Florida 2015: 1 Day To Go

30 August 2015

After almost eleven months of planning, my Florida holiday is just around the corner. Tomorrow I'll be getting ready to head up to Manchester Airport, before my flight departs on Tuesday morning. My bags are (almost) packed, my documents are organised, and I can't wait to spend ten nights in the happiest place on earth. There were a couple of last minute dramas (my sister was no longer able to join me, but my other sister has stepped in to her place), but on September 1st I'm off to spend 3 nights at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal followed by seven nights at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, and I can't wait. 

Here's the recap of everything that we've done to prepare, in case you're looking to book an Orlando holiday:

What's Done So Far:
  • Booked and paid for the holiday.
  • Checked in to our Disney hotel online and personalised our magic bands.
  • Progressed with my holiday diet - over five stone down.
  • Finished my holiday shopping and packed my luggage.
  • Booked and paid for airport parking/security fast track etc.
  • Selected seats on our flights.
  • Booked our ADR's and FP+ for Disney.
  • Purchased Memory Maker.
  • Updated our ESTA's.
  • Purchased travel insurance.
  • Printed and organised our documents.
What's Left To Do:
  • Online check-in for our flight (tomorrow morning).
  • Relax and enjoy every second of it.
I've managed to schedule some blog posts for while I'm away, sticking to my normal Wednesday and Sunday posting schedule, but for the whole of September my blog will be fairly Florida themed, so if that's not your thing then I can only apologise now. If you want to keep up with my travels as they happen then make sure to follow me on Instagram or Twitter (@josieowenx). It's holiday time!

Lush Online Haul

23 August 2015

After reading a few blog posts about the new Oxford Street Lush range now being available online, I decided to place an order. I'd only ever ordered from Lush online once before, but it took around four working days for my order to arrive via standard delivery. Lush believe in naked packaging, so the products aren't wrapped in anything on arrival. Unfortunately a couple of my Bubble Bars didn't make it here in the best shape, but they still smelt positively dreamy, so that's what counts! I'm saving these goodies for a warm bath on a rainy day, but here are my first impressions.

Bath Bombs.
I only ordered one bath bomb this time, and that was Twilight. This will supposedly turn my bath water a deep purple colour with a lavender scent. Apparently Twilight is good for helping with sleeping problems, so fingers crossed on that one.

Bubble Bars.
Most of the bubble bars that I bought are new to me, starting off with Milky Bath. The design of this is adorable, I love the silver bottle cap. Milky Bath is orange scented (one of my favourite fragrances), so I'm excited to give this a go. Another new purchase is Pink Flamingo. I won't lie, this was ordered purely for how flipping cute it is, who doesn't want to dip a flamingo on a stick in to their bath? From what I can gather, this is basically a cocktail for your tub, which sounds perfect for a pre-night out scrub to me. The third new bubble bar in my order was the Yuzu and Cocoa Bubbleroon. Not only does this look like a rather convincing macaron, it also smells of a rather heavenly chocolate and orange combination. If I can't have Terry's then this will do nicely.

I re-ordered two of my all time favourite Lush products too, the Creamy Candy and the Comforter bubble bars. Both smell incredibly sweet (Creamy Candy is the same scent as the Christmas legend that is Snow Fairy, whilst the Comforter is a gorgeous fruity bergamot blend), give me plenty of bubbles, and feel like a truly relaxing treat to use in my tub. Creamy Candy has been reformulated too, so it's now a much brighter shade of pink. I find that I get two or three baths out of each bubble bar, so although they're on the pricey side at around £5 a pop, they're worth the cost.

Show Creams.
Finally we're on to the purchases that I was most excited about, two of Lush's new shower creams. I went for my beloved the Comforter scent, as well as Yuzu and Cocoa. The Comforter smells exactly the same as the bubble bar, so if you like that (and lets be honest, who doesn't?) then you'll love the shower cream. Yuzu and Cocoa once again has that delicious blend of chocolate and orange. I'll mainly be using these products as shower gels, but it's nice to have the scents corresponding with my bubble bath.

I sometimes struggle to find products - other than the Comforter and Snow Fairy - that I love from Lush, so it's really nice to see that they're expanding their range. Now that I've built my stocks up again, my next big purchase will most likely be from their Christmas collection. Roll on November!

