Monday, 30 March 2015

Our First Home

Black Diamond park

Today I'm sharing our "starter story" in conjunction with, a friendly and professional (two things I've found are important in estate agents as you'll see when you read on) who are based in NYC and are passionate about helping you to find a Home you Love.

 You know what they say, the course of true love never did run smooth. Never truer a word has been spoken when it comes to our first home. For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while you will know that since August I have been living with Andy at his mum's house and in October we decided to start looking for our own place. 

The day after we got engaged we met with a mortgage advisor and were told we could get an excellent rate if we proceeded quickly. Within a few day we'd booked viewings and were excitedly planning the next steps in our life. The second flat we saw was lovely: a 2 double bed room within easy distance of Chester city centre and the station. We were smitten and put an offer in. The only downside was it was tenanted until January, fine we thought.. get Christmas out the way and start the new year in our new flat! 

January came around and we started boxing up, whilst Andy chased the estate agent and solicitor (to little avail), we checked the flat again when the tenant moved out and although it seemed smaller than we had in our minds it was still exactly what we wanted! So we waited and we chased and we nagged. The estate agent said one thing, the solicitor said another.. nothing was being done, paper work which should have been done weeks beforehand was still waiting, unsigned. It was frustrating but we told ourselves a week or so delay was ok. But then it got ridiculous, phone calls weren't being returned, we were edging ever closer to March, I was booking days off work only to tell them two days before that of course we weren't moving so I'd be in after all. We thanked God we weren't in rented accommodation and had the flexibility to wait it out or we'd have been homeless. At one point an advert for an estate agents came on the radio and I actually cried.

We wanted the keys no later than 27th February we told them eventually, this would be a over a month after we should have moved in. We thought that would be plenty of time. The date came round and we heard nothing. By this point I was beyond fed up. I'd hoped to have been celebrating my birthday in our flat. Monday 3rd March dawned and still nothing, so we pulled out the big guns the phone call to say we would pull out should we not have a firm date soon was met with very little reaction. So we started the hunt again more out of curiosity than intention.

Then we found it. A 2 bed flat in a development we've always had our hearts on, having house sat for friends there. Opposite the train station and spitting distance from town. We booked to see it that night and came away feeling we'd found a much better (and cheaper) property. My biggest concern? Going through the process all over again! We pulled out of the first buy, changed estate agents & solicitors and started all over again. 

We're now nearing the end of March and things seem to be moving quickly, after a slight mortgage blip (best not to get me started, I get very feminist and angry about the situation) our mortgage was accepted last week and we're now waiting on contracts and a moving date. I am finally beginning to feel excited again. 

The first home is very special: from December it'll be our marital home and who know what the future holds for us there. That is what I've tried to remember at each obstacle. By the time we move in May this will have been a 6 month process but, we will have years of much happier memories in our lovely new flat!

What was buying your first home like? Have you had any moving nightmares? 

This post was written in conjunction with helping you to find a Home you Love. 

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Wedding Wednesday- Budget Calculator

Happy Wedding Wednesday my loves!

Now some aspects of wedding planning can be a little dull but essential. Every bit of wedding advice is "set your budget first" and there are loads of ways to figure this out. For me, it was the Hitched budget planner.. which promptly reset itself and lost all the data I'd inputted.. which was helpful! and then a pretty impressive excel spreadsheet my mum made up (two weddings this year.. she has to keep track somehow!)

So I was really excited when I was contacted by Lizzie regarding a new wedding budget calculator from Everyday Loans.

Simply answer a few simple questions and it generates a realistic and editable budget. Now, it was a little bit scary when they compare your budget with their estimated budget but I definitely noticed a few places where we've already saved money. 

wedding budget

wedding budget

To change the values simply double click which couldn't be simpler. I don't know how they work out the values but I would suggest they definitely ere on the side of over compensating. For example, the allowance for my dress is over double what I paid! It was pretty satisfying watching their recommended budget fall down. 

There were a couple of things I didn't like. For one, it seemed to miss some essentials of weddings i.e. cake. Which didn't matter so much for me because we're not paying for our cake ( a huge thanks to our friend Rachel and her generosity and talented) but seems like an essential aspect. Also, some of the questions weren't completely clear.. I didn't understand the rings question.. do some people really not have wedding rings?? 

