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A chilled out Sunday, my new favourite coat and life lately

Recently life's gotten a bit.... well, weird. Back in August my work relocated so I've been doing a 100 mile round trip each day, and the dark nights and long drives are playing havoc with my energy levels and leaving me feeling run down despite the fact that I really enjoy what I do. I'm on my second cold of the season now and that's quite unusual for me. Here's hoping it's the last for this year!

I also had a bit of a health scare, which wasn't much fun. I'm still being monitored but it looks like things are actually fine, so that's good! The waiting for tests and unpleasant doctors appointments while life went on wasn't easy. I'm paranoid about my health at the best of times (do not, ever, google things). I wanted support from the people around me during a worrying time but it's just not the sort of thing you talk about. While I was waiting to find out what was or wasn't up with me the only people I really told were Mat and my Mum, and even though they've both been amazing I did feel quite alone at times. Now that I know what was actually wrong I feel like I've relaxed so much and a weight has been lifted. Maybe I'll address that on the blog at some point. We should talk more, right?

So with all that going on I've been on high alert for the last month or so, struggling to stay awake and concentrate during the day and lying awake scared to death at night. It's not exactly a recipe for joy! And that's why I've been taking things a hell of a lot slower both in real life and on the blog. I've only been making time for the things that make me genuinely happy.

These days we all really struggle to actually look after ourselves. I know that this big movement towards self care and Hygge and 'taking time for you' probably seems like a load of old crap to some, but is vital for others. Like many women my age if you live a busy life, struggle with your mental (or physical) health, have to check your bank balance before treating yourself to lunch from the M&S sandwich van (which is babin' by the way) or feel like the internet is closing in around you, then slowing down and taking stock is a very important thing. It's totally ok to not be totally bossing it every minute of the day when you're going through a rough time.

So after a boozey, stereotypically mahem-filled but really rather fun company Christmas party on Friday I took the rest of the weekend to mostly do nothing. On Saturday I lay upon my gloriously hungover deathbed force-feeding myself Pringles and brownie bites with my gorgeous new Etta French candle* burning in the background and Netflix keeping me conscious.

Then today we took a mooch around the streets of Cambridge for some hot chocolate at the Hotel Chocolat cafe, picked up the last few bits of Christmas shopping and stopped for a flippin' delicious lunch at Pho - which I won in the raffle at the CambMeetUp Christmas event last week! I even managed to convince Mat to take a few outfit photos for me as I'm loving my new New Look camel coat. With some guidance they haven't come out half bad!

Coat: New Look | Bag: H&M (from last season but this one is near identical)| Top: H&M 

*This post may contain PR samples.

Festive beauty favourites

December is a time for dressing up - a time for parties, family gatherings and numerous pub trips. Christmas and New Year blur into one long special occasion, and if you want to look your very best then choosing some killer beauty products is key.

I can't really tolerate eye makeup anymore (long story!) so I rely on power brows, a slick contour and bold lips to actually look in any way dressed up. No glitter eye shadow here. Sadface. Here are a few of my faves that'll definitely be helping me out this year.


Christmas is a time when I always try to look my best - you never know who'll be round the corner with a camera! That means amping up the highlight and contour a little. I love my Kat Von D Shade and Light palette for this as the colours are strong and long lasting but they still look natural when blended correctly (more in-depth review here). The Seventeen Skin Wow primer also makes for a great highlighter on the cheekbones with its subtle shimmer.


December always feels like the perfect time of year for a red lip! I love the classic Mac Viva Glam 1 lipstick as the shade is so deep, but Kat Von D's Everlasting Liquid Lipstick in Santa Sangre is a beautifully bright and ridiculously long-lasting formula if you need something with more endurance. It's probably the best lipstick I've ever owned.

If nudes are more your thing or you're after something more wearable for a daytime shindig, then the Sephora Cream Lip Stain in Marvellous Mauve is where it's at. So pigmented, so long lasting and such a gorgeous colour - if you can get your hands on it then it's well worth purchasing! Although not quite as long lasting, I also love the NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams. My favourite is Abu Dhabi, a peachy brown.


Glitter is key here for extra festiveness. I love Rimmel's Glitter Bomb range as they tend to tie in really well on top of their other shades. and ORLY have some great ones too. Yes, they are a pain to remove (involuntary nail exfoliation anyone?), but they add an extra bit of sparkle to any outfit.


If I'm not attempting my bi-annual application of sensitive mascara, I pay extra attention to my brows. I'm a bit protective of them so I just pluck them myself at home rather than visiting a brow bar, and I'll always fill them in with pencil, but where they really come into their own is with the help of a good brow gel. I tend to switch between the Maybelline Brow Drama Sculpting Mascara just to keep longer hairs in check, and the Model Co More Brows Thickening Fibre Gel for a more dramatic look.

