The Weekend #16

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This weekend was great because it was a day longer than usual as I had the day off on Friday to visit the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford making the Saturday night feel like a Sunday and extra epic when I realised I could have a very lazy day indeed without wasting half my weekend. I think all weekends should be 3 days long don’t you agree?

I was particularly grateful for the extra day of recuperation as I had done a considerable amount of walking on the Coutours Secret History of Street Food around Borough and Maltby Street markets.

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It was a really fun tour made all the better by the fact that there was such a small group of us; just myself, our tour guide Emma and two guys who had come on the tour together. Emma is very knowledgable and I got to try my first ever oyster but more on that in tomorrows dedicated post.

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In the afternoon it was time see how The Hobbit saga would come to an end with The Battle of the Five Armies. This was my least favourite of the three movies and the most (in my opinion) like the Lord of the Rings films which I don’t have any love for whatsoever. Having read the book I can’t comment on whether stretching it out to three movies was a good or a bad thing!

Sunday I just didn’t even get dressed (well not properly) and actually started the week feeling the most relaxed that I have in a while. Life is good right now <3

How was your weekend? Any exciting plans for this one?

Hogwarts in the Snow, Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour

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This time last week I was such a ball of excitement about re-visiting the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour that I got off the train at Kings Cross rather than Euston where I was meant to be meeting my friend Verity. Ooops!

I first had the pleasure of visiting the studios back in March 2012 a week before it opened to the public. My friend Jackie won a competition for a sneak peek at the studios and very kindly invited me to go with her (which I did, obviously. Even though it meant flying to London and back from Aberdeen two weekends in a row!)  and I’ve been wanted to go back ever since. And what better time to visit that while the castle is covered in snow for Christmas?

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The whole visit was just as magical as I remembered and I was really pleased that they had kept the big reveal at the start (which I’d heard they’d stopped doing) I won’t spoil if for you in case you haven’t been but on both occasions it gave me goosebumps and almost brought me to tears.

As I’d already been to the studios once before I thought I might not enjoy it as much, or not need to spend as much time their as I had previously and so got the ticket that included an audio tour narrated by Tom Felton to guide me on my way. I needn’t have worried as everything was so magical I was just as entranced as I had been the first time round and I actually found the audio guide slowed me down more than those without it.

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Everything from the Great Hall to the Weasley house was decorated for Christmas and there were a few special treats put on for us as well. Firstly there were two prop makers who has worked on the movies there showing us how wands were made, we were given an insight into the four different types of snow that were used in the films – yes FOUR – and my favourite part; seeing first hand how they made the footprints in the snow while Harry is wearing the invisibility cloak *spoiler alert* it’s totally not CGI!

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Oh and drinking Butterbeer again… This time I took home a souvenir tankard! I even put together a little vlog of my trip for you guys. (Don’t worry you don’t need to listen to my horrible voice this time round!) Hope you enjoy it!

BitBS Rating – £££

P.S. If you want to see more pictures from my visit there’s a whole album over on my Facebook Page.

#CurrysChristmasWalk with Best Ldn Walks

So as I mentioned in my latest The Weekend post I spent last Saturday exploring a side of London that I had pretty much no clue about on a Christmas Shopping tour of the city arranged by Joes Bloggers. Thanks to the good guys at Curry’s we were all gifted a wearable piece of Smart Tech to help us see just how many calories Christmas shopping burns! Any excuse for an extra chocolate or two at this time of year eh? ;)

Christmas Shopping in London is one of the most stressful things a person can endure and with Christmas only one week away I thought I’d share with you some of the hidden gems we were taken to on thanks to Best Ldn Walks where you can get some very special gifts for your loved ones without having to resort to high street stores or supermarkets!

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After synching our devices and splitting into two groups we set out from Green Park to get some nibbles at the Queen’s favourite chocolate shop Charbonelle et Walker. The original shop opened at 173 New Bond Street in Mayfair and has remained in Bond Street ever since. It is housed in one of London’s most elegant arcades, the Royal Arcade on Old Bond Street. Apparently the queen and I share something in common, our favourite chocolate is a violet creme!

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Next it was off to somewhere that is literally my idea of heaven; the oldest book store in London! Hatchard’s is five floors full of every kind of books imaginable. Although sadly it has gone through a full refurbishment and doesn’t seem quite as old as it actually is which is a shame.

