I’ve taken a break from my blog for a while, as I’ve had so much going on school and work-wise since Summer that I’ve barely had time to sit down and write anything of length. If you don’t believe me, since I wrote my last post I have; applied to Uni, completed 2 weeks of work experience at a youth media firm, got a new job and passed my driving theory test… so basically, I’ve had my hands full.

Nevertheless, last week was half-term, which meant a week away from work and the opportunity to do something fun – and where better to do just that than in Amsterdam? Admittedly it wasn’t the kind of holiday we usually embark on as a family – it’s a very… liberal place. However we all found something we loved in the city and we tried to pack as much as we could into our 4 days.

Luckily for us, you can fly to Amsterdam from London Southend Airport, i.e. a very convenient 10-minute drive away from our house. There were no long queues, no last-minute dashes to gates a mile away – it was surprisingly leisurely. However, if you’re wondering why I’m bragging about an airport, it’s because I’ve developed a new-found respect for ours, after waiting nearly THREE HOURS for a late flight home from Amsterdam. But we’ll gloss over that tiny mishap on EasyJet’s part…

The flight only takes 35 minutes to Schiphol airport, so by the time you’re up in the air, it’s basically time to descend. We worked out that’s it’s quicker to fly to Amsterdam, in a different country, than it is to get to the other side of London… madness.

Day 1 was full of fun. By the time we landed it was early afternoon, which gave us just enough time to dump our bags in our ‘Boutique apartments’ *cringe* and explore the city a bit before dinner. For those who have visited Amsterdam before, if I say we initially walked around with scrunched noses and a sort of… air of disbelief, I’m sure you can relate. When I read in the travel-guide that there are a few coffee shops in Amsterdam which sell cannabis, I definitely underestimated just how many there really are. At night, the air and coffee shops stink of weed, which I can imagine puts some people off from visiting the city, which is both a shame and understandable… but hey-ho, that's my only complaint, and during the day it wasn’t nearly as bad.

There was a funfair in town on our first night, testing my fear of falling whilst being swung around on the tallest chair swing I have EVER seen. We then headed for dinner at 'Lieve’ a Belgian restaurant like no other. You don’t choose what you’d like to eat, you pick an ‘ambience’ in which you would like to dine. I’m still undecided as to whether I like this element of surprise-eating, but it was good fun and we got to try traditional Belgian dishes, such as horse stew and strawberry soup. Perhaps weirder than the cuisine was the décor, with your chosen ambience deciding what ‘kind’ of table you sit on. Thankfully, no matter what table you sit on, you have the opportunity to stroke the moss covered wall.

The difference between Amsterdam during the day and at night is quite striking. During the day, the city is swarmed by tourists, canal boats and cyclists (word of warning, crossing the road is a terrifying ordeal). At night, there is a darker side to Amsterdam, particularly in and around the Red Light District. We did walk through the Red Light District on our final night, just to see what all the hype was about. A family-friendly tourist destination it is not (taking my youngest brother with us maybe wasn’t the best idea) but it really wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be, and worth the visit if you’re looking for a more ‘lively’ side to Amsterdam.

Our best breakfast was in a little café called ‘Vlaamsch Broodhuys’. You can find the menu in the cafes morning newspaper, which was a nice touch, but not as nice as the home-made white chocolate spread! We even had to buy a jar and check it into the hold to bring home – it was that good.

There are a million & 1 things to do in Amsterdam, so we decided to go on a city sight-seeing canal tour, visiting the Tulip market, Cheese Museum and Van Gogh Museum on the way. One of our final visits was to the Bodyworlds museum. The exhibition showed various reconstructions of human bodies, muscles and bones in different contexts, explaining how each part of the body works, and how we can work towards living a happier and healthier life. There were even giant swings inside, so if that’s not a reason to visit, I don’t know what is!

But we didn’t just visit museums… cue blurry Ice Bar photos.

You’re only actually in the Ice Bar for a short time, which to be honest, you’ll be thankful for once you begin to lose all feeling in your fingers. But the bar itself is really cool (if you’ll pardon the pun.. HA HA) and is worth a visit, even if it’s only to have a photo with a polar bear whilst holding an ice cup.

I have always wanted to visit Anne Frank house, after reading 'The Diary of a Young Girl' a few years ago. The queue may have been hours long, but it didn’t disappoint. Everybody walked around the house in silence, absorbing every letter, video and picture, utterly stunned. It was a truly emotional and eye-opening experience, which further emphasised just how imperative it is that we never, ever let anything like that happen again.

VFest 2015

So my blog seems to be broken, which is pretty annoying as that means I'm a bit reluctant to post if nobody can read it.... I've looked at various forums to try to figure out how to solve the issue, but every time I load the post it crashes. So I thought I'd write a short post today just to stay active on here in case anybody was starting to think that I'd abandoned my blog. That's absolutely not the case, I'm just struggling with technology at the moment! 

