Monday

Juicing in January (and beyond...)

January's a funny month - it sort of begins in December when you start promising yourself all the things you are definitely going to do in the New Year that will make you almost the perfect human - join the gym, actually go to the gym, take up charity work, lose 2 stone, read a book a week, etc etc.


And I am amongst those people. The last week of December usually sees my mental power switch to thoughts of a newer, leaner me but by the 3rd (ok, 2nd) of January my good intentions are long forgotten and you're most likely to find me nestled under a blanket, on the sofa, watching a film and eating a chocolate orange. Not my own, you understand, that's usually devoured when I receive it on Christmas Day - no, the one I will be scoffing belongs to whichever fool made the short-sighted decision to leave theirs unattended on the kitchen side. And that has been my New Year routine for as long as I can remember.

But not this year. After a - quite frankly - excessive festive period I have set myself the challenge of Dry January for the first time ever. And, on January 12th, I am happy to report that I am still going strong. Not because I am avoiding social situations - I'm still joining friends at the pub, at dinner, for Sunday lunch and so on - but I am facing these situations with resolve and standing, stoically, with tonic water in hand and only grimacing ever so slightly.
 
 
There is a method to my madness though. For this is the year I'm going to be wifed. And there is no stronger motivation than knowing 100+ eyes are going to be directed at you for the majority of an entire day. So apart from 'drying out' this month I have also taken up running again (the renovation had made that almost impossible but now we have some of our time back I can re-calibrate myself) along with kettle bells and juicing.
 

I could practically feel you rolling your eyes at that last one but trust me. It's actually working. I'm about a week and a half in to replacing solid breakfasts with pulverised fruit and vegetables and I can already feel my jeans fitting better and see my face toning up.

I am not one for a fad diet or exercise regime so this really is a lifestyle change that I'm making and I think that's the only way to approach something like this. You need to realign your habits and commit to them.

People seem to think that juicing is expensive - and it can be if you buy them fresh every day from a shop, or order those enormous online kits - but for me it hasn't been. Last Saturday (so, 9 days ago) I did a fruit and veg shop at my local greengrocers. It cost me £9.16. I haven't run out yet and I've had 8 morning juices from it. So that means my morning juices are costing me £1.15 per one. And that's so far; like I said - I haven't run out of ingredients yet. (That isn't taking into account the couple of banana milkshakes OH has enjoyed out of my ingredients!)
 

I've posted a few pictures of them on Instagram and have been asked what I put in mine so I thought I would share a few recipes here. I went online and got a gist of what sort of went together flavour wise and then went from there. I'm not one for strict measurements - I just put in what I think will be a good combo, blitz it and then off I go. So here are a few I've done with some approximate quantities - feel free to manipulate any of them to suit your taste buds.

GREEN GODDESS:
1/2 avocado
1/2 banana

2 or 3 handfuls of spinach
2 or 3 handfuls of curly kale
10 green grapes

10 red grapes
5 pieces of ice
Glug of fresh fruit juice (this just aids the belnder a bit - you don't need much - use water if you'd prefer)


FRUITY FLAVOURS:

1 banana
1/2 a punnet of raspberries

1/2 a punnet of blueberries
Handful of oats
3 table spoons 0% fat greek yoghurt
Glug of almond milk


GINGER NINJA:

2 handfuls of spinach
2 handfuls of curly kale
1/2 avocado
chunk of ginger
1 carrot
1 apple
1 small satsuma

5 ice cubes
Glug of fruit juice

LAST-MINUTE MASHUP:

1 banana,
1 kiwi,
3 handfuls of spinach,
3 handfuls of curly kale,
10 green grapes,

1 carrot,
chunk of ginger

Glug of fruit juice
3 ice cubes


Those are just examples of the sorts of combos I've been making  - there are a plethora of recipes online all over the place.

TIP: If you, like me, love to organise do what I did. Chop all ingredients for all juices you need for the week ahead. Put each combo in a freezer bag and write on the bag what's in the mix already and what needs to be added. Get the one you want out and into the fridge to defrost the night before you want it. This saves HUGE amounts of time in the mornings and means your breakfast is always ready so it stops you running too late to make it fresh and grabbing something less healthy as an alternative on the way into the office.
 


I know some of them look gross but I'm yet to make a combo that tastes as bad as it looks. They all taste fantastic so I've been pleased so far. My blender was an absolute BARGAIN on Amazon - £29.00 including 4 bottles - 2 large, 2 small. And it's almost entirely dishwasher safe - the only bit that isn't, of course, is the main part that but that doesn't get dirty anyway so it's all good. It's not on offer any more but it is on for £24.00 with 2 bottles so still an absolute steal. Get yours here.

