Tuesday, 23 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions - 5 I Wills and 5 I Won'ts

So you've got to hold me to these, alright? 

I will: 

1. Get back to my favourite weight (just over a stone lighter than I currently am) - the healthy way, with lots of exercise (bleurgh), fruit and vegetables. I'm not fat, but I'm getting married in September and I really want to look my best - I know I'll only regret it if I don't put the effort in. I have a gym and swimming pool in my flat so I really have no excuse not to exercise 4 times a week, so that'll be a start. I also promise to start making smoothies - I might even go on the dreaded juice diet in January. We shall see... I might do monthly updates on my progress if that's something anyone would be interested in reading. It might keep me in check!

2. Save money. Again, I'm getting married so I really need to do this one! Less time spent flitting about in Michelin star restaurants/on the ASOS website will mean a nicer day...and just as (perhaps more than) importantly...a nicer honeymoon! (And then when I come back I can spend ALL my money on meee...Jo Malone candles and shoes and...okay I'm getting ahead of myself. SAVE, Catherine). 

3. Have one non drinking day every month. I tried to do 'dry January' once and I made it to the 4th (how embarrassing). I think January is such a depressing month that you NEED a glass of wine every now and then just to make it through! But even I can go one weekend a month without drinking, which will help with my health (and assist with resolutions 1 and 2 above!)
4. Run a 5k in half an hour. I've been ill for the last month so I couldn't train properly for my Santa run, but I really want to train and get under half an hour by the end of next year. I'd also really like to run a 10k, but that seems like a totally impossible dream right now so we shall see!

5. Do one new thing every week, and record it in a Friday blog post. I think a year of firsts would be really good fun (and they can just be silly things, like... eating something new... just to stop life getting boring!)

I will not: 

1. Freak out as much about my health. For the last few months I've been terrible and every twinge has sent me running to the doctor, but I've had 1000 check ups and they all seem to come back fine. The advice is basically to take a chill pill, so I'm going to try. 

2. Procrastinate any more with my book. I've been trying to write it for years now but I get so bogged down in criticising myself that it never happens. I need to stop overthinking it and just WRITE. I used to do this so naturally as a child and look at this blog - it's not like I can't ramble on! I need to just get on with it next year. 

3. Pick the skin on my lip. This is my worst habit (sorry, even writing it down totally grosses me out) and I am really trying to stop it. False nails help, and look good too - win win!

4. Force myself to say 'yes' to everything. Last year I decided to be a 'yes' person and essentially I went to everything I was invited to. It was great, and really exciting, but it also left me exhausted and burnt out - by December, I was a mess. I spent a day at the spa with my Mum and was practically right as rain again. This year I'm going to say no to a few more things and spend a few more evenings in the bath with a face mask on. 

5. Go to bed without cleansing, toning and moisturising. Honestly, I don't even really know what toning does, but I want to look like Nigella Lawson when I'm 50, not Gillian McKeith. My skin has always been a bit of a nightmare but I've got all the right products - I just need to use them! Ditto, not going to bed with wet hair, then thinking 'It'll do' and going to work looking like I've got a mad bird living on my head.

Well, that should be enough for me to be getting on with! Oh and as ever, I'm going to aim to keep up with my blog and get involved in the community more! Do you have any resolutions? Link me your posts below!

Christmas Thankfulness

I've been a bit ill for the last few months and a couple of times, I thought I was going to die. Have you ever had that? A weird headache, or a twinge somewhere that doesn’t feel right, and that awful foreboding – the fear of closing your eyes in case they don’t open again, or they open to a dirty-white hospital ceiling and lights and beeps and your family crying? I’m still here, and it was probably just a headache, but I couldn’t help it –I curled tighter against my fiancé, hugging him as if he might disappear, and I lay awake and thought about life. I was scared and tired and upset and frankly, being a bit stupid, but all I could think about was this quote from American Beauty

"My heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst. And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain, and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life."

It just made me think about how grateful I am. Sometimes I think I’m not – sometimes I call myself an ungrateful, spoilt brat, because I wish I didn’t have to drag myself out of bed at 7am to go to work, because I play the lottery and dream of million pound houses when people are homeless, because I moan about my weight and pick at a yoghurt when kids are starving in Africa, because I have bad hair days and Sunday blues and because it secretly really annoys me that my blog isn’t as popular as Zoella’s and that I don’t look like Blake Lively.

But last night I realised that those things are part of life and I don’t feel guilty anymore, because I am grateful.

