Leaving flowers

I have made this post title a little sombre somehow but it's actually just a bad play on words of the fact that there are leaves and flowers on my new dress and top... deep huh?  I picked up the top and dress from Debenhams when they kindly gifted me a voucher to pick a couple of summer-y new wardrobe additions.  I haven't shopped in Debenhams for a while as my nearest one is about 20 minutes away in Bournemouth and I don't tend to go high street shopping that much, and also for some reason I haven't hopped onto their website for a little while, but I must admit that I was hugely pleasantly surprised and ended up going to the fitting rooms like some kind of carthorse - I think I tried on about ten things! It's a weirdly long time since I've actually been in a changing room since I tend to do the bulk of my clothes shopping online, but it was actually a good experience actually trying things on and getting a proper idea of how they fitted - I'm such a bad one for keeping things I don't like that I've bought online just because I can't be bothered to send them back! 

This leaf print dress is actually a bardot/off the shoulder dress but it seems to have slunk up for these photos oops!

Leaf print dress Leaf print dress 
dress: quiz at debenhams £19.99* // shoes: converse

I saw this top poking out from a sale rail and eagerly snatched it up - I'm always on the hunt for pretty tops (especially ones with Peter Pan collars!) as I'm such a lover of jeans at the weekend, so this was a must-buy. And it was £12 - what a bargain!

Collar floral Collar floral Collar floral
top: collection at debenhams £12* {instore} // jeans: topshop // wedges: h&m {old}

Do you have any jazzy floral prints in your summer wardrobe?  Have you checked out Debenhams lately?

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Advice for first time festival-goers

I absolutely love festivals, though I must admit that these days we usually buy a camper-van ticket and stay in the relative comfort of Tom's VW van rather than under canvas.  In my old age I find there's just something about lighting up the camping stove and making a cup of green tea and a bacon sarnie before heading into the hubbub of the festival site.  My first festival was Sziget Festival in Budapest in 2007 which was absolutely amazing - there was so much to see and do, the tickets aren't a complete ripoff, the food is amazing, the price of beer is capped at about 2 euros (or was when I went) and the parties and music go on late into the night.  I then went to Reading Festival in 2008, which frankly, apart from the music (four words, Rage Against The Machine) - I hated.  Some of our stuff got nicked, the last night was like a war zone (people set a block of toilets on fire and were throwing gas bottles into it) and the price of food and drink I think is extortionate (I really sound like I should be on Grumpy Old Women now).

Sziget festival
// sziget festival, 2007

Reading festival
// reading festival, 2008

Despite this experience, I'm still a massive lover of festivals, and with so many more festivals coming up over the next month or so, I thought I'd share my tips for first time festival go-ers.

  • Always opt for a tent slightly bigger than you think you need. If there are two of you sharing a tent, don’t assume that a 2-man tent will cut the mustard because chances are, it won’t. Sure, it will occupy two people sleeping next to each other, but if you want to store all of your things in there with you and you like a bit of space to stretch out, you’ll need a bigger one.   Get a pop-up tent if you don't fancy the idea of trying to put up a tent when all you really want is to crack open a cider.
  • Choose your festival wisely.  I didn't like Reading Festival but I absolutely love End of The Road, which is much more friendly and fun, with a great atmosphere and lots to see and do (there's a fairy light forest walk, peacocks wandering around, a comedy tent in the woods and usually a Pie Minister van!) Don't limit yourself to the big ticket, popular festivals - I hear great things about Secret Garden Party, Wilderness, Beacons and Somersault Festival.  Find a festival that matches your interests - if you're into skateboarding and surfing check out Boardmasters in Newquay.  (Check out this guide to the Ten Best Boutique Festivals in the UK).
End of the Road festival
// end of the road festival, 2012
  • Don't take anything you'd be deeply upset if it was nicked or lost.  I know a lot of people who transfer their sims into cheap old phones rather than taking your iPhone, consider disposable cameras or a cheap compact digital rather than an SLR and stash cash and anything else valuable in the bottom of your sleeping bag or a hidden pocket.
  • Take enough clothes with you, but be ready for any kind of weather. Even if you are spending a summer weekend in the middle of a field, that doesn’t mean it won’t rain, so pack an anorak just in case. Make sure you have plenty of warm layers with you, too. You can find plenty of shorts, tops, jumpers and stylish casual dresses from George at ASDA so you won’t have to spend a fortune on your festival wardrobe.
  • Take some sensible footwear. Whether that’s wellies, boots or a pair of Dr. Martens, you will need something that is both comfortable, and waterproof, just in case the heavens open.
  • If you’re camping as a group, pitch your tents close to each other, with the doors opening inwards in a circle. This will stop people from camping in the middle of your ground and will also prevent people from walking through your camp.   Don't camp next to a path, or a toilet block (no matter how convenient it might seem, a few hours in, it will smell. bad.)
  • Take gaffa tape. You will need it if your tent poles break (which is easily done if a drunk person falls on your tent or someone comes along who hasn't read the torch tip) It's also helpful to have with you just in case anything else needs fixing temporarily.
  • Take toilet roll and plenty of baby wipes. Take some sheets with you when you head into the arena, just in case the loos don’t have any paper in them (i.e. after the first day).
  • Don’t forget a torch. You will see people wearing headlamps and all sorts, but a simple torch will do the trick and will mean that you can see all of the guy ropes when you nip to the toilet in the middle of the night.
  • Pack a waterproof jacket. You will need it when it starts to rain! The last thing you will want is to feel sorry for yourself, soaked through to the bone. A simple parka jacket or anorak will suffice and you don't have to spend a lot to get one.
  • Pack snacks and cereal bars.  Festival eating can get expensive if you're buying every meal from food vans, so try and pack some cheap snacks that will tide you over and save you spending £6 on a bacon roll every day.
  • If you're driving and then parking your car and leaving it for a few days, pack a pair of clean socks, pants and warm clothes in your car so you've got something comfy and clean to come back to!
  • Festival toilets are the stuff nightmares are made of, so no matter how cool you might feel in your playsuit/jumpsuit/kigu onesie, that is not going to be fun come 1am when it's dark and you have to get completely undressed to go to the loo.
But most of all, make the most of the experience! Be careful, stay safe and enjoy yourself.   Let me know your festival tips - what's your favourite festival? What's the one thing you wouldn't be without?