I'm on the hunt for more beauty bits to help me feel my best this festive season. Can you recommend any?

We went to Birmingham Christmas market!

At the weekend my best mate Sophie and I headed up to Birmingham to scope out the legendary Christmas market, start our Christmas gift shopping and consume literally all of the food and drink we could get our hands on. Here's where we stayed and what we got up to.

It's a couple of hours drive out of Hertfordshire, but having gone to university in the Midlands I'm pretty used to the journey time. We stayed two nights in the Jury's Inn on Broad Street, which while very 'Birmingham' looking on the outside with its concrete exterior was chic and modern within and the location is pretty central. I'd definitely recommend a stay.

The market itself was quiet in the morning but became unbelievably busy during the day. I would definitely advise going at the beginning or end of the day to enjoy the experience without having to queue or search for a table to perch your mulled wine or beer tankard on. 

There's everything you'd expect from a typical German market, from a festive tipple or two to craft and gift stalls, steak, bratwurst and all kinds of sweet treats. As someone who's a bit mad for Christmas the sights, smells and sounds were just perfect. After a long and stressful two weeks it was the mood booster I needed!

As the market got busier we headed towards the Bullring shopping centre for some retail therapy. Birmingham's a great location for shopping - it's got a branch of every store you can imagine and it's all situated alongside an array of modern bars and restaurants. Obviously our first stop was Lush, but what did you expect?

Since our trip coincided with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them we of course took a trip to the cinema. The film is just incredible and as a huge Harry Potter fan I was so impressed and also plain grateful to have J.K. Rowling's magical creations back in my life again!

If you fancy a Christmassy day out at the market in Brum, it runs until 29th December this year.

Tried and tested: 5 products for dry winter skin

I've always had oily skin, with moisture rarely a problem, except when it comes to winter. When I was a teenager dry skin was never an issue, but over the last couple of years I've noticed some dry patches and soreness during the colder months. It's not something I'm really used to dealing with, but I seem to have uncovered a few skincare gems on my quest to calm my skin down.

During the winter your skin is really up against it - wind, central heating, cold, lots of festive makeup, naughty food and drink and more. That's why it's really important to take good care of it. After all, it's the largest organ in your body! And that means moisture, moisture moisture.

Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser 

I used to use this when I was younger but at the time it was a bit heavy on my skin. Fast forward to my mid-twenties and it gives me the perfect level of hydration. I find it leaves me skin feeling super soft but not suffocated, and it makes a great base under makeup. It's also super affordable!

Caudalie Vinoperfect Tinted Moisturiser

If I'm going for a light makeup look then this stuff is the bomb. It's like a light coverage, extra moisturising foundation. It's non-greasy and has a beautiful scent. I just add a touch of concealer to cover any spots and scarring (thanks adult acne, you gem) and I'm good to go. Being a French pharmacy brand, I found this stuff was about £8 cheaper if you are able to pick it up in France itself, but if not it's available online in the UK.

Aveeno Daily Moisturising Lotion

There's a reason that Aveeno products are sometimes prescribed by dermatologists - they're just that good. This stuff nourishes my skin like nothing else and works wonders on dry knees and elbows. It forms a moisture barrier around the skin to the point that when I wash my hands or have a shower it doesn't just wash away and leave my skin parched. 

Neal's Yard Wild Rose Beauty Balm*

This stuff is a god send for cracked skin and also great for a pamper. A staple product in the Neal's Yard range, this beauty balm can be used not only to moisturise and massage dry, angry skin but also as a mask, lip balm or even as a cleanser with the help of a muslin cloth. I love to use it on my hands for a winter manicure, letting the essential oils soak into my skin while I paint my nails.

Dr Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream

Now this is a winter skin miracle worker. I purchased my first pot last winter when I developed patches of itchy, flaky skin on my face and neck and within a few days they had virtually disappeared! Manuka Honey is known for its healing properties and along with some intense moisture this cream really does help repair the skin. 

Have you tried any of my winter skincare favourites? Do you have any other recommendations? Let me know in the comments below!

*Products marked with an asterisk were provided to me as PR samples, but all opinions are very much my own!

How to have a chilled night in this Halloween

Halloween is awesome, but not everyone enjoys dressing up in layers of face-paint and heading out on the town. I know I'd rather be snuggled up with something mildly spooky than have to totter home in the cold and remove all my zombie makeup before bed. If you'd prefer a chilled one too then this post is for you! I've put together a few recommendations:

Get cosy

If you're staying in for the night then it makes sense to comfy, so get under your favourite blanket and light some candles.Take it to the next level and get your hygge on if you fancy - check out this post for advice. Plus, the added benefit of candlelight is that you won't have so many kids coming to the door!

