How to Spend… April

My Instagram feed is filled with blossom and blue skies, the showers are pouring, Starbucks have floral cups and it’s light past 5pm – it can only be April!

Easter came and went far too early this year. One minute we were taking down the Christmas decorations, and the next the clocks had gone forward and the Easter bunny had been. I normally don’t take too much notice of Easter, but I was a bit disappointed to not enjoy it more this year (although chocolate eggs and a long weekend will never go unappreciated). I’ll be spending this month consuming the vast quantities of chocolate the Easter bunny oh so kindly sent my way and dreaming of the May bank holiday weekends. Happy April everyone!

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*Have a ‘colour only’ rule: The shops are bringing out their summer clothes and the urge to spend gets greater every day. I have really noticed lately how stuck in a rut I can get with my clothing – black, grey or white (with a hint of navy for good measure) is about as exciting as it gets. Zara may be a beautiful masterclass in monochrome minimalism, but the sun is out and we need to leave those bleak colours behind. From now on, I’m only buying colour (I’ll also be buying white because I just can’t part with it…), and I think you should give it a go as well.

*Spring clean your desk: I’ve never been that enthused by spring cleaning. Cleaning is dull enough, why must we do more just because it’s spring? However, I’ve recently moved offices and was forced to clean out my desk. I’m now at a beautiful new desk with only the bare essentials cluttering it, and my goodness does it make you feel productive! Suddenly everything has a ‘place’, it’s a lovely place to be and just gleams. So rather than dusting, hoovering and scrubbing your house from top to bottom – just start with your desk. And if that’s all you get around to doing, then that’s more than enough.

*Make evening plans: Now it is actually light in the evenings, making plans is so much more fun. Start investigating roof top bars (perhaps preempting summer a little, but just wrap up warm), go for evening runs or just take a walk. We’re finally done with the winter hibernation, so round up the troops and have fun!

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Recent Purchases

I’ve accidentally been a bit spendy recently. Not necessarily an enormous shopping spree, but just a book here, a blanket there and a couple of clothing items… before you know it you’ve amassed a nice amount of new “stuff”.

I love shopping full stop, but seeing all of the spring/summer items arriving is just so exciting. Some colour! At last! I’ve made a new rule for myself (which one of these items does break but there you go) – I am only allowed to buy colour. I’m counting white as a colour because I love to wear white in the summertime (quickest way to look tanned), but grey and black are out. Summer is coming and we don’t need any bleak colours bringing us down.

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*Topshop blouse and skirt: So I fell into Topshop and accidentally bought some clothes – what’s new? I am so in love with this diamond pintuck lace blouse, I only ever really wear white in the summer, so to have a new white piece really makes it feel as though winter is at an end. It is perfect for spring because it’s not quite as warm as a jumper, but the long sleeves and high neck protect you from those unexpected breezy days. This Boucle A-line skirt is admittedly a bit more wintery, but at just £26 I thought it was a pretty good price for Topshop, and it’s perfect for when it’s still a little chilly outside.

*Books: I have been quite strict with my Kindle-only rule recently, but I had to get these two in hard copy. This Wind in the Willows is part of Penguin Threads, a collection of gorgeous paperbacks. There are all kinds of classics to choose from in these beautiful covers, from Black Beauty to Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters. Wildflower by Drew Barrymore has been doing the rounds on social media recently and that was what drew me in, as I’m not a particular Drew Barrymore fan. I’ve just turned the last page and loved it – but you’ll have to wait for next month’s reading list to find out more…

*Oliver Bonas throw: Isn’t this throw just so beautiful and colourful? It feels safe with the grey and white base and I love the pop of neon. It’s such a fun thing to have on your bed in the summer, and it’s not too thick and heavy so you won’t expire beneath it. Oliver Bonas is one of my favourite shops to browse in anyway, but only recently have I noticed the homeware. The cushions and throws in their collection are really fun and colourful – they’re all on my wish list!

*NYC haul: Tiarnan went to New York last month, and I sent him with a (rather extensive) shopping list. He came back with the Bath & Body Works three wick candle in Watermelon Lemonade which I absolutely love. Oh why can we not have Bath & Body Works in the UK?! He also bought me the Victoria’s Secret Mayfair Pyjamas, which is still the classic shirt and trouser set – but in a lighter material. Perfect as we are going into summer, now it just needs to get a bit warmer…

How to Spend… March

February really dragged, didn’t it? The tail end of winter is always my least favourite time. Everything is grey and bleak, and it feels like a lifetime ago when we last saw some sun. But with Easter arriving early I feel as though we are suddenly fast forwarding into spring. The weather needs to get the memo (where did all this rain come from?) but there are chocolate eggs and bunnies everywhere and you can buy tulips and daffodils on every street corner.

