Friday, 30 March 2018

Planning my Disney outfits #3

With just under five weeks to go until our holiday to Walt Disney World, I've almost got my entire packing list confirmed. My excitement levels are rising rapidly so I thought it was about time I wrote another outfit post!

Although this outfit is a complete mish-mash of Disney themes and characters, I love the way all the different elements combine to make a surprisingly coordinated ensemble. 

My idea for a black and white outfit was born when I bought a pair of Cruella de Vil ears from Closet Geek Site. The red detail in the middle conveniently meant I could combine these with my beautiful bag from the Disney Store, so the outfit was already off to an excellent start!

Next up, I was browsing Etsy for more Disney apparel and came across this Minnie-themed vest on xHandmadeByAmyx's store. I was originally looking for a white dress with black polka dots as a continuation of the dalmatian theme, but this turned out to be too difficult to find in an adult size at a reasonable price! I love this vest and it'll be perfect for one of our many days at the Magic Kingdom. 

Lastly, I found these pretty black and white polka dot shorts on ASOS a few weeks ago. They're a lovely floaty material with a lace insert at the bottom, and I bought them on Double Points Day which made them an extra exciting purchase. 

I'm planning to wear either my white Skechers or my red flip flops with this outfit, depending on how much my feet are aching by the time I wear it. The phrase I utter most while we're in Florida is 'my feet hurt so much.'

I might manage to fit in one more outfit post before we go on holiday... keep a look out for it! 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Restaurant Review: Mint and Mustard

*This is really more of a 'look what I ate on Saturday night' post rather than a detailed review, but that title wasn't as catchy and didn't alliterate.*

We went to Penarth's Mint and Mustard restaurant last Saturday evening in advance of me starting my new job on Monday. As I've said before, I will happily use any excuse to go out for a nice meal.

We'd been to Mint and Mustard a couple of times in 2015 but hadn't been back since, so I was excited about giving it another go. It's quite fancy for a curry house which means it's a lovely place to go for a special occasion, so I decided to get dressed up for the event.

We went for poppadums, starters and mains on this occasion. The poppadums are all broken up in a basket when they're served, and they come with three different chutneys. My only complaint is that the little dishes are too small which means the contents run out too quickly! I'm not a fan of lime pickle and always avoid it, but the other two choices were amazing.

I ordered the Onion Palak Pakora for my starter as I had this dish back in 2015 and hadn't forgotten how much I loved it. Mint and Mustard's pakora is basically a fritter of shredded spinach, onion and water chestnuts. They taste just like onion bhajis (in my opinion) which is probably why I love them so much, and the accompanying sauce is delicious too. A little spicy, but just the right level of spice to complement the pakora. 

After sampling the delicious chutneys and my starter, I was extremely excited about the arrival of my main course. I wanted to try something a bit different on this visit so I ordered the Five Spiced Paneer Masala. As I've become a little obsessed with paneer after my recent visit to Vegetarian Food Studio and prefer vegetarian curries to meaty ones, it seemed like the perfect choice. 

This was SO GOOD. Although it was a little more spicy than the masala sauce I've had in other restaurants, I didn't mind as it was beautifully tasty and chock full of flavour. It was also a realistic portion size which meant I managed to eat nearly all of it rather than having to leave half a bowl of curry behind. I ordered a side of pilau rice to go with it, and we also shared a garlic naan. 

Our meal came to £59 in total. This included poppadums and chutneys, two starters, two mains, two sides of rice, a naan bread, a large diet Coke and a medium glass of wine. This is obviously much more than we'd usually pay for a curry! However, Mint and Mustard is quite an upmarket place and we were happy to pay more as it was a special occasion. 

Have you ever been to Mint and Mustard? Let me know what you thought! 

Friday, 16 March 2018

Fastpass+ Day!

There are so many exciting milestones to look forward to after you've booked a holiday to Walt Disney World. Firstly, there's ADR day 180 days in advance when you can start booking your restaurants (read more about the ADRs for our last holiday here). Then, 60 days in advance, you have Fastpass+ Day which marks the date when you can start booking your rides and/or experiences.

We don't book restaurants and fastpasses for every single day in advance as even I don't like to plan our trip THAT rigidly. It's nice to have some flexibility factored in if there's a bit of bad weather or you just fancy having a slower day outside of the parks on a particular day. However, when it comes to fastpass reservations, we always make sure we book our favourite rides for our first visit to each of the four parks at the 60-day mark.

