There's A Ghost In My Home

It had never occurred to me to share this story and since the days of living at Flat 4 are long gone and I no longer experience any dodgy activity, I don't feel any fear in sharing what used to happen whilst living in our old flat.

We moved into our lovely, pretty much brand new house back in January and what an adventure it's been. We both worked super hard to get here and saved like crazy, worked extra hours and have spent so much time making this place ours. It's perfect. 

Prior to moving here though, I lived for 3 years at Flat 4 which I have mentioned in a couple of posts previously and James lived there a few months longer. We were both living alone when we reconnected after a few years of drifted friendship and it didn't take either of us long to work out how serious we both were about each other. Within no longer than two months of being together, we decided it was logical for me to move in with James as the rent at his place was cheaper and despite my house having more room, it made sense in order to save more money to buy our own house one day.

Our flat was one of six in a huge old house. I actually did some research around the house and it turned out that it was well over 150 years old and belonged to an American Count who used it as a hunting lodge. Royalty used to stay there too and it had a very grand, intimidating presence about it. I couldn't help but feel like it needed some proper TLC but with it being a listed building, there are limits as to what maintenance can be done. Still, it was enormous and housed six apartments which were all owned by the other residents. Ours was owned by the landlord who also lived downstairs at Flat 2 so it was very handy having him so close by if we ever needed anything and he was the best landlord ever.

For the first year or so of living there, James worked in a bar so would spend many evenings a week at work and I found this really uncomfortable when I was in the flat alone at night. Depending on what time he finished work, sometimes I'd wait for him to come home and others I'd retreat to bed and not move until I knew he was back home. The reason being was I never felt settled there and always felt like I was being watched. Over time, I grew to know the flat like the back of my hand and could have listed all of it's quirky features and gradually I became more comfortable. I used to feel like I 'saw' things, heard or smelt things like tobacco and not as though someone had just lit up; it was like a stale, old kind of tobacco smell. What made it even more eery was no one smoked in the house except one of the downstairs residents who was only in the house at weekends. We only had Custard back then but she would always stare into space in the same spot, a behaviour which she hasn't continued within our new house. Usually I coped with the goings on and what with other people being in the same building, I always felt safe enough and that help was close by. I could hear them sometimes and it felt even nicer when I'd bring Custard back from her walk in the evenings and see lights on in the other flats, giving me comfort that I wasn't alone.

One night however, I was washing up in the kitchen with some music on and it just so happened James wasn't home. He'd long since left his bar days behind but I honestly can't remember where he was that night. I didn't have the music on loud because of paranoia and consideration of the other residents but out of no where, I heard footsteps running through the flat, go through our front door and then I heard the distinct sound of Custard's nails run after whatever it was, following it. I froze and grabbed my phone silencing the music and listening hard, praying that it was just my imagination. But Custard was indeed at the front door, alert. I'd had enough, I grabbed my keys, my phone and my dog and legged it down the flight of stairs and out of the main front door whilst frantically ringing James. No answer. I got outside and turned around to look back at the house and to my horror, no lights were on in any of the other flats. I rang my Mum and all I remember is sobbing hysterically down the phone that something had happened and no one was home. My Mum convinced me to go back into the house and be firm; if something was there it needed telling to leave me alone. I went back inside and pelted up to bed. Our bedroom was in like an attic part of the house, so you entered our lounge and there was a flying staircase in the corner which you climbed and hidden away was a bedroom. James eventually came home and whilst he never called me a liar, he's always one for wanting to see evidence or look at things from a scientific perspective. We tried together to work out what I might have heard, but no one was home and it was too early in the evening to assume everyone was in bed.

For a good week or so I was on edge and hated being left alone. I had decided I'd had enough of living at Flat 4 and didn't feel at all at ease. If I was living alone, I wouldn't have stayed there for 3 years…no way. Things seemed to calm down a bit until again, one night whilst we were both in bed, something else happened. I usually sleep with headphones in listening to ASMR (only when James is home) and on this occasion I was literally just nodding off, right on that brink of falling into a good solid sleep when James, in all his naked glory, sprung out of bed like some sort of ninja and told me that someone was in the flat. I froze with fear and could have easily lost my mind in a state of panic, trying to reassure myself that my naked husband would handle everything and keep us all safe. James ran down the flying staircase, fists at the ready (despite being starkers) and came back up 10 minutes later brandishing a huge kitchen knife. He had searched the entire flat, all windows and doors were locked and there was no explanation. This time though, it was him who heard it and he told me he heard footsteps coming up the flying staircase towards us.

I can't for the life of me remember if we'd already started looking for a house at this point but if we hadn't, this would have made us start searching for sure. It's not as though either of us were too afraid to live there, James for one goes into fierce warrior mode and I just seemed to cope because I felt I had to. I had to hang in there a little longer until we had our own place and could leave Flat 4 behind for good. Whilst living there, hundreds of small things would happen like I'd misplace my belongings despite usually being a very neat person with my stuff. I also had two fairly serious accidents whilst living there despite being a safety freak and never doing anything remotely dangerous. Prior to living at Flat 4, I'd never had any accidents before but whether this is connected I honestly cannot say. I know for a fact my mental health was also under a lot of strain and there could have been contributing factors such as being very unhappy in my old job and constantly anxious about the flat, but I certainly felt a depressed chill in the air that made me very uncomfortable and even my Mum felt that something just wasn't right.

