Tuesday, 31 May 2016

May Favourites


I always look forward to the end of the month for two reasons. One is pay day (thank the lord) and the other is favourites posts! The format is a very popular one and I really enjoy having a nosey at what people have been wearing, buying, reading, watching and eating that month. In fact, I like them so much I've decided to start doing them myself.

Admittedly, I decided this about half an hour ago, and the above photo definitely reflects the horribly autumnal drizzle that's been hanging around all day. You really wouldn't know its June tomorrow! This month has been a weird one for me with a few ups and downs, but it's ended in mine and Mat's birthdays and some good old-fashioned boozy BBQ fun with our friends so it's not all bad!

So, without further ado, here's what I've been loving in the month of May:

That 70s Show

It somewhat passed me by when it was actually aired on TV as I was slightly too young, but I recently discovered That 70s Show is on Netflix in its entirety and boy did I miss out. Even Mat finds it hilarious, which is saying something considering he can't stand most of my TV choices (but seriously, what's wrong with a bit of Pretty Little Liars every now and then?). It's nostalgic not only for its 70s vibes but also for looking back on the young cast, which includes Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. I'd recommend a marathon to anyone needing a bit of a pick-me-up!

HydrateM8 Infuser Bottle

My bezzie mate Sophie bought me this as part of my birthday present and I love it! I'm a big fan of lemon water but in a regular bottle its a pain to try and squeeze them in and then have to try and get them out too, so the chamber will make that much easier. It's also a whopping 900ml and features little markers on one side to remind you when to drink and when to refill. I've been a bit lax with my fluid intake lately despite being a lot more active in the gym, so this will help get me back on track!

Parlor Detangling Spray

I received a sample of this delicious smelling stuff in my April Birchbox and I have to say it might be worth purchasing the full size. Having had my hair bleached and chopped recently I'm keen to treat it as gently as possible when it comes to styling, and the almond extract in this really helps my tangle teaser slide through without any breakage.

New Look Cold Shoulder Top

I'm not usually that into summer style, but the current off-the-shoulder and cold shoulder looks are so beautiful and boho that I couldn't help but get on the bandwagon. I picked up this white number in New Look yesterday and love the floaty fit and black embroidery, but annoyingly I can't find it anywhere online! This one and this one are similar, plus I also purchased this black one from ASOS last week. They look great with jeans but also with denim shorts!

Dr Pawpaw Balm

I first heard about Paw Paw balm when a friend brought some back from Australia and was absolutely raving about how much it had helped her chapped, sunburned lips. After winter weather and way too many a matte lip product just about did mine in I purchased a tube and haven't looked back. I now apply it for half an hour prior to putting on lippy, to act as a conditioner, and it's improved my once flaky lips no end. You can also use it to tame and condition brows, among other things.

Clinique Anti-Blemish Clearing Gel

I've spoken recently about a few new products that had been helping my currently very spot prone skin (read: mild adult acne which I really didn't think I'd still have at the ripe age of 24), but this is the one treatment that I always go back to when I need a breakout to clear up fast. It's very drying on the spot itself but not harsh on the surrounding skin.

Mac Velvet Teddy

I finally picked up a Mac Velvet Teddy lipstick in the airport when we left for Amsterdam, and I can really see what all the fuss was about. It's a gorgeous nude colour and the wear is excellent. If it's a bit out of your price range for a lipstick, then Rimmel's 08 Kate Moss shade is probably the closest I've seen to a match, if a little cooler in tone and not quite as long lasting.

Have you tried out any of the above? What have your favourites been this month?
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Friday, 27 May 2016

24 things I've learned in 24 years



Happy birthday to me! I orginally planned to let my 24th birthday slip past me unacknowledged, yet here I am comemorating it with a blog post. As a teenager I thought that by age 24 I'd be in my ultimate dream job, married and a home owner, probably with a dog and a swanky car. Lol.

