Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #22

I’m not going to lie, over the past few months these posts had become quite hard for me to write. Whilst I’d like to think I’m usually a reasonably positive person, I’ve found the events of this year to have got on top of me. I’ve been demotivated (for blogging, for study, even for going out and seeing friends), and spent far too many evenings just mindlessly scrolling down my Instagram feed. This last fortnight I’ve had some good news for what feels like the first time in a while (which I’m sure it isn’t, but when the sad things start rolling in it’s far too easy to concentrate on those). This is definitely the happiest I’ve felt whilst penning up this post in a while!

So, what’s made me so happy…

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  1. I passed my exam! I mentioned an exam pass last time, but if I’m *really* honest – that one doesn’t count. I have to do it to qualify but it’s not particularly difficult nor time consuming. However last Thursday the results came out for the exam I took way back in April and I passed! I wasn’t expecting to if I’m really honest, but it was a nasty exam I had no wish to sit again (5 lever arch files full of notes, 6 hours of exam time over 2 days – no ta!). I’m looking forward to sending the folders up to my parents garage asap!
  2. Possibly shouldn’t class as an additional one – but not only passing the exam, but getting pretty clear over the pass mark. It’s upped my confidence for sure!
  3. Oh, and all the emails I got from my team at work. I have actually had study days since the results came out so I’m looking forward to actually seeing people today!
  4. My current role at work. Being on graduate scheme I get the opportunity to rotate into different areas – and whilst some aren’t exactly for me, the role I’m in for July is SO interesting.
  5. Getting my hard around a particularly nasty mathematical proof. It’s been a while since I’ve done proper statistics, it took me a couple of hours, but fully understanding it was worth the stress. (Yep, studying again. September’s going to be here before I know it!)
  6. Fresh fish. I love fish but it’s pricey – I’ve discovered mackerel which is both super-healthy and super-purse friendly. Two whole ones (head removed because W got squeamish the first time I bought them!) cost us less than £2 and were perfect with an orange, chilli and watercress salad.
  7. Brighton. Perhaps one of my all-time favourite places. I met my girls for a catch-up in the beach, a spot of shopping and a flight on the i360.
  8. Ben & Jerry’s Topped Salted Caramel Brownie ice-cream. Perhaps my favorite flavour. Soooo tasty!
  9. Wedding chats with a fellow bride-to-be. Being a young bride I do worry about talking too much about it with most of my friends, so it’s good to spend a whole evening talking all things wedding.
  10. Buying a pack of sausages for 34p on yellow-sticker. Sausage, mash and veg for £1.50, with plenty of veg leftover was my idea of a bargain (tasty too!).
  11. Duck & Waffle. My mum bought us a giftcard for Christmas and we finally booked ourselves in for breakfast. Worth the wait! It also turned into a bit of a celebration as I’d coincidentally booked it for the Saturday after results day and after Will’s diss hand-in. Perfect!
  12. Buying a matching set of luggage. Am I a fully-fledged adult now?!

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #21

I have a feeling these next few months are going to be busy! I’m trying to catch up with the study I should have started a while back, we’ve got a little holiday planned – and now we’re moving. Around 8 hours after arriving back from our holiday. With no free weekends in which to pack. Impeccable timing!

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  1. 460 days to go until the wedding! I know it’s still ages away but the days seem to be flying by now.
  2. A new flat. We’ve found a lovely one, had an offer accepted, now we’ve just got to get through all of the referencing bits and bobs. They don’t make it easy, do they?
  3. Brunch at The Dynamo. I had the same as last time (with an extra slice of toast) and it was just as yummy as I remembered!
  4. Go Ape at Leed’s Castle. A beautiful location, a demanding high-ropes course (physically and mentally – with no upper body strength and a fear of heights/wobbling I found it tough) and my best girlies. I’m so proud I got all the way round with only a bit of sitting back in my harness and pulling myself along!
  5. A night in. W stayed at a friends so I watched girly films, had a bit of a pamper evening and…cleaning the kitchen. I know how to have a good time!
  6. Some good books. The Murderer’s Son was a highlight last weekend.
  7. Spending some time with my future in-laws. It was good to catch up and hear about their recent trip!
  8. Passing my first professional exam. It was a weird one – I had to take part in an online forum for two weeks, do a bit long workbook, and then finally a multiple-choice test a month later. It’s all done and dusted now and my name should be on the pass-list when it goes live later today. I also find out about the biggggg one I took in April next week so I’ve got my fingers crossed!
  9. An ice-cream shop has opened in Putney. I plan to make the most of it!
  10. My office summer party, in the grounds of the Tower of London. Such a gorgeous backdrop!

