Travel | New York City Take 2

This year Santa Claus (aka mum) bought me a trip to New York City with mum. I bought mum this trip last year so who know who will be buying a travel gift next year. Last year I had never been to New York, but mum had lived there for a short time. If you wanted to know what we got up to last time, you can read all about it here. This year, I feel more Carrie Bradshaw than carrying my head in the sand, honestly I didn’t have a clue, I hadn’t really done my research because I thought I’d seen enough movies.

*Beware this blog post is picture heavy

I started by making a list of all the things I wanted to do before we went, then on one piece of paper, wrote down all the days we were there and started looking at a map, what made sense and when. I should note at this stage we have 4 days in New York, but storm Emma had other ideas and we had to leave the next day on a much later flight that was also delayed for hours, not to worry, perfect time for mum and I to have a good catch. Plan in place, we used the delayed time to make some changes and also to note the things we wouldn’t be annoyed if we didn’t get to go.

Book before you go

This year by being more organised we were able to book things before we went. I booked the NYC Airporter bus from JFK Airport to Port Authority (it also makes a stop at Grand Central), this was $70 for two people return on a coach, depending on traffic its about an hour into Port Authority and honestly the cheapest (we paid $100 for one way trip to and easiest way to get from the airport to your hotel. We walked to our hotel (it was 5 blocks up, so super close) but you could get a taxi, it’s fairly easy to hail a cab.

Once we arrived it was late at night so we checked in and straight to bed. Annoyingly if we had got our original early morning flight we would have arrived at lunch and had the rest of the day but oh well nothing we can do about delays and a storm.

Sunday

I woke up so early on the Sunday morning, like 4am, what is there to do in New York at that time! I tossed and turned for a while and then got up about 6:30am, mum and I got ready at our leisure and got breakfast from Starbucks. When they say New York is the city that never sleeps I can’t say that’s right for Time Square at 8am, it was so quiet.

We grabbed our coffee to go and got the Subway from Time Square down to South Ferry. This is the closest subway stop to the Staten Island Ferry. We walked over and into the terminal. Last year we arrived in the afternoon and there were so many tour sales people there and they told us that the ferry was booked up, this is a load of rubbish and probably the one thing I’ve learned from my trip is don’t believe everything that they tell you there. The Staten Island Ferry is a free service run by the New York department of transport. It runs every 30 minutes to and from Staten Island and provides you with a great view of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan. When you arrive at the terminal, walk in, past all the tour sales people and straight up the escalator and you will see the glass doors which open when the boat is ready to board. Simple. It does feel like a bit of a cattle market getting on to the boat. The temptation is to walk the whole way to the back on the boat as your heading over to Staten Island but don’t, stay at the back as this is the perfect place to get a view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. You will also be able to go outside and take it all in, you are not able to go outside the boat in the direction that it is heading for safety reasons so be sure that you get outside on the way over to Staten Island as you won’t be able to get that gorgeous Manhattan skyline view on the way back as well. Once we arrived in Staten Island we walked off the boat, downstairs and straight back on to head back to Manhattan.

Once we arrived back in Manhattan we walked up to the Brooklyn Bridge walkway. This is the most delightful walk over to Brooklyn. I wanted to walk round to the pier when you can take a picture of the Manhattan but we ended up walking around an area called Dumbo.

Dumbo is an uber hipster place to go shopping and grab a coffee. We walked to the Brooklyn Park. If I had to move to New York this is exactly where I would love, lots of coffee shops, restaurant and the streets are really clean. There is a sense of tranquility here that was difficult to leave.

Then of course I had to go to West Elm, one of my favourite interior shops. We grabbed a coffee and planned our next stop.

We decided to walk back over the Manhattan Bridge, it is not as busy as the Brookly Bridge but there is a reason for that. One of the trains goes over the Manhattan Bridge so it is very noisy and a little wobbly at times, which to say the least made me feel nervous.

One the walk over we seen Chinatown. It looked amazing to see this community that was set in the middle of New York. The signs are all in English and Chinese and one Sunday they had fresh fruit and vegetables on sale on the streets.

We walked through Chinatown as I wanted to go to Glossier (I’ll write a little bit more about my purchases soon).

