Winter Warmer Recipe – Global Scouse Day 2023

If you’re from Liverpool, or have visited the city, you may have heard of Scouse. This hearty dish is a staple in Liverpudlian cuisine and is typically made with beef or lamb, root vegetables, and potatoes. This recipe is perfect for winter hygge.

I’m currently living about 10 minutes drive from Liverpool city centre. Whilst not an actual scouser, I grew up nearby with my mum’s recipe of beef stew with dumplings, served with beetroot being a frequent meal. It definitely is a winter warmer, and I’ve been thinking about eating it quite a bit lately in this cold weather.

This week, was Global Scouse Day, so what a day to celebrate this beloved dish, and what better way to do that than with a delicious beef scouse recipe?

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb or 450g beef stew meat
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 beef stock cubes made up with 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tbsp gravy granules
  • 1 tbsp garlic puree
  • 1 tsp dried thyme or a few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Packet of dumpling mix (or make your own with self raising flour and suet or butter)
  • Jar of pickled beetroot to serve
  • (Optional crusty bread for dipping)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the beef stew meat over medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Remove from pot and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, sauté the onions and garlic until softened, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, carrots, parsnips, and potatoes to the pot and stir to combine.
  4. Return the beef to the pot and add the beef stock, gravy granules, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours, or until the beef is tender and the vegetables are cooked through.
  7. Follow the instructions to make up dumplings and add to the top of the stew for
  8. Serve hot with beetroot and optional crusty bread, maybe even a pint of beer!

Enjoy this comforting and delicious beef scouse recipe on Global Scouse Day 2023. Whether you’re from Liverpool or not, this dish is sure to warm your heart and fill your belly. You can choose to substitute the beef for lamb if you fancy a change.

Why I haven’t written for a few years!

Hello, readers of Cocktail In Hand! It’s been a while since my last post, and I wanted to take a moment to explain why. You may have noticed that some of my last blog posts talked about self care, well for the past few years I’ve been trying to taking care of my mental health.

Part of that included focused on starting a business so that I never had to work in a toxic workplace again. Whilst I tried to hold it together, working in a toxic workplace after suffering emotional and physical abuse in my marriage took a major battering on my confidence and health. When I started this blog, whilst I was aspirational about what I wanted to do, I knew nothing about blogging or how to make money from blogging.

Starting a business is an exciting but challenging endeavour, and it requires a lot of time and effort. It was a lot harder than I imagined.

As I poured my energy into building my new venture, this blog had to take a backseat. I had to prioritise my time and resources to try to ensure the success of my new business.

At the same time, I was also struggling with my mental health. As an entrepreneur, it can be challenging to manage stress, anxiety, and burnout. I was experiencing all of these things, and it became increasingly difficult to find the motivation and creativity to write for Cocktail In Hand.

During this time, I realised that it’s okay to take a step back and focus on myself. Mental health is essential, and neglecting it can have significant consequences. Sadly for some people it’s not possible to just throw an anti-depressant at it, alternate help is required and this meant I took the time to prioritise self-care.

But I missed Cocktail In Hand and want to get back into my writing. But first I want to work on branding and improving the website. I’m also planning to create some products which I hope you’ll love! Alongside, I have some exciting blog posts to share, and I can’t wait to reconnect with my readers.

11 Inspirational quotes to live by

This week has been very reflectional for me, I had some downtime after an operation and some things that happened caused me to consider what I wanted in life and to realign my priorities and goals.  I felt these 11 inspirational quotes were ones to live by, very fitting to the challenges of the daily grind.  If you are looking for a personal gift for someone as a get well present or someone needing a dose of inspiration, this book would be a perfect gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 top tips for self care

Moving around a lot or working too hard without taking enough self care can be a one way ticket to burn out and depression.  Over the last year, I’ve dealt with the aftermath of being in a toxic work environment, moved what seems like a thousand times, undertaken many a long haul flight, planned a wedding from the opposite side of the world, become unemployed whilst saving up for said wedding and generally had a stressful year.  Self care is so important in keeping ones mind and body healthy and ensuring the optimum mental health.  Here’s my 13 top tips for self care:

 

Exercise regularly

We’ve heard it all before, but exercising regularly, releasing endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that makes you feel good.  It improves sleep, helps you de-stress and boosts overall mood. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, even a gentle walk can help.  My favourite exercise is trampoling, I find it fun, rather than tedious and it really gets my heart racing!

