Brand Focus | No7 Skincare

One of the most popular skincare brands on the highstreet, undoubtedly the best "own brand' skincare out there and we've all probably used it at some point. Today's post is all about No7 Skincare, the highs, the lows and all the bits in between. When I was 17 I worked part time on the No7 counter and so learnt quite a lot about the products and there are some real gems in their ranges that for me anyway outperform any high end alternative. 

No7 as I mentioned are owned by Boots and you can only find their products exclusively in a Boots store. The way the brand is organised is that there are different ranges for different ages and skin types. I think this is such a clever way to allow customers to navigate the many different product types that come under the umbrella "skincare", by sorting products by range it's easier to pick which products are most suitable for your skin type and you won't end up wasting money on products that are completely unsuitable for you. I've tried so many different No7 products and thought today I'd give you a quick mini-review of some of my stand out winning products. 

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Cleansing Balm 

Fun fact, this was the first product I ever went back to repurchase. This oil/gel based cleanser is amazing at removing makeup, I apply it to a dry face massaging into all my makeup (yes including my eyes) and then when you add water you get a love milky cleansing lotion. Perfect as a first step cleanse, I've gone through too many of these to count and can rely on it as a fail safe product if I just want to get my makeup off in a hurry without having to faff with micellar waters and cotton pads. 

Cleansing Oil 

This is exactly what it says on the tin. It's a one step cleanser, again I use it on top of makeup to remove everything, only difference with this is that it does leave behind some residue (not a bad thing, leaves my face clean and nicely prepped for second cleanse) and naturally being an oil it's a lot messier than the balm. I don't use this product on my eyes because I do think it stings once mixed with water, but if you've never tried a cleaning oil before and want. a fairly basic, inexpensive product to dip your toe into the world of cleansing oils then you can't go too far wrong. I nearly always have a bottle of this on the go in my bathroom cupboard and kind of don't see the point in paying for something more expensive when this one does the job so brilliantly. 

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Deep Hydration Mask 

I have a love hate relationship with this product but I think the hate part is down to my own skin rather than the product which is why it's been included. You can faintly see in the photo above that the product is made up of two components that swirl in the bottle and come out together as a almost foam/gel consistency. Very cooling on the face this mask has a whipped texture once applied, the first few months of using this I was obsessed and it left my skin feeling so soft and glowy I couldn't get enough. Then once the weather got warmer I think my skin obviously changed some how and when I applied this I instantly had a tingling/burning sensation and removed it straight away. It was really strange and I've used it with caution ever since, BUT considering I know lots of other people who know and love this, I'd put that down to my own personal experience rather than the product itself. Apply a thick layer and if you want you can rub the mask between your fingers to mix the two parts before applying to your face, I wouldn't recommend sleeping in this one because I found it doesn't sink all the way in so it can get a little messy. 

Pore Purifying Cleanser 

I won't lie I bought this product because I liked the idea of the built in brush component, but the actual cleanser was the part that surprised me. Its just a simple gel formula that doesn't foam at all, but it's actually does tingle on your skin. The same feeling that toothpaste gives your teeth that's what this cleanser does for your face (it's a strange analogy I know but go with it) The cleanse does't do anything out of the ordinary but my skin definitely feels cleaner after using it. The built in brush is a bit tough on the skin so I'd recommend using quite a bit of the cleanser and being gentle, a little goes a long way here. 

Overnight Radiance Boost Serum 

I'm including this last because it comes with a small disclaimer that the last time I checked this serum wasn't available anymore, but I think you may still be able to find it online. I wanted to include it anyway in case No7 re-release it, this is a rich serum that packs a punch. I did get through it quite fast but the results were great, my skin looked brighter and felt softer within a couple of days of using this. I only used this at night and stuck to just moisturiser during the day but I bought a backup of this online just in case they never bring it back because it's a great product that's not packed with dozens of unnecessary ingredients but that definitely brings results. 

 

 

Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Recipe

Bake off is back on our screens and its re-ignited my love of baking! Last week I attempted a show stopper cake and needless to say it didn’t quite go to plan, however this week I went with something a little more predictable and made these incredible chocolate chunk cookies from Tanya Burr’s blog. These cookies are meant to be super gooey and extra decadent which I figured was perfect for a rainy, September Tuesday night in front of the TV. The beauty of this recipe is it doesn’t use traditional chocolate chips, even though you definitely could, but you can add chunks of whatever chocolate you’ve got in the house. I went for Cadbury milk chocolate buttons and chunks of dark chocolate. Read on for the full recipe...

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Ingredients

200g butter

300g caster sugar

1 large egg

275g self-raising flour

75g cocoa powder

a little splash of milk (if needed)

As much chocolate as you need for the chunks


Method

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  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees and prep your baking trays with a sheet of baking paper. Good tip for getting the paper to stick is to put a tiny bit of butter in each corner to act as a glue.

  2. Take the butter and caster sugar and beat them together until light and fluffy, should resemble icing at this point (because thats essentially what it is)

  3. At this point add the egg and mix until the mixture goes slightly runnier

  4. Mix the cocoa powder and flour together in a bowl and add to the liquid mixture bit by bit, I like to add in a third at a time.

  5. The mixture should now start to come together, if it looks a little dry or if there’s bits crumbing then add a splash of milk. I’d recommend going with less milk than you think at first because it’s hard to balance the mixture out if you add too much.

  6. Now grad whatever chunks of chocolate you have that you want to add, this is a chance to spice up the recipe. I added Cadbury buttons and dark chocolate but you could add mint aero, or crunchy or milky bar for a hit of white chocolate.

  7. Roll the dough into balls just smaller than the palm of your hand, these are supposed to be decent sized cookies and their size is what helps then retain their gooey texture. So this mixture made about 10-12 cookies, I placed them on a baking tray, being sure not to squish the balls down too much otherwise they’ll spread out too much.

  8. This is quite important, you need to cook them for 11-12 minutes and then take them out of the oven, they won’t look like they’re done but I promise you don’t want to put them back into the oven. Leave them on the baking tray on the side to cool for about half an hour and they’ll be perfect for serving and enjoying with a cup of tea.


So there we have it! Perfectly gooey cookies, what I love about this recipe is that the basis of this is so flexible and can be transformed to include so many flavours, and they were so quick to make! About 10 minutes to combine all the ingredients and 11 minutes in the oven, by the time I got them out to cool I’d already tidied up the kitchen and had only been baking for about 20 minutes! Great if you’re looking to whip up something for a party or a housewarming, and I think they’d make a great Christmas gift if you tied batch up in a pretty box in your friends favourite flavour!

Let me know if you make these and if you’re following along with bake off! Enjoy x

What I read this summer | Book Reviews

There are so many good bits of summer its hard to count, and this summer for the first time in years and I do mean like 5 years I've actually had some proper downtime between jobs to actually relax! One of my New Years resolutions for the past few years has been to get back into reading, I used to be such a book worm when I was younger, but as soon as my school work stepped up (and my iPhone came into my life) I've been reading less and less. It got to the point where I'd buy a book and I wouldn't open it for a year or I'd literally take months to read one book or just give up and not read at all. You may have seen from my earlier post that we spent a long weekend in Cornwall, I decided I'd buy a new book and try and put a dent in it, which considering we had a 14 hour return journey to get there I didn't think I'd have an issue with that. Well...I was shocked to find how hard I was finding it to stay focused on my book! I'd find myself reaching for my phone every other page and taking breaks where I'd just stare out the window with my book in my hand, lacking focus in a big way. I took this as a sign that my phone had done some serious damage to my attention span, so reading needed to get back on the cards and quick, this lack of attention must be effecting me in other parts of my life as well. So although I only made it a third of the way through my book, I came home with determination to get back into reading and since then have raced through more books in the last month than I've read in the last year!! 

Something that's really helped me is the Good Reads app, since I do a lot of reading on my kindle I like that it keeps track of which books I've read and which books I've marked as 'to read'. Also having the yearly reading challenge has kept me motivated to keep reading, I love a challenge. At the moment I'm aiming for 20 books this year and I've read 5! (oops) but since there's 16 weeks left of 2018 I think I have a good chance at making it! If you have any recommendations for me I'd love to hear them, and please feel free to follow me on Good Reads! 

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Truly, Madly, Guilty - Liane Moriarty 

480 pages 

From the amazing writer of Big Little Lies, if you saw the TV show you'll know this writer is brilliant at writing strong female characters with a storyline that does their complex personas justice. I won't lie this is a big read for me and it took be a good 100 pages to properly get into this but when the tension started building and I couldn't stop! This story is set around the events of one evenings BBQ, there's a lot of build up before you actually find out what happens but I promise it's worth it, every line of back story just makes what happened that much more real and I personally was desperate for more pages so I could find out what happens next. A good summer read and long enough to keep you going for a full beach week (or like me a few days if you do nothing else but read and once you're into this that's probably what'll happen) 

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A Simple Favour - Darcey Bell 

384 Pages 

So one evening I fell down the black hole that is the marketing material for upcoming movie, A Simple Favour. Starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick, both actresses I love and as sometimes happens I get completely sucked into a movies marketing, I watch all the trailers and read all the interviews and then I found out that the film wasn't coming out for a few months! So I went straight on to amazon and bought the book and read it in 3 days which considering I wasn't on holiday these were just three normal days that's lightning fast for me! What I enjoyed about this book is that having watched the trailer for the film I already had an image of the characters and what their homes and setting looked like, the storyline is gripping to say the least! I think the review on the cover got it spot on 'a delicious poisoned cupcake of a story' it's glamorous and decadent but has such a detailed an gripping story that you know you shouldn't be spectating the worst but you can't help it! Imagine Gone Girl meets Gossip Girl (anything were Blake Lively plays someone even remotely glamorous and I get Serena Van Der Woodsen vibes) its spooky, thrilling and the ending is perfection! If you can't wait for the movie I suggest you pick this up immediately 

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Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

400 pages 

This book was everywhere this summer! Felt like everyone was reading it, this is the one I mentioned I downloaded before my trip to Cornwall and despite getting through the first third pretty quick I said to my family that the storyline was building but I found myself waiting for the twist to drop and it just wasn't happening. Anyway I picked this up again in Greece and polished it off pretty quick, being able to understand the characters is key to the whole plot. A baby is abandoned at a fire station and is allowed to be taken in by a well off couple who have wanted baby for years, the birth mother although single, with little money or stability is campaigning to get her baby back. A court case that shakes a normally very polite well to do town and the impact on one particular family runs deeper than expected. Beautiful storyline, again the ending made up for the fact that I found it a little slow. This title was picked as part of Reece Witherspoons book club and has got thousands of glowing reviews online. 

Year of Yes - Shonda Rhimes 

352 pages 

Ok so I've posted about this book a lot, and that's because I've been reading it on and off since January! Yes shamefully its taken me nearly 9 months to read this book, however, I will say that I don't think this kind of book is meant to be read all in one go. The life lessons Shonda talks about are topics that need to be digested and mulled over to truly get the benefit from them. Year of Yes is a kind of diary, as Shonda takes on the year long challenge of saying yes to everything that scares her and seeing where the year will lead. I think it's no surprise that we all as a generation suffer with a whole new kind of imposter syndrome, one that says 'I'm not the kind of person who does things like that' it can be taken in a positive way 'I'm not the kind of person to shut out my friends and family when I'm stressed' or it can be 'I'm not the kind of person who gives a speech to hundreds of people, even when I've been invited to' and I'll go into this more in another post later this week but I think it's a lot of to do with social media, and Shonda manages to talk about very real, very common issues make them funny without sounding like she's preaching, and if you're a fan of any of her tv shows then you should definitely read this because the stories she tells from working on Greys and Scandal are hilarious! 

