Beauty: How I Build Facemasks Into My Routine

Now, every girl loves a good facemask. A time to slather it on, light a candle, brew a cuppa and read a good book or magazine. Don’t get me wrong, a mini pamper evening is right up my street. But quite often I just don’t have the time to spend half an hour doing nothing.

 photo 2017-01-22 11.08.24_zpsp4hpc13t.jpgThat’s quite depressing, really. But true. Some weeks I don’t really have half an hour to spare to just sitting and relaxing. I mean, if I stopped with the incessant scrolling of social media, if I used my lunch hour a bit better, if I worked a bit smarter, then sure. I’d probably have more time that I know what to do with. I am of the mindset that any spare time I have from now until April (and then June-September. And repeat for the next few years) should be spent studying. Pamper evenings are becoming rare!

So whilst it’s a ‘no’ to regular pamper sessions, I can’t quite give up how good my skin both looks and feels after a facemask. It’s smoother, more radiant, makeup applies better and last longer. It just looks good. So now I just squeeze in a quick facemask session into my general skincare routine. I get the glowy skin, I get the pampered feeling, but I don’t feel like I’m procrastinating (too much).

 photo Bodyshop Facemasks 12_zpsyq2rxjn3.jpgBefore I wash my hair (so every 2-3 days) I throw on a clarifying mask – I’ve used the Warming Minerals one for years, but I’ve noticed a sneaky packaging/naming change so I’m hoping it still agrees with my skin. Because of the consistency of this (it’s quite thin, especially to a damp face), I find it works well to remove makeup – obviously taking off mascara first. A quick rinse with a facecloth whilst under the shower and I’m fully cleansed.

This particular mask is warming as you apply it, adding to the pampering feel. It’s slightly tingly (and God forbid you get it in your eyes!), and the end result is soft, smooth skin. Clear pores, yet no tight, dry feeling. It also brings out lurking spots like nothing else I’ve tried.

 photo Bodyshop Facemasks 13_zpstmbn7sro.jpg photo Bodyshop Facemasks 19_zpscmk8o5ez.jpgWhen my face is feeling a bit lack-lustre, I’ll go in with either an exfoliating mask or a more nourishing one.

My exfoliator of choice (currently at least!) is this Acai Energizing mask. I confess, I don’t use it as a traditional mask. I simply massage it on, concentrating on any drier ages, then rinse off with a facecloth. Smooth, revived skin in just a few minutes. I also find taking 30 seconds to massage my face so relaxing.

I find this mask great for reviving my skin after a long week. It smells good, feels refreshing (a Godsend after a long Tube journey!) and leaves my skin looking and feeling much happier. And it looks like raspberry jam…what more can you want?!

 photo Bodyshop Facemasks 11_zpsvdwxftwd.jpg photo Bodyshop Facemasks 5_zpsodbw1br8.jpgThen there’s the nourishing mask – and my skin has definitely needed nourishing this winter! It’s taken a battering with cold weather, a bombarding of air conditioning and heating, and the recycled air on the underground. Plus London water is not kind to skin! I find I get the best results from any kind of moisurising mask if I apply to wet skin then leave on for five minutes. Anything longer and it tends to block my pores (or become itchy), anything less and it just don’t do anything.

This Honey Mask has been great during the winter, though I’m not sure I’ll be a fan of it’s sticky texture when it gets warmer (I’m hoping to pick up the Rose one for then – I’ve tried it out in store and it smells gorgeous!). I tend to apply it just before bed, then go about doing all the bed-time things. Brushing my teeth, getting my cup of tea prepped for the morning, pushing allllll the cushions onto W’s side of the bed (because it’s the annoying things he loves most about me!). I’ll then rinse off quickly and pop into bed – waking up with soft, smooth skin that’s hell of a lot more plumped up. I find it revives my complexion, leaving me with even toned skin. Definitely a must-have for me – I’ve been using it every other day for the past few months.

 photo Bodyshop Facemasks 10_zpsepsek4e6.jpgPlus, these new Bodyshop facemasks are just so prettyyyyy on my bathroom shelf. I’m a sucker for good packaging!

Typically, despite having flawless skin at the time of writing, just before posting my skin decided to have a major breakout. Thanks hormones. So to those of you who see me around now, my current skin is not a reflection of these products!