// me, at end of the road festival
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Rosie Recently

Last night I dreamt that our house was in the midst of a huge tornado, and that the whole area around the house was flooded.  In my house, along with myself and Tom, was my Mum and Dad. The whole house shook and shuddered until it almost tipped over and we held our breath, waiting to see if everything was about to crash down on us - but it teetered back to normality.  Realising that we only had a small timeframe to escape before the winds hit again, we all flocked outside and climbed over a fence to higher ground.  As soon as we got outside , we realised that my Mum hadn't come out with us.  I went back in to get her and she was frantically trying to wash up and make sure we'd left the house tidy.  In the end we got her out to safety.

What does this mean? I'm not sure - (if you don't believe in dreams having meaning you'd probably say that it means I shouldn't eat cheese before bed).  Perhaps it means that I should take heed of what I was trying to tell my Mum - that sometimes, the to-do list gets out of control and we put too much pressure on ourselves for things to be perfect and to keep on top of the demands of the day-to-day. Or maybe it's a personal tornado warning - a sign to me that things are starting to spiral out of control.

One thing that I get asked quite a lot is, "how do you manage a full time job, a blog, wedding planning, and doing all of those things that you then end up blogging about?" The answer really, is that I don't, or not very well at least.  I sometimes get up early to blog before work, I set aside evenings to catch up on blog reading and blog posting, and I have a Filofax that's run like a military operation (or at least a military operation that relies heavily on highlighters and post-it notes).  Tom told me that he feels that blogging is becoming a bit 'too much' at the moment, and that there are times when he would like to go out and do things but I have a list of things to photograph, review or feature.  So I have agreed to cut back and start managing my time a little better.  Over the coming months my job will stop being based five minutes away and turn into a 45 minute to an hour commute so I already need to anticipate that I'll have less free time and less time to blog.  I need to stop trying to wash up in a tornado and start being a bit more sensible.

But the purpose of this post wasn't to whinge about my to-do list, it was actually to tell you what I have been up to lately and how I've been spending my time.  In amidst being a busy-bum we've actually had a really lovely few weeks.  Our camping in Kimmeridge and a few other weekend bits lend themselves to posts of their own (and probably another video!) but here's a few other things I've done...

001. Been doing a bit of rolling around the neighbourhood on my little Penny skateboard...


002. Walking the dog by the river...


003. Being generally hot and bothered (but loving the sunshine!)


004. Tom has been baking sourdough bread most weeks which has been very, very yummy (Bodhi thinks it looks pretty good too...)


005. I've been getting stuck into reading again lately - I've been trying to make time to come home, sit in the deckchair in the garden and even just spend 10 minutes in the sunshine reading.  I've just finished Born to Run, which is all about barefoot running, the evolution of running and the Tarahumara tribe (the best distance runners in the world!) I've now just started The Round House by Louise Erdrich which I'm enjoying so far - I've loaded lots of books onto my Kindle app on my iPad Mini ready for Trek America in September!