So that's everything that I've read, I would say this summer but it's more like this month! Right now I'm reading "Everything I never told you" which is another novel from Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere. I'll definitely be sure to check in again in a month or two and let you know how I'm getting on with my reading challenge! Again if you have any recommendations I'd love to hear them! x

Late Summer Beauty Essentials | feat. Fresh Beauty & Jurlique

Although I know a lot of people (partly me included) are holding on to the last few weeks of summer before we all turn into pumpkin spiced latte drinking, roll neck jumper wearing, autumn fiends, but having had such amazing weather I wanted to share a few gems I've been reaching for these past few weeks. I've been keeping my beauty routines pretty minimal and letting my skin breathe in the heat this summer, however discovered a few absolute gems that I know will be in my routine well into Autumn and Winter so I thought I'd put together a quick blog post to share them with you. 

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Julique Radiant Skin Foaming Cleanser 

A new release from one of my favourite brands Jurlique in August, they released a whole new range of cleansers, from oils to cream there is one for every skin type. Jurlique only use the most amazing ingredients so when I received this I was so excited, it's very simular in texture to the Lancome mousse cleanser. A whipped velvety texture foams so beautifully on the skin and has a light exfoliating quality that leaves my skin glowing and soft but since I've got a tan from my holiday I've been trying to minimise how often I'm exfoliating to keep my tan as long as possible and since this cleanser is quite gentle it's been perfect for doing just that. The willow tree extract in this is what's going to lift all the dirt and impurities from your skin, lemon balm and liquorice are what's going to strengthen your skin against pollutants so you retain your glow. Lastly of course Jurlique to me are the best at harnessing the power of rose in all forms and this cleansers cherry on top is the rose Gallic flower extract which is going to deeply hydrate the skin leaving it feeling balanced and restored. This range of new cleansers from Jurlique will have something for everyone so definitely have a good read of all their beautiful active ingredients to find the one that's perfect for you. 

Dior Rosy Glow Blush 

So this is a pricey piece I picked up back in June has potential to be my favourite summer beauty product.. This colour adjusting blush has been on my Wishlist for so long and I am so glad I finally took the plunge because it's stunning, Also I'm quite glad I waited to buy it because they've redone the packaging and I much prefer it now. Although this blush looks really bright and overwhelming in the pan it's such a pretty natural colour on your face, it's designed to work for all skin types to give that 'I've just finished a light jog' kinda glow and I'm all about it. When applying I like to take a big fluffy brush and bring it down my cheekbones and into the centre apples of my cheeks. In summer I've been taking my blush further in towards my nose for a beachy, sun kissed complexion - a little trick I picked up from watching the being the scenes videos of the makeup artists doing the Victorias Secret angels makeup ( I can't be the only one desperate to replicate that glow) Definitely a splurge product but I don't mind spending money on powder products like a blush or an eye shadow palette because they last so much longer and I have a feeling this is going to continue to be a firm favourite well into the winter. 

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L'Oreal Extatic Paradise Mascara

A very recent favourite I packed with me to try on holiday last week, I've pretty much exclusively been a Maybelline Falsies fan for the past few years (other than the Marc Jacobs mascara which I love but was too pricey for an everyday purchase) So I ordered this from amazon of all places and have been seriously impressed, I think this is going to be one of those formulas I like more as it dries out a little but the brush is so nice! It's a thick, reasonably large brush with bristles, gives amazing length and definition to my lashes. Only thing its missing is a little more volume, so if you have little lashes this may be one to avoid. Overall though I'm really impressed, but considering the hype I knew this would be a keeper.

Fresh Beauty Lip Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment

The best till last, this balm is out of this world amazing. Seriously. I'm not often a fan of tinted balms because I find they slip and leave my chin feeling greasy or they just don't give the right amount of colour. This amazing lip treatment from Fresh is a complete game changer! The first thing I noticed about this balm is the texture, it's so rich and nourishing it truly is a balm in the way we know a cleansing balm to be, rather than your standard lip balm - super rich, very smooth feeling and it doesn't slip off my lips which is one of the main reasons I love this so much. The other reason being that the colour of this is my perfect 'my lips but better' colour, pink enough to brighten up my face but still nude enough to look very polished and put together, it's the perfect combination of a lip butter and a lipstick. It is on the pricier side for a lip balm, but the metal packaging is so luxe feeling and the actual product formula itself is so special I have already looked into the other.colours to add to my makeup bag. These balms would make a gorgeous gift for the beauty lover, because although its small looking, they'll no doubt find it's one of those products you reach for everyday. I can't wait to see how this tackles the end of September weather change that always makes my lips unbearably chapped. Fingers crossed! 

The Haircare Edit | The Basics

I've had a rollercoaster relationship with my hair over the years, it tends to follow a pattern of me loving my hair super long and growing it out as much as I can before it turns and goes very dead on the ends until I end up chopping about 5/6 inches off and having it collarbone length and repeating the cycle pretty much yearly. I used to be much worse at getting my hair cut but now I like to try and go two to three times per year, I've never coloured my hair and although I toy with the idea I know my hair is much healthier and less maintenance because I stick to my natural colour. 

I've picked up lots of little habits for caring for my hair over the years but its not something I've ever really blogged about before so I thought I'd put together a haircare edit all about the kinds of products I like to use, tips for styling and caring for my hair as well as some bad hair day tips and a few science-y haircare bits to bare in mind as well. I'll do more focused haircare edits for how to grow your hair, risks to take, ways to control curls ect. I always love getting feedback on my posts so if there's something you'd like to know more about I'm happy to put my thoughts together in a post. For today however lets just jump into the basics. 

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As I've mentioned my hair type is pretty long, very thick, and it has a natural curl/wave to it. If I don't blow dry my hair I do get quite unruly curls and some frizz which I'm not a fan of so although I know its naughty I am a big fan of my hairdryer and don't see myself embracing my natural hair anytime soon. With my hair being as thick as it is I pretty much always get layers cut in to get rid of some of the weight but I also think it gives my hair some nice shape at the back and it works with my natural curls/waves really well. I try and stick to the same haircare routine for a few months at a time, or change it up as the seasons change just to try and give my hair time to feel the benefit. 

Some of my haircare product basics include...

  • Shampoo and Conditioner - I tend to spend a little more money on my shampoo and conditioner, purely because I am a fan of washing my hair almost daily so if I'm going to be using these products that regularly then it's worth investing in something thats going to be better for my hair. In terms of product type I like a volumising or shine formula and I always buy matching shampoo and conditioner, I feel like they were developed to work best together so why not use them as they were intended. Another bonus of buying products in a bigger size is that they often come with pumps that dispense the perfect amount of product so you don't need to worry about going through product too quickly or wasting any, when I started using the pumps I was surprised as how little shampoo I actually needed, try halving the amount you use and see how your hair feels and I think you'll be surprised. 
  • Post wash styling product - A huge mistake often made is thinking your hair can take multiple hair products and they'll work as they're meant to. There's only so much your hair can take before it'll just look greasy and weighed down. When I'm out the shower and my hair is wet that's when I use a smoothing cream or a shine balm to lock in moisture, focusing on an oil or cream based product and where I can I like to buy styling products that have built in heat protection so I don't have to use another separate product. If I'm going on a night out and I plan on curling my hair then I'll use a volumising mousse but this is on very rare occasions . In the summer if I'm trying to keep my routine low maintenance I love a spray in conditioning spray, the Aussie one in particular is a long term favourite. 
  • Post blow dry - Again keeping it quite simple so my hair doesn't feel crunchy or greasy, the most I'll ever use is a texture spray or a shine mist to hold my hairs texture. However day to day I normally just wash and go for ease. 

Day to Day haircare tips...

  • Don't be afraid to really work your shampoo right down to the root of your scalp to make sure you get a lifted clean feeling. With long hair I never condition any higher than my ears to make sure my hair feels cleaner for longer. 
  • If you're going to use dry shampoo I recommend applying it the night before, don't brush it through but sleep with your hair in a low bun or a plait to maximise on natural looking texture. This just means the product will have longer to soak up any excess oil in your hair and it'll mean you're fresh and ready to go when you wake up the next morning. 
  • When blowdrying your own hair point the air from scalp to tip for a glossier smoother finish, this makes sure all your follicles on each hair are smoothed in the right direction.
  • However a good tip if you're planning to curl your hair or if you just want maximum texture and volume is to either blow dry your hair with your head upside down or turning the hairdryer the other way round so the air is pointing up from tip to root, this will mean your hair follicles don't dry as smooth and each strand will have more surface area to *grip* the curl and it'll hold for longer. Again, this tip isn't good for your hairs condition long term but for big nights out and events it's a handy way to hold style without having to use a tonne of product. 
  • After blowdrying your hair, when the hair is ideally still warm, twist your hair at the nape of your neck until it twists in on itself to form a bun. Wear it like this until you get wherever you're going and then let it down, you'll be left with natural waves and it's a quick way to look like you've spent ages curling your hair. 
  • A hairbrush with vents through it will let your hair dry much quicker. 
  • If you're going to towel dry your hair before you blow dry it then to keep your hair as strong as possible, try squeezing the water out rather than rough drying it, and if you can help it don't twist your hair up into a towel either. When your hair is wet it's at it's weakest so it needs to be treated with care to avoid breakage and split ends. Always reach for a wide toothed comb instead of a brush when your hair is wet, it'll do the same job with knots but your hair will thank you for less breakage. 
  • If you've got any fly aways or baby hairs you want to smooth, try spraying hairspray on an un-used tooth brush and smoothing the hairs down, spraying directly will leave your hair crunchy. 
  • The best hairspray (and I know this from YEARS of dance exams and dance concerts) is L'Oreal Elnett, it brushes right out after you're done and holds hair like nothing else. The smell for me is so nostalgic of when I was younger because it's all my mum would use on us for all our performances and it always held though hours of sweat. 
  • I rarely bother with shop bought hair masks, purely because I've yet to find one that isnt just a pot of conditioner with double the price tag, for a moisture hit I'd recommend coconut oil or another hair oil like Argan Oil or Morrocan Oil on your ends only or putting conditioner through your hair and leaving it overnight before you wash your hair in the morning. 
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Haircare ingredients to look out for 