 

Eat healthily

Again another we should all know, but having a healthy balanced diet can work wonders for your mood.  Cut down on sugar, eat healthy fats, lots of fruit and vegetables, cut out processed foods and eat natural.  Beans, tomatoes, poultry, dark leafy greens, brazil nuts and walnuts have all been linked with mood boosting properties.  Drinking lots of water and staying hydrated helps get rid of those nasty toxins.

 

Avoid alcohol, drugs and caffeine

Most people enjoy a social drink, I certainly love the cocktails!  But alcohol is a depressant, caffeine can cause anxiety and drugs can mess with your mind.  Take a break once in a while to help your body and mind.

 

Get creative

Get arty, create a music playlist you love, get scribbling and colouring, or maybe repurposing your old stuff, or making clothes.  Maybe take up photography, create a photo collage of happy moments, or your trips abroad. Maybe expressive writing, experiment cooking up a storm in the kitchen or scrapbooking on Pinterest (go give me a follow!).

 

 

 

Spend time with friends and family

Spending quality time with friends and family can increase your mood, make greater bonds and make you feel connected.  Reconnect with your partner, snuggle and enjoy being close.  Detach yourself from toxic people.

 

Essential oils

Does a certain smell remind you of a certain time and place? You can use oils for different purposes.  Peppermint enhances mood, lavender enhances sleep quality and has shown to be effective for anxiety, jasmine increases alertness.  Bergamot has calming effects, neroli helps relieve stress and lemon balm helps sleep patterns.   Basil brings feelings of joy, eucalyptus increases optimism and ginger can relieve a tension headache and sweet orange can uplift your mood.

 

Enjoy time with a pet

Petting an animal makes us smile, which is an instant positive mood enhancer. Having a pet can help reduce loneliness, de-stress you and lower blood pressure.  Playing with a pet increases the serotonin and dopamine in your brain.  If you don’t have a pet, volunteer at a pet shelter, offer to take a friends dog for a walk or even sign up for housesitting.

 

Get outdoors

Get outside and get some vitamin D, yes the sun can make you happy!  How about some exploring your local area, take a hike somewhere you’ve never been before, hit the beach or have a BBQ.  Take a trip, go camping or road tripping and explore somewhere new.

 

Get enough sleep

Sleep is key to being healthy and feeling rested.  Stress and insomnia go hand in hand.  Limit caffeine after 2pm, stop screen time at least an hour before bed and keep the television out of the bedroom.

 

Do things you love

Whether that’s sitting watching a film with a tub of ice cream and a bucket of popcorn, going to a concert or festival, going out for a meal, taking a shopping trip or enjoying thrill rides at a theme park.  Doing things you love helps make you happy.

 

Make time for personal care

Whether that’s ensuring you take a shower and wash your hair, or take a trip to the hairdressers or go get your nails done, take time for yourself.  Keeping up your appearance can help you feel better.

 

Have some me time

Whether it’s taking a duvet day, enjoying a candlelit bath, chilling out with a good book, yoga or meditating, ensure you take time to just relax and focus on yourself.  Could it be time to explore something new like acupressure, aromatherapy or crystal healing?

 

Help others and practice compassion

Take a break from social media and spend some time helping others, how about helping out at an animal shelter, donate to a food bank, offer to babysit, volunteer at a soup shelter or homeless shelter.  Practice kindness, maybe organise a bake sale for charity or complete a sponsored run. Donate your old clothes, stop to help someone in need or donate your blood.  There is so much selfishness and greed in today’s world, practice compassion, complement someone on their outfit or hairstyle.  You never know when someone else needs a pick me up.

