Keeping hydrated with Nuva and Antipodes

I'm currently writing this from Mexico, where it's incredibly hot and humid - but since it's also been pretty hot in the UK of late I thought it would be a good time to share a few products that have been keeping me hydrated in the warm weather.  I've been trying two new products from Antipodes to keep my skin feeling soft and nourished during the summer.  I've actually never tried anything from Antipodes before but I'm now a total convert!

Antipodes Hosanna H2O Intensive Skin Plumping Serum (Naturismo, £28.99*)

One thing that I don't really use as part of my skincare routine (but I know I should) is a serum - so I was really excited to try this.  It's an oil free serum that promises to 'quench thirsty skin' and improve skin appearance.  Because it's oil-free and water based it's a different consistency to other serums I've tried and it's very lightweight, which is perfect for the summer.  A little goes a long way (even though it feels initially like it doesn't because of the consistency!) It makes my skin feel hydrated as soon as I apply it, and I then go on to apply my moisturiser over the top of it.  The texture is lovely and it has a really nice scent too.

Antipodes Vanilla Pod Hydrating Day Cream with Manuka Honey (Naturismo, £27.99*)

This moisturiser is the perfect product for keeping hydrated in the heat. For me, the consistency of a moisturiser is really important; I much prefer a thicker, nourishing moisturiser rather than a lightweight one. This one is almost like a thick, whipped cream that sinks right into the skin (is it me, or is there nothing more satisfying than dipping your finger in a really thick moisturiser?) It smells absolutely heavenly - the main scent is the manuka honey, which is a really light, sweet aroma. I put this on every morning before my SPF and foundation and it keeps my skin feeling moisturised and soft all day. Using this every day I can really see the difference in my skin - I usually get patches of dry skin during the summer but my skin is feeling really smooth and healthy.

Nuva Water [Nuva water, available at Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Boots and more]

Drinking water is a totally integral part of my daily routine, and staying hydrated is really important for me, especially during the summer. I try and drink two litres of water a day, and though I definitely meet this just with my green tea intake alone (shameless green tea addict) I always have a big bottle of water on my desk at work which I refill throughout the day. Sometimes though, just drinking water alone does get a little boring, and I’ve long been looking for an alternative to water that isn’t full of sugar, sweeteners or calories. I’ve tried different cordials and squashes but the sugar content in some of these is absolutely ridiculous. So I was super excited to discover Nuva - a flavoured water with no sugar, sweeteners or calories. They are really lightly flavoured so it’s not an overwhelmingly sweet flavour like some of the other fruit flavoured waters - my favourite is ‘a kiss of melon and jasmine’ but I also took the ‘cucumber and mint’ flavour to the gym the other day and it was so hydrating - it’s definitely going to be a regular fixture in my gym bag from now on.

My other must-have in the summer is coconut oil.  I've brought a little pot with me to Mexico and I'm using it as an after-sun, for taking my make-up off, as a 'shaving cream' when shaving my legs, and to put in my hair before bed as a hair mask to stop the sun from damaging my hair.  I am going through so many jars of coconut oil at the moment because it's such a wonder product! I usually just grab the jars of Lucy Bee Coconut Oil in the supermarket but I think I'm going to invest in a bigger pot from Amazon or Costco as it gets expensive buying new jars every time.

What are your favourite products for keeping hydrated in the summer?


A supper safari

Last week I hopped along to West Quay Shopping Centre to go on a 'supper safari' - which sounds like you might be eating dinner surrounded by lions and tigers, but actually means that you have a starter, main course and dessert in three different locations.  Now that's the kind of safari I can get on board with (it means you get to eat loads of food, and you're unlikely to be fodder for a ferocious predator, what's not to like?)

West Quay will always hold a special place in my heart as I lived in Southampton for almost ten years and worked in the H&M store there, so it feels like home to be wandering into the shopping centre after work for a little peruse and a bite to eat.  Since I left Southampton it has got infinitely cooler, with the addition of a Victoria's Secret and Jack Wills to the already great roster of shops like Zara, River Island, Boux Avenue, Schuh and more.  But one of the jewels in West Quay's crown is its swish food hall, which has a ton of fab restaurants.