Things like this have happened throughout my life so whether I'm 'open' or 'sensitive' to it I'm not sure, all I know is what I experienced whilst living there could not be explained. When I was little, my Mum tells me I saw a 'person dressed in white' that no one else could see and I really have no idea what I saw. I vaguely remember it but then again is it just my mind telling me I remember or is it my imagination, imagining the scene of where I was and what I could have seen. Either way, I'm a believer due to my experiences and I know for sure that I didn't imagine the footsteps running through my flat, nor would James be the kind of person to hear things that really aren't there at all.

Has anything strange ever happened to you before?

Thanks for reading & Happy Halloween!

October Favourites

Blimey...that time again?! I feel as though so much as happened throughout October I hardly knew where to begin with rounding up my favourite moments and items but let's get stuck in!

Panda Liquorice
I spotted this stuff in Asda accidentally and decided to treat myself to a packet because I hadn't had liquorice for a while and it's probably my favourite sweet of all time. Any liquorice lover will know that sometimes you get some that tastes amazing and others it can taste really fake, plastic-y and not very 'authentic'. These liquorice sticks by Panda however taste fantastic and are in fact vegan too which is amazing. I bought a pack of four sticks from Asda and went back the following week for more, so delicious!

Soya Pumpkin Spice Latte - Pret
The vegan lifestyle started in June for us and I'm not even sorry that my first thought was 'I hope Starbucks can make their PSL with soya milk'. Turns out, even if they did they couldn't make it vegan because there is apparently something in the syrup that makes it not suitable. I begged and pleaded along with the rest of the vegan community that they change this somehow and I didn't get so much as a reply via Twitter stating something along the lines of 'we're currently developing the recipe - hang in there!'. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't find anything from Starbucks to suggest they were trying to work something out. Then by accident I guess, I spotted Pret promoting their new PSL and read the comments from some other vegans asking whether they could be made using soya milk. Pret replied yes and I could have cried with happiness. Usually I don't buy coffee when out and about but this time of year I will grab a PSL whenever I see a's that kind of obsession. So the following week I went into Nottingham with my Mum and popped into a Pret to grab myself one of their new autumnal coffees. To my astonishment, they gifted me my first PSL saying it was 'on the house as you seem really excited and haven't tried one before'. I was over the moon with the ladies in the Nottingham branch and left with a huge smile and a frothy moustache from the glorious tasting, familiar smelling delight that is a PSL. You wouldn't know it was soya milk and they taste just as good (possibly better) than the Starbucks ones I've had over the years. Pret have gained a very loyal new customer out of me and I'm trying to grab as many of their drinks as possible because this season leaves us!

Pret Coffee

Taking Photos
I'm always taking photos of my dogs that's for sure, but James and I hardly ever stop to take a photo together and it wasn't until Paris that we had our first photo literally since our wedding day last year. They're so nice to look back on and I've ordered my latest batch of prints so I can add our holiday photos to the ongoing photo album I'm building. I have another album on the go just for general life photos which I haven't even started putting together yet so maybe a DIY project is needed to actually get the ball rolling. I'd love nothing more than to show my kids photos of us when we were younger and capture all of those special moments.

Free Prints

Vegan Courgette & Pepper Wrap - More Coffee Co.
There is a coffee shop quite close to us that James is a regular at and he took me in one day for one of their oat milk coffees, yes even smaller coffee houses are considering the vegan and lactose intolerant folk! On my second visit, James suggested I tried one of the vegan wraps that the owner had come up with, yes even smaller cafes are considering extra options and it was a beautiful butternut squash filled number. Over the next few weeks, a new lunch appeared on the menu and it was a courgette and pepper wrap. I hesitated because I despise peppers, but James encouraged me to try it and I haven't looked back since. They roast the veg beforehand so it's super soft but full of flavour; your wrap also comes out nice and hot with a beautiful pesto sauce added inside which tastes incredible mixed with the veg. The plate comes with some posh crisps on the side too and it quickly became my new favourite lunch. I try to visit as much as I can but would happily go everyday for one of those wraps. They're so filling, super healthy and it's lovely to see more and more places have a vegan option available on the menu!

Vegan wrap

Charcoal Toothpaste - Superdrug
Have you ever tried searching for a toothpaste brand that is cruelty free? It's a little bit difficult let me tell you so I decided to stick with Superdrug's own brand as they make buying cruelty free and also vegan friendly products so easy! My friend Vikky pointed this one out to me whilst we were searching for a new toothpaste (as you do) and I was majorly drawn in by the fact it's also got charcoal in, which in my experience is fantastic at removing those pesky stains. It tastes amazing as it's nice and minty, leaving you feeling fresh and clean without the guilt of buying from a brand who test on animals. Go Superdrug - seriously impressed with those guys right now!

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
If there's one thing that's frightened me a bit since going vegan four months ago, it's baking cakes which is something I've loved doing as a hobby since I was a child. I've been wanting to try and improve my piping skills for some time and was too afraid to bake using new and scary sounding ingredients like aquafaba to replace eggs in cakes and hated the idea of spending a good couple of hours in the kitchen just to end up with a pile of mush not worth eating. But fear not, I found a recipe in my trusty October issue of the Vegan Food & Living Magazine that I'm dying to use again because I shit you not, these cupcakes were the best I've ever made and the piping was also the most successful too. I'll be sharing the recipe in an upcoming blog post very soon!

vegan chocolate cupcakes

Feeling Excited
October is when autumn really comes to life in the UK and personally I feel there is nothing nicer than wrapping up all snuggly, possibly with a fluffy new scarf, enjoying the crunch of the leaves as you walk, cold, darker nights and the smell in the air. Lights start to twinkle and the festive season is fast approaching. I feel at my most content and happiest around this time of year; the little things make me smile so much more. Things like hot drinks in my favourite mug and lighting some candles does my mind the world of good. Autumn is definitely my favourite time of year and this year feels so much more magical than the last, perhaps because we're now in our lovely new and warm house as opposed to a cold, cramped (and haunted) flat. This place was worth the wait.

