Lifestyle: June Favourites

Another month gone, this year is racing by. June has been a wonderful month. Plenty of sun, a holiday, and finished off nicely by my boyfriend moving in with me over the weekend. We’ll be sharing my not-quite double room for the next two weeks (it’s a bit of a squeeze – giving each other space is one of us on the bed, other on the floor!) before moving out to our London flat for the summer. Now, onto my monthly favourites!
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Of course, this has to be top of the list. We spent a few days in Rome before catching a (very modern and fast) train to Venice for another few days. The holiday was full of sight-seeing, blistering shoulders, heat, a few thunderstorms and a lot of canals. Utterly stunning. I’m in two minds about how to post about it – I wrote out ideas and have a potential 15 posts! Or I could try grouping it up a little, so do tell me what you would prefer!

Venice was without a doubt my favourite city of the two, it’s one you could return to many times and always discover something new. I know I’ll be heading back!

A Little KIKO Haul

My poor boyfriend was dragged round no less than four KIKO stores until I found a palette insert in stock. I wanted a 3 pan ideally, but in the end plumped for a 4 pan out of desperation. I managed to get all the shades I wanted too…

I also visited my first ever Sephora (or 3!) and despite being hugely tempted by two items (Nars God Created The Woman and Marc Jacobs Lolita palettes) I didn’t pick up anything. I resisted duty-free too. #feelingproud
 photo Food in Venice 2_zps3dsuhnwe.jpg photo Pizza in Rome 4_zpscsmv3wdu.jpg photo Pane amp Vino 1_zpscnrzwfax.jpgImli Street Restaurant Review1 photo 762dcfbc-7449-4b49-9082-3c38673a8005_zpsjut49er5.jpg

Food, Glorious Food

I’m really struggling not to make virtually every item on here Italy related – whoops! I’ve had some wonderful meals in Italy, whether it be a delicious white pizza, a stunning sandwich (I’m not over-exaggerating when I say I’ve eaten the best sandwiches in existence), or the most yummy specially-made seafood pasta. Plenty of ‘fried fish’ too. And maybe a scoop of gelato. I’m avoiding the scales until next weekend so I have time to get rid of the damage…

I also had a pretty yummy Indian meal (review tomorrow!), with one of the greenest curries in existence!
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Couple Time

Having been in an LDR on and off for more than half of my relationship, having some quality couple time isn’t something we take for granted! I’ve been away on placement since last July so the last time we had more than a weekend to ourselves was over a year ago now. Italy was the perfect chance to reconnect, and now we get to spend every morning, evening and weekend together. It’s early days, but I’ve not killed him yet…
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A Visit to the Zoo

My team’s away day was held at the beginning of the month, and an afternoon at London Zoo was a great way to unwind. We lucked out with fabulous weather (glad it was also dress down –  suit would not have been pleasant!).

All in all, a damn good month! How was your June? Any holiday plans for the summer?

Beauty: A Pre-Holiday Glow

Whilst I’ve learnt to embrace my pale skin, I always feel a little self-conscious come summer. If I’m truly honest to myself, I hate the way my legs are so blotchy and uneven. I have a white scar running behind one knee which can look obvious, and I just need a confidence boost. Fake tan has never been a success for me, so trying out a gradual version was high priority this year.

 photo Gradual Tan 1_zps2uo7jyk4.jpgAfter comparing reviews, standing in Boots totting up prices, I finally went with Dove Summer Glow. Apparently it’s meant to smell better than other brands, though if this is ‘better’ I’m not sure I want to try anything else – I find the tell tale biscuit scent to be quite strong. The moisturiser itself is creamy and hydrating, it sinks in nicely and the effects last. The tan element is definitely there, with two applications giving me a golden glow – and an orange tinge to anywhere I’ve not applied properly.

Quite honestly, I’m a fake tan novice and lack the patience needed to apply it. If you are dedicated and apply slowly and carefully I see no reason why this wouldn’t give a seamless tan – but it will streak slightly if you rush it. Still, not a bad colour and with change for a fiver!

 photo 007d008f-ab16-43b6-9490-e526c86a415e_zpsf8a463c9.jpgGarnier BB Cream SPF 50 photo 415f1d60-dde6-4c9b-ab76-cb79ed0529b6_zpsaa3gr7mt.jpgA slightly tanned body, it makes sense to add a little glow to my face too. The high SPF Garnier BB cream is a little dark for me naturally, but when I have a slight tan it gives the perfect light base – I loved using it in Italy! A dusting of bronzer (Bodyshop’s Honey Bronzer is perfect for a non-orange look) and I could have spent a fortnight on the beach, not staring at an Excel Spreadsheet all day.