Are you a fan of facemasks? Do you prefer proper pamper evenings, or just slotting them into your routine?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #13

Dear 2017; please slow down. Before I know it, April will be here and my exams will be on top of me. It’s such a scary thought to know they are next month. For some reason (and I don’t really know why!) I’m finding my professional exams a whole lot more daunting that anything I’ve ever done before.

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  1. Not being diagnosed with anything nasty. I’ve had a bit of a health scare recently and after an obscene amount of blood tests (and a very long wait for a couple of very quick chest x-rays) the really scary things have been crossed off the list. Not exactly a resolution, but a huge relief! Note to self: don’t ignore symptoms for so long again!
  2. Pancake Day! We had two pancakes courses; rolled crepes stuffed with chicken, bacon, mushrooms and spinach in a creamy sauce (then topped with cheese and grilled until crispy), and fluffy American pancakes with maple syrup. I may or may not have have some for lunch too. Possibly with lemon and sugar…
  3. Also, I got W to eat mushrooms in the above pancakes – for the first time ever!
  4. Dog-sitting. I looked after the family dog at the beginning of the month. I got to raid my parents’ food cupboards, enjoy their bath and have puppy cuddles. My idea of a pur-fect Friday night.
  5. Working in Lloyd’s of London. I rotate into different teams as part of my graduate scheme, and I managed to be in the position to work in Lloyd’s for a week. It was such a different environment!
  6. Cooking a delicious Lamb Tagine. I pretty much made the recipe up, but it was SO. GOOD.
  7. My new backpack. I need to pick one up for our main holiday in the summer and whilst it’s probably not the most practical, I do love it!
  8. Franco Manca is coming to Putney. It is on schedule to open next month and I’m so looking forward to it. It’s also on my walk home from the station which is dangerous…
  9. Lighter nights. If I wasn’t staying late to study, I wouldn’t be getting home in the dark!
  10. Heading to a wedding fair. I find these things so strange, but it was fun to have a mooch around.
  11. Tesco now do a tomato-free pizza. Admittedly it’s £5.35 and I’d sooner go to Franco Manca (see no.8) for an extra couple of ££, but it’s nice to have in the freezer.
  12. Eating alllll the chocolate and having a good gossip with my girlies. The best way to spend a Sunday!

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Overcoming Loneliness When Living Alone

Now, I’ve never officially lived alone. During my second and final year at university I lived with some of the best housemates ever. After a summer flitting between both of our parental homes, me and W moved in together pretty quickly after we graduated. Something glinting on the second finger of my left hand seems to suggest I won’t be getting rid of him anytime soon!

 photo Dealing with Loneliness4_zpsechxyd4b.jpgBut I have spent a few good chunks of time on my own. During my placement year I had a rather odd living situation (I rented a spare room – with a lovely live-in landlady, her partner, three dogs and a cat) and would regularly have the house to myself for a couple of weeks. And, of course, this January W spent the month in Chile. So I’ve definitely had my fair share of living alone – and I’ve definitely worked out what makes it a not-so-great experience, and how to make it work.

Plan Something Fun

During my placement year, I saw W pretty every other weekend. Much as I hated our LDR, it gave me something to look forward to – and we always made the most of our time (no vegetating on the sofa for a whole Saturday…). Whether it was exploring a cute little village I’d discovered, heading to a new cafe or getting the train to Brighton, having something to look forward to made the lonely evenings worth it!

I remembered that when he was away, and made plans months in advance. Some fell through, but I was so grateful to spend the weekend with one of my best friends, and also another weekend with my Mummy. Both involved stuffing ourselves silly with pie. One involved homeware browsing and bargain coat-buying. The other involved a lot of cake and a theatre trip. Both were just what I needed to keep my occupied!

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Schedule in Girly Time

Now it might just be me, but sometimes I feel a litttttleeeee selfish when I have girly time when I live with W. Much as I love smoothing on a facemask, lighting some candles and painting my nails, there’s always something else to do! We love baking together, playing on the Xbox – even our usual messing around just isn’t possible during a pamper evening (wen you’ve seen the damage a tickle fight does to freshly painted nails you’ll understand!). Him being away gave me the excuse to have perfectly manicured nails, I used a facemask every other day and I danced to Taylor Swift every night.

Oh, and I was able to watch Bridget Jones, 50 First Dates AND Bride Wars without anyone whinging all the way through it. #Winning!