What have you enjoyed about October?

Thanks for reading!

My Top 5 Halloween Films

I am really getting into the festive spirit right now and have been planning when to watch some of my favourite Halloween films this October. I thought it'd be fun to share my ultimate favourites for the spooky season and take the opportunity to rave about my favourite film director at the same time. Whilst I'm not a fan of horror movies, I adore fun films more aimed at kids I guess but here they are, kicking it off with the super popular...

1. Hocus Pocus
hocus pocus

I would go as far to say Hocus Pocus is probably my all time favourite movie and I remember the very first time I watched it on Halloween night when I was a child with my Mum. I still remember it so vividly that I remember all of the adverts that came on throughout the film, where they came on and what they were. Even now when I watch my DVD version, I expect the advert to come on so I guess that kind of explains how much I think of this film to remember details like that nearly 20 years later. It's not the best made film in the world and some even say the storyline is shocking, but to me it's perfect and I adore getting lost in it time and time again. Throughout my twenties it's become a bit of a tradition that I watch this on Halloween with a big bowl of sweets, blankets and hot drinks because I'm much more of a stay in kind of person than go out, plus I don't actually remember the last time I went 'out out'. I'm so excited for this year and I hope I get a couple of little trick or treaters pop round because my skull bucket is filled and I've never had trick or treaters before! Sarah Sanderson was always my favourite out of the three sisters and I adored Binx the cat as a child, but as I've grown up I've really leant to appreciate Bette Midler's performance and her hilarious lines that I didn't see the funny side of as a kid.

2. Corpse Bride
corpse bride

Commencing my love for Tim Burton with one of my all time favourites from my collection, Corpse Bride. I first watched this when I was around 15 and it instantly became another favourite. There is something so magical about the way Tim Burton creates and directs his movies and I hold him 100% responsible for part of me wanting to enter the industry and create movie sets. It was always a 'career choice' I would have loved to have gotten into but in all honesty didn't research enough. I'm also the person who will watch every single minute of the behind the scenes footage that is very often added into the special features section of Tim Burton DVD's and it fascinates me watching all of the characters and tiny sets being bought to life to create a full blown film. The main character Emily is so loveable and stunning even in death, it's a story that will both warm and break your heart.

3. Beetlejuice

I was late to the Beetlejuice party; I feel as though I've only owned my copy for around 8 years but one of my favourite things about this movie is the music and how in love you fall with Lydia's character. She's so sweet and has some brilliant lines, I can't imagine anyone but Winona Ryder playing her character, she just fit the role perfectly. I personally feel the entire story is a pretty good one and Beetlejuice himself is both funny and disgustingly creepy. This movie has also been inspiring to me when it comes to character makeup and the style is definitely reflected from his illustrations and animation work.

4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
nightmare before christmas

A classic, lets be honest! If you don't watch this on Halloween, is it even Halloween?! My favourite characters are the posh vampires with their spooky umbrella's but I also have a Zero cuddly toy along with a miniature Jack Skellington on my desk. The music to this film is fantastic and it really gets you into a spooky mood. Halloween Town is somewhere I would LOVE to visit somehow one day, if only you could shrink down to the set size and wonder the scary streets and pumpkin patches. Whilst also being able to travel between the Town's via the decorated doors of the trees in the woods...wouldn't that be something!

5. Frankenweenie

One of Tim Burton's more recent films, this one is perfect for any dog lover but again it's another great Halloween pick, demonstrating even more of the wonderful and unmistakeable animation style. I love that this movie has a really old feel to it with it's black and white theme, a brilliant tribute to the traditional Frankenstein story. The relationship Victor has with his dog Sparky melts my heart and I think it would bring any pet lover to tears (in a good way of course!) and there are also some killer characters from this movie, Edgar 'E' Gore for example. What a guy.

I realise I'm a little bit Tim Burton obsessed but they're my favourite kinds of movies to watch, possibly because of his unique style and extremely arty feel each movie has. Every film ever made is a work of art but something about Tim Burton's work captures me and I've been a huge fan for many years now. Whilst I'll happily watch his work at any time of year, Halloween is the perfect season for it and I just love snuggling down feeling all cosy and spooky to enjoy them once again. What are your favourite spooky films?

Thanks for reading!

Webbox Festive Dog Treats*

Back in May this year, Custard and Vespa were asked to review a bunch of doggy treats from the wonderful brand Webbox and they absolutely loved the experience whilst I very much enjoyed filming them opening their hamper and tasting the different goodies. Webbox were kind enough once again to ask whether they'd like to try out their brand new festive range and after last time, I knew it would be a huge mistake to pass up this opportunity!

dog food

I have no shame in admitting that I just have to get my dogs on board during any festive season (right now I'm contemplating getting Vespa a little skeleton t-shirt to wear for Halloween) and I've always put a little something underneath the Christmas tree for them. This year will only be Vespa's second Christmas with us but as a little family of four, it's our first in our new house which will be super exciting and we plan on actually buying some sort of tree because back in Flat 4, we had no space for one. I've been seeing around lately that shops seem to be baring pets in mind even more and it's no surprise really from a marketing point of view because people like me just love buying novelty gifts for their furry family members.

dog hamper

Because my Schnauzer in particular seems to lack any brain signals that tell her when she's had enough food, I decided to capture some footage of my dogs eating some of the treats over the course of about a week so I wasn't over feeding them all in one go. Included in the box was some doggy chocolate which was interesting and even my little Yorkie boy who can be a tad fussy really loved the chocolate! 

