Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 Photo Diary























Its safe to say I have had an incredible 2014 with some of my favourite people. Here's hoping 2015 lives up to all of our expectations.

I wish all my lovely readers health, wealth and happiness for the next year. What do you have on the cards for the next 12 months?
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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

MAC Flat Out Fabulous Lipstick

On Christmas Day, my sister surprised me with a MAC lipstick in the shade "Flat Out Fabulous" which I think is an incredibly accurate description, it truly is fabulous... Thank you so much Sarah for this gorgeous lipstick, I absolutely love it!



Flat Out Fabulous is a purpley-pink shade, and a retro matte MAC lipstick. I wore it out shopping and it lasted absolutely ages, I was really impressed with how long it stayed on actually. I don't tend to wear any eye or face make up so I didn't look too made up for a shopping trip, but if I did wear heavy eye make up during the day I think I would probably save this lipstick for an evening occasion. Its quite a bold colour so best saved for wearing either with lighter make up during the day, or as part of an evening look so it is not too overpowering.

Have you ever tried Flat Out Fabulous? What do you think of this colour?
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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Travel | When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

Ok, so we did do a little of what the Romans do but we definitely threw a lot of touristy stuff in there as well (naturally!). I loved Rome, and I'm already counting the days until we can go back. Unfortunately, it wasn't the smoothest trip we've ever had with flight delays and a couple of the things we wanted to see being scaffolded (why trevi fountain, why!) but its safe to say both Dan and I fell in love with Rome and have already talked about when we can head back there. My parents are going in February to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary and I'm already working out ways to fit a 5 foot 4 person in a hand luggage suitcase so I can go too!

We had three days in Rome roughly, as we flew early on the Sunday and late on the Wednesday home. This was the perfect amount of time for us to fit in everything we desperately wanted to see, although I could have done with a few more days of the beautiful Italian food. We arrived at our hotel, freshened up and napped so we were ready to face the afternoon/evening. Rome's metro is definitely not as good as places like London or Barcelona, so the centre was more easily reached by walking, and our hotel was about a 20 minute walk from the Spanish Steps and Piazza di Spagna which is where we headed first on the day we arrived. Even though the top section was scaffolded, it was still really nice to see and the christmas decorations were also really cool! Being in Rome really reminded me of the Lizzie Mcquire movie, I must watch it again now! Such a classic...We wandered through the streets to the trevi fountain which was unfortunately really scaffolded. It was such a shame, but luckily we were able to walk on a walkway above the fountain and throw coins in so hopefully we'll be returning to Rome in the future! My mum calls my family "pasta powered people" because we love it so much (partly to do with our Italian roots!) and I was dying to try a spag bol italian style. Its safe to say I had the best spag bol ever that night, in a little restaurant cafe at the end of our road. We even went back again on our last night before it was so good, and of course I got the spag bol!





On the second day, we decided to stick to the Ancient Roman stuff, so caught the metro down to the Colosseum. They have a three day transport pass in Rome which can be used on buses, trams and the metro for only 17 euro, which is something to remember if you go there yourself! The Colosseum itself was amazing. It was absolutely massive, and I think you are really struck by thoughts of what actually used to happen there, its crazy! Across the road, there is the Palatino (entry is included in your ticket to the Colosseum) and we checked that out. It had ruins from the old forum which I guess is like a marketplace, and I saw some of the things I used to learn about it A Level Classics which was pretty cool. Unfortunately it began to rain whilst we were looking at this so we headed back to the hotel for a nap before venturing out to the Pantheon. This was probably my favourite thing we saw, it was was just so impressive, and I loved the fact that they didn't close the hole in the dome, just let it rain down. After the impressive Pantheon, it was time to find food! The food was something I was especially excited about. We had dinner in a restaurant called That's Amore, which was delicious and very near the Trevi Fountain. My pizza came in the shape of a heart - so cute!









The next day it was really really rainy in the morning, with thunderstorms so we just chilled in our hotel room - I was pleased I brought my kindle! Even though it was a shame we missed out on more of Rome, I was actually grateful because we had had such a busy last couple of weeks of term that we both really needed a break. In the afternoon we headed out for lunch, and then to the Vittorio Emmanuel II building, which is huge and pretty ugly. We got the chance to go up a lift to the top of the building though for seven euro, which is why we went really because it meant we could see Rome from 360 degrees, very impressive! This was our last night so we had that incredible spag bol again.




On our final day, we went to the Vatican. It was pretty impressive, and one of my favourite parts was the Gallery of Maps - it was so cool seeing huge paintings of different parts of Italy, I really didn't expect anything like that to be there, and I really really enjoyed it! The sistine chapel was also incredible. I wasn't a huge fan of the Michelangelo art, I found it quite dark in a way, but there was other artists work in there which I found lovely! My generous sister had given me and Dan some money for my birthday, along with a blog post about different places to eat in Rome that she had found online. Luckily, one of those places was about a 10 minute walk from the Vatican. Pizzarium is a takeaway pizza place and I'm not even lying, we spend 35 euro on pizza, with slices being around three euro each. Its safe to say we ate a lot! I don't actually eat cheese so I was a little worried they wouldn't have anything for me to eat but they did! There was an onion pizza which was weird, but very lovely and a plain tomato sauce with herbs. This was the best pizza I have ever had in my life and I easily could have eaten the whole massive tray. If you are in Rome, this is definitely a place I would recommend, and make sure you go hungry!