 

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

 

Whilst I was starting to write this blog post, a news report popped up on my phone about Kate Spade’s suicide.  The recent suicides of Avicii, Verne Troyer and Chester Bennington show that all the money in the world can’t make you happy, depression is a serious issue.  Mental health is so important, self care can assist to recharge your batteries.  But if you are feeling like hurting yourself or having suicidal thoughts, it is so important to speak out to someone you care about, your GP or a crisis line, such as the Samaritans on 116 123 or CALM for men on 0800 58 58 58.

 

Would love to know your top self care tips!  Post them in the comments.

 

 

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How to plan a Disney World trip

I love Florida, visiting Disney and the other theme parks can be a full on affair, you’d be pushed to do it all in two weeks.  My top tip is to book as long as you can afford!  Interested in how you can plan a Disney World trip?  These tips are based on having at least seven months before you go, whilst it’s still easy enough to plan after that, you may need to have your plan less rigid otherwise if you want to factor in converted restaurants such as O’hana or Be Our Guest, plus pick up those fast passes for popular rides such as Flight of Passage in Pandoraland at Animal Kingdom.

 

As soon as you start planning your trip make a list of exactly what you want to do, with six Disney parks and water parks, three Universal parks plus SeaWorld, Discovery Cove Aquatica, Busch Gardens, not to mention Legoland, Kennedy Space Center plus shopping and swamp tours to name a few you could easily spend a month in Florida and not scratch the surface!  If you have limited time. Work out what you would most like to do.

 

Work out a rough budget, whilst you can do Orlando on the cheap, you can also spend a fortune.  If you are trying to save cash a last minute deal, booking it yourself or saving money on theme parks can help reduce costs.  Being from the UK the 14 day ultimate tickets are good value if you are going to be at Disney a lot of days, however if you are only doing one or two, it makes sense to look at Magic Your Way tickets for the exact number of days.

Decide what time are year you are going.  Do you need to factor in school holidays, do you hate bugs (avoid the lovebugs in May and September), or would you like to see Mardi Gras, Halloween or Christmas? Are you a foodie or love flowers?  Then you might want to check out Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival or the Flower and Garden Show, or SeaWorld’s Food Festival.  I personally love October going into November because not only do I get to see the Halloween decorations turn to Christmas decor, there’s special events such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween, Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party as well as the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  There’s so much going on!

 

Decide what sort of holiday do you want – do you want to be in the Disney bubble, maybe just a hotel nearby or perhaps Harry Potter is more your thing and you want to stay at Universal.  Do you need a cheap place to stay and you want a shuttle as you don’t fancy driving? Or how about you want a villa with your own private pool? Or how about a twin centre holiday, a relaxing few days at the beach, seeing Miami or Key West?

Armed with what events you are attending and what you want to do see, check out the DIBB park hours and busy day guide.  With this, I work out a plan of what days to go which are least busy, making sure I can see the main events, for me the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, and other evening shows. Next I work out my Disney restaurants around this, so I’ll try and plan for Be Our Guest one evening we are in Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks etc, maybe a meal at a resort nearest to the park we are at that day.  If you are getting the free Disney Dining Plan with a Disney hotel stay you really want to be reserving restaurants to make the most of it.  If you have little ones they may love dining with Mickey and pals or those Disney princesses!  Reservations open at 180 days prior, to get those coveted restaurants, especially for a large number of people you need to be hot off the mark.  But if you’re unsuccessful do keep trying as cancellations do come up, especially the day before as Disney charge a fee for no shows and so people have to cancel the day before to avoid those charges.