006.  I've also been having a humongous clearout lately - I've given another three binbags of clothes to the charity shop and put another lot on eBay.  I had about 30 listings in total I think and made about £180 - bumped up by a satchel that sold for £50 and a couple of bits that sold for £25, most went for £2-3.  I was sent some results of a survey that Ladbrokes Games did today about American TV and film stars - Carrie Bradshaw was voted the most stylish female American character, and it made me think of the closet that Big built for Carrie - wasn't it amazing? I think I would probably keep all of my clothes if I had a huge closet like that, but sadly my wardrobes (yes, plural... ooops) are full to bursting, so more clearing out is in order!

What have you been up to recently?

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{ referenced report provided by ladbrokes 


Giving YouTube a go - and Grabble #grabamakeover event

Just a quick post today because I know you all would much rather be frolicking in the sunshine and eating a Solero than stuck inside blog reading (and I don't blame you).  But if you do have a spare 8 minutes and 34 seconds - maybe the sun has nipped behind a cloud or you've popped inside to slather on the sunscreen - I have made another YouTube video and I thought I'd post it on here to see if you guys like it.  It's about 50% actual videos of an event I went to and then 50% me trying to film an introduction to the video and basically being a complete goon and whinging about my house not being 'YouTubable' enough.  I bet that's piqued your interest right?

Starting YouTube is a little like starting a blog all over again - hoping people will want to watch it, and hoping they'll enjoy it and not be completely turned off!  Even if no-one watches them though, I think I'm going to keep doing them - making videos has really got my creative juices flowing again and I've enjoyed learning how to use Movie Maker and thinking about how I can make them better.  I have another one in edit mode at the moment of a few bits we've been up to recently and I'm really looking forward to sharing that one too. If you have any ideas for videos or tips or suggestions, please do let me know.

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Movenpick Ice Cream Recipe Challenge - Peanut butter and ice cream brownie roll

I don't know what's happened, but my inbox lately is less full of emails from fashion PRs or offers of clothing samples, and instead I seem to be getting lots of emails about food.  Clearly, I am not complaining - if there's one thing I love in life and spend most of my waking moments thinking about, it's food.  And whatever has caused the sea change (should I be insulted that I'm apparently currently more suited to chocolate tasting than modelling dresses?) I'm definitely embracing it.

But if there's one food related campaign that's definitely trumped them all of late, it's this one from Movenpick - do I want to receive some yummy ice cream and sundae glasses? YES.  And whip up some recipes with said ice cream for the chance of winning a masterclass with a pastry chef? Well, durrrrr. WAIT - by whip up a recipe do you mean eat it out of the tub with a spoon? Um, no.  Hmm, this one is definitely going to be slightly out of my comfort zone...

So, having established that the most creative I usually get with my ice cream consumption is to eat it out of a bowl rather than straight from the carton, I needed to put some serious thought into my ice cream recipe making, and find out more about the ice cream in question - Movenpick.  Movenpick was a serious case of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (okay fact fans, here we go - the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is where you come across something new, a word, a band, a name, etc, and then all of a sudden, you go from not happening upon it for your entire life, and then all of a sudden it's everywhere).  ANYWAY - so, uncultured in the world of ice cream as I previously was, I'd never heard of Movenpick, and then all of a sudden it was everywhere I went, and everyone seemed to be raving about this rather dreamy sounding Swiss ice cream.  I needed to investigate.

Movenpick kindly sent me an Ocado voucher to pick up my choice of flavours and start experimenting.  My first challenge was narrowing down which flavours to try.  In the end, I went for Caramelita, Raspberry and Strawberry and Maple and Walnut.  I got stuck into the Caramelita as soon as it arrived - and it was heavenly.  In fact, I got a little carried away and ate half of the carton before I remembered I was supposed to be crafting a recipe...

Inspired by a recipe on MyRecipes.com I decided to make a sort of chocolate and peanut butter arctic/swiss roll.  I figured that by combining three of my favourite things - brownies, peanut butter, and ice cream, what could go wrong? I used a box brownie mix to speed up the recipe but obviously you can use your own brownie recipe if you have a favourite.

Brownie peanut butter ice cream roll

Peanut butter and Caramelita ice cream brownie roll


1 box brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie Mix)
1 pint Movenpick Caramelita ice cream
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter


1. Preheat the oven according to the brownie mix instructions.  Grease a rectangular baking tin (I used a 12 x 15" roasting tin - I'd recommend something slightly smaller) and line with baking/parchment paper.  The package instructions will probably recommend an 8"x8" brownie tin but you need a rectangular baking tin in order to achieve the shape required for the roll effect.

2. Prepare the brownie mix according to the package instructions and pour the batter into the tin.  You want to aim for about half of the thickness you would usually use for brownies to achieve the 'swiss roll' effect. Use a spatula to smooth the surface of the batter.

3. Because of the difference in thickness, the brownie mixture will probably take a little less time and you want to take it out when it is just done - mine took between 15 and 20 minutes (the instructions recommended 20-25 minutes).  Remove pan to a wire rack and let brownie cool.

