Life Lately :: January Edition

Lately I have been dreaming of the black sand beaches of Guatemala, and how happy I think I would be if I could live by the ocean.

Do you ever feel like life is getting in the way of you living? I realise how little sense that makes, but it’s the little things in life that just get in the way like colds, or too much work, or a bunch of random bills coming out at once leaving you extra poor, all of which leave you without any option but to stay in and have as little fun as possible. Especially with this January cold making the rounds!

That’s been me lately and it makes for an extra boring blog I’m afraid. I see daylight rarely these days and for one reason or another this month I have been bedridden with illness or injury. It’s no fun at all!

But I’m feeling cheerful none the less, and that’s probably down to the fact that on Friday we are flying off to Iceland for five nights! Our first travel adventure of 2015 and I cannot wait!

Here’s a few other things from life lately…

Grateful :: for good friends who come over with flowers and smiles to get me out of the house when I’m all stuffed up with cold, just to pop ‘round the corner for coffee and cake. Thanks Tania!

Excited :: about visiting Iceland, hunting down the northern lights and catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in about five years!

Buying :: a juicer! We were mid-way through Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead on Saturday night when I impulse purchased a juicer. Adam nearly died at my financial irresponsibility (and so did I a little), but I’m excited to give it a go!

Anticipating :: the release of a new camera I have my eye on. I’ve been receiving a lot of camera deliveries at work lately (so they don’t belong to me) and it’s making me excited to one day soon buy one myself…. Yea I really need to stop spending money.

Loving :: my new short haircut! I’ll post some photos soon, promise. But my long hair is long gone!

Discovering :: a new favourite brand of coconut oil. It’s called Chi  and it’s so creamy and smooth.

Visiting :: a naturopath. I’ve never been to someone for medical advice who wasn’t a doctor, but it was interesting and I’m going to give it a real go, supplements and all. I’ll let you know how it works out!

Eating :: all the cake. I don’t know why but I have been on a massive brownie binge for about a week now which is weird for me because I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.

Cooking :: Deliciously Ella’s Rejuvenating Bowl recipe at least once a week, it’s so easy and so delicious.

Using :: Hurraw! lip balmy my mum bought me back from Toronto. I’ve been using the black cherry one, have you tried it? It’s available here if you’re shopping from within the UK.

Dreaming :: about being able to wear floaty summer dresses again. I know it’s only January and we’ve got a long way to go yet, but a girl can dream.

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When Blogging isn't Your Day Job and Some Tips on How to Make it Work

Some shots of me working on assignment in Guatemala last year taken by a very kind colleague.

I've had a few questions lately about how I manage blogging with a full time job, so I thought I would do a post about it. 

I did a post about my job not too long ago which you can find here. It's changed a bit since then and now I only handle content - filming and photography but no social media which I'm so happy about. Facebook is not for me.

Looking back it's actually really interesting how my blog and my job kind of merged together. I never would have lost myself in photography if I hadn't tried so hard at it for my blog's sake, and I never would have ended up in my current job if it wasn't for my photography skills and my understanding of how to run an editorial calendar - which only came about through developing my online space here! 

Anyway, blogging and working full time is tricky. One of my biggest frustrations is that I'm in an office most of the time, so if I want to photograph anything with light I have to do it at the weekends. And weekends during the winter I find I need for hibernation, so some days getting off my bum and getting my camera out is just not going to happen. 

I used to feel a lot of pressure to post every day, but since I left that behind I feel happy with posting two to three times a week (maybe more in the summer when there's evening light, or when I travel). I edit my photos at the weekends or in the evenings, and write my posts on my lunch break or on the bus.

It takes a lot of dedication, and sometimes I think I'm a little crazy for going from one computer screen to another, evenings and weekends. But I guess I do it because I love it, and if I didn't I would probably find it really hard work.

Here's a few tips I've learned along the way...

