Monday, 25 September 2017

A Trip to Costa Rica; San Jose

For some of you reading this, you may be a little confused as to where on earth this Costa Rica trip has popped up from. I've been pretty vocal for a good six months or so now about the fact that in September, I was going to be in Orlando, and absolutely nothing about Costa Rica.

Well, after a good 350 day countdown, unfortunately my flight to Orlando was cancelled with less than a days notice. The only flights I could move to were 5-6 days away, and none of them seemed like a great idea as then I wouldn't be in Florida for long enough to make it worth it. Luckily for me, I got full refunds for pretty much everything that I'd booked, a new airline that I'll absolutely refuse to fly again (Thanks for the absolutely shocking customer service, Thomas Cook!) and then less than 24 hours to plan a new trip, as I refused to go nowhere when I'd been counting down for so long.

I did think Peru, I knew it would be too late to do the Inca Trail but thought I'd be able to do one of the smaller ones - unfortunately, it was too short notice to book that for any point of my trip, and a lot of what I wanted to do would take a little bit longer than 24 hours to work out. I thought somewhere in Asia, but the prices for pretty much every country I looked up were extortionate due to how short notice it was. And so I ended up with Costa Rica, a country that has been on my shortlist for quite a while anyway and with flights that cost about £600 for a return flight with the airline that I'm most loyal to anyway, British Airways.

I'm not going to say that planning a trip at such short notice was easy, but luckily as I'd already had it on my shortlist I already had a bit of a sample itinerary in my mind to work with and wasn't researching each area completely by scratch.

And so off we went, to San Jose!
 I'll be honest. I didn't have particularly high hopes for San Jose. I had decided to give it at least one full day as I felt I should give the capital a chance, but I didn't expect to like very much about it. My research was filled with negativity and dread about the city, and I just expected to have a pretty bad time there. But I was wrong.



 For starters, San Jose is colourful. REALLY colourful. Street artwork is everywhere, and it's pretty, and it's interesting. I don't think you would necessarily describe San Jose as a pretty city, but it has a lot of character and is very bright and vibrant, and actually I appreciated it for that. It may not contain what you'd normally find on beautifully moderated Instagram feeds of cities, but actually I really liked the vibe that it had.




 Another thing I'd been warned about was the people, and all the scams that would happen to me. I'd actually decided not to take my bigger DSLR camera with me on this trip because I read SO many warnings about theft and whatever else. Again, this was SO wrong. People were very friendly here, in fact we were probably approached more times in San Jose than we were anywhere else - and never to try to sell us something or anything like that, just for a quick hello or to offer a recommendation in a restaurant where we were staring blankly at the menu.






 One negative point about the city however is that it IS really quite dirty. And traffic is a nightmare! This was an awful place to start our drive as we got stuck in traffic for hours and a lot of the roads are really confusing and lack any road markings whatsoever so cars are just sort of driving wherever they feel like it. I mean, as you'll find out in my later posts, roads are a problem everywhere in Costa Rica, but San Jose was where we repeatedly worried about crashing or being driven into! A lot of the sidewalks aren't in great quality and you'll want to be careful where you step, but this was the only negative point we found and even then as long as you're not going in with unrealistic expectations this probably won't bother you.




 We did the free tour of San Jose as we really didn't know much about the history of the city at all, and we're glad we did. To be honest, there isn't loads to do in San Jose, but we learnt some background information and had some buildings pointed out to us that we probably wouldn't have noticed on our own. I always recommend doing the free tours as I think they're a great way to learn a little bit about the city from the perspective of someone who actually lives there!