4. Once brownie has cooled, run a knife along sides of pan to loosen it. Place a piece of parchment as big (or larger) as your baking tin and invert brownie onto a baking tray and peel off parchment.

5. Refrigerate ice cream to soften, should take about 10 to 20 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix honey, vanilla and peanut butter. Using a knife or spatula, carefully spread peanut butter mixture evenly over brownie, leaving a 1-inch border on each long side.

6. Using a spoon, scoop out thin slabs of softened ice cream and arrange along center of peanut butter layer. Spread ice cream just down middle of brownie.

7. With one long side of pan facing you, carefully lift parchment under brownie and roll brownie into a swiss roll, laying it seam side down to seal. Put in freezer immediately and freeze for at least 2 hours. Dust with unsweetened cocoa powder, if desired.

I took this out of the freezer after a few hours and sliced it up like swiss roll and it was incredible. The hard crust of the brownie, the smoothness of the peanut butter and then the creamy ice cream were the perfect combo!

Movenpick caramelita challenge Movenpick Caramelita
Brownie peanut butter ice cream roll

Even though I just ate some more of this about half an hour ago, just looking at those photos is making me want to head to the freezer again!

I'm excited that I still have two more flavours to try - do you have any recommendations for recipes I should try with these? (Or shall I just go back to my old ways of spoon and tub....?)


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Supercharge your smoothies

Over the last few years, fruit smoothies have seen a huge boom, with a smoothie maker being a staple item in most people's kitchens (whether or not it gathers dust alongside the breadmaker remains to be seen!) Most people accept that whizzing up fruit, milk and yoghurt in the morning is a pretty good way to start the day. Previously the territory of bodybuilders and gym addicts only, protein shakes also seem to be incredibly popular lately, with lots of people picking up protein powders to throw in smoothies or even mix into pancakes and baking.

I'm definitely a huge smoothie fan, and my staple smoothie recipe usually involves soy milk or coconut milk, banana or frozen fruit, protein powder and a glob of peanut butter.  So when Indigo Herbs got in touch about whipping up some smoothie recipes, I was excited to try out a few new combinations.  Little did I know that they'd be sending me some ingredients that would change my smoothie making forever!


Indigo Herbs are a family run business based in Glastonbury who are passionate about organic, wildcrafted and quality assured health products, including herbal teas, powders and tinctures, superfoods, whole foods and lots more.

They sent me a hamper full of smoothie ingredients - including a banana and a mango, but also some rather intriguing super-foods to add to my smoothies to really supercharge their health benefits.  I've listed some of these, along with their amazing benefits (I know this might seem a bit like a yawn-some science lesson but I wanted to include their benefits so you can see just how much of a punch these powders pack).

Wheatgrass ~ is a natural source of Antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, the B group vitamins thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and panthothenic acid and minerals manganese, zinc, magnesium and iron.  Many claim that wheatgrass has a higher nutritional content than any other vegetable, protects against inflammation, builds red blood cells and improves circulation (Wheatgrass Powder, £4.39)

Acai Powder ~ helps to increase your antioxidant levels to aid in neutralising damaging free radicals, boosts your energy levels, supports your immune system and helps to promote a healthy digestive system. (Acai Powder, £7.99)

Spirulina ~  is a nutrient rich blue-green Algae with many health benefits.  It is a natural source of functional vitamins & minerals, high in Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B6 and a good source of B12.  It is also high in protein with 64.2g per 100g, and to add to that a vegetarian source of protein! (Spirulina Powder, £8.99)

Purple Corn Extract ~ contains a variety of plant nutrients including massive amounts of phenolics and anthocyanins.  Studies show that a diet rich in polyphenolic compounds is associated with reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Recent research in both animals and humans have shown that increasing polyphenol intake can protect against atherosclerosis, lower blood pressure, reduces blood clots and elevate antioxidant capacity of the blood. (Purple Corn Powder Extract, £9.99)

Banana Powder ~ made from Red Bananas, banana powder includes B vitamins, is a source of carbohydrates, provides an energy boost, and is a good source of potassium (ensuring healthy nervous system, brain and heart function) and a concentrated source of nutrition. (Organic Raw Banana Powder, £4.49)

Beetroot Powder ~ contains high levels of important vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. Rich in iron, potassium, magnesium, A, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, calcium, copper, phosphorous, sodium, iodine, boron, soluble and insoluble fiber. Beetroot is a rich source of carbohydrates and protein. (Beetroot Powder, £7.99)

You can add this powders easily into smoothies - when you think that putting a tablespoon of powder into a smoothie in the morning could help lower cholestrol, improve circulation, promote healthy digestion, reduce the risk of cancer and give you an amazing hit of nutrition and vitamins, I think it's a bit of a no-brainer!