Gravity Defying Cake

19 August 2015

My Mum & I saw (and loved) Holly Bell's gravity defying cakes on This Morning recently. We decided to give one a go for my sisters birthday, so here's the easy-peasy cheat guide.
We began our lazy cake with a couple of pre-made Victoria sponges from the supermarket. We used Betty Crocker chocolate icing (I could eat this by the bucket) to 'glue' chocolate fingers around the outside of the cakes. These looked really sweet, but they also stopped the Maltesers from rolling off the top of the cake.

Next we sticky taped a couple of wooden barbecue skewers together and poked these in to the cake. Place your empty sweet packet on top of the stick as a guide to how high up you need to place your chocolates. Using the same method as with the chocolate fingers, we pasted the Maltesers to the skewer. This gives the gravity defying impression, as if the Maltesers are being poured from the packet and on to the cake.

Once you're finished with defying gravity (now try and get the song out of your head) spread a thin layer of your yummy icing over the top of the cake. Pour your Maltesers on to this et voila, the top of the cake is sorted. We added extra Maltesers in certain locations to pretty the cake up/hide the base.

The last step was to add a the Maltesers rolling down the side of the cake. Again, this is easy peasy. Use the Betty Crocker icing to attach the chocolates to the fingers in a trailing pattern, as if the Maltesers are spilling over the top of the cake. Place a few at the base too and you're finished!

Although it was a little time consuming and fiddly at points, creating this gravity defying cake was actually a lot simpler than I initially expected. For a first attempt I'm pretty proud of how ours turned out. The best part is that you can use the favourite kind of chocolate/sweet of whoever the cake is for to personalise it. Oh, and it tastes pretty good too.

My Florida Wish List

16 August 2015

I've been dreaming up my Florida shopping wish list ever since we booked the holiday almost twelve months ago. As a huge Disney/Harry Potter/beauty/food fan, Florida is pretty much my ideal destination, so I had visions of filling an empty suitcase with goodies that I'd bought over there. Unfortunately my cash flow isn't unlimited, but I've been saving hard over the last few months to make sure that I can treat myself to a few bits and bobs whilst we're away. These are the items that I'm really hoping to be able to get my hands on.

We start off our holiday with three nights at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal, specifically for the early entry in to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There are about a zillion things that I want to buy from here (I'm sure that a few chocolate frogs will be hopping in to my case, for example), but I've featured three items specifically which I'll make sure to come home with. I'd really like to buy an interactive wand ($47.95) so that I can cast some spells around the park. It seems to be fairly hit and miss as to whether Hermione's Time Turner necklace ($49.95) is in stock at the Wizarding World, but if it is, then I'd love to buy it. It's a pretty gold plated necklace which would make me feel a little magical when I wore it. I've also got my eye on a couple of pins for my collection too, I particularly like this golden snitch ($9.95). 

After our time at Universal, we move on to Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort to soak up the Disney magic for seven nights. My Disney wish list is even longer than my Universal one, so I've featured a little selection (not shown essentials include some new pens, pins and Minnie ears, of course). I've fallen head over heels for the chalk board home range, so I'll definitely be adding this Beauty and the Beast inspired plate and bowl ($12.95 a piece) to my collection. I'm going to try and not come home with too many mugs, but if I manage to find this adorable Chip cup ($19.95) in stock then it will be purchased. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for this tie dye t-shirt ($29.95), which I think would make a great lazy day top. Lastly I couldn't come home from Disney World without a plush of some form, so I think that I'll treat myself to a pillow pet to sit on my bed. There are lots of different characters available, but my current favourite is the Cheshire Cat version ($32.95).

Sandwiched in between our time at Universal and Disney, we're hoping to get some off-site shopping done at Florida's numerous malls and outlets. Still on the Disney theme, I'd like to swing by Hot Topic to add a couple of new Funko Pop's to my collection; I particularly like this Ariel one ($12.50). Vans are so much cheaper in America that I'll be bringing at least one pair home for myself, so far I like the look of the Windsor Wine Authentic Lo Pro ($45). Of course I'll be hitting up Sephora to stock up on some of my favourites, including a new rollerball of Daisy ($25) and my absolute favourite, Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation ($39). I'll also be looking to try a few new products too. I've got my eye on this Kat Von D Shade + Light Contouring Palette ($46), as I'd like to get to grips with contouring. The beauty theme continues as I'll be stocking up on my favourite Victoria Secret fragrance mists ($14) as I'm almost out, these make great gifts too. Lastly there will of course be an awful lot of American candy consumed over the course of the holiday. I've got white chocolate Kit Kat's ($0.89) on the brain already...

