Author Archives: Princess Fiona

A little better

Standard

I really hate this time of year, long, dark nights, near constant rain and the feeling of gloom that Spring is so far away. I don’t like feeling cold and having having to wear jumpers and all these autumn leaves are just so slippery. So if you feel the same as me here are some things that have been making me feel a little better lately.

Lush products

I remembering discovering Lush for the first time when I was 17 and on a day out in Nottingham. My best friend and I loved it and I got so excited going in and looking at all the different products. Then the smell got on my nerves and gave me a headache and I didn’t go near Lush for years and years. But recently I’ve really got back into their products, for me Lush is about an indulgent bath bomb. Butterball is my absolute favourite, as it has fleks of cocoa butter in and your skin is so soft after, but I have been experimenting with some new ones and cannot wait to try the sakura bomb.

New shoes

What happened to Clarks?! Seriously I could buy their whole Autumn/Winter range, it’s stylish, funky, smart, comfortable and well made. I cracked the other day when there was 20% off and bought this pair and this pair. What do you think?

Mulled cider

If anything is going to get me through this bleak, depressing time of year it’s mulled cider and lots of it. Hot, sweet, and spicy it never fails to warm me up.

Making lists

I have to motivate myself by making lists and setting goals and at the moment I’m enjoying making lots of lists and seeing what I can achieve by the end of the year.

American Horror Story

I said I wasn’t going to start watching any TV shows as I didn’t want my evenings to get sucked away, but then Netflix tempted me with American Horror Story and now I’m binge watching it. Each season is a completely new story and setting, but has some of the same actors and Jessica Lange is just AMAZING in every season so far.

 

Advertisements

My time in Dubai

Standard

So back in September I went to Dubai for a week, the main reason for my visit was to hang out with my friends Farida and Jeremy and their baby Layla. I’ve known them both for many years and I used to live with them ‘back in the day’. They have been living abroad for 3/4 years and recently relocated to Dubai, so I thought it was about time I visited them and saw a little bit of the Middle East.

Since telling people I was going to Dubai quite a few people have  rolled their eyes and asked if it’s as superficial as it is portrayed. I was well aware of these views before I went and to be honest if friends were not living there it’s unlikely I would have gone, BUT I absolutely loved it there. One week is a long time to spend there and ideally 3-5 days  would do fine, but I was happy to have as much time as possible catching up with Farida as we hadn’t since each other for three years. September is still super hot in Dubai with temperatures in the 40’s and humidity between 50-80%, but everywhere is air conditioned and I found it manageable most of the time, though I expect some people would not be comfortable with these conditions.

As I had a 10 hour overnight flight my first day was spent resting and chilling, though in the evening we did go to Ladies night at the Pure Lounge on 35th floor of the Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Residences. The deal at the Pure Lounge is free pink drinks (fizz and cocktails) from 9-11pm for all ladies. As we were eating there we could access the free drinks from when we arrived which was definitely a bonus. The food we had there was nice, I found the portion size quite small, so we ordered a few dishes and shared, the dessert was the stand out feature though, crème brulee with Pandam leaf. I really enjoyed it here, the vibe was great, there was a big terrace to hang out on and it was a nice,friendly crowd of people.

IMG_0827

For my whole trip I was completely relaxed and not bothered about running round and seeing everything. I was quite happy to lounge by the pool, cook lovely food, chat and drink wine.  A standout meal for me in Dubai was at the Boardwalk restaurant  which is part of Dubai Creek Golf Club it was one of those nights with great food and company and afterwards we went for shisha and mint tea. We also went for afternoon tea at The Palace Hotel.   Dubai has lots of afternoon tea options, we choose this one purely on the basis that it was a 10 minute walk away, but it proved to be a good choice. The Palace Hotel is beautiful and a perfect surrounding for  afternoon tea, I  decided to opt for the Arabic inspired afternoon tea, which contained many baked delights I hadn’t tried before like cardamon and saffron scones and rose-infused cheesecake.

Lounging in the pool with LaylaTea selection at The Palace HotelArabic dessertsAfternoon tea group

It wasn’t all gadding about eating and drinking in fancy restaurants though. We drove to Abu Dhabi one day to visit the Grand Mosque, had breakfast on the beach in front of the Burj al Arab and I visited Dubai museum along with the gold and spice souk and took a boat ride on the creek. Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi IMG_5853Dubai MuseumBreakfast on the beachOne of the highlights of my trip was having for an Emerati breakfast at the Emerati cultural centre. In Dubai I was overwhelmed by how British it felt, this is largely due to the amount of expats and at times it feels like a home from home with lots of British shops and brands. For me my favourite part of travelling is meeting local people and learning about their culture and traditions. The Emerati cultural centre hosts a breakfast where you can eat a typical Emerati breakfast (dates, dungaw, balaleet, chabab and khamir) while eating you are given a talk about different aspects of Emerati culture and invited to ask questions. It’s a very friendly and open atmosphere and I learned a great deal and enjoyed this experience.