Grab some sweet treats

Which brings me to my next point. Is it even Halloween without a little candy? I prefer a big bar of chocolate to Haribo spiders but hey, whatever floats your boat - treat yoself!

Paint some witchy nails

This time of year is the perfect excuse to go a little more gothic on the nail polish. Whether you go all-out with black or stick with a classic vampy red like Essie Bordeaux, a little pamper goes a long way.

Put on some themed entertainment

Confession time: I don't like 'proper' horror films! I love Halloween, I love gothic stuff, and I love films with a bit of darkness and mystery, but the thought of a Saw or Paranormal Activity marathon scares the crap out of me. For lighter viewing material I love a good Tim Burton movie, or even something spoofy like the Addams Family (Wednesday 4eva) or Sean of the Dead.

There are also plenty of creepy books you could read if you fancy a nightmare or too, and there's bound to be reruns of the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror specials on somewhere!

Are you spending Halloween at home? Or maybe you're not that into it? Let me know in the comments below.

What does Hygge even mean, and is it worth the hype?

If you've been on Instagram or Pinterest lately, you'll no doubt have noticed that things have been getting just a little Scandinavian. From minimalist fashion to clean, chic but homely interiors, everyone's infatuated. As the obsession continues, a strange word, 'hygge', has begun appearing alongside these trends. So what exactly does it mean, and is it just another fad wellness movement?

The big idea

It turns out that the concept of hygge at least (which by the way is pronounced 'hoogah' for anyone desperately trying to say it!) is something I can totally get on bored with. In English it's a bit like what we would call feeling cosy. But it's also more than that - hygge is about feeling safe, warm and peaceful, whether in the comfort of your home or out at a bar, restaurant or even in the great outdoors around a camp fire, surrounded by friends and family or even in total solitude.

Since I was more than a little curious about how I could get me a slice of this goodness, I decided to purchase Meik Wiking's The Little Book of Hygge, and find out for myself just why the world is paying so much attention to the Danes.

As CEO of Copenhagen's Happiness Research Institute, Meik is the perfect person to advise on how to get your hygge on. Denmark consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world, and while you might argue that this is because they're also among the best paid and least overworked too, they also have to contend with dark winters and days and days of rain.

It makes sense then that in a country like Denmark you'd put as much effort as possible into creating a happy, warm environment that even horrible weather and insanely short days can't put a dampner on. So how can you bring a little bit of hygge into your own home?

Getting your hygge on

As Meik observes in his book. for most Danes hygge starts with cosy lighting and homely settings. Aside from residing in some of the best decorated homes in the world, they're among the most prolific candle burners in the world, with a huge 28% of the population lighting them every day without fail. It's the perfect way to make a room feel warmer and create a real atmosphere. So light your favourites, grab a book and snuggle up under a blanket for the ultimate hygge feeling.

Food and drink also play a big part in hygge. Hearty, rustic dishes, alongside treats like cake, pastries and coffee are popular staples. There's a reason that the Danish consume so much bacon, and so many sweets! It's all about giving yourself that feel-good comfort factor.

How you spend your hygge time is also important. Denmark is a country that likes to spend its time socialising - playing games, listing to music and enjoying food together. With the colder months now arriving and Christmas just around the corner it seems the most appropriate time to be giving hygge a go!

Is hygge worth the hype?

While the ideas that surround the concept of hygge are nothing new, especially to the Danish, there's a lot we can gain from striving for more of it.

These days everyone is obsessed with wellness (myself included) and it suggests that perhaps something is missing. We don't feel right - we're all too busy, too tired, too lonely. We don't do enough to make ourselves happy. Somehow I think this latest trend has taken off for a reason.

In a world where we're surgically attached to our phones and glued to Netflix half the night, taking time to carve out a calmer and slower way of life is bound to do us some good.

Have you read Meik's book? Do you make an effort to get more 'hygge' time these days? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. If you're in the market for some gorgeous smelling new candles, check out the ones in my previous post!

We were zookeepers for a day!

This week I spent a day out of the office doing something completely out of my comfort zone - my sister took me along on her Shadow A Zookeeper experience day! She received the experience as a 21st birthday present back in April, so I was all too happy to join in. We got up to some amazing stuff so I thought I'd share it with you all!

These guys claimed not to know King Julian...
We booked the day at Paradise Wildlife Park, which is just over half an hour away for us. On arrival we had a quick cuppa, signed some health and safety bits and got straight into it. The schedule for the day was a jam-packed 9-5 one, and we spent time with a different keeper at each exhibit. The only thing that was really off limits were the big cats, but I can't say I would've enjoyed being thrown into a cage with a tiger and we did watch them getting fed at the end of our day!