I thought I'd blog about the eight fastpasses we absolutely can't do without... I'M SO EXCITED!

Magic Kingdom 

Space Mountain is one of my favourite rides in all of Walt Disney World. Although it isn't a huge thrill ride, it's got lots of dips and bumps and it runs in the dark and I love it! 

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a fairly new ride which means it's almost impossible to get on it quickly without a fastpass.  It's not a particularly long ride but it's visually spectacular with some very impressive technology behind it. 


Frozen Ever After isn't one of my favourite rides in Epcot, let along in Walt Disney World, but it's impossible to get on this ride without a fastpass unless you want to queue for two hours. It also breaks down quite regularly in our experience, so it's safest to book at least two fastpasses if you want a guaranteed spot. It's visually and audibly impressive so it's well worth using a fastpass for it.

Soarin' Around the World is another hugely popular ride in Epcot, and I do absolutely love this one. You can't book a fastpass for Frozen and Soarin' on the same day which means we usually plan our days in Epcot well in advance to make sure we secure all the fastpasses we need. I have no idea why I haven't got a photo of the Soarin' entrance... here's a nice photo of Epcot itself instead! 

Animal Kingdom 

Expedition Everest might be my favourite ride in the whole of Walt Disney World. It makes me SO HAPPY. We've prioritised fastpasses for rides at the recently-opened World of Avatar for our upcoming trip, but we've also planned an extra visit to Animal Kingdom to make sure we've got a fastpass for Expedition Everest. 

Kilimanjaro Safaris is the perfect early morning attraction, and we've always had our best safaris when we've made this our very first fastpass of the day.

Hollywood Studios 

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is probably one of the shortest rides on this list, but it's still the one I find most scary yet exhilarating. 

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is such a fun ride! I end up doing exactly the same pose for the ride photo every single time, even though I know exactly when it's coming. The beginning of this ride literally takes my breath away... you'll know what I mean if you've ever been on it. 

Which fastpasses do you rush to book on Fastpass+ Day? Let me know if you've got any more recommendations! 

Friday, 9 March 2018

Planning my Disney outfits #2

My regular readers and Instagram followers will already know that I blogged about my first planned Disney outfit a few weeks ago. As it's been a busy week and I'm running low on inspiration for new content, I thought I'd share another one! 

The idea for this outfit started when I found this much-coveted Mickey ice cream cone tshirt on eBay a few months ago. I kept spotting it all over Instagram after it had long disappeared from Primark, and I somehow found it on eBay at an even cheaper price. 

I knew lots of the accessories I already had would go perfectly with the tshirt as I own a LOT of pink things. However, I wasn't too sure what I should wear on the bottom half. I thought something pink or white might make me look like a marshmallow, and I didn't want to go for anything too dark as I thought it might clash. 

Enter these denim shorts from New Look! 

As is usually the case with all my clothes, these were discounted in the sale and just happened to be available in my size at the right time. Denim shorts are always handy because they go with anything and, as a bonus, the baby pink detail on these shorts means they're ideal for this outfit. 

I already had the perfect pair of Mickey ears from Luby and Lola which meant I wasn't tempted to buy yet another pair for this trip. I bought the baby pink bag when we were on honeymoon in Rome back in 2014, and the pink sandals were a Venetian gift from my in-laws a few years ago. And, just like that, another outfit was sorted! 

Keep a look-out for more outfit posts in the next few weeks as our holiday gets closer and closer...

Friday, 2 March 2018

Learning to appreciate the present moment

I used to think mindfulness was a load of mumbo-jumbo. It was one of those things I thought might be a nice concept for other people but would never work for me. However, now that I've got a better understanding of what mindfulness is and what it's trying to achieve, I feel as if it could make a huge difference if I give it enough of a chance.

I started seeing a counsellor from Macmillan last summer during a very low point. It was the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis and I was struggling. I was dreading the sessions because I didn't feel strong enough to talk about and delve into all my feelings, but these sessions were very different to the previous counselling I'd experienced and were based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

The counsellor focused on finding ways to help me to live life after cancer in a meaningful way and to enjoy what matters to me, rather than dredging up the past. As part of these sessions, she encouraged me to look at mindfulness in a completely different light. She also referred me to a few group sessions run by Macmillan on 'Living with Uncertainty' which further helped to quash my skepticism about the topic.