That’s it for now – hopefully next time I’ll be able to talk about a signed and sealed flat, packing, study and other dull things!

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #20

Eurrrghhhh, anyone else struggling with the heat in London right now?! I’m not a huge lover of hot weather at all and having to spend Saturday flat-hunting (our landlord has decided to sell up) meant it was pretty much unbearable. It’s been too hot to even consider properly cooking – I am missing a Sunday roast but this gal definitely isn’t having an oven on for close to two hours! Enough of the moaning, here’s my recent favourites…

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  1. Meeting with our potential wedding florist. I LOVE her work so fingers crossed the quote works out and we can get booked!
  2. A gorgeous dinner at Rocksalt in Market Harborough. My spiced haddock Scotch egg was absolute perfection.
  3. Mocha over ice…an ice-cold Pimms. Anything ice-cold basically.
  4. Excellent feedback on my first business report and presentation at work. It was a tough project but was made all worthwhile.
  5. Exploring areas of Putney we didn’t know existed. It’s shameful how little we’ve seen of the area!
  6. Waitrose Chocolate Ice-Cream with Blood Orange Sorbet. It’s like a frozen jaffa cake and sooooo good.
  7. A much-needed haircut. It swishes so much better now!
  8. Short denim dungarees. I only bought them last weekend and I’ve worn them most evenings/weekend days since. My favourite new bit of clothing in what feels like forever!
  9. Ticking off another Michelin Star off my list. We went on a work meal to La Chapelle in Spitalfields. My crab lasagna starter was so insanely yummy.
  10. Mars Bar ice-creams bars. Nuff said.

Fingers crossed next Happy Post will mention a shiny new flat! What’s made you smile recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #19

Another fortnight, and another one where I’ve found it really difficult to write this post. Last week we buried my Granddad and it was a very difficult day. I then came down with a virus-type illness (sore throat, cough, earache, bunged nose – the lot), and to top if off felt nauseous and anxious for a good week. All the more reason to concentrate on the little happy things I guess!

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  1. A 7 hour round-trip drive in a pretty car. I had to go on a site visit for work, and the brand new Jaguar F-type made the 6.30am start a bit more bearable!
  2. Costa’s Peach Iced Tea. One of my guilty pleasures.
  3. My dad’s Caramel Swirl Brownies. He’s a great baker (check out his Malteser Blondies here) and these were great.
  4. Pink Prosecco on a Bank Holiday Monday afternoon. Bliss.
  5. Dying my hair a new colour. At first I thought it was a tad dark but I’m loving it.
  6. May’s Cronut – Blush Peach and Elderflower. The best of 2017 so far, just a shame that the outside area of Dominique Ansel clearly had a drain issue when we visited. The smell that followed each toilet-flush was NOT good….
  7. Pulling out light and floaty summer dresses for work. Generally I wear shift dresses (see here for my normal work wardrobe, minus my new favourite bits) but it’s just been too damn hot!
  8. Picnic in the park. Instead of cooking dinner I made a quinoa salad (recipe up soon!), whipped up some hummus and threw everything in a coolbag. It was bliss to sit outside and not have to worry about overheating our flat by using the oven.
  9. Flicking through recipe books. I’m trying to mix up our weekly meal-plan – let me know your go-to quick dinners please?!
  10. Doggy snuggles AND puppy cuddles. I went to my parents for the Bank Holiday weekend and caught up with my pooch – and snuck round to the neighbours to meet their 3-month old Westie. Nothing like squeezing a dog to make your troubles go away!
  11. The Good Widow. One of the best books I’ve read in a while!
  12. A long walk about the Thames Path. On Saturday we wandered towards London, only planning just a short walk as I am (still!) feeling rubbish. Nearly 4 miles later we caught a bus home! It was such lovely weather, I watched helicopters taking off/landing (I’m a bit of an aircraft nerd!), we ate a picnic in Battersea Park and pointed out our dream apartments and houseboats.
  13. Baking Cinnamon Rolls. In need of some cheering up yesterday (who didn’t?!) we spent the day lazy about, tissues in hand (I’ve kindly shared said illness) and baking some yummy things. Cinnamon Rolls are my ultimate comfort bake and these didn’t disappoint. I’ll have the recipe up in a couple of weeks.
  14. Homemade Chicken Satay. We both fancied my Asian Radish Salad (see here) for a light dinner, but felt like something different too. I whipped up an amazing satay sauce which we used to marinade chicken turkey (actually, as that’s all we had) before grilling. Yum yum!