These guys were best buds
Our activities throughout the day ranged from feeding some of the animals (from otters to coatis, lemurs to red pandas), mucking out enclosures (not actually that gross since the alpacas seemed pretty house-proud), some bloody FALCONRY with a beautiful owl, and generally just having lots of cuddles with animals like ferrets and baby tapirs. If you love animals, this is totally for you! The keepers were also all too happy to take pictures for us so that we didn't have to worry about fiddling with cameras while enjoying the experience.

Weirdly cuddly
Not pictured: the severed mouse tail in my hand that got her to stay put!
As I mentioned, we moved throughout the park over the course of the day meeting different keeper at each area. That meant we got to learn so much about the animals, their diet, habits, training and care. I couldn't believe how much goes into running a zoo/wildlife park, and with many of the staff there on internships to support their training, it was clear how passionate they were! We also heard a lot about endangered species - shout out to Steve and the amazing talk he gave us on the gibbons (who were also hilarious!).

If you fancy a day away from the ordinary, are a budding zookeeper or just love fuzzy creatures, then an experience like this would make an amazing present! You can book yours here for anyone who's interested in giving this as a gift, or doing it yourself for that matter, and I think the day is also available at a discount from some experience day sellers like Virgin or Buy a Gift!

Bear? Fox? Panda? Angel? I don't know, but it's cute!

Kat Von D Shade and Light Contour Palette Review

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you might have noticed that Kat Von D Beauty has finally launched here in the UK at Debenhams! You may have seen back in May that I was somewhat enamored with her Everlasting Liquid Lipsticks, thanks to my Mum and Dad picking them up for me on their travels, but now a much wider range is available right here on British soil.

As my dry eyes are still preventing me from tolerating any kind of eye makeup and my lipstick collection couldn't get much bigger if it tried, I decided to treat myself to a face product instead. I wasn't sure I'd get the match right for the Lock It foundation if I ordered over the web, so instead I treated myself to the Shade and Light Contour Palette while lounging on a sunbed in Turkey. At £36.99 it's probably the most money I've ever spend on something like this, but I've been using it every day so I think that's worth it.

It arrived the day after we got home and it's safe to say this is a game changer. There are six powder shades in total, three to highlight and three to bronze and contour. While you could of course just stick to the highlight and contour that best suit your skintone, I found I'm able to switch between shades depending on how strong I want my contour to look or how bronzed I'd like to be. There's a good mix of cool and warm tones here.

If you've never really used a sculpting palette before (even I'm a bit of a noob at it), then don't be put off - there's a handy diagram to help you apply the powders if you have no idea what to do! As someone with oily skin I was worried that the powder might disintegrate and slight off as so many often to for me as the day wears on, but I'm pleased to say that this stuff not only blends like a dream but stays on really well.

All in all I'm chuffed with this purchase and it's been a great investment into my daily routine, as well as allowing me to create some stronger looks for nights out etc.

Have you tried any of the Kat Von D products yet? What did you think?

Keeping your home bright during the autumn, PLUS a huge discount and GIVEAWAY!

Every year as October creeps up on us and the days start getting shorter, I always feel like my flat is so much darker. Granted we have a lot of trees obscuring the sun at the best of times, but through autumn and winter it's even worse. It makes me feel sleepy at best, and cold and miserable at worst!

But there are plenty of ways you could brighten up the inside of your home over the cooler months. Candles and warm-toned cushions and throws are a must for creating the perfect cosy living room, but do you (like me!) forget about flowers once the summer is over?

During warmer months I always have some fresh blooms on show, but as we head into autumn and winter I all but forget about them which is a huge shame! Luckily, the guys at Blossoming Gifts were on hand to inject a burst of colour into my flat just when I needed it.

The team were kind enough to gift me this gorgeous (and frankly gigantic!) hand-tied bunch of seasonal goodness. The Autumnal Glee bouquet features red grand prix roses, beautifully fragrant lilies, blue agapanthus and deep burgundy hypericum berries - the perfect colour combination for this time of year!

Blossoming Gifts wants everyone to enjoy a little floral colour and warmth this autumn thanks to their seasonal range, so have supplied me not only with a discount code but with the chance to give away a bouquet to one of my lovely readers!

All you have to do to enter is make sure you're following me on Twitter and pop your email in the RaffleCopter widget below. There are chances to gain extra entries too! The giveaway is open to enter until midnight on 14 October, and a winner will be drawn at random and announced on the 15th!

Worried you won't win? You can still use the code BGIFTS33 to get a huge 33% off at the checkout at www.blossominggifts.com.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post features items that were sent to me as part of a brand collaboration, but all swooning over flowers is definitely my own!

How to have an awesome summer holiday on a budget

These days you can't so much as open up Instagram without luxurious far-off getaways being paraded around in front of you, but in reality most of us just can't stretch to that every 4-6 months. I firmly believe that everyone should be able to see the world, no matter their circumstances, so I've put together my top tips for curating the best trip possible for your money, along with a few photos from ours.