Have a Backup/Emergency Plan

Now, I’m quite accident prone. In fact, I’m really proud of the fact that I only had ONE accident during January (picked up a pan that had been in the oven with bare hands; 3 fingers and my thumb on my writing hand blistered…). But accidents like this aside, I made sure someone nearby had spare keys to our flat/block (because I was convinced I would lock myself out – I didn’t). I made W show me exactly where the fuse box/water supply bits etc were so I could ‘fix’ things in an emergency. I made a big effort to make friends locally so I had people I could rely on in an emergency.

As you can see, I’m a planner. I didn’t need to do that, I had no emergencies, but it gave me a massive peace of mind.

Batch Cook

Weirdly, I had absolutely no problem with cooking for myself every night at university. This January, however, I hated it. I would get home from work, study for an hour or two, then realise I had to cook. Quite often it was nearing 10pm before I sat down with some food. Trust me, the h-anger was real!

For the last few weeks I got into a routine where I’d prep a few things over the weekend (even if it was just chopping veg) and it definitely helped. There was less relying on pizza – and it’s put me in a better meal-prep frame of mind now he’s back too!

Background Noise

Normally I’m a lover of silence. I don’t listen to music. I work/study without any background noice. I rarely use headphones. However even I needed SOME background noise when in a house on my own. My favourite trick is to put the radio on, as the chit-chat at least makes me feel like I’m having a conversation – I had one study day where I didn’t speak AT ALL to anyone. Sad day!
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Get Out

It got to around 4pm one study day in January when I realised I hadn’t spoken a single word. I wandered to Sainsbury’s and it made me feel SO much better. Until I figured out that I’d used the self-service checkouts and still hadn’t spoken to anyone…

But still, just getting out and about will instantly make you feel a bit less secluded. I also found it a great excuse to bulk take photos for my Instagram feed – W hates me taking snaps of random houses, so doing it when he wasn’t amount (plus overcast January days work so well for outside photography!) worked out nicely.

Don’t Watch Scary Things

Now, I’m a huge fan of Silent Witness. I love it. I think it’s one of the most realistic crime dramas about, the acting is excellent and it’s pretty much true to scientific detail. Some of the episodes in the 2017 season were some of the best I’ve watched, and that in itself was a massive, massive problem. The first story was about a human trafficking ring, and I watch it the first weekend W was away. It had some pretty horrifying scenes and despite not being overly sensitive it really affected me. Lesson learnt, only watch nice things!
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Make The Most Of It!

For me, having W away meant I could be hugely productive. I could get up at 6am and exercise. I could study for a few hours after work, come home and still squeeze in a few hours of blogging. Those few weeks meant I managed to catch up on my study plan (events over my Christmas holiday meant I was quite a bit behind where I wanted to be), and I got a shit-tonne of blog posts drafted up and scheduled. Oh, and it helps to stockpile your favourite chocolate too!

It also meant I could starfish in a king-size bed. Not have to keep putting the toilet seat down. Eat mushrooms and seafood. Have cushions and blankets covered the sofa.

And it all that fails, get a dog!

(I’m joking with the last one. Obviously only get a dog if your circumstances are right. But I definitely would be getting one if W had to go away regularly!)

Do you, or have you, lived alone? How did you deal with the loneliness? 

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #12

Woo, back to the fortnightly posts! This year is flashing by so quickly it’s rather scary…though I’d so glad January went quickly (I did NOT enjoy living on my own!).

These last two weeks have been strange. Busy, exhausting, but really rather satisfying too. Let’s chat about the little happy things!

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Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…