Do you fake a golden glow? What products do you recommend?

Personal: The Importance on Thank You Notes

I always mean to write thank-you notes after birthdays, after Christmas, but it’s something I’ve never gotten round to. DOn’t get me wrong, I always make sure I thank the person, just never a specially written note.

 photo 2015-06-28 10.53.24_zpsvboomoix.jpgTaking the time to handwrite a letter, seal it in an envelope, buy a stamp and then take a trip to the postbox expresses so much more gratitude than sending an email or text ever could. It tells the recipient that they’ve not been forgotten and shows them just how important they are to you. Handwritten notes also have some permanence. Many of us decide to keep an old shoe box over the years and fill it will letters and notes from family, friends or colleagues. Years later people often read back through those letters and remember the fond memories that are attached to them. The same feelings are not evoked through emails or text messages, physical letters are enduring and much more memorable.

Pen Heaven have found some of the most uplifting thank you notes to inspire you to reach out to someone you care about and say thank you.

The most thoughtful thank you note goes to… Emma Watson

 photo Emma Watson_zpsgiupfyyc.pngHarry Potter actress Emma Watson took time in between filming to thank fellow actor Steve Carell. She wrote him a beautiful handwritten note for supporting her cause #HeForShe. Emma also shared her admiration for the actor at different parts in his career. Her beautiful words and of course that beautiful handwriting were bound to make Carell smile. Carell wore #HeForShe cufflinks to the Oscars when he was nominated in the Best Actor category for his role in Foxcatcher. Watson did a great job at expressing her gratitude and wins the title of most thoughtful thank you note from us.

The thank you note with the most character goes to… Honor Smith

9 year old Honor Smith wrote a charming letter to the Virgin boss, Richard Branson.  photo Honor Smith_zpsqxwzqbfk.pngClearly overwhelmed by the letter Sir Richard shared it across his social networking sites and took the time out of his busy schedule to handwrite a thank you note back to her. Young Honor Smith has so much bravery for writing this honest and open letter. Honour thanked him for sharing a video on dyslexia and explained how his video has helped her overcome the issue. This letter was bound to make Sir Richard feel incredibly proud and what an incredible little girl Honor is to write this note, she truly deserves the award for thank you note with the most character.

The most emotional thank you note goes to… Bethanie

 photo Bethanie_zpsmyghnqy6.pngThis touching letter was written by a lady named Bethanie and given to the pilots who took her home. In the heartfelt note, Bethanie showed compassion, gratitude and appreciation for a job that is often overlooked. The timing of this letter made it even more impactful as it was delivered shortly after the tragic Germanwings plane crash. The letter did as Bethanie wanted and ‘spread love’ as the grateful pilot took to Twitter to share the note which then went viral. This was bound to bring a tear to the eye of the pilot who received it and is worthy of the most emotional thank you note award.

The thank you note everyone wants to receive goes to… Beyonce

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One of the most idolised women in the world, Beyonce wrote a moving thank you note to First Lady Michelle Obama. There is no doubt that Beyonce is one of the most powerful women in the world and to see that she has written a handwritten thank you note is humbling and shows just how grounded the queen of music really is. In the handwritten note Beyonce thanked Michelle for being a great role model for her and Jay-Z’s daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. There is not one woman out there that wouldn’t want to receive that letter so the award for the thank you note everyone want to receive is definitely from Beyonce.

The most inspiring thank you note goes to… Barack Obama

 photo Obama_zpslfthtcee.pngNow we turn to the President of the United States, Barack Obama who in 2010 wrote a heartwarming letter directly to Life of Pi author Yann Martel. If this note doesn’t inspire creativity then we’re not sure what would. Not many people will have the privilege of receiving a handwritten letter from Barack Obama but Mr Martel is a very lucky man. In the beautiful note Obama described Life of Pi as an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling. There’s no denying that Obama is a busy man so it’s incredibly humbling to see that he took the time to write this beautiful note, it makes you want to step up and write or do something that impacts somebody as much as this book clearly has. That’s why the award for the most inspiring thank you note goes to Barack Obama.

