Summer Holiday Wishlist – 2015

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With my summer holiday around the corner, Sunday evenings are usually spent browsing my favourite shopping sites looking for summer purchases. So today I thought I’d bring you a wish list of some recent online finds that will hopefully be in my suitcase in a few weeks time!

1. First & I Floral Printed Trousers – £18

This brand is one of the concessions sold in New Look, but these trousers happen to be an online exclusive. I love this kind of item for wearing on the plane to keep you cool and comfy, but with a bit of extra coverage for when you either land in or take off from the UK with it’s unpredictable weather! Printed trousers have been a trend for a few years now and they definitely seem to be around to stay so I would hopefully get plenty of wear out of them on English soil too.

2. New Look Bright Orange Bar Back Cami – £5.99

I think a cami is a wardrobe staple as it can be layered up for any season but so far I only own them in black and white. I love wearing colour when the sun is out so this bright orange piece from New Look caught me eye. I hate when vest tops or camis are too low cut, but although this one has a V neck it is not too plunging and the straps start nice and high up near the shoulders, so I reckon the fit would be perfect. Even better, it comes on eight colours and they are on offer at 2 for £8 (might as well stock up!)

3. Miss Selfridge Petites Denim Crochet Shorts – £32

When I read that the 70’s trend was going to be huge for this season, I was sceptical. I thought it was probably going to be a trend I passed on but I quickly changed my mind when I saw how wearable a lot of the high street pieces are. I’m in love with the ‘Bardot’ neck line and a lot of the crochet and fringed pieces. I also love my denim shorts for holidays as they go with everything, so this pair from Miss Selfridge are perfect – a little nod to the 70’s look without being over the top. And if you get in there quick, they are on promotion at £25.60 at the moment.

4. Accessorize Anna Preppy Sunglasses – £14

I’m a fan of oversized sunglasses and also love the retro look so this pair from accessorize had to be on my wish list. Technically I don’t need new sunglasses but I like to change up my sunglasses as much as any other accessory. And at a reasonable £14 I wouldn’t mind risking wearing them around the pool or on the beach.

5. Steve Madden Aintso SM Sandals (Gold) – £55

In all honestly the last item on my wish list is the one I am least likely to actually buy. Not because I don’t love them, but because I am guilty of buying cheap shoes due to my flaky tastes when it comes to footwear! At the moment I’m favouring simple sandals without any bling or embellishment, and I love the metallic trend when worn in the accessories. I think this pair from Steve Madden (you can buy the brand in Dune or House of Fraser) are perfect for both days and nights during the summer. If gold isn’t your cup of tea they also come in brown, pewter and black.

I hope you enjoyed my wish list – let me know in the comments below if it inspired any purchases!

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5 Wedding Planning Tips – for the budget conscious

photo by ashleyyoungphotography.com

photo by ashleyyoungphotography.com (used with permission)

A very special friend of mine recently got engaged and the excitement around this event got me thinking about my own wedding planning and inspired me to write this post. I’ve been married for coming up to four years so (in my opinion) recently enough to still be ‘in touch’ with what wedding planning involves, but long enough ago to be able to reflect on the experience with more of a level head. Not that I was a total Bridezilla at the time (I don’t think!) but there may have been a couple of ‘over-reactions’ in the process of planning the wedding! I think that whatever your budget, managing the financial side is a tricky business so if I could offer five pieces of advice to those about to start their own planning these would all bear in mind saving money; and here they are! (Of course, weddings and therefore wedding planning is not a ‘one size fits all’ affair so everyone will have different tastes, preferences and ideas but this is just the opinion of a non-expert!)

1. Network

Almost as soon as I got engaged, I signed up to the the website hitched.co.uk. My sisters made fun of me for it (what else are sisters for?!) but I am so glad I did. The website is packed full of articles, lists of suppliers and other sources of inspiration but most importantly for me at the time, there is a forum. Here you can post questions and immediately be answered by fellow wedding planners and professionals alike. If it wasn’t for the forum, I don’t think we would have found our venue. After feeling underwhelmed with the venues I had already looked at, I asked for suggestions on the forum and was recommended Cooling Castle Barn. As this venue does not advertise, I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. Some suppliers who post on the forum also offer discounts to those who are members.

2. Be flexible

We had found our dream venue. However, having a wedding there on a Saturday in Spring/Summer would have cost more than our total budget. So we got married on a Wednesday in June, and this cut our venue costs by more than half. There will always be people who raise eyebrows when they find out the wedding is during the week, but we found that if people really wanted to be there, they made sure they were! Winter weddings, ceremonies that start later in the day, or last minute bookings will all cut costs, so if you can be flexible, it will definitely save money.