I met up with several other fab blogger girls and we convened at Nando's for our starter.  I would never think of going to Nando's for a spread of starters but actually they had a whole range of yummy things for us to try, from halloumi (halloumi will always have my heart), pitta and houmous or pitta with a red pepper dip, garlic bread, peri peri nuts, olives and their 'wing roulette'.  The wing roulette is a platter of chicken wings in all different spices, so you don't know whether you're going to get lemon and herb or 'extra hot' - crikey! (But we were all wusses except for Elisha-Jade who ate all the spicy ones for us!)

We then moved on to Handmade Burger Co for our main course.  Handmade Burger is on the mezzanine in West Quay and actually has a really light, bright and cool feel to it; you feel as if you're in a trendy restaurant rather than a shopping centre.  I opted for the American Cheese which has onion rings, mustard, gherkin relish, swiss cheese, mayo, lettuce and red onion (the healthy option, then).  I'm a sucker for pretty much anything that has onion rings in it or on it so I was totally sold on this burger (plus, the waitress said it was a good choice, so I got food selection gratification too - win.) We also had bowls of rosemary salt chips and peri-peri chips which were really yummy (though my burger was large enough that it didn't really need chips with it. Ha - that was a joke, chips, always).

The food was really great and it was lovely just to sit and catch up with the ladies over a glass of wine.  We moved on swiftly to our final stop but I'm looking forward to coming back here for another meal soon (and diving into another bowl of chips).

Our final stop was Snog Frozen Yoghurt, which only opened in West Quay this year.  I've only been to Snog once before (in London) but I really like it, so I was excited to be able to try it again.  Some of the other girls went for healthy options like fruit or granola, but I was tempted by toppings of gummy bears, mini smarties and caramel sauce.  But it's okay, because frozen yoghurt is healthy so it cancels it out, right?

The frozen yoghurt was really good, I couldn't finish my whole pot after the previous two courses (I'm normally not this much of a lightweight with food but I ate rather a lot of pitta at Nando's - oops) so I'm looking forward to grabbing another next time the sun comes out on one of my lunch breaks!

If you live near Southampton it's well worth popping along to West Quay to try out some of their food options - you can also download the app for tons of offers throughout the summer holidays; like buy one get one free on smoothies at the Boost Juice Bar.

All in all it was such a fab evening and I left West Quay with a very full, happy belly and plans to come back for another burger and a cheeky Snog soon (see what I did there?)


What I eat in a day (plus my morning workout)

So I thought today I would write a quick post sharing a typical day's food intake and a sample workout to show the sort of thing I'm focussing on prior to my holiday.  I want to say a few things before I start this post - first of all, my current goals are to lose fat, build muscle and generally tone up, so my nutrition and calorie intake are based on this, rather than what a typical calorie intake might be if I was just maintaining my weight.  My body fat percentage (up until this week) was over 31% which is just outside the ideal weight for a woman, so fat loss has been my goal for the last few weeks, not only because I want to feel confident in a bikini, but also for health reasons.  These are my goals but they might not be yours - I have a real challenge in that I hold all of my fat around my stomach area and my thighs and I really want to tone up so I feel a little better about being in the pool on my holiday.  I'm not advocating anyone copying my meal plan or trying to match my calories - you have to 'do you' and work out what's best for you.

My Personal Trainer has worked out my macros (for a really helpful video on what macros are, and how to build a meal plan around them, check out Carly Rowena's latest video) and I enter these into my MyFitnessPal and plan my meals around that.  Although I try and prepare my lunches in advance, and plan my dinners for the week, I also keep an eye on my nutrition throughout the day.  That way if I can see that my protein intake is a little low I can supplement it with some chopped chicken or a protein shake, and so on dependent on what my percentages are looking like.

One final thing - I wanted to share these photos straight away so I've taken them on my phone throughout the day - apologies for the poor quality!