Fast forward to now and I still don't know whether I'm coming or going most days, life isn't exactly how I thought it would be and inside I still feel like a big kid. I have (I hope) managed to become a little wiser though, so I thought I'd get into the spirit of things and share some of that wisdom with you all.

1. Nobody has their shit together. Nobody. Plenty of adults are very good at acting the part, but the truth is, young or old, we all spend our time trying to figure things out.

2. A small number of close friends is better than 50 acquaintences, especially when you really need someone to be there for you.

3. Speaking of which, the people worth making time for are the ones who stick around no matter what. Don't let people float in and out of your life as they please.

4. Double denim is still horrible.

5. Saving for a house or car is certainly a good idea, but so is seeing the world. No matter your circumstances always try to keep some time and budget free to travel regularly.

6. There's nobody quite like family when you're feeling blue. Keep them close.

7. GCSEs, A Levels, University...all are 1000x easier than real life. If only I had known! If you're still in education, embrace and enjoy it.

8. The number on the scales doesn't matter, muscle weighs more than fat, and afternoon bloat will always ruin any hint of morning abs. Exercise and eat well for your health, not to look like an Instagram model.

9. On that note... squats are your friend. Ditch some of the cardio and pick up those weights as soon as possible.

10. No matter how hard I try, I will never get a perfectly ripe avocado.

11. I don't need the latest overpriced blogger must haves to fit in.

12. Being busy and having a few challenges to overcome is way better than boredom and an easy ride. It's how you learn and grow.

13. Having said that, I should never underestimate my ability to procrastinate when it comes to doing the dishes.

14. Mums know everything and are right 99.99% of the time.

15. Yeah cactuses look cute and insta-chic but those little bastards are prickly when trying to arrange a flatlay.

16. There's nothing like exporing a new town or city with a camera. Never stop wandering.

17. It may not always feel like it but I can actually be pretty strong in a difficult situation.

18. I can also really speak up when I want to. Don't be afraid to take a strong stance on something you really care about.

19. False eyelash application is completely and utterly beyond me.

20. Having been in the same relationship for the last 7 years really doesn't mean you've missed out on much. Unless awkward flirting, Tinder and multiple breakups are your thing.

21. Crop tops will never be my thing. I'm also now wondering if I'm a bit to old for that anyway. Damnit.

22. Pinterest is one of the most useful apps you can have when you're in need of inspiration

23. Facebook, however, isn't. It's more like a cesspit of Britain First posts and cringey American chat show skits. Ditch it wherever possible. Your sanity will thank you.

24. I am completely OK with the fact that I don't have everything figured out yet. There's plenty of time left for that!
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Sunday, 22 May 2016

Health and fitness: Taking control of my body


I've been running and going to the gym on and off since I was at university, but it never quite 'clicked' until now. I had no structure to my workouts, would go every day for a week and then give up for two, and lived off of Doritos and Mini Cheddars from the work vending machine. I'd never been anything but slim, until things got a bit doughier than I would have liked during 2015, mainly due to stress. That said, I've never felt totally happy with my body. I would regularly lay in bed scrolling through Instagram, confronted by endless fitspo. When one day I didn't fit into my usual size jeans I had a full-on changing room breakdown, then ordered pizza on the way home because I felt sad and well...pizza. And there are billions of girls out there in the same boat.

This year, instead of letting it get to me, I joined a new gym, took control and never looked back. Since January my body has gotten stronger and leaner. I've gained muscle weight but my legs and waist have gotten smaller, and I can also confirm that what they say about doing your squats is most definitely true. Once I've completed my current 12 week programme I'll hopefully be proud enough to share the results, but until then I thought I'd share the 6 things that have helped me finally take control of my own body and stop comparing it to other people's.

