It was a good few months ago now that we went on our sneaky Easter minibreak escape to Montenegro and I’m ashamed that I haven’t had a chance to publish a travel post about it yet! So, before we go on our summer holiday (2 weeks and counting!) I thought it only fair to give our trip a little write up and share our photographs seeing as it was so stunning.

The first question most people asked us when we mentioned where we were going was.. well.. why Montenegro? It’s a fair question. Up to this point we are the only people we know out of all of our friends and extended family that have ever been! Scores of people seem to flood to Croatia these days, so I find the lack of the same enthusiasm for it’s neighbour odd, as Montenegro shares a similar vibe, climate and even looks similar! Plus, it’s still a pretty undiscovered gem, so perfect for a quiet, secret escape!

Our holiday

As it was a quick ‘let’s get out of here’ last minute holiday affair, we decided to go inexpensive and simple. Out of season (early April) the climate in Montenegro looked good and we found a great value all inclusive deal at a five star hotel in the holiday beach resort of Budva. All inclusive is not usually something we would go for our main holiday because we like to cook for ourselves and eat out in different places, but for the type of super relaxing short break we wanted we decided to go for it.

The hotel was called the Iberostar Bellevue and it was absolutely stunning. I was blown away when we first got there. Mainly because I’ve never seen a beachfront hotel over looking the sea which is also surrounded by spectacular mountains on the other side! The landscape was just something that you would never see in your normal Spain/ Portugal holidays and I couldn’t get over it! I was super happy to take loads of gorgeous photos with the stunning backdrop. Our room was fine, perfectly comfortable and functional with a lovely big balcony and a sea view which we weren’t expecting and was a lovely surprise. We could actually hear the sound of the waves at night which was amazing.

The Iberostar Belleview hotel

The weather we had was mixed. A bit of rain on the first two days so we took the opportunity to explore the local historic town of Budva and the montain city of Kotor to get some culture and sightseeing in. Due to it being out of season, Budva was a bit dead with a lot of shops and restaurants closed, but Kotor was much more lively and seemed to have a lot of tourists visiting despite the weather. Budva would definitely be worth a day trip particularly the old town to see the historic architecture, and the harbour which had some pretty pricey looking sun seekers! There were also some nice craft shops and cute restaurants.

Budva harbour

Budva old town

The city of Kotor was about an hour bus ride away and it was a whole other level of beautiful! If I had visualised a perfect, quaint Eastern European town then this was it. You can climb up some mountains at the back towards a church and get a load of this crazy stunning view.

The holiday was perfect for what we wanted, a ‘do-nothing’, relaxing break with a bit of sunshine.

 

I would thoroughly recommend considering Montenegro for your next holiday. It’s got great summer weather, beautiful safe beaches and stunning landscapes. Kotor is a stunning historic city and well worth a visit, as it’s a pretty small country most of it is accessible with a short car or bus journey. Although it was a bit quiet when we were there, you could tell that they were gearing up for a busy summer season so there would be no shortage of things to do there.

Have you been to Montenegro? Would you consider it?

 

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We all know that being a millennial in the current economic climate is tough. It’s all over the news, anyone in their late teens, twenties or thirties now will not have it like our parents had it. We spend all our income on rent, everything costs more, the salaries haven’t caught up and the chances of us actually being able to do something ‘adult-like’, buy a house for instance, are basically zero. If, like me, you live in London, you can times all these issues by a thousand and you’ve got an idea of where your salary disappears to 10 days after pay day.

But, here’s the thing. I like spending money.  I’m all about experiences and I like to live life to the full, packing my evenings and weekends with going out any doing stuff. It’s important to me. I’m sure I’m not alone here. I can’t stand it when my money just seems to disappear and I’ve got no idea of what I spent it on!  So, with that in mind I’ve come up with a few ways to save pennies on the ‘boring stuff’, which adds up to saving a wholeeee lot of money in the long run. Money to spend on having fun – yay!

So, for those likeminded people who find themselves straight up broke but still don’t want to sacrifice having a life then give these ideas a go and save the money for a rainy day.

Coffee.

I agree, there is nothing quite like the smell of a barista style coffee shop when you’re on the way to work at some ungodly hour. HOWEVER, did you know that if you buy one medium latte a day you are probably spending in excess of £50 per month on coffee? No, I didn’t either. Buying a flask and taking coffee from home will save a small fortune.

Greetings Cards.

Sorry mum, but I’m just not okay with spending £100+ a year on cards alone which are only heading to the recycling bin eventually. Birthday cards, Christmas cards, Valentine’s day cards – we have gone for a total, blanket ban. This will not only save us money but also it’s our way of doing our bit for the environment too. If you feel super bad for not sending cards try these Lost Ocean postcards which you can colour in beautifully yourself and send for a fraction of the cost.

Couponing.

It may sound lame, but who doesn’t get a kick out of using money off vouchers?! It’s free money! I used to chuck the vouchers they give you in Sainsbury’s, Boots and so on but actually if you get organised, keep them and use them you can save money on your day-to-day shopping.