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We then took a peek inside Churchill’s cigar haunt; James J Fox. The only establishment in the UK to get around the smoking ban by claiming that their lounge was for patrons wishing to taste the cigars before buying them! I really wasn’t keen on the overpowering smell in here so I didn’t stay too long.

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We stopped off for a short break (and some mulled wine) before heading to our next stop Berry bros. & Rudd where we tried some Kings Ginger that would put hairs on your chest. The flooring in here is still the original and thus completely wonky. It wouldn’t take much liquor to make you feel a bit tipsy in there!

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We tried on fancy (but wildly expensive) hats in Lock and Co Hatters before heading to Germyn Street where our final two stops awaited us. On the way we bumped into many, many, many people dressed as Santa for the annual Santacon – and one very cheerful guy Hanukkah man! We unanimously decided that there needs to be a blogger contingent at Santacon next year so watch this space.

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Floris supplied some of the most famous people with their signature scents including the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Ian Flemming and Winston Churchill. Some were more delightful than others with Marilyn’s surprisingly smelling a little bit like lemon disinfectant!

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Our final stop was Paxton and Whitfield – which along with Hatchard’s is tied for first place as my favourite. If you’re not a fan of cheese do not even go near this shop as it whiffs considerably but that was just the smell of deliciousness in my opinion! It was super busy with people picking up their cheeses for the Christmas cheeseboard (one of my favourite parts of Christmas lunch!).

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The walk was a lot of fun, you should all know by now that I LOVE a walking tour – in fact I have a post about another coming up for you very soon! – and I was pleased to see I walked a total of 4917 steps in the few hours we were wandering almost half of the recommended daily amount for general good health. Curry’s have produced a great infographic about the number of calories in different parts of your Christmas dinner and how you can burn it off here.

I’ve been wearing my VivoFit pretty much religiously since I was gifted it (part of the reason it’s taken me so long to put up this post was the fact I wanted to give it a proper test run!) and while I was a bit frustrated with it when I first got it (it would not sync with my phone for love nor money but I think that was because there were so many of us trying to do the same thing at the same time) I’m a little bit in love with it.

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 Not only does it track your steps and the total number of calories that you burn throughout the day but it records your sleep and integrates with MyFitnessPal to allow you to track your caloric intake as well as outtake. All in all it’s a rather nifty piece of kit and I’m hoping it will help me on the way to being that little bit fitter in the new year!

*Disclaimer: I attended this event for free and was gifted a
Garmin VivoFit Fitness Band in exchange for blogging about the event.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

December 2014 NET Worth/Budget

Credit

Cash – £0.25
Santander 123 C/A – £982.92
Co-operative C/A – £3826.58
PayPal – £35.80
EasyCash – £1.00
Credit total – £4,846.54

Debts
Capital One C/C – £1,684.95
Creation C/C – £561.90
MBNA C/C – £3,189.13
MBNA C/C 2 – £3,956.13
Debt total – (£9,392.11)

Net worth
£4,846.54 – £9,392.11 = -£4,546.57

I had all of these grand ideas for my new budget and how I was going to save money for next years travel plans and getting myself out of debt and then I did the one thing you should never do in that situation… stopped tracking my spending! I promise to give you all a proper update and not just my numbers in the new year but I just don’t have the time at the moment.

The Weekend #15

Phew, where are the weeks going? There just aren’t enough hours in the day! Last weekend was another busy one with another blogger event on Saturday. This time I was invited by Joes Bloggers to take part in the #CurrysChristmasWalk; a two-hour guided Christmas shopping tour of London in association with Curry’s and Best LDN Walks designed to show us just how many calories can be burned when you’re out and about searching for the perfect gifts.

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We went to some of the oldest independant stores in London most of which supply (or have supplied) the Royal Family with their wares. It was really interesting and I’ll share more about this with you all later on in the week after I get the chance to put my new VivoFit to the test!

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After we had finished I was in the mood for some spending and so headed to Westfields in Stratford for a bit of retail therapy. I’m not usually one for shopping but about once every 18 months to two years I tend to update my look a little and go on a bit of a spree! I think my recent haircut and rekindled love for Taylor Swift’s style has a lot to do with it this time around. I was even brave and left the house wearing red lipstick for the first time!