What’s made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #18

This post was difficult for me to write, very difficult. I’ve mentioned it briefly on social media, but 2017 is proving to be an extremely hard year for me. In the space of just over four months, I’ve lost both of my granddads. Both matriarchs of the family. Both loved, admired and respected both within our family and their community. The 9 days have been a struggle for me, and trying to see the good bits in my day-to-day life has proved a little difficult. But I wanted to try, to write this post to remind myself just how much I still have in my life to be grateful about.

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  1. Gardening. My company arranged a Global Day of Giving, with offices worldwide closed to allow us to go and volunteer in the community. I went to Alexandra Palace to do some gardening – an activity I love (oh, how I wish I had a garden!). Despite the rain it was a great day, and we were allowed on a tour of the old theatre whilst it’s being renovated.
  2. A good catch up with my parents. The night before I got The Phonecall I’d spent over an hour chatting with them. After a busy time at work with only a few short conversations it was what I needed.
  3. Visiting Columbia Road Flower Market for the first time. It was scarily busy but I bought some succulents and now feel like a proper blogger…
  4. Cheese Toasties at Maltby Street Food Market. The Cheese Truck is now a permanent fixture in my foodie highlights – my fav was the Goat’s Cheese, W loved the Queso & Chorizo. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve dreamed about them since!
  5. Picking up the perfect Gingham Dress from Marks & Spencer. It fits well, is really good quality and the perfect length for wearing with thick black tights and boots, or bare legs and sandals. And I had to get a Size 6. #winning
  6. Starting to firm up our wedding cake arrangements. Though given her *amazing* chocolate chip cookies I’m tempted to just have a cookie tower instead…
  7. An evening at the pub, even if I was mistaken for being in my thirties. Note to self: wear makeup after crying!
  8. Beginning to plan our trip to Switzerland. I spent a good few hours trying to work out the cheapest train tickets
  9. Enjoying National Vegetarian Week. Other than some meat stock used in one of my freezer meals, I didn’t eat meat for the entirety. We had some amazing meals – a chickpea curry with tandoori roasted cauliflower was a particular highlight. Whilst I love meat too much to be veggie full-time I’m definitely going to up from one meat-free dinner a week to at least two and cut it out at lunchtimes.
  10. Playing with my new Kenwood Stand-Mixer*. They make baking so much easier, and I’ve always been a little bit scared of breaking W’s Kitchen Aid! Is two stand-mixers in a tiny flat excessive…?
  11. The BBC drama Three Girls. Not exactly a happy thing as it was based on the child sex trafficking in Rochdale, but it was such a gripping three-part series. Raw, emotional and it really got me thinking. Definitely recommend having a watch on iPlayer.
  12. A raspberry and blueberry crumble with peanut butter topping. As good as it sounds.
  13. Will. He’s been my rock these past few weeks despite being insanely busy. I don’t know what I’d do without him!

What little things have made you happy recently?

Lifestyle: Studying Whilst Working

I’ve moaned enough about it lately – the early-morning studying, the late-night revision, the spoiled Bank Holidays. I’ve had a lot of questions both on here and on social media about what I’m actually studying for (and even one memorable accusation of me lying about studying as I graduated last year – the dark-side of blogging cliques right there!). And I’ve had even more questions about how I’m balancing working, studying, blogging and (kind of) having a social life…

 photo Working Whilst Studying_zpshvfkalig.jpgWell my personal feeling is that I’m not balancing it. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed. I’ll sit down to study and think about all those unread emails in my blog inbox. I’ll be blogging and think about all the studying I need to do. I’ll feel guilty having some free time. I love my job, yet I’ll want to leave on time so I can do something in the evenings – either study or blog. I struggle to make time to exercise, there’s always something else that needs to be done.

