An Avios Adventure - Bath House Spa at New Park Manor

There was a time only a couple of years ago when I'd never been to a spa, and now I am a total spa addict - I was even wondering the other day whether there was such a thing as a 'spa blogger' - imagine that, you could just review spa days for a living! A couple of weekends ago we went to Charlton House for a spa break, and then the Friday before last we went for a Twilight Spa evening at the Bath House Spa at New Park Manor (that's very greedy of me isn't it, two different spas in one week!)

Bath House Spa at New Park Hotel

Several of the spa breaks I've been on have either been gifts bought from sites like Red Letter Days or Wahanda, or have even been the result of my dedication to vouchers and loyalty cards.  I try and be pretty savvy with things like remembering to click through to Quidco/Top Cashback when shopping online, and using points cards, and if we have cashback or points saved up I always think it's nice to treat yourself rather than spending it on something boring! I was recently contacted by Avios to show me how easy it is to collect Avios points and then spend them on something fun, from experiences, flights, hotels and even Eurostar tickets.  I used the Avios Points Calculator and discovered that I miss out on around 13,000 Avios points a year by not using Avios - that's enough for return flights to Paris, just on things I buy anyway.  You can collect them on fuel from Shell garages (and having a 50 mile a day commute means I could definitely benefit from that!) or even from online shopping at places like John Lewis, or on your groceries at Tesco.  I've made a mental note to definitely sign up - a little break to Paris would be an amazing treat (I can thinking of that when I'm filling up my car on the way to work!)

To show me the sort of thing you can get with 13,000 Avios points, they kindly arranged a little Twilight Spa Evening for me at New Park Manor in Brockenhurst.  Tom and I went one Friday after work - it was definitely the perfect treat to be able to leave work and rock up to a beautiful spa hotel in the middle of the forest for a bit of pampering.

Bath House Spa at New Park Hotel
Bath House Spa at New Park Hotel

I wanted to come to New Park Manor on my birthday but all the spa breaks were fully booked, so I was really excited to be able to give it a try this time.  We arrived at about half past 5 and instantly climbed into robes and slippers and had a dip in the pool.  We then went up for back, neck and shoulder massages, which were totally amazing.  Both Tom and I agreed that they were the best we have ever had.  We'd both had quite busy, tough days at work and so having back massage was the perfect stress reliever, and just what the Doctor ordered.  I've been getting a lot of pain in my neck and between my shoulders (probably through sitting in an office chair all day) and the masseuse spend ages really kneading all of the knots out, it was amazing!

Bath House Spa at New Park Hotel
Bath House Spa at New Park Hotel 

By the time our massages were over it had started to get dark, and we sat in the outdoor hot tub letting the bubbles soothe the cares of the week away.  New Park Manor is set in an amazing location, with forest all around it, and deer walking around the grounds - having that as a view from the jacuzzi was pretty breathtaking.  (I only had my phone as I didn't want to wander around the spa with my camera, so I'm not sure the photos do it justice - I'll have to go back again...)

After a nice long stint in the steam room (I'm a massive steam room fan, I feel like you can just feel the toxins flowing out of your body!) and a few laps of the pool, we left New Park Manor feeling totally relaxed and already planning our next visit.

We didn't want to go home straight away, so we decided to pop to my favourite pub, the Hobler Inn, for a cider and a pub dinner.  The open fire definitely added to the feelings of relaxed-ness, it was so cosy (the baked camembert also gave me some pretty amazing cheesy dreams, haha...)

Hobler Inn, Lymington

It was a totally perfect evening and an amazing way to end a long week.  Now I've seen the sorts of things I could get if I was clever about collecting Avios points, I'll definitely be signing up! Are you a savvy shopper, or are you (like me) the one who always leaves the vouchers stuck to the fridge, and the loyalty cards in your other wallet (oops) - maybe a trip to Paris could convince you otherwise?

*the spa evening was provided to me by Avios in exchange for this post


A weekend in jeans

I mentioned in my last blog post that I am probably the worst 'fashion blogger' (though I would never describe myself as that in any case) as I really do spend most of my weekends in jeans and comfy clothes.  So when George at Asda got in contact and offered to send me a pair of jeans to spend a weekend styling outfits around I was like 'HEY - this is like my ideal campaign'.  Maybe the next one will be someone wanting me to photograph myself wearing a onesie, lolling by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate? (Cadbury's, holla at me).  Lovely people that they are, they also let me pick a couple of other bits to go with my amazing new wonderfit jeans - so here's a few little snaps from what I wore this weekend.