So - onto my food diary.  On gym days, I tend to go before work, so in order to get there for 7am I get up at 5.30.  The first thing I need at that point is a cup of green tea to wake me up! I am not a breakfast person and I cannot stomach food until much later in the morning, so I usually only have green tea and then something light later on in the morning.

05.40 - Morning cup of green tea - begu tea, morning buzz.  This green tea is my current favourite - it really helps to wake me up and set me up for the day.

At this point in the morning it's hard for me to be awake enough to work out, so I tend to have a pre-workout to give me energy and help get me through a session.  Sometimes I go without, but on particularly tired days or if I'm going for a longer run then I'll take this to stop my energy levels from dipping whilst working out.  (If you want to pick up anything from Protein Works then you can use my referral code RT110872 when you register for a bag of free protein - winner!)

06.30 - Protein Works, Genesis Pre-Workout (61 calories).  I just mix this in my shaker and drink it in the car on the way to the gym.

07.00 - Whether or not I'm working out with a trainer or on my own I usually get to the gym around 7am to give me enough time to work out for an hour, and then get showered and sorted and into work about 08.30.  Today I did a sort of 'leg' workout which consisted of:

Cross-trainer for five minutes
Squats with a bar (12 reps) x 4
Hack squats (10 reps), Goblin squats (12 reps) x 4
Lunges with dumbbells (across gym), kettlebell swings (20 reps) x5
Kettlebell deadlifts (12 reps) x 4
Foam roller on legs to stop them aching later in the day!

This workout took around an hour and I was sweating like crazy at the end of it - definitely a good feeling before going to work!

09.45 - Nakd bar (137 calories), green tea.  I drank half of my green tea before I remembered to take this photograph! Just before 10am I fancied something small so I ate a Nakd bar before running off into a meeting.

13.00 - Muscle Food Lean Cumberland Sausage, carrots, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli (239 calories)
            Can of Pepsi Max

I was definitely hungry by 13.00 so I heated up my lunch - just an extra serving of what I'd had for dinner the night before.  We buy all of our meat from Muscle Food as it's ridiculously good value and it's all organic and from British farms.  I batch buy it and then keep it in the freezer and defrost as I go or cook things in the slow cooker during the day.

13.30 - Aussie Bites 'muffin' (135 calories), 2 x medjool dates (133 calories)

I sat in the park with a friend and had one of these Aussie Bites and two medjool dates.  I bought the Aussie Bites from Costco - they are honey, oats, apricot, sunflower seeds and flax seeds with no artificial ingredients.  I keep medjool dates in my drawer for when I fancy something sweet.

17.00 - Diet Protein Water, The Protein Works (91 calories)

On the way home I had a quick protein water in my shaker - I have the Watermelon Cooler flavour and it just tastes like squash; it's a good way to get a bit of extra protein in whilst re-hydrating.

19.00 - Muscle Food pork medallions, mustard sauce (mustard, chicken stock, soured cream, red onion), sweet potato fries, small amount of baked chunky potato. (412 calories).

Dinner was a bit later than usual - I usually try and have my dinner by 6 or half 6 as if it drags on too late I still feel full by the time I go to bed and I hate that!  The sauce only had a spoonful of soured cream in it so it was relatively low fat but really tasty.  I usually stick just to sweet potato fries but we had a baking potato lying around so we chopped that up too.  The 'chips' are just sprayed with Fry Light and baked.

21.00 - The Protein Works Vanilla Micellar Casein Powder with Alpro Almond Coconut Milk (129 calories).

I'm now just about to tuck into a Micellar Casein shake - I get the Vanilla Creme flavour from The Protein Works and have it with unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk.  Casein Protein is useful to have before bed as it's slow burning and helps with muscle recovery overnight.  It's a nice one to have at bedtime as it really helps me wind down for the evening.

Total: 1338 calories (just under my usual calorie goal).  

Do you use MyFitnessPal? Is this similar to your daily food intake? (BUT totally each to their own - what works for me might not work for you and so on, I just thought I'd share my day as I like to be nosy about what other people eat!)