I'm extremely lucky that growing up my parents always took us to amazing places. From Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, to Greece, there were so many beautiful beaches and luxurious hotels to explore.

Now I'm older and paying for my own summer getaways I've started to realise just how hard they must have worked to afford those trips. We're currently saving for a mortgage deposit while renting in an expensive area, so most 5 star transatlantic destinations are a bit out of reach if we want to eat for the rest of the year!

That said, there's no reason you can't put together a nice, relaxing summer holiday that caters to a tight budget. Last year we traveled to Marrakech on an absolute shoestring, and this year we've just got back from a week in Turkey. Our carefully selected 4 star all inclusive holiday cost just shy of £350 per person including flights, accommodation, food, drink and transfers, and we spent barely anything while there. Here's how we did it:

Stunning Fethiye bay, just a short taxi ride from our hotel

Be flexible

It's no secret that the school holidays have a huge impact on prices and availability - the difference between one week and the next can be as much as double for certain flights and destinations. If like us you don't have kids, it pays to be open to other dates. In most countries tourist season starts around April time and lasts until October. Outside of this many resorts and towns all but close down, but going towards the beginning or end of the season can mean not only more bearable heat and less crowded beaches, but much lower prices.

Pricing can even be affected by the time of day and day of the week you want to travel. Being open to weird flight times (for example our flight home from Turkey took off at 2am) can sometimes take as much as £50-100 per person off the final cost of your holiday. For the sake of being a little tired it's well worth considering.

The adults only pool at our hotel

The best £4.99 I ever spent on eBay

Do your research

I know so many people that will only travel on certain airlines and book through certain operaters when it comes to summer getaways. I have my favourites too. I love Thomson/First Choice for pool and beach holidays, and Expedia for city breaks and going off the beaten track as they're always helpful and reliable. That said, there are a huge number of companies out there offering great deals and also plenty of comparison sites. Be prepared to spend a few evenings endlessly searching and comparing before making your choice, or you could miss an amazing deal!

That said, always, always, aaaaalways read reviews and try to find images of where you're going, research a few things to do in the area etc. Our holiday at the beautiful Hotel Greenland was the 3rd cheapest in my search at the time, and I initially wasn't sure if it was for us, but the endless positive reviews - one of which came from my sister who visited last year! - swayed me and it turned out to be even lovelier than we expected!

From our trip to a local farm

Be spontaneous

I'm someone who likes to have things planned and paid for well in advance so I know what's up, but there's a lot to be said for winging it. Our holiday would have been even cheaper if we'd booked it 3 weeks before. Even if you don't have much flexibility around work etc you can still decide on a two week window you'll book off, put aside a chunk of budget and book it much nearer the time to get a big discount. You can then just un-book any extra holiday days either side of the actual trip if you need to hang onto them for something else, or enjoy some time at home before and after. Just be open to a range of destinations, flight times etc and you're bound to find something great.

The gorgeous Sundial restaurant

Sunset cruise in Fethiye bay

Plan your spending

If you're going all inclusive then it's likely you won't need much money at all. I think we spent about £150 while there but we really didn't need to. We went on a day trip to some local ruins booked through the tour operator, as well as a sunset cruise, and did a little bit of shopping. While you can do these for a little less money on your own, you do miss out on a decent tour guide, which is why I like them. We also had a fancy meal out at the Sundial restaurant in Fethiye, but even this rather posh meal in a beautiful setting (see the restaurant terrace above) only cost the equivalent of £35!

If you're self-catering on a budget it's good to have an idea of what your spending limit will need to be each day. You could minimise costs by having breakfast in your apartment in the mornings, or by agreeing to splurge at a couple of restaurants while otherwise eating more cheaply. The choice is up to you.

If you like to get out and about while away, which I always do, look into braving the public transport as well (providing you're in a safe area, which we were but in some countries you may be more isolated or restricted). We used local buses that cost about 20p per way instead of taxis booked by the hotel at £6 a pop, so there was a huge saving there. Walking is also a great way to explore somewhere new providing you can take the heat!

So there you have it. There are plenty of ways to hunt down the best holiday deals and also to save while you're away. Where to next then?

Review: 5 reasons to read The Girl on the Train before you see the film

Let's start with a confession: I wasn't interested in reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins until I saw the trailer for the upcoming adaptation. I had sort of vaguely heard of it, but wasn't sure it was my thing. Boy was I wrong!

Too often I only discover a book exists once its movie publicity ends up in front of me, and that's a damn shame. I often then find the idea of just going to the cinema to find out what happens much more appealing, but I know I could be depriving myself of great reading experiences by taking the lazier option.

