Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Life After Lockdown & How It's Changed Me

life after lockdown

For the last four months, we've been locked up inside due to the dreaded Covid-19, otherwise known as the Coronavirus. It's been a surreal time in all of our lifetimes and although it's not over yet, the UK is slowly opening back up and easing back into normal life. Since we've been inside, I imagine it's been a rollercoaster ride for all of us and I'm sure we've all learned how to cope in different ways, or even not cope.

I suppose I am one of the "lucky ones" as I have managed to stay working from home full time for the whole of the lockdown. With working full time and my own projects, I've stayed quite distracted from the whirlwind of negative news and brain numbing boredom. That's not to say it's been easy though.

Who would have thought we'd be spending 2020 like this?

Like many, I've been separated from family and desperately regretting not getting all of the grandparents set up on the millennial crazed FaceTime before this pandemic (but then who would have thought we'd be spending 2020 like this?). I've kept up regular phone calls, but it's not quite the same as seeing them smile in person and them seeing for themselves that we're doing OK. Throughout the pandemic, the safety of my loved ones has been at the forefront of my worry and I knew I'd have to stay away for precisely that reason. 

The socially distanced new normal does lead me on to wonder how we'll be as a society moving forward. Will I wince every time someone gets too close to me in public? How will I feel now getting on public transport knowing the likelihood of the virus spreading in such close proximity? When will I stop feeling guilty for touching my loved ones? What do I do in a professional environment if somebody reaches out politely for a handshake? Will I ever feel fully comfortable wearing a mask even though I should?

We've had the opportunity to slow down and realise what truly matters. Before this, our modern world was crammed full of stressful commutes, overtime, hectic crowds, selfishness, greed, air pollution and a constantly buzzing mobile phone.

Despite it all, a big learning curve has come from this experience that we can all learn from. We now appreciate our NHS teams and key workers more than ever (and rightly so). We remember to check in more often with our loved ones and those living on their own. We now know (hopefully) how to wash our hands to the tune of Happy Birthday, twice. We've had the opportunity to slow down and realise what truly matters. Before this, our modern world was crammed full of stressful commutes, overtime, hectic crowds, selfishness, greed, air pollution and a constantly buzzing mobile phone. I've realised just how fragile life can be and how important it is to spend your time investing in yourself, your home, your health and your loved ones.
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Friday, 19 June 2020

Comforting Soft and Chewy Flapjacks Recipe


soft flapjacks

Since spending more time at home, I've been on a baking craze. This is my favourite basic flapjack recipe for making soft yet chewy golden flapjacks. These are truly the melt in your mouth kind! Not guilt free, but a lovely sweet treat to share with loved ones over a cup of tea.

Ingredients

250g porridge oats
185g baking margarine
100g light brown sugar
100g golden syrup

Equipment you'll need

1x 20x30cm baking tray
1x medium saucepan
A wooden spoon
Baking paper
Weighing scales

Prep time: 10 mins
Baking time: 20 mins
Oven setting: 160 degrees or gas mark 3


Instructions


Firstly, line your tin with baking paper. I cut diagonal slits in each corner of the baking paper (about the same depth as the tin) so that it can be easily folded to fit the shape of the tin. Before you start preparing, be sure to set your oven to 160 degrees. 

In a large saucepan, melt the 185g baking margarine, 100g light brown sugar, and 100g of golden syrup. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until melted. Once melted, take the saucepan off the heat and fold in your 250g porridge oats. Once fully bound together, pour out the mixture evenly into your tin and spread evenly with the back of your wooden spoon or spatula.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. When ready, take them out of the oven and allow the flapjacks to cool before cutting into squares.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Peony Perfection & Care Tips for Cut Peonies

peony flower

peonies


Peony season is my favourite floral event of the year. It's an absolute pleasure to have these big blooms grace our home and gardens, if only for a few short months. It feels like an annual celebration of what the world can offer and I am always truly sad to see it pass.