So...my foray into a healthier lifestyle continues. Here's hoping I can keep it up beyond Dry January!

Friday

My Guest Post For Agape Bridal Boutique: Wedding Post.

So I have something a bit exciting to share. I was asked to co-write a post on a stunning bridal boutique's blog and, of course, I jumped at the chance. It was to share tips on organisation during wedding planning for those who are getting married this year - like me (eek!)

It went live last night and it was a real buzz to see my words featured on another site. The site is http://www.agapebridalboutique.com/ and is full of gorgeous bridal bits - their blog is fantastic for anything from hen-do tips to features on their now legendary window displays.

I'm also being a bit naughty and, with their permission, am going to print the post below for those of you who would like to see it.

Here goes...

"Happy New Year Brideys!

I wonder how many of you woke up on New Year's Day and thought "WEEEEEEEE! I'M GETTING MARRIED THIS YEAR!!!", swiftly followed by "ARGH! SO MUCH TO DO!"

Suddenly, it all becomes very real when you realise that you will be saying ‘I do’ in a matter of months, and those months are going to whizz right by, I tell you now!

Some brides are super organised and have spreadsheets with a million different pages, listing every last detail from placenames to order of service and everything in between. I live in awe of these people. If you are one of these brides I applaud you and your colour-coded file full of to-do lists, booking confirmations and balance sheets!

You might have guessed that I wasn’t one of these brides. I work better under pressure and although I like to be organised at work, I was most definitely a last minute lady whilst planning our nuptials.  Take the day before the wedding, for example. I had visualised fluffy robes, pampering and girly time in the day, followed by a relaxed and nostalgic family meal, a glass or two of champagne and then early to bed for some beauty sleep. In reality we were dressing our venue, arranging flowers and hand-writing out place names late into the eve of our wedding. Although this was not the nice chilled way I planned to spend the day before, in hindsight I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This eleventh hour habit is something I share with all my family, so it was only fitting that we celebrated my last day as an unmarried sister and daughter working as a team in this crazy chaos: the storm before the calm.
 
After divulging the above information, I cannot expect you to take advice from myself on wedmin related organisation, so I am now happy to pass you on to my beautiful friend, fashion and lifestyle blogger and Agapé Bride-to-be Sarah, whose organisation skills I have admired since playgroup when all her ducks were-quite literally- in a row...

Well, what an intro. It’s true. I am a bit of a nut when it comes to organisation – so much so that I earned myself the nick-name of ‘Monica’ at school after the beloved Friends character with a penchant for alphabetising her entire life. I’m not *that* bad but I have been known to embark on holidays with a plastic folder of everyone’s tickets, itineraries and plans. It’s just something I do. I organise. It doesn’t mean I’m a fun free-zone – it means I’m mostly a stress-free one and believe me, when you’re organising your wedding that is what you need; to be as kind to yourself as possible. It is a magical time but it is also a very highly-pressured one and who wants rogue grey-hairs from strain on their wedding day? Certainly not I!

I got engaged in November and I’m getting married in July. Yes – that will be a 9 month engagement. I’m not entirely sure how the date kept creeping further and further forward but it has and I am nothing if not an embracer of challenges.

Over the coming, crucial weeks I am going to have to have my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed so here are a few things I’m doing to try and keep on top of it all – and I highly recommend them:
 
1)        GET A WEDDING PLANNING JOURNAL – If, like me, you’re not one of those lucky brides who can afford to employ someone to plan The Big Day for you then a wedding planning journal is a must. There are tons available online; some go down to fine details like, “How many doves to be released,” (I kid you not) and others, like the one I opted for, cover all the bases you need, keep a running tally of expenses and inject some fun into the situation so you don’t lose sight of the end goal – marrying the person you love.
Mine is cheerful and to the point and available
here.


2)       PRIORITISE PROPERLY – I know it’s so much more interesting to think about table decorations, guest favours and hen- do activities but these can all be dealt with later. What needs to be nailed down first is the church/venue you want to be married in, the reception venue, your finalised guest list(s) and any accommodation required.  Trust me – once those are defined you will enjoy the other details so much more.

 
3)       GET THE GUESTS SORTED – I mentioned the guest list in point 2 but it’s obviously a huge factor. My mum said something really interesting to me when I told her about our day/evening lists and it made a huge difference. She said, “Make sure you have those important to you there so you have a full dance floor and a good party on your hands.” And she’s right – I *know* you may feel that you should invite second-cousin Shirley’s boyfriend’s son; but at the cost of an active member of your life who you want there to toast you? No. I can’t go for that.