The exams I’m doing are tough. I’m studying to qualify as an actuary – eventually I’ll be a Fellow of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries with some shiny new letters after my name. The exams intensive in terms of both time and content – and only around 45% of candidates tend to pass each exam. The exam I took in April has a recommended study time of 400 hours, with my notes filling 5 level-arch folders. Squeezing in 400 hours to a 6 month period, whilst working full-time, has actually turned out to be quite tough. I am lucky enough to get around a day off a week from work to study, though the response of many of my non-work friends is that I use them for lie-ins and lazy days – I wish! Most of them I’m at the kitchen table by 8am, and generally spend longer working than an average day. Though I guess doing all that in my PJs is rather nice…

Finding The Time

Whilst it is depressing, I find looking at my average day and seeing where I could fit in some study is the easiest way – doing a little bit as often as possible means (1) I’m in the habit of it and (2) I feel more productive and thus feel a lot more prepared and confident. My commute is generally spent reading material – or revising using a study card app nearer to exams. Lunch breaks I like using to do a couple of questions – I’ve found picking a particularly difficult topic and spending 20 minutes working through it is a great way to power through it (plus I’d put off the difficult bits otherwise!). I also like to spend an hour or two in the office after work. I’ll book a meeting room and put my head down – though obviously I tend to only do these for a couple of months before an exam. All year round would probably exhaust me!

If all else fails, I find physically slotting some study time, some blog time, even exercise will make me do it. If it’s in the diary, I’m committed.
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Little Hints to Keep Motivated

  • Focus on the end goal. Thinking about when I’m fully qualified, with those extra letters after my name, just helps keep me focused
  • Ignore the pass rates and stats – as they’re quite low for my exam, I find them quite demotivating.
  • Set days for certain things. I like to have Wednesdays as my study leave from work, I like to study Tuesday and Thursday evenings, on Mondays and Wednesday evenings I blog and exercise. And Friday night is fun night – until the fortnight before exams of course!
  • Make sure you have some down time. Treating myself to a magazine and face-mask, or a nice bar of chocolate will always boost my spirits.

And if all else fails, productive procrastination helps!

How do you balance everything in your life?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #17

It feels like far longer than a fortnight since I last penned one of these posts – I’ve enjoyed plenty of time off studying, although my next ‘exam’ kicks in this evening. It’s an online fortnight course, with an element similar to coursework and a multiple-choice exam in a few months. One of the easiest ones I need to do, then I’ll crack on with studying for September’s exams. It’s never ending…though I’m enjoying it (despite the moaning!). Here’s what’s been making me smile…

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  1. Early Friday finishes. My office shuts mid-afternoon before a Bank Holiday so I was on my sofa with a cuppa before 4pm. Bliss.
  2. Impromptu meet-ups with my besties, meaning we saw each other two weekends in a row.
  3. Wandering around Canterbury and grabbing a Pork & Co roll – and a black pudding scotch egg for the next day. I don’t know why I didn’t try one of their scotch eggs before I moved away from the shop, it was delicious!
  4. My new mattress topped from Eve. It’s made my bed so much comfier, I’m having a hard time getting out of it in the mornings…I highly recommend it if you’re living with a less than perfect mattress in a rented place.
  5. Perfectly cooked brisket alongside W’s amazing cauliflower cheese. The perfect Sunday roast!
  6. Sticky salmon with vegetable noodles. Yummy, and low-carb thanks to Oomi.*
  7. My new Dyson. I didn’t realise quite how bad my old hoover was until we had to empty it twice. And our flat is tiny.
  8. Getting my blog mojo back. Lots planned for the next few months!

What’s made you happy lately?

