A Taste of Paradise at Now Garden, Punta Cana

It’s not everyday that me and my boyfriend go on Exotic holidays but this year we decided to push the boat out and book our last big, long haul holiday before we start saving for a house. Initially we wanted to go to Barbados but it was way over our budget so we picked Dominican Republic as we could get the type of hotel we wanted at an affordable price for us. After trawling Trip Advisor and the deals in the British Airways sale we chose the Now Garden hotel in Punta Cana.

After a pleasant 8 1/2 hour flight, during which I watched films such as The Greatest Showman and Black Panther we landed in Punta Cana. At the airport there was quite a bit of queuing to pay entry tax and hand over customs forms but I suppose this is to be expected outside Europe. I would definitely advise anyone travelling to the Caribbean to take a pen or 2 with you to fill in the forms as we had to borrow one on both our inward and outward journeys which can be an issue if there are none available. We arrived at the hotel quite late UK time and was greeted by friendly, helpful members of staff and a cold drink. After sorting out our room and unpacking some of our stuff we ate in the Carnival buffet restaurant at the sister hotel Now Larimar (a short, golf buggy ride away) then went to bed. The next morning we woke up to amazing views outside our room and a tasty breakfast. Most days I had toast and exotic fruit but I sometimes had bacon and yummy pastries (not together obviously!)

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The hotel grounds are immaculately maintained and there’s a real sense of luxury and indulgence. It was the ideal place to relax in the sun for 10 days after a busy (and cold) few months at work and home and I had such a lovely, relaxing time. The pool is a horseshoe shape with a lazy river either side and it was so inviting. The swim up bar and pool bar serve a variety of drinks, including cocktails and mocktails and a BBQ lunch was served every day which was very moreish!

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The first couple of days were cloudy and it rained on and off but the rest of the time we enjoyed clear, blue skies and bright sunshine which was a departure from what we’re used to in the UK. There was a choice of 6 restaurants to eat in at night, most of which were in the Now Larimar hotel. We tried all of them but my favourites were the French, the Japanese and Carnival buffet. The good thing about the restaurants and entertainment being in the other hotel meant that our hotel was fairly quiet at night. The hotel room was very clean and comfortable and decked out with essentials such as a hairdryer and even a iron. One day we retuned to the room to see that the maid had left a lovely display made from towels, a blanket and pretty flowers which was a really nice touch.

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Ah, the beach… For me, turquoise sea and white sand are what dreams are made of and paddling in the surf, looking out to sea really did feel like paradise. The only downside to the beach was being constantly approached by vendors trying to sell excursions and souvenirs but they were always friendly and they have to make a living somehow so it’s understandable why they do it. I did buy a pair of flip flops from one of them on our first day as mine broke and they were actually really comfortable.

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I would definitely recommend the Now Garden hotel and the Dominican Republic to anyone looking to go on a long-haul beach holiday. It’s a beautiful place and the people were so friendly and helpful. It was so nice to relax, enjoy the sun and surroundings, spend time with my boyfriend and switch off from the pressures of life for 10 days. I just wish we were still there now!

If you are thinking of going to the Dominican Republic or anywhere else in the Caribbean here are some tips:

  1. Make sure you take some dollars with you for entry tax, tips, items from the hotel shop, any souvenirs you may want or excursions
  2. Factor 50 sunscreen is pretty essential, especially if you burn easily like I do
  3. Mosquito repellent is also essential. I recommend the Boots 50% Deet spray as I only got bitten once in the whole time we were there
  4. Bring a pen for filling in customs forms
  5. Take as many photos as possible when you’re there as when you return they will help reinforce the amazing memories
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Spring Style; It’s in the Bag

We may be into April but I don’t think mother nature got the memo as Spring still hasn’t sprung. My lighter clothes are still hibernating in plastic bags in at the top of my wardrobe and in various other locations around the house (is it just me who does this?!) but you can always rely on pastel accessories to evoke that much needed Spring spirit.

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This gorgeous baby pink Florence bag from Boutique of Molly is perfect to add a touch of the joys of Spring to any outfit. It’s just the right size for my purse, phone, lipstick and even a small umbrella for those April showers. The strap is also detachable so it makes a great clutch for a night out.

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Monochrome makes a fab backdrop for pastels so I wore my Boohoo polka dot dress to compliment the pretty pink of the bag. The gold chain detailing is a nice touch and it’s a designer dupe but a fraction of the price at £30.