I should probably start by saying that I was already wearing the jeans, jumper and boots before we headed out to walk Bodhi around the block, and that my dog walking footwear of choice is not normally pristinely white boots.  It was imperitive to stick to the pavements during this walk, those boots won't stay white forever otherwise! (Oh my gosh, remember when you used to buy white trainers as a kid and you would get that special shampoo stuff with a little brush to keep them white? No, just me?)

o u t f i t  o n e

  Asda Weekend in Jeans post Asda Weekend in Jeans post
Asda Weekend in Jeans post
hat: h&m {old - similar at asos}
coat: george at asda >> £25
wonderfit jeans: george at asda >> £20*
boots: asos {old - similar}
dog: model's own

These jeans are crazily comfortable, they're kinda stretch-y and figure hugg-y (technical term) but in a really good way, not in a 'better skip lunch' way.  They are basically the dream jeans for people like me who tend to live in them.

On Saturday morning we nipped into town for me to get my eyebrows done and to grab some brekkie.  I am obsessed with this Poppy Lux duster coat at the moment, so that had to come out to be teamed with my trusty jeans.  Oh and in case you're wondering, the Orla Kiely x Clarks heels are way more comfortable than they look, and I didn't have to walk far for eyebrows and brekkie obtaining! (I'm not that person who pretends to be hanging out in 6" heels all day when they're really wearing Nikes).

o u t f i t  t w o

Asda Weekend in Jeans post
Asda weekend in jeans outfit Asda weekend in jeans outfit post
coat: poppy lux >> £69*
jeans {as before}
heels: orla kiely x clarks {old}

The next outfit is a Sunday kinda outfit.  Tom and I went for a little stroll before he disappeared off surfing, mainly because it was a really mild and sunny day, so it was perfect for a little amble around where we live.  I feel like this herringbone blazer looks way more expensive than it is (it looks kinda Joules-y I think), but it's another George at Asda special!  I quite like teaming a blazer with a scarf for when it's not quite cool enough for a thick coat, it's comfy but still looks smart (they're also great for freezing air-conditioned offices like mine!). Oh, and I bought yet more ASOS flats - yes, I have a problem...

o u t f i t  t h r e e

Asda Weekend in Jeans post
Asda Weekend in Jeans post
shoes: asos, £28
jeans {as before}
jacket: george at asda >> £25
scarf: vero moda {old - similar}

So there you have it - my 48 hours in my awesome George at Asda wonderfit jeans.  Which is your favourite outfit? Are you a denim lover like me?


Next #Take12 Collaboration >> Tie Neck Blouse + thoughts on outfit posts

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the outfit posts on my blog lately.  Someone recently told me that on Guru Gossip once I was criticised for too often just wearing ‘jeans and a t-shirt’, and that my outfit posts weren’t ‘inspirational’.  I’ve thought about that a lot, and you may have noticed that I’ve not been doing as many outfit posts lately as I wanted to get my groove back before I jumped straight back into photographing what I’ve been wearing.  And I guess that’s at the heart of it – my outfit posts are always just… what I’ve been wearing.  I’ve never claimed to be a fashion inspiration – I’m not a fashion student, I’m not good at ‘styling’ things; I don’t have time to lay out my clothes in the morning and take ‘flat-lays’ and switch them up until I’ve found the perfect combination (full kudos if you do, I love getting fashion inspiration this way – I just pinch other people’s ideas instead!).  I do wear jeans a lot – I try and mix up what I wear them with, and I have more shoes and coats than you could shake a big stick at, but jeans are definitely my ‘go-to’, my comfort zone.  

So when Next invited me to take part in their ‘Take 12’ challenge – I did try and rummage around to find a faux-leather pleated midi skirt that I knew would look awesome with this beautiful tie-neck blouset, and I thought a lot about sleeveless coats and boots and all kinds of other things I could dig out that might create an outfit that showed I’d really thought about how to ‘style’ the item whilst nailing some key AW15 trends.  And then I thought, stuff it – I’m going to wear the shirt as part of an outfit that *I* would wear to dinner – with some heels I’m wearing loads at the moment, a leather jacket that also popped up in a recent outfit post, and some faux leather mix leggings that didn’t arrive in a package from ASOS last week, but more likely last year.  Because to me, fashion is about things you can wear, and feel good in, and not feel like you’re playing dress-up (which I would have, if I’d pulled out that skirt that frankly still has the tags on it because it wasn’t very ‘me’ to begin with).  I’m sorry if that’s not inspirational – but this is me.  