  • Keratin - Keratin is the very fibrous protein that our hair is made out of, so when you see products marketed with Keratin you can expect stronger and healthier hair benefits. By adding Keratin to your haircare routine you'll be reinforcing your hairs natural protein structure which will help combat signs of damage from everyday pollution and heat styling. You don't need to spend a lot of money to get the benefits of Keratin, brands like Tresemme and Garnier have shampoo and conditioner ranges with added Keratin. 
  • Zinc - This is an ingredient to look for to combat certain hair concerns like hair loss or an irritated scalp, the benefits are that it balances the effect of hormones on your hair, keeps your scalp calm and healthy and nourishes hair root to tip. Again the best way of adding this into your routine if you think you need it is through your shampoo and conditioner. 
  • Sea Salt - Might seem random and completely counteractive but having raw rock salt or sea salt in your shampoo is a gentle and natural way of clarifying your hair and giving amazing lift at the root. The 'BIG' shampoo from Lush is a great example of this, I wouldn't recommend this as part of your everyday routine but I like to use it as a pre-night out treat or if I'm in need of a good hair day, it leaves my hair feeling lighter and super clean but with amazing volume, if you have long, thick hair like mine you'll know thats quite a hard result to get. 
  • Biotin or Vitamin H/B - These ingredients are absolutely essential if you're trying to grow out your hair. When your hair is getting enough biotin it will immediately stimulate growth. We know our hair is made up of Keratin, but our hair protein is also made up of amino acids which are the product of the cell enzyme in your hair and biotin! Another great way of getting Vitamin H/B into your routine is to take a daily supplement or vitamin, I take a daily all-in-one vitamin from Centrum that has my daily allowance of everything we need including Vitamin H and B! 
  • Sulphates - Ok so if you've watched Queer Eye (and if you haven't then drop everything and go do that right now!) then you'll know how much Hair Queen Jonathon Van Ness preaches about going sulphate free with your shampoo, I'll explain why. Sulphates are the detergent in your shampoo that makes it lather and bubble, but sulphates are also found in household cleaning products *I know*. Sulphates dry out your hair and scalp, they dramatically increase colour fading and hair loss. Personally I've tried non-sulphate shampoos and I just can't go without the lather, but if you haven't tried going sulphate free then I'd 100% recommend you give it a go! However if like me you can't get along with it then make sure you're maximising your haircare routine to counteract the effects of sulphates, maybe add a Keratin rich hair mask to your routine once a week, or cut down on heat styling or maybe look into adding an oil or leaving in conditioner to make sure your hair stays in top condition. 
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Travel Diary | Zakynthos, Greece

If you've been following my instagram stories for the past week you may have noticed a little change in scenery, my family and I have been on our summer holiday to the gorgeous island of Zakynthos (also known as Zante) in beautiful Greece! Having had such a gorgeous summer weather wise it wasn't so much the weather we were craving but the uninterrupted down time. With all of us always being so busy this is the first full week all of us have had free in a very long time, so we had to make the most of it! I've got a few snaps to share and I hope you enjoy them, we stayed in an amazing traditional Greek villa in the mountains and spent our days catching up by the pool, swimming in the sea and exploring the many coastal restaurant locations Zakynthos had to offer. The highlight of the trip for me had to be the boat trip we took on our last day. My family love water so much and have always gravitated towards the sea, we felt very at home taking a boat out to explore the coastline, the Kiri caves as well as turtle island, the water was like nothing I've ever seen and despite being quite apprenhensive, jumping straight off the boat into the ocean turned into one of my most treasured memories of the week.

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My sister and I's rooms had a shared terrace with the most amazing view over the mountains, watching the sun rise and set from here was one of the most relaxing moments of the whole week. 

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I always tend to read more on holiday anyone else get that? In one week I managed to read all of Truly, Madly, Guilty. I finished 'Little fires everywhere' and 'Year of Yes' a little under 1000 pages. Accompanied with a glass of rose it was the perfect pool side companion, second only to catching up with my family. With everything being so busy at home it's nice to just sit and chat and reconnect 

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One of the views we had from dinner right on the beach, the island in the background is Kefalonia and if you look further to the right you'll see another of the gorgeous islands in the background, it's easy to see how people go island hopping and never come back

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Exploring the Old Zante Town for dinner was one of our favourites that we kept coming back to, the square in the middle is full of children playing whilst parents graze on food and chat, I love how in traditional Mediterranean towns like this everyone, even the children, stay up so late and come out once its cool. 

The lunch on the right was my standard order for most of the week, pork, chicken or lamb gyros with a greek salad for the table. If you're ordering for dinner expect it to come on a plate in a DIY style, just as delicious. 

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This was our view heading out of the bay in our boat, so beautiful to see all the villas up on the hill with families out on their terraces. This particular day was scorchingly hot so even the locals stayed under shade. 

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The photo above is what I meant when I said the water was like nothing I'd ever seen, tie dyed colours of bright blue and deep teal made the water seem bottomless and in the sunshine the colours came to life like something out of a jewellers window. Although we've been to this coastline about ten years ago, something about the water I just couldn't look away. 

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We found a gorgeous cove to anchor in, and after a motivational speech from both my mum and sister (if you've seen my instagram recently you'll know I've been trying to be #10percentbraver) I took the plunge and dove in off the side of the boat *for future reference I'd recommend keeping your mouth closed* but this water was so clear I could see all the way to the bottom, and it was beautifully warm, we all happily paddled around for hours. I've never seen water so clear so to swim in it with the mountains above was completely breath taking. 

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I can think of worse ways to spend a Thursday afternoon, we lay in the sun trying to decide which one of us had been braver for jumping in and listened to the waves. So peaceful and actually quite uplifting to realise how un-scary jumping in had turned out to be

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We spent the rest of the day exploring the caves, chatting and checking out the turtle nest sanctuary. We even saw a turtle on our way back to the bay which was an expected surprise

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Not a bad view for a scoop of ice cream to wash the taste of salt from a day on the boat..

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This final photo is probably my favourite, we were flying home on the Friday lunchtime and mum and I had made plans to get a few hours by the pool before we left, and weirdly without an alarm I woke up at 6:55am (not a habit of the week I can assure you) just in time to watch the most amazing sunrise from the terrace outside my room, absolutely breathtaking and such a calming way to end the week. 

I'm hoping to get the boyfriend on a plane before the end of the year but I've still got lots of travel snaps to share so I'll still be posting travel diaries far into the winter! Any destination recommendations please let me know!

Travel Diary | LA & Huntingdon Beach, California

Another travel diary today and after years of sharing holiday snaps I'm writing about my happy place, my favourite place on earth and somewhere I recommend to people constantly, you'll have already seen the title but today's post is all about Huntingdon Beach and Central LA/Hollywood. I've been to California twice for 2/3 week per trip and can honestly say some of my happiest memories are in California, we've stayed at the same hotel during both trips and it's the most beautiful place. 

Central LA is definitely a bucket list place, not the most relaxing place on earth but the history there is amazing and you can't help feeling like every corner you turn and street you stand on was once a part of film history. I'm a huge film fan so exploring the museums and landmarks you do get a sense of movie magic. I've got another few travel diary's coming up covering Newport Beach and San Diego but today we're exploring the beautiful Huntingdon Beach, the surfers paradise, but if you're more beach than board I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised. 

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The hotel we stayed at is the Hyatt Regency Huntingdon Beach, you may recognise it from the 90210 TV series, but it's without a doubt the most stunning hotel I've ever stayed in and the setting could not be more idyllic. There's a private beach owned by the hotel with a bridge that leads directly over to the shorefront. This hotel feels like a little coastal village, its huge in size, has a surf shop, a few restaurants for whatever you're in the mood for, and a coffee shop. My favourite part of this hotel is the fire pits, you pick up a smokes pack from the coffee shop and spend the evening watching the sunset and toasting marshmallows in these huge comfy armchairs. Just thinking about the hours my family have spent together there gives me the warm fuzzies. The hotel is a luxury but family friendly resort and I hope to go back one day...to be continued


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The attention to detail around the hotel is what makes the biggest difference, little touches like fun fruit water in reception, to the hand-painted signs outside. One of my favourite memories is all my family hiring bikes one morning and cycling up the coastline. Fun fact but I didn't learn to ride a bike till my teens and although I'm definitely not the best or most confident cyclist, riding a bike down the beach paths felt so exciting, it did help that the bikes were all gorgeous colours and came complete with a basket 

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Such a gorgeous sunset, completely unfiltered. The California coast is known for it's gorgeous views and Huntingdon Beach does not disappoint. The street through Huntingdon Beach are full of independent restaurants and in the evenings the streets are lined with musicians, artists and performers. There's such a relaxed vibe around the whole area, there's no need for full faces of makeup or fancy dresses which is why I love it so much, it's such a relaxing part of the world. 


Central LA traffic is no joke, it has a reputation for a reason. However because of the size of LA I'd highly recommend getting a car for your trip, unless you plan on staying in one area the whole time, and with a car comes the traffic. So get yourself a decent playlist and try and enjoy the ride.

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Hollywood is such a fun and busy part of LA, along just one road you can tick off so many must see sights, the Dolby Theatre (home of the oscars), the Hollywood sign, the walk of fame and the Disney El Capitan Theatre. As a tourist you've got to be careful around central Hollywood because it's a hotbed for pic-pockets, but it's got such a buzzy atmosphere it's 100% worth the trip. 

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If you're a Disney fan you've got to go to the El Capitan theatre, it's such a hidden part of Disney's history. This historic cinema/theatre is where every Disney film is premiered worldwide, you can see all new releases here before anywhere else! We went to see Zootopia when we went and the theatre itself is gorgeous. If you're near the El Capitan make sure to visit the ghirardelli ice cream shop next door, it's also owned by Disney as part of the theatre but I promise you you've never seen an ice cream shop with so many flavours. 

As for other things to do in Central LA, it goes without saying that doing a movie lot tour is a must! Go behind the scenes at Warner Brothers studios or Sony and walk into the sets of some of the best tv shows and films of all time, we saw the sound stage where they recorded the soundtrack for jaws, The Wizard of Oz, James Bond and Finding Nemo. I'll also never forget the collective gasp from my family when we walked into a pretty plain looking building at Warner Brothers and straight into the coffee shop set from Friends, as a film and tv fan the studio tours should be your first stop. They really make the movies come to life and offer some truly special memories. 

A family favourite when we're in LA is to go to the baseball! Warning the games are very very long but it's good fun and the atmosphere is well worth it. 

Ok so I think that's part one done for now, I'll be back with more Central LA recommendations soon because there's just so many and we've not even touched on food yet! If any of you are heading to LA in the near future and want some more specific recommendations pop me a message on social media and I'll happily help 

 

Product Review | PMD Clean Review

If you've been reading my skincare blog posts for a while you'll know the history I've had with acne and how important it is to me to be super efficient when I'm cleansing. There are some truly incredible cleansers on the market but sometimes they need a little help, and that's where facial  brushes like the PMD Clean comes in. I've used traditional facial brushes before, the ones with the brush heads that look like giant toothbrushes? When I had severe acne they really worked for me to make sure all traces of makeup were removed and my skin was super clean. 

A little bit more about PMD, they started with the original PMD device (or personal microderm device) is known world wide as an at-home alternative to a professional Microderm treatment, its helped thousands of people worldwide combat common skincare issues such as ageing, acne and hyper pigmentation. Since then they've developed two additional products, the PMD Clean and the PMD Kiss. What I love about this brand is that they focus on what your skincare results will do for you, they really help you focus on having brilliant confidence from your skin rather than just improving your skin which I think is a much healthier way to look at it. 

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Starting with how I use it, personally for me I use this device as part of my second cleanse. Once I've removed all my makeup (first cleanse) I'll then take a gel or foaming cleanser directly onto the brush and apply to wet skin. There's no timer here but since the bristles are so soft you can time your cleanse based on your own face, with previous brushes I found it annoying when it shut off because I hadn't finished. I like to start on my forehead, focusing on big circular motions. I like to use this in the shower and when I do the micro-bristles mean I can get right up into my hairline and get those areas that are normally missed with a manual cleanse.