  1. “Breaking in” my wedding shoes. A.K.A wearing them with every opportunity. I did the hoovering in them last week, though trying to hide them from W is torture.
  2. Valentine’s! We’re not huge fans of it, but we set aside the evening for a good meal (duck breast followed by souffles – he’s amazeballs!). I was also ‘surprised’ with the Jo Malone perfume I’d been subtly talking about for a while…
  3. Booking the music for our wedding. One of the best Saturday evenings in February involved a bottle of wine and several hours listening to demos. Let’s just say there’s some interesting ones out there, but I’m SO happy with who we’ve managed to get!
  4. My work’s Christmas dinner.Seriously. We had it in a hotel near Liverpool in the middle of February. I ate scallops, beef cheeks and a (disappointing) chocolate dessert and drank lots of (very good) wine.
  5. Starting my graduate rotations at work. It’s been great to learn about other functions and network.
  6. Perfecting my tomato-free Bolognese. Recipe coming soon!
  7. Finishing up my tutorials and a celebratory lunch (Chinese) with my coursemates. Though considering the exam is in April, I’m not sure what we were celebrating…
  8. Spending a Saturday in Canterbury with my best friends. It felt like ages since we had a good catch up. We ate cakes and gossiped for hours!
  9. Eggs Chauncer at Tiny Tim’s, a Canterbury institution. It was English muffins, ham, mushrooms, poached eggs and rarebit sauce. I think eggs should be served with a cheesy sauce more often…
  10. February’s Dominique Ansel Cronut. It was Raspberry & Orange blossom FYI. Best New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever made!

What are the little things that make you happy?

Food: The Year of the Burger

Forget Chinese New Year, and the year of the rooster – for me it’s all about the year of the burger.

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 1_zpscaakdr4r.jpgIt’s clear from both my Instagram and previous blog posts that I’m a massive lover of burgers (as well as runny eggs and pretty houses!). I’ve tried burgers than are pretty much steak in a brioche bun. I’ve tried “London’s Best Burger.” I’ve had McDonald’s and other fast food burgers. I’ve had fun toppings, plain Janes and pretty much everything in between. I’ve suffered allergic reactions (thanks Byron for just removing the tomato slice then handing the burger back!), felt too stuffed to move. I’ve eaten more than my fair shame of bad burgers, but equally I’ve eaten some bloody damn good ones!

 photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 5_zpsbhtsdznk.jpg photo Burgers and Cocktails Review Brighton 4_zpsjpvojda6.jpgProbably the most inventive place I’ve been for burger toppings is Burger & Cocktails in Brighton. The burgers themselves were thin patties cooked well-done, but quite flavourful and juicy – and they really let the toppings shine. I went for a mac’n’cheese and bacon combo (carbs on carbs, and adding bacon is never bad), whilst W enjoyed a spicy, oozy, cheesy number. Sides were also excellent, with the onion rings being the best I’ve ever had. And I don’t need to say more than this: alcoholic chocolate orange milkshake.

I’ve also enjoyed GBK, though I was gutted that the Camembert burger seems to have disappeared. Beef patty, Camembert, onions, bacon and shoestring fries allllll inside a bun was pretty much a party in my mouth. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the other burgers on the menu, though with my new found love of beetroot their signature is now high on my list to try!

 photo Honest Burger Review 1_zpsxg6a81ra.jpg photo Honest Burger Review 9_zpsno3bkbbe.jpgIn terms of the best burger patty, the winner so far has to be Honest burgers. My review is due to go live in a few weeks, but here’s a sneak peek: excellent meaty flavours, well cooked, an soft but robust brioche bun and the BEST chips. I also love that I can pretty much eat everything on the menu as there’s no tomato slices and no cheeky relish lurking. I’m also a big fan of the pickled cucumber…

Five Guys is also close to my heart, though I’m still unsure as to whether it’s worth the rather high price-tag. I do love it for a quick lunch, but at £12+ for a chip-burger-drink combo (I can’t resist the still peach fanta – and it’s double-cheese-and-bacon or go home!) it’s pricey. Unlimited free toppings helps though – my go-to is grilled onions, mustard, mushrooms and lettuce. Yum yum.

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 6_zpswsobxllt.jpgOf course, I can’t not mention Mac & Wild. It’s Veni-Moo was voted London’s best burger of 2016, so obviously I HAD to try it. I loved it, but I’m unsure if it’s worthy of it’s title. It was bloody good, with juicy patties, runny cheese, cream Bernaise, pickles, mustard, a decent bun, candied bacon. But it was just too big. It was impossible to eat as a burger, definitely a knife-and-fork job, and even then it had to be eaten element by element. Just not quite there for me, I’m gutted to say. Though I’ve since been back and gorged on venison Chateaubriand. Pricier, but worth it.