I had such an incredible time in Rome, and I definitely, definitely will be back in the future. Its such a gorgeous city, the food was amazing and there was loads to see.

Have you ever been to Rome? Is there anything we didn't do that you'd recommend if we went again?

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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Rome, R and R

Myself and Dan have flown to Rome for a wintery break as part of my 21st present, and I have had an incredibly busy week finishing university and preparing myself for all the work I have to do over the Christmas holidays. This is why I have decided to take this week off whilst we are away to give me a little time to rest and recuperate ready for the festive season!

 In October, I was really struggling to keep up with my blogging schedule, and found that I didn't have much to blog about. I finally got it back and have been blogging every Monday, Wednesday and Friday since then. I've been really enjoying it and having a schedule makes my life a lot easier to manage. I know that I need to have three blog posts per week written and done which makes balancing everything a lot more manageable.

I have noticed though that my stats have been dropping a little so I thought I'd take this opportunity whilst I'm breaking for a week to ask you what you want to see on my blog and if you could be giving me any advice on things that would interest you more to read about?

I hope you all have an amazing week. Thank you for reading this! I really would appreciate your feedback so if you have any you'd like to give me, then please either comment or email me at suitcaseandsandals@outlook.com!

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Friday, 12 December 2014

The Secrets of South America : Extreme Beauty Queens

I was trawling through my ipad on BBC iplayer to download something to watch on the train, and came across The Secrets of South America: Extreme Beauty Queens, and I couldn't not post something about it now I've seen it, it was such an eye-opener!

Billie JD Porter travelled to Venezuela for 6 months to follow the girls in the Miss Venezuela process, meeting the main main behind it all Osmal Sousa, and some of the contestants themselves, and I have to say it was a very interesting watch. I've never really agreed with beauty competitions, I find them quite degrading and it upsets me when I see young girls competing in it. However, this competition takes it to another level. Osmal basically dictates what the individual girl needs to be "perfect" and this could be anything from losing weight to having a nose job, obviously a very life changing decision. I don't think it is wrong to have plastic surgery, its a very personal decision, but the way it was portrayed in this documentary was shocking and upsetting.

A girl, competing from one of the slums (Barrios) was one of the competitors. Billie heads to hers to find out her story, and they have dinner whilst she is there. The most shocking part of the whole documentary for me was this part. The young girl, she was 18, had has some mesh sewn to her tongue so that she could not eat solids as it was too painful. She said it helped her to lose weight quickly. This girl was TINY already, with a 23 inch waist. It was madness!

Having disagreed with most things this girl had done to get to where she was, I was surprised to find myself teary when she was one of the five finalists! As a girl from a barrio, it was such a massive achievement for her to have got so far into the competition. Whilst she didn't win, it was undeniably going to change her life forever, hopefully giving her and her family the money to escape the dangerous place in which they lived, especially after her brother had been shot dead at 18.

The documentary was definitely interesting, and I could see the positives of it, in the fact that the police said that there was less crime on the streets when the programme was on. However, I do think it was upsetting that many young girls only had these "Misses" to aspire towards, and the fact that they basically HAD to have plastic surgery to be in the final was quite upsetting as well.

What do you think of beauty pageants? Do you agree with Osmal's suggestions about the girls having plastic surgery?
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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Travel | Planning a City Break with a Student Budget

I have been lucky enough this year to head to not only Barcelona, but I'll be heading to Rome as well on city breaks! For a student, I think this is a pretty good effort considering I have also been to three other countries this year. I love heading to a new city and exploring the local area - eating the food, seeing the famous sights and also the less famous sights like the Sinagoga Major which you can read about here.

Dan and I are off to Rome on Sunday, as part of my 21st Birthday celebrations, and I couldn't be more excited. However, we are 100% most definitely on a student budget - especially going so close to Christmas!


I thought I'd do a post today about how to plan a city break with a not so full budget, as I know it can be tricky to balance doing all the things we want to with a lot less money than we wish we had. Me and Dan have usually pre-planned as much as we can because we definitely think this is a key way for us to save some pennies so we can travel, just without breaking the bank in the process.

One | Look for travel deals online. When we went to Barcelona we got a 5 day travel card for about £30. When I've visited Madrid before, it cost me sort of ten euros to have a travel card for one day so this is a good place to start when planning to save money - remember to order a while in advance though so it has time to get to you before you go there!