Points cards.

Remembering to take your points/membership cards to the relevant shops can pay off big time further done the line! We do all our food shopping at Sainsbury’s so our Nectar points add up fast. I’ve also been really impressed with the new Co Op membership card which is free to join and not only gives you 5% back on all your purchases in store but also 1% of what you buy goes to worthwhile causes in your local community! I love that.

Don’t pay over the odds.

A prime example of this is going to the cinema, a regular pastime of ours. Aside from the extortionate ticket prices, a couple can easily blow £10-£15 on drinks, sweets and treats. We have recently started buying a bag of popcorn and bottles of cola on the way there from Co Op (whilst using our membership card to collect points boom) and I’m not exaggerating, we have saved a small fortune. This is the same for gigs, theatre shows, football matches, the lot. Be prepared!

Food prep.

I’m guilty of forgetting this one because it takes a fair bit of forward planning and organisation on my part but when I am on it with the food prep I have notice a huge difference in my weekly bank balance! We try to cook up a batch of meals on Sunday night to take to work for the rest of the week. With the average meal deal costing £3 that is £60 per month on lunches alone which is just too much in my opinion. When you add it up it’s easy to see where that pay check is escaping to each month! Being organised can save you a great deal.

I know how tricky it can be to budget, believe me, so I don’t do it. But by following these few easy tricks I have found my money seems to be going a little bit further, without really sacrificing too much! I hope that you might find these helpful.

What are your fail-safe ways to save cash? Are you a budgeter?

My beautiful wedding dress was off the rack and I am by no means ashamed to admit it. I bought my wedding dress on my first day of looking and it was about the 8th I tried on and second shop I has been to. I didn’t really plan to buy off the rack, the first shop I went to was a boutique for example, but the second was a sample store and that’s where I ended up finding the dress I loved.

I have had mixed reactions. Most people thought it was great or didn’t really have an opinion either day, but a few friends wrinkled their noses a bit. They seemed fixated on the fact that other women would have tried it on before me… What like every other piece of clothing you have bought from a shop you mean?! These pre conceptions are plain silly. So, for any off the rack brides like me, here are some benefits of buying a sample dress as well as some tips for getting it right.

Saving money is obviously a big one. My dress was an Alfred Angelo last season which was reduced to half its original price. The full price of most wedding dresses makes me wince (you’ll only wear it once) but I do understand the price tags with all the material and detailing. So, to buy a sample and save some pennies seems like a great idea to me.

It might be one of a kind! When I found my dress before buying it I went home to think about it and searched the web high and low for the same Alfred Angelo design elsewhere. I would not find it for sale for love nor money anywhere in the world, it must have been a discontinued line. This meant that next to no brides would be wearing it for the 2016 wedding season! For someone who likes to be unique like me this is a big plus and I was keen on being a DIY friendly bride so buying a sample kind of fitted into that theme.

Flexible fittings. When you order your dress in you have the big decision of choosing a size. Yes, you can have it altered but it’s more difficult to take things out than in. I have heard of brides ordering a dress in a smaller size and then panic dieting to try and get into it when they haven’t lost the weight they wanted to. My dress was a size 14 so that was what I got. When I bought it, I was a 12 and by the time I went for my first fitting I was a 10 so I could have it taken in a fair bit. But equally could have had it taken in only a little. Flexibility makes for a calmer bride!

Tips for buying off the rack:

  1. Check the dress thoroughly, a few gems missing here or there is no biggie (my seamstress fixed some of those for me) but stains, foundation marks or major damage could prove difficult and cause you unnecessary stress.
  2. Get a good seamstress who you trust and can fit it properly and repair any small problems. Mine was amazing and transformed the dress. It fitted like a glove.
  3. Do not be ashamed! It does not mean your dress is used, second hand or in any way less ‘yours’. On the other hand you don’t have to tell people if you don’t want to. They’ll never know! And it’s none of their business anyway.
  4. Pick a dress you love and don’t be put off it’s off the rack. If, like me, you didn’t necessarily plan on buying a sample dress but you fall for one then get it! It might be your only chance! And if it’s the one, it’s the one.

Off the rack is fabulous. It doesn’t mean the dress is any less beautiful, stylish or special. I’m so glad I found mine and  wouldn’t change it for the world.

Happy shopping!

 

I have suffered from sleep problems on and off throughout my adult life, but the worst episode I had started 3 years ago and went on until last year. It is so debilitating and exhausting when you can’t sleep and trying to explain that weird ‘trapped’ feeling when your staring at the ceiling at 4am waiting for the sun to come up is impossible. 

Personally, I have decided to stay away from medication and try self care remedies.  I have managed to overcome my sleeping issues myself and although I know these steps won’t work for everyone they really helped me and now I can get off to sleep quickly almost every night. Here are a few simple tips and lifestyle changes that I have made which have really worked for me.

Go to bed earlier.