One thing about heading away with mum is she loves clocking up the miles when we go away, crazily this means we decided to walk to the Meat Packing District. I use the term crazy as mum was on the navigation with a paper map and we ended up walking about 10 blocks in the wrong direction. Luckily we walked around the Financial District, we seen the Federal Building, Wall Street and September 11th Memorial. Once I got Google maps on the go we started walking in the right direction. The weather was so beautiful it was a lovely walk to the Meat Packing District. We went to the Chelsea market and then walked the High Line. Once we finished the High Line we walked back to Time Square.

We wanted to see if we could see a show with some last minute tickets but unfortunately there wasn’t anything of interest so we headed to dinner. I got a recommendation to try the Burger Joint, a secret burger bar in the lobby of the Parker Meridian Hotel. You wouldn’t know it was there, in fact we walked past it in the beginning only the burger light indicated where we needed to go.

It’s behind a curtain and you walk along the curtain into a small room. When you initially walk in you wouldn’t know what to make of it, The menu is written on cardboard, there are random posters over the walls and the walls are written over. Its simple, just burgers and chips, you decide what you want on the burger, cheese, bacon, salad or sauce and how you want it cooked. There are 3 beers on tap so the choices are limited but that is what makes this place so good. We grabbed a table and waited for our food. It was a quick wait and it was so worth it! Easily the best burger I have ever had and I don’t say that lightly.

The atmosphere is amazing, it was surreal that this is in the lobby of a hotel. This is definitely one thing I would say you have to do if you head to New York. After walking 15 miles that day and an early start at 8.30pm, I was ready to head back to the hotel. We walked through Time Square and took in the sights but headed for an early night ready for the next day.

Monday

Monday we went to Woodbury Common Premium Outlet. Again we bought the tickets before we went on groupon. Shortline Coaches is the service that runs from Port Authority to Woodbury Common which is about 1 hour 15 minutes away. With this groupon deal you pay $25 dollars instead of the $42 you would pay if you just arrived at Port Authority, plus you will be able to redeem a saving passport when you arrive at Woodbury Common. As you can imagine, Port Authority is massive, so head up the escalator and round to the left and you will see the Shortline Coach desk where you redeem you groupon vouchers. Then walk to 110 depot and you can board the bus. The coaches are regular with the first one leaving at 8:30am. This is about perfect timing to get there on time for the shops opening. We grabbed breakfast and made a list of the places we wanted to go. I’ll bore you with everything I bought but this place is good for casual clothes and gym wear. I actually ended up buying more things for Chris as it’s great for mens clothes. There are also a number of designer shops, they don’t keep any core lines and usually the colours are quite elaborate so no bag purchases for me this time. We walked around all, stopped in a few shops before we took the plunge to buy anything then there was a shopping frenzy. Mum wanted to stop in Levis to see about a pair of jeans, an hour and $300 later we left the shop heavy ladened with bags. My one tip for outlet shopping is bring a 4-wheel suitcase. Its easy to pack everything in and also lots of the shops use paper bags and when you have so many they easily rip. Its also much easier to get back to your hotel without forgetting any bags if it’s all in the case. We got back pretty late, when to Walgreens for some sweets and a quick bite to eat then went to Sephora to pick up a few things and then back to the hotel. Another day of walking over 8 miles so its bed for us.

Tuesday

Last day and we have ticked off everything that we set out to do on this trip so this day is much more relaxed. We start the day with a run round Central Park, we ran over 3 miles and mum has run in years so it was amazing that she ran the whole way with me.

We went back to the hotel got shower, changed and packed up and checked out leaving our bags there for the day. By this stage we had done enough walking so today was definitely a little slower after the run. We walked to Anthropology then Rockafeller Centre and people watched really.

We then began to get peckish so we walked to Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side. A small little bakery with the freshest cookies you will ever have. They are a small shop packed full of people. There cookies are made fresh and hot in the middle with the chocolate, plus they had Earl Grey Tea so I was happy. They have a lovely little bench outside where we enjoyed baguette with butter and jam (yeah!) and then our cookies! They are so rich, one between two is more than enough.

We walked back to Central Park for a walk around then back to Sephora for another quick purchase (I wouldn’t want shoppers regret) then back to the hotel to go to the airport.