#NextTake12 Next Tie Neck Blouse Outfit Post #NextTake12 Next Tie Neck Blouse Outfit Post #NextTake12 Next Tie Neck Blouse Outfit Post #NextTake12 Next Tie Neck Blouse Outfit Post #NextTake12 Next Tie Neck Blouse Outfit Post #NextTake12 Next Tie Neck Blouse Outfit Post
Shirt: Next, £28*
Jacket: Great Plains, £95*
Faux leather leggings: ASOS {old}
Shoes: M&S {No longer on website}

ANYWAY – so I love the idea of the Take 12 challenge – and I hope I’ve done it justice! Next put together this campaign because you can now order right up until midnight for next day delivery, so to celebrate that you can shop right up until the clock strikes 12, they invited 12 bloggers to style up a key piece from their A/W range.  This shirt is perfect for my workwear wardrobe, and for throwing on with jeans (there’s those jeans again – sorry GG!) at the weekend. 

What are the favourite items you can’t help but drag out of the drawer again and again? Are you a fan of inspirational outfit posts or do you prefer the more day-to-day, casual outfits?


Ten favourite things 004

I'm just sat here with a can of Irn Bru (I don't drink many fizzy drinks but I love Irn Bru), listening to my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify (aren't they just the cleverest thing ever? I've discovered so much new music through them!) and enjoying a very chilled Sunday.  This weekend has involved lots of chores and errands, but lots of doing nothing too, which is pretty much my perfect weekend.  I love that feeling you get when you've ticked off lots of tasks and done some tidying and cleaning, it means I can relax so much more than I normally would knowing I've been productive.

001. I can't start this round-up without mentioning two things. I've discovered recently several newsletters that also round-up favourite links, articles, stories, music and all sorts, and send them out via newsletter every week. My favourite one is Luke Leighfield's Ten Things, and there's even HotPod, a newsletter about podcasts (which as you know I'm also a huge fan of).  For ages I've wanted to start my own newsletter, and I've finally got my page all set up - you can subscribe to A Rosie Letter here.  I've described it as 'Postcards from the interweb; words of wisdom, snippets of inspiration and sparks of creativity. A curated collection of words and favourite found things.' - I hope you'll love it! I'll hopefully be sending my first newsletter out next Sunday.

002. As Autumn is well and truly here, I am for sure being a total basic and filling my house with candles, drinking hot chocolate, and getting cosy under a blanket with a good book.  It's compulsory.

003. As I mentioned earlier, my obsession with podcasts continues - they really do change my commute from rage-filled clock watching to feeling inspired and learning new things.  Three favourites this week are Limetown (a spooky, mystery podcast about an abandoned village), the Well Aware podcast (minimalism and wellness) and the One-Part Podcast (inspiring stories about wellness, food and lots more).

004. My favourite thing I have read this week - 'When I'm Gone - Life Tips' (my life tip - have a tissue when reading this).

005. I have become a bit obsessed with Hygge (a Danish word that is very difficult to translate but essentially means simple living and cosiness, especially in Winter - there's a nice explanation on this blog).  I even have a Hygge Pinterest board.  Can I go to Denmark and live in a cosy little cabin until January please?

006. I read this article on using Evernote for blogging and it sounds like I'm going to have to start using it - will it change my life, Evernote users?

007. Now the leaves have changed and it's a little chillier, it's time to start playing this album on repeat. {Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago}  

008. My favourite blog this week is Me and Orla - her photography is totally stunning (her instagram is definitely worth a follow too). 

009. I can't remember what I last wrote on here about moving house, but house things are definitely progressing for us - we sold ours about a month ago and had an offer on a flat in Bournemouth around the same time (I say flat, I think it's actually bigger than our house!) Naturally I've been doing lots of pinning and losing lots of time on Homify.  Homify has tons of home inspiration, idea books and a great community for chatting through ideas with.   You can definitely lose hours on there though - if we hadn't had our heart settled on the flat we've bought, I quite fancy one of these Bauhaus style houses.  Oh and a reading room is a must...

Modern living room by davide petronici | architettura

010. I really enjoyed this very extensive look at how top instagrammers take their photos, and their tips for great iPhone photos on goop.com.