But this is the year I try new places, branch out. I have SO many burger places I want to try. Shake Shack has been on my list for what feels like years, and now new branches are popping up I can avoid the huge queues in Covent Garden. As a black pudding lover, Bleecker St is somewhere I NEED to visit asap. With Spitalfields being one of my favourite weekend haunts, I’m not too sure why I’ve not visited yet. Then there’s Patty & Bun, which again seems like somewhere I need to visit. There’s Smashburgers which has opened up in MK and Brighton, a new concept which I’d love to try. And of course, I’m also open to finding the best fried chicken burger too…

So now it’s over to you. Where is the best burger you’ve ever had? Where do you recommend? Don’t just limit it to London, I’m willing to travel for the perfect burger…

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #11 (The Bumper One With Christmas!)

I’m well aware it’s been wayyyyy more than a fortnight since my last happy post, since Christmas for that matter – but I didn’t want to change the format of these posts too much. Rest assured they will be back each fortnight now! It just so happens that this one is a longer one…

A lot has happened in my life since the last Happy Post, and in all honesty the majority of it wasn’t that happy – so I’ve been focussing on the little things. Since writing these posts my positivity has improved no end!

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Here’s what’s been making me happy recently…

  1. Christmas. Surviving travelling up from London carrying a very heavy Christmas cake. Getting our parents together for a festive celebration on Christmas Eve. Catching up with all of our families. Receiving some lovely presents.
  2. Expanding my Charlotte Tilbury collection. Admittedly only by a lip liner, but I will also be booking a bridal session courtesy of my parents very soon. #excited
  3. Making an amazingggg dessert with W for our NYE party. We made Chocolate & Cherry Brownies, with a Hazelnut Mousse, Cherry Gel and Chocolate Soil. And caramel-dipped hazelnuts. It was SO good.
  4. Talking about all the funny memories. Hard and teary, but it made the sadness better.
  5. Will’s birthday meal at Mac & Wild. We ate an extreme amount of venison. Plus there was toasted bee pollen on my dessert. And I had an amazing whisky cocktail. Goooood night!
  6. Passing my first professional exam. Granted it’s one that doesn’t reallllyyyy count, but still!
  7. New PJs. They are the softest, cosiest things EVER.
  8. Hitting over 100 likes on an Instagram shot. It’s the little things that make me happy! (plus it’s kept happening!)
  9. Visiting the Design Museum. Definitely worth a trip, though I’d advise staying away at weekends.
  10. Getting a seat on the Tube all the way. I usually get one for most of it, but to board the Tube and sit down straight away meant it was a good day. Like I said, it’s the little things…
  11. Wandering around Parson’s Green. Quite possibly my new favourite pastime – the charity shops are full of insane bargains!
  12. Talking of bargains, I picked up a lovely coat at Spitalfields for £15. It’s just what I’ve been looking for – and seeing as I found a fiver in my bag I’m even more chuffed!
  13. Spending time with one of my best friends. It was just what I needed to cheer me up!
  14. Cooking up the best tomato sauce substitute I’ve tried. Even worked well on pizza…
  15. Spending time with another of my best friends – my mummy. She came down for a sleepover, we ate too much chocolate, then too much cake and cried at Phantom of the Opera.
  16. Picking W up at Heathrow. I missed him more than I want to admit – it felt like I was missing my left (I’m a leftie!) arm.
  17. Silent Witness. Though NOT a good thing to watch when you are living completely on your own…
  18. A new washing machine. It now actually washes and dries things, rather than making them hot and creased.
  19. Catching up with my cousins. Might not have been for a happy occasion, but it was good to see them!
  20. Pretty new shoes from Kurt Geiger. The perfect ‘power heels’ – high, pointy, patent black.
  21. Taking time to paint my nails and put on a facemask on Sunday nights. The advantage of not having W around was plenty of time to be a ‘girly girl’!
  22. Eating a Wispa. It’s not a bar I’d usually choose, but it really hit the spot…
  23. My new slippers. No longer is going into the bathroom a form of torture.
  24. Stand Up Philosophy. We’ve been meaning to go for ages, and we did it. Topic of the night was ‘taste’ and my highlight was definitely Sophie Duker (even if she did knock over my wine – luckily I’d almost finished it!). Not one to listen to with a full bladder.
  25. The third shoe mention – I bought my wedding shoes!! Yes, 20 months in advance, but when you have Size 3 feet and you spot the perfect pair a gal’s gotta move fast.
  26. Baking a Toffee, Banana & Pecan Loaf Cake. It was so, soooo good! Recipe to follow…

What’s been making you smile lately?