3. Use your friend’s or family member’s skills

I mentioned in passing to a couple of close friends that I loved the idea of a sweet buffet, but they were expensive and I didn’t think our budget would stretch to it. “We will do it for you!” they said. I immediately knew I could trust them to do an amazing job, with their creative minds and eye for design and detail! So, as their wedding present to us, they organised and set up a sweet buffet and it went down a storm. In other words, if you know people with skills, use them to save you money and add a more personal touch!

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount

I hate doing this. Maybe it’s the British in me, but haggling just doesn’t come naturally! However, something came over me when I was planning the wedding and I asked every supplier for a discount. This included the photographer, florist, jeweller, hairdresser and even the wedding dress shop. And guess what?! All except one supplier agreed to a discount. I wish I’d kept track of how much of a saving this added up to, but needless to say it was definitely worth getting over my fear! I suppose the wedding business is so competitive that most suppliers are willing to cut their prices a little to keep the customer. Obviously how you ask is bound to make a difference, so below is the phrase I used in a lot of my emails (adapted where necessary) when approaching the subject (yes I still have my ‘wedding planning’ folder in my hotmail account!)

“Thank you for your quote for xxx. I am very interested in your services and love the examples of your work on the website. I appreciate your prices are already competitive, but budget is an important factor for us (as I’m sure it is for most!) so any discount that could be offered would be appreciated. I will of course be happy to recommend your services to friends and family who are planning their weddings.”

5. Prioritise

This sounds obvious but I still think it’s really important! When you read wedding magazines or websites there seems to be a standard list of things you ‘should’ have at your wedding, but in reality all you actually need is someone to perform the ceremony, a licensed venue and witnesses! Technically everything else is down to personal preference. So I found it really useful to write down everything we wanted at our wedding. Then we decided which of these things were the most important to us and therefore worth spending a higher proportion of our budget on. This is where every couple will be different but it really helped us prioritise our spending. Maybe you are a creative person and big into photography so are happy to spend more than the average couple on the photographer. Maybe flowers are your thing so you don’t want to skimp on the florist. Maybe you are huge foodies, so the catering is where you want to splash the cash. Whatever your preferences once you have decided what is most important, those things that you want to spend less of your budget on, or leave out completely, will naturally fall into place. For us the food, outfits, hairdresser and make up artist (well the last two were just for one of us!) came out on top, so we decided to go for more budget friendly options when choosing a florist and photographer, and we skipped the videographer completely.

I got married in Kent, so if you would like any recommendations for suppliers let me know in the comments 🙂

Boring Beauty Products – that are always on my shopping list!

There’s this group of products that are always on my shopping list and/or always in my beauty drawer. They may not be glamorous or contained in beautiful packaging, and they may not be the types of products that would ordinarily inspire people to blog about, but that doesn’t mean they are not worth recommending! So this post is dedicated to those products, explaining why I buy them again and again.

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P.S Love (Primark) Cosmetic Pads

Cotton wool pads are definitely a must have for any make up wearer, and these from Primark are my all time favourite. There are plenty of other good brands of cosmetic pads out there, but for me these are the best for overall quality and value for money. I’ve tried loads of others including Boots (great but more expensive), Superdrug (too scratchy) and Tesco (not strong enough) but now stick to the Primark ones as I don’t think I’m going to beat them! And only £1 for 160 pads – bargain!

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Johnson’s Baby Shampoo

Like a lot of beauty fans, I use this to clean my make up brushes. Squirt a bit into a bowl, dip your brushes into it, swirl them around on your hand or a brush cleaning pad/glove, rinse and you’re done! I know there are plenty of ‘proper’ make up brush cleaning solutions out there, but when 500 ml of this lasts me about 6 months and only costs around £3 it’s a no brainer for me! I understand that baby shampoo may not have the anti-bacterial properties that a lot of the make up brush cleansers do, but as I clean my brushes regularly and don’t share them that doesn’t really bother me.

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Garnier Mineral Antiperspirant

This is the only deodorant I use! I discovered it over a year and loved it enough to feature it in a favourites video on my You Tube channel (linked here if you’re interesed!) According to Garnier’s website these antiperspirants contain the natural ingredient perlite; a volcanic mineral that absorbs moisture. In reality this means that the deodorant actually works in keeping you dry and fresh smelling! More recently I found the ‘Invisicalm’ version – perfect for sensitive skin after shaving. These seem to retail around the £2 mark but I often find them on offer for just £1.