Two | Student cards. Usually, places will state (either on their website, or in a guide book - I find the lonely planet ones give you good prices) whether they offered lower rates for those with student cards. For our upcoming trip to Rome, we sat down and worked out everywhere we wanted to visit and how much it would end up costing us - this is a good way to make sure you have enough money for everything you want to do, and enough for necessities like food.


Three | Be aware of what you have paid for. When we went to Barcelona, we booked a hotel room without any food being included at all. In hindsight this was probably a mistake. When we go to Rome we will get a continental breakfast every morning which is easily a way to save money. We can have a huge breakfast, walk it off throughout the day and it means we won't have to splurge on both lunch and dinner! We are also planning on taking snack bars in our hand luggage so that we don't have to pay for snacks when we are there - I don't know why but I always find it a lot more pricey abroad in Europe!

Four | "Is it really necessary?" I am definitely one who gets carried away buying things to remember my trip by even if I will never ever use them. Do I really need a pretty spoon, or those 8 scarves? If you know you won't really use it, don't even bother buying it! I tend to try not to spend too much on city breaks anyway by avoiding all shops as much as possible anyway...

Five | Travel deals - looking for flights and accommodation early will save you alot of money. We got our 4* hotel in Barcelona in the January sales for something like £90, and when I looked again it was meant to be £400 instead of the £200 tops we paid. Its definitely worth looking at booking.com! I've found them so good price wise.


These are definitely my top tips for being able to afford city breaks on student budgets! Looking around for deals is always a good idea, and being frugal now means more city breaks in the future...

Do you have any more tips for planning a city break with a student budget?


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Monday, 8 December 2014

Harry Potter Studio Tours

Every term my parents like to give me and my sister a treat to keep us motivated, which is so kind of them and it really does the trick. This term, I decided that Dan and I would head to the Harry Potter Studios. We both love the films, and thought it was finally time to check the Studio Tour out after hearing such good things about it. I was so excited! We chose to go on the 3rd December as we thought it would be starting to get Christmassy, and also it was in Dan's birthday week so we could keep the celebrations going!

There are 4 sections to the tour. One guided part at the beginning, then 3 self guided sections. There are two massive warehouses which you are able to take your time to walk round, and an outside section as well which was amazing! As its winter we were able to experience "Hogwarts in the Snow" which was really cool, it was nice to see the christmassy touches to the sets. I definitely want to go back in summer though to spend longer outside and see Hogwarts normally, although I think the snow made it more magical...

I don't want to give too much away, as some of you may decide you want to go there in the future so I'm going to tell you a few of my favourites!

Finally seeing No, 4 Privet Drive. This house has been involved since day one so it was pretty cool to be standing outside, butterbeer in hand! I'd heard some dodgy reviews about butterbeer, but I actually really liked it! It was quite sickly so I couldn't have drunk the whole thing but it was really tasty.


Diagon Alley was amazing, so so magical! I only wish I could have been heading into Ollivanders so my wand could finally choose me...Damn you Hogwarts letter for being TEN YEARS LATE!



I knew that there was a model of Hogwarts at the studios, but I didn't realise how impressive and massive the model would be. I've put a photo without humans in it so you can be as surprised too if you do end up going and haven't been before! I loved it, it was so pretty in the snow too.


I don't want to spoil anymore for you if you haven't been so I'll leave it at that, although I could type for ages about the incredible things we saw. 

"The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home" J.K.Rowling

This was the quote that we saw when we left the tour, and I loved it so I thought I'd share it with you all!

Let me know what you thought of the Harry Potter Studio Tours if you have been! What was your favourite part?
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Friday, 5 December 2014

Recipe | Golden Syrup Cookies

One strong memory from my childhood was making cookies at my Godmother's house. Her husband is american and she got this amazing recipe to make cookies for him when he was missing home. It is the most gooey delicious cookie ever, and making it again brought back so many great memories. 


The recipe is simple, but stupidly yum! This ones a real crowd pleaser. 

You rub together 8oz of Plain Flour and 4oz of Butter which creates a crumbly mixture.




Throw in 4oz of Caster Sugar. Mix it together with the Plain Flour and Butter mix. 

I chose to add 1tsp of Vanilla Essence, but you could always add 2tsp of Ginger if you fancied something different!


Then you need to add in 3/4 of a tsp of Bicarbonate Soda. This makes the cookies super googey and tasty.

Finally, you add 4 tablespoons of Golden Syrup - however, I only used 4 normal spoons otherwise it would be super sweet. 


Roll the dough up into little balls and place onto a baking tray. Bear in mind that these balls will expand by three times so be careful how big you make them. Mine were too big! 

Your cookies will only need about 10 minutes in the oven, at around 180-200 degrees. When you take them out of the oven, make sure you bang the tray down a couple of times so they flatten. 



Leave to cool a bit, and the cookies will crisp! Make sure you take the cookies off the paper first though else they will stick to it. The perfect winter treat. 

Do you like the look of these cookies? Have you got any winter cookie recipes?


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