The pleasure of losing things

I am fastidious about the contents of my handbag.  The usual stuff is in there, of course.  And a few extras thrown in because I don't like to get caught out - notebook and pen, green tea teabags, a few more pens, mints, hair grips - the paraphernalia of a stationery lover who frequently has messy hair. One thing I always carry with me is a small make-up bag.  Its contents include (but are not limited to) hand cream, lip salve, lipstick, mini perfume, mini hair oil, wet wipes, and a tube of bonjela that has been in there for so long that I'm nervous to take it out lest karma immediately gifts me with a 'serves you right' mouth ulcer.

This make-up bag is a sort of comfort blanket.  A warm reassuring hand on the shoulder that tells me that, should I be invited to some sort of impromptu soiree after work, I don't have to decline the invitation, but rather can arrive smelling of & Other Stories Arabesque Wood, with a slick of Mac Fabby on my lips (and any mouth irritations deftly soothed).  Actually I often do find myself going to see a friend, or popping for a quick drink after work; and so this make-up bag is in frequent use (I lose count of the amount of times I find myself trying to pack both my gym bag for before work, and a further change of clothes for after work - hashtag 'all my friends live in the city I work in but don't live in problems').  On one afternoon I found myself in the work toilets; exchanging a shift dress for skinny jeans, re-doing my makeup and generally spreading most of my belongings across all four sinks.  A lift and a short walk to the pub with a work colleague later and I dug my hand in my handbag only to find it more roomy than usual.  My comfort blanket had been snuck from my shoulders - and the make-up bag was gone.  My go-to move at this point is to involve almost everyone I know or have ever met in my personal minuscule drama, and so it was that a group of my work colleagues discussed several options to aid in the location and retrieval of the make-up bag - including phone-calls or drives back to the office (which we then realised had shut), returning to my car to perform an intensive search to see if I had deposited it there before leaving, and contacting various locations that I had visited since the make-up bag's last known position.  In the end the most popular conclusion was the less than reassuring but probably fairly sensible adage of 'it will probably just turn up' - and I resigned myself to the fact that I might never see my precious make-up bag again.  I imagined it in the hands of some new owner; gleefully slathering themselves in L'Occitane Shea Butter hand cream, and smelling strongly of Arabesque Wood (should one be able to identify what such a scent might entail).

img credit: notonthehighstreet

The next day I made it my personal mission to get back what was rightfully mine.  My handbag lopped sadly at the sides without the make-up bag to provide its stuffing, and I realised that any invitations to impromptu soirees would currently have to be disappointedly declined.  The make-up bag was not in my car, my friend's car, or the work toilets.  Further enquiries generated unsatisfactory dead ends.  This story does have a happy ending however (I know it may be tugging on your heartstrings so I shan't keep you hanging on much longer).  The make-up bag had been handed in to our Front Desk, and I was reunited with it by lunchtime.  I felt positively gleeful.  I immediately contacted all of my friends, who had been enquiring, concerned, as to whether it had been found.  I placed it on my desk and smiled lovingly at it for the remainder of the day; happy that it was once more back in my life (and my handbag).

This has happened several times recently.  Items that I thought I had lost, have been found.  Things I thought were broken, have been fixed.  Belongings I had lent out and long forgotten have been returned.  There is somehow a great pleasure in having something almost slip away from you, and then be able to grasp them again.  Perhaps because we grow so used to having things and owning things in such large volumes that we no longer really experience the thrill of becoming attached to something.  When you are a child you save your pocket money for a toy that you then love so hard you rub the fur from it.  Love that wears the wheels down, love that rumples the pages, love that leaves chocolate coated fingerprints.  

And then we get older and we chase that thrill of the newness and wonder of ownership; loading up shopping baskets and receiving unending packages in the post.  But it is dulled somehow.  I've lost count of the amount of times I find a dress in the back of a wardrobe with the tags still on that I've completely forgotten I'd bought.  Perhaps it is only by losing things, having them taken away or broken, that we reignite that desire.  How often does that happen in life too? That old chestnut trotted out - you don't know what you've got until it's gone.  Love, comfort, convenience, make-up bags, etc.