Tips for Bloggers Who Have Full Time Jobs

1 :: be realistic with how often you can post, and be patient with yourself if sometimes you just can't manage it.

2 :: plan your posts as far in advance as possible, so you can take your photos as the opportunity arises. And keep your camera on you when you leave the house!

3 :: quality is better than quantity. It's so much better to post once or twice a week with content you are proud of than five times a week with stuff that's just ok.

4 :: be clear on what kinds of things you want to blog about, so you don't have to spend hours trying to think of blog posts. The more purposeful you are in only blogging about the things you enjoy, the easier you will find it to work those extra hours after you get home from work.

5 :: keep a notebook or a list on your phone where you can write down your ideas and think through your posts, it saves loads of time when you actually come to write your content.

6 :: enjoy it! If you're beating your brains out trying to make it work, it's just not worth it. It's meant to be fun, and there are plenty of other platforms you can participate in without spending so much time on content creation. 

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Cleansing Your Face With Coconut Oil

All through the summer I had planned on experimenting with using coconut oil and a face wash. I didn't want to start before October though, because everyone knows you're not meant to mess with your beauty routine before you get married! But the natural cleansing properties of coconut oil combined with the ease of having a cleanser and moisturiser in one - amazing.

So the moment I got back from New York, I had a jar of coconut oil waiting for me to crack it open and give it a go. For three months now I have been washing my face with virgin organic coconut oil at the end of my daily shower - massaging it in and then gently letting the water run over my face to rinse off any excess. And for good measure I lather it on my legs and arms as a moisturiser while the water is still running because for me there's nothing worse than being freezing out of the shower and applying cold moisturiser, it's hell and I'm more likely to just go with dry legs! When drying off I just pat myself down, no scrubbing or rough drying because I want the coconut oil to stay in place and lock in as much moisture as it can!

I'm happy to say that I'm hooked! I don't think I'll ever go back to a soap based face wash - though ask me in the summer when I'm all sweaty and gross. For now though, my skin is actually less greasy and more matte at the end of the day than it ever has been before. My skin has always been on the greasier side, although my skin often gets rough from dryness, so go figure... My face doesn't feel gross or covered in grease after a shower, in fact, I often have to moisturise on top of the coconut oil because my skin feels a bit dry! I don't have any more spots than I did before I started cleansing with oil - though I've never had consistently bad skin, just the occasional breakout. 

I feel like coconut oil has made my skin feel more balanced, it's not overly greasy anymore, nor is it as dry. And it means that I have to take less time and spend less money on several face products where I now only use one or two!

* in these photos I'm completely makeup free, but you will notice that they are of the same side of my face, just flipped. I didn't want anyone to think I was trying to trick them!

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Travels in Japan :: What to do in Tokyo and Kyoto

To scroll through all my other posts on Japan, click here!

Somehow, time got away from me and I am super late on posting my recommendations of things to do in Tokyo and Kyoto. Here is a list of the experiences we had in Japan last year, things we did and loved and would suggest to anyone who is planning a visit:

My Tokyo Top 10

1 :: First let's talk accommodation! I would go for an airbnb flat in Shimokitazawa, which is a super fun and accessable neighborhood with lots of boutiques, restaurants, and a very trendy vibe. Also good coffee which is not so easy to find in Japan. If you want to stay right in the middle of the action, go for an airbnb in Shibuya, we really loved this one. 

2 :: There are so many good places to eat in Japan! I definitely recommend Ippudo for ramen, and hooray! because they've just opened one in London! But really it's hard to find bad ramen in Japan. Don't be afraid to walk into some local shop where you order by machine and take a seat at the bar to be served. Adam and I were nearly put off by one place because we didn't know how to work the machine, but everyone in Japan is so friendly that in a second there was someone there to help. Also, try to find somewhere that serves okonomiyaki. It's a kind of eggy pancake thing with noodles - oh man, it's good.

