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Outfits
Outfits

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Adventures
Adventures

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Writing
Writing

Review: Estee Lauder Idealist Serum

I often think that skincare products are really hard to review or be able to offer a recommendation of. I end up peering into the mirror day after day, looking for a tangible sign that the wonder product that everyone raves about is definitely working.  Did I have a wrinkle there before? Do I look more 'radiant and youthful'? Getting IDed for a scratchcard a few days after starting using that cult anti-ageing cream definitely justifies the price tag - right?

I did NOT have to do the mirror-peering/wrinkle analysing/prodding for elasticity when I started using Estee Lauder Idealist Pore Minimizing Skin Refinisher (£41*).  My skin literally drank it up, and felt amazing right away.  I have never had such an instant reaction to a product before.  My skin felt smooth, soft, supple and just... amazing.  Wow.

Estee Lauder Idealist Serum Estee Lauder Idealist Serum Estee Lauder Idealist Serum

I've been using Idealist for about a week and a half now and I can totally tell a difference in my skin. My skintone is definitely clearer and brighter - I went without make-up a couple of times last week and felt much more confident about not wearing foundation.  I've been applying it in the morning and evening before applying moisturiser and I can honestly tell an instant difference.  I also think it makes foundation applied afterwards look smoother and more even due to the 'pore minimising' action; it works great as a primer.  As well as feeling silky smooth when you apply it, it also has a really lovely, dreamy scent (which I always think counts for a lot!) Also - a little goes a long way, so even though it has a slightly higher price tag than I'd normally spend on a serum, it is totally worth it, and I think it'll last for ages.  I'll definitely be re-buying when it does run out.

Have you tried Estee Lauder Idealist? What did you think? For those of you interested, Estee Lauder skincare pore minimizing skin refinisher is available at Harrods.com priced at £41.

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Home improvements and DIY on a budget

At this stage in our lives, most people I know are either only just stepping on to that first rung of the property ladder, or ploughing all of their disposable cash into savings in order to save for a deposit and realise their dreams of owning their own home.  For most people, when you do finally get the keys to your first home, you've probably been scrimping for the months preceding just to afford all of the many costs of moving, solicitor's fees, and everything else involved in finally being a homeowner, so the idea of having a big budget for doing DIY, decorating and buying furniture and accessories is something that is out of most people's reach.  When we moved into our house in 2011 we actually took out a slightly higher mortgage just to be able to afford to get some of the basics done, as there were things that came up in the survey that needed fixing immediately.  When I owned a flat prior to that I had about £100 to get everything I needed so I went on a huge Ikea spree and just accepted that I was just going to have to live with a £4 coffee table until I could afford something a bit better!

Luckily I think there is actually a lot you can do to make home improvements or undertake DIY on a fairly small budget.  Our latest project, for example, is that we recently redid our fireplace and mantelpiece in our living room.  Tom had the great idea of finding an old scaffold plank and renovating it to make it into a really unique mantelpiece to go above our new electric fire.  We went to our local salvage yard and there were absolutely tons there, mostly under £10.  Tom found one for £6, measured and cut it and then used the offcuts to make a support for the mantelpiece.  Here it is finished:

Mantelpiece Mantelpiece

Here are five more of my tips for home improvements or DIY if you're on a budget...

001. Check out 'hacks' sites where you can find ways to change up Ikea furniture or make budget versions of West Elm homewares (I am obsessed with West Elm at the moment, but so expensive...) I also love this Ikea Hacks for Spring post - so many things I want to try! 

002. Pick up magazines like Style At Home magazine for lots of budget ideas and home inspiration. Their website also has loads of tips, videos and house tours.

003. Find eBay bargains using the local eBay deals mapper to find things going cheaply, or listings ending near you with no bids.

004. Freecycle is also great for picking up local freebies that you can then upcycle.  Our local dump/household recycling centre also has a little shop where you can pick up things cheaply that were heading for the bin - check and see if yours also has this facility as it's a great place to find bargains.

