Berlin - day three (our last full day).

23.5.16

For our third and final full day in Berlin we took things a bit steadier and revisited a few sights we had seen on our first day. It was another scorcher of a day but with a cool breeze, which was most welcome, but we were well and truly flagging after a busy couple of days.

Day three:

* We walked to the market at Mauerpark, stopping for breakfast on the way, and spent ages looking at all the amazing stalls. We bought a couple of prints for our home after a lot of deliberating on which ones to choose. I also treated myself to a new ring to add to my collection. 

* After the market we hopped on the U-bahn and went back to the area we went to on our first day for another nosy. We spent some time at the Holocaust Memorial dedicated to the Jewish victims of WWII. We also spent some more time near Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building.

* Our intention was to go on a river tour but our aching legs couldn't carry us that far down the river so instead we tracked down Dunkin Donuts (on my request) and enjoyed a donut and a coffee in the blazing sunshine, watching the world (and various tour groups) go by. People watching is the best!


* We eventually admitted defeat and headed back to our apartment for a well earned rest and to research somewhere nice to go for our final evening meal.

* We had dinner at Onkel Ho where the food was really good. I tried a tofu curry which had such a delicious sauce but tofu, as much as I want to love it, is definitely not for me. Our night was cut short as I unfortunately didn't feel too good (damn chronic fatigue syndrome). Too much walking and sunshine and not enough water drinking does not equal a functioning Victoria. 

* We packed our cases and hit the hay, ready for our flight the next morning.

We had such a lovely time in Berlin and we would really recommend it if you're looking to book a city break. We flew from East Midlands with Ryanair and our flights were really reasonable. We stayed in an apartment which we booked through Air BnB. If you fancy a change from a hotel then apartments are such a neat idea. We got ours for just over £40 a night which is so cheap! Plus our host was lovely. The location of our apartment ideally would have been closer to the underground station t make it less tiring for us to explore but nonetheless it was still a great shout.

I hope this has been helpful! 

 
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Berlin - day two.

17.5.16

Day two was our favourite of the trip. The weather was glorious again, we had caught up on sleep from our early flight the day before and we were excited to explore Berlin together. I knew my energy levels were only going to last so long so this was the day we hoped to see the most sights while my legs could carry me!

Day two

* We explored a little bit of our neighbourhood, Prenzlauer Berg, taking in the surroundings and the sunshine. On Daisy's recommendation we tracked down bJuice as I wanted to counteract the huge burger I had eaten the night before with a healthy breakfast. The juices were really tasty, mine had such a fiery kick of ginger in it which did a great job of perking me up, but the best bit was Paul's face when the man told him the price ;)

* After our juices we walked to Alexanderplatz square to find the sightseeing buses, stopping for iced coffees on the way at Type Hype which was a coffee shop and an amazing shop all in one. 

* We hopped on a bus with our day passes and had the lower level all to ourselves, welcoming some shade and a much needed sit down. 

* We stayed on the bus for a while, taking in the sights, until we made it to Checkpoint Charlie when we hopped off for a stroll around.

* There is quite a bit of hustle and bustle around the Checkpoint Charlie stop but it's worth a look. We visited a small information centre which provided a lot of information about the checkpoint and different events which have taken place over the years, such as people trying to get over the wall and being smuggled in car boots. 

* We stopped for a bite to eat, nowhere fancy but hello halloumi kebab(!), and to watch the world go by for a little while. 


* Our next stop was the Topography of Terror Museum which is close to Checkpoint Charlie. On our way there we stumbled upon another photobooth so, of course, we got another strip of photos done. 

* We spent some time inside the museum and saw the remnants of the Berlin Wall outside. 

* Then it was time to catch the last bus of the day back to our starting point, and navigate our way back to our apartment on the U-bahn.

* As the sun was still shining we stopped at a delightful place near our apartment called CAFE Gestern Heute & Morgen and sat outside with a beer (him), prosecco (me) and a slice of vegan chocolate cherry cake (also me). 

* After a rest at the apartment we dressed up for dinner and had an amazing tapas feast at Tapitas. What could be better than chatting the night away with your best friend with lots of tapas and red wine. A great end to the day. 


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The April Pawsome box.

16.5.16

Occasionally Lily and Lola get to review some cool things all in the name of blogging, and they recently got the chance to try a Pawsomebox. Subscription boxes are all over the place whether they contain beauty products, food, vegan snacks, stationery, hair accessories, and pets don't get left out either. Pawsomebox is a subscription service where you complete an online profile about your pet and in return they receive goodies catered to their needs/interests. There is no obligation to sign up after receiving your first box, but if you do wish to sign up there are different subscription lengths to choose from.