3 :: The Tokyo Sky Tree! Adam always wants to see a birds-eye-view of a city, and Tokyo was so amazing to see from above. We had to queue for a while and it was pretty full of school children on field trips, but it was worth it.

4 :: Ueno! This is where we ate the best tempura of our lives! Around here you have a little market that's full of cheap stuff you probably wouldn't want to buy, but it's nice to have a wander and then some lunch. And then you can walk over to the park close by which has some beautiful temples and the Tokyo Zoo! It was closed when we got there on a Monday which was sad because we didn't get to see the panda, but not so sad because zoos can be a little depressing.

5 :: The Golden Gai! Shinjuku is a fun area to walk around, but buried in there are a few tiny streets full of tiny bars. It's a fun night out and a good way to chat to some people from Tokyo. English isn't as widely spoken as in other countries we've visited, but I really loved that! 

6 :: Meiji Jingu - a really lovely shrine and a nice place to experience some quiet in the middle of Tokyo. Also, it's really close to Harajuku! Which, if you haven't heard of it, is a great place to see everything cute about Japan and visit the bunny cafe - one of my favourite things about our time in Tokyo.

7 :: Asakusa temple. It's pretty busy and touristy, but it's one of the oldest temples in Japan so it's a must see for those of us who love visiting temples and churches. Also, there's a little shopping street down the road and it's where I tried my first mochi - which was good but maybe not something you would want to eat loads of.

8 :: Shibuya is a good place to visit on your first day in Tokyo. It's got the famous Tokyo crossing and is a bit overwhelming with crowds but is a good way to immerse yourself in all things Japan. It's quite touristy, but full of interesting things to see.

9 :: Tokyo public transport. I know this is a funny thing to add, but we had such a good time trying to figure out what on earth was going on with the transport system as we navigated the city. It was so complicated, but once we got the hang of it there was such a sense of satisfaction. And it was a great way to immerse ourselves in Tokyo life! And if you want another way to immerse yourself into some Japanese culture, check out a Tokyo Giants game! I'm not a baseball fan but I had lots of fun.

10 :: All you can eat shabu shabu!! I can't recommend this enough. Oh my goodness. Shabu shabu is the most delicious food you will ever eat, I think it may even win out as my favourite food ever. Even above macaroni and cheese! I know, I know, a bold statement. But if you're ever in Shibuya, go here.

My Kyoto Top 10

1 :: As far as airbnbs go in Japan, the earlier you book the better. We booked really late and ended up staying at this airbnb in Kyoto. It was lovely! And a great way to experience how many people in Kyoto live and sleep, but it would have been nicer to be a little closer to a train station, if not the center. 

2 :: Kinkaku-ji or the golden temple. This was the only point at which I got frustrated with crowds in Japan. There were SO many tourists here that we didn't stay for very long. However, it was still worth it because the golden temple was amazing.

3 :: Once you're done at Kinkaku-ji, hop on over to Arashiyama, the bamboo forest. Again, it's going to be touristy, but it's so peaceful you won't even notice. It's easy to do the temple and the bamboo forest in one day but the earlier you get there the better.

4 :: Gion is a great place for an early evening stroll. It's fun to see if you can spot a geisha, although it's really difficult so don't be disappointed if you don't. It's a beautiful old part of the city and a wonderful place to take photos. 

5 :: Nishiki Market is a great place to try out Kyoto's street food!  Adam ate a grilled cuttlefish skewer, but he's a lot braver than I am. It's a good place to get lost for a few hours, but if you're looking for a restaurant to eat at, do your research first! We just chose one at random at it was not good. 

6 :: Kyoto Gyoen National Park holds my favourite memory of our trip to Japan. We had just arrived in Kyoto and walked to the Park from the train station. Adam fell asleep on a bench while I sat and watched a yoga class near by, it was one of those "at peace with the world" moments.