So while I'm late to the party on this one, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I wasn't sure what to expect but ended up enjoying the book so much that I'll definitely be going to watch it too - here's why (without any spoilers!) you should get yourself a copy:

1. It's fast paced

I'm now incredibly glad I chose this as my book of choice for our holiday last week. When I read by the pool I need something that really grabs me and peaks my interest so even though I may not have picked this up in a normal book haul a thriller was the perfect purchase.

Hawkins' writing is very much 'in the moment' and as such you're whisked straight into the story. Any flashbacks or anecdotes only serve to drive the plot forward so there's very little 'fluff'. From the very first page I found this a difficult book to put down.

2. The central character is unbelievably flawed

Aside from the obvious theme of crime/murder, Hawkins also handles through three central female characters some of the struggles of being a women in your late twenties/early thirties. Protagonist Rachel is a 32-year-old alcoholic divorcee who has a tendency towards obsessive behaviour since her husband's affair came to light.

Since she's the one trying to uncover what happened to the mysterious and now missing Megan, who she has only ever seen from her seat on the train, you also can't help but question her observations, and actions. And yet, she's written so sympathetically that you can't resist rooting for her, even when you're a bit suspicious.

3. It's pretty dark

This thriller is anything but woolly.Alcoholism aside, the novel handles some very dark subjects and does so without glamourising or scandalising them and presents characters in a very real, raw way. I won't spoil any of the books twists and turns but I did find some aspects of the plot pretty sad as well as shocking.

4. You won't be totally sure who 'did it' until you're shown

All of the central characters in The Girl on the Train have a strong motive for harming Megan. I tend not to read thrillers that often because it's too obvious who actually did it, but in this case I only got an inkling around 30-40 pages before the big reveal. 

At one point or another you'll suspect everyone, you'll go over theories and evidence in your head, you'll have weird dreams about solving the crime yourself. By the end of it I felt like I'd become just as obsessive as Rachel herself about finding the answers, and that's why this book as such a cracking read.

So what are you waiting for? If you want to read something that's exciting and just a little bit different then make sure you pick up this book instead of just going to see the film! I only wish all thrillers were this gripping!

Have you read The Girl on the Train already? Let me know what you thought in the comments below.

What I'm watching and reading right now

Oh autumn, I see you creeping up on us with your amber leaves, darker nights and cosy blankets. I always seem to seek out new shows to watch and books to read at this time of year to maximise the snug factor as much as possible and entertain myself in the evenings. Here's what I'm currently reading/viewing!

Stranger Things

There seem to be very few people left who haven't been sucked into this Sci-Fi Netflix original, and I can totally see why. The series has a real 80s Spielberg vibe (I couldn't stop thinking of E.T.) but also elements of horror that had me with my hands over my eyes. The series is really nostalgic and has themes of friendship, not fitting in and family bonds at its core. It also stars Winona Ryder who I adore. The only downside is that there's just one series until the next is made!

Peaky Blinders

Oh Cillian Murphy, how could I not watch anything you're in! Peaky Blinders has been shown on the BBC since the start, but I only discovered it this summer after finding it on Netflix. Set in post-WW1 Birmingham and featuring a family of wheeler dealer bookies, this show is so much fun to watch. It's a gang drama, and has been made really stylishly - Rock 'n' Rolla in the 1920s anyone?

High Rise

This short novel by JG Ballard has been haunting me ever since I first picked it up. I really couldn't get into it at first as the writing is quite plain and matter-of-fact, so I put it down for what must have been about three months. Last weekend though out of sheer determination to finish it I chomped through almost the entire book and now have just a few pages left.

After taking a fair few chapters to build the plot becomes exciting and violent, sometimes horrifying. The story centres around a huge high-rise block of apartments that becomes shut off from the world and sends it's inhabitants stir crazy. It's heavy going but it explores the way our animalistic nature comes out to play when social constructs are removed. Scary stuff.

What have you been reading or watching lately? Let me know in the comments below!

4 reasons to keep blogging when everybody else is doing it too

I've written a few posts in the past providing an insight into some of the tips and tricks I've picked up on in the three years I've been blogging consistently, but this isn't one of them. This post is intended more to address the fact that (as many people keep reminding me) everyone and their mother has started a blog or a YouTube channel. Young women everywhere are snapping their meals for Instagram posts, registering custom domains and filming monthly favourites videos.

It's not easy to stand out and cut through the noise, but as the hobby becomes more and more popular it's worth remembering that competing for pageviews doesn't have to be your only aim. People regularly ask me why I still bother to do it when there are probably hundreds of thousands of other bloggers out there trying to do the same thing, but luckily for me I can think of plenty of reasons to continue.

