Tuesday 30 December 2014

Lifestyle: The Huawei £100 challenge.

A couple of weeks ago, Huawei got in touch with me with a proposal for their £100 blogger Christmas challenge, in which they were asking a few UK bloggers to capture the highlights of an exciting evening on a £100 budget with their brand new Huawei Ascend Y550 smartphone. Not one to turn down a good challenge, I accepted, and armed with £100*, my own Huawei smartphone* to take some snapshots of my outing and a date for the evening (not provided by Huawei) who is equally as bad at making decisions as I am, I hopped on a train to Liverpool for an evening of spontaneity.
Since Simon and I had already taken advantage of Liverpool's Ice Festival a couple of weeks prior, we did have a little trouble thinking of other activities that were weather appropriate for mid-December, so we played it safe with something that Liverpool definitely isn't short of- places to eat and drink. After loosening the seal on our budget with a coffee at Bold Street's Moroccan-style Kasbah café, we decided to stick to an international theme with a meal at Sapporo Teppanyaki; not the cheapest place to eat, setting us back around £50, but somewhere I would definitely recommend if you are looking for something a little bit different (or just happen to have £50 to blow).

Thinking we were still down with the kids, our next stop was one of Liverpool's top student hangouts, The Font, where in true student style we stretched the remainder of our budget as far as possible by purchasing a Font card for discounted drinks, which we lost count of over a few rather heated games of MarioKart, before kicking ass (not really) at The Font's weekly pub quiz.

Slightly tipsy, and with a little spare change left in our allowance, where better than to end our night than at Bar CaVa, where tequila shots are just £1 each and there is a huge array of flavours to suit everyone's taste and level of drunkness.

Thanks to Huawei for choosing me to be a part of this challenge- Check out my Instagram account (@francescassandra) over the next couple of days to see some of the snaps I took on my Ascend Y550 smartphone. Huawei have also been so generous as to offer one of my readers a device of their own, and all you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is share your £100 budget itinerary with us in the comments. A winner will be picked at random one week from now, on Tuesday, January 6, 2015 (!).

How would you spend a day out with £100?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: The device and the budget used for this campaign were kindly gifted to me by Huawei. All opinions expressed are still 100% honest and my own.
Wednesday 17 December 2014

Travel: Mocks #WhatsYourAdventure.

I like to think of myself as a bit of adventurer. Well, an adventurer in the making. Whilst my current  situation doesn't allow for me to do as much travelling as I would like to, I love exploring new places, researching exciting things to do abroad and you can bet your life I have a bucket list as long as my arm that I would love to start ticking off as I progress through life.
One place that I find I neglect, however, is the UK itself. Living here for your entire life means that you forget that places other than the streets you are familiar with exist and I hadn't even thought about the fact that I have never visited our Northernmost country in my 22 years, until Mocks contacted me asking if I fancied a Christmas adventure to Scotland's capital with Statesman Rail* as part of their #whatsyouradventure campaign.

Last Saturday, equipped with a pair of Mocks each, a polaroid camera to capture some moments (lots of snaps coming to my Instagram soon) plus a hamper of tea and biscuits to see us through the four-and-a-half hour train journey, my mum and I were welcomed upon the Statesman rail train at Warrington Bank Quay station. Admittedly I'm not brilliant at early starts, and after a wake-up call of 6AM I slept through most of the train journey, but woke up on time to witness the beauty of the hills and lakes from Cumbria upwards.

The only con about getting the Statesman Rail train to Edinburgh is that the long journey leaves you with under four hours to explore the city, and I hadn't quite anticipated how busy Edinburgh would be on a Saturday so close to Christmas, so our visit ended up feeling quite rushed. However, that didn't stop us from making the most of the time we had, taking a small hike up to Edinburgh Castle and enjoying the view overlooking the city of Edinburgh, checking out the tourist-y shops down the beautiful cobbled allies and consuming my weight in steak rolls, hot cider and nutella crepes in the German-style Christmas markets.
Thank you very much to Mocks for sending me on a Christmas adventure and inspiring me to go on more adventures in my own homeland. Edinburgh is a place that I would definitely like to visit again in the Summer when the weather is nicer and we have more time to explore everywhere that the city has to offer.
Have you been to Edinburgh?
Do you have any adventures planned in the new year?
Frances x
*DISCLOSURE: This trip was kindly planned and paid for by Mocks. All opinions expressed are 100% honest and my own.
Friday 12 December 2014

Personal: My Life Lately.

