13 November 2014

Dirty blondies recipe

I took delivery of some organic cacao nibs the other day. They're roasted cacao beans - the raw ingredient used to make chocolate - and have a similar taste but with about a trillion more health benefits.

A chance to do some healthy cooking! 

Only… it's the wints and my last healthy bake-fest involving pulverised bananas produced some pretty grim, fun-free flapjacks.

So I decided to use the cacao nibs to add a healthy pep to what is otherwise a ridiculously non-good-for-you recipe.

I used Good Housekeeping's blondie recipe as a base and made a few alterations, cutting their sugar measurements to skinny things down a bit and adding cacao nibs instead of white chocolate chips.

I give you my dirty blondies!


30 October 2014

What to wear to a winter wedding?

A few summers ago I attended a gazillion weddings and, as well as floating around on a confetti cloud all season long, I generally went nuts over summery outfit options.

Because summer wedding attire is simple. Dress? Check. Shoes? Check. Bag? Job done!

But I'm having a right sartorial dilemma ahead of my friend's November nuptials. November = nippy so what the heck to wear?

I've been hitting the shops to try out some options ('scuse the changing room selfies).

I really liked this Hobbs dress...


15 October 2014

A York weekender

Husb and I have wanted to visit York for a while so we decided to time a weekend away with our actual wedding anniversary.

I know I know, we already celebrated that. But there's nothing wrong in eeking out a party, right?!

We hopped off our train and took a short walk to our hotel, where I got my priorities straight.

Throw luggage down. Run around room like an excited puppy. Champagne! 


3 October 2014

First wedding anniversary party

You know your mum is the best woman in the world when the following convo happens…

Mumma: 'Shall we have a little gathering for your first wedding anniversary?'

Me: 'Erm YES PLEASE that would be great!'

I can't believe it's been a year since Husb and I got married. If you can think of a less cliche way of saying 'it's flown by', well done you and please let me know. 

On party day, I lured one of my besties up from the West Country with the promise of cupcakes and bonding. 


24 September 2014

Mahiki mocktails… Sippin' on juice and juice

Every January, I ditch alcohol as a reboot after weeks on the Christmas diet.

You know… mince pie for breakfast, a sausage roll elevenses, roast beef with yorkshires followed by cheeseboard chaser.

I don't usually drink on a school night, but that goes right out of the window at Christmas. Champagne for breakfast? Sherry with lunch? Don't mind if I do.

Festive breakfast


5 September 2014

GOUSTO veg box review + discount!

One of the reasons I love my job is that I get to write about the people I'm genuinely interested in, and former Made In Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh is on that list. 

She dresses like a dream, loves her food and is extremely sweet and funny in person. 

So when she posted an Instagram snap of a tasty meal she'd made with Gousto, my interest was piqued. 

It turns out that Gousto deliver fresh, organic ingredients straight to your door along with recipes to whip up healthy, nutritious meals. Like a seriously suped up veg box. 

Millie made a haddock with coconut crust, lentils and fennel which sounded DLISHUS.


29 August 2014

What a lovely bunch of coconuts!

Summer, you brute, where have you gone?

I'm hoping this chill is a temporary blip.

But just in case, I've inject a little sunshine into my home via the most summery of fruits… the coconut.

Yup, I've gone coco-loco. (Sorry)


6 August 2014

Date night with Gillian Anderson

A few things you should know about me.

1. I LOVE Gillian Anderson. Did you see The Fall? She rocked a silk shirt and a slutty-yet-disdainful look with serious aplomb.

2. Tennessee Williams is one of my favourite playwrights and I wrote my undergrad dissertation about his treatment of reality.

Because my husband is brilliant at remembering things like this, he booked us tickets to see A Streetcar Named Desire with Gillian Anderson at the Young Vic.

They were a gift for my birthday last year, when the play was yet to be scheduled. It recently opened to amazing reviews and has been called the hottest ticket of 2014. Top marks, husbo!

Off to London we pottered.


23 July 2014

Wedding memories with my Mumma

Endless days spent dress shopping, lunching, chattering and sampling wedding wines made the run-up to my wedding a pretty brilliant time for Mum and I. 

She's also my bestie. Look, here we are 'having a moment' on W day...


2 July 2014

French fancy: Summer holiday

Cramming too many dresses and, optimistically, TWO sports bras in to a suitcase, I was ready for our summer jaunt to the south of France. 

Even the indecent break-of-day alarm didn't dampen our spirits as we cruised to the airport for a 5am Benugo bagel.