Overall, would I recommend San Jose? I'm surprised to find myself saying that yes, I would. While I don't think you should plan on spending a particularly long time there (we had two nights there, but that includes the day that we arrived at the airport - we found that this was probably exactly the right amount of time) I do think that this city deserves a little more respect than it typically receives. It's not the cleanest of places and there's not that much to do particularly if you're not interested in museums, but it still definitely deserves a look in. It's a vibrant, bright and friendly city, and you can constantly see the work that people are putting in to try to change the reputation that San Jose has received. I think it's a city that certainly deserves a look in, even if for you that just means squeezing a couple of hours in before or after your time at the airport!
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Monday, 4 September 2017

Beauty Review: Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy Nail Polish

Last week, I posted all about my love of Barry M's nail polishes (here)  and their ability to withstand my awful working conditions (chemicals, mechanics, not good!) whilst maintaining beautiful bright colours. I of course referenced throughout that they were wonderful but were only my second favourite polish range - and I'm happy to today introduce you to the range that managed to stand up to the tests the best and with a beautiful range of colours for you to choose from; Revlon Colorstay Gel Envy.

These colours are a little more expensive than the super cheap Barry M ones - but only £7.99, which I'd still consider perfectly reasonable!

As with all the other tests I've been doing on the various polishes I've been trying out, I've always used the base/top coat directly linked to the brand. In the case of this range, there is no base coat - it's included in the polish itself. However, there is still a diamond topcoat to work with, and that's what I've used in all of these cases.

I got very excited when picking out the colours to try, as Revlon do some lovely looking glittery and shimmery colours. I always have quite low expectations when using glittery colours as I've found they're never as good as you expect them to be, however I was very pleasantly surprised with these ones.

The colour pictured above is Showtime. This colour comes out a little darker than I expected it to, but is a very deep purple with some hints of blue shimmer.

However, the colour that I really want to tell you all about is this one, Gambling Heart. I LOVE this colour, it is 100% my favourite nail polish colour. It's just so beautiful, and so interesting as well. I found myself spending way too much time looking at it from all sorts of different angles and in different lighting as it's just so vibrant and pretty. It's a light red shade but with a lovely shimmery underlayer of different red/pink tones. Photos really don't do it justice - if you were to buy just one colour from this range, I would definitely recommend this one as I absolutely love it.

The one thing I would say about this colour though is that it really sucks to take off - there's a lot of glitter so this shouldn't be too surprising, but of all the colours I tried across a variety of brands, this is the one that took absolutely forever to remove. I would also consider it fully worth it - but don't try removing it when you're short on time!

So, I ended up liking these colours so much that I broke the rules of my own personal challenge a little bit and went back and bought another one. Well, I did need to try the non shimmery ones too! This is Hold 'Em, which I bought as I wanted a colour that didn't stand out quite so much as the others but still had something about it that stopped it from being boring to me. This colour completely ticked those boxes as it blends in very nicely but has a lovely purple tint to it which looks particularly great when you're in sunlight.

As well as being pretty, the longetivity is of course there or these polishes would not be my top rated! All of the above colours easily got through six days without a single chip forming - and even then, they were only taken off as I wanted to try a different colour and not because they were showing any signs of damage.

Out of all the brands I tried, Revlon's Gel Envy range is number one of my list, followed closely by the Barry M polishes. The reason they managed to pull themselves to the front is largely because of the colour options available. I just feel like Revlon offer a bigger range of colours leading to me spending much more time staring at the range trying to pick out exactly which ones I wanted to try - with Barry M, I knew exactly which ones I wanted and struggled to pick a third. Revlon's range is beautiful and varied, including the lovely shimmers, plenty of vibrant options, and some lovely neutral tones at all which aren't as dull as other naturals can be. Particularly if you like purple tones, there's plenty of choice available there.

Revlon's Colorstay Gel Envy range is available for £7.99 from Boots - buy them here!
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Monday, 28 August 2017

Beauty Review: Barry M Gelly Hi Shine Nail Paint

Now that I'm in a job that actually allows me to wear nail polish again, I've recently been on the hunt to find something amazing. I should start by saying that my standards are probably higher than most for a very simple reason - my work. I work in an environment that is not remotely good for nail polish health, because a lot of what I do involves basically sticking my hands inside of trains. That means a lot of catching them on random corners and other sharp bits of machinery and lots of getting them covered in oil and whatever other chemicals trains like to create. None of which, of course, is ideal for keeping your nail varnish looking on top form.