005. Pick one thing that will make a big difference.  A feature wall of pretty wallpaper in a bedroom, or a gallery wall in a lounge, will make a big impact for a fairly minimal cost.  Invest money in one thing that will really make a room stand out rather than spending lots of money on little knick knacks that will fade into the background.  I love the wallpaper in our spare bedroom:

My house

... and the 'gallery wall' in our lounge...

My house

What are your budget decorating tips? If you're thinking of undertaking some home improvements and don't quite have the budget for them you could always check out the TSB Loan Calculator for a little extra help.

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A peaceful bedroom

It's probably no surprise to anyone that things are a little bit stressful in the life of a Rosie right now. There are only seven weekends left until we get married, and there's still so much left to do, and so much still to work out and decide on.  Alongside that, my full-time job is incredibly busy at the moment, and after a long day at work and the long drive home, there's not much time to do much else but make dinner and fall into bed (except for on gym days).  Talking of the gym, in order to meet my goals and feel confident in a wedding dress my Personal Trainer has come up with a plan which involves going to the gym 3-4 times a week until the end of March.  Then there's blogging, which I desperately don't want to miss out on as I do love sitting down and sharing things here. {And normal life too, of course...}

One of the first things that starts to suffer when I'm feeling like this is my sleep.  With so much on my mind I find myself waking up in the middle of the night remembering things I haven't done, or worrying about things.  Because my brain is so busy at the moment, I try and keep our bedroom as clean and clear as possible to give myself the best chance I can of feeling relaxed and peaceful when I go to sleep.

Bedroom

My beautiful new bedding from Secret Linen Store is definitely helping me in my aim to sleep better. It's 100% cotton (a mix of Egyptian cotton and other long staple cotton) and it's just so soft and comfy.  They design everything themselves and their bedding is made in beautiful Portugal (I'm a bit obsessed with this video where you can see how their bed linen is made!) Also, I can't resist anything that comes packaged as beautifully as their bed linen does...

Secret Linen Store
// Double bed set £60* and pillows, £8.50, Secret Linen Store

Bodhi on the bed

Bet you were expecting it to be more expensive for 50% Egyptian Cotton bedding right? They are a really lovely little independent company too (run by sisters Molly and Harriet), I'm so glad I found them, don't think I can ever go back to cheap Ikea bed sets now!

We recently got a new bed too, previously we had a wooden one that wouldn't quite go flush to the wall, and had sharp corners at the bottom that my shins always seemed to find in the dark! We absolutely love it, it feels very 'grown up' and looks perfect in the room.  Tom likes it because he can poke his feet through the end at night (he is 6 foot 3 so needs that extra space!)

Secret Linen Store review
// Silent Night Primrose Bed Frame, Mattress Next Day, £164.99*

Bed

We are chuffed to bits with the bed - all it needs now is some fairy lights wound through the frame I feel - what do you think? I ummed and ahhed about replacing our bed for some time but now I wish we'd done it sooner as you spend so much time in bed that getting a great mattress and bed frame is so important.

Bodhi on the bed

And Bodhi definitely likes it, which is a bonus!

I'm currently working on a little project with Pukka Herbs to try their wonderful Night Time collection and see if it helps me get a better night's sleep.  You can find out more about their Sleep With Pukka campaign and have the chance to win some prizes (their Dosha quiz is also really interesting). I'll be recording how I get on in my little sleep journal and of course sharing it here - wish me luck on my sleep journey!

Pukka Herbs Sleep Hamper Pukka Night Time

What are your tips for getting a good night's sleep? Is your bedroom a peaceful place?

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Wedding Invitations

There are some things I file under 'have no opinion on' for our impending wedding, and some things I file under 'ooooh FUN'.  I must admit that the first list really is very, very long and I add to it every day when people ask things like 'How do you want your bridesmaids' hair?' (Is 'whatever they want to do with their hair' an acceptable answer?) or 'Have you hired crockery and cutlery yet?' See also: napkins, tablecloths, music to leave the ceremony to, what flowers to have in ceremony room, whether to serve tea and coffee, and so on.  In fact the things I have been excited to plan is a much shorter list and consists mainly of music, cake, photography and pretty things (though having the time to make pretty things is looking more and more unlikely).  One of the things I have been excited about however, is Save the Dates and Invitations.  Because, well... stationery, kraft paper, cute fonts and chalkboard backgrounds get my heart racing much more than table plans and champagne flutes...