Fiona at Emerati cultural Centre

As Farida’s apartment was only a ten minute walk from the Burj Khalifa there was no was I couldn’t go up the tallest building in the world. We decided to go up at sunset which is great to see, but not really the best conditions for getting good photographs as when the light goes you have to rely on the flash, which I don’t particularly like using and doesn’t work well against glass.  It’s crazy busy when you get up there, in my opinion they let too many people go up and getting to the window to get a photo requires some effort, but the views are breathtaking. One of my favourite things about Dubai was the architecture and amazing skyline. I felt completely overwhelmed and in awe driving in on my first day, for me it felt like I was entering a futuristic metropolis.

View of Dubai from Burj KhalifaIMG_5898

On my last day I went sand duning in the desert. Before I came to Dubai I met a few people who had visited and this activity was recommended to me. I booked my trip through Fun Tours, who I thought were good and reasonably priced. The tour includes pickup from your location, sand duning for 20-30 minutes then you are taken to a desert camp for a meal, camel ride, henna painting, and entertainment. To be honest I would have been happy with just the duning as the rest of the experience is very cheesy, but I knew what to expect so just embraced it. As we were duning a massive storm began and we were wizzing over the dunes with lightening striking around us which was both fun and a little scary.

sand duning in Dubai Fiona in the desert in Dubai

All in all I had a great time in Dubai. Believe me I know that Dubai isn’t great for everyone and have read many articles on the pros and cons of visiting.  But overall it exceeded my expectations and I had a fantastic trip.

Dubai 2014

Summer fun

Standard

It’s getting colder at night now, I can no longer wear sandals and I’ve taken to carrying a cardigan around with me. I’m sad to admit it, but it seems Summer is over. With that in mind I thought I would have a little photo review of my highlights from this Summer. To be honest it has felt like nothing big has happened  and I have just meandered along, but looking through these photos reminds me that I actually did more than I thought. In no particular order here are my highlights..

animal heads

bonfire

My friend Kyle came and visited me again recently. He was staying in an Airbnb place and I went round to check it out and we found some animal heads hidden in a cupboard, as expected we couldn’t resist putting them on and staging a photo. Afterwards we went down to the beach and had a bonfire, burnt table legs and cooked marshmallows. All in all a lovely smokey evening.

ruth and fiona

At the end of July my childhood best friend Ruth got married at Yarlington House in Somerset. It was a beautiful day and setting and great to see lots of old friends who I haven’t seen for a long time. As you can see Ruth looked beautiful too.

world cup

My friend Hülya and I have developed a tradition where on the World Cup final we paint our faces with the flags of the countries in the final and go and watch the game. I’m not a big football fan, but I got into it more this year and it was fun to watch it on the outdoor cinema screen on the beach, even if we did have to sneak under the fence.

Farida, Layla and Fiona Hornimen garden July 2014

I was so happy to meet up with my friend Farida and her daughter Layla, I hadn’t seen Farida since her Wedding day three years ago as she has been living abroad. We had a lovely afternoon in the Horniman Museum gardens chilling out and catching up. One afternoon wasn’t nearly enough time to catch up, so it was a good job I went to Dubai to visit her recently.

group pic 1

I usually like to make a big deal about my birthday with lots of organisation and forward planning, but this year I was happy to go out for a lovely Mexican meal at Carlito Burrito with lots of tequilla followed by dancing till the early hours. Smiles all round.

Burger in Barcelona

This year I’ve visited Barcelona four times as Daniël has been based there. To be honest I’ve not done much tourist related stuff over there, but have enjoyed hanging out, drinking good coffee, gin and cava and eating lots of food. The above picture shows me enjoying a lovely burger at Pim Pam burger.

Tilda and cone

The above picture shows me almost being speared with an icecream cone by my God daughter Matilda because I attempted to lift her up. Overall she enjoyed her trip to Brighton, but she certainly likes to do things on her own terms.

pride

Finally I’m recalling Brighton Pride it was my forth pride (I think) and to be honest I find it a little sad how corporate and commercial it has become in a short space of time. Each year the parade seems to be much smaller and full of supermarkets marching, promoting their goods. But as you can see from the picture we still managed to enjoy ourselves and have a good time.

It’s been nice recalling all of these events from the Summer, I’m sure I missed some out, but oh well.