Lily and Lola received the April Pawsomebox which contained a mixture of treats, toys and practical items.


Lily and Lola loved both of the edible items in the box (no surprises there then). NOM are healthy tea-infused biscuits which are oven baked. They come in different varieties but we received the "fresh breath" variety which is quite fitting as Lily and Lola do suffer from the occasional bit of death-breath. I definitely noticed a nicer aroma in their mouths after they polished off one of these biscuits.

The dried chicken filet treats have also been popular. I did worry initially that they would be too hard for Lily and Lola to manage. They only have a handful of teeth left which are only teeny tiny so they do prefer softer food/treats. They have been fine with these though! These 100% natural treats are low in fat and sugar free. 


The Biospotix flea treatments are a welcome addition to the box. It is a 100% natural solution to protect your dog from fleas, ticks and mosquitos, and the box has a 5 month supply. Obviously it's important to keep your pets free from these nasty critters and flea treatment is really expensive, so this is a great high value item to receive. 

Sadly Lily and Lola don't have a huge interest in toys and they only have teeny tiny mouths with very little teeth, so any kind of 'fetch' or tug toys are out of the question. They have never chased a ball or a boomerang and at their ripe old age I doubt they ever will. However the toys included were very cute (a squeaky set of teeth and a Garfield boomerang) and would be perfect for a slightly larger dog.

I should note that the box I received was a general selection of the items available for dogs of Lily and Lola's size, and the box wasn't catered to their specific interests. If I were to subscribe, which I would consider in the future, I would complete the online profile which hopefully would provide boxes full of healthy dog food and treats with some of the practical items as well.

If you want to give a box a whirl with no obligation to subscribe, get £5 off using the code: ukb4zmm9  Happy shopping!

* We received one complimentary Pawsomebox to try and share with you.

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Giraffe, Sheffield (new Spring menu).

14.5.16

Last week we had a lil' midweek date night courtesy of the lovely folk at Giraffe in Meadowhall. Neither of us have been to a Giraffe restaurant before but we were really impressed. First things first our waitress (Megan J) was so lovely! It was a real breath of fresh air to be served by someone really friendly and who engaged in conversation with us. She gave us recommendations when we were struggling to choose what to order and was attentive without being over the top.

We had a great evening trying out the new menu and we would definitely go back to try Giraffe again for lots of reasons.

* There are plenty of healthy options to choose from so if you're watching your calories you can still eat out and not feel guilty about it. Salads, veggie curries, noodle dishes. Even some of the naughtier dishes are served with healthy slaw or salad.

* There is a special deal on some drinks which makes them half price at certain times so you can go steady on the final bill if you stick with certain beers and cocktails. 

* There are plenty of vegetarian options to choose from and a handful of vegan options too. The vegan dishes aren't marked on the menu but they are identified on the website, so you can check what's available beforehand. The website also indicates which dishes are suitable for coeliacs. 

* Last but certainly not least there was a Pinot Grigio Rose on the menu which is my favourite type of wine. Often restaurants only have sweet rose which doesn't float my boat so next time I will make sure I'm not driving so I can have a glass or two!

Drinks: Red Stripe beer (half price) / sunshine coast iced tea
Starter: Nachos Nirvana

The nachos were delicious! There is the option to have them with chicken and chorizo but we went for the vegetarian option as I'm not eating meat at the moment. There were plenty for two people and plenty of toppings to go around. Nothing worse than a dry nacho with nothing to dip in!

Mains: halloumi and falafel burger (me) / slow-cooked jerk ribs (Paul)
Sides: Sunshine Slaw / beer battered onion rings
Pud: churros

The veggie burger I tried was a step up from the usual bog standard veggie option at other places I have been to. It was huge and packed full of quinoa sprouts, leaves, roasted pepper and tzatziki sauce. There were a lot of flavours going on but they worked really well together.

Paul said the ribs were really tasty and his side option (which I tried), the Sunshine Slaw, tasted really fresh and tangy. The onion rings were good. Not the best I've ever had but good nonetheless.

I've always wanted to try churros and, even though I was pretty full by this point, I was determined to fulfil my churro wish! We got a portion to share (but they do a sharing size too) and I loved them. Sugary, cinnamony, warm, and the dipping sauce was divine!

A big thank you to Giraffe for inviting us to try the new menu. We will be back I'm sure of it!

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Berlin - day one.