Included in the range are some Christmas themed toys and Custard went crazy for the stripy legged reindeer! Vespa has never shown an interest in any kind of toy but the treats he absolutely adored and it was nice to see a sometimes fussy eater not turn his nose up at anything he was offered. We're going to be saving the roast, pudding, bauble and deli box for nearer to Christmas so the dogs have something extra yummy for Christmas day but this entire box and it's contents had such a festive feel to it and the dogs are having an amazing time sampling all of the goodies! Thanks Webbox!

christmas dog

If you're interested in treating your furbabies to some extra special goodies this year, the festive range is now available online and in some shops and supermarkets such as Asda, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury's and I also remember seeing them in Home Bargains too. Speaking or bargains, the entire range is so reasonably priced and the amount you get for your money is such good value. Plus my dogs went crazy every time I went to their box to give them something new to try so I think that says a lot about what they think! If you're a cat parent there is also a range of cat products and toys available so everyone can get involved! I'll pop our video below so you can see what the dogs thought to opening their box and trying some of the goodies inside. I think it's safe to say they had a fantastic time!

Thanks for reading,

*This hamper was sent to my dogs Custard and Vespa from Webbox in exchange for a blog post reviewing the treats and experience*

*James and I both stick to a vegan diet but the dogs do not as it isn't their choice and they have different nutritional requirements. If a brand want to send them bits to try, that's perfectly okay with us*

Inktober So Far

The optimist / fool that I am thought I could seriously commit to the Inktober challenge this year and if there's one thing I have learnt about myself whilst trying, it's that if I don't have a decent allocated amount of time to sit and draw, nothing happens and I end up super frustrated. The first week of October I was away in Paris and despite taking a sketchbook and a selection of pens with me I just didn't find the time or the energy to do an Inktober entry. I also still struggle with my hand injury and whether I like it or not, I just cannot manage to draw every single day. I thought about doing some tiny doodles but again I leant that I really do like to take my time and put a lot of effort into my work, I'm not a half measures kind of person at all. But anyway, I wanted to share some of this years pieces and tell you a little bit about them all.

cupcake painting

For a while, I've wanted to improve on how I paint and draw cupcake frosting. It may sound silly, but I've always wanted to be able to create really realistic looking frosting and pull off those swirly curves and shadows. I did this watercolour piece in a bid to practice and it was also inspired by Cloud Cakes, the vegan cafe we kept visiting whilst in Paris. This piece is also currently for sale in my shop!

potion harry potter

This potion bottle wasn't really part of Inktober as I did it at the end of September but it was what I like to think of as a warm up piece. I've always been fascinated with the misty foggy patterns that surround witchy tattoos and I guess that's what inspired this piece. My Mum also gave me her posh watercolour paint set and this piece was the first using the new paints and I could see an unbelievable difference in the quality whilst using them. I especially love the pink tones!

disney artwork

On one of the days I really wasn't feeling thinking for myself so I chose to paint Lucifer, the Disney character I've been obsessed with ever since buying the soft toy in Disneyland a couple of weeks back. I've decided to give the Lucider painting away this month so if you're interested, head over to my Twitter for the pinned tweet at the top of my profile for a chance to win him!

Are you doing Inktober this year and have you learnt anything about yourself in doing so? If not, would you ever consider a drawing challenge like this?

Thanks for reading,

Preparing For A Fair

With Christmas fast approaching, I've booked myself a table at a couple of events coming up in my local area and it occurred to me that some people have never done a craft fair before so I thought I would fill you in on how I prepare myself for mine. My first fair was around 6 years ago now and I used to do quite a few. I had lots of motivation especially since my first one was booming but I've never had another like it. The past few I've done have been an epic waste of time and I haven't even made money back to cover the cost of my table space. I don't take this personally because having learnt the nature of craft fairs and stalls now, each day could go either way and you usually get a feel for it along with the other people around you who may have stalls. This years Christmas fairs will be my first under the name Pastel Elixir and the very first time I'll be selling my artwork on gift ware and prints. My past experience has all been with selling handmade jewellery that I used to make under the name Ellis in Wonderland so I thought it would be fun to share some old photos of past stalls throughout this post.

A jewellery stall I did from a few years ago!

1. Get A Cash Box
You don't necessarily have to have a proper lock and key cash box (although it is considered safer, just don't leave it unattended!) for a craft fair but it certainly helps to have somewhere to keep the money you take and give out. My cash box is in the loft somewhere and I really need to dig it out but whilst we're talking money, have a bit of a float ready before you open up because you can't guarantee people will have the right change on them. If a customer only has a note and you can't give them change, you may end up missing out on a sale.

2. Variety
Obviously if you stick to one kind of craft then this one doesn't matter too much, but even still say you're a crafter of greeting cards, have an example of all the different themes you can cater for. Just because the fairs I'll be doing later this year are 'Christmas' fairs, it doesn't mean I'll stick to just Christmas cards. I plan to have a bit of everything out on my tables just to demonstrate what can be expected from my shop as sometimes people won't be out shopping for a specific thing but may feel inspired by your overall brand.

3. Try Not To Be Too Shy
Whilst I prefer to be left alone when I'm shopping anywhere, I also like a little greeting if I enter a shop and it shouldn't be much different when approaching a stall. I always slip a polite hello in there and offer help if they need it, but never go to the extent of 'Lush' staff and pester people non stop. I tend to be super shy with people especially at the start of the day but you may find you open up a little more as time goes on and you never know who you might meet!

4. Interact With Other Sellers
If you've done stalls and fairs before, you may be familiar with the sense of being assessed and watched constantly by other sellers at their tables, especially as you set up for the day. In the past I've felt competitive eyes on me but I've always found the best way to combat this is to be friendly, say hello and show an interest in the other sellers crafts. Ask them how their day is going, what has been their most popular product, when did they start their business? Network and interact, you may make a friend!