Stock up on magazines. Take off. Fanfare when we land on time. Guffaw. Poke leg out of plane. HEAT! 

We hijacked my mumma and step-pops' French home. And by 'hijacked', I mean they took us out for dinner, stocked the fridge with wine, then packed their bags and left us to it. What a duo!

Kicking off the holiday in the best way. 

So ensued 8 days of eating, drinking and sun-bathing.

We visited our nearest town's Saturday morning market, intending to avoid parking dramaz by hopping on the bus when a man pulled over and offered us a lift.

He had a bed and some bongos in the back of his van, and Bob Marley on the stereo. My French isn't great, but I think he said he worked for the ministry of justice and played African music on the weekends. Why not?

Thanking our new friend, we roamed around the enticing stalls lining the main square and stocked up on salami (husband) and olives (me).

Pre-bongos at the bus stop. 
Market wonders. 
Coffee break.

Other 'adventurous' days involved a trip to Avignon. You know, the one with the Pont. It's a beauty of a city… super ancient and containing the Palais des Papes (massive castle, popes used to live in it). 

We also went to the very chic Aix-en-Provence. Boulevards lined with trees and cafes attracting ultra-stylish French people who have animated conversations over cigarettes and aperitifs.

Pont d'Avignon.
Pope's French pad. 

Aix: So French!

But mostly, we just lounged around, played games, and endured watched the World Cup.

Taking a dip in a friend's pool. 

Uno: game of champions. 
Village prancing. 

In the end, I wore one eighth of the things I'd packed and the sports bras did NOT see the light of day.

Dreamy hols.

13 June 2014

All This Mayhem at Sheffield Doc/Fest

The festivals I've been to involve mud, warm wine and a tent you absolutely cannot stay in past daybreak thanks to the hot hot heat.  

Then along came Sheffield International Documentary Festival.

This is one of the biggest documentary festivals in the world. Showcasing the latest talent, it's launched some of the world's best documentaries during its 21-year history.

I popped on my culture hat and went along.

Chilled wine at a festival? Cheers. 

Pulp led the charge with Pulp: a Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets. I was too slow off the starting blocks to get in, but my husband and some friends saw it, giving it mixed reviews at best.

Husbo spotted Jarvis Cocker. I spotted a rainbow.

Rainbows and a watery outdoor screen at Sheff Doc/Fest

By far and away my favourite documentary was All This Mayhem. It's the incredibly powerful story of Australian brothers Tas and Ben Pappas, once ranked the first and second best pro skateboarders in the world.

Heard of Tony Hawk? In the mid-90s, these guys were better than him. They were also really good at taking drugs. The more successful they got, the more drugs they took.

But Ben was caught smuggling cocaine and after that his life took a tragic nose-dive. He got mixed up with heroin and killed himself.

Skateboarders, I've learned, love to film each other, and shockingly sad footage of Ben's deterioration peppers the doc.

The story is told retrospectively by older brother Tas. He's the guy in red, talking during the q&a after the documentary aired.

Tas Pappas after the All This Mayhem screening

Produced by the same guy who did Banksy's Exit Through The Gift Shop, it's a gripping portrayal of the dark side of success.

Next up, a documentary by Rich Peppiatt, the former Daily Star journo who quit his job with the paper after becoming disillusioned with tabloid journalism.

I know Rich, we worked a few jobs together back when I was in London, like following Katie Price and her former-husband / cross-dresser around a haunted house one weekend. Long story.

So I was keen to watch One Rogue Reporter. In it, Rich turns the tables on the men behind our tabloid news through a series of pranks, like leaving a dildo outside one editor's London home and taking paparazzi style snaps of another.

It's funny, well researched and packs a punch - disgruntled-with-the-press celebs like Hugh Grant are interviewed.

I do feel saddened by the view du jour that all journalists are utter swines, though. I write for women's magazines but still people react thus when I tell them what I do: "Ooh, are you tapping my phone right now?"

Har har. It's exasperating and I deal with it the only way I know how... some serious side eye.

A festival with its own beer? Fancy!

After party and scene of some Tour de France anticipation

The great thing about Sheffield Doc/Fest is the amount of stuff available to do... like roller discos, after parties, bumping into familiar faces, workshops and picnics at Chatsworth House.

But mostly I'm just glad I got to see All This Mayhem and I really hope you get the chance, too.


5 June 2014

Number One's Cheddar Cheese Loaf recipe

Popping around to my mother-in-law's for lunch recently, I arrived to the delicious smell of baking. 

Stomach grumbling, I peeked in to the kitchen to spy a freshly baked cheese loaf.