I am grateful for waking up at 8am on Sunday mornings when I was 12 and eating hot toasted bacon sandwiches on the sofa under my quilt, watching cartoons. For the way grass smelt in the summer at primary school when you were first allowed ‘on the field.’ For the wonderful, sparkling night when my boyfriend proposed.  For lying with my head on my mum’s lap, watching ‘White Christmas’ on Christmas Eve, even though I hate black and white films. For homemade sausage rolls. For hugs with my Dad when he’s just come in from the garden and needs a bath. For hot baths when you have cold feet, and cold swimming pools in summer. For drinking too much Malibu and throwing up in a carrier bag on the stairs whilst my best friend at university threw up in the toilet. For those black jeans my Mum bought me when I was on the brink of despair and thought no trousers would ever fit me again. For dark red painted toenails making me feel glamorous. For nights on the sofa with my boyfriend watching Masterchef and betting on who will lose next. For every single colour I’ve ever dyed my hair. For sitting on my bed with my sister while she picks things up in my room and asks what they are.

For kissing people I’ve never met in clubs. For Polzeath beach and Padstow harbour and the taste of Cornish fudge. For that night at Glastonbury when we danced till 5am. For that time my friends and I sung ‘Wonderwall’ at a karaoke night in Gran Canaria and were so bad we had to run from the bar.  For religiously watching Eastenders hoping for a glimpse of Jack Ryder. For every single time I’ve eaten a cake when I was meant to be on a diet, and every single time I had a banana instead and proudly lost a pound. For the times when I would sit in the car after dinner with my cousins and one of them would fart and lock all the doors so we couldn’t get out. For nights in the pub with my boyfriend, drinking a little too much and setting the world to rights. For every night I went out clubbing when I should be working, and every night I refused to go out and stayed in and ate pizza in my pyjamas. For the moment my fiancé first said he loved me and I felt the world tilt.

For the excitement of a new iPhone, and for everytime I bought a dress I couldn’t afford and then left it in my wardrobe for months, and for hot chocolates with cream and McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese meals and for listening to Jimmy Eat World when I was heartbroken and for swimming with dolphins and the smell of Yves St Laurent Rive Gauche perfume and the Arctic Monkeys 5th album and for drinking when I promised I wouldn’t and for my first kiss and for long road trips and the smell of my Dad’s dressing gown and for butter icing and Christmas lights and barbecues and for my best friends, all of them, and for that moment when you’ve had a drink with your friends and you’ve got the whole night ahead of you and everything feels right with the world. For the unconditional love my family give me every day.

I think if you've got these things, you don't need presents wrapped in pretty paper or a perfect Pinterest tree or the best cooked Christmas dinner. You can close your eyes and be grateful for every single moment of your stupid little life :) 

Friday, 21 November 2014

clueQuest review - the number one attraction in London?

On Friday, three friends and I tiptoed down an alleyway in Shoreditch, entered a warehouse building through a plain looking door…and turned into mystery detectives!

I don’t have any photographs of this occasion because a.) you’re not allowed to take any, b.) there isn’t time to take any if you wanted to, and c.) it would ruin it for everybody else!

clueQuest review

clueQuest is a ‘real life escape game’.  Essentially, you are locked in a room for 60 minutes, during which time you must solve the mission and find your way out. You have to find keys, crack codes, unlock hidden doors and stop evil masterminds. Think…Crystal Maze but working as a team. In essence, it’s absolutely brilliant. We did the Operation BlackSheep quest and I seriously couldn’t recommend it more – an hour has never gone so quickly!

clueQuest is currently the number one rated tourist attraction in London and I can see why – it’s the perfect activity if you want something fun to do in London that doesn’t involve eating or drinking, isn’t very expensive (we paid £23 each, for 4 people) and does involve team work. For a work do, a family outing or, as I did, a day out with friends – it ticks all the boxes. And no, I don’t work for them and they’re not paying me – it was just bloody brilliant!


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Holy Cheesemas - Byron's Christmas Burger

Last night I met my sister for dinner. We wanted to go somewhere festive – we’re both completely in the Christmas spirit – but sadly, London just isn’t playing ball yet! I think we’ll have to wait a few weeks to get a turkey dinner. Luckily for us, Byron were quick off the mark and have already released their Christmas burger, so we headed to Spitafields to order one up.

Look at it. Just look at it.  That’s two 6oz burgers, three different types of gooey cheese (American, Emmenthal and Monterey Jack), bacon, pickles, spicy onion sauce, and frankly god only knows what else, all packed into a soft squidgy bun.

Just look at it compared to the size of my (incredibly happy) face!

I was really impressed that I managed to eat it all, along with a side salad and some fries (definitely not needed) and washed down with some ‘good’ wine. Unfortunately the lighting in there wasn’t great for photos so I don’t have many, but to be honest, I think the ones I do have are enough. If you make one wish this Christmas, make it to get down to Byron and order this beauty – you won’t regret it! 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cheering up a rainy evening in London - Calloooh Callay and Bottega Prebiano

I love going out in the week in London. The working day goes so much more quickly if you have a fun evening to look forward to! Yesterday I braved the weather, which has suddenly deteriorated into Proper British November Winter, and skipped over to Shoreditch High Street to meet friends for dinner and drinks.