In September last year we spent about £110 getting Save The Date magnets made and posted out to people, along with some postcards giving the address of our wedding website.  (We made a bit of a fail on the fact that the thickness of the magnet and postcard in the envelope increased the amount we had to pay for postage - oops!)  After this little splurge, we were conscious that we didn't want to spend too much money then sending invitations out, as, whilst I'm a total stationery nerd, these aren't generally things that people keep for years to come, so I didn't want to blow the budget on paper goods (okay, I did, but I reined myself in!)



For our invitations, I initially looked at free printables where you could simply add your name and details and it would generate a graphic, but I couldn't find anything that felt exactly right.  We thought we wanted to have them printed on kraft paper but none of the designs I found were bold enough to be able to printed on kraft (you really need only quite dark, bold colours or the design gets lost!)

Eventually I had the idea of looking on Etsy for printable designs that could be customised, and I came across several sellers with designs I loved, such as Fate and Fourtune and Printable Wisdom. After a lot of deliberation and whittling down (and realising that Tom and I have completely different taste in designs!) we decided on this chalkboard-esque effect invitation.  I loved the fact that the botanical design fitted with our rustic/woodland theme.  (The fact that it was £8 including RSVP cards was also a big plus!)  After ordering, the designer sent us through the proofs for the invitation and the RSVP card (we reversed the colours for the RSVP so people could write on them) and they were ready for printing.


We also wanted to include an information card with information about accommodation, where to send the RSVP and some other bits, like when to turn up! I made the information card in Photoshop as it was just text and a little foxy picture (which meant I finally had a way to use kraft paper!)


With our invite, RSVP and information card ready to go, we set about finding a printer.  We found printed.com's Wedding Collection through a Google search and fell for their range of paper, textures and card stocks, as well as how easy it was to upload designs and choose different sizes.  We had the invitations printed on laminated silk paper, the information cards on kraft paper (might have mentioned that already!) and the RSVPs on unlaminated silk paper (so people can write on them).   In total, 60 copies of each of the three elements of the design printed, along with A5 kraft envelopes and postage, was around £65, which I thought was really reasonable.

Our invitations are now all ready to be posted.  I'll be printing the envelopes at home as it's really easy to do in Word, then they'll be going off in the post - eek! I definitely recommend printed.com - the service was absolutely great and we're chuffed to bits with our lovely invites.  We paid for our invites but since then Printed.com have kindly shared a discount code for anyone wanting to get their own wedding stationery (or stationery generally) printed - you can use ARO10 for 10% off.

What do you think of our Save The Dates and invites? Are you a stationery lover like me or would your priorities be elsewhere?

(I also must apologise for the photography in this post - I couldn't seem to get the flashgun working in a way that looked right so I reluctantly used my phone - soz! What an amateur!)

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Healthy food swaps and quinoa pizza recipe

I was recently contacted by Waitrose to offer me a little help with kicking any dietary bad habits and swapping naughty food choices for better choices in line with my 2015 health goals.  I try and plan my meals and make nutritious and healthy choices in my diet, but like everyone, the odd takeaway, giant slab of Dairy Milk or bag of Kettle Chips does sneak in fairly frequently.

They offered for their nutritionist to look over my weekly food consumption and suggest some tweaks to get me eating a little healthier.  (They've also launched a great healthy food swaps tool on their website).  She gave me three tips to switch up my diet and help me add extra vitamins, fibre, omega 3 fats and protein into my diet.  Little changes can add up to a lot when you're trying to improve food choices so I was definitely on board!