Anyway, last weekend my friends and I attended the V festival in Hylands Park and had a wonderful time. A few of us had been before, however this is the first time we'd gone as a group from school so we were really looking forward to it. Even better, my friend's grandparents are perhaps the loveliest people you will ever meet as they conveniently live 5 minutes away from the festival, and agreed to let us camp in their garden over the weekend. For anybody who's camped at these kind of festivals before, (I've never braved it but have been told once or twice before by others) it's not the most 'pleasant' of experiences. So this kind of 'glamping' is far more up my street!

Day 1 arrived with the sunshine, a rarity for England this year, but it was so hot even suncream was necessary! After a mini photoshoot we were on our way. 

We're very lucky to have so many festivals dotted around the UK, (I may be biased as I'm only judging from other people's experiences) but I've always thought V festival has the best general atmosphere. I'm not sure if it's because the festival seems to be targeted at my kind of demographic, but it just seems a lot more family-friendly as oppose to festivals such as Reading or Brownstock. Saying that, you obviously still get a few dodgy festival-goers (to say the least), but overall I think it has a really nice vibe. Nevertheless, if you're wondering why the quality of my photos deteriorate from here on, it's because I was too scared to take my camera with me in fear of losing it or it being stolen.

And of course we saw some amazing acts; Ellie Goulding, Nero, Jess Glynne, Sam Smith, The Script, Hozier, George Ezra, James Bay, Calvin Harris.... I could go on. And although I'm not a massive fan myself, I think for many festival-goers Tom Jones was the highlight this year! For others, perhaps the highlight was Labrinth proposing to his girlfriend on stage (as somebody who apparently doesn't like being on stage at all, she didn't look too impressed to me!) but it was a crowd-pleaser all the same. Jess Glynne cried on stage gazing out at her supportive fans after coming back from a throat operation, and the Scripts' Danny O'Donoghue actually jumped into the crowd as a symbol of thanks for the bands' supporters - it was all very emotional!

Day 2 was just as fun if not more so. Even the rain couldn't dampen our spirits (it did for 30 minutes but that's nothing a free cup of tea in the PG Tips tent couldn't solve.)

A few of my friends are into the whole Grime-scene so had gone to see Skepta. My friend Ola and I aren't, but attempted to brave the crowd holding boiling hot cups of tea... Then 'Shutdown' came on - as you can imagine we made a swift exit. By this time it was pouring, and I mean pouring with rain. After finding our group, my friend Ellie-Mae and I discovered that we only had one poncho to share between two of us as the other had ripped... But who needs to buy two ponchos when you can share one right? Yep, we danced our way through Ella Eyre's set like this....

After eating a Yorkshire pudding for lunch filled with God knows what, we spent the rest of the day dancing off the rain. Thankfully the sun made an appearance in the evening, just in time for Calvin Harris' set. We were early so thought we'd make our way to the front for the best atmosphere. We then realised that perhaps this wasn't the best idea once the other few thousand people turned up, whilst others decided to create a mosh-pit. We were crushed, but it was brilliant fun all the same and as I always say, a story to tell the future grand-kids!

Stress-busters & the art of being mindful

We are all well aquatinted with the feeling of stress. It seems to creep up on us, subsequently avalanching us under a mountain of panic and sleepless nights. I've been feeling pretty stressed as of late, which is weird considering it's the summer holidays I.e. the time to relax - typical. I think it's because I've been packing so much into my days lately and I can't help already thinking that there's so much to do/decide this year at school..... We haven't even started the year yet! I've been reading a lot of stuff about 'mindfulness' recently, becoming more aware of yourself and how you're feeling. So, I've written a post with a few ideas of how to stress-bust as inspired by Leo Babauta's 'Too much to do, not enough time' post over on

Firstly, think about what's causing you the most stress. Is it work, school, a project, family life? There's a variety of things which can make us fret, but there are two options here. Number 1, you can try to eradicate the source of your stress, just don't do it, delegate to others etc. Obviously if it's something like family stress, that's not an option, but it's all about minimizing the amount of time you spend around/doing the thing that causes you stress. The other option is to prioritise it. Look at what you have scheduled to do in your day. To quote Leo's post 'if there was only one thing you could do today, what would it be?' That's the thing you should focus on, as the likelihood is that because it's so important to you, it's likely to be causing you some stress. So, get it done, and that stress should then decrease or disappear. Then you can move onto the next task, but don't overlap tasks. This leaves us feeling like we're doing more than we can handle, when really it can be solved by good time management. 