What were your favourite finds this week? Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter if you fancy this sort of fun-ness in your inbox instead! (That sounds creepy, I promise it will not be creepy).


Sleeping better with Neom + more sleep tips

I have been playing a frustrating game of hide and seek with that wily mistress, sleep, lately.  Just when I think I've caught her and she remains by my side for a few days, she flits off again to her secret hiding place and I spend hours lying awake, waiting for her to re-appear.

I'm hoping that my sleeplessness is only temporary and is linked to the fact that I was poorly for a little while and my body is still recovering (and getting used to not being off work and napping at 2pm every day - more's the pity). Sleep's favourite game of hide and seek (or rather, disappear entirely in a puff of smoke) is on a Sunday night, however.  Does anyone else find the same? I don't know if it's 'back to school syndrome', or having slept a little longer on a Sunday morning, but I just cannot drift off on Sundays.

I do think however that I've got my sleep routine pretty nailed.  Especially as I'm now in possession of this absolute sleep saviour, the Neom Pillow Mist (£20*).

Neom Pillow Spray

You might know by now that I'm a total Neom devotee, owning several of their candles, and having converted many friends and family to being die-hard Neom fans (every time I visit my Mum's house a new product pops up - she now has me coveting their handwash!) The scents are just totally amazing - all of their products are 100% natural and ethically sourced, and they use expertly blended essential oils in all of their products that are specifically selected to promote tranquility and calm.

Neom Pillow Spray

Their pillow mist is no different - three spritzes on your pillow before bed claims to deliver a 'better, longer and deeper sleep', and I'd definitely attest that that's been the case for me.  The scent is just so dreamy - as soon as I've given it a spray I already start to feel calm and relaxed; taking a big deep breath of the fragrance as I bury my head into the pillow just gives me that 'ahhhh' feeling of being at ease and ready for the land of nod.

Neom Pillow Spray

As well as the pillow mist, I've also stopped using my phone when I get into bed (I put it on charge and put it in the drawer to stop myself scrolling through Twitter and instagram before I fall asleep) and I'm trying to get Tom to stop using his iPad when I'm trying to get to sleep as I find the light from that really distracting.  I'm also a fan of 'sleepy teas' - the Clipper Sleep Easy tea is great, and I usually put a few drops of the Jan De Vries Night Essence (flower tincture) in it as I find that really helps.

I always have a bath before bed and I like to use lavender essential oil and a nice bubble bath to help me wind down for the day.  As the bath is running I usually do a  little yoga on the mat in my bedroom - the Yoga With Adriene Bedtime Yoga routine is perfect for this.  After my bath, all that remains is to hop into my cosiest pajamas and settle down with a good book until my Lumie Bodyclock sunset light is completely dimmed.

What's your bedtime routine? Have you tried the Neom Pillow Mist?


Left and leaving

I was pretty excited when I edited these photos.  This was a day when I thought my hair looked terrible, I wasn't wearing much make up, my jeans weren't quite fitting right... and yet after all of that beating myself up before we went for a walk, these photos turned out pretty magically (if I do say so myself).

Great Plains Outfit Post
Great Plains Outfit PostGreat Plains Outfit Post
>> quilted biker jacket / great plains / £95*
>> geisha oversized top / great plains / £45*
>> jeans / new look / £24.99
>> shoes / asos / £20

Great Plains Outfit Post
Great Plains Outfit Post Great Plains Outfit Post Great Plains Outfit Post Great Plains Outfit Post Great Plains Outfit Post

Tom took these photos for me when we were staying at Charlton House in Shepton Mallet at the weekend. He's getting pretty good at taking outfit snaps now - of course the 50mm lens and my Canon 6D definitely help though (don't tell him that - I'm telling him it's all his handiwork.) I wish I had the time to find beautiful outdoor spaces to take photos in more often (and soon it will be too dark for anything other than weekend outfit posts...)

I'm absolutely in love with my new Great Plains jacket - I've been hunting for the perfect (faux) leather jacket for some time and this one has just the right shape and structure.  I think a leather jacket is a great piece for wearing whilst the temperatures are not so chilly to require a thick wool jacket - worn with a scarf or layered over a jumper means I'm just the right temperature (there's nothing worse than bringing the big coat out of storage only to find you're absolutely sweltering when you walk to the shops!).  The Great Plains collection of coats and jackets has lots of tempting pieces - coats are definitely my weak spot when it comes to shopping; most of the doors in our house won't completely open as they're so overburdened with coats hanging on the back of them.  I really should get rid of some, but I really feel like you need a coat for every occasion - smart vs casual, long vs short, thick vs thin - I mean, there are so many coats out there to be owned and loved... I want them all!