After sharing Pen Heaven’s favourite thank you notes we turned to CEO David Cole and asked him how he feels when he receives a handwritten thank you note.

“Receiving a handwritten letter creates feelings of excitement. It’s not often we get them so it’s always a very pleasant surprise to see a handwritten envelope in between a pile of bills. There is something incredibly personal about a handwritten note, the gratitude that it expresses, the memories that it brings back and the appreciation you feel really does boost your mood.”

Now it’s time for you to send a thank you note to someone that truly deserves it.

*Sponsored post from Pen Heaven

Whilst I don’t often send thank you notes, I do like sending and receiving handwritten letters. Me and W used to write to each other at university and I loved receiving the letters – I’ve kept all of them too. Do you send handwritten notes?

Lifestyle: An Experience Wishlist

My holiday has proved just how much there is to see in this world, just how much I haven’t seen. Even though I had already visited Venice as part of a cruise itinerary thirteen (!) years ago it was surprising how awestruck I was last week. It was such an utterly stunning place, I’m already desperate to go back.

 photo Wandering in Venice 19_zpsvpyzgtb3.jpg photo Wandering in Venice 7_zpspqrvnhw4.jpgI could write an entire post moaning about being back in the UK, my holiday being over, the lack of forthcoming excitement, but instead I’m going to aim at being positive. I’m going to talk about what I want to do, what I want to see, what I want to get out of life.

Travel More

I’ve never been tempted (and I doubt I ever will be!) to do the traditional backpacking thing. I’m considering interrailing around Europe, though I’m a bit wary of hostels (I hate sleeping in front of others). But I do want to travel, see more places. I’d love to see the Great Wall, I’m hugely intrigued by Japan. New Zealand and Australia are high on my wishlist, my top honeymoon choice is a foodie roadtrip around America. I’d love to bathe in the Caribbean sea, almost as much as I’d like to bathe in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. So many places.

Go to the Opera

I’ve always been intrigued by the opera, but felt it was a bit mature for me, a little old-fashioned, perhaps a little stuck-up. That was before I heard about the London Coliseum’s production of Carmen. A slightly modernised production, the opera deals with the love and jealousy of a soldier, who is lured away from his duty and his love by the gypsy factory-girl Carmen, whom he allows to escape from custody.

The storyline sounds brilliant, the reviews are excellent. Whilst I’m not sure I’ll be able to make a performance I’m hoping that one of the live screenings will be shown near me.

Learn to Snowboard

I bought W (and myself!) a snowboarding lesson for his twentieth birthday and we both really enjoyed it. We’d need to start from the beginning again now but I would love to properly learn and be able to snowboard freely, away from a lesson. I say that now, when I’ve forgotten the pain I was in after that session…

Dine from a Tasting Menu

At a fancy restaurant of course. It’s no secret that I am a BIG foodie, I just love the sheer pleasure eating brings. I’d love to be able to spend what seems like a fortune on a meal, a multiple course tasting menu to try as much as possible. One day!

Get Married, Have Babies

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The big one. I wasn’t wholly convinced I believed in marriage until a few years back but I guess one person can change your life! I know don’t doubt that one day I’ll marry and hopefully have children. I walked by the most gorgeous nursery shop in Rome whilst I was away, it was utterly adorable. And yep, I’m the girl with her nose pressed up against the glass when walking by a wedding dress shop…

Have you ever been to the opera? What are your life aims?

Recipe: Chorizo & Red Pepper Quick-Quiche

I had a craving for a quiche a few weeks back, which considering I’ve never really eaten it was pretty odd. With some filo pastry needing to be used up and plenty of eggs, I took one look at the price of ready-made quiche and promptly set about creating a recipe. I used this one for inspiration, but pretty much made it up as I went along…with damn tasty results!

Chorizo and Feta Quiche3 photo d21936c6-8d64-41a4-9192-94f563d833f3_zpsgxnio0je.jpgThis was great warm for a light dinner, but then kept beautifully in the fridge for packed lunches over the following days. The pastry wasn’t as crisp but it made a change from my usual sandwiches or soup. The chorzo keeps this interesting, the feta adding creaminess, and the red peppers just break it all up to stop it being too rich. Definitely my perfect quiche.

