Monday, 25 July 2016

Gettng Back Into Dating

(IGNORE the state of my hands and m phone, oops)
Alas all good things come to an end, and I am single (again). I haven't exactly had the most exciting of dating histories, I had a boyfriend when I was 17 for nearly 1.5 years, I was then single for 3 years throughout uni, before I then met my latest boyfriend (now ex) on my graduation night, who I was with for just under a year. So inevitably the time has come that I take a dive into the dating pool and have a little foray into the world of online dating. Now I've used Tinder etc in the past, but never actually properly met people off of them (unless you count bumping into people in clubs, or them being your waiter in Jamies Italian, nah). And since I was last single I swear there are a whole host of new and exciting (lol) dating apps that have joined the scene, so I thought I would share my few cents on the few that I have been using to try and get back on the dating wagon.

Tinder was the first dating app I ever came across, back in my second year of uni and I remember when myself and my housemates came across it we had a BALL just being immature and winding local lads up, soz bois. However, fast forward a couple of years, whilst it primarily is still the same app, it now has a BIZARRE new social feature, whereby you and your pals can say you're going out and match up with another group too, interesting eh. I do generally find that Tinder boys would rather hit it and quit it, however there are obviously exceptions to this rule as I know many a happy couple that met through Tinder and I have had the pleasure of chatting to a few lovely boys, although after realising we didn't actually have much in common gave up on. There is still hope yet.

Plenty Of Fish 
Oh POF. I think most single girls have at least one 'Tom POF' in their contact list, and I find this is the app where I have had the most bizarre chat up lines and boys approach me. I have had one boy who said he likes to be treated like a piece of furniture, like literally he wanted to be a rug or a chair, and one who said he had a foot fetish. I don't judge people, but I feel like those profiles potentially sum up POF. Most boys like to send super unimaginative first messages that just say 'hi' and if you're lucky you might get a normal question or sentence. I am intrigued however by these POF dating events and was super gutted to find out I was away for the Reading one, damn, so hopefully I can go to one of these in the future.

NOW onto the new(ish) kids on the block. Happn is a new dating app (to me), you set up your profile, turn on your location and it literally lists people that you have 'crossed paths with', detailing how many times within a timeframe and the EXACT LOCATION. Slightly creepy, and if you drive a lot, this might not be the one for you, lol, as it lists people you've driven past etc. But I guess it's a good way to find semi local people and the novelty is kinda fun, albeit slightly/very creepy. 

Bumble is the second app that I was new to, the premise of Bumble is you use the app like Tinder, you bumble along, swiping left or right. However when you get a match, it is ALL down the girl to make the first move, and within 24hours, otherwise you LOSE the match. Not sure what Bumble are trying to get out of this, apart from ballsy women (great), but for the more shy women amongst us, I really wasn't a fan.

Personality Match
Now this one isn't a dating app per say, however it can be used as an invaluable tool alongside dating and thus I thought the app and site were WELL worth a mention, as I have enjoyed it. PersonalityMatch is based on the classic psychological tests by Katharine Cook Briggs, Isabel Briggs Myers and the theories of the psychologist Carl Jung. With PersonalityMatch, you can take a free personality test and invite your partner and friends to do the same. The app's unique algorithm compares both your results and generates a compatibility score, which shows the areas where you're most compatible (and where you're not so). This feature has been designed to help highlight areas that can be worked on to improve a relationship with that significant other! The PersonalityMatch app is free and available on iTunes and Google Play. It is such a simple app that is super fun to use, after taking the personality test it said I am an ENFJ - The Giver, and knowing this personality type is important to know before venturing out into the dating world, as it helps you know what sort of personalities to look for, that would compliment you and not clash etc!

If you have any tips on getting into the dating scene, please share them, also do you have a fave dating app?

Sophie x

*In collaboration with Personality Match.


Saturday, 23 July 2016

Sensational Gel Starter Kit Review

Gel manicures have been taking the beauty industry and world by storm for a while now, however it is the simple at home gel mani sets that are becoming more readily available. I have previously reviewed and tried out the Red Carpet Manicure kit which I adore, so when I was offered the chance to try the Sensational version, I thought it would be a good chance. The Sensational Gel Starter Kit is actually one of the first at home gel kits that came to mt attention a few christmases ago, when it was the star buy at Boots and sold out SO QUICKLY. Since then i've seen it everywhere, people raving about it etc, and the polishes are easy to purchase from Boots too, meaning the at home, readily accessible gel mani is easy to achieve.

The Sensational Gel Starter Kit's are a good way at getting a taste for whether at home gel manis for you. These starter kits retail for £49.99 and promise 10 complete manicures, working out that each mani will cost you a bargain of just £4.99. The starter kit comes with a perfectly sized gel LED lamp, with a motion sensor that turns on/off automatically, a reflective interior, and magnetic base; meaning the lamp is portable and super easy to set up for gel pedicures too! As well as the lamp you receive some lint free wipes, a stick thing (LOL), the cable that can be plugged into the mains or USB (laptop etc), nail file, Gel Cleanser 14.6ml, Gel Primer 3.54ml, Gel base/top coat 3.69ml and Gel Polish 3.69ml, in whatever shade you select. These are all miniature sizes, which is great to see whether the at home gel mani is for you, or whether you prefer your in salon pampering, I like to save where possible, so at home gel manis are the way to go for me!

