Saturday, 20 December 2014

This month so far I've been completely obsessed with my White Company pyjamas and cashmere bed socks. They make cold winter nights warm and cosy and I'd wear them 24/7 if I could! Good news is the pyjamas have now gone into the sale. I got a Large in the top and Medium in the bottoms - just in case you make a sneaky purchase! 

This week Rich and I stayed at the beautiful Grove hotel. The hotel has such gorgeous surroundings, acres of land and a golf course! Our room was lovely, spacious and the bath... wow, it was HUGE. The hotel also has a spa so it's the perfect place for a weekend getaway. I'd really recommend it and I hope to go back soon! 

You might have seen in my Monday vlog, that last weekend a few of us visited the Hampstead Creperie. It's my number one place to go in London for a proper French crepe and trust me it's worth the queue. I went for Nutella and banana but I've had a savoury crepe there too and it was delicious! One to add to the London list... 

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Friday, 19 December 2014

There is no reason why beauty boxes need to be just for us girls and this limited edition 'Man Up' box from Birchbox is the perfect way to introduce your man to the concept. The 'Man Up' box features everything a guy needs for his morning routine, something men seem to be adopting more and more these days. Rich has a full on skincare routine, so it's definitely not just a girl thing anymore!

The box is small, discreet and comes with a handy guide so they know which product to use, when and where. So let's run through the products in order of use (although Rich has stolen them all from my office so I don't actually have them with me to try!). The first product is the Noble Isle Hair & Body Gel, a 2-in-1 to speed up the routine. Then moving onto skincare the box includes a Mazorin Face Scrub, Anthony Logistics Glycolic Peptide Serum and a Gentlemen's Tonic Daily Moisturiser. Rich loves his skincare so has been using all three of these since receiving the box!

For hair there is the Closed on Monday Deluxe Pomade and for scent there is the English Laundry Notting Hill (my personal favourite from the box!). Finally, just for an extra touch there is a really nice pair of socks from Richer Poorer. Rich's favourite bits from the box were the moisturiser and aftershave!

This box is just a limited edition for December and although I wasn't sure at first, seeing Rich's reaction made me realise how ready men are for a 'grooming' box. He loved it and has actually used every single product. If you think your man would also like this box,you can find it online here for £25. So what do you think of the idea?
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Thursday, 18 December 2014

If you've left your Christmas shopping to the last minute then don't fear, I have a few quirky last minute ideas for you! If you're bored of buying socks, onesies and chocolates then hopefully you'll like these alternative choices... 

The Subscription //
A subscription a speciality magazine is a really nice idea for a present and something that isn't just a one off. Last year for my birthday I received a year's subscription to Allure magazine and I absolutely loved it! Whether it's beauty, bikes, fashion, home interiors or cooking there is a magazine for everything! Start here for some inspiration. 

Get it framed // 
For my friend Gemma's birthday I framed the quote "F**k it, let's go to New York" which you can see in this vlog. These Muji frames are really heavy, good quality and perfect for framing a quote or photo. Find something that has meaning to you and the person you're gifting or maybe frame a special photo? 

The Secret Box //
Astrid & Miyu has become one of my favourite jewellery brands recently and alongside their standard e-shop they also have a unique product called the Secret Box. You subscribe to the service to receive a surprise jewellery treat every 3 months. You can cancel at any time and the box will be customised based on a survey filled out on sign up. You can find out more here

For the Instagram lover //
I've always been a fan of Instagram phone covers and I think they make great gifts too! Casetify is really easy to use and you can arrange the photos is so many different ways. This one is also a perfect gift for those with young kids and love to show off their pics! 

So I hope this gave you some last minute gift ideas... get shopping! 
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Ballymaloe's Red quinoa tabbouleh with toasted pine nuts and pomegranate

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Now this is no creation of mine unfortunately, but after my birthday vlog last week I've had a lot of requests to share this recipe. It's one we found in the Times Magazine a long time ago and have re-used many, many times. 

It's easy for non-chefs like me to make, it looks really impressive and the gentle touch of spice makes it the perfect cold Christmas salad. So here's the recipe and let me know if you end up making it - I'd love to know what you think!

225g Red Quinoa
Half tsp Salt
350ml Cold Water
25g freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley, stalks removed
25g freshly chopped mint, stalks removed
Seeds of one pomegranate (or 2 packets of ready to eat pomegranate seeds)
110g spring onions, white and green parts chopped
75g pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan with no oil over a medium heat until lightly browned - (keep them moving or they will burn)
50g dried cranberries
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 and a half tsp ground cinnamon
1 scant tsp of ground allspice

For the dressing
50ml fruity extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp honey
Sea salt and black pepper

Serves 8
Preparation Time: 30 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins

1. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under cold running water for 2-3 minutes to remove the natural butter outer coating. Put the quinoa and salt in a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and cover with the carefully measured cold water. 

2. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for 12 minutes covered, or until the grain is tender. 

3. Remove the pan from the heat, keeping the lid on the pan and set aside to steam for a further 10 minutes to fluff up the quinoa. 

4. To make the dressing, mix the olive oil, lemon juice and honey in a jar and season to taste. 

5. To serve, add the remaining ingredients to the warm quinoa and pour over the dressing. Mix well and season with freshly ground black pepper and a little more salt if necessary. 

Serve with grilled fish, chicken, lamb or chickpeas - or I like to eat it just by itself! 

Recipe taken from the Time Magazine, originally from Darina Allen's book '30 years of Ballymaloe'
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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Ok, catchy blog post title aside let's all agree that you can take your Instagram photos however you like. Whether it's a cheesy grinned photo of you and your best friend, a bird's eye view of what's on your plate or the perfect sunset... it's your Instagram so do with it what you like. 

But for the purpose of today's post I thought I'd share with you how I personally like to take my Instagram photos and the tips and tricks I like to use...

Get into position //
I don't often have to 'crop' as I like to spend time on the photo composition beforehand. I hold my phone in the right position so that I get the correctly framed photo that I'm hoping for. I personally love the bird's eye effect but not with every photo, it's also nice to mix it up. I try to make sure I don't create unwanted shadows or have any dark corners. If you're shooting outside be aware of where the sun is, if it's behind the subject it'll make it darker and if it's in front it'll make it brighter. I also feel very passionate about keeping the photo square... it's square for a reason. 

Background attention //
Depending on the subject of the photo I like to either have a plain white background or a really full, packed background. Setting the scene can really make an average photo look much more exciting. For example instead of just a plate of food, adding in cutlery, a glass and a pattered napkin will really add to the photo. 

Edit, edit, edit //
Instagram have recently updated their app and it's now really easy to edit without having to use other photo editing apps. I like to leave the filter on 'normal' and then click on the spanner to edit the photo manually. I usually make the photo brighter, lower the contrast slightly, turn up the warmth and sharpen ever so slightly. The combination of all those things usually do the trick for me or sometimes I'll use the VSCO Cam app and use the filter M5 on about +9. 

So those are a few of my tips but the beauty of Instagram is being able to capture moments in photos. A great photo will always be great no matter the editing or cropping. Look out for those moments that will translate well in photo. Let me know if you found these helpful and if you have any of your own tips please feel free to comment below! 
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