001. Skipping breakfast for yoghurt or fruit

I do intermittent fasting, so I usually don't eat until lunchtime.  I often then break the 'fast' with a lunch, whereas a lot of people find it easier to have three meals and start with a breakfast meal to add some nutrition and ease your metabolism in a bit more gently! Adding more fruit and yoghurt into my diet will also give me a boost of vitamins, good bacteria and protein.  I am a bit obsessed with these Collective yoghurts, the passionfruit one is so yum!


I also love their fruit and yoghurt 'suckies' - you can put them in the freezer and then pack them in your lunchbox and they're all slushy when you go to drink them! (These are on offer in Waitrsoe for 66p at the moment).


002. Takeaway pizza for a healthy alternative

Pizza is my weakness and Dominos seem to text me more than my friends do at the moment.  I decided to try a recipe for a healthy alternative to my favourite margherita pizza - using quinoa as a base.  It might not look like the most presentable and 'Pinterest' of dinners, but trust me, it was SO good!

Quinoa Pizza
Quinoa pizza

I got the recipe from instagram but it worked a charm.  The measurements are in cups but you can use an online converter if you don't have a set of measuring cups.

Q u i n o a  a n d  p e s t o  p i z z a 

ingredients

1 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I used a pack of Merchant Gourmet Red and White quinoa)
2 eggs
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp basil
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Toppings: 2 tbsp pesto mixed with 2 tbsp Greek yogurt topped with 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and fresh parsley

instructions
1. Whisk eggs, olive oil, seasoning, salt and pepper to taste and baking powder
2. Add cooked quinoa and mozzarella cheese and mix well with a spoon
3. Spread the mixture into desired shape on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper 
4. Bake at 425F for 15-20 minutes until it becomes golden brown
5. Add toppings and bake for another 5 minutes

You can use whatever toppings you like - we added some shredded pepperoni - yum!

003. One portion of fish per week

I was also encouraged to swap two of my meals for portions of fish.  For one of these, we had Jamie Oliver's recipe for Smoked Haddock and Corn Chowder.  It's a bit of a favourite of ours! You can watch the episode where he makes it on 30 Minute Meals here - or another blogger has posted the recipe here.  It's so chunky, filling and warming and the perfect chilly evening comfort dish.  We serve it with Matzo crackers to use as a spoon for shovelling it in!

Smoked haddock chowder Smoked haddock chowder

I've really enjoyed these little tweaks to my diet and will definitely be eating more fruit and yoghurt, avoiding the takeways and including more fish in my diet.

What could you swap in your diet to make a healthier choice? Have you tried any other healthy pizza recipes?

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Making time for passions (and a seaside walk)

I'm always impressed when people prioritise their hobbies and their passions and are non-negotiable on having time to do the things they love.  Though it can be frustrating at times, Tom is definitely one of those people.  Because he loves surfing, he will willingly get up at 5am in sleet, snow or torrential rain to go out if the surf is good, he won't live further than ten minutes from a beach with consistent surf, and he won't even commit or sign up to doing other activities because he doesn't want to be tied to something and miss an opportunity to surf.  I think a lot of us compromise on our passions because we don't want to be selfish, or because other things bump up the priority list - adult life and all of its demands and pressures sneak up on us and pull us away from doing the things we love.

My word for the year was 'balance', and I want to stay true to that intention to achieve balance in my life. Part of finding balance is ensuring I have enough time for self-care, and for pursuing the things that make me happy.  I've been trying to record via a 'happy list' one thing every day that has made me happy, and one thing that has made me feel inspired and I'm seeing a lot of themes come up.  One of those is yoga, and having time every day to move, stretch and have a bit of 'calm'.  Another of those is anything creative - I definitely feel happier on days when I've taken the opportunity to write poetry, read something inspiring or write a blog post.

With this in mind, I've tried to make more opportunities to get out and about with my new camera, and seize moments where I can to make room for my passions and hobbies.  I was working out of my previous workplace the week before last and that office is on the seafront at Highcliffe, so I took my camera along and went for a walk on my lunch break.  It was so nice to have a bit of sea air and blow the cobwebs away - it really felt like a proper break from work.