Lifestyle: Falling in Love Young

Long-time readers of my blog will know the story of my relationship, but here’s a recap. Me and W met at the age of 16, when I moved to the local Boy’s school for Sixth Form. We got together around three weeks after first speaking, and that was it. Although we went our separate ways to university, we stayed together – travelling up and down the country every other weekend. And during our final year, just before Christmas, he got down on one knee.

 photo Falling in Love_zpssvs7l1p1.jpgSo that’s it. I fell in love at the age of 16. Even if I didn’t know it at the time (spoiler alert – I didn’t). Obviously I wouldn’t change what we have for the world, but falling in love at a young age isn’t easy. Sure, it’s nice to know you’ve found your soulmate already, but there’s the tough bits too…

“You’re Too Young”, “You Don’t Know What Love Is”

If I’m truly honest, I actually didn’t hear this nearly as much as I would have imagined. I did have a lot of people assume we wouldn’t manage to stay together throughout university, including one lovely piece of super-helpful advice – that we split up, then get back together after it. Oh, and the comment about the ‘unexpected surprise’ when we announced our engagement. No, no I did not (and do not!) have a bun in the oven…

I guess I kind of understand. Both of us can pretty much pinpoint the day we realised this was ‘it’ for us – and that day was nearly three years into our relationship. The “I love yous” we spoke after just eight weeks had little of the meaning they do now, despite us meaning it at the time. However I do remember thinking that something was different, the night we got together. No matter how young you are, I think you’ll always remember the first kiss with your future husband.

You Grow Up Together (or Grow Apart)

We’ve definitely grown up since we met – and we knew that we would inevitably grow together or apart. No matter how in love you are as a teenager, I do think there is still the chance of growing apart. I’m not the same girl I was at 16, W isn’t the same guy. I know couples who were just as good as us back in sixth form who just grew in different directions, developed different priorities. And that’s fine.

You’ll Be Useless At Dating Advice

This is something I actually found quite tough – I feel a little bit excluded in girly conversations as I have very little relationship experience. I met a boy, dated said boy, will marry the same boy, done. Yes, I’m lucky in that I’ve never had my heart broken or any major relationship drama, but it’s rendered me pretty much useless at advising my friends.

Also, I have no idea how you meet people in your twenties. I’m technically of Tinder generation but I don’t know how to use the thing…I have no idea of the ‘rules.’ How soon should you sleep together? When do you introduce them to the parents? What about your wider family? Sidenote: we met each other’s parents before getting together, and he met my grandparents after a month. And my entire family by three months in.
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You Still Get to Experience Life, Just Together

Falling in love has never, ever stopped either of us from doing what we wanted. We both did the undergraduate degrees we wanted, at the university we wanted. We’ve graduated. W is doing his Master’s in “Inventing Stuff” (and you can help his Solo Project out by taking filling in this short form on “Sharing Your Struggle“) whilst I’m working in my dream job. We’ll be looking into getting our first dog in hopefully not too many years. We’re doing the travelling we want to do (UK and Europe based). He watches the golf and snooker *snores* and I watch crime dramas and Disney. I buy too many clothes, he wears jeans with pen strains and holes. We’re still our own people, we just muddle through life together.
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You’ll Have a Hilarious Bank of Photos

Yay for planning an ’embarrassing photo wall’ at your wedding. Whilst I don’t think I’ve changed that much since I was sixteen (just worked out how to style my hair!), he looks SO different. I’m surprised he hasn’t had his ID rejected yet…

I will also add it’s painful for me to share this photo. It just makes me cringe!

Your First Dates Won’t Be That Romantic

After McDonald’s lunch with friends and a few hours of MSN chat, our first ‘date’ (the week before we got together) was to Pizza Express. It was raining heavily and he whacked me round the face with a soggy umbrella. Most of our dates were Friday evenings spent alternating at each other’s houses, with the occasional trip to Nandos.

 photo 2016-02-14 15.21.08_zpssj2k95vo.jpgBut above all, falling in love has been fun. We got to know each other without any pressures, no tick-tocking of a biological clock, no desire to settle down. We were able to be ourselves at university, not too closely attached to each other – but there for the other at the end of the phone. I get more years to share with my soulmate. And above all else? I have excellent evidence of the embarrassing moments of his later teens. Though I’m sure he can say the same, so I won’t be sharing…

Did you fall in love at a young age, even if it didn’t last?