I suppose the only way to spark that joy is to be grateful for those things you have, and not to devalue that gratitude by overproduction; to dumb it down with excess.  There is a lot that can be said for owning fewer things, and for placing value on the things we really do love and enjoy.  And making sure we tell them often.  People, or make-up bags.  But people especially.


The one minute miracle stress reliever

There's an old Zen proverb that says that "you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day.  Unless you are too busy to do so, in which case you should sit for an hour".  I must admit that despite how good meditation makes me feel, I never seem to find the time to do it.  I've long been looking for a stress-busting activity that helps me chill out but isn't another task to add to the to-do list.  One of my worst habits is finding things to feel guilty about, or reasons to be cross with myself - and my lack of time to dedicate to yoga, meditation and self-care just feels like another thing I've been failing at for a really long time.

It's probably no secret that I've suffered with stress and overwhelm in the past.  On days when I'm putting in long hours in the office, getting stuck in traffic on the way home and then have a to-do-list as long as my arm to come home to, I really start to feel things getting on top of me.  I've not always been great at finding balance in my life and sometimes I look in my diary and realise I've made plans every night and weekend for a couple of weeks in a row, and then instantly feel all worked up as to how I'll possibly keep on top of everything without running myself into the ground.  These are, of course, the times when I need a meditation practice or a yoga class the most, but instead I find myself running from place to place with no time for myself, falling into bed exhausted but lying there wide awake thinking of all of the things I ought to be doing.

They say that 'when the student is ready, the teacher appears', and one day as I was spending my lunch break organising my Google Calendar and responding to blogging emails, a rather intriguing one popped into my inbox.  Enter Katie Brindle - founder of a method of self-care and stress relief called the Hayo-u Method (as well as an expert in acupuncture and Chinese Medicine).  I quickly set up a Skype call with Katie to find out more about Hayo-u and how it could help me.  Katie had offered to talk through my specific health issues and relationship but stress - but all of the Hayo-u methods, tips and techniques are all available for free on her website and instagram.  But wait! Don't skip over there quite yet - let me tell you a bit more.

Katie quickly explained that hundreds of years ago, when we were all spending our days making fires, hunting and running away from sabre-toothed tigers, our stress hormones would flood our bodies to help our muscles work faster so that we could escape from predators.  But in modern times, we don't have these 'one off threats' (no woolly mammoths lurking at the bus stop or the water cooler), and so instead we receive a build-up of smaller stressors all day; through our mobile phones, office politics, emails constantly pinging in and incessant notifications on social media.  This means that our stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) are hitting us over and over again in almost a drip feed effect.  This constant drip, drip, drip is wearing us down, and inevitably leads to health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, lack of sleep, tiredness through the day, hair loss, indigestion, irregular periods, joint aches and pains and many more complaints, all of which can be tracked back to our relationship with stress.

img credit: poppiesandpines

Katie explained that, in the health information I shared before the appointment, I mentioned that I had difficulty falling asleep, regularly experienced bloating and indigestion, have irregular periods and previously spent two weeks in hospital with an ulcerated oesophagus (I'm sure many of you can identify with some of these issues).  These are all 'modern day illnesses' that Western medicine doesn't traditionally have a fix for, because although I can take sleeping tablets, drink camomile tea, try and avoid white bread and find other solutions for, I'm not dealing with the source of these problems, which is all of the stresses in my life. 

Chinese medicine however does have a solution to help us overcome these stresses and eradicate the health issues that are generated from being bombarded and overwhelmed throughout the day.  Katie has designed the Hayo-u Method, which is made up of rituals that all of us can do on a daily basis.  Just like brushing our teeth, undertaking two one-minute exercises a day can act as a preventative, slowly building up over time to recede these symptoms and help us respond better to stress.  The two one-minute rituals that Katie asked me to try were a breathing exercise and a drumming ritual - more on these below.