 
4)       COMMUNICATE – I am a control freak. I accept this. I like to do things on my own and I struggle with delegation but this is one task where I’ve had to admit partial defeat. I need my fiancĂ©, not only to calm me when I can’t find the perfect shade of ribbon for invitations, but actually to organise with me. I think too many brides-to-be take this enormous assignment on alone and it’s simply impossible. You need your partner, your mum, your sister, your best-friend etc. to help you with it.
Admit it.
It’s so much nicer to discuss flower arrangements with someone than to be standing on your own in the florist cursing yourself for refusing to let those who love you help. And it heightens the excitement to be able to natter away about things that to most people sound dull but to you, and those who are important to you, are thrilling.
 

5)       DRINK BUBBLES – Maybe not just bubbles but certainly remember to relax a bit along the way. My lovely other half has, in recent weeks, been known to recognise when I am on the cusp of a meltdown. He simply hand me a glass of bubbles (prosecco is always, always chilled in our house) and tells me to go and take a long bath with my book. It’s amazing what a break can do to clear the mind and re-focus you on what’s important.


And remember – YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED THIS YEAR – YIPPPEEEEEEE!!!"


And that's it - are you getting married this year? Do you have any organisational tips? I need as many as I can get!

Thursday

Planning Permission.

One of the most frustrating things about renovating the house is that I am just so desperate to be at a stage where I can start dressing the rooms. I regularly see beautiful things I would love to adorn my living room/dining room/kitchen and so on...and I can't buy them because, as yet, there is absolutely nowhere to put them so it would be a waste.

All this, however, has done little to stem the flow of ideas coursing through my mind. I love hunting for inspiring images of similar properties to ours and getting ideas in motion for what I might do when I (finally!) can.

I'm a very visual person and I feel that if I can't get the ideas out of my head and into a format I can physically look at then I'll forget them and they'll disappear back into the abyss of my mind only to rear their fabulous heads approximately one week after I've finished the room they concerned. Not ideal.

At the moment the room I am most mentally focused on is the front room/living room/sitting room - whatever you may call it. This is probably because we are living on loose floorboards balanced over exposed beams and sitting on cane garden furniture with only the poor wood-burner to heat the entire, open-plan, downstairs area. It's a frustrating format to be living in and has led to my obsession with the room and how it will look once I can get my teeth into it.

I've found the below images (and a ton more) to help me in my quest for the pefect design plan.

 
 
 
 
Although I keep quite detailed online visual idea boards via the medium of Pinterest I like to actually try and delve a little deeper into the planning of it all so I decided to try and create some more fluid visuals of how I think the room *could* look from a variety of angles.


We have (on loan) an incredible racing-green chesterfield sofa that I adore. I want to make sure the colours of the room revolve around, and highlight, this design classic. So, with this in mind, when we were in Rome we picked up a Monet print of blossom on a blue background. I think the colour palette of the room will be jewel tones in green, blue and yellow with possible splashed of purples, reds and pinks. But this is, of course, a work in progress.

Next is the window angle.

 
 
The wood-burner angle.
 
 
And the doors into the dining room.
 
 
Of course these are very crudely translated ideas but it helps remind me to do things like place a large mirror over the wood-burner. This will, in theory, reflect the beautiful Monet print we picked up in Rome when we got engaged. And that's what's important to me really. I want a very stylish home but I want it to be our home filled with happy memories and splashes of our personality throughout it.
 
I completely recommend doing this to anyone who wants to get a better grasp on their ideas. There are a plethora of sites that offer the ability to do this - some more in depth than others - for free.
 
Have you got any interior ideas you need to scribble down? Or is it just me? Should I call the Dr.?!
 


Tuesday

Out On The Tiles.

Ok. I'm sorry - I know I've received emails asking for house progress and I've not, as yet, fulfilled your requests but that's mainly because I don't feel like there's been much to report. We're still in the stages of bare plaster and just about laying floor (it has become the norm to expect to balance on exposed floor beams to get around the downstairs of our house - nothing so luxurious as solid floors for us, oh no!) so it's not seemed interesting enough to share.

But one little thing I can report is that our wood-burner is in - those of you who follow me on instagram (2dyefor_) will know this since I post too many pictures of it whenever I get to take a break from renovations and just marvel at it's heat. And when it's minus 4 outside we need that heat.

It's a traditional looking one as we wanted to stay in keeping with elements of the history of the house and not modernise everything and I really love the style we chose.