I focus on 4 key zones on my face, forehead, each cheek and then my nose, upper lip area and chin. I find doing each section one by one helps to focus the cleaning power and I get the best results. Once I've cleansed my face I like to take the brush up my neck in big sweeping motions, making sure to always work product up the neck towards the face to help promote your skins natural elasticity. Personally I know I'm guilty of sweeping makeup down my neck and then not cleansing it off properly at night so this has really helped me get in a good habit that I'm sure my skin will thank me for. 

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The kinds of cleansers that work best with this I find are cleansers that have a bit of a foam to them, my current favourite cleanser from Jurlique is gorgeous with this but I also noticed great results with a cream cleansing lotion although I apply those to a dry face so the brush doesn't glide over the skin as nicely as when you use it with water. 

I bought my first face brush as a gift to myself when I was 15 or 16 and it was £50 which is a considerable investment, these PMD brushes are slightly more expensive coming in at the £80-90 mark however, I will say that I think this is going to last better than my previous brush, it's a million times more hygienic because it's made of silicone, you can use it in the shower and overall I've been blown away by the results of this compared to my last brush. Definitely something to ask for as a gift, but I'd say if you can afford it it'd make a really great "to me, love me" gift and would be a great investment. 

Travel Diary | Port Issac, Cornwall

This past week you may have seen on Instagram stories that my family and I booked a last minute trip to Cornwall! As a family we've always loved it there and my parents have been making more and more frequent visits this year and we've discovered so many new-to-us places along the coast that we've loved exploring. As you can also probably tell I've been loving playing with the huji app and although I wasn't sure on it at first, there's something about the way it captured the Cornish coastline that I'm obsessed with. We were primarily staying in Port Issac, but we ventured out everyday to find the best beaches and tastiest fresh food that Cornwall had to offer. If you've got any recommendations of places to visit in Cornwall or restaurants you love then my family and I would love to hear all about it! For now though, here are my snaps from our trip. 

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Beautiful Rock Beach, overlooking Padstow - As well as having some of the fluffiest sand we saw in Cornwall, it provided the best viewing point for watching the dozens of dogs making the most of the waves. We chatted for hours, ate Davidstowe cheddar sandwiches and were thankful for the view in the photo above for making the climb back up the stairs in the heat worth it. 

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Home for the week - Port Issac, home to TV show Dr Marten, has all the Cornish highlights you'd expect. Falling asleep to the waves crashing and waking up to the sound of seagulls and a view of the bay, although the village seems small it's got enough restaurants to feast yourself on, and with the fish barely travelling 50 metres from boat to bowl it's as fresh and you'll find anywhere. 

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I'm about half-way through this book but sadly didn't get into it as quickly as I hoped I would, but because of all the amazing reviews I'm going to stick with it - as if Port Issac wasn't escapism enough. 

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A family favourite - Watergate Bay is one of my parents favourite places to visit in Cornwall and it's not hard to understand why. With amazing waves it's a surfers paradise and perfect for dogs and families, for us though? You'll find us at our happiest, in our deck chairs pimms in hand, nibbling at salt and vinegar crisps chatting away about adventures old and new. 

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Lunch with a view @ Watergate Bay - Chicken and avocado burger for me, Spicy noodle salad for Dad, Crab Linguine for Mum and Beef Burger for my sister - fries all round and a view that's perfect for people-watching. 

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We had the best day on Watergate Beach, it's hard to imagine since we were there in August but my parents were telling us about mornings they'd had on this beach in winter when they were the only people here. I don't know about you, but I think I love the English seaside just as much in the winter when it's cold and rainy as I do in the summer.

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Ice cream just tastes better by the sea - Probably because the sea air tires you out but I slept like a baby the whole trip, we ticked all the foodie favourites off our list (Cornish pasty, Mr Whippy Ice Cream, Fish and Chips, anything with crab in) and had a lovely break just being away from our phones and away from the reality of work and just catch up with each other. 

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We went for dinner at one of the restaurants in Port Issac called The Mote and had the tastiest meal! My sister had steak, my Dad had the fish pie, Moulles Marinere for Mum and I had the spicy crab linguine which was absolutely delicious. We were all starving from our day on the beach so naturally food was the main topic of conversation, as well as a lot of passing around mouthfuls so everyone could try a bit of everything.  

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If you're heading to Cornwall it's hard to resist popping into Padstow for a wander through the lanes. If you've never been before you can expect some beautiful galleries and gift shops, lots of independent bakeries and clothes shops - oh and a lot of Rick Stein! We spent an afternoon wandering in and out of galleries looking at beautiful fish murals and Cornwall inspired watercolour prints.

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This photo below was the view my sister and I had from our bedroom window and it's one of my favourites from the whole trip, I love how blue and clear the water was in Port Issac you could have mistaken it for a Mediterranean island, and watching the fog roll in over the tops of the houses became a morning ritual. It'd been years since I'd been to Cornwall and this week has well and truly restored my love for it, looking forward to venturing back again soon x 

What I learnt from living in my first flat

It was roughly a year ago I packed away my textbooks and joined the working world, for those of you getting your degree grades this week congratulations! Your next step may be to think about finding a flat or somewhere to live, I've just moved out of my first flat, we were there for a year and although we definitely had our ups and downs with it, we loved it none the less. I thought since it's about that time of year that I'd share some tips on how to successfully rent your first flat and some things to look out for that I've picked up from this past year. 

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1. Research your letting agent

This is the number one thing I'd recommend. Although my flatmate and I absolutely loved our flat this past year, we had so many issues with our letting agent from day one and it did put a dampener on things. So definitely ask friends in the area if they've ever rented with that agent before, or check them out on google reviews or social media because in theory the letting agent is supposed to make your life easier. Don't be fooled by them putting pressure on you, you may find that they're not the only agent letting out apartments in that building, if in doubt call the building/development owner and ask which letting agents they are aware of or that they'd recommend. Things to look out for on reviews are, if people have had trouble getting in touch, or emergency repairs not being dealt with, and any mention of deposit issues and I'd personally stay well away. Especially if this is your first time renting, always get a second opinion on what they're telling you and always ask them to clarify in writing what you're actually paying for before you pay for anything. Basically just get to know who you're working with before you commit to anything. 

2. Take photos of everything 

In the unfortunate event that you do end up renting with an agent who is slightly less than helpful you probably won't know that until an issue occurs. On the day you move in and even when you first go to view the property, take photos of everything. Ideally on a phone because then it'll be time, date and even location stamped to prove authenticity. We managed to get back hundreds of pounds on our deposit by having photos from the day we moved in. A photo counts as concrete evidence and for the sake of a few snaps here and there it's worth covering your own back. 

Times to take video/photos

  • - viewing 
  • - date of move in 
  • - any issues throughout ( eg. if an engineer comes out to fix something like an oven or a window ect take photos of the window before and after in case any damage is caused. 

3. Email don't phone 

The same as photos, a way to make sure your back is covered is to always email through an issue instead of phoning the office, by phoning the office there's no proof of what was said during the conversation or who you spoke to. By putting things in writing again it'll be time and date stamped and there's no way to prove it didn't happen, and should you not get a response then send as many follow up emails as necessary until you do. It's even easier to keep track of things if you can keep it all on the same email thread, that way should there be any miscommunications you can just go through that one chain and see where things went wrong. 

4. Shop around 

I'd highly recommend figuring out what your non-negotiables are and sticking to them, but then bare in mind that everything else is ok to be flexible. So if location and price are top of your wish list then you may have to compromise on having a good view or a private parking space. Don't be afraid to widen your search, you may be surprised with the gems you find. 

5. Don't stretch your budget - there's a budget for a reason 

With your first flat its very easy to get carried away with the budget and keep stretching it by an extra £50 here or there, but trust me you'll thank yourself for being strict with yourselves. When we went flat hunting we set up 4 viewings all in the same day and it worked really well, the difference between the flats was so obvious and we did pick different flats all at different price ranges so we could see what our money could get us. In the end we went with the flat we both had started the day saying we thought was the one *typical* and as that was viewing number two of four so we decided not to see the others in the end. The one flat that was slightly over budget actually cancelled our viewing the morning of so we took that as a sign that it just wasn't meant to be. Keep in mind all the additional costs you'll have on top of rent like electric bills, council tax, do you need a gym membership or a travel card? You'll be thankful you didn't blow the budget on rent when it actually comes to paying it. 


So there we have it! I really hope that was useful for you and you hopefully picked up some tips and tricks. Having your own flat can be both scary and exciting but as long as you read the fine print, stay realistic to what you can afford and do your research you'll have a great time! 

My experience switching to squarespace

When I decided I wanted to re-do the blog back in January, I started thinking of designs almost immediately, that was and very much still is a huge part of my blog, it's something I think makes it unique and is the first real way for people to get a feel for you and your personality. I knew I wanted to move away from blogger, having used the platform for nearly 5 years it was just starting to become quite limited in what I could do. Blog post layouts weren't as creative and if I wanted a new design I had to go and buy one and go through the very long process of having it installed. Anyway, a few friends of mine have been using Squarespace for a few years and having had a play on the fire trial version a year ago I knew I liked the user interface, I like the professionalism behind the whole look of the site and I could build my own design from scratch so I decided to go for it. I've been using Squarespace for roughly 3 months now as my blog went live at the end of March, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on how I found the switch and if I'm still happy with the platform. 

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Ok so first things first I can't say enough good things about Squarespace's customer service, they have a 24/7 phone line, an online chat and an email service and I've never had to wait longer than a few hours for my answer. Couldn't be more hopeful and the team are always more than willing to help you figure out any technical issues, even if its not necessarily Squarespace related. This has been so amazing in transitioning the blog, I was so worried I'd lose the last 5 years worth of content but I was able to import it all in about 20 minutes! There was some reformatting to do to make sure the layouts were right but other than that it was a relatively painless process. 

The design process was a little tricker to get to grips with but its nothing than spending time playing with it couldn't fix. Squarespace works that there's a range of different templates you can pick and each template comes with different unique features, for example the one I picked comes with the banner at the top that's unique to only a few templated. From there you can customise it as you'd like it and add in the features you want. Essentially this is the reason I chose to move to Squarespace, because you can fully customise your site and you can change it at any point and I often do sit and change up certain pages of the blog if I feel like it's getting stale. With YouTube being full of tutorials on creating beautiful site layouts I watched dozens of these as I built my site, which took just over two months. I much prefer my design now to when I was on blogger, I think it's more professional looking, its easy to adapt it depending on my content or the time of the year. 

Something I have noticed that I'm not sure wether or not its down to having a new domain and the rebrand or Squarespace itself but my page views are on average down on what I was getting when I was on blogger, even though I'm having all my passive traffic from the intern diaries redirected to here. I have heard through the internet that Squarespace on average isn't as SEO friendly as other platforms and therefore doesn't drive as much organic traffic, I need to do some more research into this because long term it really could hinder the blogs growth but it's early days so we'll see. 