Lifestyle: Happy Fortnightly Things #16

Ahhh, the sweet, sweet taste of freedom. Somehow the end of exams isn’t so great when the next run are only 5 months away (and you’ve got an online one in 4 weeks) but it was SUCH a relief to get these ones out of the way. Not least because my arm felt horrendous after 6.5 hours of constant writing. Now just the long wait until July to find out if I’m one of the 40ish% who pass! Here’s what else I’ve been loving recently…

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  1. A whole day of meetings on the top floor of our office. We had stunning views of London all day.
  2. Vegan Mushroom & Lentil Bolognese – based on my best-ever tomato-free bolognese recipe, this was a delicious meat-free version. So good…though even better when I made it non-vegan and covered it in parmesan.
  3. Early morning study sessions. I might be weird for this, but I love getting up ridiculously early to revise. I’m so much more productive in the mornings!
  4. Buck’s Fizz & Pain au Chocolat. We went to the sunrise service at our local church on Easter Sunday, followed by bubbles and pastries. It was such a lovely way to start out a day of revision and chocolate!
  5. Lamb. I practically fought with another woman over the last half-leg in Putney, then roasted it with plenty of garlic in a bed of hay. It was perfect – especially with a rich potato boulangerie and green veg.
  6. Exams being over. Nuff said.
  7. Pizza & Cocktail date. We saw my exams off with an evening at The Dynamo. As usual the pizza was great despite the special being unavailable (my fav is there prosciutto, fennel and pomegranate white pizza) and our drinks were strong and delicious. Shame about the dreadful service that evening though!
  8. A day of spring cleaning. Little jobs that had been overlooked have now been done – and my shower is sparkling!
  9. Lunch at Pollen Street Social. Delicious, and nice to add another Michelin Star to my list! We had to scrap our afternoon plans and nap instead, as 3 courses turned into 7…
  10. A date with my besties! We wandered around Putney, enjoyed pizza, cinnamon buns and hot chocolate and planned next month’s trip to Go Ape.
  11. Homemade ice-cream. We’ve been using the ice-cream maker attachment on the Kitchen Aid to make an ice-cream each month. This weekend we may Hay & Strawberry inspired by Chin Chin Labs. Sooooo yum!
  12. The London Marathon – it’s one of my favourite sporting events. Congrats to all who took part!

What’s made your last fortnight happy?

Lifestyle: Lately #2

I remember when I did the first of this ‘series’ I said it would be regular – and that was 8 months ago now. Whoops!

 photo Lately 2_zpssv073arh.jpgI genuinely can’t believe how quickly time is going; I’ve been working at my graduate job for over seven months now, which is just insane. Some days it feels as though I’ve only been there a week! I’ve found it quite tough going if I’m honest; I love my job and my team, but I do think I’m learning a bit too slowly. During my placement year I picked things up really quickly, likewise with studying, so I’m a bit frustrated with my progress. Everyone has told me not to be so hard on myself, but it’s difficult to break the habit!

The last few weeks have been virtually all taken up with studying for my first professional exam – it’s probably the chunkiest one I will do (and with 400 hours minimum recommended study time, I’m glad!) and quite frankly I’m reallyy nervous about the exam. Strange really, as this is the first exam where I can just retake without any serious problems, yet I’m more nervous than I’ve been before! Other that studying, I’ve concentrated on cooking (SO many new recipes to share). My exploring of London has slowed right down over the revision period, though we did visit York for a few days which was wonderful. So, pretty quiet, pretty uneventful here!

Doing – studying. Revising. Studying.

Visiting – York.

Watching – Broadchurch, Bond films.

Reading – Dorothy Koomson’s “My Best Friend’s Girl” (a.k.a. my all time favourite book). Old issues of Perfect Wedding. Revision notes.

Eating – a homemade Mexican feast (Pork Pilbil, refried beans, pickled onions and green rice). Lot’s of Heck products. Their vegetarian Thai Bites* are delish!

Lusting – Tarte In The Bloom palette. Midi skirts.

Craving – Brunch (I’m planning a treat visit to Duck & Waffle after my exams!). Sunshine. A nice long lie in.

What have you been up to lately?