Try not to fill your day -  I personally feel like I need to be busy, because its 'lazy' (and boring) to just sit around doing nothing. As humans, most of us like to feel like we're doing something productive, something worthwhile. So, by packing our days, we feel like we're 'getting things done' and lets be honest, crossing a completed task off of a list is incredibly satisfying. But it's probably better for us both mentally and physically to limit ourselves to maybe 2/3 tasks a day, leaving us some free time to do something spontaneous, or just chill. As I was told a lot during exam season, sometimes it's important to rest. Although you may feel like you're wasting precious time, it allows you to re-energise and as a result you should work more effectively.

Total concentration - We're all guilty of getting distracted sometimes. When we are working on a task, we rarely focus entirely on that task. There are always distractions, there are always social networking sites open in the Internet browser, music playing in the background. By having this constant distraction/buzz, we make our brains work overtime as we multi-task. Although we like to have these distractions to make the time we spend doing the task less boring, this is not always the most productive use of our time. The task takes longer, as we lose track of how long we spend on our distractions. I often don't feel anymore relaxed than I think I would've working flat out until I'd finished the task. Turn of the radio, close your browsers - total concentration is the key to feeling less stressed long-term.

Sleep! I'm somebody who needs their sleep, but I often don't get enough of it, leaving me feeling constantly tired, (I'm sure a lot of you can relate.) But it's so important in allowing us to wind-down after a busy day, process what we've learnt or done during the day and then re-energise ready for the next. 

And finally, (perhaps most importantly) have fun! Oldest line in the book right? But true nonetheless. We need to relax, interact with other humans, get outdoors etc. it's all about creating a work-life balance. When one begins to outweigh the other, that's when we begin to feel 'unfulfilled' which therefore causes us stress. 

Thankfully relaxing and having fun is  what I'll be doing this weekend, after a very busy week this week, and an even busier next. I'm lucky enough to be attending V Festival in Chelmsford this weekend, which means I hope to have a V special for you at the beginning of next week,

Til then,

(stay mindful!)

A 'Shrektacular' Adventure

I've been neglecting my blog a little bit this week, I've been so busy! Between results day and practically living in a building site at the moment, I'm afraid I haven't had a lot of space (or peace!) to sit down and write a post. Nevertheless, I have found a little free time now, which I shall use to tell you about my family's trip to London, and why you need to go on the new 'Shrek's Adventure!'

Usually when we go to London, we like to visit places with a bit of character, lively places where there's always something to do or look at, such as Borough Market and Camden. This is usually because not only do we love them, but they're also always interesting places to visit (a bit of a safety net for people like us who are always too last minute to book things!) However, this time was an exception, as due to building works, we could plan out our week in advance (to get away from the noise), making it into a bit of a 'staycation.' So, we booked tickets for the Shrek's Adventure Tour, which we'd heard lots about from other people as a 'do-not-miss' trip. It's quite handy actually, because if you buy the tickets online here, they're 2 for 1, so you can also get a free ticket to another London attraction such as the London Dungeons or Madame Tussauds. We decided to visit the SeaLife Centre as it's just next door.

Now those who know me know that I'm not too keen on SeaLife Centres and Zoos. Don't get me wrong, some centres do amazing conservation and rescue work. But to me, there's just something not quite right about keeping an animal in a cage or tank its whole life. I understand the argument of the animal being born in captivity so it doesn't know anything better, but I'm just not convinced that's quality of life for a creature which is designed to live in the wild. Take the SeaLife centre for example, I think the work they do at educating people about the dangers of waste disposal and global warming is great and I believe some of their breeding programs do allow creatures to be released back into the wild. But for many creatures, I think it's sad that once the offspring are born, they just spend their lives being transferred between centres, going from tank to tank. But I've gone a bit off-track here on a rant - it's just something I feel quite passionate about. Nevertheless, for us, it is great to be able to see these beautiful creatures up close... or not in the case of this fish!

We then had a stroll along Southbank, which is always a fantastic walk. This view never gets old.

We also had lunch in Giraffe, which we've never eaten at before, but we had the nicest meal (you get so much for your money!) and will definitely go again.

And then it was time for the Shrek Tour! I was surprised at just how excited we all were about the tour, just standing in the queue ready to go in we couldn't quite contain ourselves! The whole tour was so authentic, and I must say it's a brilliant place to take kids if you have a free day over the Summer holidays. I can't say too much about it because I might ruin it for those of you who haven't had the chance to go yet, (besides, we weren't allowed to take photos) but I really recommend you do - it's not everyday you get to meet Shrek. As we were asked to repeat about 500000x whilst on the tour - it was 'Shrektacular!'

We finished off the day with dinner in the OXO Tower Restaurant, which was a bit of a bank-breaking meal, but incredibly delicious!

And look at the view from the terrace.