So from celebrating Mothering Sunday right through to eating all the chocolate over the Easter bank holiday weekend, I hope you enjoy the start of spring as much as I will!

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*Spoil your mum on Mother’s Day: This year, skip the standard flowers and a card. Actually spending some time with your mum is what really counts, so take the day out especially for her this weekend. Take her out for lunch, go shopping or just stay at home and bake a cake, play board games or do a puzzle. And this doesn’t have to be exclusive for the two of you – get the whole family involved for a fun day together. Even if it isn’t Mothering Sunday where you live, no excuses… Our mums always deserve more of our time, right?

*Try yoga: As my job has got busier, my time in the gym has significantly decreased – something I’m not overly thrilled about. Now we’re past the “new year, new me” health kick, some extra motivation is needed. The secret lies in doing things that can fit easily into your routine. I’m not really one to get a sweat on before work (how many of us really are?) but yoga is such a gentle introduction to the day whilst also doing great things for your body. While it won’t burn major calories, it’ll help you feel energized and focused for the rest of the day – definitely worth hopping out of bed a little early for.

*Spend a Sunday at the farmers market: You always hear about the joys of farmers and fresh food markets, but the winter wind and rain hardly makes for an enjoyable Sunday outdoors. Now the weather is improving (supposedly), now is a great time to get down to your local one and bag some bargains. The buzzy atmosphere of a market will put the weekly supermarket run to shame, and discovering the best local honey, jam and breads (or whatever takes your fancy) will leave you desperate to return for more!

*Set up an Easter egg hunt: With the long Easter bank holiday weekend to look forward to, now’s the time to start planning with your family and friends. And you don’t need little ones to make an Easter egg hunt fun. Buy one of those cute kits with the little signs, split up into teams and get competitive! And don’t forget the obligatory rabbit ears for a ridiculous group photo…

How to Spend… February

Can anyone else feel that sense of spring in the air? Temperatures are still pretty low, but the days are getting longer, brighter clothes are starting to pop up in the shops and there are even some daffodils blooming. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to wear something other than a jumper and jeans. And there’s plenty to be getting on with until spring fully arrives. With pancakes to be eaten on Shrove Tuesday, cards to be sent on Valentine’s Day and a whole extra day on the 29th – have a great month!

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*Buy yourself freshly cut flowers: You don’t need a Valentine to have flowers in your house this month. Treat yourself! There’s just something so uplifting about having flowers around, they give a sense of life when the weather is still bleak outside. And, when you’re buying flowers for yourself, you can pick your favourites. Skip the clichéd (and extortionate) red roses for some daffodils to remind you that spring is on it’s way.

*Rethink your resolutions: Now is about the time that the New Year’s resolutions become a distant memory. If they are too hard don’t admit defeat, just alter them. Perhaps going to the gym every day was unrealistic, so change it to every other day. If that is what it takes to keep you on track and doing something positive then it’s a good thing, not a failure. Or, perhaps they are a little too easy, so with that confidence the first month has given you – amp them up!

*Create a new bedtime routine: January tends to be a bit crazy, adjusting back into work after the Christmas break, but we’re firmly back in those routines now. With the peace of Christmas (and the large food babies) it was easy to drift off to sleep, but with the worries of work, emails buzzing around our heads and plans forming for the following day, it can be harder to get some proper sleep. Spend some time creating a new bedtime routine to make sure you get to sleep when you need to. Turn off all those electrical devices (resist the temptation to check Instagram before bed!) and have a bath, read a book or make a cup of tea. A proper night’s sleep makes the world of difference the following day.

*Take something up for Lent: Ah, Lent. Just as we’re halfheartedly trying to keep our resolutions on track, we throw Lent into the mix. I always find that giving something up is quite a negative attitude. Telling yourself you can’t have something is guaranteed to make you want that one thing. So, rather than giving up chocolate, take up having fruit instead. You can still have chocolate when you really want it, but you’ll probably find yourself eating a lot less of it. Instead of giving up alcohol, take up making mocktails. Take up running, cooking or even an earlier bedtime. This kind of positive attitude to achieving something will make those 40 days and 40 nights fly past!

