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Lovely Oxford

Hello! I have been MIA for most of this week thanks to a rather horrible chest infection which has left me ridiculously tired and dizzy as well as having a continuous cough to keep both me and Ian awake all night…it’s non-stop glamour round these parts!

I’m just about feeling myself again and spending today getting myself back into work mode whilst helping Ian put together a new (and huge!) chest of drawers.


As I mentioned in my last post, we received a lovely Christmas present from Ian’s family which included two nights and a 5-course taster menu at The Feathers Hotel in Woodstock, just outside Oxford.


The sun was shining as we set off along the M4 (I didn’t really how close Oxford and Bath are!) and we arrived late morning in the gorgeous Cotswold market town of Woodstock which is right next to Blenheim Palace. We were a bit early for check-in so explored our new digs and went for a drink with the papers. Woodstock is really beautiful in a pretty ‘typical English village’ kind of way and it was lovely to have a wander.

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We checked in to our room and, despite being a bit of a climb up in the eaves, were very impressed. The room was tastefully decorated, had lovely views and lots of nice touches such as a DVD player, iphone chargers and good smellies in the bathroom!

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We didn’t have tea making facilities in our room which made me panic slightly until I saw a sign telling me I could call reception 24 hours a day and they would pop up with tea or coffee! This definitely felt like we were being looked after and added a little bit of luxury to the stay.

We ate in the hotel’s restaurant that night for our 5 courses but I will review that in my next post…suffice to say we were stuffed! We also found out that the hotel was in the Guinness Book of Records for having the most extensive gin collection (about 180 if I remember correctly!) so we had to finish our evening with one of their G&Ts, custom-matched to our tastes.


The next morning, we had a lovely breakfast of Eggs Benedict (served with a delicious ham hock terrine) and pastries before heading into Oxford to explore. It was my first time in this city and it is stunning. The buildings are all made of Bathstone, which I love, and it just looked beautiful in the sun.

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We obviously saw the different colleges and their buildings, did a bit of shopping, stopped for lots of coffee and had a lovely lunch at a place called Cleaver which specialised in burgers, chicken and ribs…I obviously had to try out their ribs and have to say they were very tasty.

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That evening we didn’t fancy a huge meal so had another wander around Woodstock, stopping off for a few drinks at different pubs and finally picking at some tapas before heading back to our hotel room for some True Detective (amazing series!) and my on-call tea service!


After one final breakfast, we headed home via Bicester Village for a spot of shopping and people-watching, where I didn’t move from bed for the next 3 days!


It was a lovely long weekend away. I know it is a rather lazy comparison, but Oxford reminded me a lot of Cambridge and York with its quaint shops and winding streets and now I know how close it is, I can’t wait to revisit it. Woodstock was a lovely alternative if you don’t want to stay right in the city centre and I would definitely recommend both the hotel and restaurant of The Feathers.

Right, back to reality tomorrow! x

Food Diary – Two

We were having a discussion in the staff room last week about whether you eat healthier during a working week or during the holidays. I found this a tricky one to answer as I definitely have more time to exercise and make healthier meals during the holidays but then again I am at home and tend to be a bit of a grazer so probably end up eating more than I realise.

I have also gotten into the habit of making myself a salad to take in to work for lunch, whereas at home I still have the ingredients for a nice healthy salad but quite often ditch that for a bacon sandwich instead!

I decided to put this to the test and set myself a little photo session for my first week off…

Saturday April 5th

I started today with a 6km run so treated myself to a hot-cross bun for breakfast with a huge mug of tea. I didn’t actually have this until about midday so skipped lunch and had an early dinner instead, trying to ‘beat the takeaway’ and making my homemade version of fish, chips and mushy peas. Not quite as indulgent as the chips you get from the chippy but much lower in calories!

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My treat today was sticky toffee pudding with two scoops of salted caramel ice cream…mmmmmm

Sunday April 6th

No run today as it was raining but I was doing DIY all day so I feel that was enough lifting and exercise!

I started the day with another hot-cross bun, had a crispy bacon and guacamole roll for lunch, some crisps and more guacamole watching the football that afternoon then spaghetti and meatballs for dinner (I had almost finished when I remembered to take the photo!)

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My treat today was a handful of mini eggs – a welcome return to the shops at this time of year.

Monday April 7th

I spent the first proper day of my holidays in school planning! A bit of a pain but it meant I could relax for the next two weeks knowing I had made a big dent in my workload.

I was in a bit of a rush this morning so had a banana whilst driving in to school then maple and pecan granola and natural yogurt when I got home that afternoon.

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As a reward for getting so much done, I had a choc chip muffin with a cuppa then pesto pasta with bacon for dinner after my Pilates class.

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Tuesday April 8th

I have tried to get into the habit of getting up and going for a run in the mornings this week because then I feel I have started my day well and find it much easier to stay on track and not snack!

I started today with a 6km run then had granola with milk for breakfast.


After a bit of painting, I had ‘Mexican Eggs’ for lunch using fresh eggs a girl in my class brought in for me! These are just scrambled eggs mixed with cherry tomatoes, fresh coriander and I served mine with hot sauce on seeded toast and a glass of OJ.


Dinner was a tuna steak, that I marinated all day in a soy, ginger, garlic and chili sauce, with a mushroom stirfry followed by half (well a little bit over half as you can see!) a syrup sponge pudding and salted caramel ice cream.

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Wednesday April 9th

Another 6km run followed by granola and natural yogurt and tea. I had cheese and tomato on toast with some coleslaw and OJ for lunch then made my Creamy Prawn Pasta for dinner with a glass of white wine.