So another trip to New York ticked off the list. I just love that city so much and could go back again but after I have a big long nap to recover from the lack of sleep from this trip. I enjoyed doing a few more of the non-tourist things attractions and there is so much more of New York that I still need to see.

Lashings of Love,

K xo

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Home | Buying our first house

As we now are celebrating being in our home two years (where did that time go!) it got me thinking about the whole buying process. It all seemed so stressful at the time but now that I look back here is the advice I would give my younger self. 

Be prepared to sacrifice 

If you’re starting to save for your first home, like we did, I took a long hard look at my monthly income and outgoings, and this was the daunting start to our process. This allowed me to calculate my bills and my disposal income, shockingly I had more disposable income than I thought, by no means a millionaire, but multiple trips to the shops and online orders seemed to take a large proportion of my salary. That’s the first thing I cut back on, not completely but sacrifices had to be made. 

Save, save and save some more

Although I’ve just said I didn’t completely cut back I was very concise of what I bought, I became more aware of disposable fashion and make up and things had only to be bought for a purpose. There is much more than a deposit, there is solicitors fees, furniture and installation charges. It really racks up so be realistic with the money you can save keep that in mind for your mortgage payments. I went to a mortgage advisor to workout our budget and what were affordable monthly payments. One thing I will say was that with our salaries they were willing to give us more than we originally thought, we could have gone for a higher mortgage with higher monthly payments and probably a bigger house but really we wanted to make it manageable. Only do want you can afford, it’s important to be able to live and enjoy your new home. 

Compromise is key

Whether you’re buying on your own, with your partner or with a friend. Once you have an idea of budget, make a list of things that are ideal. Now go through this list and look through the things that you would compromise on. For us location, south facing garden and car parking were essential. It would have been ideal to have a semi detached, separate dining room, downstairs toilet but unfortunately this was not possible so we had to compromise and what’s important is, for us this is our first home, it’s unlikely we or you will stay there forever and the next house, once you get some time under your belt and maybe a little more saving, you will be able to incorporate these desirable into your essential list. 

Don’t let looks get the better of you

If you walked into a shop that is beautifully decorated and tidy you’re more likely to buy right…it’s the same with houses. The difference is there is only 1 house and lots of buyers. If an estate agent thinks a house has potential they will do an open day. That’s what happened with the first house we bid on. If a house is well decorated, you can see yourself living there. That’s exactly what we thought and although we set a budget there were multiple bidders and we seen ourselves go £12,000 above our budget and £16,000 over the asking price. What were we thinking, we got carried away and I just hope that the other buyers could afford. No matter what, when the furniture is removed and the rooms are bare, it looks completely different and then you will want to reprint walls and change things around. Interiors are not worth blowing your budget, you can and will make improvements as you go along. 

Try not to get emotionally invested 

My dream home is a old house which we can renovate. We viewed multiple houses and fell in love with this one which looking back now was completely impractical, particularly for our first home. We were sale agreed but knew it needed a lot of work and a couple weeks later we got a complete building survey, our dreams were shattered. The house was in such bad disrepair beyond our naive eyes. It need completely rewired, the chimney was about to fall in, repointing on the outside, wood root, a second damp course and to top it all off asbestos. Our surveyor (who was lovely) and we met him at the house while he was doing the survey gave us some pretty good advice. Without £40,000 before we moved in, it would be impossible for us to make the house liveable, all before we even lifted a paintbrush for the internal. This was a tough blow, we were devastated, because we were emotional involved in the house. We were annoyed that we paid £800 for a survey that proved this wasn’t our dream home, really we should have been happy, we identified the problem and saved ourselves a painful and stressful journey but at the time it was difficult not to think that we had wasted that money for a survey. That’s the trick the survey was vital for us to know that was not a sensible investment. 

Don’t be afraid of professional advice

We took advice from anyone who would help and not my mum or dad but professional advice. We went to a mortgage advisor, who proved to give us a better rate on our mortgage than going directly to the banks. We also took advice from our building surveyor on that and the house we eventually bought. Our solicitor who helped us along the way, I called a lot and I’m sure he screened some of our calls but he knows this process inside and out. Other than signing a few documents and giving them a read (I’m probably doing them no justice) but he gave us so much help. Your solicitor works for you and in this case represents you so use their knowledge and expertise. Remember the estate works for the seller of the property so if you have any problems, get advice and help from your solicitor, they are the best person to represent you. 