A Few Favourites: January

So there it is, the first month of 2016 done and dusted. We began the year setting off fireworks at midnight, comparing New Year’s resolutions, taking down the Christmas decorations (sob) and heading back to work.

Despite threats of a serious case of January blues setting in, it’s actually been a fun and busy month. Temperatures have dropped, we’re thanking the high heavens for the car’s seat warmers and even awoke one Sunday morning to a dusting of snow. Tiarnan and I were lucky enough to escape on a spa break, and having massages, chilling in the Jacuzzi and generally being waited on was more than enough to banish any post-Christmas sadness.

So onwards and upwards to February – the month of all things lurve. I plan on spending it under a duvet waiting for winter to pass…

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*Turtlenecks: I have always had two clothing obsessions: white lace and stripes. After banning myself from buying anything stripey (because it really did get that out of control), I seem to have developed a new love… Turtlenecks. They are everywhere at the moment, and with good reason. There’s just nothing warmer! And somehow they manage to keep you feeling toasty while still looking good. I do enjoy a good blanket scarf, but they can leave my hair looking somewhat mad professor-ish. With the turtleneck, you don’t even need a scarf. All hail the turtleneck!

*Kindle: Ah, my Kindle. I’ve had it for over two years and we have a bit of an on-off relationship if I’m honest. It always comes out for summer holidays, but most of the time I just want to hold an actual book. But a combination of countless train journeys and getting back into Game of Thrones (hello enormous books) has made the two of us best friends. I can take it everywhere without even noticing I have it and any book I want to read is only a tap away.

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*Back to basics make-up: After all the glitter and excitement of festive make-up, I thought I’d be sad to see it go. As it happens, I’ve gone completely the other way. Heavy on skincare, light on make-up has been the way of January. For a polished but minimal look I’ve been absolutely loving my Urban Decay Naked Basics palette. The shades are mainly matte, but still beautifully creamy and so easy to blend. I’ve also been loving my Dermalogica skin smoothing cream, it feels like such a skin treat after a long day!

*The Mae Deli: One of my New Year’s resolutions is to explore London more, and this has to be my favourite January find. I wrote all about it here so I won’t bang on, but it’s such a friendly, welcoming place and everything is super healthy and so delicious. Deliciously Ella has generally been on it this month with her new book as well, and I’m excited to get recipe testing in February!

*The fit life: This month has been all about counteracting the festive indulgences. I’ve been hitting the gym and really enjoying it for the first time in a while. I also took on the 30 day squat challenge and I’ve absolutely loved it, I would highly recommend doing a 30 day challenge to feel great about yourself! Tiarnan and I have been creating healthy dinners together each evening and visiting juice bars to decide on our favourite (I’ll report back on that…) It’s very typical to be all about fitness in January, so let’s hope it continues.

Little Luxuries to Get Through Winter

Let’s start with a bit of honesty. Winter is a bloody miserable time.

We fantasise about hot chocolates, log fires, building snowmen and fresh days with clear blue skies. Sometimes this is the reality. But there’s also the flip side – forgetting your umbrella, freezing on station platforms and a severe vitamin D deficiency. And on top of that, we’re punishing ourselves with New Year’s resolutions rather than hibernating as we should be. We’ve just had ‘Blue Monday’, and I don’t blame us for feeling a bit down.

So to cheer everything up, I’ve come up with a list of little luxuries we need to get through winter. They’re nothing too crazy, just small things to make life that bit more comfortable. Because after all, it is winter and we deserve a treat.

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*An enormous scarf: And by enormous, I really do mean enormous. I mean so big it could double up as a picnic blanket. I bought one last year when the cold in Newcastle just got too much and I haven’t looked back. They’re great as a scarf (obviously), but are also the best thing to travel with as they double up as a pillow or a blanket. This Christmas, I even snuck some presents home underneath it! I’ve currently got my eye on this one from Zara.

*Gorgeous knitwear: Spend that little bit more on your knitwear and you won’t regret it. Jumpers are my all time favourite thing (and I have far too many of them), but if you’re savvy and buy good quality ones, they will last for years. Topshop is my favourite place to buy knitwear, they have so many cool designs and aren’t astronomically priced. Top tip: try to avoid buying knitwear online, always test the quality before buying.

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*Luxurious handcream: Everything drys up in winter. Chapped lips and dry hands are, in my opinion, the absolute worst. Treat yourself to a lovely handcream and keep it on your bedside table or in your handbag so you actually remember to use it. The Soap & Glory handcreams are my all-time favourites, they sink in super quickly, are the perfect portable size and aren’t too pricey (yippee!). Cowshed is another gorgeous brand if you’re looking for something a little special.

