Trying to look at the bright side of life...

Yes, yes, it's far too early into this blog to have a lack of motivation, but I can say that during the past week I've been off my game in all aspects (unfortunately the blog is the part that was neglected the most). My personal lack of productivity got the best of me and left me procrastinating even getting out of bed, though in my defence it's a very warm bed and very cold outside of it.

Over the weekend, we took a quick trip back up to Belfast were I got to catch up with some friends, eat very good food, and watch Birdman, which I still don't know how I feel about. I think I'd be raving about it if it had ended about 15 minutes before it actually did, but who can really tell.

A little friendly ambiance
Nothing like a steak among friends for a good night
Although I'm pretty sure the main wording was professional and meant to look like graffiti, I still liked it. Sorry for the blur.

Tacos from Boojum make everything better.
Monday put a huge damper on things though, as we got up early to make the drive back down and stop and get my stamp to officially enter the Republic of Ireland (there's no border control between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which makes things a bit more difficult to switch from a UK to ROI visa) and I was given very conflicting information from quite a few people and went home very confused and empty handed. Around 6pm I got a call back from the first person who seemed to actually understand what I was asking, but it's still not solved. I won't go into more detail (but if you've got questions you're welcome to email and ask!), and hopefully this will all be sorted by the end of the week. It's just frustrating when you try to go about things the right way and no one seems to want to help.

The sunrise on our drive down was lovely. I'll always be a tourist, really.

In any case, I decided as a way to ease myself back on track, I'd make a short list of links I like. Everyone loves those posts, right? Let's pretend.So without further adieu, here are some things that make me happy:

+ Jo did a lovely post about how to pick wine that's oddly relevant in my head. I've discovered I might be allergic to red wine (flu like symptoms after anything more than a small glass-- damn you tannins!) and am trying to find a white wine similar to the Chardonnay I had during my 2012 trip to the Russian River Valley. It was like I was drinking liquid butter, and was the only white wine I've ever liked.

+ On the subject of food + drink, I've been really missing some American foods recently, and of course it's only the stuff that isn't so diet-friendly. Nonetheless, I'll be making some funfetti biscotti and some chik-fil-a nuggets. There actually isn't a week that goes by that R and I don't mention how much we miss Chik-fil-a!

+ DIY projects that may make the new apartment feel more like a home: tissue paper flower branches, paint chip art, and this colourful yarn hanging

This is so cool, but I'm pretty upset I didn't how about it when I lived in Atlanta. Next trip back, it will be booked!

+ I made this mug brownie and might now be deemed the best girlfriend ever. Just throwing that in there.

+ I can personally attest to a majority of the items on this New Orleans list, though I certainly haven't bought underage kids booze (I had to wait, so do you little jerks) and I've never intentionally fought a child for beads, so that one is debatable.

+ And if I ever really need cheering up and nothing else will work (not even a bit of pampering) there's always this song which makes me smile no matter what...

Treat Yourself

Everyone deserves a break one in a while whether it be from work, kids, or just a little pause on reality. It's easy to make excuses not to get away, like time or budget constraints, but even little rituals can make a world of difference. With all the visa switches and school ending, I'm currently experiencing what I'd like to call funemployment, which has its benefits (every day is a sleep-in day!) and disadvantages (i'm incredibly bored, applying for jobs is the worst ever, and everything costs money). Ultimately, for me, doing nothing is more stressful than being a productive member of society but I've found a way to treat myself about once a week to keep my sanity in tact. 

I realised today that my apartment gets very little natural light in the winter, so I'm sorry you're stuck with grainy photos until the spring!
I give myself a mini-spa day! Truthfully, it only takes about an extra 20 minutes or so and makes a world of difference! Here's a list of what I do and which products I use.
Before The Shower

Stick your towel in the dryer for a couple minutes, high heat. Alternatively, if you have a radiator in the bathroom just lay it on there to warm it up.*

Light a candle and turn off as much light as possible. In the US this was easy because I could just plug a lamp in on the counter, however here they don't generally have outlets in the bathrooms so the more candles the better. The less fluorescent lighting you have, the more relaxed you will feel. 
Prepare! Sometimes I get so excited about making sure everything is in its place that I forget simple things like leaving my towels in the dryer or something. Running cold and naked through the house to get your towels is a major relaxation mood killer. 
Handy things to have on hand: a bit of baking soda, hair mask, coffee grounds (used or fresh), face mask of your choosing, coconut oil

During the Shower

Shampoo your hair as normal, but mix your shampoo with about a tablespoon of baking soda in your hand before you apply it and then really scrub your scalp with it. Alternatively, you could use a clarifying shampoo but I prefer the cheap and cheerful method to getting rid of a weeks worth of styling gunk.
Condition with a hair mask. I'm currently loving the Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Mask, and loved the Aussie 3 Minute Miracle but any that you rinse out is fine. I shampoo and then use this first thing so I can let it work its magic during the rest of the shower. 
Clean yourself. I guess that one is pretty obvious, but it's necessary and all, and it doesn't really change unless you want to use some of that fancy soap you got for Christmas. 

Scrub your body with either a pre-bought scrub or go with some budget friendly DIY.  Focus on rougher areas like You can go all Martha Stewart with some eucalyptus mint sugar cane stuff, or go with my old standby: used coffee grounds. Seriously, they work so well its not even funny. I like to add a very tiny drop of vanilla to them to keep myself smelling fantastic, and recently found this great tutorial by Kallie of But First, Coffee for DIY Cocounut Coffee Skin Scrub Bars which are super simple. Same idea, but she uses fresh coffee grounds (I cheated and did it with used grounds) and its much less messy and quicker to use, plus you get the moisturising benefit of the coconut oil as an added bonus.** 

Wash your face with your normal cleanser. If it exfoliates, great! If not, add a teaspoon of baking soda in there and massage it lightly on your face. You don't need to work too hard, because you'll be deep cleaning in a minute.
If you want to shave, definitely do because it'll be so easy without all those pesky dead skin cells and the extra Rinse the conditioner, and make sure the coffee grounds are all down the drain or your family will be asking questions.

After the Shower

After you've wrapped yourself in a nice fluffy robe and slippers and made your hair turban, go ahead and put on your face mask. I prefer clay masks to the peel-off kind solely because if I'm in a rush I can wash them off early if I need to, but whatever mask you'd like will work. I love the Dead Sea Mask from Montagna Jeunesse. I get the 100g tube instead of the single use because I use them so much and I get so much more out of it. Use the time while the mask dries to do whatever extra you want. I like giving my feet a good scrub in the tub with some kind of pumice (my favourite foot file is this one, it's easy to hold and very effective. I don't have to scrub much to get rid of callouses) and use a good moisturiser all over like straight coconut oil warmed in my hands or some of the fancier stuff from the Christmas stocking haul, but if you're short on time then this is a perfect moment to multitask if you need to.
After you've washed off the mask you're pretty much done! Now go and finish getting ready for work or whatever, or do this on a day off (if one exists) and go relax some more or go one step further and do your nails during a Netflix marathon (may I recommend Drop Dead Gorgeous or The Princess Diaries for the occasion? They seem fitting.) 

I know this is not rocket science or anything new, but I still feel its necessary to know that it's possible to pamper yourself without breaking the bank or having to add extra hours onto the day! What are the little ways you've found to indulge?

* Yes, I know this is a fire hazard technically. So, be smart about it or don't do it if you're worried. I don't want to get blamed for anyone burning their house down. 

** If you use these or any oils be VERY careful when getting out of the shower... it gets slippery! You can see my version in the photo above still in the cupcake liner leftover from last year's brown velvet cake valentines disaster.