Here's a little mash-up of pictures of our life with the 'burner so far.
As you can see life around the wood-burner is pretty basic. We're still on garden furniture in place of our beautiful sofa and armchair which are in storage, and there's still alot of dirty work to be done but we are getting there. At least I have to keep telling myself that or I think I'd just give up.

But last weekend OH started laying the final parts of the downsairs oak flooring and with this came an exciting decision. (There aren't a huge amount of those at this stage so I take them where I can find them.) And this was a goody - floor tiles for under the wood-burner. Yippee!

The originals are still there at the moment and we've fought to keep as many intact as possible but unfortunately they're so old and brittle they've almost all smashed, splintered or powdered away as we've tried to extract them so we've had to make our peace with the fact we are going new in this element.

I began my search using my old faithful - Pinterest.





And my personal favourite in the search...

I love the idea of doing the surround in the same tile but with the interior plans I have for the room it would end up being a sensory overload in there so I decided to stick with the hearth area only and began looking at specific tile designs.




 
While I do love the impact of a feature tile I was worried that it would be too much with what I already have planned so I opted for a box of mixed tiles (16 tiles - each tile a different design) in muted grey/off white tones. I feel more confident that this then doesn't dictate the tone of the surrounding area and will be able to hold its own against an array of decorative choices. And we all know I'll not be able to settle with one style of room for long.

 
They aren't in situ yet but they should be this coming weekend (fingers crossed) so I'll take a snap for you and post it up to show the finished look. I'm really excited about these tiles - which worries me - I'm now actually at an age where tiles thrill me.
 
I'd say 'pass me a G&T' but I'm doing Dry January so I'll just have to push through. Wish me luck!



All Hot Under The Collar: Wedding Post.

This weekend I did something I've never done before. It's probably not something I'll do again because I don't want to become hooked - it's an expensive habit; but I can't deny it was a thrill finally doing it and it definitely gave me a buzz.

I bought my first (and last) bridal magazine.

I had popped into the local shop to grab some lunch for me and OH as we were knee deep, again, in house renovation things so had nothing to hand at home. And then I spotted them, nestled in all their shiny glory, in the magazine aisle. They all promised so much - "Get Thin For Your Big Day!", "How To Slash Your Guest List in Minutes!", "Have the Wedding You've Always Wanted for under £20!" (well, not quite but you get the idea) and honestly, I was a little taken aback. I just grabbed the smallest I could see (you know, 'handbag sized') and headed for the till.

As I went to pay for my items I felt a confident glow come over me, "Yes sir, I *am* buying a wedding magazine because I am getting married" I thought. It was only afterwards when I pondered his confused expression that I realised I'd taken my engagement ring off to do house DIY stuff.

So, in fact, he'd been faced with a paint spattered girl in full decorators dungarees, hair on top of her head, smiling smugly, but with no evidence of engagement. Marvellous.

Even now, a few days on, I've only flicked through a few pages of the magazine but one article I came across that particularly interested me was, "Which of these popular 5 details will you have on your dress?" The first four didn't interest me - ruffle, feathers, diamante etc etc but the final one caught my eye - collar details.


 
 
 
It's a really interesting detail that I've never seen before. That said, before I was engaged wedding dress trends didn't really occupy my mind. But that's almost exactly what's wrong with them for me - they're trends - and while I think it's such a great detail (I almost clicked 'buy' on number 3!) I don't want to look back on photos and them feel too dated too soon. I know they all will do eventually but if I can draw out the inevitable with a more classic dress then I will.
 
I had imposed a ban on wedding planning on myself until 2015. OH and I have so much on our plates with the house and various festive bits and bobs going on that we decided to keep focused on those bits first and move onto wedding bits later.
 
Then I bought that blasted magazine. Now I have an appointment at a bridal boutique. Oops.
 
It's highly unlikely I'll actually post anything on my blog that may feature majorly in my wedding day but it won't stop me popping the odd post on about some smaller details.
 
So OH and I have decided a *bit* of wedding planning over Christmas can't hurt. After all, what a brilliant time of year to enjoy the celebration bubble we're currently in - it's definitely upped the festive feeling in our house! 
 
**P.S. I am going to title each entry with wedding bits in it "....:Wedding Post" as I recognise that some of you will want to skip these posts entirely as they simply don't interest you.**

Friday

A Question.

Last week began like any other.

An early morning train down to my office in London and a lot of emails.

I was due to be in that office until Wednesday then back up in the Manchester office for team meetings all Thursday and Friday. Or so I thought.

When I got in at 10pm on the Wednesday evening I was greeting by a somewhat flustered OH.

