A Lushie Easter Collection

Nothing can beat a seasonal Lush collection. Of course the Christmas one reigns supreme, but while we await that time of year a little spring collection is more than enough to lure me in. Spring may have sprung (just) but the evenings are still chilly enough to warrant an OTT bubble bath. Here’s the damage from my latest visit…

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*Bunch of Carrots: My absolute favourite – so cute and colourful! These are three reusable bubble bars to be used as long as you can make them last. The Sicilian lemon oil and bergamot oil make them wonderfully citrusy and uplifting, perfect for springtime.

*Big Bang: This bubble bar is another a citrus number, with tangerine oil that supposedly tones your skin as you bathe. It also has avocado butter to soften and hydrate, so no need for moisturiser after using this one.

*Pop in the Bath: This super cute bubble bar is described as the lemon drizzle scented piece of bathing confectionery. Again, it’s citrusy (there’s a theme here) but with a slight floral edge from the orange flower absolute.

*Mangnificent:  This soap is fruity tropical cocktail heaven. It has fresh pureed mango and dried mango slices to gently exfoliate the skin as well as all kinds of citrus oils to wake you up in the morning.

*Happy Hippy shower gel: This grapefruit wash is one of their bestsellers, and again supposed to snap you into action with its citrus “wake up” scents.

*Golden Egg: Could you ever do a Lush collection without glitter? This is Easter’s sample of the stuff, in a cute, toffee-scented egg which leaves your bath water looking like molten gold. It’s also packed full of cocoa butter and olive oil to leave your skin super soft.

*Which Came First?: This is one of their monster-sized bath bombs. You can crack it open to reveal a chick and enjoy three baths out of it. The vanilla makes this one just sweet enough,  but not overpowering.

*Humpy Dumpty: The second enormous bath bomb. This one you do just chuck in, and Humpty Dumpty’s outer shell will disappear to reveal a fried egg. This one is also really refreshing with Brazilian orange oil and bergamot oil.

Current Skincare Picks

I have never been that into skincare. A combination of limited funds and well-behaved skin (and a certain degree of laziness) meant I was never pushed towards the skincare counters in Boots.

That seems to have all changed of late, though. My skin is still well behaved and I am still quite lazy (minimal faff skincare is what I’m all about), but with a budget that stretches slightly further my interest has finally been sparked. So today I’m going to share with you my current picks and, for those still at the minimal budget stage, I’ve also got some less pricey alternatives that have been getting me by until now…

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*Bioderma: Everyone’s heard of it, everyone knows about it, most have tried it and with good reason – the stuff is fantastic. One swipe and your make-up is gone. I wouldn’t say it’s leaps and bounds beyond the other micellar waters around though. I have Bioderma now because I was in France at Christmas and couldn’t resist popping into a pharmacy for a bottle, but I also love the Garnier and L’Oreal alternatives. If you can’t get your hands on Bioderma, those are just as great.

*Pixi Glow Tonic: I rarely exfoliate with a scrub (that counts as a skincare faff). This is a toner but the glycolic removes dead skin cells and so also exfoliates. It really does leave my skin looking less patchy and healthy, and again just with one swipe of a cotton pad.

*La Roche-Posay Serozinc: I’m not entirely sure what this does exactly, other than feel really cooling and refreshing on the skin. I love to use this after the Pixi Glow Tonic to relax everything. Tastes horrible on the lips though – watch out when spraying!

*Dermalogica Skin Smoothing Cream: I only use this as night because it is quite a thick moisturiser, but it leaves your skin feeling beautifully soft and amazing by morning. It works wonderfully with the Glow Tonic, leaving your skin glowing and healthy while toning down any redness.

*Garnier Pure Active: This has been my budget moisturiser for years and I still like to use it in the mornings. It leaves the skin feeling smooth and prepped for make-up and it sinks in almost instantaneously – perfect when you’re in a rush!

*Origins Clear Improvement Mask: Face masks count as faffing, but they are such a treat every so often. I absolutely love this one. It’s a charcoal mask which really focuses on ridding any dirt from your skin, and my skin feels clean, glowy, soft and amazing after using it! For a budget alternative, the Una Brennan Super Facialist range of masks are great.

*Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment: This deserves all the hype it gets. It comes in quite a shockingly small pot for the price, but you only need a tiny amount so it really does last. It’s super hydrating but sinks in quickly and feels amazing on the eye area. For a budget alternative try Simple’s Kind to Eyes Soothing Eye Balm – very cooling and super cheap.

Homemade Tropical Granola

I love granola. I love it on yoghurt, I love it on smoothie bowls and I love it straight out of the packet. Those little nutty clusters are just so satisfyingly crunchy and sweet.

The problem with granola is it’s usually absolutely filled with sugar. It also tends to be incredibly expensive. So, to crack both problems I have a delicious homemade recipe for you.

Granola is one of the simplest things to whip up, it requires only basic equipment and it’s so customisable. One of my all-time favourite granolas is Sainsbury’s tropical granola, with coconut and dried pineapple chunks (and a ridiculous amount of sugar). This is my sugar-free recreation, which tastes just as incredible! As I said though, anything goes with granola – so add and remove whatever you feel like.

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YOU WILL NEED:

  • 3 cups plain rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup flaked almonds
  • 3/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups mixed seeds
  • 2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup dried pineapple
  • Generous pinch of salt

TO MAKE:

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Place everything but the pineapple into a large mixing bowl and mix really well.

Put the mixture into a tray (with sides) lined with baking parchment.

Bake for about 30 mins (or until golden brown) while mixing every 5 mins, so it doesn’t turn into one enormous granola bar. Add the dried pineapple two minutes before you take it out of the oven.

Remove, and leave to crisp up. Enjoy when it’s super crunchy!

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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…

A London Bucket List

As you all know from my 2016 Goals post, exploring London is one of my resolutions. There’s just so much to do here, you can never run out of inspiration. As promised, I am blogging all of my adventures, but I’ve been creating a mental list of ‘places to visit’ for quite a while now and I thought it was about time I shared.

Whether you live here, are planning a trip or just need some inspiration for your own hometown, I hope this comes in handy!

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*26 Grains: This is top because it was my obsession with wanting to go here that inspired this blog post! Neal’s Yard is a little crook of Covent Garden that I’m desperate to explore anyway, but 26 Grains serves up London’s prettiest porridge. If you like Instagramming your food, bookmark this one.

*Bob Bob Ricard: This wonderfully eccentric restaurant is decorated in the style of a first-class dining car of an Edwardian train, with Art Deco booths and the infamous ‘press for champagne’ button. It’s a little pricey so best saved for a special occasion.

*Columbia Road Flower Market: A blogger’s favourite. If you haven’t admired pictures of the blooms at Columbia Road, I strongly suggest you do. East London’s flower market is open every Sunday and with independent shops and cafes also lining the street, there’s plenty to explore after picking your bunch.

*Madison: Famed for it’s incredible view of St Pauls, I am cheating a little bit here because I’ve already visited this rooftop bar. But that was a few years ago and I’m itching to go back! With an amazing cocktail menu and plenty of tapas to choose from, this is the perfect stop for evening drinks.

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*National Portrait Gallery, Vogue 100: A Century of Style: I love the National Portrait Gallery, it is easily my favourite museum in London. Their Audrey Hepburn exhibition caused quite a stir last summer (and it was amazing), but I’m now desperate to visit Vogue 100. Celebrating British Vogue’s centenary by showcasing its photography through the years, this one is a magazine junkie’s dream.

*Duck & Waffle: London’s highest restaurant and open 24/7 – I’d love to get up super early and watch the sun rise over London from here. The lift is almost as well known as the restaurant itself, glass-sided and ‘express’, it whizzes you up those 40 floors in unbeatable style!

*Modern Pantry: Apparently, this is the spot to eat amazing eggs. Though to be honest, it was the seating thar first caught my attention. Set in a traffic-free courtyard which acts as a suntrap, it sounds like the perfect place for a casual, alfresco brunch one summery weekend. 

*Go to the ballet: When I was younger, I was a very keen dancer so I’ve been lucky enough to see a few ballets in London. It’s been a few years though, and I’d love to go back. My preference would be The Nutcracker (because is there anything more festive?) but I’m keeping an eye out for anything that looks interesting before next Christmas.       