I'm also loving ASOS's current shoe collection - I've invested in three new pairs of shoes over the last week or so - I've had to promise to do a shoe audit and clear out shoes I don't wear any more as my collection of flats is beginning to verge on the ridiculous.  I love wearing pretty, pointed flats to work with a pair of skinny black trousers, and there's so many around that are catching my eye!  (I'm not sure this silver pair are best suited to trudging around slightly muddy fields though, they need a good clean now!)

Have you invested in any new bits lately? (Are you a coats and shoes addict like me?)

Oh PS - this might be my first post with my face in it since I got my hair cut and coloured - no more white blonde! I'm still getting used to it, but on the plus side, my hair isn't breaking off anymore and it feels a million times healthier, which is a definite bonus (plus, I always think it's nice to go a little darker for Autumn...)


Cosy Autumn Sundays + Pies

I think Sundays in Autumn are my favourite days.  I like to start to day with a big mug of green tea, and then relax in bed for a little longer than I'd normally allow myself to - flicking through a magazine (I'm loving Natural Health magazine at the moment and I'm trying to decide whether to treat myself to a subscription...) When I finally come downstairs, the fire goes on, and I always light lots of candles.  In Autumn, my house ends up being something of a Yankee Candle shop (well, me and every other blogger), but I can never bear to light the more expensive ones!  I have a Christmas Tree candle I bought from Anthropologie a couple of years ago that was about £20 that will definitely never get lit!

Sundays are definitely for staying in pajamas for as long as is practical - the first time I get changed on a lazy Autumn Sunday is usually to add more layers or put on my softest jogging bottoms and hoodie.  Like everything on a Sunday, breakfast is taken at a slow pace, and usually doesn't arrive until around lunchtime.  Bacon sandwiches, poached egg and avocado on toast or Welsh Rarebit are all Sunday morning favourites (as I type this, Tom is currently in the kitchen whipping up Welsh Rarebit with cheese and bread we bought from a Farm Shop in Shepton Mallet yesterday - I have a feeling it's going to be good!)

Autumn cosy evening in

I become a bit of a magpie in Autumn and am always collecting things from our dog walks - acorns, conkers, feathers, pretty leaves. We have a cluster of candles and tealight holders on our table in the living room and you can often find things I've found outside stuffed in pots and jugs!

Autumn cosiness

Hot drinks are obviously a must on Autumn Sundays.  Green tea is usually my hot drink of choice, but I love that the slowness of Sundays means you can take your time with tea and brew a proper pot of tea.

Autumn cosy Sunday afternoon

When my teapot comes out of the cupboard on an Autumnal Sunday, it's obviously a time for Bluebird Tea - and what could be more Autumnal than their Spiced Pumpkin Pie Tea? (Pictured here with a Bath and Body Works Pumpkin Pecan Waffles candle that, you guessed it, will probably never get lit!)

Bluebird Tea Pumpkin Spice

From pumpkin pie chai to a different type of pie.... After a bracing dog walk in the forest, there's nothing better than coming home to the smell of a pie crisping up in the oven on a chilly Sunday.  I am a bit of a pie fanatic - pie, mash and enough gravy to sink a battleship is definitely my Autumn dinner of choice!

Higgidy Steak Ragu Pie

With this in mind I felt very qualified to try the new Higgidy Pie - Steak Ragu with Crispy Potatoes. We had ours with sweet potato chips and gravy.  Higgidy pies have been a favourite of mine for a long time and this one definitely didn't disappoint.  It's the perfect cosy Autumn Sunday evening tea - steak and smoked bacon simmered with red wine, topped with crispy potatoes! TOO yummy.

Higgidy Steak Ragu PieWe usually eat our dinners at the table (where phones are banned!) but we occasionally make an exception for a sofa Sunday.  Dinner may be eaten on the sofa, with blankets on our knees and X Factor on the TV!

Higgidy are actually holding their own Higgidy Sofa Supper Clubs, which are taking place in London on 30th October at Ice Tank, 5-7 Grape St, and in Brighton on 5th November at Caribou Rooms, 51 Brunswick Street East, Hove (PS - they're free, and first come, first served so you might want to hustle!). To book a sofa you can go to www.higgidy.co.uk/sofasuppers.  I'm pretty sure that pies and sofas are the best pairing since books and tea, so this sounds like an awesome idea.  Also - the sofa supper clubs are also being launched by Stephen and Chris from Gogglebox, I'm pretty desperate to go along and meet them; I reckon it would be pretty hilarious to share a sofa with them as they always have me laughing on Gogglebox (them and Geordie Scarlett, who I totally want to force to be my friend).