Finally. you can share the budget on Facebook (which seems a bit invasive.. I felt a bit odd sharing my budget on here!) or with a friend but there isn't a way to save and edit it as you make choices and changes!

However, you can keep playing and start all over again which would be ideal if you're still in the very early decisions and weighing up your options and if you're not.. its like a fun quiz!

How did you keep on top of your budget?

Monday, 23 March 2015

Blogger Event- Ladbrokes Ladies Race Night

The race season got off to a flying start (pun intended) at the start of March and as part of the celebrations I was invited, with other North West Bloggers to a Race Night Event at Revolution, Deansgate in association with Ladbrokes.

Race night

So I drove over after work feeling less than glamorous and playing spot the blogger to ensure I was in the right place (i'm sorry, but bloggers do have a look!) Have you ever been to Revolution in Deansgate? It's massive. So I headed upstairs where the drinks were being set up (and cursed myself a bit for not figuring out the trains so I had to drive!). I was met by Carrie and Laura the organisers of the event who are just so sweet! 

race night

race night

race night

The night started with drinks and mingling. I got chatting to the lovely Frances (and her boyfriend, Simon who was joining us for girls night!) and Tasha and took some photos. I got major camera envy as I snapped away with I-phone compared to everyone elses fancy cameras but since this year sees us paying for our wedding and buying our house I think a camera might be low on the priorities right now! (although my pictures are particularly bad because they took forever to upload and so I didn't get round to editing them.. sorry!)

Then there was food... the frustrating thing about a blogger event is everyone has to take pictures of the food before you can eat it! I love food at revolution at the best of times but I was especially hungry and all thoughts of slimming world went out the window whilst I enjoyed pizza, bruschetta, nachos, a bit of salad and potato wedges. Yummy! 

race night

vodka revolution

vodka revolution

Feeling satisfied we were invited downstairs where it was set up like a googlebox living room and the races begun! I was competing against Frances, Simon, Tash, Pat, Hayley & Naomi across four races. Now that i'm a Chester girl I knew I couldn't let the racing roots down and I like to think across the races I did them proud with two wins and ending the most number of tokens.. I was feeling pretty confident for the shopping vouchers & grand national tickets.. but more on that later.. 

race night

race night

Whilst the other bloggers (a much larger group) also watched their races and placed their bets we played a quiz of rapper or race horse - I still don't know the answers actually! and got to knows some more bloggers.. One of my favourite things about blogging is getting to know so many different bloggers and their niches. I urge you to check the links above and have a read!

Finally, it was nearly home time and the winners were announced... I was fourth!!!!! and only slightly bitter about it *grumble grumble* so no prizes for me but I did get a lovely goody bag with the prettiest little bracelet and finally it was time to say goodbye and embark on the drive home!

race night

Thank you to Carrie and the whole team for a fabulous event and a huge thanks to the lovely bloggers I got to meet! I can't wait to meet you all again. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Skincare Favourites

I am not a beauty blogger, I'll be the first to admit that! But, as the exciting events of this year dawns and my 23 year old skin decides to start acting like a 14 year old I figured it was about time to start taking a skin care routine seriously. 

When I was younger I specifically remember my mum following a routine of cleanse, tone and moisturise. So January dawned and out went the dried up face wipes and it was off to boots to spend my Christmas vouchers. I got quite the haul

Skin care, botanics

Botanics All Bright Gentle Cleansing Cream - This creamy cleanser goes on really easily (although be warned you will end of with fluffy bits of cotton wool around the top of the bottle). The result is clean feeling skin which feels smoother.  Plus, the Botanics range comes at a great price (£2.99 for 250ml) and is usually in their 3 for 2 offers. 

skin care, boots

Botanics All Bright Cleansing Toner- I'm not really sure what toner does, can anyone tell me? Anyway this toner is super light (again, be careful I end up getting most of it on the cotton wool and the rest of the bedroom carpet!!). Again, this toner goes on really easily and makes my skin feel clean but also, thankfully not tight. 

I do notice the effects of using this, especially as I haven't quite got in to a strict habit and tend to religiously follow a routine for a few days then I forget again!! So I am definitely seeing the effects this makes on the condition of my skin. 