Personal: 2017 Goals, Month by Month

A bit belated perhaps, but after my month off I need a good ole kick up the ass and motivation boost. You see, I didn’t just give myself a month off from blogging. I had two weeks off work, a good chunk of time away from studying, and even took a fitness break. In fact, pretty much the only thing I didn’t take a break from was eating excessive amounts of chocolate.

 photo 2017 Goals_zps78affijh.jpgNormally my New Year’s Day looks like this – I’ll take the dog out for a good walk to clear my head, and I’ll sit with a bucket full of tea and think about my resolutions. This year had other plans for me, and the day wasn’t spent thinking about myself, but spending time with my family, being there for each other and reminiscing. And I kinda carried on in that vein for a few weeks. Nothing wrong with it, but when I started to get behind on study, when I returned to work and struggled to get anything in the evenings, I knew I had to set some goals. And fast.

This year I’ve done it a little differently. I’ve not set resolutions for the whole year. I’ve set a few fun year-long goals, but mostly I’ve worked month-by-month. Concentrating on some more specific goals for just 30 days seems a whole lot more achievable, and who knows – the habit might stick by the end of month!

 photo 2017-01-22 22.00.57_zpsrwokriis.jpgJanuary – Plan all my meals in advance at the weekend. Drink at least 5 glasses of water throughout the work day. Only eat canteen lunches once a week. And get my shit together and get organised!

Update (5 Feb) – I can kill two birds with one stone in this post, and review how I got on over January. As Will was away I had to be doubly organised with meals and so I did plan every meal – and only ate in the canteen twice overall. I think most days I drank 5 glass of water, never less than 4 plus fruit tea anyway. And I feel a little more organised, so I’ll count last month as a success!

February – Post on Instagram at least twice a day. Learn to make marshmallows. Only eat pasta once a fortnight.

March – Do at least two hours of study every day (you can tell my exams are in April!). Eat two vegetarian dinners a week.

 photo 2017-01-22 11.08.24_zps7oebi6tc.jpgApril – Do all possible prep for dinner the night before. Go out for fresh air every lunchtime. “No spend” month, with no purchases of makeup, skincare, clothes or shoes.

May – Do a workout everyday (maybe start the C25K again…). Visit somewhere new every weekend. Leave my phone in my bag whilst at work.

June – Wash my makeup brushes every week. Push myself at work (June is a big month for presentations, which is my worst fear, so this is a big one!).

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 2_zps8s9qgfnh.jpgJuly – Eat something ‘raw’ at least once a day (July will be the month of the salad!). Bulk take blog photos at the weekends. Look into learning how to row.

August – Get off the tube early at least 3 days a week and walk. Don’t buy in ice-cream, only eat it at home if I’ve made it. Don’t touch my phone after 9pm.

September – Do at least two hours of study every day (more exams at the end of September). Leave my Kindle untouched until my exam is over.

October – Cook a new recipe at least twice a week. Do some serious wedding planning (I’ll be hitting the 1 year countdown, how scary is that?!). Only drink one cup of tea a day.

 photo Report Done_zpsevlcr5tk.jpgNovember – Up my social media game. Prep at least one blog post an evening (3 nights a week). Learn something new (maybe knitting – because I’ve not been saying that for years!). Cut down from having sugar in my tea.

December – Volunteer my time over Christmas. Take some time away from social media to concentrate on my family. Keep up a fitness regime over the festive period.

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And my year-long goals? I want to try each month’s flavours of Cronut at Dominique Ansel (though November’s is still my favourite so far!). I want to get more organised, both in and out of work. I want to meet up with more blog friends, see my uni friends more, socialise a little more with people from work. Here’s to 2017 being better than it started!

What goals are you working on this year?

Lifestyle: Different Things to do in London

It’s official, I have fallen completely and utterly in love with London. I was enjoying living down in the Big Smoke, but it took my trip up to the Midlands at Christmas to make me realise just how much I love our capital. And other than waxing lyrical about my love for the city, I’ve decided it’s the perfect timing to pen up some of the underrated areas I’ve found over the last few months.

