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Star Sew Bright


The lovely Cara from Nana Momo Makes contacted me to review a new monthly sewing box. The subscription just launched in November and began with a quilting course which I found exciting and was definitely up for the challenge. I am a keen sewer but by no means a pro, however - quilting was a first for me. 

When you join the subscription, you have access to the video tutorials Cara personally creates for you which run you through step-by-step just what you need to do to achieve the end result. If you want to take up quilting as a hobby, I would definitely recommend purchasing the additional instruments that Cara advises you to. 

As a newbie to quilting, I found that I had to improvise with what I had lying around but definitely thought the end result would have been finished more professionally had I had the right equipment. 



The pile of fabric comes neatly piled and tied with a ribbon, and comes with all the relevant information to get you started. The video tutorials run through these pages visually and makes it more digestible, as this information can be a little overwhelming at first!


I did make a couple errors including sewing down the middle line but this wasn't an issue as I had to cut down it anyway. And also, I didn't align my squares from the centre so the star at the end was a little misaligned. 


However, I was very happy with and proud of the outcome of the star even with it's imperfections as they added a little more character to the piece. I also love the fabric choices she included and found this mustard print adorable. 


Cara includes enough fabric to create two of these and while I probably won't be taking up quilting full time, the box has given me enough fabric to make another star which I could use as a creative way to wrap presents. 

As I'm a budding zero waster, I'm hoping to decrease the waste I produce and get more crafty at home to replace products I would otherwise buy and then throw away (like wrapping paper). The box has also taught me how to make this unique gift and I'll be keeping the instructions for reference as I'd love to make more of these adorable quilt squares. 


I'm very grateful for Cara for reaching out to me about this box because now I have learnt a new skill and something which is invaluable to me. Both my mother and I are very creative and my father, has a creative engineering mind. My mother has recently learnt how to crochet from being an avid knitter herself, but sewing is not her forté and relies on me to teach her whenever I get the chance. Having learnt this new skill, I can now use this to bond with my mother the next time I'm back for some home comforts. 



Eating Pancakes For All Three Meals

What would happen if I were to eat nothing but pancakes for all three meals of the day at different establishments? 


Well, we'll soon find out! Yesterday graced us with one of my favourite religious holidays - Pancake Day...where we learn that Jesus lent his frying pan to Judas for 40 days and 40 nights and that's where we get Lent from*. 

For breakfast, I went to Alabama's All America Eatery in the Northern Quarter of Manchester as I have enjoyed their pancakes previously. As I was short on time and they suggested leaving up to 40 minutes for a visit so I had to bail and opt for personal favourite; Ezra & Gil. Served in no time, I opted for the very simple and classic blueberry and maple syrup fluffy American-style pancakes. It hit the spot with a cup of their chai latte and was just enough to fill me for breakfast. 


The reason why Ezra & Gil is my favourite café establishment is because of so many different contributing factors. It's big, it has a friendly and homely atmosphere, it promotes and sells local produce (which gives me a very zerowaste vibe), they are dog friendly with free dog treats, free wifi, you can spend hours in there and not realise, CANDY MACHINES, they do a mean smashed avocado (which I'm obsessed with) and they are bloody efficient! Their kitchen is beyond fast yet it's not huge nor abundantly staffed. They always produce my orders in record speed and once, my plate arrived the second I sat down. 

For lunch, I went back to Alabama's to be told the wait to be seated would be over 45 minutes long and you had to be texted when a table was ready since there was no room to sit, even though I did try to book a table online on the OpenTable widget on their website but consequently told that they aren't even registered with OpenTable. So off we went to another homely kitchen named Evelyn's Café Bar. I've heard nothing but great things about this place yet never found the time to go. My bestie raves about the Sunday roast here which is next on my list. They had three pancake specials on; a fluffy soufflé pancake with fresh berries, a green superfood avocado and apple pancake, and a savoury Indian cuisine inspired pancake with spices. I opted for the superfood pancake and my chummy, the berry soufflé pancake and halved each when they arrived. 

The superfood pancake definitely ticked my boxes with the berry pancake falling short. Both delicious and took no time to arrive, the superfood won it for me. The berry pancake was a little too heavy for my liking with some parts tasting more eggy than others and other parts tasting more sour from the berries.