My Everyday Highlighters

12 August 2015

It's taken me years to finally get the hang of highlighting. Many a time I've left the house looking like a disco ball, but now I think that I've finally found a few perfect products to help me have a healthy glow without looking like an explosion in a glitter factory. Here's the roundup of my favourite highlighters, these three are the products that I reach for on an almost daily basis.

To kick things off is the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Dim Light, which is the darkest in colour of all of my highlighters. It has a peachy undertone, and I mainly use it as a setting powder which gives me a soft and subtle glow. Dim Light makes my skin look really natural, the highlight isn't too OTT, and it does a great job of holding my makeup in place too. If you want a low key light to the skin then this powder is perfect, but it can also be paired with a more obvious highlighter for beautiful skin.

Next up is the NARS 413 BLKR Illuminator, which is my personal favourite of the trio. It's a liquid product with a smooth texture and a beautiful pearly champagne colour, which blends out really prettily, particularly along the top of the cheeks. As well as the colour, it's the consistency of this product which wins for me, as it's so easy to blend with your fingertips. I always joke that I feel a little bit like Kim K when I wear this highlight, as it really does add a beautiful healthy glow to the skin and helps to create the illusion of cheekbones. I  particularly love the look of 413 BLKR paired with Dim Light for beautifully lit skin.

Finally, the MAC x Cinderella Beauty Powder in Mystery Princess is the latest addition to my highlighting collection, and it's also the most pinkish in tone of all the highlighters that I own. It's quite similar to Dim Light in that it has a more subtle, pretty look than the more obvious results of my NARS favourite, but it's still a great highlighting option if you prefer powders. I like to use Mystery princess on lazy days, as it's a no fuss product. A swirl of your brush in the pan will leave you with a lovely shimmer.

My Top 5 Weight Loss Tips

9 August 2015

I'm by no means a weight loss expert, but at five stone down so far this year, I thought that I'd share a few of my tips for anyone who's trying to shift a couple of pounds. I've only set myself one 'don't do this' as I've gone along, because it's all about the positive changes.

1. Don't Set Unrealistic Goals.
On a recent cleaning spree, I found an old notebook that I'd attempted to use as a fitness journal. I'd written my first weekly target as "lose 5 lbs and exercise for 260 minutes". Needless to say this went straight in the bin, but reading both of these goals made me feel really sad, as both would only leave me feeling disappointed and disheartened at the end of the week. Losing 5 pounds in 7 days is both unhealthy and unsustainable, and I'm not about to put a time limit on my exercise routine. If one week I feel full of energy and manage to swim most nights then that's great, but likewise if I'm having a hectic time of it and only make it to the pool once then that's okay too. My longterm goal now is to continue to improve my wellbeing, and to reach and then maintain a healthy weight. It's all about being consistent in the long run, not setting ridiculous short term goals which aren't maintainable.

2. Do Find Your Own Motivation.
As someone who's always struggled with their weight, people have often said to me "you've got to lose it when you're ready". I never really understood what this meant. I was desperate to lose weight but couldn't stick to a 'diet' for longer than a day or two at a time, so I always assumed that I had poor willpower. However, at the beginning of the year with a holiday in sunny Florida to look forward to, I was finally able to commit to taking control of my weight. Now that Florida is almost here, my motivation going forward is how much happier and healthier I feel right now. 

3. Do Up Your Water Intake.
You'll have heard this a million times before, but it'll make a big difference. If you only make one change to your health, then stop drinking (or at least reduce) fizzy drinks. I was a total Fanta fiend, I'd have 6 or more glasses on a daily basis. Going cold turkey was tough for the first couple of days, I had migraines from the sugar withdrawal. Now though, my skin is much clearer and I feel much less bloated and sluggish. I have so much more energy and I've trained myself to actually enjoy the taste of water. I still have the occasional glass of Fanta as a holiday treat, but I no longer crave it, and love getting my eight glasses of water a day.

4. Do choose healthy substitutes.
Switching up simple things - such as trading white bread for brown - can make a whole world of difference to a healthy lifestyle or weight loss regime. All of my carbs these days are whole grain, and I can't see that changing any time soon. If you can't commit to a total overhaul (and that's okay), why not cook yourself a burger and chips instead of ordering a takeaway? I can guarantee that you'll feel better for knowing where all of your ingredients came from, and from making the odd healthy exchange.