From buds to blooms


Before they go for another year, I thought I'd pull together my top tips for how I get the most out of my cut peonies. If you've bought or grown peonies before, you'll know they begin as tightly formed buds, typically covered in a little sap. Within a few days, they'll begin to blossom into big bountiful blooms and give you the biggest surprise. Peony buds can actually expand 3x the size of the bud once fully opened up. Don't worry if the buds have a few dark spots or look a little stained, this is completely normal. You can encourage your buds to open if you're growing impatient by gently wiping the sap off with a damp cloth and placing in a warmer sunnier spot.

Keep them for longer


Although stunning, peonies tend to last for around 5 days or more once cut and placed in an arrangement. To help your peonies last longer, keep them cool in cold water when you first bring them home or cut them from your garden. Prepare them for arranging by stripping the leaves below the waterline or further up depending on your desired style. Cut the stems 3-5cm from the bottom in a diagonal chop. This will help the peonies absorb more water as soon as they get put into the vase. After three days, trim the stems down a few cm again and top up the water. Remove any petals that may look brown, dead or mushy as these will rapidly encourage your peonies to go over.

Clean vases for happier blooms


Ensure you have a clean vase ready as any bacteria may cause the peonies to die off quicker than normal. Fill your vase with cool water and mix in flower food to give the flowers the best chance for surviving indoors for longer.

Where to buy?


You could partner your peonies with other flowers, such as roses, lisianthus, or freesias for a seasonal bouquet or enjoy them as a stand alone statement. You can usually buy peonies in the supermarket with your weekly shop but if you're currently unable to go due to the lockdown rules, you can also order them as letterbox delivered flowers online from websites such as Bloom&Wild. For £10 off your first Bloom&Wild order, click here.


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Sunday, 3 May 2020

How I Stay Fit and Motivated at Home

Since having to turn our homes into libraries, offices, yoga studios and gyms all in one go, it's harder than ever to stay fit and motivated at home. If you're looking for ways to stay active indoors or if you're a fellow gym-goer who's now needing to get creative to stay active, I can help. First of all, plan your day. Filling your time, goal setting, and sticking to your schedule will lead you to feel more productive and satisfied. While planning my own day at home, I factor in the following points to keep me active and feeling energised...
stay fit at home

Morning Yoga


Every morning, I'll lay out my yoga mat in my living room. I'll ask Alexa to play calming music and I'll stretch my body into yoga poses. I typically do this for 30 minutes, sometimes longer or sometimes less. Some days, you'll feel a lot more able than others - able to spend more time, able to feel the stretch, or able to hold that pose for a little longer. Don't let this stop you, because it is completely normal and the more you practice the more you'll improve in the longer term. Adding yoga into your morning routine gently wakes up your body, it frees your mind for motivation, and it sets a positive tone for your day. 

cobra yoga pose

yoga stretch

Practice Mindfulness


I'm sure we can all count times in the past few weeks where we have felt completely overwhelmed by everything that's going on around us. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by my worries, I'll set aside five minutes to focus on my breathing and calm my mind. My favourite way to do this is to sit cross legged on the floor. Place your hands comfortably out in front of you or softly place them on your knees. Close your eyes, and take a deep breath in through your nose, hold that breath for two seconds, then slowly breathe out through your mouth. Repeat this for a few minutes, allowing your mind to solely focus on your breathing. Once you feel ready to return to your day in a calmer state, open your eyes and slowly come out of the position. After doing this exercise, take note of how you felt before and after. Be sure to set aside time for it in your daily schedule.

mindfulness practice pose

Workout at Home


Working out makes you feel active and alive, it's no different when you're doing it at home. After finishing my tasks for the day, I'll change back into my favourite activewear outfit and conduct a home workout. Bodyweight exercises and abs circuits are excellent if you don't have much equipment at home. If you have resistance bands or weights, use them! Alternatively, don't feel afraid to get creative, a water bottle makes for a great dumbbell substitute. If you're feeling stuck for motivation, play your favourite workout playlist and plan your workout like you do your daily tasks. Ticking exercises off as you go is a great way to feel fulfilled and proud of yourself for getting your sweat on!

bicep curl exercise

home workouts

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Sunday, 12 April 2020

Go-To Peanut Butter Brownie Recipe

peanut butter brownies


These nutty peanut butter brownies are definitely one of my most favourite treats to bake. They're a great surprise for special occasions and fantastic for sharing. Anyone with nut allergies or diabetes must avoid as they do contain peanuts and a whole lot of sugar, but the rest of the party will not be disappointed. 