Smoothie ingredients Smoothie

Here are a couple of my favourite smoothie recipes, adding some ingredients to supercharge them courtesy of Indigo Herbs...

Green smoothie 
Small avocado
Handful of almonds
150ml coconut milk
1 tbsp wheatgrass powder
1 tbsp banana powder
1 tsp grated fresh ginger

Berry and banana bonanza
One banana
250g blueberries
75g plain yoghurt
1 tbsp wheatgrass powder
1 tbsp Acai powder

One banana
Handful of cashews
150ml almond milk
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp purple corn extract
1 tbsp raw cacao (or organic cocoa powder)

This morning's was a chopped peach, a chopped nectarine, coconut milk, strawberry flavoured protein powder, banana powder and acai powder.  It was so fruity and delicious - perfect for summer!


What are your favourite smoothie combinations? Have you tried any of these superfood powders? Make sure you check out Indigo Herbs so you too can supercharge your morning smoothies!

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The story of Bodhi the dog

At the end of the month it's Bodhi's 3rd birthday, which just seems unbelievable to me.  In some ways, it feels a little like we've always had him and I can't imagine him not being around, and in others, it feels like yesterday that we picked him up from Wales and brought him home snuggled in a blanket.

The first few days of owning Bodhi were pretty tough.  At that time Tom worked shifts and stayed at his parents' for three days out of eight, and those three days fell the day after we picked him up.  Bodhi cried and barked all through the night and then left a trail of poo and wee around the house all day.  Needless to say, my attempts at working from home during those days were not very productive.  It was pretty exhausting having an extremely demanding tiny puppy jumping all over me and I almost permanently carried around cleaning wipes, kitchen roll and antibacterial spray.  I was very glad when Tom came home after those few days! I know I've made that sound very melodramatic, but I just want to make any potential puppy owners aware of the fact that the first few weeks are not all puppy snuggles and instagram opportunities, there are also a lot of sleepless nights and soggy puddles on your favourite rug!

Of course there were a lot of fun moments over those first few weeks as we adjusted to our new family member too.  I made a little video of Bodhi chasing after a ball in the garden - I can't believe how white and fluffy he is! - By the way, we'd only just moved into our house at this point and the garden is awful, please excuse the mess!

For those of you that don't know, you can't take a puppy out for walks until a certain amount of time (advised by your vet - usually a couple of weeks) after their puppy injections to ensure that they are safe to mix with other dogs.  As we picked Bodhi up at the end of September 2011 (8 weeks after he was born at the end of July), we had an Autumn full of exploring the forest with Bodhi and taking him for as many walks as his little puppy legs would allow.

We'd picked Bodhi up from a breeder in North Wales, so we thought it was very fitting that his first walks were back in Wales when we went there for a long weekend away at the beginning of October. I still can't believe he was ever that little!

Bodhi in Wales

And this is Bodhi in the forest a month later in November.  He was very nervous of all of the horses walking around!

Bodhi in the forest

Fast forward three years and getting Bodhi is still one of the best decisions we've ever made.  His little face never fails to make me smile, and he is the most fun, loving dog - he has so much personality and constantly has us crying with laughter at his little antics.  I love the fact that everyone who meets him falls in love with him too (sometimes I think some of our friends and family are more excited to see Bodhi than they are to see us!) He is just as gorgeous now as he was as a tiny pup.

Bodhi grass
Bodhi and Tom

Just before I finish this gushy post full of Bodhi love, I thought I'd answer a few questions I often get asked about Bodhi and getting a dog...

Why did you name him Bodhi?

Tom and I couldn't decide on a name we both liked, and we both had a list and couldn't agree on one! In the end we chose a favourite character out of one of our favourite films (Bodhi in Point Break, played by Patrick Swayze). Bodhi also has a beautiful meaning in Sanskrit, meaning enlightenment and awakening (kind of ironic for a dog that likes to sleep for most of the day).

What type of dog is Bodhi?

He is a schnoodle - a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle.  We chose to get a schnoodle because of each breed's attributes, but mainly because the poodle in him means he doesn't shed fur so is considered 'hypoallergenic', which was important as Tom suffers from asthma and hayfever as well as lots of allergies so we didn't want to risk that he'd be allergic to Bodhi!

How much does owning Bodhi cost? Is owning a dog expensive?

The initial outlay of buying a dog is expensive as dogs can range from anything from about £500 upwards depending on whether you want a cross-breed or pedigree.  Then you need to think about buying items like a dog bed, crate, lead, toys etc, which all add up, as well as vet's bills for initial jabs and checkups.  On a monthly basis we spend about £20 on food for Bodhi (a large dog will cost more in food).  Two other monthly outgoings are pet insurance, which costs another £10 and a standard fee we pay to the vet which covers check-ups, and a couple of other treatments a year (also £10 a month). Dog insurance is absolutely non-negotiable and something you wouldn't want to be without - if your dog gets sick or is injured it can get very expensive in terms of vet's bills so it gives you peace of mind that you can get them better without worrying about the cost.