I do pay a monthly fee to host through squarespace but that included my domain name, my monthly hosting, all the design features and the 24/7 support, I was hesitant about paying for it months but I figured I'd happily pay membership fees for any other hobby I had so why not. The blog is something I can see myself having for a very long time and it's worth getting the foundations of it right now. 

Some other features that I like is that you can link all of your social media profiles and choose when you publish a post wether to post to all your platforms with one click, you can add custom HTML to really maximise on customisable design. There's tonnes of built in features like gallery walls, archives, twitter feeds ect that you can add with one click. The more I use the style editor the easier I find it to make things my own, all fonts, colours and sizes are fully changeable and from a bloggers point of view I don't really want my blog to look like everyone else's so its vital that I can change things around super quickly when the mood takes me. I like being able to build a blog post on the page instead of in a 'post editor' window like on blogger, I'm able to get a much better idea of what it's going to look like on the actual page instead of having to click preview one thousand times. 

For the remainder of 2018 at least I plan on sticking with Squarespace because of the easy design capabilities but I am definitely going to need to look into how to improve SEO and do some reading on wether or not it's the platform holding me back or just because its a new brand. My advice to anyone looking to switch to Squarespace would be, use your 2 week free trial to get to know the design editor, read through the squarespace website as they tell you all about the different templates and how you can use each one, and then make sure you know what you want your site to look like because it truly is a blank canvas and if you don't know what you want that could be very overwhelming. 

If you've got any questions on Squarespace please feel free to drop me an email - lornaelizabethblog@gmail.com and I'd be happy to answer any of your questions if I can. 

Amazing places to eat in London - Vol 1

If you've been following me on instagram for a while you'll know that I'm moving to London in September and I could not be more excited. My boyfriend and I make it our mission to try as many fun new food places as we can every time we go, and we've found some real gems. Some of these you may already have heard of and some may be completely new, but I'm going to give you a run down of what they serve, what you should order and what makes them so special. 


Braisserie Zedel

I've not been here in a few years but when my boyfriend and I booked a London weekend for our 1 year anniversary, we want to go to dinner somewhere a little special, however couldn't afford somewhere too extravagant and that's where Zedels came in.  It has the most amazing location, set in a basement just off Picadlly Circus it feels like stepping back in time. We had the set menu of 3 courses plus a glass of champagne and it cost us £30pp which in centra London is a steal! That being said this is a traditional parisian brasserie and the menu is exactly that, expect beef bourguinon and moulles mariniere, and the food is absolutely delicious. 

I ordered the salmon and the boyfriend had the beef bourguignon and I have to say I had serious food envy because his beef was melt in the mouth delicious. We finished the meal with coffee and dessert and left very happy. The restaurant was filled with parties and couples on dates and families having dinner before rushing off to the theatre, it feels like a well kept secret the amount of stairs you have to go down to get there. 

 

The Bluebird Cafe 

If you're after somewhere outside with comfy chairs and an extensive selection of rose then I'd have to Recommend the Bluebird Cafe on the Kings Road. We were in London in April and it was absolutely scorching outside and our feet had given up on us after so much walking, and we decided to spend the afternoon in the sun doing nothing more than eating and drinking and having seen many an instagram snapped there we headed for the Bluebird, covered in flowers and scattered with tables of people doing business, catching up and we could have sworn the couple in the corner were on a first date it makes the perfect setting for a sunny afternoon.

I ordered the chicken caesar salad and a glass of pale rose and the boyfriend ordered fish and chips [that was big enough it could have fed us both for a week] and a beer. In total it cost us about £40-50 which is on the higher end of the scale of what I'd expect for a lunch but the food was so good and the setting was amazing I'd happily go back in a heartbeat. Note: I saw someone have a fishcake salad on the table next to us and I will definitely be ordering that next time. 

 

Franco Manca

Ok so this one probably won't be such a surprise to a lot of people but I had to include it because it's something I look forward to every time we go to London. Franco Manca make the tastiest sourdough pizzas I've ever had, there's a tonne of topping choices on the menu, there's always a queue out the door for a table and a classic margarita pizza will set you back about £6.50. Yes really. It was one of those places I'd heard about but had never been until this past Christmas, I'll set the scene, it was -4 in London we'd been on our feet for 8+ hours and were starving! We'd already planned to try and find a Franco Manca if we could and when the time came and we finally accepted defeat I google map searched for one and we were literally 50 metres away from one. Needless to say, two pizzas, a rosemary and sea salt sharing bread and two diet cokes later - we were fans for life. Since then we've revisited many times and when we move to London we will absolutely be taking full advantage of their take away service [much to the concern of our waistlines]. I always so classic and order the margarita with fresh basil, he always orders the one with spicy sausage and we always dip our crusts in the olive oil left on the table. It's become a borderline tradition 

 

Pix Pinto Tapas

Stumbling across this hidden gem truly was a happy accident, I went to London last summer to meet up with my friend Jazz and because of all the chatting and shopping we didn't realise we were both starving! Anyway we were down Carnaby street and spotted a tiny little restaurant with a tapas sign above the door. It's the coolest concept, all the tapas dishes are made fresh and you get give a plate and you go inside and help yourself to as many of the smaller plates as you'd like and then you're charged per small plate, kind of like Yo Sushi style dining. Jazz and I both went for the cod croquette, the goats cheese and fig crostini and the patatas bravas and it was so delicious. Although they're expensive I'd highly recommend ordering a Pimms, they are huge and are made with prosecco instead of lemonade which is so refreshing. A great spot for sitting outside, people watching and catching up. 

 

Alto by San Carlo 

This was my most recent restaurant visit and it 100% lived up to it's reputation! On the roof of Selfridges on Oxford Street they've transformed a little bit of London into an Italian escape, everything from the oranges and vines in the lift, to the Italian speaking chefs and waitresses I was a little bit in awe of how detailed everything was! With it being World Cup season the patio was home to a giant TV screen surrounded by brazillian football fans and the atmosphere was incredible. 

The menu is an Italian style menu, all portions are slightly smaller than on a normal menu and the idea is that you order three or four and share between two or more if there's more of you. We ordered two of the pizza breads to share and a portion of truffle parmesan fries [the worlds greatest decision] and as per usual I had a glass of pale rose and the boyfriend had a beer. We sat in the flower veranda in the sunshine and it was a beautiful way to spend a Friday afternoon. Definitely a meal to save for something special. 

 

Summer bodycare edit

With this weeks heatwave telling us its well and truly summer, we're all grabbing our loofas and hitting the bath tub for a head to toe pamper session so those cute denim shorts from last summer don't seem so intimidating. I love a good body care product and nothing feels better than a long bath, scrub and lotion routine, so I've compiled a guide to some of the best body care I've ever used that's not only super effective but good value for money to help you sift through the gimmicks and find some simple body care that isn't going to cut into your tanning time. 

Keep reading for some beautifully scented all-natural skincare products, that between them have some amazing ingredients that are sure to leave you glowing head to toe. Normally my body care routine in the winter is fairly basic, I obviously shower everyday and shave and then just pop a lotion on after. However in the summer is when I really like to go to town, mostly because I fake tan a lot more in the summer so I like to give my body a tough exfoliation at least twice a week to get rid of any left over tan. I always scrub before I tan to make sure I get the most even application. Adding a lot more steps into my routine in the summer means I'm shorts ready always, because there is nothing more annoying that someone suggesting some spontaneous plans and you have to go in jeans because you haven't shaved your legs or having to wear a cardi because the skin on your arms is less than glowing. Not that your summer should be put on hold if you haven't done a 10 step routine - no ones got time for that, and lets face it true friends won't judge your stubbly legs, especially if you're too busy having fun, but I do know that for me doing this gives me a lot more confidence and I hope it works for you as well. 

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Body Scrubs 

Ok so starting from the beginning, we're going to look at scrubs. A good body scrub should buff away the dead skin cells, get your circulation pumping and leave your skin feeling velvety soft and glowy. What you don't want is anything too harsh thats going to leave your skin red, irritated and dry as a dessert because our next step is shaving and no way jose do you want to be shaving on irritated pins *ouch*

There are lots of different ingredients to look out for in scrubs and lots of different forms they come in, if you have sensitive skin you are going to want to stear clear of anything containing pumice stone or sometimes in natural scrubs it can be some kind of nut shaving that they use to give the scrub it's grit. Instead reach for a shower gel or body lotion with glycolic acid to give your skin a boost or go for a scrub without sulphates like this one from Kind Natured which is 97% natural and vegan friendly.

If you're like me and your skin can handle some serious scrubbing then I have some absolute gems to share with you. I'm a huge fan of a decent body scrub but I find that I go through them really fast and I just can't afford to spend £10 a month buying new scrubs. So I wanted to look for something I can use regularly without having to worry about taking great big scoops out of it and running out. That's when I discovered this bar soap from The Sanctuary Spa range in boots, it's £6 so cheaper than most scrubs but it's a bar of soap with little scrubby bits mixed in. Of course as is with all sanctuary products it smells absolutely incredible, it contains natural sea salt, softening sweet almond oil & evening primrose oil. Like I said, heaven. I use this every other day and I just rub the bar all over my body in the shower, it does lather up but not as much as I'd expect from a normal bar soap which I'm actually ok with because then it doesn't dry out your skin. I've put this product in first because it is the handiest find of the summer for me. The only downside is however, that if you want to leave it in your shower, you've got to put it in a container because otherwise it'll wash away super quickly, so because of that it's not massively portable. This product lasts for ages, gives a really good daily exfoliation and will no doubt become a long standing resident of my bathroom cabinet. 

Another scrub I have to mention are the all natural scrubs from Sister and Sister Co, these are made from raw ingredients but are full of such goodness for your skin. I've been obsessed with the coconut sugar and matcha scrub, the matcha in this product is the star of the show, it works as an antioxidant to banish anything that's dulling your skin and holding you back from glowing to your full potential. This balanced with the baobab oil which is rich and highly nourishing it makes for the perfect pamper product. The other scrub I've tried from them is made with coffee grounds which is such an amazing ingredient for battling cellulite and dull skin, really soft to use but smells so good, I'd definitely recommend this for. a morning shower. I always feel like I've had some kind of luxe treatment once I've used this. I'd also say a little goes a long way and I feel like if you were to use this once a week maybe then this bag would last you the summer if you're careful (so tell the boyfriend, your sister, your Mumma and anyone else you loves a scrub that this one is not for sharing). Also this is 100% natural and again, even though I'm not vegan I understand the struggles you vegan gals and guys have with finding good vegan products so I'll always mention it, but this is 100% vegan as well. A beautiful brand start to finish and whilst the sanctuary bar is my everyday scrub this is definitely a pamper product. 

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Shaving & Hair Removal 

Urgh. I know I should feel lucky that my hair on my head grows really fast and really thick but that also means that I have to shave my legs. every. single. day. in the summer and that is a chore! Eventually I'd love to get laser hair removal on my legs so I'll never have to worry but for now I have a routine down that prolongs the effects of a fresh shave and I'll keep sticking to that. First of all I always scrub before I shave, what this is going to do is loosen any hairs that had/have potential to be ingrown hairs, its going to remove dead skin cells so you're able to get a closer shave and if you use a scrub with a heavy oil content then its going to soften the hair and make it easier to remove, so no tugging from your razor and more importantly no razor rash/burn. Once you've done a scrub, then it's time to grab a barrier or something to protect your skin, a great tip is to use a shower oil like this one from BioDerma which is super rich and hydrating, or for a more budget friendly option Dove have a really nice one, or if like me you're trying to use more natural and eco-friendly products then I'd recommend this lemon vitamin e shower oil from Burts Bees. All really good options, I've been testing a Pinterest hack I found of using this Johnsons baby oil gel and it does work as well as the shower oils but I find it does clog up your razor quite quickly and you need to run it under water a lot. Anyway the point is to have something on your skin protecting it from the razor, wether that be a shaving gel, a shower oil, or even some unwanted conditioner something it better than nothing. 