Finally for dinner, I popped over to Trof to peruse their pancake offerings. I had been here for drinks before but never for food until the other week when I tried their smashed avocado. I might possibly say it was better than Ezra but if I say this out loud, I feel like the bestie would go ape since she seems to be in an open relationship with the establishment. All that was left at Trof when we arrived were a mushroom and cheese pancake and ham, tomato and cheese pancake. This was not an issue for me since I prefer savoury food over sweet food any day of the week, so I went ahead and ordered the ham, tomato and cheese. 

Sadly, this didn't do it for me. The ham was actually dry cured ham, yet I was expecting juicy slices of ham inside. The tomato was fresh but the ham ruined the dish for me and I felt that these options were just variations of omelette but replacing egg with a pancake. Sadly, this wasn't appealing enough visually to make it onto my Instagram either. 


Winner: Superfood Pancake at Evelyn's Cafe Bar


*not a fact


Plan A Solo Vacation // Giveaway


I am an advocate for solo vacations, or as we call them here in the UK - holidays. I've always loved travelling alone; I feel as though it leaves you more room for open mindedness and adventure. Don't get me wrong, I love travelling with friends. But the more friends you have on holiday with you, the more conflicting interests you have. I have been so lucky in the sense that I have been on many solo expeditions and have always come out richer from these experiences. So to celebrate Plan A Solo Vacation Day on the 1st March, I am giving away some goodies that I think are essential for a solo holiday.


Lime Quilted Cross Body Bag - A cross body bag is essential for any solo trip, whether it is abroad or  domestic. It frees both arms for ultimate exploration potential and isn't so big that it becomes a burden. You need a bag small enough to not get in the way, but big enough to hold all your essentials. It's also handy if the chain can be tucked away as it can double as an evening bag/clutch. Having a multi-purpose bag means you can travel with less (just one bag) which means more room for shopping hauls or additional luggage if you are planning a backpacking style trip. This fun lime Miu Miu style quilted cross body bag is perfect!

Lovisa Turquoise Crystal Ball Earring Studs - While some may think jewellery is not essential for a holiday, I think it's important to pack a pair of earrings for certain occasions. Some understated but colourful studs will do the trick if you want a bit of daytime bling in the sunshine or evening glitz. These studs are versatile and do the trick!

Missguided Statement Necklace - I believe you should bring at least one necklace on a holiday with you, while not necessary in the day, I think having one glam piece is essential. Stick with silver so it can match any outfit you pick out.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin and Love Poems by Pablo Neruda - Always bring at least one book with you unless you know there will be books at your accommodation. If you stay in a hostel, chances are there will be many books to pick from but if you're at a holiday resort, it's safer to bring one from home. Choose a classic like Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice or if you don't want to commit to a long story, choose something easier to read like a collection of short stories or some love poems. 

Nude Nail Varnish - While makeup should be minimal on holiday, I think it's important to have well groomed nails. Opt for something understated like a nude brown or french manicure pink. A lot like the silver statement necklace, the colour of your nails should be able to match any outfit you pick out. 

Semi-Rimless Tortoiseshell Vintage-Style Sunglasses - Last but not least, sunglasses! You can never predict the weather, and it is very important to look after your eyes. Not only can the sun's rays damage your eyesight but squinting can increase wrinkles around the eye area. Keep your eyes protected with some stylish sunglasses and make sure they themselves are protected from scratches.





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La Douleur Exquise


Ever since I spotted Oscar De La Renta's striped sequin and ostrich feather top on my favourite blogger Blair of Atlantic Pacific, I knew I had to have it. But at about £2,000 for the beautiful piece, how would that be possible?




I took a mini hiatus from any DIY projects but returned in full force with this cheeky number. I had an old navy and white striped cropped tee from H&M that I was planning on throwing out (crop tops are not cute on a 27 year old woman) but loved the shape and quality so much that I couldn't bring myself to do it. Queue the lightbulb moment! After buying 2 meters worth of crisp white ostrich feather trimmings, I decided to sew this to the hem of the top to elongate it (making it more wearable at my age) and also channel my inner Oscar De La Renta. Not only was this one of my easiest upcycling projects but one of my favourites also.