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The bag has various different sized compartments that are ideal for your phone and things like make-up and travel cards. It would be a good bag to take on holiday as it’s pretty flat so won’t take up too much room in your case.

If you like the look of Florence or anything else on the Boutique of Molly site you can get 20% off with the code CHELSEYP20

Comparison in the Social media Age

Social media is pretty inescapable for most of us and I’m in the camp who checks in regularly as I like to keep up with what people are doing and I get a high from the interaction it can bring. However, it can be both a blessing and a curse.

Sometimes, more often than I’d like, scrolling through apps and looking at other people’s lives can make me feel insecure about my own. Instagram is probably the worst for this because the images can give a perfect snapshot of the best part of someone’s life and make you want that dream body, job, house, car, holiday, Chanel bag or Gucci belt. I could write a very long post about the beauty ideals that are often presented and seem to get all the likes but that’s for another time. To be honest, I mostly follow people and bloggers that I can relate to but that doesn’t stop unfavourable comparison from rearing its ugly head occasionally.

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What I try to remember though is that many images on Instagram are often heavily edited and staged, taking many attempts to get the perfect shot.  For these people their brand is usually their full time job or if not, it takes up a lot of their time and they have resources available to them that I don’t have such as a professional camera and/or someone on hand to patiently take all of the photos that they need. I currently use my phone for photography and feel bad pestering my boyfriend or family members to take pictures of me so I don’t get decent outfit shots as often as I’d like.

Even the un-staged shots posted by people who I know who aren’t bloggers can sometimes make me feel inadequate. This also applies to achievement posts on Facebook. You know the ones; ‘Just got the keys to our new house! HashtagHomeowners.’ Although I’m pleased for people when they buy a house or pass their driving test etc it reminds me of my own failures. I tell myself that everyone reaches different milestones at their own pace and that it will be me one day but it is hard when I see people up 10 years younger than me with their sh*t together when I’m miles away from getting there myself! The only positive is it helps spur me on to put more money away each month and spend less to help me reach my goal of buying a house in the future.

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When it comes to people who blog for a living (the dream) or those lucky enough to be doing a job they love, the posts that relate to this can get me down sometimes. There is a lot to say about career expectations versus reality but I will save that for another post. The truth is for various reasons, we aren’t all doing our dream jobs and some of us may never experience the joy of loving what we do but if you decide or have little choice to stay put, the key is learning as much as you can from the experience and making the most of it. What you do day to day may be far from fun but you can find passion in your role and the people you work with may make your time at work more enjoyable. Just take pride in your job and remember that everything you do is making a difference to someone. That’s what I try to tell myself anyway!

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Despite everything I’ve said, social media does have its pros and I wouldn’t want to tar all site or apps with the same brush. Twitter for instance, usually leaves me feeling positive rather than negative. I find that there is a community of supportive people, providing you follow the right accounts and interact with others regularly and it is probably the most entertaining of all social media. It’s definitely the best place to see stranger’s opinions on everything from politics to the latest reality TV show. How we react to social media is up to us and although there are bad days where it can make you look on your life unfavourably it’s best to take it with a pinch of salt and use it to connect with friends, family and like-minded people.

Ideas to keep the Winter Blues at Bay

I’m not going to lie, this weather gets me down. The novelty of the snow has completely worn off, I’m bored of putting on multiple items of clothing before leaving the house and I’ve practically been in hibernation since late December so I don’t have much to even post on Instagram, let alone blog about. I’m impatiently waiting for sunshine and a warm, pleasant breeze which makes the 20 minute walk to the nearest train station enjoyable rather than a chore and actually encourages me to leave the house at the weekend. Once Spring arrives I can hopefully get my social life back but until then I have some tips if, like me you aren’t a fan of the depths of winter once Christmas is over.

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Music cheers me up whatever the weather so if the cold snap is getting you down have a listen to some upbeat songs. They can be in the current charts or older songs that remind you of your childhood or happy times. I love music from the 80s, 90s and 00s, especially a bit of garage. I find that Spotify is a good app to discover new music and is ideal to listen to playlists when you’re doing something mundane like ironing.