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Elegant Touch Rapid Dry

I paint my nails a lot but I’m also really impatient when it comes to waiting for them to dry! This means I never paint my nails without a spray of this product afterwards. It claims to make your nails ‘touch dry’ in 60 seconds and I agree it does that. Granted, you still have to wait a little longer for the polish to be completely dry but nevertheless this cuts down my nail painting routine considerably. I go through it pretty quickly, but as it only costs around £3 it’s something I don’t mind throwing in my shopping basket on a regular basis!

I’m sure we all have our favourite ‘boring beauty products’ – let me know your recommendations below!

3 Healthier Breakfasts – for busy people

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I can’t pretend to be a nutrition expert. I just love my food – both the healthy stuff and the less nutritious, but I haven’t always paid much attention to ‘eating well’. However, as I mentioned in my recent post about You Tube workouts (linked here) I started to pay more attention to nutrition leading up to my 30th birthday. I still can’t claim to be an angel when it comes to eating healthily but I am definitely more knowledgeable about what I’m putting into my body and have some better habits. One of these habits is making sure I always eat breakfast. I like as much time in bed as possible in the morning, so on a work day I tend to leave myself only 30 minutes to get ready, hence my previous habit of skipping breakfast! If that sounds like a familiar story to you, here are three breakfasts that I regularly eat ‘on the go’ that in my opinion are a much healthier option than either skipping breakfast completely or resorting to a sugar packed cereal bar (which used to be what I ate if I did actually have breakfast).

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Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are probably not a new concept to a lot of people reading this, but if you haven’t jumped on this band-wagon I strongly encourage you to! Prepared the night before and ready to eat in the next day, there is no need to faff about in the morning with chopping, measuring and mixing – just eat! There are hundreds of recipes out there but I stick to one I found on the You Tube channel ‘Notes from the City‘ – the recipe is linked here and includes dried cranberries and flaked almonds. Admittedly, this doesn’t look hugely appetising when made (which is the reason it took me so long to jump on the bandwagon & why I haven’t included a photo of the finished product!) but trust me when I say it tastes a lot better than it looks! Packed with protein and with a decent amount of calories for a breakfast this keeps me full well into lunchtime.

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Soreen

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when my husband suggested trying this. Malt loaf just didn’t sound appealing to me. I expected it to be dry with a powdery aftertaste. I was wrong! This loaf is described as ‘squidgy’ and that’s exactly what it is. Moist and really tasty, this has become a real favourite for me. You can buy it pre-sliced which is even more convenient in terms of saving time and portion control. It’s very low fat and pretty low calorie. If you want a calorie and fibre boost, add in a banana and you’re set!

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Nakd Bars

I eat these on days I’ve hit the snooze bar too many times and I really do need to eat on the run! They may not be as filling as the other two options but in my opinion these are a healthier version of all the high sugar breakfast bars out there. Fruit and nuts packed together, gluten free with no added sugar these are definitely a guilt free breakfast. There are many flavours and you can read more on their website linked here, but to be honest the Cocoa Orange and Cocoa Mint are the only ones worth mentioning (in my opinion!)

I’m always looking for more quick and healthy breakfast ideas so let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions!

Henry’s Covent Garden – classy cocktails that don’t break the bank

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Henry’s Cafe Bar in Covent Garden is a place I have been visiting for years, ever since I moved to London many moons ago as an 18 year old student. For me, it’s an ‘old faithful’ – a place I know I can return to for a good time whether it be for a lunch date, coffee and a chat, a quick drink or a full on cocktail session! Having said that until recently it had been some time since my last visit, but when I ended up there with a group of friends celebrating a very special engagement, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to see if their cocktails remain as good as I remember. I wasn’t disappointed! The bar tenders clearly know their stuff taking time and care over each cocktail. This may mean you wait a bit longer than average for your drink to be made, but for me that’s the sign of a proper cocktail, and part of the experience is watching the bar tender and their flair in making the drinks. And with cocktails ranging from £5.95 (during happy hour) and £9.95 (champagne based) in a central London bar just a hop, skip and jump from Covent Garden, what more can you ask for?! You can find the full bar menu here, but below are some I sampled with friends during our recent visit.

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Blackberry Spice – £8.50

This cocktail is from Henry’s ‘favourites’ menu and I believe it to be one of their own creations. Designed to taste like a berry crumble this is one for dessert lovers! Rum, blackcurrant liqueur and fresh limes all over crushed ice and topped with cinnamon, for me, make this cocktail both refreshing and comforting at the same time. It’s a shorter drink, so definitely on the stronger side but makes for a very classy looking cocktail if nothing else!