Is Bodhi the best dog there ever was?

Yes, yes he is.

Are you a dog lover? I think we should have a blogger and dog meetup one day so all the blogger's dogs (that's a mouthful) can hang out!

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Under the apple tree

I have a deep nostalgia of summers as a child - weeks that seemed to stretch on like a lifetime of heat and possibility.  I can't remember a single moment spent indoors, instead I savour the memories of roughed hands from climbing trees, building dens in the garden, playing 'manhunt' in the cabbage fields behind our patch of houses, riding our bikes to the shops, kicking footballs in the park, sticky ice lollies and flying kites.  I still hate being cooped up on a beautiful day and I get an intense feeling of guilt if I spend a warm day indoors.  There's just something about the summer that makes me yearn to be outdoors - camping, walking, running, exploring - getting sandy feet, freckly skin, rouged cheeks; flip flops by the front door, packed lunches, get in a car and drive to where the seagulls are kind of days.

Lomo LC-A

Even though I love my home comforts and you'll never find me in the winter splashing in muddy puddles or going on long walks in the rain, in the summer I can suspend my aversion to being wet/dirty/cold and somehow find a way not to mind sticky ice lollies melting down my arm, my hair salty and wet from swimming in the sea, sand in my shorts, doing the 'barefoot walking on stones on the beach' dance.

In the winter I don't begrudge trudging off to work, but in the summer I must admit to a serious case of the green eyed monster when I see people enjoying themselves at the beach, whiling away afternoons in pub beer gardens and generally soaking up the sunshine.  For this reason I try and spend as much time as possible outside in the mornings, after work, and obviously at weekends whenever we're treated to a sunny day.

Sitting in our garden under the apple tree is the easiest way for me to enjoy the calmness and serenity of just being outdoors.  Somehow just walking down to the end of the garden allows me the opportunity to switch off - to put distance between myself and the ironing pile, the 'to eBay' pile, the to-do list, my inbox, and so on.  I actually get antsy, feeling like I should be indoors doing things, but I force myself to stay outside and give myself that time just to unwind.  It's so much easier not to get distracted by all of life's pressing urgencies and chores when you're outside with nothing but the grasses swaying in the wind, the smell of lavender and the seagulls circling overhead.

Apple tree

In the mornings I've been bringing out my morning cup of green tea or a smoothie and either reading a book or simply enjoying the breeze and the opportunity for quiet reflection.  In the evenings, something a little more indulgent like a glass of wine or a hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate

I was very kindly gifted a Dolce Gusto coffee machine recently and I immediately went online and ordered their green tea, chai latte, and caramel hot chocolate pods.  It's a massive novelty for me being able to make really yummy hot drinks at the flick of a switch and they've become part of my morning and evening routine.  I really recommend their machines and their range is amazing (was so excited when I saw that they did chai lattes, will save me a lot of money in coffee shops!) - they also have loads of fun stuff going on campaign-wise so make sure you check out their 'The Pod' page on Facebook for the chance to earn rewards and win prizes.

Reading and hot chocolate Hot chocolate

A caramel hot chocolate is the perfect accompaniment for my current read - My Heart Wanders by Pia Jane Bijkerk.  It's a beautiful book about love, travel, interiors, style, photography, writing and much more, documenting her life living in Sydney, Paris, Amsterdam (on a houseboat!) and filled with stunning photography, poetry and prose.


Through her book I also stumbled across her blog, which is also beautiful (and has me wanting to build a big sandpit in my back garden - you will see what I mean....)

Do you like to make time to be outside in the summer?

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Dear iPhone

I feel like things need to change between us.  I know, I know - what way is that to start a letter? - especially as you probably haven't even noticed that things have been going wrong.  In fact, from your end, I'm sure you'd say that things are better than ever.  You see, iPhone... that's half the problem.  You've probably noticed just how hopelessly attached I am to you.  It's true - you're the first thing I reach for in the morning, and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep.  Your glow has replaced the sunrise and sunset - my day begins not with the light of the sun dipping over the horizon, but with your digital illumination.  I wake not with the sound of seagulls or the patter of footsteps on floorboards, but to the electronic chime of your alarm. You call for me and I go to you.  An outstretched hand which barely relinquishes you for the remainder of the day.