What are your favourite ways to spend a cosy Autumn Sunday? (If it doesn't involve pajamas and copious amounts of food, I don't know if I want to know though.... just kidding!)


Daily rituals

I've definitely been feeling happier lately. Its nice to write that on here. So often lately I've felt like the more personal posts on here have been outpourings of confusion and frustration - trying to navigate through opposing life choices and make sense of what the 'right path' is to follow. Without really realising it though, I feel so much 'lighter' lately. I've been reflecting a lot, listening to lots of podcasts, reading articles and generally keeping my eye out for those little nuggets of wisdom that just come along and shake up the way you feel.

I am trying to just let things 'be' and rather than trying to figure out the right answers and choices all of the time, just accept what is, now, and keep my eyes open for opportunities and little nudges in the right direction.  My commute for example, is something that I've mentioned a lot and something that I get very upset about as it's a significant time out of my day that I could spend on creativity or projects I don't get enough time to do. But I've realised that real happiness comes out of - as in the serenity poem - accepting what you cannot change, and right now, because of Tom's job and his priorities, and the security and benefits my job gives me, my job and my commute are not likely to change in the immediate future. Getting upset and angry at my commute and sitting there stewing behind my steering wheel just doesn't solve anything. Instead, I've accepted that I'm going to be in my car for around two hours a day, and I listen to podcasts, try and take in the beautiful views of the forest (and amazing sunsets the journey home has been providing lately), and just accept that this is a part of my life right now (and try and be grateful for the opportunity to spend two hours a day listening to podcasts!)

The podcasts I listen to tend to offer up a massive amount of wisdom, and I really do have those lightbulb moments where someone is living their life in a particular way that makes you realise a change that you could make for the better.  As a result of making little tweaks here and there, I'm trying to do a few things every day to help with that feeling of contentment and ease.

01. Take three deep breaths.  This sounds silly - but if you think that you obviously do this every day naturally, just watch for how often you take big, juicy lungfuls of air. It's a good feeling and I try and spend some time outside and take big, deep, grounding breaths every day. Working in an air conditioned office, I don't always get the opportunity during the day to get some fresh air, so I try and go for walks at lunchtime, or spend lots of time outside at the weekend.  Even having plants in your office can help.

02. Take ten minutes in the morning before I get up just to slow my brain down and have a moment of calm in the morning. I used to pick up my phone and start scrolling through Twitter the moment I woke up, but now I try and wake up more slowly and give myself a little moment of peace before I start the day.

03.  No screens before bed. About 10pm at the moment I put my phone on charge and then shut it in the drawer in my bedside table, and don't get it out until the following morning. I'm trying to read before bed instead of checking social media - it definitely affects my sleep when I stare at my phone for half an hour before I settle down (trying to get Tom to keep his iPad out of the bedroom is proving much less successful!) Apparently the blue light your phone or iPad emits excited your optic nerves - sending signals to the brain to tell it not to go to sleep, so it's definitely worth hiding your phone or tablet before you tuck yourself up in bed.

04. Fill in my gratitude journal. After I get up, I go straight downstairs, boil the kettle for my morning green tea, and while the tea is brewing I fill in the morning section of my Gratitude Journal. I can be a bit rubbish at doing this but I do really like the process of thinking about what I'm grateful for and reflecting on the day before, so it's something I really want to stick with.

05. Stretch every day. I don't want to tie myself to doing a full yoga routine every day as I've tried that in the past and I can't always find the time. At a minimum now I just try and do a few sun salutations or a small series of moves to open myself up and stretch out my back and shoulders especially. I've been having a lot of neck and back pain from sitting in an office chair all day and it makes me feel a million times better when I have a stretch and do a little yoga every day.

I'm currently writing this on my phone, sat in a hotel room in Shepton Mallet so I apologise a) if there are any ridiculous autocorrect errors and b) for not adding links to the podcasts I'm listening to (though I have already posted about my favourites so hopefully you might be able to dig that out!) or my favourite yoga videos. I'll try and share some bits soon which might help anyone else wanting to develop their own routines.