Botanics All Bright Cleansing Foam Wash- I used this whilst showering and again I can see that it makes a difference to the condition of my skin and stops too many breakouts. However, I've also found it dries my skin out and I have to lather on moisturiser afterwards. That might also have something to do with me only showering with realllyyy hot water! 

skin care

Garnier Moisture Match Light Sotening Cream- This is my favourite! I have virtually used the entire bottle and desperately need to replace this. Garnier have a few different mositursers (or softening creams) in this range for different skin types and you can get a free sample here. I also recommend any surplus for your elbows! 

Boots Tea Tree & Witch Hazel exfoliating Pads - These little pads are full of the age old spot deniers (if that's a thing) they aren't as rough as I was expecting so they're very gently exfoliating- personally, I prefer a bit of rough! It's also slightly confusing figuring out which side is which (if they are only meant to be used one side) but definitely one is persevere with. 

Tea tree & witch hazel nose pore strips

Boots Tea Tree & Hazel Nose Pore Strips - There's something about nose strips which make me feel like I'm in Clueless or an early Friend's episode. But, these little babies really work- you can actually see them drawing things out (mm.. yum!). Be warned though, there is an element of no pain no gain.. especially if, like me, you get them stuck on your nose stud. 

Spa, lime

Champneys spa treatment lime foaming body scrub- Now obviously, this is not for my face. But makes a lovely all over body treat once a week. Its described as a foaming body scrub but it takes a lot of working and water to get it foamy also.. it's like a jelly and tends to be a bit of a cold shock if you're having a hot shower. However, it smells delicious!! and comes in such a beautiful pot too. 

What are your skin care essentials? 

(please excuse the quality of my photos I took them then broke my phone and couldn't access the originals to edit!)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Wedding Wednesday- Update

Happy Wedding Wednesday!

I promised on Monday I'd update you on where we are at wedding wise so here we go:

Venue: Sorted. Still haven't seen it? Check out my Wedding Wednesday post for all the details. We're very lucky that our venue comes with the amazing skills of Bellissimo Wedding Planners who have been amazing at helping us with details including:

Chairs & tables: Our venue is a completely blank canvas which means we got to pick everything from scratch including chairs and tables. We have picked lovely silver banqueting chairs and long tables to form a U shape for our afternoon tea. I didn't realise it was possible to get so excited by seeing our chairs on Strictly Come Dancing.. but it is! 

Catering: We've met with our caterer and just waiting to officially sign the booking form. But I keep staring at the menu and wishing our wedding breakfast was right now! As I mentioned above we're having a lovely afternoon tea including finger sandwiches, little savoury pastries, cake and scones and of course.. loads of tea! We're hoping to get a tasting at the end of April and I can't wait! 

Dress: Ahhh. The dress makes me feel a bit choked every time I think about it! Obviously, I can't say too much because my lovely groom also happens to me a dedicated reader of my blog. But I will see it ties in with our art-deco/vintage theme and is not quite your average wedding dress (not that any wedding dress is ever average they are all magical!) 

Shoes:  Now I'm trying not to pay full price for anything for this wedding but these were the ultimate bargain. Bought in the sale, with a discount voucher my lovely green heels were only £10 and they're lovely. My mum is super impressed with me! Although, the dress actually looks rather lovely barefoot! Accessories: This is going to be a whole Wedding Wednesday post in itself, my beautiful friends Sophia is making all the hair accessories for me, my bridesmaids, my flowergirls and has made my mum's fascinator. This week I've seen the flower girl headbands and I am soooo excited for my veil!

Suit: Not to be outdone, Andy has bought the most amazing 3 piece tweed wool suit, I won't let him forget he's gone overbudget with it but I can forgive him having seen him in it! Accessories: We bought eight ties from Debenhams in January for our wedding party plus one to make pocket squares with. They are an absolutely perfect shade of green! Although Andy's groomsman did say this week "Green? Interesting.. not sure about that, we'll see" as if he gets a choice! 

Bridesmaid Dresses: Ahhh, my beautiful sisters. Even more beautiful in their green bridesmaid dresses from Phase 8! This was one of the first wedding related purchases and one of my favourites. Now to find the perfect silver shoes to go with them. 

Honeymoon: Now, Iceland was always the dream but we've put that off for a bit just for the sake of a budget. Instead we are going to hole up in a beautiful cottage in Sunny Cornwall and see in the new year sipping champagne in the hot tub. From what everyone says a bit of r&r is exactly what you want after your wedding! 