I've sampled a fair few different brands in the last few weeks and most of the ones I've tried have had lovely colours but just haven't quite been up to the standards that I need to keep them looking good. Again, I know my circumstances aren't great for nail quality, but I've been surprised to find that some of even the more expensive brands just don't last for more than a day before beginning to fall apart.

However, I'm pleased to report back that I have found two different brands that have both beautiful colours and have lasted a minimum of five days on my nails with no problems whatsoever - and even then, they tend to only come off because I'm ready for a change of colour! So this week and next week, I'll be sharing with you the two brands that I've found that create pretty colours with lots of durability.

 I'm a little surprised to tell you that the first of my long lasting colours has been the Barry M Gelly Hi Shine Nail Paint. The surprise doesn't come from the brand - I think Barry M is great - but from the fact that out of all the brands I've tried, the nail polishes that cost just £3.99 have been one of the absolute best. To be fair in each test, I always used the base coat/top coat made by the same brand to fully test their range.

 The first colour I used actually became my favourite - Blueberry. This is a really pretty sky blue that manages to be an unusual colour whilst still looking great. Out of all the nail polishes that I've been using, including those I'll be showing you next week, this has been the colour that I've reapplied more than any other. It's just SUCH a pretty colour, and so high shine.

 The second colour I tried was Pink Lemonade. And to be honest, I didn't keep this colour for more than a day. It's nothing against the quality of the polish at all, I just simply didn't like the colour as much as I expected to. I had a feeling it may go that way when I purchased it but remained optimistic, and I just don't like how it looks against my skin tone.

 And finally, Pomegranate! This colour is a little redder than it appears in the bottle which was originally a disappointment to me as I was looking forward to a really vibrant hot pink, but actually this colour is one that really grew on me.

Overall, I absolutely love these shades. I would say that the base/top coat takes quite a long time to dry compared to other products, but it does the job and I suppose that's what matters. But I am a huge fan of the colours of the polishes themselves, and especially of how long they last. I have consistently worn these without problems, maybe getting a tiny chip by day six but small enough that only I'm going to notice.

I found that application wasn't amazing with these - on applying the first coat these never seem to apply particularly well and I wasn't feeling very optimistic the first time I used them. However, the second coat seems to sort this out and you're left with a lovely super shiny finish.

More than anything, I love the fact that these are such good quality for such a low price. £3.99 is an amazing price for colours that last so long, and can be removed so easily. I would put these as my second favourite brand overall (of course, tune in next week for the winner!) and that's largely because I feel they could really do with a bigger variety of colours. Right now, I feel like there's not too many that I really want, and I hope that the colour range is extended in the future because this is a lovely formula.

Want to buy some of your own? They are available for just £3.99 from Superdrug, here!
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Monday, 21 August 2017

Before...And After; Part 1. The Lounge!

It's been about three months since I first posted the BEFORE photos of my new flat, and finally, FINALLY, I have a room that is complete enough that I'm ready to show you.

I've been really picky with the fact that absolutely no one is seeing the flat until it's done. Friends are not allowed to visit. Photos will not be taken. And unfortunately I'm even pickier than that too, as I've been insisting on repainting everything and getting everything just perfect before it's all revealed. But finally, the lounge is ready to be revealed!

Let's ignore the fact that I've already show you a completed photo up at the top there, and let's remind ourselves of the before photos...



So that was back in May... And this is now! (It's also significantly less dark than it looks in the photos, thanks sun)
I figure you may be interested in buying a few of the bits yourself, so let's go through a couple....

With the bigger furniture, it's basically all from Ikea. My sofa is a Norsborg and cost £375, link here. The coffee table is also from Ikea and is a Lack, costing £27 (here). Underneath the table I've got a couple of board games, some cook books that I use the most frequently, a small pile of National Geographic magazines I've not got through yet, and, uh, a trashy celeb magazine to balance it all out... The rug is yet another Ikea purchase, but I can't tell you the name or the price as I actually bought it used from an out flatmate, and I'm very glad I did as it really makes the room! The TV stand is from Argos, and is this one for £57.99. The flowers on the unit are from a Tesco Express, randomly. Finally, the cushions are from Debenhams and are these ones for £12.99 each. It was wonderful to finally find these cushions as it took absolutely ages to find some that are the right shade, everything was either neon or this horrible mustardy colour and absolutely nothing in between. The lamp in the corner is another Ikea one, it's this one for £25 and makes a really nice glow!