*Scented candles: Nothing makes a home cosier than a scented candle. I have a million favourites, but The White Company candles are some of the very best. There’s a huge range of scents, from fruity to spicey to herbal to floral and you can buy everything from cute little tealights to enormous pillar candles. These medium size pillar candles are my favourite, they look gorgeous and smell incredible.

*A new cookbook: Winter is the perfect time for taste testing new recipes – we need delicious food for miserable evenings. Deliciously Ella Every Day landed on my doorstep last week, and I haven’t been so excited by a cookbook in a long time. It focuses on super healthy food that is quick to make with ingredients that are easy to track down and basic equipment. Whether you are mastering a veggie paella or a chocolate fudge cake, nothing warms the soul like food does.

2016 Goals

Yes, this blog post is a little late. But I figured that these goals are meant to apply for the entire year, so the fact we’re 10 days deep shouldn’t really matter.

I usually make resolutions, but then I also usually completely forget about them by spring. I can’t remember what 2015’s were but I’m guessing they were a similar selection to this year’s because, let’s be honest, they always follow a theme…

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*Get moving: I’m pretty good when it comes to exercise (though I certainly couldn’t claim saint-like status around Christmas), but it does tend to come in fits and starts. For the last few years my exercise has only consisted of hitting the gym, but this year I really want to include more variety in my regime so I don’t get bored. I’ve started with the 30 day squat challenge (which was a killer to begin with) and taken up yoga, and I’m planning on running outside more and attending a few more exercise classes alongside my usual gym sessions. It’s so important to mix things up a bit to maintain interest, so hopefully 2016 will be the best year for exercise yet.

*Get reading: When I finished my English Literature degree last summer, I felt so exhausted I couldn’t bear to look at another book again. Thankfully, I’m over that now but so far I’ve stuck to easy reading and it has completely lost my interest. This year, I want to always have a book on the go, and read some of the classics that I’ve managed to miss so far. This includes 1984, The Catcher in the Rye and Dickens (but I’m saving the massive tomes for a summer holiday). I want to keep things fun though so I’ll mix in some lighter reading, I’m currently making my way through the third Game of Thrones. 

*Get drinking: … water, of course. This is an ongoing thing for me and doesn’t need much explanation. I often forget to drink anything, and can go the entire day without a drop. This is very bad and absolutely must stop. I’m going to get a glass now…

*Get exploring: This is by far my favourite one. I’m so lucky to be back in London, and now is really the time to take full advantage of it. Tiarnan and I have promised one another that every month we will try something or somewhere new, and we’re already planning our adventures. While we wait for winter to pass we are scouting out cosy cafes for the best flat white, but come summer we’ll be exploring the parks and seeking the best alfresco dining spot. I’m sure our adventures will be documented right here, so watch this space!

2015 Through Instagram

How is it New Year’s Eve already? It seems so crazy to be waving goodbye to 2015 at midnight, but what a year it has been.

2015 was the year #LoveWins went viral as the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across America. We watched in horror as refugees fled across Europe, and Paris was bombed in the worst attacks on France since WWII. We waited at the doors of the Lindo Wing for the newly born Princess Charlotte to emerge, and watched New Zealand win the Rugby World Cup, the first team to ever successfully defend the Web Ellis Cup. David Cameron is back at no. 10, and America is gearing up for their presidential election in which Hillary Clinton will attempt to become the first woman president (again).

For me, 2015 has been quite the year of milestones. I graduated from uni, got a job, turned 21 and had a big party to celebrate. The Jubilee line is my new best friend, I can’t live without Pret’s tuna baguette and the 9 to 5 life is now mine. On a smaller scale, I ran 5k (without stopping), successfully gave up chocolate for Lent and finally started reading Game of Thrones. It’s been a fun year. So I thought I’d whizz through the last 12 months via Instagram, and share some of the memories with you…

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New Year’s Eve 2014; shopping the sales in York and Tiarnan almost bought all of Jack Wills; celebrating 3 years with Tiarnan; girlie evenings in Newcastle; enjoying dog walks and fresh air back at home for Easter; pub lunching (and the most enormous fish and chips); wrapping up warm by the sea in Brighton; spring runs with Tiarnan; hacking with Rosie and Mr Flash on one of the first gloriously sunny days of the year.