1. Find a really good gym

I was a member of a large chain of gyms while we lived in Cambridge, and found they had little interest in the progress and development of their members. Yes it was new and slick and air-conditioned and some of the equipment was snazzy, but it also expensive and constantly busy and not an environment in which I managed to achieve very much. If you're going to a gym like this and struggling to motivate yourself I'd suggest looking for a different kind of gym, 

After moving back home in January I joined a local independent gym, and it's safe to say I love it. It's owned by a guy who was a couple of years above me at the local school, is housed in an old office block with no air conditioning, is half the price of our nearest big leisure centre and is full of people who are passionate about getting results. As a result attracts a lot of body builder types, which means the selection of free weights is huge and everybody helps each other out. It's a place I really love to go and sweat my stress away.

2. Get a structured workout plan

I used to turn up at the gym and do whatever I fancied, or go outside and pound the pavement with no real aim. It really didn't get me any noticeable results, and let to me obsessively weighing myself and wondering what I was doing wrong. 

Four weeks ago I caved into the Kayla Itsines craze and started her Bikini Body Guide workout plan. Don't be fooled by the name - this 12 week programme combines high intensity circuits, weights, bodyweight training, and cardio into a hard-hitting set of workouts that's properly kicked my butt into gear. Only one month in I am noticeably stronger and finding moves like commandos, press-ups and burpees dramatically easier. I have muscle deifnition appearing left right and centre and my legs are feeling solid instead of jelly-like. 

BBG isn't for everyone, and if you're only just starting out it may be best to get a personal trainer to draw you up a plan, but having a list of exercises to conquer each time I go to the gym means I always leave feeling satisfied I've pushed myself further.

3. Find some motivating tunes

I'm lucky that my local gym plays a great mix of pumping music, so I rarely need my headphones, but heading out for a run I always need a good playlist to keep up the momentum. I've found Spotify is great for this, with tonnes of workout playlists of all speeds and genres. I also got myself an iPod shuffle to provide some extra variety, which I can clip to my top instead of wearing a bulky phone armband.

4. Step away from the pizza...sometimes

I would be a huge hypocrite if I sat here and preached about always eating healthy, choosing 80% fruit and veg and meeting those pesky macros. I am well-known among friends for being a bit of a dustbin, and frankly have had pizza three days in a row this weekend. Fad diets are an absolute no no as far as I'm concerned. I even failed at slimming world because for some reason it wanted me to limit my ketchup portions. That said, hitting the gym so hard and so often means I have been making better choices for the most part. I always try to get lots of protein in to aid recovery, and am trying to cut down my sugar intake. 

We've recently started making recipes from the popular Lean in 15 book by Joe Wicks (a.k.a. The Body Coach), which are super quick, super healthy and most importantly very tasty. The tortilla pizzas and potato hash are my personal faves. For me I think it's all about finding foods that are healthy but also yummy and satisfying, so that I don't go running outside to the ice cream man with a quid in my hand every evening when I hear that telltale sound.

5. Find yourself some good gear

Good workout gear doesn't have to be expensive, but it can really help make you feel more comfortable during a workout. I've invested in items from F+F at Tesco, Primark, H&M and Sports Direct and am finally happy that I have enough items to last the week without having to put on a dreaded load of washing. I also chose items I felt looked good, with dark material and flattering waistbands a must - I feel like much more of a motivated gym bunny when I'm not worrying about lumps and bumps or sweat stains. 

Footwear is also important, but you don't need to break the bank on it. Don't get sucked in by gait analysis in specialist shops unless you're a total pro or have a recurrent injury. Focus on finding shoes that give you enough support and have enough room in them that they don't rub as you're running and jumping around. 

6. Stop comparing yourself to others

I have my wobbles and down days but my most important advice when it comes to getting fit and healthy and truly taking ownership of your body is to quit the comparison. Half of what you see on the internet isn't real and the other half is only achieved with an army of trainers, nutritionists, beauticians and filters. You are more than good enough as you are, and your decision to take control of your body and make any improvements to your physical state should only be to make yourself feel better, not those around you.

As for me, I'm looking forward to busting out a strong and confident beach bod in Turkey later this year during the all inclusive holiday we've finally booked - it's about time!

Do you struggle with body image or fitness motivation? What are your tips for gym/workout success?