Our venue was Bottega Prelibato, a gorgeous, intimate little Italian in the Shoreditch Triangle. It was so nice coming in out of the cold to the warm, welcoming restaurant. We ordered crisp white wine and the waiter brought over the menu on big blackboards. The menu changes regularly so as to be seasonal and fresh. We weren’t sure we understood all the options, so the waiter actually brought out a board with examples of all the pasta on it, and ran through our choices – such a nice touch!
Bottega Prebiano restaurant review

We had a sharing platter starter – an incredible burrata on a bed of parma ham, basil, sundried tomatoes, apples and olives. It made me feel Christmassy (I mean, everything makes me feel Christmassy, but still!). All washed down with crusty bread dipped in olive oil and vinegar.

Bottega Prebiano restaurant review

Bottega Prebiano restaurant review

Followed by…okay, honestly? I can’t remember what this was called but it was soft pasta shells filled with some kind of cheese, and it was excellent!

Bottega Prebiano restaurant review

Bottega Prebiano restaurant review

Afterwards, we went for drinks at Callooh Callay – if you’re in the area, this is the bar I recommend you head to if you’re around in the week (it’s rammed at the weekend). Delicious and exciting cocktails, it’s just one of those really cool places to hang out – look at the little menus!

Callooh Callay review

I had a drink which described itself as tasting like something out of a festival, and somehow it really did take me straight back to Glastonbury – in the best way possible! I love how it was served in an American 'red cup' too!

Callooh Callay review

I looked out at the rain…and dialled an Uber. There’s only so much weather-braving a girl can take!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Hipster Weddings: How to pick your dream wedding venue!

I spent the first few weeks after my engagement in a cloud of happiness. The after effects of that perfect, sparkly, champagne-filled evening lasted for ages, and I went from one celebratory meal to the next, showing off my friend and smiling so much I felt like my face might fall off! Eventually, I popped home for a visit and my Mum asked innocently where, exactly, did we plan to get married?

I looked at her blankly. All the wedding magazines suggested that picking a venue (and a date) was the best first step, but I had no idea – I hadn’t thought about practicalities at all. Did we want to get married in my home town? In Cornwall, where we’d got engaged and had so many happy times? In London, where we’d lived for years? Or somewhere else entirely? Did I want to get married in a manor house, in a barn, on a beach?! The more I dipped my toe into the wedding-venue-minefield, the more baffled I became – there’s so much to choose from!

A few weeks down the line, I’ve made my decision and I couldn’t be happier. Now, some newly engaged brides might be completely clear on where they want to get married – maybe you’ve known since you were six and went for a walk round a castle, for example – but if, like me, you’re a bit bewildered, here are some tips that might help you move forwards!

Step 1 - Size
First and foremost –  how big do you want your wedding to be? Drawing up a (rough) guest list really helped me to narrow down the options in my mind. If you’ve got 20 people, you could easily take them all to the Maldives. If you’ve got 200, that might be a bit less realistic! Equally, if you’ve got lots of hangers on and you want to cut some of the fat, moving your wedding somewhere a bit more remote could prevent some of them from coming!

Step 2 - Geography
Next, think about geographical location. A wedding abroad can be beautiful and means you can better guarantee the weather (always an issue in England, no matter what date you select), but obviously you run the risk of having fewer people. And would your parents be a little upset? Although everyone will tell you ‘a wedding is all about what you want,’ I personally wanted my wedding to be what my parents wanted too. They weren’t happy about the idea of me getting married in Cornwall, and as I was really unsure myself, this made me decide it wasn’t right.

Okay, so you’ve narrowed it down to maybe a county (or at least a country) – what next?!

Step 3 - Style
Rather than spending hours thinking ‘barn or mansion? Barn or mansion?’ focus on the kind of wedding you want. Are you going for a glamorous, footballer’s wives type affair? You want a castle or a mansion with a winding driveway. Boho chic wedding with cocktails served in mason jars? Barn. Cheap and cheerful and involving picnic rugs? Park. Traditional with people there to do everything for you? Hotel. You see?!

(Obviously, be realistic. You can’t get married on a beach in Hertfordshire. But I knew I wanted a rustic, relaxed feel, so I decided to start looking at barns. It helps to narrow it down).

Step 4 – Internet It
Now, GOOGLE. ‘Wedding venues in Hertfordshire’ is terrifying and brings up 100,00000 results, but ‘Wedding venue barn near Hertford’ is manageable. You can then make a short list!