Now for the razor, it does wind me up how expensive women's razor heads can be, and I don't know if this is widely known (because it wasn't to me and my girlfriends) but you can use any Gilette women's razor head on any of the razor handles. Seems like common sense but it didn't occur to me before I knew, I will say that although they're expensive having a super sharp razor does make all the difference. I really like the Venus Swirl razor because it does a really good job on knees and ankles without cutting you and it's generally quite easy to use. Personally I don't like the Venus razors with the shave bars, I find they only last a week and then the bars dissolve or fall off and you're left with exposed blades. The classic razor head and the embrace one are my favourites from Gilette and although I also thought it was a gimmick at first, the Gilette Snap travel handle is amazing and I would high recommend them to anyone who ever travels. It's so small, light and compact and the carry case has little holes in the bottom so it can drain on the side in the bathroom without collecting bacteria. Also its so easy to shave with, the handle itself has a grippy bit on it that makes it so easy, it's quite often on offer in Boots for £5 so definitely keep an eye out and consider investing. 

Although Gilette have such a large range of razors and they do seem to have something to suit everyone, for the summer time they're not my go to. I'm a huge fan of the Wilkinson Sword Intuition razors, mostly because they're that much bigger that you cover more of you leg in less time and when it's hot I want to be outside sunbathing not inside shaving my legs. Am I right? The shave bars on the outside do not dissolve and fall off like the Gillette ones do. Personally I find they give me a really quick, reliable shave and they're cheaper too, which is a bonus. 

I seem to have rambled on about shaving for quite a while but the basics are, scrub, shave, scrub again and then pop on a lotion or oil to keep your legs looking glowing and beautiful. 

Body Lotions and Oils  

Ok so we've had our bath or shower, our skin is glowing and super smooth, we've cracked out our Wilkinson Sword Intuition razor and our we're feeling magical. The final step in my bodycare routine is to put on an oil, lotion or body butter, I am not a fan of waiting for things to sink in so everything has to sink in fast. My favourite lotions for everyday have to be this topanga waves scented lotion from & other stories, if you've never looked before their body care is amazing and seriously some of my favourites I nearly always have some of their stuff on the go and this one is only £7. In the summer I don't like to wear anything too heavily scented especially if I want to wear a perfume or something on top, but this lotion is so light and summery I can't help but cover myself in it, a mix of coconut and pineapple is what everyone wants to smell like whilst they're lying on a beach (or just a beach towel) somewhere. 

If you've read this post from a few months ago you'll know I absolutely LOVE antipodes product, super good for the environment even the packaging is sustainable and their products always seem to just work. I know that sounds silly but I've never been let down yet. This Jubiltion hand and body cream is an everywhere, keep it in your handbag, lend it to your bestie just to see her face light up when she uses it, type product. A beautifully balanced dose of Vitamins A, C and E provides the ultimate daily nutritional skin boost, the more you use it the better your skin looks, body care is so often overlooked but as the days heat up its just as important to get your limbs glowing. 

A tried and true hero lotion that I've used for years is the Molton Brown Patchouli and Saffron lotion, and I feel mean including it because it's not available anymore (although I think a few people have been selling it on eBay) but the scent of this is my favourite thing, it's deep and warm but has a floral top scent. Molton Brown have some gorgeous summer body products, like this orange and bergamot body oil or their classic Gingerlily lotion which has been one of their bestsellers for years and years. 

Bodybutters should not be put in the same category as body lotion in my opinion, they're much thicker and don't sink in anywhere near as fast, definitely a pre-bed product for me. Some of my favourites are this whopper of a product from Cocunat, it smells like strawberries and is almost a whipped texture which I quite like. Nice and cooling on freshly shaved legs so if you're doing your shave routine before bed then this would be a great choice of product. A body butter that I've used so much of I actually don't even have the packaging to show you is from The Scottish Fine Soaps company, and it's part of their coconut and lime range, smells amazing, soaks in really fast and leaves my skin super velvety which I love. 

Lastly but by no means least the last product I want to recommend is this unscented vitamin e body oil from Previse skincare, I'm normally only a body oil person when it comes to night time or the deepest darkest depth of winter, but this product has changed the game for me. The first thing I love Is that its unscented so it doesn't interfere with whatever scents I plan on wearing that day, secondly, it just leaves my skin feeling super  soft and hydrated, not heavy or sticky at all. I've actually been able to use this in the morning and not have to get stressed about having to wait for it to sink in. Absolutely love it, the range is full of natural ingredients and it comes in the handiest spray/mist style bottle for easy application. 


SO there we have it, my summer 2018 body care edit, hopefully there's a few products in here that have caught your eye and I hope you've found it useful! I'll leave all the products linked down below and if you have any recommendations for me I've love to hear about them! 

Learning to be proud of my blog

This may be a feeling only bloggers will understand but when you first introduce someone to your blog or even mention it around someone new of course the first thing they want to do is google it or bring it up on their work laptop or desktop, my stomach kind of flips every time. Like I'm nervous or a bit worried about what they're going to say. To me, good I never started a blog thinking anyone would ever read it so to see my blog on a widescreen computer monitor and watch someone flick through it feels foreign to me, almost like someones picked up my personal diary and is giving a good read through. I've been blogging for five years this summer [which is another post I need to write at some point] and I alwasy thought it was a feeling that would go away over time...and it didn't. I then thought it was something that would vanish after I rebranded and got rid of the intern diaries for somethng a bit older? and bizarelly enough that hasnt happened either. 

So I've come to terms with the fact that it's not anything to do with my blog or the people who read it, but more to do with me. I talk about my blog as an asset and a big part of who i am, it's daily content its learning new skills and meeting new people. If I had a little more confidence in my content and this little part of the internet i call my own then I wouldnt mind half as much as I do when people look at it. 

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A huge part of it is I still dont really know what my 'thing' is, I feel like these days in the blogging industry everyone has their own niche that makes them different and even though I've been blogging for years and years and I've posted hungreds of blog posts I still don't really know what my niche is. I love careers and employability style posts because that's something I was really passionate about when I first started blogging because that was the part of my life i was in, but now I'm a graduate and I have a job I love. Focusing on creating tutorial style content with the occasional diary style post is the balance I'm currently striving for. 

You may have seen if you follow me on instagram that I'm moving to London in September. I've left my job up here in Birmingham, I've moved out of my flat and after 7 weeks of relaxing at home with my family, I'll be packing up again and moving to the big smoke with my boyfriend for a life in London. I've always put earning money before everything and being able to support myself is a huge achievement for me and something I'm very proud of, so I've never had more than 2 weeks without either a job or uni since I was 17, and I have to admit, leaving my job and accepting that I wouldn't be working for a summer was more than a little bit daunting but I think it's exactly what I need. 

My plan for those 7 weeks is going to involve going to the gym - a lot - and completing my next module of my CIM diploma, but it's also going to involve a lot of blogging. I'm hoping to really nurture this blog into something I can be super proud of when I move to London, I'm not the most sociable blogger and I rarely go to all the events, but I'm hoping that with a little bit of love and a lot more content that I'll be able to get more involved with the London blogger 'scene'.

In terms of what to expect from the blog this summer, I'm not exactly sure, but I'm going to step up my writing and hopefully find my 'niche' and rediscover what I used to be so passionate about blogging. A lot more lifestyle 'diary' entry style posts because I find those the most fun to write, some more fashion content maybe? and of course my usual beauty content that I love so much. 

This has been one hell of a rambling post so thanks for baring with me, hopefully I'll be posting again very soon

x

Brand Focus | Yes To Cucumbers!

This Thursday is national cucumber day! You might think, why would anyone celebrate national cucumber day? but if you knew how good they are for you and for your skin you'd definitely want to celebrate. The amazing team over at Yes To got in touch and asked if I'd want to trial some of their Yes To Cucumbers! range as part of the Cucumber Day celebrations and already being a huge fan of the Yes To face wipes it really was a no-brainer. 

So to fill you in on what Yes To stand for in their own words "We say Yes To innovative, natural, fun and efficacious beauty solutions from head to toe, free of the nasties and filled with the goodies." their products are split by ingredient each focusing on a different skincare concern. So tomatoes are for blemish prone skin, grapefruit battles dullness and cucumbers is for sensitive skin. I'm a huge advocate for using gentle skincare, when I had horrendous acne 10 or so years ago, switching some 'acne' specialised products to super gentle sensitive skin care is actually what saved my skin. Plus this cucumber range is all vegan and organic which as you'll know if you've read my vision posts in the past is really what I'm trying to focus on using exclusively this year. 

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I was so kindly sent the biggest box of goodies from Yes To and my sister and I had the best afternoon getting stuck into a full skincare pamper routine. Starting with the micellar water to take off our makeup. I'm obsessed with this bottle, you just flip up the lid, take a cotton wool pad and push down and it applies the product straight onto the pad. Genius. It smells really fresh and gets my beloved waterproof mascara off with ease. The cucumber scent is so calming, it's something I first noticed when I used this, lovely and cooling on the eyes and although there is some residue left it's quickly absorbed and because these products are 95% natural ingredients anyway I feel like there's no harm and god knows my under-eyes can use all the hydration they can get. 

Which is where these amazing masks and treatments come in, I was so pleasantly surprised at how many different types of masks the range has! Powder-to-clay masks, sheet masks, cream sleep masks, 2-step eye treatment packs, as you'll see in the photo below I instantly went for the super-hero style green under-eye patches which were so cooling and really depuffed my under eye bags. I was far too excited to do this but normally I put my eye patches in the fridge to cool for a bit so if you're going to use these I'd recommend it for maximum cooling results. Really looking forward to trying the other face masks, and I love the idea of buying a bunch of these and using them for a girls night in. I know my mum, sister and I will be planning that very soon. 

If you love the eye patches, which I'm sure you will, then Yes To also have a cooling eye gel in this range so you can feel the benefits morning and night. In the summer especially I think it makes sense to switch a heavy eye cream for a lighter more cooling gel, hotter nights and more long evenings spent in the local pub garden can leave you looking tired and puffy the next day. Each pump was actually really generous so I've just been using half a pump for both eyes and it's so refreshing, it does feel a little tacky as it dries but I haven't found it to be an issue at all. 

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As you can see I was looking very lovingly at these cucumber wipes, I've relied on Yes To wipes for years, because they don't burn, they're full of good ingredients and just get the job done. I nearly always pick up a pack of these before a holiday or trip because although I much prefer micellar water on a day to day basis, lugging around a great big bottle and a packet of cotton pads can be such a faff! So these are much easier and are about as eco-friendly as makeup wipes can be, plus I love the packaging, it feels fun. I know I'm a sucker but I'm also a marketing graduate so I think it's allowed! 