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Holidaying in Turkey with Tiarnan; sunset in Turkey on the hotel’s private beach; spending Mum’s birthday by the seaside in May; enjoying our last few weeks at uni visiting Bamburgh Castle; an amazingly sunny day at Castle Howard in Yorkshire (we drove through the moors that day and the scenery was incredible); my 21st birthday cake (the 2 was chocolate and the 1 vanilla – it was delicious!); my 21st birthday party; cutting my cake; shopping on the King’s Road with my beautiful Kate Spade handbag.

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Watching the tennis at Wimbledon on the hottest day of the year (#sweatymess); enjoying the perks of the job – restaurant reviewing; summer walkies with Chester; London in the sunshine; graduating from Newcastle University; celebrating graduation with my family; afternoon tea in Eastbourne for Dad’s birthday; a belated birthday day out in Brighton; watching the sunset in Spain while eating chocolate and playing cards.

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A quick day trip to Barcelona; cooling down with the most delicious gelato; cycling to Padstow in Cornwall (for amazing fish and chips!); moving Tiarnan into his new London place; celebrating my new job at The Shard; picking out the Christmas tree; Oxford Circus’ Christmas lights looking amazing; celebrating Tiarnan’s birthday with ice-skating, champagne and truffles; a festive weekend in Paris.

As I said, it’s been a fun year. I’m still buying too many jumpers, drinking too much squash and using too much heat on my hair (but I’ll deal with those things in 2016). I hope you all have a great night, and a great year. See you in 2016!

Autumnal Candle Favourites

Isn’t autumn and winter just the time for candles? When it’s grey and miserable outside there’s no better way to cosy up the house than lighting some. Here are my picks of the best autumn candles out there (and I’ve tried plenty!)

They all follow a foodie theme, but without being too sweet which, for me, is absolutely key to finding the perfect candle. There’s nothing worse than having a candle so sickly it gives you a headache (has anyone else ever suffered from this?!) They are also all not too pricey which is a bonus. I do love expensive candles and I have owned a few (when the spendy mood strikes!) but I find myself feeling guilty about burning them for too long. These ones I’ll happily burn all day.

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With candles, I have found that when you discover a brand you love – stick to it. Candles can vary so much in quality, and most of the time price is irrelevant. I’ve bought expensive candles in the past that burnt unevenly, didn’t kick off much scent and were generally a hot, waxy mess and I’ve had super cheap ones that I loved.

Also, if you are unsure whether you’ll like a scent, see if they offer it as tealights. Most of the bigger brands do this (such at The White Company and Yankee Candle) and they have really strong scents – despite being tiny little candles! Don’t be discouraged by the size, sometimes small really is mighty, and they are a great way to experiment.

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Yankee Candle Cinnamon Stick: I couldn’t do a list of affordable candles without including Yankee Candle. They are easily available, pretty cheap and come in about a million different scents. Cinnamon Stick is one of my particular favourites though. It smells of straight up cinnamon, which does give it a hint of Christmas but it still feels acceptable to burn throughout the year.

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I have the small jar, but one of the great things with Yankee Candle is the huge variety in sizes they do. Don’t be put off by the small jars though, they still have an impressive burn time of 25-40 hours and they kick off as much scent as their big sisters.

WoodWick Cinnamon Chai: This was bought for me by my lovely flatmate as part of last year’s Secret Santa. I am completely obsessed with chai lattes, hence the choice of candle, and it really couldn’t be any more me. Of course, it is similar to the Yankee Candle Cinnamon Stick and has the lovely spicy, cinnamon scent, but underneath it is the hint of being in Starbucks, which makes it slightly sweeter.

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The special thing about WoodWick candles is that the wick crackles as the candle burns. I find this really relaxing, and it makes the candle a bit different. Some might find it annoying though! The scent isn’t quite as strong as the Yankee Candle but it still kicks off more than enough scent and makes your room smell amazing.

Anthropologie Boulangerie Pumpkin Soufflé: Last of all is probably my favourite. Anthropologie is a gorgeous shop in general (amazing for window shopping!) but they have a huge variety of candles in stunning jars. This is one of their cheaper offerings, and it comes in a fairly large range. The Sweet Vanilla Cinnamon version has been on my wish list for a while!

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This is the sweetest of all of them, as it smells like pudding but still has the spicy, pumpkin undertones. This is also probably the strongest, as you can still smell it even when it isn’t burning, but not in an overpowering way and it has a lid if you want a break from it! On top of being a great candle, the beautiful jar is a real bonus. I’m planning on washing it out and turning it into a brush holder when I’m done with the candle.

Hope you enjoyed this post, thanks for reading!