Bluebell Railway

Standard

Every time my mum visits me we always try to plan action-packed, busy days which usually include visiting attractions, lots of walking and lovely food. For a few years we have been wanting to visit the Bluebell Railway, but as we could only get there via public transport logistics have always stopped us going. But as of March 2013 the line was extended to East Grinstead which makes it much easier to access via public transport, so from Brighton we were able to get a bus there.

For those of you who don’t know the Bluebell Railway is a heritage line where you can ride steam trains through preserved stations in East Sussex. My mum was visiting with her friend Judy, and on Saturday morning we all got up early and caught the bus to East Grinstead station. After getting a coffee in the converted carriage cafe we got a single ticket and rode the line through Kingscote, Horstead Keynes and got off at Sheffied Park. All of these stations are beautiful to see as they have been restored to how they would have looked when the stations were operating. At Sheffield Park we were able to go round a fantastic and informative museum and enjoyed some very interesting demonstrations on the steam train and in the signal box. I definitely know a few more things about trains than I did before. Sheffield park is a great station with a well stocked gift shop and very nice restaurant and ice cream stall. We all found the prices very reasonable, as sometimes at attractions refreshments can be very overpriced.

From Sheffield Park I was expecting to have to get a taxi to Lewes, but the staff at Bluebell informed me there was a bus we could get, so we saved a lot of money. All in all we had a fantastic day. It was great to be able to reach an attraction that had been on my radar for a while and the experience of it far exceeded my expectations.

Converted carriage cafeTickets for the railwayTrain signOn the trainold bike at Horstead KeynesTrains at Sheffield ParkSteam trainMe!Signal boxTrain in station

Dieppe

Standard

For years I’ve been wanting to get the ferry over from Newhaven to Dieppe, but for various reasons it never materialised until this weekend. A few months ago my friend Sally and I made a pact to go together and managed to organise it very quickly and more important cheaply.

The ferry crossing takes four hours and cost us just £30 return as foot passengers. We had a very calm and relaxing crossing and it really didn’t feel like it took too long. As we were on the 8:30 am ferry we arrived by 1:30 pm so it was nice to have a lazy afternoon to get our weekend started.

Sally and I both had the same agenda for Dieppe; eating, drinking and lounging round the town. This fitted in perfectly with the location and cozyness of the apartment. It seems like alot of people arrive in Dieppe then immediately drive on to another destination, but it really is worth sticking around and exploring. We spent our days dipping in and out of cafes and restaurants, walking up to the castle, swimming in the outdoor swimming pool and wandering around the town.

A high point of our stay was the apartment we stayed in which we found through airbnb. It was the first time I have used them and we were both thoroughly impressed. Though we were super lucky with the hosts we had, Jean-Marc and Dominque were so friendly and helpful towards us. They picked us up from the ferry, gave us a tour of the town and left lovely local treats for us to try in their amazing apartment. Usually when you stay in accommodation when on holiday it’s pretty sparse and lacks any individual character. But this place was a treasure trove of artifacts, trinkets, and collectables all presented in a stylish manner with an amazing lighting system! Each day I would find myself looking at something new which I had previously missed. 

On our last day rain prevented us going on our planned trip to Rouen, so we stayed in watching French films, eating left over cassoulet that we had made the night before along with Neufchâtel (Normandy soft, crumbly cheese) and bread and more wine!

All in all we had a superb trip, I wasn’t expecting to like Dieppe as much as I did and will definitely be going back at some point.

 

On the ferry to Dieppe          timer onSnacksbeautiful building in Dieppewine glasses doubleView of DieppePanoramaCassoletseeing double 

Kyle visiting

Standard

A couple of weekends ago my lovely friend Kyle came down to stay. Fantastic does not even begin to cover how great the weekend was, as with the best visits we ran around the whole time, barely sitting down but having so much fun. The  main aim of the Kyle’s stay was to make an epic salted caramel cake for my office bake off, which will be covered in a separate post, but we were able to fit lots of other activities in.

We spent most of the weekend eating and drinking really well and rather  frequently, as a result I’ve been going to the gym everyday since then! Saturday started off with a hearty breakfast of eggs royale. Kyle is the master of poached eggs, so observing his technique has hopefully improved mine a little. Having someone to cook breakfast with made me make a little more effort. I never make hollandaise when i’m just cooking for me, but I do enjoy doing that little bit more and trying new recipes.