Next up it’s fast passes assuming you are doing Disney.  Fast passes are the best invention, they can save you queuing for hours!  You can book three a day, once you’ve used them you can get another. The best thing, at Disney they are free!  Downloading the My Disney Experience is great for changing them on the go should you wish.  When planning fastpasses it’s best to work out the rides or characters with the longest queues.  For example at Magic Kingdom I would be picking fastpasses for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train first or Talking Mickey if character visits are important, followed by less popular but still a queue Space Mountain, the Runaway Mine Train and Splash Mountain.  But for shows such as Mickey’s 3D PhilharMagic Orchestra, I would be doing that as a walk on in between fast passes as less queue.  A book, such as the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2019 (The Unofficial Guides) can really help here as can help you decide which rides are the most important to do.  As we’ve been numerous times I don’t have to worry about that as we know what love and I’d quite happily never set foot on It’s a Small World ever again!  Definitely research will help you here, you can even find touring plans to help you decide what to do exactly to make best use of time.  For Disney hotel and good neighbour hotels you can book fast passes at 60 days out for the length of your stay.  Off site guests at 30 days.  Be prepared, those coveted fast passes like Flight of Passage go fast!

If you have little ones, or you just want a slower pace, block out some non park days, perhaps you’d like to visit a spa, do a shopping trip or a water park or pool day.  Planning an anniversary or proposal, there are plenty of things to do, from fine dining at Victoria and Alberts, to a trip to Disney’s town, Celebration or how about a hot air balloon over Disney Springs?

 

Well I think that’s information overload for beginners for this blog post!  I hope it helped get you started, feel free to post questions I will answer for you.  If you are feeling completely overwhelmed I offer a complete travel planning service.  Get in touch at cocktailinhand@gmail.com.  Likewise if you want to plan something special for a loved one, or make a proposal, having got married at Disney World I know all the best places!!

Things to do in NOLA: the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

Located on Chartres Street in New Orleans is the Pharmacy Museum, constructed in 1823.  A placard states Louis J Dufilheo as one of the first profession to be licensed in the USA in 1816, symbolising the beginning of a system of certifying the competence of pharmacists.  The apothecary shop is still intact, showcasing an extensive collection and preserving the history of pharmacy.

Having spent two days at the Apple store desperately trying to restore my photos from my broken phone, we were time limited and did not stay for the guided tour held at 1pm, which is included in the $5 entrance fee (children under six years are free and students and seniors can enter for $4).  We left as it was starting, if we had of had time it would have be interesting to find out more.

 

Everyone has heard of New Orlean’s voodoo culture, but in the pharmacy on you can find historic voodoo potions, along with an impressive soda fountain.  Although the practice of voodoo was not acceptable in all social circles, believers and the curious from the upper class could purchase voodoo potions at their local pharmacy with relative anonymity.  Voodoo healers had a vast knowledge of herbs, and even recommended mouldy bread inn the treatment of syphilis year before the discovery of penicillin.

Whilst I love voodoo themed bars, if I could have a themed bar, I would love an apothecathy themed bar! The soda fountain could be the star of the show!  I loved looking at all the old bottles, these would have looked fabulous at one of my Halloween parties!  Oh, the tinctures and tonics, I was in my element.  Perusing through the prescriptions and compounding, exclaiming out loud at the questionable medicine practises!  Did you know that wealthy people would take tablets covered in silver or gold as a status symbol?!  Thus not realising it could be toxic and had no medicinal benefits.  Opium was one of the commonly prescribed drugs in the 19th century and at the museum you can find out all about it, along with the practice of leeches and poisons.

Past the courtyard, where herbs were grown, and up through the stairs on the second floor, you will find the haunting sick room.  This felt so ghostly to me, like I could imagine a spirit hovering above the sick bed.  There were various exhibits that were on display, which would transport you back to that century.

The exhibts housed various artefacts, including bitters, herbal tonics that are now used in cocktails.  In fact there’s even Angostura Bitters advertisements detailing it’s cure and a bottle you’d recognise today, which is regularly used in modern day cocktails!  Information details common bitter ingredients such as dandelion, milk thistle, bitter orange and cherry and what they were used for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Information in the exhibition details the first definition of cocktail appeared in The Balance and Columbian Repository on 13 May 1806.  The editor answered the question, “What is a cocktail? as “cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters – it is vulgarly called bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion in as much as it renders the heart, stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head.  It is said, also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else.”

