year Boohoo have Partnered with the Teenage Cancer Trust who help provide support, care and services to young people, and their families, who are suffering from Cancer, a horrid disease that is very close to my heart. There's a mini range of jumpers on their website and for each Christmas Jumper sold, £5 of that sale goes straight to the charity. Just look for the Teenage Cancer Trust banner on the picture as you browse! You can also see the full Boohoo and Teenage Cancer Trust range right here.



If mine's the one you want, because it is GORGEOUS, it comes in a variety of colours including emerald green and navy blue. You'll have to be quick though, they sell our quickly and there's only a short amount of time left where Christmas Jumper wearing is still acceptable.


MASSIVE thank you to Leigh for putting up with me being awkward in front of the camera and actually taking some nice pictures of me!


*Discliamer: I was sent the Christmas Jumper for free but all words, silly faces and festive cheer are entirely my own


A History of Magic at the British Library with Lumos

A History of Magic at the British Library with Lumos

Lumos charity

Harry Potter is 20 years old. Can you believe it? Sometimes I can't.

To celebrate, there's an exhibition at the British Library: The History of Magic. The exhibition is all about Harry Potter, the inspiration and the actual history of magic. I was lucky enough to attend a closed event with Lumos after failing to buy tickets with the rest of my friends.

You've probably heard me mention Lumos by now, if not you should take a scroll through and all the other amazing things I have been able to experience as part of my ambassadorship with them! Lumos was founded by J.K. Rowling herself to help children across the world out of institutions and into loving homes.

We say 'institutions' and not 'orphanages' because, sadly, many of them are out for profit alone, treat the children badly and lead to many children out of the streets with very little life experience, education and support. There are millions of children world wide stuck in institutions and it's Lumos' mission to get them out. Every child deserves a home and every child deserves love.

At the History of Magic event, we were privileged enough to hear speeches from Jason Isaacs, the Curator of the Exhibition (oh yes, I do think I would have been VERY good at that job if you didn't need so much experience) and Neil Blair. We learned more about their plans for the future, how much Lumos has achieved so far and the amazing work they have been doing in the past year alone.

This also happened:





Please try your very best not to hate me...

With the exhibition itself, sadly there are no pictures allowed. As much as I desperately wanted to take pictures of everything, I managed to restrain myself somehow.

Without spoiling it too much for you, I can tell you that it consists of everything from Herbology to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Turns out Mandrakes are a real thing, dontcha know AND Nicholas Flamel was a real person.

I'm not sure how long you're supposed to be in there but Leanne and I were in there until 10pm. We kept running around and back to rooms we had been before just in case we had missed something. It's a hands on experience as well as a 'look at these amazing things' exhibition, with technology and games for we muggles to enjoy (Please don't tell Gary I admitted to being a muggle)...


Being one of the last to leave (other than Ezra Miller who was clearly living his best life despite a 5am call time the next morning), you definitely need more than an hour to experience the sheer splendour of the exhibition. Walking into it is just as magical as entering Hogwarts itself, there are scripts and deleted scenes from the book sand movies, J.K. Rowling's own illustrations and many 'real' magical items. As a massive Harry Potter fan, I'm sure you can imagine my joy seeing notes written in J.K. Rowling's own hand.

You should definitely attend the exhibition while it's still around. Tickets are £16 for adults and £8 for children (you can get them here). While you're at it, why note donate to Lumos. Every little helps and 100% of all proceeds go to the programmes themselves and NOT someone else's pocket.

If you fancy a quick chuckle, here's the moment J.K. Rowling retweeted me. Thank you Leanne for capturing such a moment. Yes, I am crying. I have no shame.






*Disclaimer: I was invited to the event for free as an Ambassador for Lumos. However, I constantly work to support Lumos and this has in no way encouraged this blog post. I was not asked to do it, I just did. So there.