Ingredients

225g crunchy peanut butter
200g dark chocolate
250g light brown sugar
3 medium eggs
100g self raising flour
Optional extras for decoration

Equipment you'll need

1x baking tray
1x medium saucepan
A wooden spoon
Baking paper
Weighing scales

Prep time: 20 mins
Baking time: 35 mins
Oven setting: 180 degrees


Instructions


Firstly, line your tin with baking paper. I cut diagonal slits in each corner of the baking paper (about the same depth as the tin) so that it can be easily folded to fit the shape of the tin. Before you start preparing, be sure to set your oven to 180 degrees. 

Put aside 50g of the broken up dark chocolate, adding the remaining 150g to the saucepan, along with the 225g peanut butter and 250g sugar. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until melted. Once melted, take the saucepan off the heat and beat in the 3 eggs. Once fully bound together, stir in the 100g of flour (I always use gluten free flour, it works well for this recipe if you're gluten intolerant too). 

Finally, pour out the mixture evenly into your tin and add any extras, including the 50g of chocolate that you set aside earlier. In the batch I made above, I substituted the 50g of dark chocolate for 50g of mini eggs - this is a great adaptation for something different.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. When ready, take out and allow the brownies to cool before cutting into squares.

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Sunday, 5 April 2020

Tips For Working from Home Effectively


working from home

Working from home experiences vary, mostly due to your home circumstances. Since settling into working from home and from my previous experience as a freelancer and student, I've gathered my tips to help you work from home most effectively.

Stay as organised as possible


I always begin my working day by writing a list of tasks that I need to work on for that day, prioritising those most important. Doing this allows me to stay on track and ensures that I don't forget any crucial tasks. If I have work that doesn't require me to work in silence, then I'll ask Alexa to pop on my favourite playlist, but only do this if you can still concentrate. Try and start work at the same time each day, having a routine will help you feel productive. 

Keep a clean, creative workspace


Don't be shy to invest in cute new stationary as a little motivator to get writing or filing! Writing with a new pen or purchasing new storage folders can make a difference to your day-to-day and help with organisation. Have you ever felt frustrated for losing an important piece of paper? Not anymore! I also would hate for piles of papers to become part of my home interior, so keeping a clean, tidy and organised workspace is highly important. 

I live in a one bedroom flat with my partner at the moment, so I've not had the luxury of running off into a private office room to get focused. If you're in the same boat, I would recommend setting up a designated area as best you can. Mine is temporarily at the dining table during working hours, it's not perfect but it works. I also keep a back up area in the living room because every now and again, I have found that having a back up spot or a change of scenery massively helps.

On days I feel particularly unfocused, I'll light a candle on my desk. The comforting scent is pleasant and enables me to settle down far easier than the smell of what we've cooked for breakfast!

Stay comfortable but professional


It's so important to have the right posture support when you're working in a desk job. Most of us will have specifically designed office chairs or back supports at work so why settle for back problems when working from home? I'd encourage you to look for the most comfortable seating option or even look to invest in a back support for your chair to avoid back problems. I'd also advise stretching your back and neck often when seated for long periods. There are some great yoga stretches out there that will massively help, try googling "desk yoga" for ideas.

Lastly, I'd avoid staying in your pyjamas. I know so many of us will wake up feeling totally sluggish and unmotivated to get dressed when we are home all day long. I'm not suggesting you need to get your heels on and a face full of make up, but I do believe that our brains switch into 'work mode' when we feel like we are in work mode. For me, that's partly wearing clothes that I would normally wear to work, even when I am at home. It also means that you'll never be caught out in your pjs on video conference calls! If I do feel particularly sluggish, then I'll compromise for a casual outfit like a sweater and comfortable jeans. We all have down days, the important thing is to not pressure yourself or feel guilty for it, but to try your best to boost your day instead.