5. Wrap Up Warm
I'm not so sure about summer fairs because all of the ones I've ever done have been indoors or outside in the middle of winter, but always make sure you wrap up warm with layers, take a flask if thats your thing and a few snacks. You'll find standing behind a table all day is super knackering and also you get quite chilly. I like to take gloves and my hand warmers because of my hand injury I tend to get quite stiff and sore. If you have a little chair, take one of those too so you're not constantly on your feet.

6. Run Through Your Display Beforehand
To help make the setting up of your table a bit easier and smoother, you could have a run through of the display you'd like to achieve before the fair itself. Take a photo of what you build so you can recreate it on the day with very few hiccups. It saves potential embarrassment and stress if you discover something doesn't go as you expected and it'll make setting up on the day much quicker too. Charity shops are also a great place to find some quirky bits and pieces like small wooden crates or display boxes that you can up-cycle to use on your table for standing things on, leaning bits up against etc etc... 

7. Take A Notebook
I always take a notebook with me to events so I can keep track of exactly what I sell and also if I end up taking someone's details for a custom order. It's also a great idea to have some business cards on the table so if people like what you do, they've got your information handy!

8. Have Fun!
From speaking to other people who attend craft fairs and have stalls, it's pretty much one of those things where you love it or you hate it. I fall into the 'hate it' category as I'm such a huge introvert, socially anxious and hate dealing with money, but what I do try is to have a bit of fun, soak up the experience and if possible take a friend or family member for support.

These are just a handful of tips I've gathered together from experience with stalls over the past few years and something else I'll add is do a bit of research into the fair you'll be attending before you go and don't pay silly money for a table because some places will try and rip you off big time. As I mentioned at the start of this post, there have been times when I've not made back what I've paid for a table space so make sure it's within your budget and that it's not too much of a loss if you go home having not made very much. It happens, it's not all a huge money making gig every single time but when you have a successful day it's a brilliant feeling, especially since stalls are an awesome place for on-the-spot feedback from your customers. I'm super excited to see the outcome of the fairs I've got lined up because they'll be the first time Pastel Elixir has been unleashed to the public!

Let me know if you've ever had a stall before and how was the experience for you?

Thanks for reading!

Elsie & Nell - An Etsy Shop

It's no secret that I LOVE small businesses and supporting them where I can. The gorgeous Laura from Elsie and Nell very kindly sent me a couple of goodies to feature on Instagram and I was that impressed by her work that I wanted to write a blog post to go alongside the photos I took to show off her brand even more, especially with the festive season fast approaching!

Upon entering the Elsie and Nell website, I didn't know where to look first; there are so many different categories to browse ranging from home wares to makeup accessories, stationery, gifts and a style to suit anybody. Laura sent me one of her adorable magic quote prints which I believe is A5 size, perhaps a fraction smaller but the quality is amazing with thick, pure white card and crisp jet black letting. Plus how fun and perfect is the Harry Potter themed makeup bag? This is such a decent size, especially for those of you who prefer to carry around a little bit more makeup or may be wanting a travel case for cosmetics. It's fairly big and I'll be using mine as a sketchbook and pen case for when I travel around. Again the quality is brilliant and the lettering is super sparkly, firmly in place and the glitter doesn't come off when touched (which can be a little annoying, can it not?).

harry potter gift

art prints

Included in my parcel was a little note from Laura on the back of one of her postcards and there is a whole section of them you can purchase from her shop for just £1 each. They'd make awesome little gifts if framed and so inexpensive too! What I also adored about the packaging from Elsie and Nell were the stickers, one decorating the outer packaging and one sealing shut the candy striped paper bag containing my treats. It was all so exciting and fun to open which is exactly why I prefer shopping with a small business. It just feels so much more thought out and personal.

Elsie and Nell will absolutely be joining my growing list of awesome small businesses and I'll be returning to the shop to buy my friends some cute little gifts for Christmas. With all of the different quotes available, it'd be difficult to not find one to suit the person you have in mind.

Thanks for reading!

Vienna House Dream Castle Hotel Review

To finish off this week's series of Paris themed blog posts, I thought I'd go into detail on where we stayed which was the Dream Castle hotel by the Austrian chain, Vienna House. I feel a little awkward with regards to what I'm about to say as I wouldn't go back to this hotel nor would I recommend it to others, but a review is a review and since we paid for this trip with our own money, I'm not obliged to sing it's praises, especially where they don't exist *ouch*.

We knew the hotel was close enough to the Disneyland Park's to get a free shuttle bus to the Disney Village which was perfect for us as we were travelling from the hotel to the train station daily, which is next door to the Disney Village. Little did we know upon arriving at the hotel however, was how 'Disney' like the hotel would be and really, it was more aimed at families with super young children rather than a couple's break. It was musketeer and King Arthur themed, with a mini arcade area for kids, pool tables and various photo opportunity points with statues.

Let's start with the free shuttle bus service. Shouldn't really complain too much I guess since this is a 'free' ride into the parks (if you ask me, the price of your hotel room covers the usage of the buses so it's not really free at all) but these are meant to run every 10-15 minutes. Having used the shuttle buses before from the Newport Bay hotel which is much closer to the parks, I can say these usually ran on time, but not to the Dream Castle. Morning's weren't as bad and we waited around 20 minutes for each bus apart from the last day when we were actually checking out of the hotel were we waiting literally 30 seconds, typically. But getting back to the hotel after a long day in the city, we were waiting at least half an hour each time and on one occasion it was a 40 minute wait.