13.5.16

Months and months ago we booked a trip to Berlin for the start of May, thinking that my CFS would have cleared up and it would be the perfect long weekend to cram in lots of sightseeing, food and drink! As May approached it was clear that I wasn't going to have made a full and miraculous recovery but as our trip was bought and paid for we would be going ahead with it anyway, with a few little adjustments.

Instead of making an action packed itinerary for the three day trip we decided to play the whole thing by ear and do whatever we felt up to doing. This meant that we wouldn't see and do a few main touristy things but that's okay. There's always next time!

We had to wake up at 2:30am for our flight so we were pretty tired before we even began, but there's something about waking up in the middle of the night for a flight which is quite exciting, don't you think?

We were greeted by glorious sunshine and a perfect weather forecast for the weekend ahead, so off we went..!


Day one:

* We navigated the S-Bahn from the airport to Prenzlauer Berg to find our apartment, using directions from our lovely AirBnB host. Using public transport is not my forte, and following directions isn't a skill either come to think of it, but we made it thanks to some detailed notes our host had emailed us in the run up to our trip.

* We settled in at the apartment, having a well earned sit down. We used this time to get on the WiFi to formulate a plan of action for the rest of the day.

* We headed out into the sunshine to walk back to the station, this time using the U-Bahn to take us over to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building for a nosy and a spot of lunch.

* A combination of sleep deprivation, sunshine and a carb-filled lunch made us feel very sleepy so we soaked up some sunshine in the Tiergarten for an hour or so.

* After a stroll around the park we went back to our apartment to freshen up for dinner, taking an accidental two hour nap.

* TripAdvisor came up trumps with a few highly rated restaurants in the area so we decided to try The Bird, which was a short walk from our apartment. It was fully booked for the evening so we grabbed a couple of seats at the bar (we were far too tired to find somewhere else) and had our dinner, and a few beers, there.

* Finally we collapsed into bed for a well earned snooze!

   
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Life lately (dealing with CFS, cruelty free beauty buying, and daydreaming about Disney World).

12.5.16

"Life is a rollercoaster". The wise words of Ronan Keating and a phrase my friend Claire and I like to throw around quite often. That's how the past few months have been for me, a rather long rollercoaster with lots of twists and turns!

As some of you will know I've been unwell since last August when I was really poorly with glandular fever, which has resulted in a diagnosis of CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). It's a fluctuating condition where I have good days and bad days. Unfortunately on the bad days I feel like I have been hit by a truck. I have been waiting months to see a CFS specialist and I finally had my appointment last week so I feel like that's a step in the right direction. It was only an hour's session but I have some tips around diet, sleeping, and pacing, that I'm going to take on board and a workshop I need to attend in a couple of weeks time, so hopefully I can make some improvements over the next few weeks.


Our plan to go to New York this December has been put on hold as my symptoms seem to get worse in cold weather. A couple of non-stop days in Berlin was tough so a lengthier action-packed holiday would be really difficult. I feel pretty sad about this but hopefully we can go another time and experience the mayhem when I am feeling a little better.

So on the agenda instead: a sunny holiday! I have been daydreaming about a trip to Orlando. Yes I know it's not exactly a relaxing break but you can definitely mix up busy days with pool/waterpark/shopping days. I love watching Orlando vlogs on YouTube. If I can't go myself then YouTube is the next best thing! A few favourites are:

* Helen Anderson's "Florida Diary #1" and "Florida Diary #2"
* Inthefrow's "Besties at Disneyworld"
* Laura Giknis' "Ultimate Disney World vlog and review"
* The entire See Ya Real Soon channel
* Stephanie's "Disney Wedding"
* Tamsin's recent Disney vlogs

I'm sure I will have missed some corkers. If so, be a doll and leave the links below for me!

In other news, I recently got my head out of the sand when it comes to beauty products and from now on will only be supporting companies who don't test on animals. This means having to ditch a lot of my firm favourites and find alternatives so I'll be doing a few beauty posts in the near future once I've given a few new products a decent test run. The hardest thing to replace was my Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation which is the only foundation that makes my acne-scarred, super-shiny skin look half decent so I may be looking slightly ropey in future posts. Apologies in advance!


This has been a real mish-mash hasn't it?! Until next time..!
 
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Polaroid photo printing "Polaroid 3000" [from Cheerz].

9.5.16

There's something special about having an album of photos to look back on in the future, or displaying photos in frames around the house, and I don't get photos printed enough even though I vow to do so every year when I make my New Year's Resolutions!