Katie explained to me that the antidote to stress is 'the breath' (which immediately reminded me of a yoga class I went to once where they explained that the breath is our 'anchor' to the earth and a way to ground ourselves during difficult moments).  Katie pointed me towards her instagram account where you can find a video of the breathing practice she recommends (shared below) and explained that you can practice this daily, as well as enlisting this breathing immediately when you experience a feeling of stress.

The reason this works is that (as I mentioned earlier), stress produces the hormones cortisol and adrenaline - and when these flood our bodies this creates a toxic, acidic environment which is obviously counter-productive for our health.  But bringing in oxygen by using this technique immediately alkalises it and stops you from creating that acidic state.  This creates the opposite of the 'fight or flight' experience, filling you with calm, as well as massaging the key organs, strengthening and nourishing them.

A video posted by Hayo'u (@thehayoumethod) on

This second exercise is a movement exercise which (just like with the breathing exercise) removes the levels of acidity from your muscles.  This exercise moves the build-up of toxicity from our muscles and joints and moves them into the lymphatic system, where it can be eliminated.  (This is so much fun - you are literally bashing the negativity and stress out of your body). 

A video posted by Hayo'u (@thehayoumethod) on

I explained to Katie that upon seeing this exercise it really resonated with me, because when I get really stressed and overwhelmed I have this unconscious habit of almost 'flicking' my fingers as if I were trying to flick water at someone - I barely even know I'm doing it but it's clear that it's my bodies way of trying to break down all of the stress hormones and release the nervous energy! So I couldn't wait to get started with this ritual, especially knowing that it was what my body had been crying out for for all this time instinctively anyway.  Just learning more about these rituals and the reasons behind them began to make so much sense - and I couldn't wait to swap my current ritual of checking my phone in the morning and answering a few emails, for a practice that was going to set me up for the day and help me find both short-term and long-term health benefits.

So - on Katie's advice I decided to spend a minute each day on both of these exercises.  Always wanting to be the star pupil, I decided to start each day and end each day with both exercises (I could just about spare four minutes!), so when I wake up I will do the breathing exercise, and then when I get out of bed I do the 'drumming' exercise (and the same before I get into bed at night).  Of course the thing about rituals that only take a minute is, you find yourself doing them more, and so the breathing exercise in particular I have found myself doing constantly.  In the car on the way home from work I spend about ten minutes just doing the breathing exercise over and over - and even though I'm probably doing it whilst I'm listening to music, I still ensure I do it 'mindfully' - listening to my breath and feeling everything slow down and shift.  Katie said that this exercise "brings us inside of our bodies, helping us feel in charge and masterful, and centering us" and this has entirely been my experience.  On a stressful day at work I will do this exercise over and over on the way home (I also do it whilst at work, just by breathing mindfully at my desk or nipping into a meeting room and undertaking the full exercise) and I can just feel the stress ebbing away.

As soon as I'm home from work I then do the drumming exercise, usually in the kitchen whilst making dinner.  I'm not going to lie - it is so much fun just flinging yourself around, and I can literally feel any energy that's built up during the day just flowing out of me.  It never fails to put a smile on my face, and my body feels really good afterwards, in the same way that I do after a yoga class (but this time just from a ritual that only has to last a minute).  I thought I would feel silly doing it, but it feels so good that it's difficult to worry about 'looking cool'.

img credit unknown: contact for removal

It probably comes as no surprise given the immediate effects of the rituals, that the longer term benefits have also been astounding.  One day a couple of weeks ago I climbed into bed and realised I felt totally different and couldn't put my finger on why.  I subsequently realised that I had reached the end of the day feeling calm, refreshed and settled throughout.  Rather than experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the day, from frustration at work to worry about my overflowing inbox, I had just felt stable and serene, flowing from one place to the next.  I also realised that I haven't experienced back or neck pains in some weeks, something that used to be a constant from working in an office and coming home to fire up the laptop.  I've also become more mindful of what I eat and drink - realising that after a stressful day, coming home to a glass of wine (which is acidic and can add to the toxicity caused by the build-up of stress) and a bar of chocolate isn't always the best solution. I've definitely been trying to listen to my body more; breathing, shaking, drumming, twisting and stretching whenever I think it needs it, as well as trying to build other healthy habits, like reading before bed instead of checking my phone, and having breaks from social media.