Exhibits detail the use of alcohol in the pharmacy, as medicine, painkiller, sedative, antiseptic and as a vehicle for extracting the active principles from plant and mineral sources.  Pharmacists prepared tinctures, tonics and elixirs using alcohol, in addition to supplying perfumes, distilling scents from fragrant blooms with alcohol in a copper perfume still.  At the museum you can also learn about absinthe, use of horsemint, passionflower and other remedies as hangover cures.  Throughout Prohibition, alcohol was still available in the pharmacy for medicinal use by prescription, and pharmacists continued to compound medicines using alcohol, many cartoons depicting the pharmacies as the new saloons and the pharmacist as the bartender.  The pharmacy soda fountain became a replacement for the barroom as a venue for ‘social camaraderie’.

If you are looking for things to do in New Orleans, then I highly recommend a trip to the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. It is a short trip and you can still have time to explore the French Quarter, catch happy hour cocktails and enjoy some of New Orlean’s legendary famous gumbo or oysters.  Please check the museums’ website for opening hours, but at time of writing these are Tuesday to Saturday 10 am-4 pm, with a guided tour at 1pm except on Saturdays.  Be sure to check my Instagram for apothecary themed cocktails!

 

We stayed at the Aloft New Orleans Downtown during our stay, which I would recommend, if you want to look for your trip check out Booking.com below.  Want to check out more on New Orleans before you go?  Then I recommend this book Lonely Planet New Orleans (Travel Guide), to find out lots more information.



Booking.com

Cocktail in hand – 2017, a year in review

I’ve been so busy lately I’ve been slacking on the blogging, but hopefully you’ve been following on Instagram!  This week, Facebook did it’s year in review video for me and reminded me of a few things which happened this year, but here’s a highlight for the blog.

NYE eve fireworks at Magic Kingdom

NYE dance party at Italy, Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started off January 2017 partying at Epcot, Disney World in Florida, USA.  We arrived a few days earlier and saw the NYE fireworks the night before New Years Eve, this was a great tip so to see NYE fireworks in both parks.  Epcot celebrated when it turned midnight in each country and I would definitely do it again, of course the speciality glow cocktails and Grey Goose slush cocktails in France certainly got the party started!

Enjoying the speciality glow cocktail in France, Epcot, NYE

NYE fireworks at Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’d took a trip to Disney World to carry our wedding planning and menu tasting sessions and whilst there enjoyed our favourite theme parks.  After Florida, we flew back to the UK to see friends and family, we’d flew in from Australia via Kuala Lumpur, Thailand and then Germany, so although the flights were getting a bit much, it was lovely to see them for a little longer after being away over a year.  Of course we enjoyed plenty of cocktails with them!

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in January, we headed back to Australia.  We spent most of the year in Sydney whilst saving up for our wedding.  Although we managed a few trips such as the Blue Mountains and Jervis Bay.  We enjoyed going to Vivid, tourist attractions, some trance nights and bunny sitting, plus getting a city centre apartment.  For my birthday weekend we enjoyed various cocktails including at the top of the Sydney Eye Tower at 360 Dining and the dry ice skull cocktails at Assembly Bar.  Many more cocktails were of course consumed at the various happy hours I managed to find!!