Hey, my lovelies!
Long time, no blog it seems- compared to the past few months where I had been managing to blast out 12-15 blog posts, this month I seem to have disappeared from the blogosphere completely, and it was only when a friend messaged me to check if I was still alive as I hadn't posted on Twitter or Instagram for a week that I thought I should check in and write a little post about where I have been.
At the end of last month, I got myself a new job to scrape in a bit of money which takes up four to five [often full] days of my week. Whilst I know so many bloggers who often balance full time jobs and manage to maintain their blogs perfectly well (kudos to you!), working full time hours whilst juggling my blog is something that is brand new to me, and whilst I fully intend on adjusting to a routine that allows me to do both, it is taking a little getting used to, especially since my days off are usually spent catching up with friends and taking part in festive activities (I haven't even found time to start my Christmas shopping yet- Eek!). That said, I haven't given up my blogger duties completely- Some of my spare time has been spent attending blogger events and organized trips for brand campaigns including an exciting trip to Edinburgh with Mocks and a very spontaneous day out in Liverpool, so I still have plenty to tell you all about when I find a moment to sit down with my laptop and sort through the hundreds of photos!
In the New Year- after the busy Christmas period has passed- regular blogging should resume, but for now I will try my best to write a blog post at every free opportunity I get. I will also try to do a better job of keeping my Instagram and Twitter accounts updated, so feel free to follow me over on those!
I hope you will all bear with me whilst I pull myself together, and I hope you are all having an amazingly festive December so far!
How do you balance your blog with work?
Frances xx
Friday 5 December 2014

Wishlist: Winter Coats.

Premium Bonded Trench Coat: Topshop, £110
Black and White Faux Fur Coat: Rare London, £56 £39.20
Knit Cape with Sleeves: ZARA, £79.99
Black Brushed Funnel Coat: New Look, £49.99, £25
Is it just me, or has the Autumn/Winter been surprisingly warmer than usual this year? It has only been the past few days that I have started to feel the bite of the cold air, and I have found myself zipping my scarf in to my coat instead of discarding all my layers due to that pesky winter sun. Outerwear is definitely my favourite piece of clothing in the Autumn/Winter months and I think it is important to find that perfect one (or seven, in my case); after all, it is the first part of your outfit that most people are going to see!
I like to have a few options in the cloakroom to suit every occasion. The pastel pink trend from early 2014 seems to be going strong and I love this ASOS number with its added faux fur collar which would give any outfit a unique and stylish finish without being over-the-top. For those who dare to be different, however, I have been loving some of the Story of Lola faux fur coats that have recently hit ASOS (or the cheaper alternative above- thanks, Rare London!) and seem to be taking the blogging world by storm. It is also always good to have a piece of outerwear in your wardrobe that will go with anything and look smart, which is why timeless trench coats are one of my go-to styles of outerwear, along with simple-cut black or white numbers (that Zara coat above, though <3) that will match anything.
Have you found your perfect winter coat?
Frances xx

Saturday 29 November 2014

Event: Aloft Hotel Liverpool Launch Party.

If there's one thing that I miss from my teenage days, it's going to concerts. Before I gained adult responsibilities, most of the money that I had was spent on trips to Manchester to see my favourite bands and artists perform. These days, I am lucky if I am able to enjoy the sound of live music once or twice a year, so when Franchesca dropped me an email about the launch party of  Liverpool's new Aloft Hotel, which would fulfill both my duties as a blogger and my love for music all at once, I was RSVPing before I even knew the details.