If you're considering a Norsborg, I really like mine. The main reason for purchasing it was because it was one of the cheaper ones I could find that was still big and comfortable, but it's been a good addition. The rug is by far my favourite part though, it brings everything together so nicely and is such a nice texture!

Let's look at a couple of the smaller details...
 This wonderful doorstop is from Next for £18, here. I originally went out with the intention of buying a dog one to make a joke about the fact I can't really keep a dog here, but I thought this zebra was just the cutest thing of all time. I was worried he wouldn't quite suit the flat so I went back to Next and considered him about ten times before seeing there was only one left and giving in and buying him quickly!

 First of all, the bird artwork you can just about see in the top photo is from The Range. It's called "Gathering Bird Canvas" and cost £17.99 from here. We'll get on to the unit!

 This adorable hedgehog coaster holder is also from Next. He was £12.99 (here) which I suppose is a bit steep for some coasters, but frankly he was really cute and well made and has given the coffee table some personality so I really don't mind at all!

 By the TV I've got this delightful purple alpaca! I love him, I was worried he wouldn't fit into the room but luckily his colours really match that of the two pictures above him. He's from Arkapasso, but unfortunately I can't give you an up to date price for him as I got him at Comic Con. The candle in front of him is from M&S, it's part of one of their seasonal ranges so sadly not available anymore.

 For additional artwork, I've shown you these two before as they were in my last flat as well. I've got these amazing canvases of San Francisco and Paris that I bought from etsy. I remember it took me absolutely ages to choose which two I wanted, but I'm very happy with these ones. They're so bright and really liven up a white room! They're from lauraamiss on etsy, here.

 In the corner I have this crazy display case situation going on. This is made of three units from Ikea all shoved together - they are all Billy bookcases, which amazingly cost just £25 each, here.

  The ducks on the top row are from this set from Next and cost £12.99. Scroll right to the bottom if you want the same colours I have as they have a few others!

  The second row includes a little sheep that is actually from Waitrose, this picture from Next, and a little owl that I bought in Epcot in Disney World a few years ago.

  Row three is a little pig candle holder from Next and a big Hello sculpture, also from Next for £16 here. The sculpture wasn't originally going to go here as it's amazingly versatile and looked great no matter where I put it! The owl calendar on the right is from a market, and as you can see, almost never gets updated...

  The two candle holders on row four are both from Clintons, and the plant is from M&S.

  Finally the boxes at the bottom are all from Ikea and are absolutely enormous. The majority of them are completely empty, naturally, but one of them includes lots of art supplies and colouring books and the other includes all the cooking books and recipes that I don't use all that often, but might one day!


I'm very happy with the lounge, and it came out exactly how I wanted. I went in with a grey and yellow theme but was a little worried about how everything would look together or if it would look a bit too feminine or over the top but actually I think it's all come together really nicely. I was also worried that the blue of the sofa wouldn't fit together with everything else, but I think it all looks really good together.

As I often mention on twitter, my favourite thing about the whole flat is how bright it is, and how much I love my view from the lounge. It's not completely done yet but probably won't ever warrant a full post anyway, so let's show you the balcony too - it does lead off from the lounge, after all!

As you can see, the balcony overlooks a park and is basically my favourite thing ever. Even when I can't be bothered to actually go down there or don't want to go out onto the balcony, I love being able to see so much green.

I don't know where the chair on the left is as it was already there when I moved in (and it's a real shame too as it's really comfortable for an outdoor chair, but I can't find a copy of it anywhere!) and unsurprisingly the other two are from Ikea. The table is this one for £15, and the chair is this one for £35. (It's also really annoying to carry around the store so don't be like me, save it til last!)

So, part one is finally done! What do you think? :-)


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