I've always figured myself quite an independent person, iPhone.  I have been grittily determined not to be dependent on others, stubbornly refusing to ask for help and relishing time spent alone.  I detest my anxieties, those little niggles in the back of my mind that tell me I can't do things, my nervousness to make journeys on my own now and then, or that weight in my stomach at the thought of making a mistake, missing a train, feeling exposed.  You know that I fight against these - like a little girl, all pigtails and mud under her fingernails - no-one can tell me what I can and can't do.  I make my own way.  You're not the boss of me. So how does it make me feel that I check for you before I leave the house - sometimes two or three times? That when I am alone and feel vulnerable, I do not lift my chin to the sky, dig my heels in deeper, tell myself that I have every right to walk, or sit, alone without being judged - I reach for you.  I do not call, or use you as a stepping stone to connect with others, sometimes I just hold you - a solid, metal comfort blanket.  A sign to the world that I have a purpose, I have friends - I have a phone.

I know what you'll say - but I barely see you during the day, and that's true.  No signal and no wifi at work mean that during the days I snatch back back some of that freedom (reluctantly)- I don't scroll, or check, or carry you from place to place like I do when I'm at home.  But you know me well enough to know that I don't take this lightly.  I still wander around on occasion, searching for that elusive bar of signal, perhaps a little 3G (it's never there but I still look), to see if I'm missing anything.  I'm tortured by those encircled numbers by my email box and Twitter app that have managed to sneak enough signal to tell me there's something there, but not enough to show me what.  And I don't tuck you away, do I? Even though at work you're little more than a brick, a hunk of metal, unable to deliver even your most basic functions (I'm sorry - you know it's true, secretly squirreling away voicemails, patiently waiting to come alive at 5pm) - I still keep you next to me.  Expectantly I still check - bringing up Twitter, providing nothing but a snapshot in time of just before I lost signal that morning.  Those same last five tweets that will remain there all day, time suspended.  I can't bring myself to leave you in my bag.  I need you, it's true.

'So what's the problem?' I hear you say.  What's the harm in having that deep connection? I cup you in my palm, slip you in my back pocket, feel for you to check you're still there, like a keepsake or a secret.  The problem is, iPhone, that you are just a phone.  You are not enhancing my life or making me happier - I can't justify the time we're spending together any longer.  I have other things I need to do with my time - things like yoga, and running, and reading, and just... looking up at the sky and smelling flowers and taking a moment to appreciate all of the things around me, instead of all of the updates on Twitter.  I need to get my news from the wind and the weather and the tide, not from 140 characters and Facebook status updates from 12 years ago schoolfriends.  I need to put my hands and arms around Bodhi and my fiancĂ©, not around your plastic case.  I need to end my days with a good book, some yoga stretches, maybe some meditation - not with instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and then instagram again to see if there's anything I've missed.  I need to be more immersed, to dip entirely below the surface of films, and books, and days out, to gulp them in, rather than having one hand above the surface checking what else is going on on social media.  

It might seem harsh, but I'm determined that we spend more time apart.  You're like an itch I love to scratch, and I need to learn to leave you be.  You're going to be spending more time in my handbag, in gloveboxes, in other rooms, and maybe even switched off (I know, I know, I've never done that before).  I'm going to start by trying to say goodnight to you at 9pm - and then finish the rest of my day without you.  I know you like it when I reach for you reflexically, but I'm going to be sitting on my hands from now on.  I need to see more of those moments that can easily be missed - the way the grasses in our garden dance in the wind, the way Bodhi tilts his head when he hears a funny noise, the way the steam from my tea cup curls ambiently towards the ceiling, the delicate petals of the orchid in the kitchen.  And when I do? I need to stop myself from grabbing you immediately, because one thing I also need to learn, iPhone? Not everything needs to be instagrammed.  Some things can be kept just between me, and well, me.

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A mystery blogging event: indoor climbing at Rock Reef, Bournemouth

The week before last, five bloggers waited nervously outside Aruba in Bournemouth, after receiving an email from Hannah about a 'mystery blogging event'.  All we knew was to wear comfy clothes - we were even told not to worry about cameras as we may not want to be photographed undertaking this activity!  I was in deep suspense, and all I managed to get out of Hannah in the car on the way there was a slightly concerning "You will be fine, as long as you're not scared of heights..."

As we walked up to Bournemouth Pier in the beautiful sunshine I was eyeing all around us trying to spot what it could be, and only sighting a Spongebob Squarepants bouncy castle (which disappointingly, it wasn't!) After assembling at Aruba Hannah revealed all by walking us down the end of the pier and arriving at Rock Reef - an activity centre with clip n climb, highline and even an indoor cave experience.  Despite Hannah's cautionary warning I had planned to take my camera anyway but couldn't find it when I was getting ready and only had time to grab my little handheld video camera, so instead of lots of photos I've made a vlog of the event.

Here are a couple more photos pinched from Hannah (just to prove I actually went and did manage to get some way up a climbing wall!)

img credit: hannah bee
Louise, Cheryl, Hannah, me, Sarah
img credit: hannah bee
Rather embarrasingly I managed to get stuck in the above position for about five minutes as I was scared to jump off!