Do you have any daily rituals that make you feel much happier and chilled out?

The Hidden Café: A Story

As we walk towards the restaurant, a couple sat outside on wooden terrace chairs grin at us - a plethora of food laid out in front of them on the tiny table.  I sense there is a hidden message somehow and I feel a sense of kinship with them; they seem to be urging us to take a chance on this tiny, hidden 'Petiscos' café tucked down a backstreet in Porto.  Despite this feeling of somehow being invited in, they are the only ones at the restaurant, and I am unsure. As we approach the front door, I tug on Tom's sleeve and say quietly, "Should we go somewhere else?" I glance inside nervously - small, square tables line the wall, with folding chairs surrounding them, and what looks like a cheese counter is nestled away at the back of the small, dimly lit café.

I have a fear of empty restaurants - all eyes on you, a bored waitress blurring the line between attentive and intrusive.  But Tom pushes me in, and suddenly we are inside.  Immediately a man greets us, warmly.  He is tall and walks with a slight stoop; clearly not quite comfortable with his height.  He has a floppy fringe, which he brushes away from his eyes, extending an arm towards a table - "Come in, come in!"  From behind the fringe, he smiles shyly, and ushers us towards a table. As we sit, he explains that the restaurant is as much a deli and a gourmet foods shop as it a place to eat, and that the menu is centred around the foods you can buy from the shop.  The walls are lined with stacked wooden crates; full of breads, preserves, wines, olives - all manner of different foods and drinks, all displayed beautifully in vintage boxes that towered up towards the ceiling.

>> img credit: oportocool.wordpress.com {the café by day}

He hands us both menus - the choice was limited to platters of meats and cheeses, or some sandwiches. We were eager to recreate the spread the couple had on the table outside, so we ordered a cured meats platter, a cheese platter and a bread basket, with a glass of white wine for me, and a red wine for Tom.  The waiter noted down our choices carefully in pencil on his pad, stooped over our table with a reflective expression and furrowed brow; as if he was considering every one of our choices; mulling them over in his head.

He walked away, then, as if remembering something, he turned back.  Nervously he stammered - "If you don't mind.... I hope it's okay, but I wondered, if you would like to try a glass of the Port wine first? The white Port wine will cleanse your palate and make the cheeses taste even better."  He tilted his head inquisitively, but took a step back, as if to relieve any pressure we might feel to agree to his suggestion.  "Of course," I said.  "That sounds great."

Moments later, he carefully placed two glasses of Port wine in front of us.  Because of the alcohol content of Port, it creates 'tears of wine' - a ring of clear liquid which droplets form from.  I sipped it slowly, watching the wine collect at the top of the glass as I tip it towards me, and then roll back into the body of wine.  It is sweet, but strong - I expect to dislike it but it immediately warms and relaxes me.  The man returns, smiles, lights a candle with a match, and disappears out to the back of the shop. The smell of sulphur lingers a little.  "This was a good choice," says Tom, thoughtfully.

At the back of the shop, I watch as a lady takes blocks of cheeses from the counter, and delicately slices them.  She is a small lady, with a maroon scarf woven around  her head, a long, gilded dress and a look of intense concentration.  As the man re-enters the restaurant, he places a protective hand on her shoulder as he brushes past her.  Nothing is said.

"I was thinking," he begins, as he approaches our table.  "I was thinking that... I have a freshly baked chestnut loaf that would go wonderfully with your cheese.... if you would like it?" He rubs his hands together, waiting for an answer.  I imagine him in the kitchen at the back, kneading the dough, pushing fists into the soft, warm, floured mass, chopping chestnuts, sprinkling salt.  I wonder if he saves a slice for himself - slathered with jam, or perhaps served simply with a few slices of cheese. We answer yes, and he smiles gratefully and walks away.  In his smile I sense a touch of excitement, a spring in his step as he realises we will acquiesce to all of his suggestions, and that we are keen to try his lovingly made wares.