Highcliffe beach Highcliffe beach

Lots of other people had also seized the opportunity for a lunchtime amble, and were meandering along the promenade in the sunshine.  Sandy dogs shook off sand and droplets of seawater, racing into the surf after sticks or to go for a paddle.  Seagulls hovered overhead, eyeing bags of salty chips being consumed at the beachfront café and swooping for discarded scraps.  At the café, mugs of hot chocolate emitted steam into the chilly February air - metal chairs placed overlooking the seafront were full of people poring over newspapers, or simply watching the world go by.  The brightly coloured beach huts were largely boarded up for the winter, but a few enthusiastic people sat in deckchairs inside; braving the cold with a cup of tea and a book, watching the waves roll onto the beach.

Highcliffe beach Highcliffe beach Highcliffe beach Highcliffe beach Highcliffe beach Highcliffe beach

The tide relentlessly crashes onto the shoreline, crested waves roaring, curling and splashing onto the beach. Pebbles and stones swirl in the surge of water, leaving patterns of colour as they disappear underneath. Curious seagulls locate fish and other scraps uncovered by the surge of water.  Their feet patter along the shoreline, leaving tiny imprints in the sand.

Highcliffe beach Highcliffe beach Highcliffe beach

What a lovely lunchtime walk - and the perfect way to seize the opportunity of a sunny day and a new gadget.

How do you make sure you prioritise your passions and hobbies?

Currently listening to // Luke Pickett - And Asleep I am Your Everything

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Smoothie recipes and Lactofree experimenting

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I am a great lover of smoothies, protein shakes and generally anything I can throw a load of ingredients in and grab for on the go yumminess. You might have seen on my Twitter that a few weeks ago, my smoothie maker actually exploded (like, glass everywhere, dreams of making mango fluff banished) and so I've been feeling somewhat bereft in the mornings without my smoothie fix.

Cut to a couple of weeks ago when Lactofree kindly got in touch and asked if I wanted to use their yummy dairy drink to whip up some smoothies using a Nutri Ninja blender.  To say I was excited was an understatement - I was really intrigued to try Lactofree and whip up some new recipes.

The first one I tried was a trusty favourite - the sweet potato and raw cacao shake that I make quite often.  It's thick and gloopy like a malt shake and tastes totally heavenly even though it's not really naughty at all!  I often cook up a few sweet potatoes at once and keep them in the fridge so I can make these throughout the week.  If you reduce the amount of milk in the recipe and leave the mixture in the fridge overnight it turns into a thick pudding - yum!

T h i c k   c h o c o l a t e  s w e e t   p o t a t o   s h a k e

Lactofree smoothie

I n g r e d i e n t s
One cooked sweet potato (scoop out innards)
250ml Lactofree Dairy Drink
2 tsps maple syrup
4 tsp raw cacao (alternatively I use Brown Rice Protein with raw cacao)
1 tsp vanilla extract

.... and whizz!

Lactofree smoothie

This was the first smoothie I tried using Lactofree and I was really intrigued as to what it would taste like.  I thought it made the recipe extra creamy and almost a little sweeter! Before I was approached by Lactofree I had seen it in the shops but not really known what it was - reading up on it I found out that often when people think they're intolerant to dairy, they're actually intolerant to lactose instead (the natural sugar found in milk).  So Lactofree allows people to enjoy the nutritional benefits and taste of milk, just with the lactose removed (they also do yoghurt, cheese, cream and all sorts).

My next smoothie was another favourite - a tropical green smoothie...

T r o p i c a l  g r e e n  s m o o t h i e

Lactofree smoothie

I n g r e d i e n t s

Handful of frozen fruit (I use Waitrose Tropical Smoothie mix)
250ml Lactofree Dairy Drink
Tablespoon of Lactofree raspberry yoghurt

I'm a massive fan of the MyProtein Nutrigreens; it's a powder that contains 22 different superfoods and fruit and vegetable extracts.  I quite often throw it in smoothies to give me that extra nutritional boost.  Lactofree was also great in this - it tastes really tropical and refreshing! The bags of frozen smoothie mix are the ultimate lazy way to whip up quick smoothies.