These wipes come in a pack of 30 or 10 and are so affordable, I think makeup wipes are one of those products that you get what you pay for and with Yes To! because so many of their products are full of natural ingredients you can be sure that it's going to get the job done. They're available in Boots and I'd highly recommend spending some time on their website because with so many different 'flavours' of wipes to choose from you want to make sure you're getting the ones that are best for your skin type. 

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On the cleaning side of their product range Yes To! have some gorgeous but gentle products for all you sensitive-skinned babes. My favourite is the calming clay mask, its a reasonably runny pale grey mask that's packed full of cucumber extract to soothe and nourish sensitive skin. I'd say this is perfect for 'bad skin' days when your skin just feels overwhelmed and it seems like no product will help, apply this all over and let it sooth and calm your skin. It doesn't feel chalky on the skin as it dries which I love and left my skin feel balanced and soft after. Fun tip - I always leave an old foundation brush in my toothbrush pot to apply my face masks with because it's less messy than using your fingers and. I find I waste less product which is always a bonus. 

The cleanser is such a good everyday staple, it looks like a relatively standard gel cleanser but the cucumber extract is so cooling and it feels really velvety on the skin. It gently lifts impurities whilst soothing to leave your skin gently cleansed without irritating. Skincare routines can become so complex these days that it's nice to strip things back and have a good reliable, non-irritating cleanser to rely on and that's what I like this for. Would highly recommend if you have acne prone or sensitive skin. 

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So there's my ode to cucumber extract featuring Yes To!'s cucumber range, which I would highly recommend, regardless of your skin type I think we could all do with reaching for something a little more sensitive every now and then. Which of these products do you think you'll try? My favourites have to be the calming clay mask and the cucumber wipes, amazing quality everyday staples with adorable packaging but without the gross price tag, not to mention how good they are as a company at giving back to the environment and sourcing their ingredients as best as they can, I 100% applaud any beauty company who are trying to be greener and with the majority of the Yes To product range being certified vegan it's easy to do your part to. 

What to watch | My favourite movies

Ok so one of my great loves in life is film, I've seen probably hundreds over the years and its something I love to share with friends and family. Certain films hold such lovely memories of who and when I first saw them. They hold iconic moments that we all quote on a daily basis, songs that make us want to laugh and cry and characters that inspire endlessly. 

So I've decided to start a "what to watch" series, with my recommendations and recommendations I've had from others on the perfect films to watch for any occasion. Girls night in? Want something to make you howl with laughter? A thinker? Something based on real life? Over the course of the next few months I'm going to compiling it all and I'll make sure to include where you can watch them online as well to make things even easier. 

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I do go to cinema quite regularly so every now and then I might throw in a film review for something new but mostly it's going to be about existing films and things you can watch in your own time in the comfort of you own home. If you have any guides you'd specifically like me to write then absolutely let me know! 

Today however I'd going to give you a rundown of some of my all time favourite films. These are classics in my eyes that I could honestly watch a thousand times over and never get bored. Warning - it is a mixed bag, from thrillers to Disney classics but hopefully that means there'll be something for everyone. So grab your laptop and some popcorn and settle in because I guarantee there'll be something here you'll want to watch. 

The heart-warmer | My best friends wedding

Where do I start. This is potentially my favourite film of all time, it's got everything you could want from a film. You can't help but love Julienne and feel for her a little bit, I'm sure we can all relate to watching someone we love (or loved) with someone else. The fashion is amazing, Julia Roberts look like a 90's queen throughout and Cameron Diaz looks so young she's almost unrecognisable! However the highlight is Rupert Everet, he absolutely makes this film. Expect a laugh a minute, an ending that will make you say aw and an EPIC soundtrack! 

The motivator | Legally Blonde

Ok I'd happily talk about this film all day. What starts off as a seemingly standard rom com type film actually delivers some quality life lessons. Elle, played by Reece Witherspoon is a seemingly clueless college graduate who followers a man to Harvard in the hopes of winning him back. As you can imagine she gets way more than she bargained for, but this is a great film if you're motivation is feeling a little low and you need a feel good pick me up. Plus she's hysterically funny, you'll finish this film instantly wanting to listen to the sound track and I don't blame you, the song from the opening credits I actually listened to in the gym the morning of a job interview last year and it gave me such a boost for the rest of the day.

The controversial choice | The Wolf of Wall Street 

Leonardo Dicaprio must have had a ball filming this. Based on a true story around investment icon Jordon Belfort, it follows his rise through the ever competitive Wall Street scene. What I love about this film is that it's clever, not in a well done mr Belfort way but that I find the whole thing really interesting to know how he did it. Amazing cast, it was a break out role on Margot Robbie and also has Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey. Great for some laughs and a bit of escapism. 

The thinker | The Circle 

If you're going to watch any of the films on this list I'd recommend it be this one, it's quite black mirror because it's very close to the reality we live in now. Tom Hanks and Emma Watson star in this film and it's definitely a thinker, Emma's character gets a job at a very large powerful tech conglomerate and gets herself involved in an emerging new project that isn't all it seems. A good watch, but I'd recommend watching it with a friend because you're definitely going to want to talk about this after. 

The musical one | La La Land

Quite a recent film, but a favourite none the less. If you've read my blog before you'll know how much California holds a place in my heart and this film is basically a giant advert for LA. The soundtrack is beautiful, Ryan Gosling plays the piano, John Legend has a cameo, it's a cracking experience start to finish. I actually saw this is the cinema three times when it first came out, I just could not get enough. What I love about this film is that it's fantastical enough to feel like an old school movie without losing any realism, there's iPhones and Uber but there's also old school jazz clubs and tap dancing in the street. LOVE, if you haven't seen it already then put it on the list. 


Now bear in mind this is only a snippet of my favorite films, I promise to share lots more of these top 5 style films posts in the coming weeks. I've just checked and apart from Legally Blonde (which is so good you should just invest and buy the DVD) all of these films are on Netflix. I'll watch a film normally 3/4 times a week so have built up quite the knowledge bank of good flicks. Hopefully, that you'll benefit from these posts and come back to them later for reference because there is nothing more annoying than not being able to decide on a film because you've already seen them all. My intention was for these guides to offer some movie marathon inspiration. 

Brand Focus | Jurlique Rose Moisture Collection

When it comes to skincare I'm all about focusing on the active ingredients because I find it gives the best results. In 2018 I've changed up my skincare focuses to try and incorporate as much natural or more eco-friendly products as I can. With Summer coming swiftly round the corner I've been on the look out for a mist I can keep in the fridge to keep my moisture levels topped up at all times and provide a bit of refreshment. The products in this post have kindly been provided by Jurlique, having admired their products for years and being a fan of their kind to skin approach to skincare I am very excited to be sharing these products with you. 

A bit about Jurlique before I give you all the details on these amazing rose products, started in Australia the purpose of Jurlique was to harness the power of mother natures botanicals and put them to good use. Their mission statement is simple, to bring people back to nature. Check out their website to learn all about how all their products are completely sustainable "from seed to skin". Personally I love that ethos and makes me feel much better about using the products. The glass bottles are also a lovely nod to sustainability, completely recyclable and reusable, plus they look gorgeous in the bathroom.

Now on to the products (you're going to love this) 

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The Rose Moisture Plus collection is designed to "Intensely hydrate and protect against environmental damage with our Rose Extract and Antioxidant Complex to enrich the skin." the main ingredient here is the rosehip oil which is proven to work wonders on your skin. It's a very pure source of vitamins A, C and E which are vital for brightening and protecting your skin. It helps tissue retention to help heal pigmentation and acne scarred skin. It also allows your skins cells to retain more water than normal which aids a healthier complexion but also minimises fine lines and wrinkles. Basically it's up there with some of the best ingredients you can use on your skin and should be considered a skincare supernova when it comes to natural ingredients that pack a punch. 

Rosewater Balancing Mist 

As I previously mentioned a face mist is what I was on the look out for to add to my routine and I've found an absolute winner. This is a very fine mist that doesn't coat your face or leave it too wet which makes it perfect for putting on over your makeup. It's meant for restoring tired looking skin and adding moisture back into your skin, the rose water leaves your skin feeling really soothed and balanced. Not that you ever should but I imagine if you ever get sunburn this would feel amazing. It's also packed full of antioxidant properties to improve the quality of your skin as well as nourishing. One of the key ingredients is marshmallow root extract which is a powerful hydrator, the plant itself contains a thick syrup like liquid that's really hydrating on the skin. It also contains aloe vera leaf which is what makes it so soothing and helps to calm any irritation. I love that this isn't in a huge great bottle, its definitely handbag sized which I am all in favour of as I can have it in my handbag for mid-afternoon top ups. Although Jurlique do have some absolutely incredible limited edition face mists that come in bigger sizes and the packaging is unreal.

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Rose Moisture Plus Lotion 

This product really surprised me, I'm used to rose based creams and lotions feeling quite heavy on the skin and potentially a little oily from all the rose extracts, however this lotion is super lightweight but still leaves my skin feeling silky. Something tells me this is going to become another summer staple. Described by Jurlique as "A lightweight moisturising lotion that provides dual benefits of hydration and protection keeping skin soft, soothed and balanced." it has most of the same benefits as the mist but this obviously is more hydrating. A nice addition to the rose extract is turmeric root extract, which is a brilliant skin booster for reducing the visible signs of aging and brightens the skin by combating dark spots and discolouration. As if that wasn't enough it's also good for battling the effects of pollution, which since I've lived in cities for the last 4 years and probably will continue to for quite some time, is music to my ears and these days I feel battling the effects of pollution is something we all need to look at more. I've been taking two pumps of this at night and putting it on top of my serums and eye creams and what I quite like is that the lotion itself isn't super firm in consistency, it's more liquid than what I usually use and which makes it not soak in immediately but leaves the skin feeling cool . I top this with some of the rose mist and call it a night. 

Moisturising Cream Mask 

I know everyone loves a face mast these days but controversially I don't think a lot of the masks on the market are actually doing that much good for your skin. A good treatment should contain more than just lots of lotions and oils, it should have 2/3 hero ingredients that really pack a punch on your skin and when used twice a week actually make a difference to your skin. There are very few masks that actually give instant results, however, I will say that this Jurlique rose moisture mask does have a significant impact on the texture of my skin. You know those 'bad skin' days where things just feel a little oilier than usual and the texture goes a bit scratchy and lumpy? It's very tempting to grab the nearest scrub and start going at your face but after using this mask for the past few weeks I'd recommend grabbing an effective hydrator like this. 

The benefits of this are it offers deep tissue hydration to soothe and balance the skin, the main warrior in this mask is macadamia oil, which is very similar to the skins natural oils and sebum so it's more easily absorbed. Rose Gallica flower extract is what makes your skin so soft after even the first application, it makes your skin cells more supple and by being so hydrated you'll be left with a touchable soft, more healthy looking complexion. It's recommend to be used either as a 10 minute treatment or as an overnight mask. Personally I slather it on as soon as I've taken my makeup off at 6/7pm and then just take a warm cloth and wipe off the excess at 11pm right before I get into bed. Smells heavenly and feels like a proper at home pamper, perfect for a mid-week pick-me-up or a Friday night in.