He returns with the cheese board.  Slices of cheese are laid out in rows, like toppled dominoes.  He places the board so softly and sensitively on the table that it doesn't make a sound.  He pauses to take in the lay of the board, as an artist might step away from a canvas.  He re-centres it, and smiles at me, a little embarrassed at his labour of love.  He then lays another dish next to it - the chestnut bread. As he places it, I watch as the butter oozes from its lightly toasted crust, flecks of flour dusting the outer surfaces and creating patterns on the ceramic plate.  He passes us our wine and lays the white wine in the centre and the red wine to the side.  "The white wine... much better with cheese," he explains.  "It will help the flavours come out.  Red wine is too..." he pauses, struggling for the word.  "My English is... not always so good... Overpowering! Red wine is too overpowering."  He smiles at the victory of pulling this word from his memory.  "Your English is great," I say, "Much better than my Portuguese!" He laughs at this. "Portuguese is very complicated though!" "Oh, one more thing - my wife will come and tell you what all of the different cheeses are and talk you through where they come from." We glance at the lady at the counter and she smiles - a big, warm, friendly smile - and nods in affirmation.

Petiscos Bar Porto

It might not surprise you to know that the cheeses are utterly delectable.  They are served with a ginger and ale dipping sauce which is similarly heavenly, and we try each one in turn, groaning and nodding in appreciation.  The white wine is wonderful and complements the cheese perfectly.  Even without looking, I know he is hiding just out of view in the kitchen area, watching for our enjoyment.  "This was a good choice." Tom says again, through a mouthful of warm chestnut bread.

>> A little story about our visit to Dama Pé De Cabra in Porto


Making the house cosy for Autumn

One of my little idiosyncracies is that I'm a bit of a social media addict (always that person who asks for your wifi code when I come to stay), who has tried - and failed - a digital detox on many occasions, and is rarely far away from one of my gadgets, be it my phone, iPad or laptop.  And yet somehow, the idea of hiding out in a log cabin in the woods, with nothing but a roaring fire, cosy blanket, stack of books and notebooks and a method for brewing tea, appeals.  In the Autumn I tend to go into a bit of a nesting mode - scattering blankets around the house, cranking up the fire, and spending Sundays burrowed underneath a huge duvet with a good book.

I was recently offered the opportunity to snap up a few items from the latest George Homewares section, and the idea of stocking up on some new bits to cosy-fy our house definitely appealed.  I was not prepared for just how awesome their new ranges are - I'm not just saying this, I want everything. There are eight new ranges, which have taken inspiration from world travels, and different trends from around the globe.  I was asked to pick one and write about why I chose it, and it was HARD.  I was extremely tempted by Luna - all coppers and metallics, with smoky greys and charcoal.  It's basically my interiors Pinterest board but in a ridiculously reasonably priced homewares range.  I mean - a globe lamp for £15? I have seen them for £50 in trendy design shops!

In the end though, my heart was won by the Tundra range.  I mean - even the name just conjures up images of moose galloping by your window as you relax in front of an open fire, swaddled in a (faux) fur blanket, with candles burning away in the background.  It makes me feel cosy just thinking about it.

Tundra | Asda George | Homewares

The next challenge of course was narrowing it down to a few items to welcome into our home (confession: I've since bought more!) A new lamp for Tom's bedside table was a must - a beautiful ceramic base with a copper stand won me over immediately (and £35? Hello!) Some new comfy bedsheets were a given, this tufted, textured arrow cushion looks much more expensive than its £15 pricetag, and a new tray and mugs makes chai lattés in bed on a rainy Sunday morning much more fun.

Tundra | Asda George | Homewares Tundra | Asda George | Homewares
bear mugs: £4
bear tray: £5

I'm a total sucker for quilt cover that has a different colour on the other side (mainly so I can fold the corner over and take photos like you see in interiors magazines.... yep).  This geo duvet cover is an instant favourite of my mine - putting the new sheets on on Sunday and then climbing underneath with Kinfolk magazine was probably the highlight of my week!  The only thing better than clean sheets, is new sheets.

Tundra | Asda George | HomewaresTundra | Asda George | Homewares

Tundra | Asda George | Homewares

Tom is mega chuffed with his new lamp ("I get to control the light!") - I have a Lumie light on my bedside table which I set to sunset mode and it slowly dims until it's lights out.  Tom can frequently be found yelling "the sun's going down too quick!" when he's reading a book or magazine, so it's a novelty for him to no longer finish reading something mid-sentence.

The Tundra range is inspired by the Great Plains of Canada - which is somewhere I'd definitely love to visit.  I love living in the New Forest and being able to see the trees and wildlife change through the seasons.  Whilst we don't look out of our window and see elk grazing outside like we might if we lived in the Rockies in Canada, I've still loved being able to bring a touch of the Great Plains to our house with the George Home A/W range.  

Do you like to make your house cosy for Autumn? Have you had a nose at the George A/W range yet? (If not, you might want to do it now before I buy it all....)