On Thursday, armed with my blogger event essentials (my camera, my phone and my two blogging pals, Deni and Hollie), I hot-footed it down to Liverpool's swanky new 4-star hotel. Based in the former Royal Insurance Building in the heart of Liverpool City Centre, Aloft have taken a stunning, Grade II listed building and put a modern twist on it, with lots of minimalistic designs, neon lights and sleek seating areas contrasting against the ornate ceiling and suspended candle light chandeliers.
Aloft decided to pay homage to Liverpool's cultural status and music heritage for their launch in the city by teaming up with unique music movement, Sofar Sounds, whose mission is to bring the magic of live music back to life by creating a unique music experience through hosting secret gigs in intimate venues around the world. Together, they brought forward a night filled with small intimate gigs in various rooms throughout the hotel (yes, that included inside guest rooms, conference areas and the hotel lobby). Between glasses of champagne, photobooth fun and the best sliders in the world, the girls and I had the chance to explore different areas of the hotel and enjoy the secret gigs being performed by some of Liverpool's emerging local talent. Highlights of the night for me were the soft and meaningful sounds of James Canty (check out one of his gorgeous songs, Putney Bridge here) and his acoustic guitar and banjo, and JC and the Two-Steps, a Merseyside-based cover band who tore the hotel lobby down with their own versions of songs by Michael Jackson, The Coral, Johnny Cash, Beyoncé and more.
When Aloft Liverpool isn't being turned in to a venue for secret gigs, celebrity hangouts and glitzy-glam launch parties, it is a 4-star hotel (the fourth Aloft Hotel to open in Europe) housing 116 modern, loft-like guest rooms, with the W XYZ bar located on the ground floor for guests who fancy sipping on a cocktail or two whilst enjoying some live entertainment, or an all-day New York-themed restaurant for anybody visiting the city who want a stylish bite to eat. They are currently offering rooms with up to 20% off for stays completed before March 2015, so if you're planning a little weekend getaway to Liverpool City Centre, check out Aloft Hotel's deals here.
Have you had the chance to visit Aloft Liverpool yet?
Frances x

Thursday 27 November 2014

Review & Giveaway: Baker Days

 Seasons Greetings Letterbox Cake: Baker Days, £14.99*
You can't have a birthday (or any special occasion, I'd say) without cake, so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone and review one of Baker Day's Christmas letterbox cakes.
If you haven't already heard of them, Baker Days are a company specializing in compact cakes that can be slid right through your letterbox, meaning that you don't have to worry about somebody being at home to receive their surprise. Baker Days make cakes for any occasion, from birthdays and christenings, to Graduation and simple "thank you" cakes. Each one can be personalized with your own special text and the recipent's favourite kind of sponge, including classic vanilla sponge, chocolate chip or even gluten/dairy free options.
I chose the Seasons Greetings cake to get in to the Christmas spirit, though I am not a fan of the classic festive fruit cake so I opted for vanilla sponge. Sure enough, a nice, slim box thudded to the floor in my hallway, and inside was my letterbox cake, wrapped in plastic to keep it fresh (for up to fourteen days, Baker Days claim, but mine didn't last that long!) and housed in a little tin (which will probably be recycled to hold cotton wool balls on my dressing table or something), along with a little Christmas card, a paper hat and a mini Christmas cracker.
Although small, the cake is the perfect size for two to three servings, and whilst I'm no Paul Hollywood, I'd say it tastes pretty darn good too- It isn't dry at all, which is what I half expect from most cakes that are delivered by snail mail.

If you're looking for something to cater for a larger number of people, Baker Days also make full-sized personalized cakes and cupcakes. They have also been so kind as to offer you guys the chance to win a letterbox cake of your own to personalize and enjoy, so follow the rules below and use the Rafflecopter form to enter! :)

-This giveaway is open to the UK only (sorryyy)!
-Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. There are plenty of options for extra entries!
- Giveaways on my blog are intended to say thank you to my readers. Entries made by accounts solely created for the purpose of entering giveaways will be disqualified.
- The giveaway will run for one week, and will end at 11:59PM GMT on Thursday, December 4, 2014.
-The winner will be picked at random and contacted via email and/or Twitter and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is picked.