When we first checked into the hotel, it took a further 30 minutes to be greeted by a member of staff as there was only one lady manning the desks as a queue started to form. Considering there were at least 4 spaces behind the front desks for staff to be present, it literally felt like when you're in a supermarket and the tills are closed despite the amount of people trying to pay. Check in was pretty quick and we were given our keys and directions to our room, however when we got to our corridor we noticed a foul smell like someone had dropped their guts. We laughed it off and decided it must just be a passing smell, but unfortunately it smelt the entire time we were there. Five stinking nights! The room itself wasn't smelly but it certainly could have been a lot cleaner...

The bathroom we got was an absolute disgrace and part of me feels like a bit of a snob for being what some may feel is quite picky but if there's one thing that makes me super uncomfortable in a hotel, it's a dirty looking shower and bath. To make matters worse, the water was never warm let alone hot and luckily I managed to get away with only washing my hair once whilst away for the week because it was torture having such a cold shower that dribbled out water and had no power behind it whatsoever. 

hotel paris

The room we got was an okay size, some of the space was taken up by a set of bunk beds which luckily had a curtain around them which you could draw across and pretend weren't there. Or banish away your kids, whichever you fancied really. I used the lower bunk as a dumping ground for my clothes and suitcase so this wasn't so bad. Our bed however had two measly pillows and I mean they were tiny, looking ridiculous on what must have been a queen sized bed. The bed was a little too soft for us but it wasn't terrible to sleep in, I think James suffered with it more than I did.

hotel disneyland
Screenshot from a vlog of our bed in the hotel room

We got free wifi in the hotel which is very important to me when travelling anywhere, I like to not worry about data usage and be able to watch Netflix or YouTube videos back in the hotel. We took our own teabags as we're crazy vegans and weren't able to take advantage of the teas/coffees that they left for us in the hotel room but the kettle worked fine and it meant we were able to cosy up in bed with the biscuits we took with us after a mad day in the city.

We tried out the all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant on the first evening just because it was easy after a day of travelling and at €30 a person along with our dietary requirements, we weren't really able to get our money's worth out of it so we didn't go again. One positive about the buffet though was the selection of cakes and puddings. Any sweet treat lover would have adored it as there was a range of tarts, doughnuts, sponge cakes, drizzles, pancakes wrapped around fruit and even a chocolate fondue with a selection of sweets, fruit and popcorn to make little kebabs with to dip into the chocolate. Kids would have loved this! We obviously weren't able to have any of it so instead I took a banana back to the room with me.

The breakfast was included in the hotel price and was a typical continental all you can eat job, always bustling and hectic - not the nicest of environments to wake up and go down to I have to say. On the first morning, we stuck to toast and a glass of orange juice but the following morning I discovered the soya milk tucked away behind the yoghurts so I was able to attempt a milky coffee with some cereals, toast and a fruit salad. It's a shame we couldn't try the croissants and it was the first time I'd seen things like scrambled eggs at one of these breakfasts but the veganism is our choice so tough luck. There were also some freshly baked baguettes available so what we did was took a whole one back to the table with us after cutting it in half and filled it with some of the vegetables from the breakfast bar like sweetcorn, olives, cucumber and beetroot, then wrapped it up for lunch later in the day. There was some 100% vegetable based butter available so the sarnies we made weren't bad at all. Aside from the food, I didn't like how close the tables were to each other and some mornings you were practically eating breakfast on the same table as the family next to you.

Back in the hotel room, one of the biggest things I struggled with was the lighting and I noticed my eyesight started to get really bad along with headaches the further into the week we got. The room didn't actually have any lighting apart from a dull lamp on either side of the bed and another on the desk area where the kettle was. Doing my makeup was an absolute nightmare as was vlogging, but my eyes started to hurt so much as time went on and I was always glad to get outside into natural daylight because even our window didn't let that much in.

Screenshot from a vlog of the lighting in the hotel room

We paid around £600 for the room for 5 nights plus city tax of around £2 a person per night. To be honest, if we'd have stayed at one of the other Disney hotels for that length of time, we would have paid quite a bit more and the reason we didn't just stay in Paris and get a train to Disneyland for the one day we spent there was the city tax was a lot more expensive in the city centre. Definitely something to think about when travelling next time though...would it have been cheaper to go with staying in the middle of Paris and not have to pay for the train travel cards from our hotel?

The only way I would return to a Disney hotel now is if we stayed at the actually Disneyland Hotel which costs mega bucks and I have heard it's not that much different in terms of quality and comfort, you're just paying for the experience of staying on the doorstep of the Disneyland Parks. After choosing a vegan lifestyle especially, it's clear to us now that Disneyland isn't a great choice and hopefully when we have a child of our own, we're able to afford to stay at the Disneyland Hotel and do the whole shebang with them.

Thanks for reading,

The Paris Itinerary

After a fun week away in Paris, I thought I'd capture everything we got up to and rather than do a post on each day I just threw everything together for a super jam packed photo diary style post so grab a cuppa and the biscuits! I go a bit more in depth around the food places we visited in this post if you were curious to know how we got on.

Day 1 - Travelling & Hotel First Impressions
After a rather stressful start (our lift to the train station never turned up) we eventually made it to Grantham where we caught the train to London. This felt super quick and when we arrived in London, we had a quick mooch around St Pancras to pass an hour, grabbed a soya Pumpkin Spice Latte from Pret then made our way to the Eurostar terminal. Getting through was just as quick, efficient and stress free (as possible) as the past two times I've been through so this was great, despite having to have a pat down which is always fun. It wasn't long before we were able to board our train and whizz across the channel to Lille where again, we were only waiting around 25 minutes before being able to get our next train. Upon arriving at our hotel, we were less than impressed to be quite honest but a whole post reviewing the hotel will be up at the weekend for those of you who are intrigued! We went down to dinner at the hotel then had a fairly early night ready for the next day of exploring.