It keeps your creative juices flowing

My very first blog started way back when I was at university as a place to share my poetry and short prose. Things have changed a lot since then but I still use my blog as a place to be not only creative but productive. I love getting my camera out to shoot a post and planning exciting content as much as I love the writing side.

You get exciting opportunities

I had been blogging furiously three times a week for at least 6 months before my first opportunity to collaborate came along. I was invited over to the High Tea Club in Cambridge to review their menu. Looking back it felt pretty special to have been able to go, and I've worked with brands like Thorntons and Multipower since then too. It really opened the doors for some amazing experiences, from cocktail making to massage treatments. It takes some hard work to get noticed but once you do it's very much worth it.

You make amazing friends

The more you get involved in the blogging community, whether online or offline, the more you grow to appreciate it as a special place to be. I've met tonnes of lovely people like Pippa and Lauren through local events and meet up groups - it takes up half my social life some months and I wouldn't have it any other way. I used to hate meeting new people as I'm awkward as hell but blogging has helped me to embrace it!

You can see yourself making progress

Having an archive of blog posts to look over isn't just the chance to have a big ol' cringe fest at your pre-2013 flatlay skills and 'What's in my bag' posts. It's an opportunity to see how far you've come, how your life has changed, your skills have improved and you've continued to stick at something - I find it really helps boost my confidence. It's also a great thing to have on your CV for those very reasons. Use it as a tool to motivate yourself to keep going.

So if you're struggling with motivation, post ideas or making time to get shiz done, don't forget to remind yourself that blogging has more to offer than being a mere popularity contest. 

The nude lip edit

In case you couldn't tell from the title, this post is a bit of an ode to the humble nude lippy. In my teens I never bothered with lipstick at all, but over the last few years I've gotten into a habit of wearing it every day. While vampy reds aren't really for me when it comes to daytime wear I now have a decent collection of muted tones at my disposal, from warm browns to cool mauves. Here are my faves...

The 'Your lips, but better'

This phrase gets thrown around a lot, but I just love that slightly more 'done' look you can achieve by using a product that's only a shade away from your natural lip colour. 

My all time favourite for this is the NYX Soft Matte lip cream in Abu Dhabi - it's beautifully pigmented, matte without being drying and lasts until at least lunchtime before any kind of top-up is needed. It's the perfect low maintenance product. 

For a little more va-va-voom I love the Soap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker glosses. They really plump your lips up, to the point that it actually tingles, and leave a subtle pink colour. Bonus: its also not too sticky.

The MAC ones

Although I have a few other MAC lipsticks these two are the ones I'd recommend investing in the most. Velvet Teddy is probably the most popular shade of recent years and I can totally see why. It's a matte finish and I'd describe it as a browny pink, that leaves lips looking full. 

Persistence is far more brown in kind of a 90s chic way. Again it's pretty matte and I feel like it would probably suit just about anyone.

The pinky purples

I don't always have much luck with pinker lipsticks, but there are two cool-toned products that I use very regularly. 

Last year while in Paris I discovered the wonder product that is the Sephora Cream Lip Stain. The shade 13 Marvelous Mauve is by far my favourite of these and I do find them much longer lasting than the NYX version. It's highly pigmented and withstands eating and drinking virtually all day. They can be drying so I do apply a lip balm half an our before I get ready.

A product I go back to time and time again - and a line that's always proven very popular in the beauty world - is Rimmel's Lasting Finish lipstick. The shade 08 is a gorgeous pinky hue with a semi-matte finish, but isn't too warm.

A shout out also needs to go to Rimmel's The Only One lippy, which although a newer product is also very wearable. The shade 700 Naughty Nude is about as pink as I ever go, with the formula also less matte than my other choices. It's a great one for summer as it's a little brighter than most nudes.

Summer holiday reading list

In just over two weeks I'll finally be off on my summer holiday to Turkey! As I've got back into reading the last few weeks (warm evenings sat in the garden really do help) it was of course time to pick a couple of new books to take with me.

I doubt I'll get through all three over the week but a solid one and a half would be the most I've read in a long time. I feel like life and the internet just get in the way sometimes so this is the ideal opportunity to unwind.

I've tried to aim for a little variety here as I sometimes get fixated on one particular genre for a while which can get boring. Here's what I went for:

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - I can't always get into psychological thrillers. I really didn't get on with Gone Girl and there are few others I've even entertained. This story however intrigues me! It's being adapted for the big screen - anyone else feel like they've run out of original storylines for films? - so I want to read it before I see it.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - This definitely isn't my usual kind of choice but reading the reviews the story sounds so enchanting and mysterious. I don't tend to go for emotional reads as I always end up crying and getting the pages wet so cross your fingers for me!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - I have very high expectations for this book! I love an element of fantasy or magic and got quite into Neil Gaiman last year. It's the subject of so many book clubs that I felt entirely left out having not read it!