Enjoy some quiet me time and self care. If like me, your social life has pretty much ground to a halt, it’s a good time to take stock, get some rest, pamper yourself and do things you enjoy doing at home such as reading, being creative or catching up on your favourite shows. As a child I used to enjoy drawing outfit sketches so last night I decided to draw and colour in a Cher from Clueless inspired outfit. If only I had her wardrobe…

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Winter warmers such as a sweet coffee, hot chocolate or good old cup of tea help keep you warm and toasty when it’s cold outside. My office has been like a fridge this week so I went out with a colleague at lunch yesterday and treated us to a hot drink each. I went for a Latte which certainly warmed my cockles. Also, with all the extra calories your body is burning to keep warm you can afford an extra treat. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

There’s something really comforting about a hot water bottle. I stopped using them for years then tried one again last year and wondered why I’d waited so long! They’re great for keeping you warm and cosy and heating up cold hands. I keep one in work which was a godsend last week during the big freeze. I also recommend blankets as wrapping yourself up in one feels like being a carefree baby again. Just make sure you don’t doze off in work!

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Embracing the layers isn’t always easy when you feel the cold and need to wear thermals, a jumper, a cardigan, a coat, scarf, gloves and earmuffs or a hat but there are some pretty cute knitwear and accessory options available that you can match to your outfit. I like to wear my tartan scarf with tartan trousers, despite comments from my work colleagues about me looking like a member of the Bay City Rollers. You can also use a hat to hide a bad hair day and just sort it out once you get to work.

The cold may not be comfortable and snow may be dangerous but there is something quite beautiful about the winter. It’s a time when the old is discarded, ready for the new to emerge come Spring. Use this time wisely to recharge your batteries and emerge, feeling renewed once nature awakens again.

Comedy Dining: You’d be a Fool to miss out

Only Fools & Horses is one of the programmes I grew up watching with my grandparents and I still enjoy watching it today, especially around Christmas. It’s the sort of show that always cheers you up so when my friend suggested an evening of Only Fools and Horses style entertainment with an accompanying 3 course meal it sounded like something fun and different to do. Comedy dining certainly provide an entertaining night to remember.

The actors portray the characters really well and also interact with the audience. The actress who played Marlene took a shine to my boyfriend and was pretending he was her son Tyler! They re-enacted some of the classic scenes, such as the iconic Batman and Robin fancy dress episode but put their own twist on it to make it relevant to the evening and audience.

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The food was enjoyable and there was a choice of 3 dishes for each course, most of which had some relation to Only Fools. I opted for tomato soup to start, followed by fish and chips then chocolate torte to finish. We were also offered a complimentary glass of prosecco on arrival. At about £39 per ticket it was great value for money. The show I went to was at Cliffs Pavillion in Southend but they tour around the country. I’d definitely recommend it as a fun night out. Lovely Jubbly!

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Outfit wise I went for monochrome with a pop of red. These M&S boots are so comfortable so I made the most of the dry weather and teamed them with a grey velvet blazer from Topshop, velvet skinny jeans also from Topshop and a T-shirt from MCQ. I don’t get out as often as I used to so any excuse to get dressed up.

January Gems

It may be the month of cold weather, darkness and feeling the pinch but January also represents a new start and although I’m not one for resolutions, it’s a great time to try out new products. (Any excuse) I was lucky enough to have a bit of Christmas money to spend so I treated myself to some beauty pick me ups to help get me through this grim time of year.

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There’s been such a buzz about Glossier products now being shipped to the UK that I had to see what all the fuss was about. As someone who always has dry lips no matter what time of year it is, I decided to try the balm dotcom and I picked the birthday flavour because it sounded tasty! I’m yet to try any other Glossier products but this beauty of a balm certainly lives up to the hype. The smell, like vanilla cake is actually addictive, I love the smooth texture, the subtle glittery finish and it relieves my dry lips. The taste is reminiscent of lip balms from the 90s that I used as a child and young teenager and anything that gets my nostalgic juices flowing is a yes from me. If you try anything from Glossier I would definitely recommend this. I need to try the cherry one next…

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Now I’m in my early 30s I need to wear foundation more often to smooth things out a bit and make my skin look insta-ready. I’ve tried the Chanel foundation samples that you get in the glossy magazines and every time I’d get compliments on my skin, so I took the plunge and bought a bottle of Vitalumiere. I’ve only used it once so far as I don’t get out much in January but I was pretty pleased with the result. I would say the coverage is on the lighter side of medium but you can build it up to cover a multitude of sins. I love the fresh smell and it does make me look more glowing than usual. Keep an eye on my instagram when I post any selfies or weekend outfit pics as I’m sure to be wearing it then