Birthday cocktails at 360 Dining above Sydney

Working my way through the various skull dry ice cocktails at Assembly Bar, Sydney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Martini photo at the Tower of Terror Courtyard in Hollywood Studios, courtesy of Misty Miotto Photography 

In October, we headed back to the UK to catch up with family for a quick trip prior to the wedding.  We enjoyed the rest of October and early November in Florida celebrating our Disney World wedding.  Our favourite wedding cocktail was a Bramble for the early evening, and at the after party we had a Purple Martini, a sweet and sour twist on a Cosmopolitan, complete with glow cubes.  Later in the trip we enjoyed various visits to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, a firm must do for my year!  This year it was super fun with our family and friends

 

November also saw us take a trip to New Orleans, were I sampled the famous Grenade cocktail and drank Love Potion No.9 shots in a Vampire Speakeasy.  They helped ease the fact that my unbacked up iPhone broke and I lost all my photos from the last few months.

 

We followed that by a trip to New York, of course many cocktails were consumed there, and I loved checking out the small bars.  Following that we headed back to the UK, were I tested out a few new places.

Today’s view of the Sydney city skyline

 

December sees us just arrive back in Sydney, writing this I have a perfect view of the city skyline complete with the Harbour Bridge.

 

Who knows what 2018 will bring, my life has most definitely become less organised!  But one thing’s for sure, it will certainly involve more cocktails and travel!

 

Darling Harbour happy hour cocktails

Working our way through the Hard Rock happy hour cocktails!

Guest post: Do debt and travel go together in the same sentence?

This guest post is written by a blogger under the alias Erin Reki, here is her story:

How I got into debt

Back in 2006, when I first went to university I had store cards and credit cards thrown at me like confetti.  My bank was also more than happy to provide me with a ridiculously large overdraft.  I’d never seen this amount of cash before.  Coupled with student loans and bursaries I felt like I’d just won the lottery!  And I know I’m not alone.

Many other people I know had the same experience.  We were young, influential and wanted to be cool.  We spent ridiculous amounts on club nights and clothes, not to mention books and trips.  Tattoos and macbooks.  Lattes and student housing.  The list goes on.

Some of us were frugal, some were sensible having been taught a little about money.  I had been taught very little about money.  I moved out when I was 16 years old and struggled with what little money I had to pay rent.  I’ll be honest and say I never really considered university an option, I wanted to travel the world.  But when a college tutor encouraged me to apply, I ended up going.

When I got handed my “free money” and credit cards my wanderlust had not waivered.  I used it to go on my first solo trip to the Canary Islands.  Then another holiday (also to the Canary islands) and then another.  You get the idea.

Would I recommend it?  No.  Not at all.

Do I regret it?  Not really, no.

I did have a fantastic time and in the end I learnt a few valuable lessons.

 

When I realised enough was enough

After a couple of years of spending money I didn’t have, I realised I was at my limits.  The bank wouldn’t lend me anymore.  I already owed them £6,000 on two overdrafts.  My credit card debt was scattered everywhere.  I cannot remember how many cards I had, but I had more than four.  All maxed out.  With a few thousands here and there.  I couldn’t tell you how much I owed at my worst.  I think I’ve erased that memory, it was that bad.

I was in ridiculous debt and still suffering from the travel bug.  I finally did what people should do when faced with debt.  Got my head out of the sand and faced it head on.

Instead of pushing my bank letters and statement summaries under the rug, I made the difficult phone calls and arranged manageable repayments.  I wanted to go traveling again but this time on my own money.

The repayments were less than minimum and it looked like I’d be in debt forever, but in reality it gave me a chance to improve my situation and increase my income with a better paying job or buy selling a few things off.  Minimalism is where its at!

 

The next step in my travel with my debt plan

I strongly recommend asking for financial help, even if you’re just asking google.  Read and apply what you learn.  I did whatever I could to increase my income and limit my spending and outgoing.  I even stopped drinking for a short while and I can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema.  It’s all about priorities.

I understand that for some people they may want to travel but have other financial obligations.  Like if they are carers for other people.  That is their priority and is obviously going to be more important.  For me though I have nobody relying on me.  It was time for my escape.

I saved up some cash from limiting my spending and taking on an extra part time job.  Instead of giving it all to the credit cards though, what I did was work out how many months it would cover my minimum payments for.  For example £1,000 of savings covered four months of minimum payments of £200 a month with £200 left over to live on.