The gel kit is super easy to use, it is recommend to buff your nails first, then wipe each nail, using the lint free wipes, with a little of the cleanser. Simply then apply a coat of the primer, allow to air dry, then apply a thin layer of the base coat. Cure this under the lamp for 15 seconds (until it flashes once), then apply a thin coat of the colour of your choice. For the Pink Chiffon shade I found 3 coats was necessary, but 2 is usually fine with most colours. Then cure each of these layers for 30 seconds (2 of the flashes), apply another layer of the top and base coat, cure for 15 seconds, then wipe with the cleanser and VOILA. Fabulous, long lasting, super shiny, gel nails; all done from the comfort of your own home.

Well they WOULD have been long lasting, had 2 not chipped at the ends and then just totally peeled off within 24 hours...This then led to me literally peeling the others off in the space of 4 minutes. So I think I will be sticking with my trusty long lasting RCM nails.

Before this happened though it was a tough call between my beloved Red Carpet Manicure kit and the Sensationail one. I would say it's easier to get your hands on the Senational shades as they're available in Boots, whereas the RCM ones are available in Sallys or online. However after the chip and peel episode, I do find that my RCM nails are way more hard wearing and a smidge more shiny, but I did prefer the square shape of the lamp, compared to the curved dome RCM one, as I always catch my nails on that and smudge things. BUT overall OVERALL, i'm going to stick wit my Red Carpet Manicure Gel Kit as the Sensationail one just isn't for me, however I did really enjoy trying out the Sensational Starter Kit as I like to try new things.

Have any of you tried any at home gel manicure sets, do you have a fave?

Sophie xx

*PR Sample


Thursday, 14 July 2016

Booking My Trek America Trip, So Far

As many of you know, because I won't stop harping on about it, in 50 days or so (i've scheduled this post, so it's something around that) I will be embarking on a grand solo adventure, travelling from Newark to San Francisco in 26 day days with Trek America. I recently came to be in a situation where I had no ginormous financial responsibilities and no current job and it just seemed like the right time for me to spread my wings and explore the world, embarking on a road trip I have wanted to do for so, so long. I thought I would share a few posts before/and after the trip, sharing my experiences, thoughts and any tips I may pick up. Today's post is about the process of booking my trip thus far...

Choosing Trek America
Now there are many options for seeing and travelling America. My dream has always been to rent a campervan and road trip myself across America, however due to being a single female, I decided that this was just not a feasible option. And although people say Trek America can be pricey, I paid £1,800 for my trek which covers the cost of the van, the petrol, and more importantly the trek leader for 26 days (as well as the tent, sleeping mat etc). When you take into account the cost of driving across America, it probably isn't that much more at the end of the day. There are also quite a few companies and tours that operate things like Trek America, such as Top Deck Tours, STA Travel etc, so definitely investigate other options if you want to see what else is on offer. I decided to go for Trek America as they had a trek that was perfect for me and fit in a lot of things I wanted to see and do, as well as being good value for money.

It was so hard deciding on a specific tour as there are so many amazing adventures available to choose from; however I went for the Americana, 26 day coast to coast tour as it covered states I wanted to see and quite a few national parks. I also chose this tour as it is 22 days camping, and 4 nights in hotels (Oklahoma and Vegas). Lots of people that I have spoken to have been like whaaaat WHY would you choose to do that, and tbh it's simple; I just want to have the best experience possible, and camping out in American National Parks and new states just sounds incredible. I've also heard that when you camp, you bond way way more as a group, as often people go on these types of trips in pairs and when you do the tours with hostels, people tend to stay in their pairs, or pair up with people and it can apparently get quite cliquey. However with camping everyone has to muck in, get involved, and of course i'm envisaging some camp fire bonding too, complete with beers and smores. Go hard or go home right? 

The booking process
The booking process has been amazing, and the support i've had from the Trek America team has been a dream. From the start I was assigned someone who looked after my booking right from the initial few emails asking about the tours, up until the end, paying the balance for my tour and ALL the questions after. The lovely Kerry (and Natasha) were so helpful, answering all my pretty silly e-mails and helping me. In fact I saw the tour on a 20% deal, went to book it after a weekend and saw the deal had ended, emailed the team and just because they're LOVELY, they let me have it for the discounted price, even though the sale had actually ended. BABES. I do recommend booking your tour when there is a sale on (which is basically ALWAYS). They also helped me to add on the hotel for the night before, which I decided to do at a later date, and were always there. I felt so well looked after.

I also decided to book my flights separately, and the people at Trek America were amazing for flight quotes etc, but I knew someone who worked at Flight Centre, and the lovely Shelley helped organise my flights for me and they actually worked out way cheaper than I had factored for, always a bonus.