It feels so amazing to have found a ritual and a habit that helps me so much and yet takes so little time - how often in life does that happen?  I would massively recommend these rituals to everyone - and please let me know if you do start doing them, would love to know how you feel!

You can watch Katie's morning ritual video on YouTube, find out more about the rituals on her website and read Katie's blog posts for more on stress and Chinese medicine.


Birthday suit

Just a few quick pictures today because if you haven't spotted from my Twitter/instagram/Facebook/Bebo/Friendster/Kik/MySpace (jokkkingggg), it's my birthday today! I've been a weird mix of ridiculously excited (mainly whilst opening presents and eating cake) and then forgetting that it's actually my birthday.  Birthdays are weird once you're like, 25+ aren't they? Just another day really (cue canned 'ahhhhhhh' noise from the audience).  I have been absolutely spoiled with presents and cards though and had a really lovely weekend with my parents and Tom, I'm trying to make a little vlog about it but my editing skills leave a lot to be desired so you can probably expect this around my next birthday.

I thought I'd pop up a little outfit post today however as I'm wearing my new favourite item, this super cute dungaree dress from Fat Face.  I love dungarees but it can be a bit of a faff wearing them - having to get totally undressed just to go to the loo is not something I particularly enjoy doing (especially as I've worn dungarees to a couple of festivals recently and learned the hard way why that is not a good idea).  BUT a dungaree dress is the best of both worlds - as soon as I slipped this on I was totally obsessed, I certainly won't be going back to plain old dungarees any time soon! 

fatface010 fatface008 fatface002 Fat Face dungaree dress
dungaree dress: fat face, £48* | cardigan: fat face, £45*
bag: bought in france | wedges: matalan {sale, not online} | top: h&m {old}

I also have barely taken this cardigan off since I got it, it's so slouchy and cosy and perfect for slinging on when the evenings get cooler.  I know I'm going to spend all Autumn wearing it too, in fact, I think I'll more than likely pick it up in the navy colour-way too as it's just so versatile.

I always think my hair looks a little messy and unkempt when I wear it up in a bun, but as I'm trying to straighten it less it's my go-to hairstyle for lazy days and non-GHD days! It might be one of the first top-knot outfit posts to feature on this 'ere blog though, what a first, someone call the papers!

Hope you're all having lovely Sundays wherever you are, and as it's my birthday then you should probably have a slice of cake or a glass of fizz (or both) for me.  Cheers!


Pineapple, mango and coconut Eton Mess

For me, winter is for comforting, lavish, luxurious desserts like a big pile of brownies or a treacle tart. But come summer, I long for something lighter and more tropical.  One of my favourite cocktails to order on a warm summer's evening is a piƱa colada - there's something about the mix of coconut and pineapple that has me imagining lying on the white sands of a Caribbean island and sipping it through a straw (with a cocktail umbrella, of course).  When thinking about a dessert to make for a barbecue last weekend I decided that I would try and re-invent one of my favourite dishes, the humble Eton Mess, but give it a new lease of life by using coconut, mango and pineapple instead of strawberries... And so my pineapple, mango and coconut Eton Mess was born (served with a pineapple and coconut coulis).  It's the perfect dish for a summer barbecue or garden party (but it's so quick and easy to whip up that you might just decide to make it whenever the sun comes out, and eat it straight out of the bowl with a spoon.  I won't tell).

It's worth mentioning that you can vary the amounts of fruit according to taste - I used 225g of pre-prepared and chopped pineapple and mango but you can add more, or different fruits if you like. This recipe is difficult to get wrong - summer is all about relaxing and rolling with it so feel free to freestyle and change the quantities or even the ingredients...