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Urban Decay are my favourite brand for all things eyeshadow related and their eye primers are no exception. I went for the anti-aging option in the hope that it will help keep my eyelids as youthful as possible (I can only hope) and make my eyeshadow pop. I’m definitely an eyeshadow person, if that’s even a thing and I love putting a transition shade in my crease and wearing different shades on the rest of my eye. This primer does make the pigment more vivid and also makes the shadow last longer. I’m getting used to the wand applicator as the only other time I used this product was from a sample that I got with one of the Naked palettes. I do love a sample

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Most of us can only dream of being a Victoria’s Secret angel, but we can have the next best thing (almost) by wearing a VS fragrance. My teenage love of body spray has been revived recently and there are some decent scents available in their range of body mists. Two of my favourites are Bombshell and Pure Seduction which are great for every day. Pure Seduction has quite a summery vibe with notes of plum and smells exotic but without the use of coconut traditionally associated with summery scents. Bombshell has a hint of musk and is quite fruity and fresh. They’re both great for freshening up and to spritz when you want a bit of a mood lift.

We are heading towards the end of January and hopefully the start of slightly warmer weather and lighter nights but if you need a pick me up, I’d recommend all of these products to beat the January blues.

Review of Lush Naked Shower Gels

Around a week before Christmas, we had a problem with the pipe under our bath and had to have it taken out. We will be getting a new one, hopefully in mid February but I’ve really missed soaking in the bath. Of course for Christmas, I got quite a lot of bath products such as bath bombs which I’ve had to stash away to try once we get a new bath. In the meantime though, I get to have fun with a couple of Naked shower gels from Lush. I received the Snow Fairy and Twilight versions as part of a gift set and I was really intrigued by the sweet-smelling, soap-looking, bottle-shaped bars.

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They may look like soap but that’s where the similarities end. Soap can be really drying on your skin and leave that squeaky feeling but these beauties, containing most of the same ingredients as the liquid shower gels, leave your skin feeling soft and smooth. The formula is slightly less solid than soap and you use it by rubbing the bar directly onto your skin or creating a lather with it between your hands. They are quite addictive and add an element of fun to a mundane shower. Twilight and Snow Fairy are two of my favourite Lush scents and they do pack a decent punch, leaving a subtle trail of fragrance on your skin.

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When it comes to storing Naked Shower gels it’s probably best to use a soap dish but I store mine in a zipped PVC bag which I keep outside the shower to stop them from getting wet when they’re not in use. Naked shower gels were released as part of the Lush Christmas range and are no longer available but if you weren’t lucky enough to pick one up here’s hoping that Lush introduce them permanently very soon…

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Bicester Bicester, never knew how much I missed ya

During all the years I lived in London, I never once got around to visiting Bicester Village, which is only a 53 minute train ride away from London Marylebone. It’s only now, when I live over an hour away from central London that I decide to make the trip. (I do like to make things difficult for myself!) However, it was definitely worth the journey as the village is a label lover’s paradise where you can find some great bargains.

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I visited Bicester in mid November on a cold, rainy day. We arrived at around 2pm as I’m not one to get out of bed early on a Saturday and it wasn’t overly busy as the weather must have put people off. Once the rain stopped though it did get very busy pretty quickly so we left at around 4. I did manage to look in a a few shops and pick up some Christmas presents along with 2 gifts for myself which were late birthday presents. My biggest bargain was a 5 piece make up set from Charlotte Tilbury which was a complete steal at £25.

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Some of the shops such as Gucci and Burberry had quite large queues outside to get in so I avoided those and looked in Mulberry, Barbour, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Charlotte Tilbury. We also had some lunch in Pret a Manger to give us the energy to carry on shopping. The setting was so pretty and festive and I’ll definitely visit again but it will have to be after Christmas because the weekends should start getting manic at this time of year

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There are no high street shops at Bicester but it’s a great place to get some classic designer pieces at a discounted price. It’s also pleasant to walk around and window shop. If you’re going to brave the pre-Christmas crowds I would suggest arriving early in the morning when it first opens, preferably on a weekday if you can. I need to start saving my pennies but there’s no doubt about it: Bicester, I will be back!