You can find Jurlique products online and at most of the UK's beauty retailers and high street stores. Check out their website to learn more about the Rose Moisture Range as well as their other collections. http://www.jurlique.co.uk 

Wisteria Hysteria

With the bank holiday coming up I thought I'd share how I spent my last bank holiday. Isn't it amazing how an extra 24 hours feels like a week and make the biggest difference. Earlier this month, having had enough of city life (at least for the weekend) I packed up and went to stay with my parents for some sunshine, some much needed catchups and a pitcher or two of Pimms. My boyfriend actually ended up packing up his exam revision and joining us on the Saturday night which made it extra lovely. Never again will I ignore the weather forecast and decide not to pack shorts, stupid decision as I ended up spending the weekend roasting in my jeans! This weekend I assure you my short are top of the packing pile and definitely coming with me. After spending most of Saturday and Sunday lazing in the garden which felt like a Mediterranean getaway with such gorgeous weather, we had a BBQ and talked all about our summer plans.

Never one to skip pass the foodie details I'll run you through the menu, a huge greek salad with lots of olives and feta, a tomato and mozzarella salad topped with some basil from mums garden (yum) From the BBQ we had chicken drum sticks, burgers and lamb skewers which were seriously tasty. All finished up with some baby new potatoes in mint. We were all completely stuffed by the end of lunch but there's just something about BBQ food that means you can't just have one portion. Also how cute are my mums strawberry glasses! She gets them out every summer and they are perfect for pimms. 

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Having no garden at my flat here in Birmingham means I'm back home again this weekend and this time I'm taking my flatmate Jazz with me. We plan on doing very little apart from sunbathing on Saturday and writing up a few blog posts here and there. Fingers crossed the forecast stays as lovely as it is because it's set to be a scorcher! My mum is a brilliant gardener and grows her own produce every year in her kitchen garden [julieskitchengarden on instagram - if you're not following you definitely should be because she's almost at 10,000 followers!] so spending time in our garden with the amazing wisteria and roses that bloom every summer always feels extra special, we've had years worth of school prom photos in front of these roses and every year they bring back such good memories. 

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I am absolutely loving having the new blog and name and I hope you are to, all your lovely comments have meant so much because it took me so so long to put together. I'm hoping to strike a balance between more structured editorial style product posts and chattier diary style posts like this one. I used to do nothing but diary posts when I first started and there was something really nice about going away for the weekend or doing something different with my day and then sitting down to write about it. We'll see what works but if you have any requests for content you'd like to see over the summer let me know! 

Brand Focus | Antipodes Skincare

If you've been seeing any of my posts over on my instagram then you'll know one of my New Years resolutions is to try and be kinder to the planet and that includes using more natural skincare. With Spring well and truly blossoming I thought it was the perfect time to share with you an all natural skincare brand that has well and truly stolen my heart. Antipodes is a brand that I've always had my eye on trying but never got round to it, I remember seeing posts on the Manuka honey mask three or four years ago and absolutely loving the packaging as well as the 'taken from nature' ingredients list.. 

Antipodes got in touch asking if I wanted to take my natural skincare challenge to a new level and overhaul my routine with them, the products in this post were kindly gifted but having used the products for just over a month now the opinions are completely my own. My skincare routine before was not hugely thorough, I'd use a cream cleanser on makeup free skin, a serum and a moisturiser or oil before bed and an eye cream. For reference my skin type is combination and although I wouldn't class myself as acne prone anymore, I definitely have a couple of blemishes every now and then. 

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Hallelujah Cleanser 

For me this is the star of the show, this rich and creamy cleanser is made with lime and patchouli and not only smells amazing but left my skin really thoroughly cleansed without drying it out. No residue in sight, I like to slightly wet my skin and take a big pump and gently massage all over my face and neck. Often I'll do this before I'm going to get in the bath and then leave it on whilst I soak to really let my skin benefit from all the natural oils and nutrients. Other superfood ingredients include, avocado oil (if you think you love it on toast just wait till you've put it on your face) Kawakawa leaf and Macadamia. The Macadamia is what gives it it's deep cleansing abilities, but it's perfectly balanced by all the amazing oils and extracts. Also it comes in a beautiful glass bottle that really makes this a wow product for me (no judgment, I'm not the only one who takes packaging into consideration when buying a product) but what I didn't think of at first is that the packaging is recyclable! Unlike plastic tubes this glass bottle can either be refilled with something else or recycled. Genius. Although this cleanser is not as strong as the ones I normally use I can tell my skin is thanking me for it. At night my skin feels softer and more moisturised than when I use a foaming cleanser, over the last month I have been using this morning and night and I even pumped some into a travel tube to take away with me. Good if you have sensitive skin but still want a deep clean or if you have dehydrated skin in need of a healthy boost of nutrients. 

Avocado Pear Night Cream 

As the seasons are changing my combination skin tends to be oilier and drier in places than usual, I prefer to balance things out my using a deep cleanser to purifying my t-zone and then pop on a nourishing night cream to help my skin heal overnight. Especially with the snow and harsh temperatures we were having back in March my skin felt almost raw from the wind. That is where this incredible night cream comes in, this isn't an exaggeration when I say this night cream has to be the thickest most heavy duty cream I think I've ever used. Enriched with Manuka honey this night cream brings natural radiance to the surface whilst also being full of natural anti-bacterial properties whilst the avocado oil deeply nourishes. This blend of oils has been proven to stimulate synthesis of collagen production in skin cells by up to 92%. Amazing for battling pre-mature ageing (not that I'm worried about ageing at 22 but by keeping my skin well hydrated it never hurts to be prepared) . As you can see from the image above this is a super rich cream, again in their glass jars so its good for the planet as well as your complexion. 

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Jubilation Body Cream 

You might have remembered me mentioning the Antipodes body creams in my Christmas gift guides, these body cream are so luxurious and perfect for taking away with you because they're the perfect size. I'm a firm believer in active ingredients in skincare, especially things like body creams are not going to be their best once they've been open for eight or nine months. It feels much wiser to have a smaller amount of product and be able to use it up whilst it's still fresh and the ingredients can actually do what they're designed for. I'm going to plan a whole post on active ingredients, what they mean and what to look for. These creams feel so luxurious to put on and sink in just enough to not feel sticky when you put your clothes or pyjamas on. A beautifully balanced dose of Vitamins A, C and E provides the ultimate daily nutritional skin boost, the more you use it the better your skin looks, body care is so often overlooked but as the days heat up its just as important to get your limbs glowing. 

Rejoice Light Facial Day Cream

Ok so I'd like it known I am full in love with this metal packaging, I think it's so different and it means you can really get every last drop out of the products and again, the packaging is fully recyclable. A gentle, light and non-oily facial day cream. Packed with rich avocado oil helps perfect a healthy, plumped skin tone and help to decrease the appearance of fine lines. Manuka flower oil, renowned for its health benefits and anti-bacterial properties, promotes the a blemish-free complexion. Again I'm a huge fan of this day cream, it is slightly heavier than what I normally wear but the benefits to my skin are that much better as well. There's a distinct almond smell which isn't my favourite but it doesn't linger which is what you want for a day cream, not a fan of smelling like almonds all day but with the natural scent coming from the oils it does make applying the cream feel more luxurious. 

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Apostle Brightening Serum 

Ok so this is the product that took me the longest to love, the Apostle serum is a dark red in colour and quite a thick watery gel like consistency. Bizarre description I know but those of you who have used this product will know what I mean. I used this serum for a few days in a row and wasn't in love with how it felt on my skin, it's quite thin so I felt like it sunk in too fast to be doing any good. I picked it up again after reading the back of the bottle "helps correct dull, blemished or uneven skin" SOLD. Although as I mentioned my skin isn't as blemish prone now, I do struggle with scarring from acne and discolouration. This has been back in my nighttime routine for about two weeks now and I feel like Im already starting to see a difference in the clarity of my skin. In the summer I love turning up the glow and maximising my skins brightness and this serum is doing wonders. Exfoliating enzymes from the superfruit kiwifruit and soothing Vinanza Oxifend from pinot noir grapes are amazing at promoting cell turnover in your skin and sloughing off any dead skin cells. Stay tuned but this might just be my favourite serum yet. 

So that's my brand roundup of everything I've tried from antipodes so far, my skin is loving their products and I think next I'd like to look at their face masks and mists. The Antipodes products are luxury feel, which wholesome ingredients and an environmentally aware packaging which also happens to look super luxe on your bathroom shelf. If you're going to try one product for me it would have to be the Hallelujah cleanser, unless you love a good night cream in which case I challenge you to find one thicker or better packed with goodness. 

The difference a day makes

It's happened to the best of us, you've procrastinated one time too many, had that early night when you should have stayed up working and suddenly your work has piled up and you're feeling very overwhelmed. Feels like it's impossible and you've stretched yourself too thin, whether you're a student or you're a studying professional or a part time blogger, part time boss (yes I'm looking at you), it happens, we're human. 

I've always found when I'm revising or working that taking myself away from the desk in my room and getting out the flat can give you a lot of perspective, especially when you're weeks deep in a big project. I was searching for the perfect coffee shop or library nook to go and work in and that was when I discovered on instagram the most amazing space, right here in the city centre. Amazing decor, full of inspiring professionals and a view that could rival most swanky hotels. Sound amazing? thats because it is. Alpha Works is a hot-desking facility, with rentable office space and boardrooms available for use to all it's members. However after visiting I discovered is it so much more than that. Alpha Works has it's own community of super friendly, motivated individuals who are all killing it in their own right. I spent some time there using their facilities and I was so impressed. The attention to detail is amazing, everything is accounted for, including a rather special coffee machine, which is unlimited for members and makes the cappuccinos of dreams. 

Alpha Works feels like stepping into google HQ or your 'cool' friends trendy apartment. The decor is so dreamy, clean and airy with an industrial feel, and everywhere you look there were people typing away, having meetings, brain storming or on the phone, all absolutely bossing it. Talk about motivation. 

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A feature of Alpha Works is that on each floors there is a full kitchen ready to use, whether its preparing your lunch or grabbing another cup of coffee, this place feels like the biggest home office. There are also huge open plan offices that are either rented out by companies or are available to hire for meetings, whatever you need a business space for Alpha Works has got you covered. As a blogger and digital marketer, I'm constantly looking for inspiring places to work and Alpha Works for me has to be the top place in Birmingham for branching out of your local starbucks and taking your work more seriously. 

Memberships are available on a daily pass, monthly unlimited pass or private office basis and the team are so friendly and helpful that if you get in touch they'll be able to guide you to the membership that will best work for you. With the spec the space is done up to, I'd be more than happy to bring a client here for a meeting but working here solo was an absolute dream for getting your head down. Did I mention the view they have from the 19th floor? Panoramic sights of Birmingham that you can just get completely lost in (the perfect distraction) 

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I am a firm believer that a day is all you need to change things around, write that to do list make yourself a plan and get yourself down to Alpha Works, after a solid day of getting your head down I doubt you'll find anyone who doesn't feel better.

If you're looking for somewhere in Birmingham that's really central, has panoramic views, a seemingly endless amount of nooks and rooms to sprawl out and work at, then Alpha Works is the place. Such a great space with a great team behind it. come for the beautifully designed work space but stay for the atmosphere that's nothing short of invigorating. 

To learn more and get in touch with the team, visit their website - http://www.alphaworksb1.co.uk