Step 1

Since ostrich feather trims are quite sparce in feathers, it is likely you'll have to double up the trimming in order to gain the same look as the Oscar De La Renta top. Work out what length of feathers you will need.

Step 2

Double up! Fold the trim on itself to double the volume of feathers, align and pin in place.



Step 3

Pin to the inside of the top. The reason we do this is so that the hem of the top hides the ribbon trim of the feathers. It looks neater and more professional.



Step 4

I would highly recommend machine sewing, the industrial needle will penetrate the double trim and hem of the top with ease. Align and sew leaving a slight gap between the start and finish. Do not leave a big enough gap so that it's visible (the feathers should mask the gap) but big enough for a little stretch. Because this trim does not stretch, you may find this difficult to put on without a stretch gap. Failing that, you can insert a zip. 


Once complete, style with dainty and delicate jewellery or a vintage brooch. The top I had was upcycled from an old H&M top and the feathers were bought for £7.48 which seemed like a much more reasonable option compared to spending £2,000. Check out Oxfam's shop for some easy stripes to upcycle here.

While I do love a good brand or label, I think it's important not to add to the environmental impact the fashion industry already has. As an aspiring minimalist and zero waster, I am aware of just how much waste is involved in the industry and knowing that I'm minimising my impact makes me feel that little bit better. 




Absolutely Divine


The lovely Christine from Divine Legs kindly sent me a box of goodies to try this winter season. Divine Legs are a monthly subscription service that provide hosiery and socks for men and women. Christine included in the box her Beauty Balm tights and a pair of hold-ups. 


The Beauty Balm tights are an innovative type of hosiery that improves circulation, stays put and also enhances the look of your complexion. They are available in powder and black but Divine Legs are working hard on producing new shades. I tried this out for the first time one evening while out for drinks; perfect for a test run.  I tend to buy tights a size larger in most retailers as this prevents tights from falling down. However, these Beauty Balm tights were very snug and barely drooped at all. You can feel the support it gives you and see from the quality of the tights how they blend your natural complexion. The only downside to this for me was the shade; powder, but like I mentioned - Christine is working on new shades for the near future. If you're fair skinned, then by all means opt for the powder. Otherwise opt for the black which undoubtedly would be perfect for winter, especially as the tights provide better circulatory benefits than any others.


The hold-ups I was most apprehensive about, as I've never really had a good experience with them; they either ladder easily, are of terrible quality or don't hold up. These however, were a pleasant surprise. Not only did they hold up, they did not budge an inch. Not to mention these are of very high quality and luxurious to the touch. Everything you want hold-ups to be and even more perfect for this coming Valentine's Day. 

I would highly recommend this service, especially for those who wear tights to work and in the evenings. Such a simple service can make you feel a million dollars, and it teaches you to appreciate good quality workmanship. Why spend so much money buying countless tights that rip on the first wear? Not everyone is blessed with the ability to use their own legs, so it's only right to look after ours, when they go through so much to support us!



Shine Bright Like A Diamond


As we headed into November, there was no doubt that there would be some imminent winter blues, but luckily I discovered a handy way to help alleviate the looming seasonal slump when the lovely Zoe from Treat Box contacted me. Treat Box is a letterbox friendly subscription service designed to lift your spirits. Treat Box is a truly versatile service; you can subscribe for a length of time, purchase a one-off box, build your own Treat Box, gift a box to a friend and even shop their stash. Treat Box is filled with lovely goodies you can use yourself or gift on to a friend. The possibilities are endless!


You'll find that these boxes are filled with motivational and inspirational prompts and I found that it was just what I needed because I was suffering badly with the blues. The box is very well packaged; all the goodies come wrapped in tissue paper with sprinklings of confetti/sequins. Such a nice touch!


These little golden glitter stars were perfect for a sleepover I was planning (yes I know I'm 27). I hung these from my living room lamp shade with some fairy lights. I then reused these for Christmas and will be recycling these throughout the year or making them into gift tags. A perfect little up-cycling project!


On the topic of my slumber party, I also made some chocolate milk to put in my glass milk bottles. I decorated the rim with sugared sprinkles and used my adorable paper straws to match my star hanging I had put up. These were a definite hit!