Ingredients - Serves 4

225g of chopped pineapple
225g of chopped mango
300ml of double cream
4 x meringue nests
150g icing sugar
100ml of innocent coconut water (plus an extra splash to go in with the cream)

1. Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks (you can use either whipping cream or double cream for this but whipping cream will form peaks slightly quicker).  Once the cream reaches this stage, stir in a tablespoon of coconut water.  You can add a little more (to taste) but too much will affect the consistency, so add about half a tablespoon at a time and stir it in before adding any more. (Photograph below ably assisted by my Mum!)

2. Stir the chopped mango into the cream, then crumble in the meringues (you can just do this by hand). Take out 125g of the pineapple and stir this into the mix.

3. Next - make the coulis.  Blend the remaining 100g of pineapple with the icing sugar and coconut water.  This will form the coulis.  If it looks too runny, add more icing sugar.  If it looks too thick then add more coconut water.

4. Place the cream, meringue and fruit mix into sundae dishes, then pour the coulis over the top. Garnish with mint leaves or chunks of coconut.  Drizzle with more coconut water if you like - the sweet, nuttiness works so well with the tanginess of the pineapple so you can't go wrong, however you vary the quantities (plus, coconut water is so good for you that it basically cancels out the sugar in the meringues, right?)

And there you go - super easy, and super tasty.  My kind of recipe! What's your favourite summer dessert?


Hello August

A little hello to August - probably my favourite month of the year.  August contains my birthday (on Sunday) so of course I get a little excited whenever it nears the end of July.  Although this year I don't feel quite as excited for my birthday - I suppose as you get older, birthdays somehow seem a little less of an occasion? I'm not sure what anyone has bought me and I haven't asked for anything in particular, though to be honest we have our lovely house and we have an amazing holiday at the end of the month, so there isn't much that I want apart from that, I feel lucky enough already.  I'm off on Friday and Monday to make a long weekend of it and on Saturday we are going to Countryfile Live at Blenheim Palace.  There's going to be baby farm animals, a street food section, an ice cream parlour and cider tents - what's not to like? It seems like the weekend is going to revolve around food as I've requested to stop off at Five Guys on the way to my parents on Friday - and what I have asked for on the day is a red velvet cake.  What's a birthday without cake? (And burgers).

I can't help but feel a little sad at the rain over the last couple of days.  Although I always relish the opportunity to light candles, run a long bath and get cosy under a blanket, I also feel like August is not meant for lighting the fire and putting my fluffy slippers on (which is what I've done this evening!) For me, August is about barbecues on the beach, freckled noses and tanned shoulders, whiling away afternoons in pub beer gardens and spending the weekend in denim shorts and flip flops.  I really hope the warm weather makes a return soon - although most of my summer wardrobe from last year still doesn't fit me, so if it does get hot again I'm going to have to invest in some new shorts! I'm really trying to step up my fitness and healthy eating over the next few weeks before we go on holiday, and I'm now seeing my personal trainer twice a week rather than just once.  Hopefully I'll be back in those shorts in no time, but I must admit it's seeming like such a slog to even lose a couple of inches.  I've been enjoying the feeling of getting fitter though, and I've been absolutely loving playing football over the last few weeks too.  I'm hoping I'll be able to fit in a couple more lunchtime matches in August, it's such a good feeling to burn so many calories and have fun at the same time.  We played a big match on Friday and I played for most of the second half which was great, I'm starting to get my confidence up and feel more comfortable and less self-conscious about playing (even though I'm still not great!)

So at the end of August we are off to Cancun for ten days and I could not be more excited.  We're going with my parents, my brother and his girlfriend and staying at an all inclusive resort - so there will be a lot of cocktails and eating yummy Mexican food! I cannot wait to lay by the pool and devour lots of books - let me know if you have read anything great lately and I'll add it to my Kindle. (Or if you've been to Cancun, let me know if you have any tips!)

Other than birthday-ing and holiday-ing I'll be spending most of August sweating at the gym to try and feel confident in a bikini in Mexico, as well as hoping to spend a weekend with Sarah and Katy as we are well overdue a catchup.  What do your August plans involve?

August photo from humphrey and grace instagram