Be patient

This process takes time. Finding the right house takes time then conveyancing takes even more time. It’s so easy to say this once it’s complete but it’s so important to be patient, you can rush people along, and be sure to keep them on there toes chasing but there will be a lot of back and forth so don’t let that get you down. Once you get the keys and unlock the door of your new home for the first time that feeling is amazing and no one can take that achievement away from you then. 

Lashings of Love, 

K xo

Home | Burn baby burn

From my last post on our wooden floor which we finished back in August, the wood burner seems to be a long way coming. Just picking a stove can be difficult, waiting for it to arrive and then a fitter it’s a well thought through process. It all started last year when there was smoke coming back down from our chimney into our living room, I came back from the gym one night and it was so bad that Chris has all the doors and windows open, it was extremely dangerous. We had chimney sweeps out to clean the chimney and check there was nothing up there so I thought a wood burner was a great solution. Truth be told, this was how I sold it to Chris. After months of reading Country Living, I knew I wanted a wood burner from day one. Our fireplace was deceiving, like many of the fittings in this house, but this is the blog post for that rant. The fireplace was actually a heavy duty plastic, not stone like it would initially have you believe. This made it extremely difficult to clean, the black soot stuck to it, some would say it made it look worn, me, dirty. I cleaned as hard as I could but it just never looked clean. I knew there was so work to be done before we could install it.

Once the wooden floor was done, I went to the Stove Yard, outside Belfast, it came highly recommended from my Auntie who got her stove there a few years back. Thankfully they are open on a Saturday until 12.30pm so we called in on a Saturday morning. They are experts in the burner industry, we wanted a multi-fuel stove as we burn a lot of coal not just wood, without even seeing our room they were able to give us an idea of the size of burner we needed, 5Kw, which is the heat the burner will produce. This is more than enough for our small room, we didn’t even know the energy level of our fire at that time. They arranged for an installer to come out to do a home check to see that we were suitable and give us a price. The fitter called out a few days later, we had no idea of the extensive work that was required. The chimney had to change from 8″ to 6″ and they fitted a lining to that to reduce the width, we also needed a carbon monoxide detector, even though we already had one but it had to be in the room, building regulation changes and not to mention the stove itself. The best part of getting one fitter was that they do everything and I mean everything. Getting this done was going to a two day job, remove the old fireplace, dig out the hole for the new stove, plaster and fitting. We booked it, 6 weeks was all we would have to wait. Now lets talk cost, the cost of the stove was around £550, we didn’t go for a brand name, although a Charnwood would have been right up my street, the one we choose had a good warranty and there was good feedback on it. We would have looked more into the differences in the branded stoves but we don’t intend to stay in this house forever so we wanted something that was aesthetically pleasing but didn’t break the bank. The cost of the remainder of the parts and the labour was £1200 so a total of £1750, of course you can spend more if you want a more expensive stove but for our purpose this was fine.


Six weeks rolled around pretty quickly and we began clearing out the furniture in our living room, apart from the sofas, we just threw some plastic lining over them. I couldn’t wait to come home and see the progress after the first day. I was so pleased to see the old fireplace gone and the hole was prepared for the stove, the stone was laid, it looked good. However there was dust everywhere. It was difficult to understand how every inch of our house had dust in it, I suppose there were parts of our wall coming out so I shouldn’t complain. I couldn’t wait for it to be finished. The day day we came home and it was all done, we were both delighted. The fireplace looked bulky and now the wood burner looked much nicer, it made the area look bigger. Now to start with the clean up. We spent that evening cleaning the floors and hoovering (I’ve never emptied the hoover more in my life). We had to wait a week until we could get it painted so for one week we continued on with minimal furniture in our living room and our spare bedroom completely packed with whatever wasn’t in the hall and living room.