Planning and prepping in the run up to your trek
I love organising. And the minute after I booked my trip, I had a clean notebook at the ready, a few plastic folders and some clear wallets on hand, and my organisational hat was firmly on. I think I had even sorted out my ESTA literally 4 minutes after booking it, lolll. I do recommend being organised from the get go, printing off your tour vouchers, flight details, ESTA, insurance policy etc right from the start rather than leaving it to the last minute, as no one really likes a last minute kerfuffle do they? I will do a more in depth post with more tips, most likely after I return!

I've also been annoying like everyone who has ever been on a Trek America trek, and the super babes that are Milly, Brogan and Laura have been so knowledgeable and helpful for so many things - so deffo check their Trek posts and videos out!

I'm going to do a few more posts (mainly when I return) about what to pack, details of the days I visit, things I learnt etc. If you have any questions, or even better, ANY TIPS, let me know!

Sophie xxx

Monday, 11 July 2016

Brighton Big Screen With Ibis

Brighton always has so much to offer throughout the year, and the latest must-do attraction to hit Brighton Beach is the Big Screen. With a big screen (duh), several bars, a frozen cocktail bar, various food stalls include Bagelman, it's a fab spot for a date, a family outing, and a girls night! I was invited down one Saturday evening to set up camp in the VIP area in my very own Ibis Sweetbed with a fab view of the screen. There may have been a minor hiccup with the bed sitch, whereby nobody seemed to actually be expecting us and thus there were no beds available. However the babes that are Katy and Claire managed to get there in good time and claimed a bed and corner of the tent for us to then set up some deckchairs and beanbags. And Katy and Claire confirmed the bed was indeed VERY comfy, so whilst we didn't have one for the film screening, I knew I had one to look forward to back at the Ibis hotel where we were staying for the night. To make up for the kerfuffle, the Big Screen team let us have as many drinks as we liked, as well as some complimentary prosecco, which yano always goes down a treat! The evening started with some musical entertainment from The Drifters (still not sure if it was a tribute or the real guy, who knows), and after the film started nearly 45 minutes late, it was time to settle down for the film. The night however was just not meant to be for us, and the Drifters then set up a signing area in the corner of the tent with us, with a queue of fans lining up right in front of us, meaning we didn't really see that much of the first 1/4 or so of the film, but everyone's seen Dirty Dancing so it was allll fine, and remember we had allll those drinks. After the comical evening at the Big Screen, we made our way back to the Ibis hotel, where we had checked in that afternoon, and collapsed on the SUPER COMFY BEDS. Like omg felt like I had melted into a snuggly marshmallow. I slept like a baby, and the amazing ginormous breakfast the next morning was just the ticket. I was also super impressed at the 12pm checkout time, it really makes life so much easier than 11am even though it's only an hour, but yano that extra hour in bed/at the breakfast buffet eating all of the hash browns, makes a difference! I had a lovely stay at the Ibis in Brighton and would deffo check out their other hotels next time I have a UK staycation/trip/outing, as they're good value and the beds make it ALL worth while.

Have you visited the Brighton Big Screen before? If not deffo head down there this summer as they're showing all the football, as well as an amazing selection of films!

Sophie xx

*I was sent down to experience the Brighton Big Screen and to stay at the Ibis Hotel in exchange for this post, all opinions are my own.

Friday, 8 July 2016

A British Summer Time Inspired Indoors Picnic

So apparently Monday signalled the start of British Summertime (LOL) and what do we Brits love more than BBQs in the summer, a picnic! However due to the adverse weather conditions, outdoor picnics are kinda off the cards and pop-up indoor picnics are a pretty appealing option -unless you have the perfect shed or an impressive gazebo. I decided to hold my very own indoor picnic over the weekend, and to get me started, the very lovely people at Higgidy sent me a selection of some of their new products and trusty classics to complete the perfect indoors picnic. Sussex based pie and quiche maker Higgidy is celebrating the season of spontaneous picnics, despite the not-so-great British weather, and their latest two flavours, the Little Pepperonata & Feta Quiche and Petit Pois Quiche are such a delight! As they can be eaten cold or heated up, they really do make the perfect picnic essential, and personally I love them chilled. (also soz they're not photographed above, they actually might've been demolished before I got the chance to photograph them - but trust me, they are DELISH).

Indoor picnics are perfect for the British Summer Time as lets face it, we're never particularly blessed with the most tropical of summers, so to make the most of picnic season, take the picnic indoors. Bonuses being, minimal hayfever, toilets on hand, and they're generally a little more comfort. My favourite way to host an indoor picnic is to whack out that fancy picnic hamper that you want to get out when and where poss, aka my gorgeous House of Fraser picnic hamper from last summer that I adore, and if I get the excuse to use it, I love to get it out! Then throw alllll the cushions, rugs, blankets on the floor, string up some cutesie fairy lights, get out your finest crockery (as you don't have to worry about them breaking en route to the picnic etc), keep those drinks nice and chilled in the fridge, and have the best indoor picnic ever. 

Higgidy are also working with British lifestyle brand Joules in a special on pack promotion throughout the summer where hundreds of Joules picnic goodies can be won, so definitely check that out if you can!

What are your essentials for the perfect British picnic?

Sophie xx
*In collaboration with Higgidy.
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