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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Amsterdam on a budget

City breaks are notoriously difficult to pull off when you only have limited funds, but that doesn't mean it's not doable! Last week I headed to the Dutch canal city of Amsterdam for a 4 night break with eight of my friends, and it's safe to say our funds were fairly limited.

To save on initial expenses we got our return flights via Easyjet for £50 a piece and stayed in an ibis Budget hotel just outside the city. The hotel wasn't glamorous, but it was clean, comfy and convenient. And our big savings didn't stop there. I thought I'd share my top tips for enjoying yourself here without breaking the bank.




Hit the streets

Amsterdam's beautiful canals and many different neighborhoods make for great wandering. We admittedly did spend a fair amount of our walking time getting lost, as unfortunately our guide map was a bit out of date, so maybe hit Google Maps up if you're trying to find something specific! Walking is a great way to save on transport, however the many trams and bus services are also affordable.




Pre-book popular attractions (and seek out free ones)

Our trip was very relaxed and more about drinks and suspicious brownies than it was museums and galleries (although the Sex Museum was a head turner and I'm now scarred for life), so I'll definitely return to Amsterdam just me and Mat to explore popular attractions like the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum by ourselves. We did notice a lot of queues for the likes of the Anne Frank and Rembrandt houses, which are open to the public but as a result unbelievably popular. For these I'd advise pre-booking tickets online. Be careful to go directly though the attraction and not a third party seller or you could end up paying a hiked up price.There are plenty of free things to do too that cater for all tastes.

One attraction that we all really loved was the Heineken Experience. for a mere €14 we were there for about two and a half hours and it was much more than just a brewery tour. On arrival you're given a bracelet with two tokens attached, which to our delight could be exchanged for beers at various points on the tour, and in the brewery itself staff were on hand to tell us all about how the famous lager is brewed.

There are tonnes of things to do within the building, from pulling and bottling your own pints to playing PS4 and testing out the power of your rugby tackle, plus (of course) a gift shop. We also sampled an exclusive new brew that's yet to launch here in the UK and it was delish.



Seek out a cheap beverage

If, like many, you're visiting Amsterdam for a bit of a knees up, you'll probably get a shock when it comes to the beer prices. They can be in excess of €7-8 per glass and the metric system gets you slightly less bang for your buck per milliliter, too. By being a bit more adventurous with our bar choices, keeping off the beaten track we found some more reasonably priced places. Our favourite was Wonder Bar, which is a very relaxed, cosy place we returned to three times. We also hit up a Lidl and a few mini-marts during our stay as the weather was so nice we were able to sit outside.

I have to admit that doing somewhere like this on a budget really had me worried before we arrived, but we ended up discovering that, being the relaxed, chilled city that it is, Amsterdam is relatively friendly to the tighter purse strings!

Are you planning to visit any time soon?
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Saturday, 7 May 2016

Sticks'n'Sushi


Last night I was invited to try out the brand new branch of Sticks N Sushi in Cambridge. I enjoy Japanese cuisine but tend to stay firmly over on the meaty side as I'm not particularly into fish, so I was interested to see how their menu measured up for someone like me.

Before we get to the food, let me say that a lovely job has been done on the decor - chic and modern, not too dark, not sterile. It was just right for the setting. So much so that I forgot to turn away from my plate and take a decent snap of the room! This is where the restaurants Danish origins really show themselves - Nordic regions really know how to do their interiors.


Our waitress was extremely attentive and explained in detail what everything was as we were unfamiliar with some of the dishes - idea for a fish phobic such as myself! They also had a range of Japanese drinks available, including beer which Mat seemed to enjoy!

Our menu was a preview so although we could request not to have certain items it was then up to the chef what to provide us with. I decided to be brave and only request that we didn't have salmon (yuck!), and we were very impressed with the range available.