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Get it off your chest

The slogan T-shirt is back in a big way and whether you opt for a political statement such as Dior’s ‘We should all be Feminists’ tee (which has sparked a variety of high street copies) or something more tongue in cheek, it is a trend which is difficult to avoid. I’ve had to restrain myself from buying about 10 different versions but I’ve picked out 3 of my faves to share with you.

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1998 was a pretty good year for me. I started secondary school in September, made new friends and enjoyed the carefree, comforting times of childhood. Whether the number 98 on this Topshop T-shirt actually relates to 1998 I don’t know but it’s fun the reminisce nevertheless. Also French words or phrases such as L’amour and slogan tees often seem to go hand in hand. Unfortunately, each time I wash this top some of the black stones fall off so if you own one of these I’d advise to hand wash or wash on a delicate setting only.

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FFD8B58B-335F-47CE-A703-5E9AB0D205B51974 may be over a decade before I was born but the 70’s look is another trend this season and the glittery font on this New Look top is a subtle nod to the era-defining Studio 54. Who doesn’t love a bit of disco? Like most slogan T-shirts, this can be dressed up or down and worn in chilly Blighty with a jacket or on its own when on holiday in warmer climes.

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Out of all the T-shirts, the slogan on this Miss Pap number is the most ‘me’ as I’m obsessed with fashion. ‘In Vogue we trust’ is like a fashionista’s mantra. This is also available in white and believe me, I was tempted.

I also have a couple of others including a H&M one with the message ‘Girls Support Girls’ but I’m yet to get a decent, non-selfie photo of me wearing it.

Review of Lush Sleepy Body Lotion

When it comes to my relationship with sleep, its complicated. I envy those who drift off as soon as their head hits the pillow as my active, anxious mind takes a while to switch off. I’m the world’s lightest sleeper and I need silence or a constant noise such as a fan, aswell as complete darkness in order to reach and stay in the land of nod. If there are any sudden noises they will stop me from drifting off or will wake me up and getting back to sleep often proves difficult. I’m going through a bad patch with sleeping at the moment. Some nights I feel like I’ve slept well but this happens once or twice a week if I’m lucky so I need all the help I can get. After hearing people rave about Lush’s sleepy body lotion I thought I’d give it a go. I used it over the course of a week and here’s how I got on…

Saturday night: I rub the comforting lavender and tonka scented lotion onto my chest, neck and arms and hope for the best. I feel really tired but my boyfriend falls asleep before me and proceeds to snore. It takes me about 2 hours to drift off due to the racket and I wake up a couple of times in the night to give him an elbow. N.B. He usually only stays with me on Saturday nights so although I miss him, I don’t have to cope with any snoring for the rest of the week!

Sunday: Same application process but not much improvement. Maybe I had the Sunday night dread at the thought of facing a week at work on little sleep. Still holding out hope for a miracle

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Monday and Tuesday: After being advised to use the cream on my temples and the soles of my feet I notice a slight improvement but not enough to lift me out of my Zombie-like state or improve my mood. In work we found out about a halloween fancy dress competition so I joked that I can turn up without make up on and go as someone from the cast of The Walking Dead.

Wednesday: By this point I was shattered and I decided to have a break from using the cream. Ironically I had the best nights sleep of the entire week. Could just be down to the fact that I was exhausted though.

Thursday: Decided not to use it again but had the kind of sleep that can only be described as ‘meh.’ This word pretty much summed up my week in general though.

Friday: Used some of the cream and had a significantly better nights’ sleep but still not on a par with Wednesday’s kip. I hate it when you wake up early at the weekend and can’t get back to sleep

Saturday: Snoring Ground Hog Day…

So, as you can tell it wasn’t exactly a roaring success for me. I love the smell as it reminds me of gingerbread cookies and being a carefree child and it has improved the texture of my skin. It definitely helps relax you but sleep fiends like me need something stronger. I highly recommend the This Works range from Space NK, especially the ‘deep sleep breathe in’ roll on as the scent is more concentrated. I need to buy a new bottle so perhaps then I’ll try using both of them at once and see how I get on. I also think maybe if I wasn’t going through a bad patch with sleeping it may be more effective on it’s own. Has anyone else tried Sleepy body lotion? If so, what are your thoughts?