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A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Wander Around Victoria

During my placement year I spent hours in Victoria Station (as I’m sure many of those who rely on Southern rail have!). I only wish I’d ventured outside and down the road before now, I didn’t realise quite how Instagrammable the streets of Victoria and Pimlico are! Plus it doesn’t hurt that both Peggy Porschen and Dominique Ansel are so close!

 photo Olympic Slide 29_zpsiyunb1it.jpg photo Olympic Slide 26_zpsj4avz8ao.jpg photo Olympic Slide 24_zpssju86ad0.jpg photo Olympic Slide 17_zpswqlydjmk.jpg photo Olympic Slide 18_zpsdelfmybv.jpg photo Olympic Slide 16_zps18yf69zy.jpg photo Olympic Slide 13_zpsuq3d21g5.jpg photo Olympic Slide 12_zps3eodgulb.jpg photo Olympic Slide 10_zpsvvjwjfki.jpg photo Olympic Slide 8_zpsodgwfwot.jpg photo Olympic Slide 5_zpstnoqgqn0.jpg photo Olympic Slide 3_zpsrghvekk7.jpg photo Olympic Slide 31_zps8gyxvpau.jpg photo Olympic Slide 30_zps8addigce.jpg

Ride the “Olympic Slide*”

Way back in December I was invited to Stratford to ride the Arcelor Mittal Orbit. At nearly 180m it’s the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide – and when they say it’s tall, it’s bloody tall! It takes around 40 seconds to descend the slide, circling around the ArcelorMittal Orbit 12 times through loops and curves, including a tight corkscrew section that definitely got a few screams out of me!

It’s pretty pricey (full disclosure here – I was invited to slide free of charge, but we picked up a ticket for W using his student discount) at £15 per adult, but the views are pretty good, and the slide both exciting and scary in pretty equal measure. Plus it was an excuse to have a quick wander around the Olympic Park, having only visited way back in 2011 on a Geography field trip when it was still a muddy building site! I only wish it hadn’t been quite so foggy on the day we went up, though I quite like the atmospheric pictures I managed to take.

Oh, and there’s now also the change to abseiling down the structure. I’m hugely tempted!

Indulge in Creme Egg Delights on the Southbank

I got super-excited when I first ventured out of the house on the 27th December – because sat by the tills in Waitrose were the Creme Eggs! I haven’t succumbed to the temptation quite yet, but I guarantee I’ll be getting my fix soon. There’s nothing like feeling sick on the sugar overload that is a Creme Egg!

And even more excitingly – the Cadbury Creme Egg Café is back (with a twist!) and this time it’s touring the UK. The Cadbury Creme Egg Hunting Lodge will include a takeaway with an offering of gooey Creme Egg S’mores to-go, with some extra treats if you’ve got enough time to stop awhile. The Lodge will be visiting London, Bristol, Leeds and Edinburgh – unfortunately tickets have sold out but there’s limited space for walk-ins. I know I’ll be queuing!

 photo South Kensington 15_zpsxmy4jdvm.jpg photo South Kensington 16_zpspzfa5vmh.jpg photo South Kensington 8_zps16wbwjck.jpg

Walk Between Kensington & Knightsbridge

One of my favourite walks goes from Imperial College, through cobbled streets (lined with the prettiest multi-coloured cottages), coming out just down the road from Harrods. I can indulge several passions in one short trip. Taking Instagram shots of houses, window shopping (shoes are my latest obsession – I’m desperately hunting down the perfect wedding shoes) and browsing some of my favourite homeware boutiques.

I’d also highly recommend a trip to the (free!) Design Museum if you’re in the area. Be warned though, it’s quite tight for space around the exhibits and I’ve heard it’s packed at weekends!

Planning on visiting one of my favourite London places of 2016 today – Spitalfields Market. Perfect for a rainy Sunday!

A photo posted by Chloe Ellen (@ninegrandstudent) on

Get Spendy in Spitalfields

Another one of my favourite places to spend a Sunday afternoon – particularly if it’s raining as other than the short walk from Liverpool Street you’re pretty much undercover the entire time. It’s full of quirky buys (I’m class it as the ‘grown-up’ Camden – though I love Camden just as much), vintage stalls, leather wares, upcoming fashion designers, beauty boutiques, more homeware stores and glorious smelling food popups.

I took a trip with one of my best friends during January and we had the best time browsing, lusting over bits and bobs for our future houses and hunting down a new coat for me. It does’t help that Kontidor and Cook have their store nearby, they make the best brownies…

These are just a handful of some of my favourite bits and bobs to do in London – there’s so much more I have to see (Portobello Market and Kew Gardens are high on my list!).