"Don't kill me," he began. "Ominous..." I thought.
"But you have about 6 hours to pack and we're off to the airport."
Ok...
"One problem though," he continued, "I booked this weeks ago and I've lost my passport in the house move."
Panic stations.
After almost every single box we'd packed had been torn open we eventually found it nestling in an inner box it most definitely should not have been in.

Hey-ho. We were back on. It was gone midnight, but we were back on.

At 4.30am my alarm went off and I just had to pray that I'd packed appropriately. That said I think we counted 12 pairs of shoes in my case when we got there so I was confident I'd covered all bases!

Once we'd checked in ("Don't tell her where we're going, she doesn't know yet.") OH told me that the holiday was to celebrate the end of the house renovation (which, typically, has run over deadline) and his birthday. Oh dear. In all the commotion I'd almost forgotten it was his birthday that day. Luckily I'd bought a card a few days before and it was nestled in my handbag somewhere. A gift would have to be purchased upon arrival at our mystery destination.

Then we were called to gate. There were several flights leaving at the same time as ours so I was still non the wiser. Candidates were: Paris, Rome, Barcelona and, worryingly, Warsaw.

As we approached our queue it became clear, "Gate 51: ROME"

Keen not to cause a commotion in an airport (never a good idea) I squealed internally and OH almost passed out with relief at my undeniable joy having learnt our destination.

Soon we were over The Alps.
 
 
When we landed we did a bit of sightseeing but OH informed me we were going for a nice meal for his birthday that eve so to get a nap in (I *love* naps) and have time to get ready.

Standard tourist selfie

That evening we arrived at one of the most beautiful restaurants I've ever been in. Lit solely by candles and seating a maximum of 14 people it was stunning. With Nina Simone's voice playing lazily in the background I was pretty convinced I was in heaven.

 
 

The meal was amazing - aubergine to start and sea bass main; far too much wine and lots of chatter. There were only two other couples in there at the time so it felt really intimate and as if we were almost the only people in Rome. The pictures aren't amazing as the light in there was so low but I would recommend The Library to anyone looking for a great restaurant off the beaten track with brilliant service and not insane prices.

Even from the outside it is stunning.


Then, after the meal and with out even the slightest sign of stress he dropped to one knee. I think I almost fainted. I'd always assumed I'd be a 'crier' if ever proposed to but I was quite the opposite - I got nervous laughter. Luckily OH knows me so well it didn't even make him blink and after I spluttered out, "YES!" he got back up and gave me the most beautiful ring his very talented Dad had made. (He's a jeweller by trade - he's a genius by nature.)


We spent the rest of the weekend floating around Rome smiling and enjoying all the coffee, food and wine we could get our hands on.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
So now we have a wedding and a house to arrange. No biggy.
 
Keep up to date with my quest not to have a meltdown over it all on the blog!
 
And visit Rome. I did and now I'm in love.


Tuesday

I Found My Choo (ish)

For as long as I can remember shoes have really been my 'thing'. The thing I can't stop loving, the thing I can almost always justify, the thing that, even on a horrible day, can cheer me up. I don't dare count the number of pairs I own (although, ironically, I'm going to have to soon as I'm creating a shoe area in my new dressing room...) but, unlike some people who can buy and forget I think I give the majority of mine good airing; taking them for walks regularly and socialising them in local bars and restaurants.

But the pair I'm about to show you are not for just any outing. These are for only the best outings. And although I knew when I bought them that they're a twice-a-year kinda pair I still couldn't resist, having spent weeks looking for them.

Six weeks ago, during LFW, Topshop sent Instagram (and their website) into a frenzy by posting this phenomenal picture:


Of course within minutes they were nowhere to be found. The fashion elite had seen them, bought them and were already wearing them before I'd even had a chance to track them down.

Although I could see they were sold out I checked again and again for days in case of a restock online but alas, it was not to be.

Then this happened...


One of my favourite fashion bloggers to follow (Emma Hill) posted this on her Instagram account a week ago.

Game back on.

I can't explain why I love marabou fur stilettos so much but I do. It may hark back to days of staring, dreamy-eyed at Disney princesses but I have a stronger suspicion that Carrie Bradshaw had my heart when she cried out those immortal words, "I LOST MY CHOO!"




Although the pale blush pink were the colour I was initially drawn to it has to be said the black are, by a millimetre, the more practical colour to opt for. I said the colour was practical...not the shoe.

So onward I pushed to Missguided and found my soul mates.

And yesterday they arrived.



They're a complete steal at only £29.99 (Topshop's were £58) so even if I wear them only a handful of times a year the price-per-wear will be through the floor in no time. You can get yours in black here and in blush here.

Now I just need to find the perfect dress to wear with them for the party season.

Should be simple enough, right?