This may sound strange but this is the thing which has helped me the most I think. My acupuncturist told me that at 11pm we (humans) get a burst of energy and endorphins (this is where the phrase ‘burning the midnight oil’ comes from and why many artists and writers insist they do their best work in the middle of the night!).  We can avoid getting this burst if we are already asleep by 11pm! It might sound like the opposite of what you want to do if you have trouble dropping off but simply changing my regular bedtime to 10.30pm has made a really big difference to my routine.

Sorry, no lie ins!

Everyone’s insomnia is different and I know a lot of people can’t sleep in at all, but with me if I had a day off or late shift the next day I would often lie in until 10 or even 11am trying to ‘catch up’ on sleep. By forcing myself to get up at 6am every weekday for a workout and 8am on the weekends I have established a kick ass routine and by the time the evening comes around I’m shattered from getting up so early so fall asleep easier! You know when parents pack their kids’ weekends full of activities to ‘wear them out’ – well it works for us adults too!

A little bit of exercise every day.

I know it’s so easy to say but doing some exercise everyday has helped me to become a fitter, more active person and has definitely improved my sleeping, and my well being in general.

Stop trying too hard.

On the occasions I do go to bed and I can’t drop off I don’t stress about it like I used to. I leave the room (nothing worse than a deep-sleeping partner’s heavy breathing when you can’t drop off!) and usually have a bath or read a book. It doesn’t take long to start getting heavy eyelids.

ASMR.

This is a new one for me, but in someways has made the biggest difference. Sometimes there are some nights when I just can’t shut my brain off and when I close my eyes my head is buzzing with thoughts and stresses. This is when I get out my Ipad (on low brightness), plug in and listen to some ASMR videos on Youtube. I won’t go into too much detail as I’m no expert but ASMR ‘artists’ create videos using special microphones and sounds to create a sense of deep relaxation, and it really works! It’s sooooo relaxing. These videos have really helped me when all else fails and they have me drifting off in no time.

You can read more about ASMR here.

I do understand that these won’t work for everyone but I really hope that this might help someone – because I know how frustrating it can be! In our busy lives sleep is often the first thing to go and more and more doctors and researchers are proving just how important it is to our physical and mental health. If you are really struggling make sure you ease the burden by chatting it through with someone you are close to or your doctor.

Have you guys found any self-help methods for sleeping that really help you?

I don’t know about you but I find Instagram THE MOST FRUSTRATING THING when using it as a tool for blogging. The follow/ unfollow culture is ridiculous and I’ve been finding it super hard to build my followers. Now, I’m by no means perfect and there is a lot more I could do to improve my Instagram feed, but there are a few simple things I have done recently to up my game, which seem to have worked as my growth and engagement is improving.

I put work into my photographs

The first thing I did was wave goodbye to the blurry shots from Saturday night and made sure that only the best quality photos make it to my Insta page. I’ve put a lot more thought into how photographs are framed and how I present things. I’ve been working on flat-lays and using props for my blog photography too and I’ve come out with some really professional looking images! There are tons of blog posts and tips on Pinterest about how to improve photography and even pointers on how to get that perfect selfie!

I upped my editing

.. and didn’t invest in expensive editing programmes! I use VSCO to edit my photos and I find it’s perfect for getting the look I want.  I make sure that I put the time in to edit each photo individually before uploading and make sure that they all fit my colour theme. And speaking of theme..

I got myself a theme

This was a difficult one. Because my blog is a lifestyle blog it is about me and my life so I wanted to make sure my Instagram reflects me as well. I know many people believe the key to Insta success and retaining those followers is to follow a strict ‘theme’ with your photos e.g. only upload photographs relating to beauty or fashion. However, for me, this wouldn’t work. I blog about anything and everything – therefore my photography ranges from fashion to fitness, London architecture to food, holiday snaps to wedding photos.  Saying all this, I do see the value in having a feed which flows and seems to follow some sort of colour scheme. Therefore, lately I have been focusing on keeping all my photos edited in a similar way and making sure they are nice a bright with a nude/pastel colour palette. This has prove easier than I thought – as most things in my life seem to follow this sort of colour scheme!

I post regularly

So, I definitely used to be a post-all-my-new-pics-in-one-day kinda girl, and when you’ve got a load of pretty new blogging photos then sometimes it’s hard not to! But having a schedule and posting once or twice every day has seemed to help me retain my new followers much better. If I take a series of photos I tend to save them so I always have something to post. I know it sounds boring but it is quite sensible really!

Before

My pictures were darker, mismatched and generally not atheistically pleasing

After

My photographs have much more of a theme and sense of continuity – it’s still me, just a more polished version!

I hope you will find this helpful, particularly if you find the world of Instagramming successfully as confusing as I do! These are by no means gospel ways to gain thousands of followers (I’m pretty sure the secret to that is serious consistency, hard work and time!), but they are easy tips which have helped me see an improvement in my Instagram engagement.

On that note, if you would like to follow me on Instagram – please click here!

What about you guys? Do you find Instagram helpful or a hindrance as a tool for growing your blog/ online presence?