Chorizo and Feta Quiche5 photo 30aedd8a-940e-4416-80c7-00814dbc8e8d_zpsnxsurlif.jpgIngredients

  • Half a pack of filo pastry (six sheets)
  • 1 tub of low fat cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • Around 100g of chorizo, chopped
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • A handful of feta cheese

Fry the chorizo over a low heat, in a dry pan. Drain onto a piece of kitchen towel to remove excess oil, and mix with the pepper.

Make the pastry case. I didn’t realise how much oil is needed to cook filo pastry – this is by no means a low fat recipe! Brush a sandwich tin with oil, place in a filo sheet. Brush with oil, add another sheet, repeat until done. Scrunch the edges in to make the sides thicker.

Chorizo and Feta Quiche6 photo 3e245e01-ee87-4dae-95b3-d4ce87bd9676_zps6ngntsxh.jpgBeat the cream cheese in a large bowl, then beat in the eggs. Season, before stirring through the chorizo, pepper and half of the feta. Pour into the pastry case, top with remaining feta and bake at 180C for around 25 minutes – until the top is set and golden. Let cool slightly before slicing.

Chorizo and Feta Quiche4 photo ca804655-98af-4f1d-908f-9849f5030d6c_zpshlrnpdbt.jpgI found this perfect served with a simple green salad dressed with lemon juice, and sprinkled with a few seeds for added crunch. It would be perfect for a picnic or party too – and I’m tempted to use the filling recipe to make a crustless breakfast version. Yum!
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What’s your favourite picnic food?

Personal: What Could You Save?

Who doesn’t like the idea of getting cashback on their everyday spending? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, wrong! Santander allow this to come true with their 123 credit card which offers cashback on supermarket shops, department stores, petrol stations and TfL- who could resist that!?

 photo a99dc03f-c9fd-43f0-abe9-1dce0111e743_zpsggkmutb1.jpgTaking on a credit card is a big decision, but if you do decide to go for one I’d definitely consider getting something with bonuses like this! Santander have also greater a pretty nifty calculator – just pop in your monthly income and it will calculate your expected annual cashback.

Based on my (excessive) use of rail transport it worked out I’d gain a massive £127 cashback a year. That’s a pretty immense amount of month, which could see me nearly doubling my food budget over the year, or even just treating myself a bit more. Makes the thought of spending so much on train fares a bit nicer too!

 photo 2015-06-15 19.43.22_zpsaizzicad.jpgSantander offered to send me on an experience with the money I would save, but due to my holiday (currently in the sun as you read!) and then moving it was causing timings to be a little bit difficult. Instead they decided to treat me to some items off my ‘I really, really want but can’t justify the cost’ list. These are things I’ve never, ever buy for myself as they are just too expensive. I literally squealed with excitement when the package turned up. And as it was delivered to my desk at work that was a teeny, tiny bit embarrassing. Ah well.

 photo 2015-06-15 19.40.49_zpsgz4semrd.jpgThe first thing on my list is Tom Ford’s Velvet Orchid. I got a whiff of this back in January and fell in love. The scent is perfect, and it lasts so well on the skin. I sprayed in on my wrist mid-morning, travelled from Oxford to Surrey, slept and could still smell it at work the next day. At £72 this is eye-wateringly expensive, to the point I wouldn’t even put it on my Christmas list.

 photo 2015-06-15 19.38.24_zpszrvu7l8s.jpg photo 2015-06-15 19.41.23_zps6x5zztqp.jpgNext up was something Charlotte Tilbury shaped. I’ve lusted over Dolce Vita for months, but when I finally swatched it a few months ago I was less than impressed. Enter The Sophisticate. A palette of shades I don’t actually own, no glitter, only a little shimmer, and that beautiful, beautiful packaging. It’s something I wouldn’t ever treat myself too – I cried a little inside at spending £37 on 12 eyeshadows, let alone 4!

 photo 4158b62a-7cf8-4028-8164-8d07f7766f3e_zpsiy6wjsv4.jpgNow, a MAC lipstick. You may argue that I do buy MAC lipsticks, and you’d be right. However (I say a trifle defensively) I play it safe. I buy neutral colours, ones I know suit me. I’ve never picked up a bold from here, until now. Lady Danger is a damn scary colour, an orange-toned, bright, scary red. It’s gorgeous, I love it, and I’m hoping it isn’t restarting my MAC addiction. I’ll need more lipstick storage if so…

How much money could this cashback credit card save you? What would you do with the money you would save – an experience or some treats?