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Wednesday, 1 April 2020

How to Bake the Blogger Favourite Banana Bread

   banana bread


Baking a banana bread from scratch is actually super easy, and it's much less daunting than it originally sounds. Since sharing my banana bread bake over on social media, many of you requested the recipe that I've relied on time and time again. I couldn't wait to type it out for you!

I'm a firm believer in baking therapy, it shouldn't be stressful and it doesn't need to be. There's nothing more satisfying than creating something from scratch and watching it be enjoyed by those you choose to share it with. This recipe isn't too unhealthy either, compared to your average victoria sponge or chocolate cake, this plain banana loaf is a much less sugary and less fatty alternative! 

Ingredients


2 over-ripe bananas
120g plain flour
30g brown sugar
60g butter (room temp if possible)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp milk
1 egg
Sprinkle of salt
100g dark chocolate (optional)

Equipment you'll need


1 x small loaf tin
Baking paper
2x mixing bowls/containers
Weighing scales

Prep time: 15 mins
Baking time: 25-30 mins
Oven setting: 175 degrees



Firstly, allow your oven to heat up by switching it on and setting it to 175 degrees. Line your loaf tin with baking paper to prevent your banana bread from getting stuck. Using one of your mixing bowls, combine together the plain flour (120g), baking powder (1/2 tsp), baking soda (1/2 tsp), and a sprinkle of salt until nicely mixed. In the spare mixing bowl, cream the butter (60g) with the brown sugar (30g). Next, mash up your two bananas with a fork and add them to your butter and sugar mix, along with the milk (2 tbsp) and the egg. Stir together until nicely combined, then add it to your flour mix. If you choose to add dark chocolate to your bread, then make sure to break it into squares and add it at this stage. Once you're happy that everything is nicely combined and there's no lumps of flour, pour evenly into your loaf tin. 

I'd recommend baking for 25-30 minutes for a moist banana bread. 

Do let me know if you give this recipe a go, and be sure too share a photo too!



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Saturday, 14 March 2020

A Full Face of Makeup | Urban Decay 'Naked Honey' Eyeshadow Palette


Since the first palette launched in 2010, Urban Decay have since launched seven twelve shade 'Naked' eyeshadow palettes. After a decade of these popular palettes, I thought I'd pull together my thoughts on the latest Naked Honey set of shades, alongside a very wearable makeup look that you can achieve at home.

As a perfect curation of classic golds, warm ambers and rich chocolate browns, this palette will suit any eye colour. At a first glance, I definitely had my favourites: Flyby, Sweet, Hive, and Hbic. However, as I've used the palette more and more, I've developed an individual love for how each and every shade can create a different look. From sweet summertime honey to a sultry smokey eye, the Naked Honey palette oozes experimental creativity and is everything you want as a beauty fan.

urban decay naked honey eyeshadow review

Get the look


With a warm day-to-night look in mind, I strived for makeup that tied modern glamour with subtle sophistication. I started with a strong base of the Collection Lasting Perfection foundation and concealer, to which I then added my favourite bronzer - the Hoola bronzer by Benefit. When seeking a glowing skin look, I'll always add a good dose of highlighting powder to the bridge of my nose and my upper cheekbones. This emphasises your bone structure and gives the appearance of healthy, well hydrated skin. To warm the apples of my cheeks with a flush of colour, I swept the Mary Kay 'Shy' blusher in circular motions using a kabuki brush.

Now to the nitty gritty of my eye makeup! I've got into the habit recently of not really fussing with my eyebrows. I've actually been really lazy with plucking, but that's another story for another day. For this look, I brushed my eyebrow hairs in an upwards motion with a mini spoolie brush. Brushing upwards will provide an instant lift and achieve that supermodel fluffy brow look that's everywhere at the moment.

Starting with a base colour for my eyeshadow, I applied the palette shade 'Sweet' across the whole eyelid, taking it right up to the eyebrow. I usually start with a natural nude shade to allow the pigments to blend nicely with my foundation. Next, I applied the shade 'Swarm' to set the tone for the warm amber look that I was striving for. Along the eyelid crease and underneath my lower lash line, I applied 'Hive' to define and deepen the pigment. 