Step 5 - Go, visit!
Finally – go and see your shortlist! I’m going to put up a post later this week on how to behave when viewing a venue, but this really helps. You might find it actually puts you back to step 3, if you realise maybe a wedding on a football pitch sounded nice but the reality doesn’t quite live up to the dream. Also, it helps you refine your choices. I thought I wanted a really rustic barn, but found that actually, I needed something more modern so that it would be practical. Looking at photographs online is not a substitute for seeing the real thing!

There’s nothing like the relief of having your venue all booked up and knowing you’re happy with your decision. I really hope these (maybe simple) steps help you to have the best day of your life! 

All photographs taken from Pinterest - if you would like photo credit please ask!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Halloween Party (Or: an excuse to dress up when you're an 'adult')

Remember to enter my Zoella and Tanya Burr Beauty give away!

Halloween is the best chance I get, now I'm not at university and I'm meant to be an adult, to put on a silly outfit and go wild with the make up! It also coincides with my boyfriend's birthday, however, so I was a bit short on time this year. I went with 'zombie girl' in a cold shoulder dress that I never get enough wear out of and a lot of face paint! My friend really went to town with the decorations and cake, and we all had very sore heads the next morning. Bring on the Christmas parties!

I'm the one in the middle!

Epic cake

I know what you did last summer moment


Friday, 31 October 2014

Topshop Teddy Bear Dressing Gown and Sausage Dog Pyjamas

When I was younger I didn’t really ‘get’ Halloween. I wasn’t allowed to go trick or treating (*sob*) although I did go with some friends once and I thought it was the best. Thing. Ever.
By the time I got to uni Halloween was an excuse to go out dressed in not very much and drink a lot. Oh, who am I kidding…it still is! But in the meantime I like buying unnecessary things for the house and drinking hot chocolate in my pyjamas. Speaking of pyjamas, I bought the Topshop bear dressing gown everyone’s been talking about….

Let me tell you, it’s worth the hype…it’s literally the softest thing you’ve ever worn. It’s like snuggling into a marshmallow. Even my boyfriend – who inexplicably hates dressing gowns – can’t stop hugging me when I wear it, haha!

The pyjamas I wear with the dressing gown the most are these cute sausage dogs one.  My sister bought them from Next for Christmas last year and they are my absolute favourites. I am obsessed with sausage dogs!

So anyway, I get in my pyjamas, have a hot drink and light some candles. I bought these little ghost tealights from Waitrose but they’re actually so cute I can’t bear to light them! Does anybody else do that? Also, I watched Hocus Pocus for the first time the other day – how have I lived without this movie in my life?! I think Harry Potter is up next (is there anything more Halloween-y than this scene?!) 

Let me know if you’ve got this dressing gown and if you love it as much as I do!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Cosy Cafe Breakfast

Firstly, remember to enter my Zoella and Tanya Burr competition!

On Saturday, my fiancé and I (oh, did I mention I’m engaged?!) finally found our dream wedding venue! We were excited and laden down with brochures and wanted to find a little breakfast spot to have a bite to eat and discuss important details like dates (will September be warm enough? Will everyone come on a Friday…? And so on!)

I want to get married in my home town of Hertfordshire, so we weren’t in London, where there are more breakfast places than you could shake a stick at (what on earth does that expression mean?!...oh well) but I knew exactly where to go!

Serendipity is the cutest little café near the river in Hertford. When I was a teenager I used to go there all the time, and it’s always looked like it does now – like a Pinterest dream, all cosy wooden chairs and pastel decorations with its never ending menu chalked up on the blackboard behind the till! It was decorated for Halloween which made it even cosier. We got our hot chocolates and happily sat down to wait for our food.

There’s a little bit of controversy around this café. Way back, Serendipity applied for planning permission to extend into the shop next door. They were denied permission by the council. Next thing anyone knew, Starbucks bought the shop and without waiting for permission, turned it into a coffee shop. They were allowed permission retrospectively because it was kind of too late. I personally still boycott that Starbucks now!

Anyway, onto my breakfast. Look at my eggs! It’s the happiest breakfast you’ve ever seen! I almost didn’t want to eat them…!

I said almost. Look at that - the perfect hot, runny yolk, and buttery bread. Yum.

Ian had a much more boring panini with bacon, cheese and baked beans (yes – beans. In a panini. Men.)

And we picked a date! A perfect end to a lovely Saturday morning. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Greenwich: Family Day Out

Not so long ago, my parents came down to visit my fiancé and I in London, and we took them for a sunny day out in Greenwich. I think it’s the perfect place to go with your family. There’s the Cutty Sark, glinting in the daylight, and the gorgeous market (read my post on the food market here!)

You can also wander happily through the park, taking in the stunning views, as well as visiting the clocks and being tourists at the Meridian line!

And follow it all up with a yummy pub lunch – I had fish and chips at the Gypsy Moth.

A lovely, happy, relaxed day out!  
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