Good luck, lovelies! :)
Frances x
*DISCLOSURE: This post contains PR samples and the giveaway prize has kindly been provided by Baker Days.
Wednesday 26 November 2014

Review & Giveaway: Chantel Martin Candles.

If there is one thing I really love about blogging, it's being able to discover, collaborate with and support local brands. It's no secret that I love to have a nicely-scented candle burning on my bedside table, so when family-run business, Chantel Martin Candles contacted me regarding a collaboration I was thrilled, and what's more, they are based a twenty-minute walk away from my house so I was able to take a visit to their warehouse to see it for myself.
Chantel Martin Candles is owned by Paul Martin and his wife, Chantel, and their little candle workshop is based within their bespoke furniture store in Warrington, Cheshire. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a warm welcome by Paul, plus the amazing scent from the batch of watermelon sorbet votive candles that he had just finished pouring (which smell delicious, might I add). He showed me to the back of his furniture shop, where there stood a glass cabinet full of his medium and large sized candle jars, plus a huge round table displaying votive candles of eighteen (!) different scents in candy shop-style glass jars- It was truly like being a child in a sweetshop.
The beauty of the Chantel Martin brand is that they are passionate about their products and each one of their candles is handcrafted with care and precision- Paul was happy to take me in to his workshop and talk me through his candle-making process, from melting the paraffin wax in a slow-cooker and adding in the coloured wax and fragrance oils to bring the scents to life, to the attention to detail he applies to each one, using tools that he has crafted to ensure that each wick is glued directly in the centre of each container and that every label sits straight on the glass jars. He also told me about his experiments of trial and error with different sizes and styles of wicks to ensure that his candles burn for as long as possible, and to help eliminate that annoying, sooty line that accumulates around the edge of many candle jars (Yankee, I'm looking at you!). Who knew that making candles could be so much work?!
Paul was so generous as to let me take home one of each of his votive candles, plus I was allowed to select three of my favourite fragrances in the full-sized jars. As a huge fan of Yankee's Clean Cotton candle, I naturally opted for Chantel Martin's version of the same name, plus the luxurious Whitewood, Vanilla & Patchouli scent and the Hot Apple Pie scent which smells just like a freshly baked apple crumble (I am super excited to set fire to this one now that we're a little closer to Christmas!). Of course, this is a lot of candles for me try out, so I shall be writing more detailed reviews of them in groups over the next few weeks, where I will talk a little more about burn time, burn quality and scent likeness, plus which rooms in the house each candle is perfect for. I have currently been burning my Clean Cotton candle for around fifteen hours and it is still going strong (Chantel Martin's large apothecary jars should burn for 40-50 hours), and I am happy to report that each time I light it, it quickly fills my bedroom with the scent of freshly washed linen. Heaven.
As well as large jars (240g, classic and luxury scents, £15.99 and £19.99 respectively), Chantel Martin also sells medium jars (160g, £9.99) and votives (60g, £2.50). Just in case you're stuck for Christmas presents ;) (you can find a full list of their scents here).
So, now that I have made you sit through all of that writing, here is the best bit. Paul has been ever so lovely as to contribute some of his candles for a giveaway on my blog, and he is offering my readers the chance to win not just one candle or a couple of votives, but a large candle, a medium candle plus ten votives! That is around £50 worth of candles in your choice of scents for one of you lovely lot! All you have to do is follow the rules below and enter using the Rafflecopter widget.
-This giveaway is open to the UK only (sorryyy)!
-Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. There are plenty of options for extra entries!
- Giveaways on my blog are intended to say thank you to my readers. Entries made by accounts solely created for the purpose of entering giveaways will be disqualified.
- The giveaway will run for one week, and will end at 11:59PM GMT on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.
-The winner will be picked at random and contacted via email and/or Twitter and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is picked.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck everyone, and a huge thank you to Paul & Chantel Martin for making this possible! :)
Frances x
*DISCLOSURE: The prize for this giveaway has been very generously provided by Paul & Chantel Martin.
Tuesday 25 November 2014

Giveaway: Wicker Wings.