All in all it was such a fun evening and I'm hugely grateful to Hannah for organising it.  It was something I'd never think of doing but it was absolutely brilliant and I'll definitely be going back - especially when they open the Pierzip (a zip wire above the sea!)

Have you ever been indoor climbing? Would you go to a mystery blogging event?

PS - I'm still experimenting with making YouTube videos so you might have to cut me a bit of slack whilst I'm still learning - ha! Sorry it's a bit shaky.  It's something I'm really keen to do so hopefully you will enjoy my foray into YouTube and video making!

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Current health and fitness regime

Rather than continue to do sporadic health and fitness updates, I thought instead I would do some more specific updates about things I've been up to relating to health and fitness.  This is still a bit of a journey for me, but I have settled into a routine that I've kept up since the beginning of June, so I thought I'd share a bit more about my 'regime' and what I've been trying out over the last few weeks.

You might remember that at the beginning of June I decided to sack off the 5:2 diet and focus on my fitness instead. My plan was to do something active every day - ranging from a 10k run to 10 minutes of yoga.  I'm pleased to say that I stuck to it - there were some days when it did end up being a short workout of some situps and crunches or a few yoga moves and stretches, but I moved every day and managed on 90% of the days to do at least half an hour of exercise.

My current morning routine is:
  • Use my Sleep Cycle app and set my alarm for between 0620 and 0650
  • Get up, have a cup of green tea and a Thermopure supplement (contains a bit of caffeine, green tea extract and raspberry ketones amongst other things - gives me a kickstart in the morning!)
  • Do 30 minutes of exercise
  • Shower and get ready for work
In terms of the 30 minutes of exercise, this has included:
  • Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred DVD
  • Jillian Michaels Shred It With Weights (done with 7.5kg kettlebell)
  • Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown
  • Yoga with Adriene - 20 minute Vinyasa Flow
  • 5k run
I am a really light sleeper and consequently sleep quite badly - at the moment I'm getting woken up at 5am when the sun comes up too so I find myself feeling pretty tired by the time the evening rolls around.  I definitely have more energy in the morning (plus I can only run on an empty stomach or I get a stitch) so I've decided that morning workouts are definitely best for me.

I try and fit in 2-3 runs per week with one of those being a longer one at the weekend.  I love being able to run in shorts and vests when the weather is a bit warmer.  This was taken quite a few weeks back, I can tell as I've been running in my lightweight Skechers for the last three weeks or so rather than these shoes.


I ran 44.3km (27.5 miles) in total in June so I feel like that's a good achievement.  I also ran my fastest 5k, 1k and mile this week - I think my new lightweight trainers are helping as I feel generally more able pick up the pace and take longer strides.  I was hoping to run 50km in total this month, but the last couple of weeks have not been good in terms of wellness and feeling up to exercise.  I've had a sore knee, a lot of lower back pain and also a lot of stomach issues which have meant having about four rest days already this month when I really didn't want to. Last weekend and last night I was suffering so much with my back that I could barely walk so I think a run is definitely off the cards, no matter how much I tried to justify to Tom that it might help loosen me up!  I've been keeping a food diary every day and noting down how I feel after each meal to try and get to the bottom of why I've been getting a bloated stomach and griping pains.  I'm wondering if I've developed some kind of food intolerance but I can't see any real trends yet, hopefully the diary will reveal all eventually. I'm trying to avoid processed foods and wheat and have been eating lots more fruit and veg, so hopefully that will help in the long run (she says, sat at the computer looking like she's swollen a giant beach ball - tummy problems are not the one!) 

In the evenings I've also been using a foam roller (there's a good guide here if you have no idea what I'm talking about).  I was told last week (by a climbing instuctor at a blogging event!) that I have low ankle mobility, which is affecting my squat form and contributing to my knee injuries.  Foam rollering the calves (I also do my hammies, IT band, upper back and glutes) helps with ankle mobility so I'm hoping this will help stop me getting injured!

I'm still waiting for the new gym near me to open - the reason I've been doing DVDs instead of going to gym classes is that I'm waiting to take out membership there.  They have a rooftop yoga studio and lots of classes I've been wanting to try for ages, like Insanity, boxing and Metafit (I'll tell you when I've done them whether I should indeed have been looking forward to them!)  I'm slightly worried I'm going to end up living there, I'm so keen to get my membership! What I'm really looking forward to is a few sessions with a Personal Trainer who can help correct all my exercise bad habits and help me lift some weights - I'm not seeing a massive difference in my body at the moment (and I stopped weighing myself weeks ago) and I reckon weights will really help give it a boost!

I shall leave you with a snap of a mid-run paddle - truly the best way to cool down hot feet!

Do you have any tips for my exercise routine? What have you been focussing on this month?

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