5. Do Find An Exercise That You Love.
They say that weight loss is 80% diet, but exercise is still a key factor. Since I took up swimming a couple of months ago I'm feeling a million times better. I can run up a flight of stairs without being out of puff, and my posture has improved too. I've rediscovered my love of walking so I've been incorporating this too, via my FitBit Zip and iPhone Health app. You wouldn't catch me on the cross trainer if my life depended on it (but if that's your thing then go you!), but because I enjoy swimming and walking they don't feel like a chore to me. *Whispers* I enjoy exercise now.

And Finally... Do Remember To Tell Yourself "Well Done!"
Losing weight, or maintaining a healthy weight, is hard work. We're very quick to criticise ourselves, but not so forthcoming when it comes to complimenting. Don't forget to take five minutes every now and then to congratulate yourself on how far you've come. I'm still getting the hang of this, but my confidence is growing on a daily basis.

The Make Up For Ever Foundation Sandwich

5 August 2015

The Make Up For Ever foundation sandwich is a bit of a lengthy title, but it's a pretty apt description for my new favourite base trio. It took me forever to try MUFE HD foundation, but now that it's in my life it's a great substitute for my absolute favourite (but hard to get) Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation.

Worn on it's own, the HD foundation gives a satin finish which is nice, but not a game changer. However, sandwiched between the Hydrating Primer and Mist & Fix setting spray it's incredible. The formula looks matte, but my skin still has a healthy inner glow, and it lasts all day. Even when I'm wearing my glasses, the foundation on my nose sits intact, which never happens. This is a hefty, full coverage foundation so concealer isn't really needed - other than for highlighting - and it's perfect for special occasions where cameras will be flashing.

I credit the first step of this trio, the Hydrating Primer, as not only the perfect tool for a smooth base, but also for being the only primer which I actually want to use on a daily basis (I'm normally terrible for neglecting primer). I don't have a massive problem with my pores so I can't comment on how it helps with that issue, but I love how soft this primer makes my skin feel. It has an almost velvet-like texture which the HD foundation sits really well on.

The third step, Mist & Fix, is like no other. It's seriously the perfect setting spray. It doesn't soften my makeup like my beloved MAC Fix+, but it makes sure that it doesn't budge all day long, so I tend to use the two together. If you're looking for a setting spray which will give you incredible staying power, give Mist & Fix a go. I've since ordered full sizes of this setting spray and the primer, so they'll be staying in my life for the foreseeable future.

Florida 2015: 30 Days To Go

2 August 2015

It's definitely a case of long time, no update. The last time that I posted about our impending Florida holiday was a whopping 140 days ago, so the planning has moved forward quite a lot since then!

I've managed to tick most of the items off my 'Still To Do' list from my last post, so here's the updated round up. 

What's Done So Far:
  • Booked the holiday.
  • Paid our full balance. This was done back in May, so now we're definitely going.
  • Personalised our magic bands. I've chosen yellow and Phillippa's gone for pink. 
  • Checked in to our Disney hotel. Our room request has been made, fingers crossed.
  • Progressed with my holiday diet. I'm around five stone down now!
  • Almost finished the holiday shopping. I just need a couple of last minute bits (swimwear etc).
  • Booked and paid for the airport hotel/parking/security fast track. We'll be driving up to Manchester the day before we fly and spending the evening at the Radisson Blu at the airport. I really hope that this helps with my pre-flight anxiety.
  • Booked our ADR's. And changed them. Again. And Again.
  • Selected seats for our flight. This was free of charge at our 60 day window.
  • Booked our FP+. This was done at 5am (zzz) on our 60 day mark, and I managed to get everything that I wanted, including the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Anna & Elsa.
  • Purchased Memory Maker. So now we can have nice photographs taken around the Disney parks.
  • Updated our ESTA's. We're definitely allowed in the country!
  • Purchased travel insurance. This was ridiculously expensive because of my pre-existing medical condition, but it's a relief to have it all sorted just in case.

What's Still Left To Do:
  • Finish off the holiday shopping. I'm sure this won't be too much of a challenge...
  • Book an ADR for House of Blues. These still aren't available, but I'm checking back regularly.
  • Online check in for our flight.
  • Get some more dollars. I've got some cash already and some more currency loaded on to a FairFx card, but I'd like to top this up a little more to give me maximum shopping potential.
  • Print off and organise all of our documents. I've started to do this, but I'm holding off from printing final copies in case there are any last minute changes.

The final thing left for me to do is relax and enjoy the holiday! Planning an Orlando holiday has been a total labour of love - which I never imagined when I first contemplated booking one - but I'm sure that it'll be worth all of the planning.