Day 2 - The Catacombs and Notre Dame
The Catacombs was the place I was most excited to visit as I love anything wouldn't think it would you since I'm a bit of a pastel princess but I can honestly say that down there it's so peaceful and a truly incredible sight. Over six million Parisian remains rest 20 metres below Paris and it was like nothing I have ever seen before. If you're thinking of visiting the Catacombs, definitely grab a ticket online beforehand which you can collect in the city in a nearby wine shop and you can skip the enormous queue that goes around the block which apparently ends up being hours long! We also got given an audio guide which made the visit even more fascinating.

Paris catacombs

Paris catacombs

 We visited Notre Dame afterwards and I have to say, Disney got this entire place spot on in the movie. It's such a beautiful cathedral. It was a shame about the skimpy K-Pop dancers who were showing their ass cheeks right outside idea what that was all about. We also got a feel for the Paris metro and train systems - they're a little confusing but made me appreciate the London tube so much more after my experience with the Paris metros. They're full of people either pretending to be refugees or either are genuine people in need (they looked very clean and wore designer clothes so ya know) constantly begging for money and leaving notes on your seats with a sob story asking for more money. Very awkward and uncomfortable but hey the metro gets you around quickly, just don't make eye contact. We discovered a vegan cafe online called Cloud Cakes so decided to hunt it down. Turns out this was our new regular for the next three days and we couldn't get enough of their Pumpkin Spice Latte's, salads and sweet treats.

Notre Dame

Day 3 - The Louvre
Seeing the Mona Lisa was on my bucket list as was visiting the Louvre in general so this was an absolute must for us. Be warned though, it's absolutely enormous! So big that I ended up getting ridiculously tired and had to keep stopping for a sit down. After ages of walking through ancient artefacts, the Louvre houses thousands upon thousands of them, we got to the Mona Lisa and this was both an amazing yet terrible experience. There is no system in place for viewing her; you just have to barge your way in through hundreds of people all trying to do the same thing whilst the gallery staff just sit and watch. People get nasty, very rude and be prepared to be shoved, kicked, elbowed and sworn at. With James' help, I managed to get to the front to quickly see her and grab a snap and a tiny bit of video footage before giving up being abused and retreated to the back of the gallery room. Seeing the Mona Lisa though, is SUCH a bizarre feeling. She stares right at you no matter where you stand. You feel her assessing you and that smile...I can't quite decide what she means and it's a shame you can't stand long enough looking at her to try and work out for yourself what makes her so magnificent.
After this, we were in much need of some lunch and a proper sit down so we ventured off to Cloud Cakes again, then to an awesome place called Hank Pizza which was an entire pizzeria dedicated to vegan food. Amazing.

The Louvre

Mona Lisa

Day 4 - Palace of Versailles
I honestly didn't know what to expect for Versailles and I believe a lot of it was closed for renovations when we visited. A little disappointing that we still paid £18 each for a ticket and it was very much room after room of paintings of men in wigs. The ceilings were incredible though and they were my favourite parts of the palace, absolutely plastered in impressive paintings. It took us around 2 hours to get there from our hotel so I think we were wanting a little bit more of a wow factor after how far we travelled but we did it and that's that. Afterwards we headed back into the city centre and headed for Cloud Cakes for the third and final time before venturing off to find Hank Burger which was the burger version of what we had at the pizza place the day before.


Day 5 - Disneyland
Each time I visit Disneyland, I feel less and less in love and that's rather difficult for me to say but I have finally admitted to myself I'm more attached to the memories I have there with my parents rather than the parks themselves. It was great to go back, but now I doubt we'll go again until we have a child of our own who is old enough to appreciate it as we did when we were little. I think a huge off-put is the lack of food options for us as vegans and also the place just seems to get tackier, especially the Disney Village which seriously needs a good makeover and an update. Regardless, we did all of our favourite rides and I was gutted that Big Thunder Mountain was closed, but we got on everything else. It was nice to see the Pirates ride had been updated a little to include Jack Sparrow at various points. Wasn't too keen on the makeover Space Mountain has had as it's now Star Wars themed but at least they're trying. We got a very rare selfie in front of the castle which I adore and overall it was a hilarious day with my husband.

Disneyland Paris

Despite seeing a very large handful of awesome places and ticking a few off the bucket list, city breaks just aren't relaxing in the slightest and we were both nackered after the week, desperate to come home to see the dogs and have plenty of food options once again! I don't feel any desire to return to Paris now I've done it and did any of you notice we skipped seeing the Eiffel Tower? We passed it whilst on the train to Versailles and it looked that rubbish we didn't stop haha! I guess you could say we're not you're standard tourists who above all else loved the Catacombs the most but it was an adventure!

Next time though, we've decided to stay in the UK and find a lovely little cottage to take the dogs to. That sounds nice!

Thanks for reading,

Vegan Eating in France & Disneyland

As I spent last week in Paris, I wanted to do a bit of a series of blog posts on everything we got up to during our trip and one of the biggest challenges we faced was food. James and I decided to go completely vegan and change our lifestyle to be better, healthier and kinder to both the animals and the environment earlier this year and our trip to Paris was the first with our new diets. Being completely honest, neither of us did much research into eating vegan in France and we really should have because there are a few things to look out for.