These white chocolate stars were actually the first things I picked out of the box. As always, the first thing I retrieve from these boxes are usually food-related. It didn't take me long to scoff these with a slice of homemade pumpkin pie and a bottle of cold milk.


I have been dying to try wax melts for the longest time, to see how they are comparable to candles. Turns out, they burn much longer than candles. I invested in an oil/wax burner and put these on my beauty table at my sleepover. The first thing my guests noticed was the incredible caramel smell. It's been months and I'm still only on my first wax star and have gone through countless tea lights so it just goes to show that wax melts trump candles in terms of longevity. 


I adore this constellation compact mirror, it reminds me a lot of the theme for Burning Man this past year; Da Vinci's Workshop. I love the bright indigo-blue and the celestial design. Packaged in a cute box, the square compact is made of faux leather which opens out into two mirrors; standard and close-up. This is a gorgeous little addition to anyone's makeup bag or a adorable gift for a close friend. 


This little tote has now been added to my ever-growing collection of tote bags. You can never have too many book bags when you're aspiring to be a zero-waster. I love having reusable bags on-hand; in the car, at home, in the kitchen etc. Plus you're saving the planet!

For me, receiving this box meant a lot. I was going through a pretty tough time and was finding it increasingly difficult to remind myself of all the positive things in my life. When I received this in the post and opened the box to the message that read 'Shine Bright Like A Diamond', I must admit - I did get teary. We live in a world consumed with capitalism and the existential need to please others to validate your own self-worth. I think it's important to treat yourself and remind yourself of your own importance. 

The box only costs £12.95 with free delivery, or if you subscribe - just £12. 











How To Prepare For Your First Burn



What felt like a lifetime of baited breath, came abruptly to an end when I was graced with an email that read...


There are four ways to get a ticket for Burning Man; Low Income, Main Sale, STEP Program and OMG Sale. Each opportunity occurs intermittently throughout the course of the year until the event takes place and will often overlap. This means you could find yourself applying for one ticket while waiting to hear about whether you have been successful with another. 

Ticket Opportunities 


Low Income - These are awarded to those with a lower income who would otherwise struggle to find the funds for a full price ticket. Coming overseas can also help argue the case of having a lower income.

Main Sale - This is the best way to gain a ticket for Burning Man that might actually give you a fighting chance. You also have the opportunity to buy a Vehicle Pass for those bringing a form of transport onto the Playa.

STEP Program - This is the Secure Ticket Exchange Program which is a platform for those who have purchased a ticket who which to sell it on. 

OMG Sale - This is the last opportunity to gain a ticket for Burning Man and it usually happens in the same month of the event. This is probably better for those in the States or those who are willing to prepare for Burning Man knowing that they may not actually be able to attend if they do not find a ticket in time.

My Experience


I applied for a Low Income ticket when they were released. You had to provide a detailed breakdown of your monthly outgoings; this is to prove that you are on a low salary. You have to also give a brief explanation about what Burning Man means to you. While I was waiting to hear about whether I had been successful in my application, the Main Sale tickets were released. I was not successful in getting a ticket for the Main Sale due to the queue scandal*. I then attempted to get a ticket through the STEP Program and was registered in a queue to receive a ticket when one became available. I was then award a Low Income ticket AND also a STEP ticket. I turned down the STEP ticket as it was unlikely I could afford it anyway without selling a lot of my belongings.

*Those who were advised to queue 15 minutes before tickets were released, did not get a ticket. Those who logged on at the time of the sale, got tickets.

Preparation


Preparation is vital if you want to keep costs down and it's also necessary for those who will be travelling from abroad, as you need to factor into account flight costs and car hire/rideshare costs. It will help you budget and ultimately keep the level of stress involved manageable, thus increasing the enjoyment of the event. 

Spreadsheets are your friend!

A very simple spreadsheet will help you allocate costs and also help you to see the bigger picture. This is also handy if there is more than one person in the party. Myself and my friend were attending Burning Man together, so I allocated costs per person on my spreadsheet. We also arranged for weekly and/or fortnightly meetings to book things together and make it more of a team effort. We split our meetings into the following discussions; flight booking, costumes, car hire and rideshare, excursions/additional, accommodation, food/purchase list and logistics.