I had been looking at STA Travel brochures for quite a while and needed out.  If you can’t find a three month holiday for under £200, do what I did.  Volunteer or apply for a job!  I applied for a few things and eventually got accepted into a three month government funded programme to Nepal!  My accommodation and food was payed for and my £200 lasted me the full three months!  Yes, I had to work but I met some amazing people (my partner!).  Also I had some amazing experiences and met lifelong friends.  All whilst my debts were still ticking over in the background.

 

Round two

When I got back to the UK it was back to work and I did the same again.  Saved up enough to cover a certain amount of minimum payments and some more to go on the next adventure!

After a year in South East Asia, I thought my wanderlust would be quenched.  Nope.  My debt wasn’t going down as considerably or as quickly as one would like.  But when your partying with loads of lovely people on a beach island off of Cambodia you don’t seem to care as much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the UK again and playing the same game.  This time round I’d finished university and was in full time work with another part time job on the side.  Don’t be afraid of hard work and remember no job is beneath anyone.  We stayed away from the travel plans for a while – two years this time!  I got out of most of my debt.  Then we decided to run away to Australia.  I saved up enough to cover some minimum repayments again and some money to travel with and we were off!

 

Third times a charm

Only this time we went on a Working Holiday Visa.  We were worried we wouldn’t find work, spend all our cash and have to come home to the UK, but after three days we found farm work.  After three months we had earnt so much I payed off the remainder of my debt.  DEBT FREE FINALLY!!  This was December 2015.  Since then we’ve been working in Australian farms and will do this until December 2017, when we move to New Zealand (again on a Working Holiday Visa).  We’ve both managed to save up more than the average UK mortgage deposit for a house.  Not that we want one.

We’re in a better financial situation now than we’ve ever been.  We had a three month holiday last year, two months traveling Australia and one in Bali.  Then we had a three month holiday this year, where we visited friends and family in England, Northern Ireland, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands!

The Australian Dollar is superior to the Great British Pound.  So is the minimum wage.  If you’re willing to put yourself out there, rewards are waiting!

Our next plans are to move to New Zealand and then Canada.  Whilst we’ll both be working traditional jobs whilst we’re there, I’ll be working on creating an online income (also known as digital nomadism).  Just because apparently I can’t sit still!  Even when I’m in debt!  Itchy feet don’t care what your bank account says.

 

So do debt and travel go together in the same sentence?

I guess it depends if your head and your heart can work together to get what you really want.

My approach is just one of many and I wouldn’t say any one way is the right or wrong way.  There are many approaches to debt and travel.  Each one requires different tactics.

All I know is that when my heart lead the way, my finances suffered in a way that affected me in the future.  Whenever my head leads the way my savings go up, but I suddenly realise I’m miserable and incredibly bored and restless.  When they are working together I feel like I have control of my finances and my wanderlust is being satisfied!

 

Could you come up with a plan to travel and pay off your debt at the same time?

 

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Halloween is coming

I love Halloween!  If I’m in the UK I always host a party for my friends, fancy dress is so much fun!  This year we will be spending Halloween in the USA, I’m not actually sure where yet, but we’ll definitely be attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP for short!) at Disney World and to make that more fun costumes are definitely required.  We dressed up the house share we were living in last year in Sydney for a house party, but we didn’t do costumes, so this year I really need to pull my finger out, so let’s have a look at options!

 

Since we are going to Disney, and the Beauty and the Beast film has been out this year, it wouldn’t be complete without a Belle costume!  Given I’m a natural brunette, this is an easy one for me, but if you’re not, then a wig can assist to make it very easy!  Pick up this one, it’s so easy, just pop on and none of that drama of doing your hair!  

When I think of Belle, I think of the classic yellow dress, however what about her normal day time look? Just click the photo to purchase.  Of course you could go with the classic option.Add a few accessories, if you live the in UK, Primark is a great place to pick some up, however if you can only pick up online, this Lumiere is a great accessory.If you want to do a couples costume, simply pick up a Beast costume, I love this one!