For starters, the French don't see fish as meat so they will often label a fish dish as vegetarian. We both said to each other if it came to it then we would eat as vegetarians and not stress too much about the dairy if we really couldn't find somewhere suitable, so this was good to know since we were willing to consume a little bit of dairy but under no circumstances were we eating any kind of meat. So this was something to look out for in terms of even getting a vegetarian meal that could have been vegan friendly too, just not labelled. Luckily we did manage to eat completely vegan for the entire trip which I'm so relieved about; I'll admit on the first night I had a bit of an anxiety attack and was angry at myself for not researching into it before choosing Paris to visit. It's also considered very rude to ask a French restaurant to alter a dish even slightly so the pressure was on to find somewhere to eat without offending the country as well.

As we were in Paris to explore the city itself and weren't spending a great deal of time in Disneyland, we were able to do some research on the first night in the hotel and we circled on the map a little vegan cafe called Cloud Cakes near the Chatelet des Halles station and also in the same area were two vegan 'fast food' restaurants by the same business, Hank Pizza and Hank Burger. I say 'fast food' because it really was quick and was set out like a fast food place, but the food was awesome, healthy and the staff were super friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic about vegan food. We went to Cloud Cakes for lunch for three days in a row, enjoying their soya based pumpkin spiced lattes, vegan croissants and epic salad bowls and soups. After a mooch around the shops, we ventured off to find the Hank restaurants for dinner, first trying the pizza place and the next day returning to try the burger place. The restaurants were different buildings but on the same road so very easy to find. Their menu's were varied and the prices were incredibly reasonable, as were the portions! As I don't eat much we were able to box up my leftovers so we could take it back to the hotel with us for a snack later on.

vegan hot chocolate

pumpkin spice latte

Throughout the day and up until lunchtime, we had bags of crisps which we'd put into our suitcase, our glass bottles of water and fruit bars. These were just about enough but we're so glad we decided to fill our suitcases with snacks otherwise we'd have really struggled. Before I was a vegan, I would usually put some chocolate croissants or something similar into my bag from the continental breakfasts at the hotel but more on that side of things in just a sec. Taking snacks with you if you're a vegan is really important and we took packs of biscuits, green tea for the hotel room, some chocolate, crisps, nuts and fruit bars. Not the healthiest of foods but finding non-perishable items can be a little tricky. The first night we went to the all you can eat restaurant in the hotel for ease; it was €30 a person mind you so we didn't do it again, but I sneaked a couple of bananas back to the room from the pudding section to put in my bag for the following day. The all you can eat buffet consisted of a bit of veg, a tonne of meat, a fruit bowl and a huge selection of cakes which we couldn't eat so we really weren't able to get our money's worth of food.

vegan cake

vegan cake
The gorgeous sweet treats from Cloud Cakes in Paris

As for the continental breakfast at the hotel, before vegan life I was a huge lover of chocolate croissants and cereals. This time however, we were limited to toast on the first day as I didn't spot the soya milk until the next morning. Finding the soya milk meant that the following day I could make us a coffee and also try out some of the cereals. I had a fruit salad too one morning and to be honest it was a bit pathetic looking and it was a shame there wasn't a bowl of fruit to sneak away as that would have been ideal. For the toast, luckily they did a 100% vegetable based 'butter' and a couple of jams. On the last two days, we worked out that from the selection of veg available at breakfast like beetroot, sweetcorn, cucumber and olives, we could make ourselves baguette sandwiches to wrap up on the sly and pop into my bag so we totally did this and were amused to see other hotel users were also doing the same.

vegan burger

vegan coffee

Now time for a brutal, honest truth around eating vegan at Disneyland. It's virtually impossible. The Disney village has a handful of restaurants but after scouring the menus, non of these had a vegan option. On the second night, we settled for Annette's Diner and had the veggie burger which aside from the small ball of mozzarella on a stick holding the burger together, appeared to be suitable for us to eat so we just left the mozzarella ball on the side of our plates. Literally all of the Disney food places have a basic salad available but the problem with this is you're not getting what you need out of a meal so you start to feel quite ill. It's pretty much just leaves, perhaps some grated carrot and that's it. There is of course popcorn and crisps available from various points throughout the park but again, you won't last long just eating this before you start to feel run down and sick. The Agrabah Cafe in Adventure Land is meant to have a couple of vegan options, again it's an all you can eat place at €32 a head so pretty bloody extortionate, but we got turned away at around 4pm and they told us they were closed. Luckily we were only in the Disney parks on our last day and we took our DIY sandwiches from the breakfast buffets with us.

Mooching around Paris itself, we did stumble across one of those little healthcare, mini supermarket type shops which was 100% vegan so we went inside and got chatting to the owner who was a Chinese lady but spoke great English. We grabbed a Vego chocolate bar each which I've been dying to try for ages and these are so delicious! Being quite big too, we ended up sharing the two bars as a snack for the following two days so they lasted us well considering they are just chocolate bars.

In all honesty, it's not like we went hungry but we were both ridiculously glad to get home to our own kitchen and eat a decent variety of food. I can't imagine ever returning to Disneyland now as a vegan and staying in one of their hotels because even just one day of being on the rides and wondering around nackering yourself out and not having the correct fuel to live off makes you feel so poorly and you end up not really enjoying yourself as much. Apparently even the fries and vegetables cooked on the Disney premises contain meat stock so it can be really difficult to know for sure what you're eating and it made even picking a vegetarian option very confusing. But, we managed the entire trip on a vegan diet despite it being painfully difficult at times. It's just a shame places as big as Disney don't offer more of a variety of food...don't even get me started on the prices of their meals!

Have you ever been away somewhere and had trouble finding somewhere for your dietary requirements? I'd love to know how you tackled it!

Thanks for reading,

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