Emphasising the drama without harshening the look, I added a small amount of the darkest tone, 'Sting', to the outer corners of my eyes. In contrast, I used the lightest tone in the palette, 'Flyby', to highlight the inner corners of my eyes. I find that applying a highlighting shade in this way enhances the whites of your eyes, making them appear brighter and more awake. Similarly, adding a nude eye pencil to your waterline has the same effect. 

For me, eyes wouldn't be complete without a lashing or two of black volumising mascara. Before application, I always curl my eyelashes. It's become a lash ritual. For this look, I used the Rimmel London Volume on Demand mascara in Black. 

I purposely didn't go heavy on my lip makeup because I wanted my eyes to be the main feature. I normally stick to lipstick, but for a sparkling alternative, I decided to use some plumping lip gloss by Soap and Glory. Prior to applying the lip gloss, I softly defined my lip shape by smudging in a MAC lip liner in the shade 'Soar'.

I've added shoppable links to most of the 'Naked' eyeshadow palettes at the bottom of this blog post. Be sure to click through, if you'd like to see the colour differences and shades for yourself.

warm eyeshadow makeup tutorial

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Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Outfit Inspired By the 90s


90s fashion
90s outfit

90s style



Nothing screams 90s fashion like a fitted shirt and a tan shoulder bag. As a 90s baby, I felt naturally at home with this look. It's totally Monica Geller from F.R.I.E.N.D.S and I absolutely love it. You'll often find me swamped in oversized jumpers, so it was a refreshing change to wear something a little more tailored and flatteringly pinched in at the waist. As for the tan handbag, I adore the rectangular shape and the ease of flinging it over the shoulder for a chic look, whilst only carrying your bare essentials. 

Now all I need are some cat eye sunglasses and Sex and the City on VHS.

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Wednesday, 22 January 2020

How I Style the Printed Blouse

The printed blouse - normally it's an item of clothing that lots of us would shy away from, but with the right styling, there is no reason to be scared. When I saw this monochrome animal print blouse pictured online, I couldn't shut down my computer without putting in a cheeky little order. With a high neck and ruffled sleeves, this blouse is the perfect example of an item that could be  easily styled as casual or workwear. With this look, I've opted for an in between with the classic (nobody knows what it means) smart casual.

I would suggest to pair any bold prints with one similar colour for a full outfit. Here, I have picked out black as a core colour choice, wearing it with my black skinny jeans, black faux leather jacket and black biker boots. Partnering the printed top with a solid colour will draw more attention to the pattern, and avoid any clashing print partnerships.

how to wear printed blousestyling the printed blouse
printed blouse


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Saturday, 11 January 2020

Product Review: Mac Honeylove Matte Lipstick

mac honeylove matte lipstickIt's been years since my last beauty product review blog post, but I figured it was time to get back to basics for the products that I love the most with this good old fashioned style of blogging. Whenever I'm looking to purchase new beauty products, I tend to always do my research online, mostly to see what the shade looks like on a blogger with a similar skin tone to me. Since the popular surge of matte lipsticks began a few years back (thanks Kylie Jenner), I trialled a few but there's only ever been one standout matte lippy that I always rely on.

I originally purchased the MAC Matte Lipstick in shade 'Honeylove' as a dupe for the sold out at the time lipstick shade, 'Velvet Teddy'. Since trying out both, I can now say 'Honeylove' wins every single time for me.

I would describe this lipstick as the perfect nude. It's classic and timeless, with a modern matte twist. It's not too light, and it's not too dark. It's complimentary to a lot of tones because of its perfect peachy base.

On the formula side of things, we've all been there with crumbly matte lipsticks that leave your lips dried out and sore, but not this time ladies! This is one of the most comfortable matte lipsticks that I have worn. I typically partner it with the MAC lip liner in the shade 'Soar', meaning it doesn't budge or feather. Upon application, it's soft and silky, just how a lip product should be.

I'd buy this colour time and time again. It's an essential in my makeup bag now, and a favourite of mine for the last three years. As you can see below, it pairs well with a neutral smokey eye and fluffy brows for a elegant look.

honeylove lipstick review


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mac honeylove matte lipstick

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