Number One (so called because we have now have the same last name) had made the little beauty simply because she woke up and "felt like baking".

What a wonder! We unleashed the butter, spread on an indecent layer and demolished the loaf in minutes. 

I've always fancied making bread but it seemed like way too much of a commitment, what with all that proving and... actually no, that's it.

Thankfully, Number One has put me on the straight and narrow by sharing her cheese loaf recipe with me.

Mine looks a bit more rustic than #1's but tastes delicious, promise!

Turns out it's SUPER quick to put together and involves ingredients you probably have at home already. I gave it a go when husbo and I were invited to a picnic.

Here's the recipe...

Number One's Cheddar Cheese Loaf
This makes approximately 12 slices. 

225g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
3tsp English mustard powder - or more if you like it hawt!
100g cheddar, grated
1 egg, beaten
150ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180C, then grease a 1lb loaf tin. 

Place the flour, salt and mustard powder in a bowl and mix. Stir in the cheese. 

Stir in the egg and enough milk to make a moist, firm dough. You might not need quite all the milk.

Put your dough in the loaf tin, pop it in the oven and bake for 1 hour or until risen and golden. 

Leave to cool on a wire rack.  


What, that's it? YES! It's really simple, takes no time at all, and makes a really nice lunch addition. 

By the way, I used Red Leicester during another bake fest which gave it a nice vibrant colour when sliced. 

Ps if you don't want to demolish it straight away it'll keep in an airtight container for a few days. 


29 May 2014

Long distance relationships

I'm a nomad. Leave me in one place for too long and I start to get fidgety. 

I've moved all over the shop and I love it... picking up friends and exploring new cities along the way. 

But there's one major drawback. My besties are all over the ruddy country! 

I met this wonder while working in Bristol.

Happy days back in Bristol.

Seven years on and she's now the ultimate grown up, settled in her beautiful Wiltshire home which boasts actual chickens and a pheasant. 

But I'm still on the move, which means we have to make do with a long distance romance. 

Last weekend, Kim came to stay with her husband Gareth.

As it was completely pissing it down, we decided a trip out to the Peak District would be a great idea.

We found a cave and went on a tour underground but, as we squeezed our way down into the depths of the earth, I came over all anxious.

So I surfaced above ground and made another friend. He's also cool about the long distance thing.

Totally baaaa-my about this guy.

Meanwhile the intrepid explorers marched on, emerging later looking pretty excited post-cave explorations.

Babe in the caves. 

Blue coats are a thing right now. 

Husband practiced his tourist pose. 

Sure. Why not? 

Because she's a wonder, Kim presented me with a beautiful bunch of roses having learned from my blog that I now like roses

That's one of the major downsides of no longer living in the same place. All the trivial stuff, like what flowers we like, doesn't get a look in as we catch up on all the bigger stuff, like what jumpers we like.

Too. Pretty. 

We rounded off the weekend with endless eating, drinking and games of Articulate.

And as the merry-makers made their way back home, I was safe in the knowledge that I'll be seeing them again in just a few weeks.

In your face, long distance!


23 May 2014

Insta-crushing on Rosie

Confession time: I've developed a shiny new obsession. Instagram perving. 

Not on boys... on clothes. Instagram is packed to the rafters with stylish little selfie-takers and I can't get enough.

The feed commanding my attention right now belongs to Made In Chelsea's Rosie Fortescue.

Instagram / rosiefortescue
Instagram / rosiefortescue

Think fabulous fashion finds, oodles of #ootd and plenty of pretty jewels, mixed with a bit of luxe and the odd sausage dog.

So really, what's not to love?

Rosie's latest Insta offerings have got me wanting a French mani with a twist and a lot of pink roses. Which is weird because I don't even like roses.

Plus, her monogrammed Whistles bag is all kinds of perfect for summer.

Instagram / rosiefortescue
Instagram / rosiefortescue

It's not just Rosie who keeps me pressing the refresh button. Here are some other Instagram recommendations...

Elle magazine. Mostly beauty products with a smattering of fashion and quite a few cocktail snaps, this feed has a super summery feel.

Lorraine Pascale. You know Lorraine... bakes amazing cakes. Right now she's on a summer fitness mission and has been busy cooking up lots of healthy new meals. Because she's such a love, Lorraine will often write the full recipe in the caption underneath.

Sonja Stephen. This little wonder is a friend of mine and Editor In Chief of Cosmopolitan Middle East. I KNOW, right?! Follow her for dreamy beach snaps of Dubai and luxe living in the sunshine. Perfs.