7 :: Fushimi Inari Shrine and a hike - possibly one of the most famous spots in Kyoto. It really is as beautiful as you would imagine it to be - but there is a long walk you can do all around the grounds of the shrine. It's up-hill for a lot of the way, but it's very much worth it.

8 :: Kurama Onsen and a hike - this is home to one of Kyoto's famous hot springs. You take a train to get there, and the train itself has a leaf viewing car. So if you get to the station early enough you can grab one of those leaf viewing seats and enjoy the ride out of the city looking at all the beautiful trees. At the station you can get a map of the town where the spa is and the surrounding nature walks. I suggest getting off a stop early and doing the hike from the station to the spa. There's nothing better than a long soak after some exercise! It's not too expensive, but you do have to be completely naked in the pools - no swimming costumes allowed! So if you have a problem with public nudity, this may not be for you. But having said that, I do have a problem with public nudity but I just made myself get over it. I'm a big believer in not letting your fears hold you back.

9 :: Pontocho at night. This is one of my favourite streets in Kyoto. It's full of restaurants and bars and it's just so very old world Japan. Finding a place to eat is hard though, and it's very much a local spot although it seems touristy. Adam and I had to search for a while to find a restaurant with an English menu, and even then we saw others ordering delicious looking dishes that just didn't seem to be on our menu. But we persevered and thankfully Adam isn't afraid to look like an idiot when it comes to pointing, asking questions, trying to make conversation where no one speaks the same language, and just giving things a go.

10 :: Shinbashi Dori is a beautiful little street to walk down. It's not far away from Pontocho and Gion, you can do all of that in one night if you like, but it's lovely to just wander around this part of town and get lost in the old world-ness of it all. When I imagined the old culture of Japan, Shinhabshi Dori is what I thought it would look like. 

Just a few last points about Japan...

:: Be patient with yourself, you will get lost. Many people don't speak much English and the transport system is so complicated in many cities - but if you embrace the adventure of it then you'll have nothing but fun trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

:: Bullet trains! Expensive but pretty much as awesome as you've heard.

:: Coffee: it's not good. Starbucks is your friend. Maybe we were unlucky with our local coffee choices but we only found one place in Shimokitazawa that was good, and unfortunately I can't remember what it was called.

:: Pack snacks! It means you don't have to spend so much money on eating out. But that's just a good travelers tip in general.

:: Mobile wifi!! Most airbnbs offer it but make sure you get it otherwise it's going to make traveling around a lot more difficult!

:: You can do a day trip to Osaka from Kyoto, and we did, but it was so crowded and such a crazy city that I didn't add it into my list of must-do's because I don't think it's a must.

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Welbeing :: Some Helpful Links for Living the Good Life

If I had to narrow down my life resolutions to just two things, it would be take more pictures and do more yoga. Photo from here, although clearly that's not it's original source so let me know if you know what that is!!

:: I pre-ordered Yoga Girls new book which I am beyond excited for, because in case you haven't noticed I have a bit of a girl crush. I've also pre-ordered Deliciously Ella's cook book which promises to help me eat healthier - I have high hopes!

:: Lemon juice with ginger and honey on my morning bus ride! Not only does this give a healthy start to the day to my insides, it also helps to combat motion sickness which I suffer from terribly! I know it's not a link, but it's still helpful!

:: Popcorn! A healthy snack I've been making for Adam and I in the evenings to replace wine and just general rubbish eating. My mum gave us her old popcorn maker ages ago and I've only just started using it. Fresh popcorn is so delicious it makes junk food easy to forget!

:: The Yoga Studio app. Do you use it? I've had it on my phone for ages but didn't really get into it until I realised you can actually download classes and listen to someone telling you what to do as you do it! Now if anyone has any tips on finding quiet and space enough to do yoga in a two room flat with a husband and a dog, please let me know!

:: Remember the 30 day yoga challenge I did last year? Well there's another challenge coming up that I'm super excited about at, it's the 30 Day Meditation Class and it starts at the beginning of Feb so there's still time to sign up!

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