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Key West Cooler – £7.95

From their ‘Classics’ menu this may not be the most interesting looking of cocktails but it’s all about the taste with the Key West Cooler! I have a big sweet tooth and this cocktail definitely satisfies that. If you are a fan of sweet spirits this is right up your street. Melon liqueur, peach schnapps, Malibu with orange and cranberry juices make this an even better version of one of my all time favourites, sex on the beach.
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Raspberry Mojito – £8.50

Another from the ‘favourites’ menu is this twist on the Mojito. It contains all the classic ingredients (fresh mint, homemade Demerara syrup, fresh lime and rum) but with a dose of fresh raspberries and the rum is vanilla infused for a bit of extra sweetness. I am not a fan of a Mojito, which is just my personal preference, but two of our party ordered and loved these. Refreshing with a berry twist – perfect for a Spring afternoon.

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What about the teetotallers/designated drivers/expectant mums?! Henry’s have a decent selection of non-alcoholic cocktails made with equal flair and served with as much care as their alcoholic counter-parts! The forbidden fruit is a selection of fresh juices blended with pureed fruit so tastes just as good as the other cocktails – just without the kick! Other options include a virgin mojito, homemade iced tea (sadly not available the day we visited) and a virgin Mary so I’d say there’s something for all tastes!

After returning to Henry’s for the first time in a long time, I can definitely say this won’t be my last visit! Let me know in the comments if you are a fan of Henry’s, of if you visit after reading this post.

Boohoo Haul – basics

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Do you ever look inside your wardrobe and think “I really need some basics”, or is it just me? I love to wear colour so am often drawn to bright pieces when buying clothes and this means every now and then I need to haul some simple pieces in muted colours to balance it out. Even so, I don’t like to spend too much money on clothes as I know how fickle I am in my fashion preferences. Boohoo is therefore a website I turn to often when I need a fashion fix! Recently I did just that and wanted to share the little haul with you.

The prices I am listing are the standard website price, but I took advantage of a 20% student discount.

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The LBD – £20

Surely the Little Black Dress is the most classic of wardrobe basics? I was drawn to the ‘Alizeh’ when scrolling through the new arrivals section on the website. With it’s scuba material and skater style skirt I think it’s the perfect mixture of classic, fun and girly. The off the shoulder detail also adds a 70’s twist, which seems to be a big Spring/Summer trend this year. I went up a size, as the measurements listed on the website seemed a little small but the material makes for a flexible fit so I will be returning this for my normal size. I’m 5’4″ and this is already pretty short on me, so be aware of that if you are lucky enough to be longer legged than me!

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The Oversized Tee – £10

The oversized look is definitely a trend that seems to be around to stay. I can see why, as oversized clothing is so comfortable and will suit most shapes and sizes (in my opinion). As I’m quite petite, I team oversized tops with skinny jeans or tight leggings to avoid looking drowned in clothing! This is exactly what I plan to do with the ‘Unity V Neck Tee’. Of all the neutral colours, grey is my favourite when it comes to fashion so that’s the colour I went for, but this tee also comes in black, coral, khaki and white. A downside to this top is it only comes in two sizes – S/M or M/L so exactly how oversized it is will vary a lot depending on your shape and normal dress size. I got the S/M and I’d say this would fit up to a size 14. My favourite feature of this tee is the V neck, adding a more feminine touch and I can see myself getting this in more (or all of!) the colours.

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The Skater Shoe – £15

If you live in Britain, or have a similar climate, you will understand the need for ‘closed in’ summer shoes! I love sandals and flip flops, but even in the height of an English summer a rain cloud is never far away so I like to have comfortable flats that will keep my feet ‘dry-ish’ in case of a downpour. I think Skater shoes are perfect for this, so the ‘Luna Croc Effect Skater Flat’ went straight into my online basket. They are also available in black, but I went for white as they will go with more of my summer clothing. This was the first time I purchased shoes from Boohoo, and I was a bit dubious as a like to ‘try before I buy’ with shoes due to my unusually shaped feet! I went for a size 5. Technically I’m a 4.5 but I find budget shoes tend to be narrow. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find these are a comfortable wide fit, so will be returning them to get the 4.

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The Slogan Top – £8

If you have walked into a shop/been on instagram/watched television/opened a magazine in the last few months then you must have noticed that slogan tops are definite ‘thing’! I’m not a fan of them all, as I mentioned in a Primark haul I did with fellow blogger Rachel on my You Tube channel recently (linked here). However, if the slogan is something you personally relate to, I’m all for them! I was actually after the ‘I woke up like this’ t-shirt (all hail Beyonce!) but it was sold out and I stumbled across the ‘Louise Blogger Slogan T-Shirt’. I may have only been a ‘blogger’ for less than a month but I couldn’t resist! Once again, the sizing is a bit irritating (it comes in S, M, L) but the small happens to be a perfect fit for me, and in my opinion would fit a size 8-10.

Let me know in the comments if you have made any Boohoo finds lately!