21 May 2014

Celebrity breakfast inspo: Juicing, honey!

I once found myself sitting opposite a rather famous American celebrity in the very polished surroundings of London's May Fair Hotel.

I was interviewing her for a magazine and she was working to a tight schedule, so we agreed to combine our chat with breakfast at her hotel. Two birds, one stone.

The menu looked delicious, but my date didn't need to see it.

Actually, she barely needed to look at the waiter... her fabulousness infused the air with 'I'm ready to order' signals which brought him bustling over telepathically.

"I'll have an egg white omelette," she began, before listing ALL the things which simply could not mar her breakfast. Butter, a calorie, flavour (probably).

My breakfast of old. Nuh-uh honey. 

Breakfast arrived. Mine comprised of a full fat latte resplendent with a slab of chocolate on the side. Hers, a black coffee and a pile of white goo on a plate.

I devoured the chocolate in one go, hoping she wouldn't see. No such luck.

"Honey, that's not a breakfast," she said, eyeing my dirty British eating habits with disdain.

I should point out that this woman had made a name for herself as a dancer. So, a famous American dancer. Therefore, TOTALLY in to eating well.

"Oh. Right," I stumbled. "How should I get myself in to peak condition, then?"

"Honey," I'm assuming this was a term of endearment and not an advocation of the sweet, sticky stuff. "Honey, you gotta eat less and work out more. You gotta eat clean."

What I like to munch now. 

My new Stateside bessie was right. After gabbing about her life for way longer than we were meant to, I left the hotel feeling inspired to super charge my breakfasts.

I'm never hungry first thing, but I am thirsty, and recently the wonders at SaVse sent some juices to try. "Drink your greens" they told me.

SaVse smoothies are jam-packed with goodness. 

Pretty colours, happy breakfast. 
OK! I've been necking one each morning this week and I'm hooked.

I love their strawberry, orange, celery, kale, broccoli and spinach smoothie. Refreshing, filling and full of vitamin C make it a win win.

The broccoli, pear, spinach, kale, kiwi, lemon and banana is another favourite. It tastes delish and is the colour green. My fave model EVER Rosie Huntington-Whiteley likes a green juice and she always looks ridiculous.

Strawberry goodness. Don't mind if I do!

My least favourite is the beetroot, apple, avocado, lime, mango and lemon flavour, which was just a bit too beetrootry (a word?) for my morning tastebuds.

That didn't stop me drinking the whole thing and feeling all kinds of virtuous afterwards, though.


These beauties are cold pressed which, if you're into science, means none of the flavour and nutrients are lost through heat treatments.

SaVse raw smoothies have no added sugar and count as two of your five a day, so stars like Michelle Keegan and Pixie Lott are big fans.

Plus my American dancer friend would totally approve, honey.


10 May 2014

Summer skin boost

Now that the temperature is gradually on the rise, I'm starting to shed some of the many layers I've been cocooned in over the winter. 

See ya later, second jumper!

It also means the countdown to getting my limbs out has begun... and I need a serious beauty boost before that can happen.

Thankfully, the lovely ladies at Spa Find have come to my rescue with this little bundle of joy.

I've long been a fan of their shampoo and scalp mud but this young upstart - the Heavenly Hydration Salt Brushing Treatment - is a new rival for my affections.

It's a serious exfoliator. There's no faffing around mid-shower with this guy, you need to apply it on dry skin before washing it out.

But it's worth it. Dead Sea salt buffs away old skin cells, and coconut oil leaves you feeling super smooth post-shower.

Next stop, I slathered on High Strength Body Balm and I can't praise this enough.

It's allergen free, which suits my sensitive skin, and it's got this deliciously light citrus scent which encapsulates summer and kind of makes you want to eat it. (Don't.)

Most importantly, though, it's deeply nourishing and felt like the perfect way to round off a good old exfoliate. My skin felt soft for days.

By this point my hair was feeling a little left out, so I massaged Spa Magik's Hair Magic Serum through my wet locks, wrapped 'em up in a towel and pranced around for five minutes before showering it out.

I let it dry naturally - I avoid my hairdryer like the plague because I find any heat treatments dry my long locks out.

The result of my serum-fest? Hello, glossy hair!

I'm yet to try the Sunsafe SPF 50, because I'm a naughty little sun worshipper and I use a lower factor when the spring sun is out.

So if you can't find the time or the dollar to get to a spa, I'd recommend giving these little lovelies a go.

Now I just need to stop myself from singing Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince's Summertime on a loop.
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