 

Fancy something a little more scary?!  How about a Zombie Prom Queen?  I did this in 2013, it was so much fun.  You can pick up this fab outfit, or if you want to get creative make your own.  This can be especially cheap if you already have a dress you can throw fake blood over.  Add some make up to make yourself look dead and don’t forget the accessories!  You’ll need a tiara and sash to really look the part.  This one is so easy to co-ordinate with a partner for the prom king!  Don’t forget extra fake blood to make it look like you have been eating brains!  If you want to make it look super special, add a special effect, such as this jaw hanging off effect!

 

I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead (we loved the scare house at Universal’s Halloween Horror) and a great couples costume we have done is Zombie Bride and Groom.  I loved

2014 in Celebration, Florida

getting creative with this one, I bought an actual wedding dress on eBay, a fake flower bouquet for me, a boutonnière and a top hat for him.  We used one of this old suits and a shirt.  Then I got to work with a lot of fake blood, make up (for dirt of course!) and some scissors to trash it up.  I even splashed the fake blood over the flowers.  I let it dry and then on the night applied zombie make up and more fake blood.  I’ve actually recycled this one a few times as often I celebrate Halloween on multiple nights, I love it that much!  If you want to go all out, then contact lenses really top off the zombie look!

Our late Zombie themed Halloween party in the UK in 2014, complete with ‘white out’ contact lenses

Or how how this wound for how you become a zombie?!

 

 

Of course if you don’t want to go to the effort of making your own, you can always buy a costume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think you need to go scarier still?!  I think the clowns are going to be a big thing this years, with Pennywise from the film, IT.  Why are people so scared of clowns?!  I’m not sure, but you can find out if you pick up one of these bad boys! Be sure to pick up the face paint too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With one of these costumes, you’ll be sure to have a happy Halloween.  Whether it’s hosting your own Halloween party or attending an event.  Now I just have to decide what I’m going to pick this year!!  Be sure to tell me what you are going to wear for Halloween in the comments.

Book Review: The Suitcase Entrepreneur

I’ve been so busy lately with deciding what country to live in next and planning our wedding, that I haven’t had much downtime.  The last week, I’ve tried to rectify that and take some time out.  When the opportunity to read Natalie’s Sisson’s The Suitcase Entrepreneur came up, I snapped it up – what a perfect way for a bit of downtime whilst educating myself further about putting plans in place for the way I want to live?!

Hot on the shelves Natalie’s new book (third release) has just been released on 5th September, and let me tell you it is well worth a read!  So basically Natalie is the sort of person that inspired me to leave the UK.  She did the boring corporate life and got out, after co-founding a technology start up in 2008, she went on to travel the world, whilst working as a digital nomad and running her six-figure online business.  How is that for inspiring!

I enjoyed so much about this book, from how she went about publishing it to reading how she travels cheaply.  I’ve even downloaded a few of the apps she recommends to help keep my travel plans organised.  This book is literally packed with ideas to help you, that includes seasoned experienced travellers to ones who are trying to take that leap to start.  Natalie explains in simple, easy to understand terms.

For me, I was particularly interested in location independence, and in this book, Natalie gives a fab overview on how to turn your dreams into reality.  Not only does she explain how, she also explores the pitfalls such as loneliness of not seeing your family and friends at home.  I know I’m missing mine at the moment – we get to see them next month in Florida (yes, we are making them take a trip for our wedding!!), after not seeing the majority of them since we took a trip home for Christmas.  Anyway I would basically describe Natalie’s book as a bible to life as a digital nomad.  In a nutshell she will inspire you with her travel stories, and she’s willing to show you how to create that lifestyle too!

‘Freedom to do what you want, when you want, with whoever you want, from anywhere you want.’

Go purchase a copy now, I promise you, you won’t regret it!