After a delicious starter of tempura prawns (known here as Ebi Bites) and edamame we were presented with a few different dishes, some fishy and some not. I plucked up the courage to try the Sashimi dish which was yellow tail tuna, and was pleasantly surprised! My favourite by far though was the bacon-wrapped scallops - again I'd never tried these before but the flavours were just beautiful!



Dessert was also a highlight. We were served a miniature cheesecake and a rhubarb sorbet, which although small really packed in the flavour. I believe you can order these individually or choose a selection (I know which I'd go for!).

A special shout-out should also go to the restaurants feedback forms, which take the form of a story in which you fill in the blanks. It was actually quite a fun activity - a great way to hold the customer's attention and get yourself some reviews!


The full menu at Sticks N Sushi Cambridge is available from today. You can check it out here.


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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Cutting your hair shorter




The last time I got a drastically different haircut was about three years ago. I got a heavy block fringe cut in, found it hard to style and then a few months later also got my long lengths cut to shoulder length. It wasn't a great cut, done at a high street salon by a girl that openly admitted she had a whopping hangover. I hated the blunt finish and my then dyed black colour washed me out and sort of made it look like a wig.



So I did what I tend to do after a bad hair decision and decided to go almost a year without a haircut. It got very long, quite thick and heavy and generally a bit lifeless. After finally deciding to visit my friend Phie's home salon and get it tidied up I began thinking about chopping it all off.

I used Pinterest as inspiration for my lob-style chop, as there are tonnes and tonnes of images on there that helped me describe my ideal cut. It also made me want to go in for a lighter tone as my natural hair is quite dark. We settled on a 'sombre' style for this, which didn't take long at all as it had been so long since I last coloured it. That's definitely something to bare in mind as if you have residue from previous dying still in the hair the finish will be much more orangey. I could've gone a bit lighter but we played it safe to start with.

As someone who has always had a bit of a fear of the hairdresser's chair I can safely say I'm so glad I put my trust in Phie. I'm glad I bit the bullet after wanting to for so long and looking back at older photos like the one above I feel like a totally different person! Although I'll need it cut a bit more often it's so much easier to dry and style. I'd recommend a long bob to just about anyone as it's feminine but very 'put together' and tidy looking even when styled with loose curls.

If you're mulling over getting yours cut, my advice is to find lots of inspiration online and book in with a stylist you can really trust.

Have you had a dramatic restyle recently? Did you cut yours even short than mine? Let me know in the comments below!
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Sunday, 1 May 2016

Why 'fit fashion' is probably the best thing to come out of 2016 so far



Confession: most fashion trends that come and go seem to escape me before I can be bothered to embrace them. No sooner have I managed to purchase the staple garment of the month before it's out of season and out of favour. Like many I tend not to care about or really follow trends in this way, but one particular style is having a moment it's difficult to ignore.

Hit up a celeb fashion website and you won't need more than 10 seconds to work out what's hot right now. Everyone from Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner to Sienna Miller and Kate Hudson has been cashing in on the sports luxe trend. I've been having a field day over on Pinterest, so here's why I love it:

It's easy as hell

A casual, sporty look isn't that hard to pull off - Take your favourite (but clean!) trainers, team with leggings or 'mom' jeans, a baggy tee or a crop top and top off with a trench coat or bomber jacket and your usual handbag. Done. It's a uniform I'm seeing more and more of on the high street. 

You don't have to rock big brands or expensive items to be trendy

There's been some criticism of this trend in so far as it's supposedly off-limits to those who can't afford Stan Smiths or Lulu Lemon yoga pants, but that's just not true! Plain and unbranded garments are not only easier on the bank balance but actually seem so much more chic. With Queen B herself's recently released Ivy Park Topshop range also fairly priced it's never been easier to rock an off-duty look.

Finally a trend that offers comfort

Man am I happy about casual clothing having its day. In a way it's kind of a 90s revival, with baggy fitting pieces and even going bra-free very much the norm at the moment. Bye bye bodycon dresses, see ya later high heels, hello shift dresses and converse!

Want more casual fashion? Follow my Pinterest board here!
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