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Sunday my friend Grant was in town having been at a Christmas part the evening before so we met up for a catchup – after several hours longer than we had planned in his hotel lobby we finally set off to Victoria Park and had a squizz around Winterville. Winterville is basically East London’s answer to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. It’s only in its first year but I was more than impressed with what I saw with a good variety of rides, not overly expensive food and drink and a whole lot less crowded than its big sister!

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How was your weekend? Any exciting plans for this one?

The Weekend #14

Another weekend, another Paddington bear hunt! With so few precious weekends left in London this year my friend Jen and I decided to brave the Oxford Street crowds and hunt down some more of those gorgeous Paddington Bear statues that are hidden across the city. Interestingly we managed to find the exact same number of bears this time round as we had the first!

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A photo posted by Leanne Fraser (@brokeinthebigsmoke) on

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A photo posted by Leanne Fraser (@brokeinthebigsmoke) on

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A photo posted by Leanne Fraser (@brokeinthebigsmoke) on

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A photo posted by Leanne Fraser (@brokeinthebigsmoke) on

Having not quite had our fill of Paddington we hopped on the tube to North Greenwich and went to see the movie itself at the cinema. I have to say I wasn’t sure what to expect, the first trailer didn’t exactly portray it in very good light but the second was a bit better. In reality the movie was actually really good and laugh out loud funny in parts (perhaps that’s because I have the sense of humour of a five-year old?)

My flatmate had gone home to Poland for the weekend so I made the most of the weekend by blogging in my pyjamas on the sofa while watching Deep Space Nine, pretty much my perfect Saturday night!

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Sunday was my first #LDNBloggersTea held at the Lancaster Hotel which I’ll be blogging about on Monday. I had a really fun time meeting some truly awesome bloggers, some of whom I’d followed for a while and others who I’d never even heard of – does anyone elses Feedly only ever seem to increase in unread posts no matter how hard you try? I swear I’m still about three weeks behind with my reading at the moment.

 How was your weekend? Any exciting plans for this one?

Budget Beauty: Hebe Hair & Beauty

It’s only been about 10 weeks since I went to RiRi’s to get my hair highlighted and I wouldn’t normally go to the hairdresser quite so soon again but I made the snap decision on Friday morning that I was going to get my hair cut short. I say snap decision but it was actually something I had considered doing for a while and hadn’t quite plucked up the courage to do so. Clearly I was feeling brave as I whipped open Wahanda at 11am and had booked myself in for a cut at a nearby hairdresser for 1:30pm, eek!

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Wahanda is great for last-minute appointments like this and you usually get some sort of discount for booking with little notice (hairdressers/beauticians would rather they get paid some money for their time than be left idle and get no money at all) my cut at Hebe hair & Beauty on The Strand would usually have cost £59 but I paid just £29.50. Still a lot compared to the £29 I paid including highlights at RiRi’s but very good value for a spur of the moment decision!

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I was really nervous about finally taking the plunge but I took the above picture of Taylor Swift who is my current style icon along with me and the stylist agreed that the look would really suit me and whipped me off to get my hair washed. The mini head massage that was given was also a boost as work had been pretty stressful that morning. I had butterflies as I was getting it cut but once the first snip was made that was it! Anyway, hair always grows back doesn’t it? She actually cut it a little shorter than I has expected and it graduates so it’s a bit longer at the front – while it was still wet I was a little worried about what I had done but as she started to dry it I started to relax a lot more and by the end I was really pleased. Here’s the before and after picture:

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I love it a little bit and I was so pleased with the service in Hebe’s; I was in and out a new woman in less than 45 minutes! What do you think? Have you ever taken the plunge and gone for a totally different hair style?

Skyscrapers, Tulips and Sunshine

I was tagged by the beautiful Christie over at The Butterfly Editions to take part in the Booked.netTop Destinations to Go There promotion, where bloggers are invited to share five of their favourite destinations that been to and would love to revisit. I’ve only recently started following some travel blogs as after an incredibly sparse year of travelling myself in 2014 I have some big plans for 2015 but more on that at the end of the post… It was really hard to narrow it down to just five places as while I haven’t travelled very much there isn’t anywhere I’ve been that I would like to revisit if I didn’t have the time or money! Here goes:

1. New York City

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I visited NYC in 2012 with my ex-boyfriend (now best frex!) Matt and completely fell in love with the city and it’s vibrancy. There is so much to see and I didn’t get to do half of what I wanted to do. Central Park is one of my favourite places ever and I could have spent an entire week just exploring all it has to offer. I can totally see myself living in NYC for a year or so if I ever had the courage!