You may remember towards the end of last year I worked with Cheerz to get some photos printed and I was really pleased with the quality and customer service (you can read that post here). They recently got back in touch to let me know about their new Polaroid 3000 product where, for £15, you get a box of 18 photos printed in the style of a polaroid photo using images uploaded from your computer or Instagram and Facebook accounts. 


Having test driven the new Polaroid product I am really pleased with the order process and the end result! Some images were taken from my Instagram page and the rest from my computer. I popped the Polaroid filter over some images to brighten them up, and others I left as they were. It was easy to add the filter and remove it to compare both options. There is an added extra feature to have text on the bottom of each photo but I chose to leave all of mine blank.

The process of uploading and editing was really straightforward and quick to do, and my order arrived well packaged up just a few days later. The only problem was picking out 18 photos. Tough! I will definitely be back to order another set in the near future. 

I have displayed a few of my photos on a clip board frame (from Dunelm) and the rest will be dotted around my dressing table with a few others I already have displayed there (using twine and mini wooden pegs).

Are you a fan of these Polaroid pics?

* I received a complimentary set of Polaroid photos from Cheerz for reviewing purposes.

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The art of sleeping.

30.4.16

Read "the art of getting by" here!

For most of my life I have been a lover of sleep and a heavy sleeper at that, which is funny because my mum says as a baby I never slept (sorry mum!) so I imagine I was making up for lost time in my teens and early 20s when I would get home from school/work and fall asleep at 8pm, waking up fully clothed the next morning wondering what had happened! In the pre-Lily and Lola days I would sleep till lunchtime on weekends and then go to bed early in the evenings. I bloody loved sleep! 

Then I got ill with glandular fever last summer and sleep was so important in order for me to rest and for my body to fix whatever needed to be fixed. At first sleep wasn't a problem at all and I would get at least 8 hours a night, maybe waking once or twice in the early hours but always nodding back off again.

A few months ago, when I was feeling anxious about a diagnosis of CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and down about feeling poorly every day, my sleep started to suffer. Sunday nights were the worst when I would lay awake all night wondering how I would get through the week ahead. Then Sunday night insomnia turned into every night and before I knew it I felt like a zombie. I had gone from a heavy sleeper to the polar opposite, either laying awake all night or getting very light sleep where I would wake every 30 minutes or so. I never felt refreshed in the mornings. Some nights I would get really upset because all I wanted to do was sleep but I knew I was over thinking things way too much.

In this post I will share a few things which helped me when I was struggling. I hope they are useful to you if you're going through something similar. 
- For a temporary fix, on Sunday evenings mainly, I would take Boots Sleepeaze tablets (the type behind the pharmacy counter, not the herbal variety) in the highest strength. If taken correctly, 20 minutes before bed, and if I allowed myself to relax during that time i.e. no telly, no phone, no reading, no in depth conversation, they would make me feel warm and fuzzy and help me to get a decent nights sleep.

- The combination of the Boots Botanics Lavender Spray with Bach Rescue Night Drops is so good. The spray has a relaxing and soothing scent which I would spray on to our pillows and duvet, and I would use the Bach Rescue drops straight onto my tongue. The drops are amazing and I can't put into words why, but they're magic! 

- Luckily we have black out curtains so our bedroom is dark even when it's light outside, but we realised that a light from the TV was causing the room to be lit up ever so slightly. Since turning the TV off by the main socket before bed we have both slept better being in total darkness.

- I used to, and occasionally still do, listen to/watch videos by The Honest Guys on YouTube. I particular like their guided sleep talk-downs (such as this one) and their guardian angel guided meditation (which made me cry like a baby at the end). I'm also really into classical music in general and I have a real penchant for Disney songs played on the piano so I'm a fan of this video.

- A tip my acupuncturist gave me was to get out of bed and occupy yourself with something else if you can't sleep, instead of laying in bed thinking about why you're not sleeping. This is something I wish I had done more. He recommended going into a different room to read or watch tv as you will soon find that you can't keep your eyes open, then you can pop back into bed.

- Bedtime yoga. A lot of yoga routines don't suit me as I can't be stood up for too long, but someone recommended Yin yoga to me so I was very excited when the lovely Adrienne (from Yoga with Adrienne) released an Intro to Yin video. This routine is amazing as it incorporates lots of pillows and blankets and it is all seated, plus it gets my circulation moving which makes me feel very warm and cosy, ready for bedtime.

- Easier said than done but for me the key was to remove, or distract myself from, anxiety/worry in order to sleep properly. I am still working on this one as some things, such as health, are out of my control, but I find writing things down, talking to friends/family, and trying to keep a positive mental attitude all help a little.

 All available at Boots  

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