The painter arrived on the Wednesday and we picked our paint that weekend. Because our floor is such a dark wood, we wanted to keep the walls really light so we went for Farrow & Ball Strong White, this did become slight confusing for our painter who has strong white for the walls, white wood paint for the skirting board and white emulsion for our ceiling, there really was a lot of white paint. The colour was It’s the first time we have got a painter and I would highly recommend it, no mess, no fuss, just remove everything and that night we came home and it was all done. Our painter did bring 3 others with him so no wonder it was done so quickly. We began to move the furniture back and then we went to Donegal, living room still not finished, oh well, the fresh air of Donegal will help me forget about the work from home. As we put the furniture back in, we measured up the living room and made the decision on the sofas, that weekend was the last of the Laura Ashley sale so thankfully they are coming on the 8th December, but we’ll take them earlier if you need us too Laura Ashley.

With a long weekend on the cards, the last thing we needed to do for now was to get a mantle piece. As always, I made Chris put his DIY hat on. I had an idea for the mantle and we bought two shelves and we placed the second shelf below so it looked more than just a shelf.

We cut out grooves to make it more interesting and then painted it white. It was done, now just for Chris to put it up. I went up to do one eyelash appointment and to my surprise when I came down Chris has finished it by himself, I couldn’t wait to get it decorated.

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Now it’s all done, we are just waiting on our sofas and we also need a new dining table and I’ve promised Chris that is all we are doing to the living room. The next stop is the stairs, which we need painted and then the carpet put down, I’ll maybe wait a few weeks before I mention that. Time to get our current sofas cleaned and sold to make way for what’s new. As I am finishing writing this, I’m currently drying my hair in front of the wood burner on the first night that I have really seen what granny would call as the turn in the evenings (that’s darker evenings) and its bless being nice and warm, in my PJ’s by the stove, my new favourite thing.

Lashings of Love,

K xo

Life | Taking time

If you hadn’t already guessed it from Instagram, I spent the weekend by the sea. The beautiful tranquil sea. The sound of the roaring white horses never sounded so good, well that was until we went to watch the sunset and I heard a bottle of prosecco pop! Two golf widows headed to a part of the world that means so much to me. Fresh air, beautiful views and a dog to walk we set out on our adventures. Now I feel totally relaxed. That’s another Monday over, but why the Monday dread?

There is absolutely no doubt that life is stressful in all aspects. People feel stressed for so many different reasons whether thats work, family or relationships.  I spent most of my time counting down the week and days until I’m off and can finally relax but why.

I love my marketing job, I love doing lashes and I love doing things around the house. These are the things that drive me, make me tick. So why do I count down days and weeks when life is already so short. This year has went by so quickly and maybe that’s just a sign of getting older. Months feel like weeks and I can’t believe 2017 is already over half way through (like when did that happen)!

It got me thinking, I know a very dangerous past time for those who know me. I have worked out the problem. I get stressed. I see stress as a sign of weakness, which of course it isn’t. To overcome that weakness I need to be busy to ensure that everything is running to plan. I’ve begun to understand that stress actually means I care about what I’m doing whether that’s work, home or play. It is not that I can’t do it. It is more about my determination to prove myself right. There are just a lot of balls to juggle and I really don’t want to drop one.

I’ve found that by taking myself away from the city to the seaside over the last couple of weekends has been a welcome relief. Not that I’m anymore stressed than usual. I think I just jump from one stress hurdle to the next, I can see the build up coming, I reach the peak and then I make the jump. Escapism is key. Whether it’s an episode of Love Isand (yes I love it…no shameful ) or a weekend away. We are very lucky to have the luxury of a seaside getaway. Now I need to find other ways to relax, whether thats yoga, mediation or just a walk with Piper. When I’m at home I actually find things to do that don’t really need to be done. I just can’t sit down, but that’s the problem. I need to sit down and enjoy life more. I really think we all do. In a world where I see more of my phone screen than my boyfriend, answer more emails than calls to my family and never switch off, I think I’ve found a new way to relax and it’s just bloody brilliant. Counting down to weekends like this really aren’t too bad. Every weekend won’t be like this, but it’s good to know I’ve somewhere to go to totally relax.

Let’s all go out and enjoy life a little more! Next step is a digital detox…maybe not just yet.

Lashings of love,

K xo