2. Egypt

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Back in 2005 (I think) my dad and I took our first (and only) holiday together and spent a week in Sharm el sheikh. We have very different holiday styles in that he likes to laze by the pool in the sunshine sipping on beer for two weeks straight whereas I like to get out and see what a place has to offer often wearing myself out in the process! We did go out to the desert for a BBQ one night and get to ride on camels though.

3. Amsterdam

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Just before moving to London back in 2013 I took my niece on a short break to Amsterdam on the DFDS ferry which meant that we only had a few hours to explore the city and unfortunately were there when all the museums were opened for free and thus there were queues everywhere but we did get to see the beautiful VondelPark and many of the cities sites from the top of an open top tour bus!

4. Paris

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My dad and I took my niece to DisneyLand Paris for a long weekend back in 2011 which was amazing but we didn’t leave ourselves much time to actually explore the city itself so I’ve only seen the sites of Paris very briefly. (Again from the top of a tour bus – I love a good open top tour don’t you?) It’s so close to London only being a hop, skip and a jump using the Eurostar so there’s really no good excuse!

5. Wales

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I bloody love Wales having been twice now in the last couple of years. Matt and I have attempted to climb Snowdon and been thwarted by the weather on two attempts, we didn’t go back this year and I really missed it. The drive through the Brecon Beacons is one of the most breathtaking things I have even seen and I love the calm of the countryside despite being a city girl at heart. I’ve also got a soft spot for Cardiff given that it’s the home of Doctor Who and Torchwood!

I’m actually sneakily going to be going back to three out of these five places within the first six months of 2015 – can you guess which ones? I’m a tad over excited and I can’t wait to share my adventures with you all. I’m even starting a new travel blog in the new year specifically for that reason so I hope you’ll come follow me once it goes live!

I had so much fun writing this post I’d like to tag the following bloggers to participate in this as well (you can even win an iPhone 6!): Rosalyn at Dream Days, Caroline at Mrs M’s Meanderings, Cait at Blonde on a Budget, Katie at Miss Enchanting and Catherine at Lux Life. Apologies if any of you have been tagged already ladies!

The Weekend #13

Very, very late but I vlogged again. I’m umming and ahhing much less while filming and getting much better at editing as well. This week I show you what it’s like visiting the Ideal Home Show Christmas and also around a very swanky suite at the Chelsea Harbour Hotel! Hope you enjoy!

November Reading

Having taken so long to read The Death of the Poet last month I decided to devour some shorter more light-hearted novels this month which means I’ve made my way through two (and a bit) books this month the first of which being another book by cult author by John Green.

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Having absolutely adored The Fault in our Stars I was advised to check out some of his other novels; Paper Towns was cheap on Kindle and at only around 300 pages didn’t take long for me to tear my way through. I didn’t enjoy this as much as TFIOS but it’s a great YA novel showing exactly how flawed all teenagers are even those that are considered goody-two-shoes. The characterisation of Margo’s parents irritated me but other than that I thought all of the other players in the book were well-rounded, well written characters.

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I was feeling a bit out of sorts in the middle of the month and needed something comforting and familiar so dipped back in to continue my re-read of the Harry Potter saga with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Probably my least favourite book of the series but I love the fact that I still notice tiny details each time I reread them that I hadn’t previously. I don’t think I could ever get bored with these books!

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The third was Grey Days by Vanessa Deroo (a short story more than it was a book so I’m not counting it in my total). I actually know Vee from going to conventions and had the pleasure of finally meeting her in real life at the Vampire Ball at the end of last month so figured it was time to get around to reading something that she’d written (she doesn’t know I’m posting about this but if you’re reading hi Vee!!!) and I have to say I adored this! It’s only a few pages which is a shame as I was totally hooked and invested in the protagonist – it’s set in a post apocalyptic London but it’s not quite what you would expect and it is beautifully written. I’m looking forward to reading her collection of short stories – Paper Ghosts very soon! Santa if you’re reading this I’d like more hours in the day please?

BOOKS READ THIS MONTH: 2 (and a bit)
BOOKS READ SO FAR THIS YEAR: 30.5
BOOKS READ FOR 30 BY 30: 15