This hand-woven wicker bag has been one of my go-to accessories this month and I was thrilled when my friends over at Wicker Wings agreed to offer my readers the chance to win one of their own to celebrate my blog turning three years old!
If you didn't already know, Wicker Wings are a Northwest-based brand owned by two entrepreneurs, James and Belinda, who along with designing these beautiful and unique bags from scratch, have created a social mission to help inspire happiness and success in children from under-financed schools in rural Asia. If you would like to read more about their vision and how the sales of these bags benefit the children of Asia, I wrote a blog post all about it here. The wicker bags are available in this lovely "Blake Grey" shade or "Lulu Brown"- the lucky winner will be able to pick their favourite colour to receive and also write an inspirational note that will be sent to a child in Asia to make their day a little brighter.
All you have to do is follow the rules below and enter using the rafflecopter widget.
-This giveaway is open to the UK only (sorryyy)!
-Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. There are plenty of options for extra entries!
- Giveaways on my blog are intended to say thank you to my readers. Entries made by accounts solely created for the purpose of entering giveaways will be disqualified.
- The giveaway will run for five days, and will end at 11:59PM GMT on Tuesday, December 2, 2014.
-The winner will be picked at random and contacted via email and/or Twitter and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is picked.
Good luck! :) <3
Frances x
*DISCLOSURE: The prize for this giveaway has been kindly provided by Wicker Wings.
Sunday 23 November 2014

Frances Cassandra Turns 3!

Happy Blogger-versary to me (well, actually it was yesterday but I was super busy so I couldn't write this post until today)!
Three years ago on the 22nd of November, I was wrapped up in a duvet in the flat I was living in at University, probably avoiding writing an essay on how digital media has changed the world (or something like that) whilst reading an old school Fleur De Force or LLYMLRS blog post and pondering over whether anybody would be interested in reading my rambles, should I start writing them down in my own little corner of the internet. Alas, as I designed my own tacky leopard print header (cringe) and took photos perched on the window ledge of my flat as that was my only source of decent lighting, never did I think that three years later my blog would have over 2,000 subscribers and 750,000 clicks.
Since birthdays only happen once a year, I am dubbing it perfectly acceptable to make this blog post sickeningly cliché and say that blogging has impacted my life immensely. When I was nineteen, I was terribly shy, preferred the comforts of home and familiarity; not to mention the fact that my idea of "style" was my jeggings, converse and whichever t-shirt was clean and falling off it's hanger in my wardrobe. Now, one of my favourite things to do is meet new people at blogger events, and I have been forced to adopt two new rails in my bedroom to accommodate the abundance of clothes I own thanks to the many amazing brands that I have had the opportunity to work with and my fellow bloggers who influence my ever-changing style and urge to go out and buy another garment that I don't really need. I've also developed quite a taste for travel and rushes of adrenaline after blog opportunities have granted me the chance to tackle two of my biggest fears; travelling to another country alone and also jumping out of an airplane from 14,000 feet.

It hasn't always been thrills; there have been a few personal hurdles in my life over the past few years that have temporarily dimmed my passion for doing the things I enjoy, but it's the above things plus a plethora of other pros that have made me realize that keeping my chin up and carrying on writing is the best thing that I can do for myself. And I will be starting to make YouTube videos soon, either just before or after the New Year... It's a promise this time. ;)

Now, everyone likes to drag their birthday celebrations on for as long as possible, which is why I have prepared four days of giveaways to say thank you to you lovely lot for reading my blog; whether it be for the past three years or the past three days, Frances Cassandra wouldn't exist without your support.
So thank you very much, my lovelies and I hope that I can continue producing content that you all enjoy reading- keep an eye on my blog over the next few days for the chance to win some fabulous prizes!

Here's to another amazing year in the blogosphere!

Frances x