Photographers: Ah, not to be forgotten. We are super excited to have Matt & Esther photographing our wedding as they embark on becoming full time wedding photographers. It is a privilege to support our friends and have two such talented people taking our photos. Did I mention how excited I am for our engagement shoot in May?

Make up: I've booked my trail with the lovely, Tori for easter weekend. I got in touch via my mum only to realise after i'd send the initial message that we actually went to school together. I'm excited to see just how pretty I might look! 

Phew! I can't quite believe how much we've got organised and yet it still feels like there's loads to do (but also loads of time to do it in!). Thanks for sticking with me if you've read all the way down. What was (or is) your favourite part of wedding planning? 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Twentea Something- Life Update

Life Update

Hello Lovelies

Did you have a good weekend? 

I thought it was time to have a quick catch up, I've put the kettle on so curl up and let's have a natter. 

House// Ahhh. Remember back in November when we got our offer accepted on a house? and we were all ready to move in January/February? Well we've been living with boxes for weeks and chasing estate agents and solicitors. Finally it reached the end of February: plans had been put on hold, time off work had been pushed back and we were no closer to moving. So at the start of this week we made the choice to pull out and put an offer in elsewhere. I am soooo appreciative of Andy who had to make all the phone calls and negotiations but we have had our offer accepted, it is again off the market and hopefullyyyy we'll be in within 6-8 weeks all going well! Unlike with the original flat we do have to buy our own furniture.. which means we spent 4 hours sofa shopping yesterday. Being an adult is alll the fun! 

Want to see a sneak peek? Ours is the top left hand corner. Cute view right? 

Chester Apartment

I am currently too exhausted by the whole process and feeling a bit too burned by the original flat to get too excited about the prospect of moving but it is a really, really lovely apartment and I'm just trying to convince Andy that we'll have enough room for a dog! 

Wedding// We're officially getting married in less than 300 days now! How exciting is that? I'm going to do a full update soon on Wedding Wednesday but we are feeling very organised! In fact, I've reached a point now where we're putting off decisions and research because I don't want to have organised everything before May! We're having our engagement shoot in May with our wonderful friends & wedding photographers Matt & Esther.. I think I'm mostly excited to see them and I'm always excited for visitors in Chester. Plus, they're super talented! 

Slimming World// I've not lost approximately 11.5lbs in total and I'm nearrrllllyyyy at my stone award. I am finding the process frustrating.. mostly with myself. Since January I have been yoyoing every week: I lose 3.5lbs one week, the next week I gain 1.5lbs. I'm trying to stay focussed and on plan and remember why I want to lose the weight and get in shape. But turning down the slice of Tesco's Finest Sticky Toffee Pudding isn't always easy! I'm hoping tomorrows weigh in will be good and I'll feel more motivated by that! I'd like to be at my target weight by our engagement shoot but we shall see! I also went to an information evening about becoming a Slimming World consultant, it all sounds very exciting but I'm not sure it's quite the right time. I've added it to my list of possible future ideas! 

Fitness// We joined the gym together in the new year and we're currently managing at most 1-2 times a week and even then I've yet to manage the full 45 minute routine my instructor put together for me. But I remind myself I'm still doing better than nothing! I'm super paranoid about my arms and desperate to tone them up. But I find the gym boring and a bit intimating so I'm hoping to find a class, group, DVD, anything that'll motivate me and that I'll enjoy.. any suggestions are totally welcome!

Church// Ah, this is exciting. After a few months of soul searching and thinking I decided to leave the church I'd been attending intermittently throughout my whole time at Chester. I just didn't feel settled and neither did Andy. So we joined Vineyard 53 for their first Sunday morning service (they've been meeting mid week for the past year) and instantly felt so welcomed and at home, even to the point that I really missed attending one week whilst I was staying with Chloe. It's made me feel a whole lot happier about Church and getting back in to serving and I feel like Andy is asking lots of questions and exploring faith some more. We're also part of a small group of 20 somethings which is great for making new friends. It's a really exciting time. 

You know, I was feeling kind of blue as I started writing this, I've been feeling down this week but when it's all out on paper, things are going pretty great. So how about you, what's going on with you? 
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