What are your favourite things to do in London?

Personal: A Hello From Me

Long time, no blog!

It’s been far too long since I since down at my laptop and tapped out a blog post. I’ve hardly picked up my camera in weeks. I’ve even been logged out of Twitter on my phone due to ‘inactivity.’ All in all, not quite the productive start to the year I was hoping for.

 photo 2016-12-02 12.08.03_zps2chmqmpb.jpg photo 2016-12-02 11.50.30_zpsqtlnvbip.jpgI probably made it clear in my last post just how tired i was, how run down I felt. At the time I was balancing work, study, blogging, a rammed social calendar and wedding planning, on top of personal circumstances that were far from pleasant. I had an email inbox that was rapidly expanding, a to-do list that was getting to be taller than I was (no mean feat, even with me being vertically challenged!). My skin was betraying just how exhausted I was, and my immune system gave way to a nasty virus in the week before Christmas.

I spent Christmas trying to solider on through, alcohol making me want to throw up, falling asleep at every opportunity and not even feeling like enjoying my food. Typically the 27th dawned and I felt an awful lot better – and luckily made a good dent in the leftovers. Using pigs in blankets as dipping implements for a boiled egg was the best idea I’d had throughout all of 2016…

 photo 2016-12-27 11.59.52_zpsyinsztih.jpg photo 2016-11-12 13.59.15_zpsqwcb2t3i.jpgA few cold countryside walks, a couple of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges (because vitamins…?!) and things were looking up. I managed to get a decent chunk of studying done. Planned out the first few months of blog posts for 2017. And then the aforementioned personal circumstances came back and hit hard. Just a few short minutes into the year, my beloved Granddad peacefully passed away. It’s not something I’ve really mentioned on here, but he’d been suffering from severe Alzheimer’s for many, many years and whilst his passing is sad, I’m relieved he’s finally free – I’m sure he’s having a pint and chuckle at us all right now!

Feeling under the weather and dealing with grief – not to mention the fact that W then went to South America for the month – meant I just needed to continue to take a break. Despite myself promising I’d never put pressure on myself to blog, that’s exactly what I was doing for much of 2016. I hate not fulfilling my posting schedule, I hate being chased to reply to an email.

 photo 2016-12-27 17.01.57_zpsbhea1wxt.jpg photo 2016-12-27 16.59.28_zpsquqpo0fy.jpg photo 2016-12-27 16.21.14_zpsldgejd2c.jpg photo 2016-12-27 16.19.27_zpsyoegimcb.jpgThis year I’m going to try and take some of the pressure off. I’ve shifted around my posting schedule to reduce the number of posts each month. I’ve set an auto-reply to give PRs a warning that I may not reply immediately. I’m going to try and meet new bloggers, make coffee dates with those I’ve been meaning to catch up with for months. I’m going to head out for meals and not photograph them (well, maybe). I’ll bake for the enjoyment and not for the Instagram likes. I’ll make time for me, make plans for me and not ‘for the blog.’ I love blogging, I’m sticking around for a while. But I also like living, and my blog doesn’t entirely define my life. Here’s to 2017 being the year I live for me.

How has the start of the year been for you?

Have Yourself A Very Merry Christmas

Just a quick note from me to say I’m now signing off until the New Year.

 photo Christmas 2016 18_zpsn3lze10m.jpgIf I’m honest, the last month or so has exhausted me. I’ve been emotional and teary, and quite frankly a joy to live with. I’ve tried to do far too much, overworked myself in my career, my study, my blog. I’ve set the bar for myself too high and the beaten myself up when I ‘failed.’

I desperately need to recharge my batteries.

I have a whole fortnight off work. I’ve cut down the studying I planned to do (see, too much of a control freak to let myself have proper time off!). I’ve swiped my blog schedule clean. As of 1pm on Friday I’m officially out of the office, and will at least reserve a few days for total rest and relaxation.

 photo Christmas 2016 19_zps9sx1dqvj.jpgThe plan is to catch up on some zzz’s. Eat far too much food. Drink lots of wine. Catch up with friends and family. I might be feeling more unfestive than I ever have before, but I’m also looking forward to this Christmas period more than I can remember.

So to all my lovely readers, have an absolutely lovely Christmas, a very merry New Year, and I will see you (hopefully refreshed and replenished!) in 2017! x