Have you read any of these or do you have your own recommendations? Let me know below in the comments!

The playsuit that actually suits

Ever since playsuits became a thing again I've really struggled to find any that fit me, let alone look nice. I'm of fairly average height at just under 5'7", but have a very long body - queue wedgie central every time I even dared try on any kind of all-in-one!! Even tall clothing ranges seem to neglect those of us that are this shape, so I was really taking a gamble when I ordered this wrap style playsuit from ASOS.

Luckily, I was very pleasantly surprised. Not only does it fit nicely but it's comfortable to wear, not too short and has a flattering wrap-around cut. You could easily dress this up with heels and a blazer for a wedding or party, or down with sandals or plimsolls for a summer holiday look. This weekend I opted to pair it with a leather jacket out to a Sunday Brunch. What do you think? 

At the time of posting there are still almost all sizes available, plus it's also in the sale!!

Jacket: Very old | Playsuit: ASOS | Bag: F+F (no longer online but there are plenty more to choose from!) | Choker: Forever21  | Watch: Olivia Burton | Ring: Pandora | Photos by: Pippa

Worth the wait: dinner at the Old Bicycle Shop in Cambridge

If you've ever lived in or been a frequent visitor to Cambridge, you'll probably remember Howe's bike shop. The family owned shop stood open for 173 years, with rumored customers including Charles Darwin himself. Sadly the business closed a while ago, and with Cambridge becoming more 'shoreditchy' by the day, it was only natural that a twee restaurant, The Old Bicycle Shop, sprang up in its place. I met up with some of the local #CambMeetUp blogger ladies and went to check it out.

Let me start by saying that the owners have done an excellent job preserving the shop's history - there are bike parts and old photos everywhere and the choice of furniture and decor works well to give off a traditional yet strangely modern vibe. Special shout out to the funny quotes about cycling hung in the bathroom!

The Old Bicycle Shop boasts a gorgeous cocktail menu, with a few unusual additions. Lauren's 'Lance's Lemonade' (get it?!) cocktail came with a very suspicious looking pouch of sherbet, which when added to the gin and lemon drink fizzed up. Odd? Yes. Fun? Also yes.

So, let's get to the good stuff and talk about the food. While The Old Bicycle Shop is not necessarily easy on the purse strings compared to some other places in town, the menu is refined and well thought out. From nibbles to veggie dishes to steaks, there's something to please everyone, but we weren't so overwhelmed by choice that it took an age to decide what we wanted.

I went for the 'posh kebab', which featured some mouth-wateringly tasty slow cooked lamb, topped with ginger slaw and saffron aoili. The portion size was huge but little of the food went unappreciated. It was so full of flavour that I all but finished the plate, to my amazement. I also tried some of the chips, which were bloomin' delish.

The only slight downside to our visit was that our food ended up taking so long to arrive that we didn't have time for dessert before catching trains and buses home for the night, which was a shame. I would however ask that you don't let this put you off. The staff were extremely apologetic and even took quite a large sum off our bill to make up for it and threw in some extra drinks. Turns out the delay was due to a large private party arriving very late for their function, leading to an unexpected back-up in the kitchen. 

Despite the above teething issue in what is still a very new local restaurant, I'd gladly head back to eat this all over again, this time with pudding! It seems I'm not the only one, as the place is packed to the rafters every evening with Cambridge residents and visitors enjoying food and cocktails. Next stop, the brunch menu!

Have you visited the Old Bicycle Shop in Cambridge? Want to recommend some other foodie hotspots? Let me know in the comments below!

8 beautiful reading nooks to help you reach peak chill

With recent events around the world weighing on my mind, I can't help but want to switch off a little, turn of the news and pick up a book or two instead. I always associate curling up for a cosy read with dark winter evenings, but the long summer nights mean plenty of extra hours of reading time. As we're in a new flat with more space, I've been in search of inspiration for the perfect little reading nook over on Pinterest. Here are my faves:

This one's pretty simple, because who needs interior fussiness when there's a view like this. Slightly embarrassingly it reminds me of the Cullen house in the Twilight films, but is beautiful nonetheless.

This corner sofa is uber traditional looking, perfect if your home has a period or cottage feel to it. 

Continuing the cosy theme, this colourful attic space is the stuff of boookworm dreams.

The pops of colour in this nook make for an inspirational work space, too.

Or perhaps you prefer a more feminine colour palette? This chair is calling out to me!

Let's take it monochome for a minute here, blankets and all.

This attic space is bright, airy, cosy and comfy all at once!

And last but not least, my personal favourite. The tree trunk shelves remind me of the hobbit houses in the shire!

Where do you like to curl up and read?

All images in this post, and their sources, can be found over on my Interiors Pinterest board. Don't forget to follow for more!

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?