Lactofree smoothie

Next on my list to try is the cherry and strawberry smoothie - I don't think I've had cherries in a smoothie before, yum!

The Nutri Ninja is amazing by the way, I massively recommend it - you make the smoothie using the jug and then switch the bladed attachment for a lid - easy peasy (totally cuts out the mess and the faff of washing up lots of things after you've made a smoothie!)

What's your favourite smoothie recipe? Have you tried Lactofree?

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Giraffe Bournemouth Review

When I discovered that our big Tesco superstore in Bournemouth was going to be home to a new branch of the restauraunt 'Giraffe', I was excited and intrigued all at the same time.  Excited because I'd eaten at a Giraffe in London last year and really enjoyed the food, and intrigued because, well, a restaurant, attached to a Tesco? Would it be mega convenient, or slightly odd?

I didn't have to wait long to find out, as they very kindly invited me to give the new restaurant a try. On Friday night, I pitched up with my friend Nicole, two hungry bellies and a camera, and looked forward to a night of gossiping and eating our way around their mouthwatering menu.  The restaurant is attached to the Tesco Extra in Bournemouth, which lucky for us, is about ten minutes from my house.  We arrived at 7pm and the car park was almost empty - so five points immediately for being able to park right outside the restaurant (also, you don't have to go into Tesco at all to get to the restaurant, which I thought was a positive as I was worried it might feel odd!).  We were greeted and shown to our seats by a lovely waitress, and then introduced to the Manager, who promised us our table would shortly be full of a herd of mini giraffes (she was right).

I loved the décor inside; it's fun and funky and had a great atmosphere.  It was quite quiet for a Friday night but I'd imagine the peak times for this branch are breakfast and lunchtime, where people combine shopping trips with a bite to eat.

Giraffe Bournemouth Giraffe Bournemouth

We cracked right on with starters - I had 'chicken potstickers' - fried chicken dumplings/gyoza with a soy-chilli sauce.  They were really yummy and just the right size for a starter.

Giraffe Bournemouth

Nicole had Firecracker Chicken Tenders - chicken in a spicy coating, with a wasabi aioli dip.  They were also really tasty - we tried a bit of each others' and I particularly liked the dip, it packed a punch!

Giraffe Bournemouth

After a lot of deliberation (and eyeing up of the burgers!) I eventually went for the chilli beef burrito for my main course.  It came with a salad but this greedy guts also ordered sweet potato fries (because sweet potato).  I didn't get a great picture as the light was a bit tricky.  This was also really, really good and very filling.  It was filled with chilli beef and herby rice, and topped with cheddar, pink onions and soured cream (I think I would eat a shoe if it was topped with cheese and soured cream - luckily this was much more tasty!)

Giraffe Bournemouth

Nicole went for steak and chips - she reports that her steak was cooked 'just right' (she ordered medium-rare).

Giraffe Bournemouth

We had wine with our food, but I also ordered their fresh lemonade with mint, which was lovely and really refreshing.

Giraffe Bournemouth

The giraffes started to gather - one had a penchance for red wine....

Giraffe Bournemouth Giraffe Bournemouth

After a little break we moved on to dessert.  Their dessert menu looked great and we had trouble choosing!  In the end, Nicole went for brownie and ice cream, which looked heavenly, and very decadent...

Giraffe Bournemouth

... And I went for vanilla cheesecake with a ginger snap base, rhubarb compote and mascarpone cream.  It was amazing, though it overfaced me and I had to leave some - sad face!

Giraffe Bournemouth

We had a really perfect evening - the staff were really attentive and knew the menu well and gave us lots of recommendations.  I'd definitely recommend Giraffe, and the Bournemouth branch in particular.  I'll be popping in for breakfast the next time I'm off for a weekly weekend shop, and I'll be taking Tom back as he's such a burger fan that I know he'll want to try the Giraffe Burger! (He might have to be designated driver next time as their cocktail menu looked amazing!)

Have you been to Giraffe before?

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