How to Spend: December

December: my absolute favourite time of year. The Christmas tunes are playing as I type (a bit distracting, but excellent for the general Christmas cheer). I’m full of festive spirit, present plans and mince pies. I’ve been spending every spare minute online shopping (mainly for myself…), I’ve put up the tree and I’m sporting my hopelessly tasteful Christmas jumper at every opportunity. Merry Christmas everyone!!

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*Go ice skating: One of my very favourite Christmas traditions. There’s nothing more festive than seeing the ice rinks start to pop up with skaters spiraling around and onlookers cheering them on (while searching out the person most likely to take a tumble…) Tiarnan and I always visit Somerset House, but there are so many in London – the ice rink at the Natural History Museum is looking particularly stunning this year. Somerset House has the Fortnum’s Lodge though where you can sit by the fire and have champagne, fondue or the Chocolossus – the most ridiculous (but amazing) hot chocolate I’ve ever seen.

*Book in to a festive class: Is it just me, or has wreath making suddenly become a thing? Instagram is bursting with festive creations, but sometimes the DIY approach just doesn’t work out. Round up your friends or bully your boyfriend into coming with you – there’s gingerbread house making, Christmas baking, wreath decorating… The choices are endless! I’m going to Christmas cupcake decorating with my Mum and sister and can’t wait.

*Stay in for movie night: Christmas parties are all good and fun, but this time of year is as much about staying in as going out. There are so many festive films to work through this month that multiple movie nights are absolutely essential. All you need is a roaring fire (or at least an exceptionally large and warm blanket) and an industrial size vat of popcorn and you’re all set.

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The Sunday Outfit: Dungarees

Sundays should really be spent in pyjamas. But, sometimes, brunch just won’t come to you. Therefore something warm, comfortable and, crucially, able to hide a food baby, is required.

At the beginning of the year, I shared my loved for The Pinafore Dress. But dungarees are even better. I was always put off because they can be quite pricey – and finding the perfect shade of denim is impossible (especially if you are like me and don’t like wearing blue jeans anyway…)

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But this skinny black pair from New Look completely changed my mind. Very cheap and so comfortable. And I totally bypassed the blue denim situation by opting for black. For a first time dungarees-buyer, try to find your favourite pair of jeans in dungaree form. I wear black skinny jeans almost everyday, so black skinny dungarees were an obvious choice (though it took me a while to work that out).

Dungarees are also one of those brilliant outfits that make it seem like you have made an effort – when really that couldn’t be further from the truth. Ideal for rolling out of bed on a Sunday morning with just ten minutes to spare before brunch.

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…

An April Reading List

This month’s reading list is filled with adventure stories and beautiful editions. They say “never judge a book by its cover” – but sometimes you just have to have that beautiful book. And they make amazing gifts. I have had more than my fair share of stunning books as presents, they sit proudly on my shelf and I love them. All hail beautiful covers, we need more of them around.

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*For a timeless story: The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame. I rarely write about a book that I haven’t actually read here on the blog, but I feel pretty safe to do so with this one. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to read the classics I’ve never got round to picking up. It’s not going that well, to be honest. The Wind in the Willows seemed like a safe one to start with – I’m excited to follow the adventures of Mole, Rat, Mr Toad and Mr Badger! Also, quick note on just how beautiful this edition is. The Penguin Threads covers are made to look like a work of embroidery, with the threads running through the inside cover. There are loads of classics in the collection, so take your pick and treasure it.

*For a dark, nineteenth century New York: Church of Marvels, Leslie Parry. I have just finished this book and it is such a unique story. I picked it up thinking it would be like The Night Circus but it ended up reminding me more of Les Miserables. It follows three separate narrators – Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler who discovers an abandoned newborn baby, Odile Church, who’s twin sister Belle has disappeared following a devastating fire and Alphie, who wakes up groggy and confused in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum. These three lives become entwined through the events of one night, and the story gradually unravels the secrets that bring the narrators together. The plot twists and turns and keeps back the biggest surprises right until the very end. Definitely worth a read.

*For the original greats: The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm and The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Everyone should read the original fairy tales. We all know and love the Disney versions, but did you ever realise the liberties they took with the original stories? Ariel didn’t just lose her voice, she had her tongue cut out. In Snow White, the Queen is forced to dance to death in red hot iron shoes. Sleeping Beauty is raped! You can understand why Disney had to exclude these elements from children’s films, but now it’s time to grow up and find out what really happened. We’re always on the search for a horrifying thriller, but really we need look no further than the original fairy tales.

Bank Holiday Brunching: 26 Grains

It’s been a little while since I last ventured into London on the blog, but today I’m making up for it with a great recommendation.

With the bank holiday weekend happily freeing up a sunny Friday, I decided it was about time I started ticking off some of my London bucket list. Neal’s Yard is a colourful corner of Covent Garden, tightly packed with health food eateries and, of course, Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s only small, but there’s more than enough to keep you occupied.

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For this trip though, we had to sample London’s prettiest porridge. Absolutely dominating Instagram, 26 Grains is a teeny tiny little health cafe serving wholesome, grain based dishes. Don’t be put off by the health side though, everything they serve is ridiculously delicious.

They aren’t limited to enormous bowls of steaming porridge either. As they source their fruit and veg from local producers, their menu changes seasonally. Currently they have an enormous array of porridges (sweet and savoury) as well as bircher muesli, a winter smoothie bowl and lunch bowls if you’ve already had breakfast. They aren’t preachy about health either, and will enquire whether you want almond or whole milk in your coffee (a nice touch, I thought). Definitely worth skipping the main drag of Covent Garden for.

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Sunday Tea and Cake

Sometimes on a Sunday, only tea and cake will do.

After a Saturday raceday for Tiarnan (and countryside trek in pursuit for me) the aches had set in. We couldn’t bear to stay stuck indoors on a sunny Sunday afternoon but also couldn’t quite face any serious movement. So we threw on our comfiest trainers and took a drive, in search of cake. We ended up at one of our favourite local cafes, Juliet’s.

They serve whopper slices of cake and have an enormous selection. With tea in cute, mismatched china and a little table tucked in the corner, it’s a pretty perfect way to spend the first Sunday of spring.

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Happy Sunday, everyone! Here’s to sunnier days fast approaching…

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.

Surprise Oreo Cupcakes

Today I’ve got a delicious Sunday treat for you all. My sister and I have always been drawn to Oreo cupcakes when we pass the cake stands in London. There’s just something so satisfying about biscuits in cake form – it’s like two treats for the price of one!

We followed this BBC Good Food recipe and they turned out brilliantly. These cupcakes are essentially wonderfully rich and light chocolate cupcakes, with Oreo frosting and a surprise biscuit at the bottom.

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Makes: 15 cupcakes. Baking time: 20-25 minutes. 

YOU WILL NEED

FOR THE CUPCAKES:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 40 g cocoa powder
  • 280g caster sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 80g butter
  • 240ml whole milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 15 Oreo biscuits

FOR THE FROSTING:

  • 100g butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 6 Oreo biscuits

TO MAKE

THE CUPCAKES:

Preheat the oven to 170C/160 fan. Place half an Oreo in each muffin case with the cream facing upwards.

Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and butter until combined. In a jug whisk the milk, eggs and vanilla extract. Gradually add to the mixture and mix until smooth.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

THE FROSTING:

In a bag, smash up 6 Oreos.

Mix the butter and sugar until you have buttercream. Gently fold in the Oreo crumbs.

When the cakes are cool, ice and enjoy!

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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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