Flights and Dates


We didn't actually book our flights to San Francisco until a couple weeks before we left. We had been keeping a close eye on flights, and watched them drop in price after Brexit. We managed to get our flight for £462.52 return which is pretty good for a flight to the States. We booked this through KLM which we were to later discover was a mistake, as 3 out of the 4 planes broke (one broke in the air). 

It's worth it to view flight options on Sky Scanner first but note that often their 'from' prices are literally the base price and usually these are for flights that take an obscene amount of time and have numerous stop-overs or long lay-overs. It is also important to remember that Sky Scanner use websites that are untrustworthy whom people have reported to either have poor customer service, be deceptive or possibly be scam websites.

I would recommend that you allocate time before and after the Burning Man dates, just to prepare/sightsee and decompress afterwards. We had a few events planned beforehand, plus some purchasing/prep to do. Then planned nothing for the days after Burning Man to "come down" from the experience and we were so grateful for this down-time.


Costumes


This year, the theme was Da Vincic's Workshop. I interpreted this to be in the style of 'steampunk' due to the nature of his inventions. However, as I wanted to keep the costs of my first burn to a minimal, this really restricted how much I invested into the theme. My costumes for my 2016 burn were mainly made of things I already had at home. However, as part of my gifting contribution - I made small red vitruvian man bracelets to hand out. Also, because I was flying in from abroad - this too limited how much I brought with me. 


Car Hire/Rideshare


To get from San Francisco to Black Rock City, you need to find transport. There is a Burning Man bus that you can take, you can hitch a ride or you can hire a vehicle. We opted to hire a car as we worked out it would be similar in cost for just the two of us and even cheaper if we found extra people to share the car with.

We hired a GMC Terrain from Alamo (now my dream car) and found two extra people who were looking for a ride who also happened to be from the UK. Be sure to keep tabs on costs like car hire, fuel, sat nav, etc... 

To look for a rideshare, you can visit the Burning Man rideshare forum.


Accommodation


Book accommodation based on how you want to plan your trip logistically. As we had factored in some costume shopping, a football game, food shopping and a visit to Lake Tahoe; we booked a total of 3 hotels prior and 2 hotels after. We booked the initial 3 prior to our trip and the remaining 2 were booked either the evening before or on the day. It's helpful to leave the remaining hotels unbooked as it leaves the days following Burning Man quite flexible.

1) San Francisco - Initial stop
2) San Jose - Football game
3) Lake Tahoe - Pre Burning Man stop
4) Reno - Post Burning Man stop
5) San Francisco - Pre flight stop

Excursions/Additional


We didn't plan many additional events around Burning Man as we'd both been to San Francisco before and done all the sightseeing. So we opted for more obscure activities like watching a football game (San Francisco 49ers vs Green Bay Packers), visiting Lake Tahoe and trying a gun range for the first time. Maybe try attending a gig, or look out for any free events happening in the city. The last time I came to San Francisco, we found a free music festival called Hardly Strictly Bluegrass which had an incredible atmosphere, lovely friendly locals and it was completely free of charge. Look out for pre-season sports games as these tend to be cheaper but with just as much ambiance.

I would advise not to plan too many activities before Burning Man as you may feel exhausted by the time you reach the Playa.



It's helpful to jot down any additional activities and excursions you want to include on your trip but keep in mind these may not be plausible after the man burns due to exhaustion or decompression. We only opted to visit the gun range after Burning Man and ended our visit to the States with a meal together the evening before our flight.


Logistics


This year, Burning Man was 28th August - 5th September. We allocated 3 days prior and 3 days after. This was how we planned our time:-

25/8 - Fly, land and explore San Francisco (hotel in San Francisco)
26/8 - Explore San Francisco and football game in San Jose (hotel in San Jose)
27/8 - Costume shop in San Francisco, pick up rideshare partners in San Francisco, food shop in Oakland, drive to Lake Tahoe (hotel in Lake Tahoe)
28/8 - Explore Lake Tahoe, drive to Burning Man
29/8 - Burning Man
30/8 - Burning Man
31/8 - Burning Man
1/9 - Burning Man 
1/9 - Burning Man
2/9 - Burning Man
3/9 - Burning Man
4/9 - Burning Man
5/9 - Burning Man
6/9 - Leave Burning Man, clean the shit out of yourselves, explore Reno (hotel in Reno)
7/9 - Gun range, leave Reno, drive to San Francisco, clean the shit out of your car, final meal (hotel in San Francisco)
8/9 - Flight home

Purchase List


There are some essentials that you will need for your trip to Burning Man, food being one of them. But note that if you join a big camp, you may end up with more food than necessary and may not need some things on these lists. Contact your camp to find out what they already have.