Let's start by talking about what mindfulness ISN'T (and what I used to think it was).

- Mindfulness isn't about trying to stop, block or change your thoughts.
- Mindfulness isn't about trying to control your thoughts and feelings.
- Mindfulness doesn't have to take up loads of your time.
- Mindfulness is nothing to do with relaxation.

Mindfulness is all about anchoring yourself in the present moment. If you're anything like me, your brain spends an awful lot of time in the past and even more time in the future. There have been times when I've got to work and can't remember anything about my drive to the office, or when I've eaten a chocolate bar and haven't got a clue what it tasted like. I hardly ever focus on the present moment because my brain is always frantically flitting between the past and the future. I'd never thought about it in that way before, but it means I'm missing out on all the pleasurable things the present moment might have to offer.

Crucially, mindfulness isn't about stopping those thoughts about the past, the future and everything in between. If it was, no one would be able to do it. As much as we'd all love to, we can't control our thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness is about acknowledging that your thoughts have drifted, noticing where you've drifted off to, and bringing yourself back to the present moment (if you want to).

Different things work for different people when it comes to mindfulness. I find that focusing on my breathing helps to bring me back to the present moment, but others find that focusing on sound,  smell or taste is more effective. Whenever I feel myself spiralling off into an anxiety chasm which won't end well for me or for anyone else, I'm trying really hard to take a few deep breaths and focus on my breathing. How it feels, how it sounds, how my lungs expand and contract.

I'm getting a little better at realising when I'm about to spiral, rather than only noticing when I've wasted half an hour and thought about every possible worst case scenario for the next twenty years. However, I've got a long way to go and I need to make sure I persevere with it and try to bring myself back to the present moment more and more often.

On that note, the great thing about this simple 'grounding' method is that you can do it anytime and anywhere. You can do it at your desk in work, on the sofa while you're drinking your hot chocolate, on your daily commute, while you're eating out, or while you're in bed trying to get to sleep. It only needs to take twenty seconds, and the more you do it the more it'll become second nature.

Along with trying to be more 'mindful', I'm finding that writing everything down helps me to process my thoughts and to get to grips with why I'm experiencing such strong feelings. To help with this, I've got a 'thought journal' where I write down why I'm anxious, angry, sad etc when it all gets too much. I find that writing down my thoughts takes some of the power out of them, and I also feel as if I've got a lot out of my system when I sit and pour my brain out on paper for half an hour.

I also bought this daily journal from Next a few weeks ago and it's helping me to reflect on each day, rather than only reflecting when I remember to do so or when I'm in the right headspace. It's very easy to go to bed thinking that you've had a terrible day and everything is awful and you're rubbish at everything, when actually there will most likely have been a positive glimmer in there somewhere.

Even if the only good thing you can think of is the nice baguette you had for lunch or a smile from a random passer-by, make sure you write it down! I also love the 'three things I'm grateful for today' section as I don't think any of us are ever appreciative enough about what we've actually got. My 'good things' and 'things I'm grateful for' entries are often very simple, and it's making me realise how important it is to appreciate those little things in life and to fill your time with what matters most to you.

This journal is helping me to think about why I might have felt a particular way on a particular day, rather than just accepting it. I'm starting to recognise triggers for certain moods which might eventually mean I can avoid them happening so often if I work hard on changing my mindset. I do try to put the 'what I'll do differently tomorrow' pledges into practice, and if I completely forget about them I move them over to the next day's entry to give myself another chance.

Although I tend to frantically say 'I haven't got time!' when it comes to any kind of self help or self improvement, I'm learning that self reflection is important and can teach you a lot about yourself. And believe it or not (and I'd never have believed this myself six months ago), it can help to make a bad day very very slightly better. I've never said 'I haven't got time' when it comes to worrying about anything and everything, so why should making time for self reflection and/or improvement be so difficult? If I can easily waste half an hour of my energy wading through nightmare scenarios that might never happen, it makes sense to try to put that time to better use.

Have you tried any of these techniques to try to appreciate the 'present moment'? Have you got any more tips for me? Let me know!