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.

A Healthy Sunday Breakfast

Sundays are for lazy breakfasts, right?

This morning, Tiarnan and I fancied whipping something up rather than eating yet another bowl of porridge, but with New Year’s resolutions hanging over us we passed on the traditional fry up. Instead, we created an entirely guilt-free feast which (and here’s the best part) is a complete doddle to make! Say hello to our resolution-friendly-but-still-delicious Sunday breakfast creation: tropical smoothies and banana pancakes.

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*TROPICAL SMOOTHIE

If I’m honest, yellow smoothies are more Tiarnan’s thing than mine (I’m all about the pink ones, which I shared in A Super Simple Smoothie) but a cup of sunshine is undoubtedly the best way to start a Sunday when it’s miserable outside. This one is super thick and creamy, so you could just blitz up extra and have it for breakfast on its own. However, Sunday is for feasting, and it makes the perfect accompaniment to the pancakes.

For a smoothie that can serve two, all you need is one banana, a couple of handfuls of mango, an equal amount of pineapple, a dollop of vanilla yoghurt and a splash of apple juice. Blitz it it up and you’re done!

This smoothie is a really thick one, as mango and banana are good as smoothie bases alone and yoghurt really bulks it out. If you don’t love that so much, skip the yoghurt or just add more apple juice or pineapple.

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*BANANA PANCAKES

These pancakes take just two ingredients. Two ingredients. (Although we cheated and used three). However, they are still deliciously light and fluffy and taste like banana bread and french toast rolled into one. They are also super quick and easy to make. And they don’t need to be reserved as a Sunday treat, have them every day if you want!

All you need is one extra ripe banana and two large eggs (and that’s it!).

Mash the banana well until there are no large lumps, then whisk in the two eggs. If you like you can add vanilla (for extra flavouring – we did), baking powder (to make them super light and fluffy) or anything else to flavour them, like cinnamon, honey or cocoa powder.

Pour small amounts of the batter in to a hot frying pan, and flip when the first side is done. Wait for the other side to cook and you’re done! You should manage 6-8 small pancakes. Top with whatever you feel like. I personally love maple syrup and blueberries, but extra banana, honey, cinnamon, granola or whatever takes your fancy will also be delicious.    

The Mae Deli Breakfast

Today I’ve got the best kind of treat for you. A guilt free one.

The Mae Deli has been on my radar ever since it opened late last year. Opened by Ella Woodward (aka Deliciously Ella) and her fiance Matthew, Ella is a health goddess to anyone in the know, with her inspiring Instagram and bestselling cookbook. Now, you can enjoy her food without risking a disaster in the kitchen. In fact, you don’t even need to enter a kitchen!

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I usually find these health cafes over-priced, not that tasty and a bit, well, intimidating. I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised by The Mae Deli. It is a little on the pricey side I grant you, but I feel that you really get what you pay for. The ingredients are great, the food is delicious and the smoothies are pretty enormous (Tiarnan and I couldn’t finish ours!) The atmosphere is very cosy and welcoming, and the staff are absolutely lovely. Also, Ella and Matthew are running around like everyone else – so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to fan girl.

We went for breakfast (we’d particularly recommend the avocado on rye bread and the bircher muesli – both delicious!) but they also have plenty of mains for lunch and dinner, and all kinds of sweet treats and snacky options throughout the day. There are also plenty of hot drinks, smoothies and cold pressed juices on offer. And, if you hadn’t quite got your fill, there is Mae granola and rye bread for sale and signed Deliciously Ella cookbooks, so you can take a slice of The Mae Deli/Deliciously Ella life away with you for your own kitchen.

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They are in a great location, tucked away just behind Selfridges at Marble Arch. I’m excited for warmer days when we can pop in for a smoothie and enjoy it while strolling around Hyde Park. But while chilly January is still here, I’d highly recommend waiting for a seat (space is a little tight to be prepared to queue), sinking into their baby blue cushions and taking your time over food so delicious, you won’t even realise it’s guilt-free.