Food to consider:-

Tinned food
Cheese
Bread
Salad
Fruit
Sausages
Porridge
Alcohol
Mixers
Milk
Ramen/Noodles
Eggs
Water
Pasta

Things you need:-

Sleeping bag/mat
Airbed (if not already provided by camp)
Cheap suitcase (for trashing)
Backpack
Lip balm
Cleansing wipes
Anti-bac
Pots, pans and utensils
Cooler and ice (ice is available to purchase on the Playa)
Towel
Clip/camping water bottle
Clip/camping mug
Sunglasses
Warm coat
A bike (unless your camp provides one)



The 10 Principles


The 10 Principles are the basic foundations of Burning Man and express the values of the Burning Man community. 

1) Radical Inclusion - The idea that anyone and everyone is welcome and included.

2) Gifting - Gifting with no expectation of an exchange or return.



3) Decommodification - The non-existance of monetary value or commercial advertising.

4) Radical Self-Reliance - Encouragement of independence and creative ability.

5) Radical Self-Expression - Encouragement of self expression and respect.

6) Communal Effort - Creative cooperation to achieve the same goals.

7) Civic Responsibility - Responsibility for events and activities coordinated.

8) Leaving No Trace -  Nothing at all must be left on Black Rock Desert, all MOOP is collected by ourselves whether they are our MOOP or somebody else's.



9) Participation - Stepping outside your comfort zone and trying to participate in more.

10) Immediacy - Living in the now.

Terminology

Art Car/Mutant Vehicle - Moving forms of art
Playa - The plane of desert Burning Man is based on
Deep Playa - The middle bit
Playa Name - A fake name you use for Burning Man
Black Rock City - The name of the temporary city Burning Man is based in
Black Rock Ranger - The rangers that look after your wellbeing in case of emergency
The Man - The iconic Burning Man structure that is burnt
Burner - Those who attend Burning Man
Centre Camp - The camp situated in the centre
Dark wad - A burner who hasn't lit up themselves or their bikes, this causes danger for others
Decompression - Coming down from the Burning Man experience (yes it's a real thing)
The Default World - The real world
DMV - The Department of Mutant Vehicles
Dust Devils - The little dust tornados
Fire Devils - When these ignite beside one of the many burns, they turn into fire
Exodus - The day everyone leaves
Grey water - Dirty water with deposits that cannot be evaporated, this needs to be transported out
MOOP - Matter Out Of Place is rubbish, nothing is to be left on the playa, everything must be collected
The Temple - The sacred structure


Friendships and Lessons


I think the most fulfilling thing about the whole experience is the lessons and friendships you make on the Playa. While it's completely normal to gain knowledge and insight from everyday life, sometimes it takes something completely radical to teach us a true lesson.

Things I learnt about me:-

I need to be more open about my feelings, I come across as despondent at times
I make friends relatively easily
I am confident exploring alone
I can make pancakes non-stop for hours
I produce a lot of trash (which I discovered when I started minimalism and zero waste)
I need to be more body-confident

Things I learnt about the world:-

Our planet is magic and we're killing it
We take food, water, warmth, safety and electricity for granted
The desert gets freakin' cold (colder than the UK)
Not everyone is going to judge you and who cares anyway?!
There is a lot of food in Black Rock City
Indian tacos...say no more
Positive and negative energy exists
The default world is sad but it could be great

I have made countless friends at my first burn, and still keep in touch with them now. In fact, this weekend just gone - we visited our rideshare partners down in London. I attended Burning Man with a friend from home, but we had literally only met a couple months prior. When we both discovered we were attending Burning Man, it was a no-brainer that we joined forces and we have been friends ever since. I am so grateful for meeting such a variety of people from all walks of life and to see them grow as people is just one of the gifts that they gave me when we met on the Playa.


Worst Coachella ever!