Despite the fact Kyle lived in Brighton for 8 years he had never been on the dolphin derby on the pier, so obviously we set about rectifying that. The dolphin derby is a stall game where you throw balls that fall into holes and your dolphins race. It’s only a £1 and has become a tradition of mine whenever I go on the pier. This time we were lucky and I won, but gave the prize to Kyle to commemorate his first dolphin derby. Next we were going to go on a spinning, bouncing ride, but somehow Kyle persuaded me to go on the booster. The booster is that big ride at the end of Brighton pier that spins round over the sea then holds you at the top for about 5 minutes (though it fees much longer).You get good views from the top, and it’s pretty windy, but when it get going again its spins you really fast which is fun. I always get so nervous when I go on this ride, I enjoy it when it’s in motion but the waiting around 130 foot in the air does unsettle me a little. I’m sure i’ll go on it again though..

After all of the excitement we headed back to the house and started work on the cake. After making the toppings and sponges we made the decision to construct the cake the following day and get on with preparing dinner. I decided to make fondue again as Kyle had never had it, it’s relatively easy to make an feels like a special meal when you have it. If this wasn’t all enough for one day we then raced down to the cinema to watch Richard Ayode’s new film, The Double, which I really enjoyed and would recommend. The strength of the film for me was the highly stylised look of it, which builds up an unsettling feeling of gloom and dread, jarring sound design and great lead performance by Jesse Eisenberg.

Sunday was more relaxed with a morning of cake construction followed by burgers and chicken wings at Meat Liquor then goodbyes. Why do these kind of weekends come and go so quickly?!


eggs royale10177357_10152319666408815_1892332135_nkyle throwing pebblefiona with pandafiona and kyle carosel_MG_7162caramel cryingIMG_3923kyle with meat

Wake me up: Lumie Bodyclock GO 75

Standard

One of my aims when I moved into my new house was to sort out my waking up in the morning. This aim was part logistical as I’m now living slightly further from my work and have more of a bathroom schedule in the morning to consider. But really the main reason for wanting to change and improve my waking habits is the fact that in my old place it got to the point where I was rolling out of bed in a sleepy stupor ten minutes before I had to leave the house. Not a great start to the day, rushing around unorganised never being quite ready or finished before I had to be somewhere.

Before I moved I spent a few nights sleeping in my room without curtains and found that in the mornings I was waking up naturally very early, feeling refreshed and ready for the day. This experience convinced me that I really wanted to get a Lumie wakeup lamp. Basically the lamp emulates a sunrise gradually waking you up based on the settings you programme. For example say you set your alarm for 7am the light will start to come on from 20, 30 or 45 minutes before. Alongside this with the GO 75 model you can set certain sounds for when the alarm goes off, I personally prefer birdsong. One of my favourite features of the lamp is the sunset mode. I love getting into bed, setting the sunset time, 30 minutes in my case and gradually winding down to sleep as the light dims. This feature stops you faffing about in bed and losing loads of time doing unnecessary things.

Lumie lamps are not cheap, which has been the main factor in my decision to buy one. The GO 75 currently currently retails at £75, when I bought mine Boots had a 10% discount on them, so that was really the push I needed. Though if you buy the lamp from the Lumie site that have a 30 day trial, so if you decide the lamp is not for you then you can send it back and get a refund.

How I feel using the lamp is completely different to how I thought it would work. In my head I guessed there would be some initial awareness of the lamp first coming on, but most mornings I’ve woke up, the light is on with me and it’s felt more of a fluid process. Initially I had to change the location and placement of the lamp as if I was sleeping on a certain side I wasn’t that aware of the lamp.The main change that I’ve noticed since using this lamp is how I feel when I wake up in the morning. Before using the lamp I would snooze my alarm for between 30-45 minutes and feel like I wanted to sleep more and feel physically unable to get out of bed. Now when I wake up I feel I can get straight out of bed and don’t feel like I want to go back to sleep.

I feel coming into Spring is not the best time to test the lamp as most mornings when I wake up it’s light outside and as I’m still sleeping with the blinds open my room is naturally light when I wake up. Though since the clocks have changed  it’s slightly darker in the mornings I have noticed I feel more groggy in the mornings, I’m hoping this is because of the seasonal change and I will get used to it in a week or two, but I am very worried and curious about how well the lamp will work on a dark, depressing Winter morning.

Qualms I have with this model are, the fact that you can’t adjust the sound levels of the wake up sounds, I know that this is a feature of the next model up and maybe that’s what you pay for, but a gradual wake up light followed by a really loud alarm doesn’t seem so natural to me. I know people do complain that the menu settings for the lamp are rather frustrating, but the instruction videos that Lumie do are really useful and following that I had no problems.

Overall I am really pleased with this purchase as I got what I wanted from it; the ability to get up more easily in the morning and have more time for myself before I have to leave the house. I know other factors have contributed to realising this goal, but the Lumie is definitely a key part of my wake up process.

Lumie use