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Thursday April 10th

Only a 3km run today as my ankles were aching a bit, followed by tea, toast and blueberry jam for breakfast.


I had an awful day today, missing my (much needed!) hair appointment due to a flat tyre so I wolfed down a bowl of my prawn pasta with a glass of OJ when I finally got home that afternoon.


I baked mini carrot cake loaves too and had to have a little taste of the cake and icing…purely for quality control purposes of course!


That evening we went out for dinner and I had a mojito, tempura battered pork belly and black pudding with an apple and chili dipping sauce then a delicious fish stew, packed full of prawns, clams and white fish and served with bread, aioli and some truffle and Parmesan fries.

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I finished an already naughty evening off with the other half of a mini carrot cake!

Friday April 11th

A quick Pilates session in the morning then a bowl of granola and yogurt. I finished off my prawn pasta for lunch then after a mammoth 4 hour painting session, had a slice of carrot cake with a brew.

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Dinner was ginger and chili salmon served with ginger and coriander sweet potato mash, broad beans and oven roasted tomatoes and some popcorn whilst watching Gogglebox!


So there you have it…my holiday food diary. On the whole, not too bad – I’m impressed I’ve managed to get into the habit of a daily run or Pilates session but I definitely have a sweet tooth, especially in the evenings, and also turn to food to cheer me up when something doesn’t go to plan!

We are going away for a few days tomorrow so I will try to make an effort to come up with some tasty salad options for lunch next week to make up for eating out (and drinking!) in Oxford this weekend! x

Latest Purchases #51 – Urban Outfitters Rugs

Urgh – I had the most horrendous day yesterday. I had plans for some pampering and a haircut, followed by lunch with Ian, a wander around Bath and a spot of shopping…perfect.

However, my tyre blew on my way into Bath meaning I had to cancel said haircut, wait ages for the AA then spend an hour driving around with them trying to source a tyre for a Smart car! Not quite the relaxing afternoon I had in mind but to make things better I came home and baked then Ian took me up to the pub for cocktails and dinner.

I made the loveliest little carrot cake loaves (recipe coming soon!) and then had a wonderful Mojito, followed by tempura-battered belly pork and my absolute favourite fish stew which has reappeared on the menu at our local…serenity restored!

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Today, I wanted to share some recent purchases from Urban Outfitters home section. I am getting slightly obsessed with interiors at the moment and I love the way a statement rug can absolutely change a room.


The first, biggest and most expensive one I bought was my gorgeous green and cream chevron print rug, which is taking pride of place in my newly decorated conservatory. I love this modern print yet with it only having two colours, it isn’t too loud or in-your-face.

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My next two rugs are slightly smaller and haven’t found a permanent place in my home but it’s only a matter of time before I find one for them.

First up, continuing my love of chevron prints is this pink and cream version. This pink is actually much brighter than it appeared on the website but neons are on trend at the moment and against a simple carpet or floor, I think it will work.


Finally, a fun spotty option:

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I love the colour combinations on this rug.

All three rugs are quick thick and feel sturdy which bodes well for their lasting power.

I bought these in the Urban Outfitters sale, which I find great for picking up some bargains – I think all three rugs cost about £40 which is amazing when you see how much some larger rugs sell for.

Recipe – Creamy Prawn Pasta Bake

I’m up bright and early today (9am counts as early during the holidays!) as I’m off into Bath to get my hair cut and coloured. I won’t be repeating my flip-flop mistake again but I am going to risk going out without a coat…living on the edge!

Ian and I spent the last night planning our weekend – we are off to Oxford for two nights (a lovely Christmas present from his parents and Grandad!) and have been looking up good places to eat, have afternoon tea (me!) and pubs to visit (Ian!) – any other recommendations for places to visit are definitely welcome too.

Today’s recipe is something I made us for dinner last night – I had some prawns I wanted to use up but also bought this lovely miniature shell pasta (I think it was called Gnocci Sardi) which the box said was meant to go well with cheese-based sauces. I decided to combine the two and make a sort of mac and cheese type meal with prawns for sweetness and some spinach and cherry tomatoes for colour.



50g of butter

50g of plain flour

500ml of milk

A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

About 75g of strong cheddar, grated

Salt and pepper

320g of pasta (macaroni or shell pasta would work fine)

300g of fresh prawns (washed and peeled)

150g of fresh spinach

75g of Parmesan cheese

75g of cherry tomatoes, halved

How to make it

o   Begin by making your sauce. Melt the butter and add the flour, stirring to create a rouxprawn11

o   Next, add your milk gradually, whisking constantly, until you have a smooth sauceprawn12

o   Add the cheddar bit by bit then grate in the nutmeg and season well

o   Meanwhile, cook your pasta until it is al denteprawn7

o   Drain your pasta and put it back into the pan

o   Add a knob of butter, prawns, spinach, half of the Parmesan and about half of the cheese sauceprawn8

o   Mix together well and add the cherry tomatoes – the spinach should start to wilt and the prawns will begin to go pinkprawn10

o   Tip the pasta into your ovenproof dish and pour over the rest of the cheese sauce

o   Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and cook for about 20 minutes at 180°C, Gas Mark 4prawn1

o   I finished mine off under the grill to ensure I had a golden, crispy toppingprawn3

o   Serve immediately with a large glass of white wine!prawn4

This made enough for about 4 large portions or 6 smaller ones if you were going to serve it with a side salad. There was no way to make this look pretty and dainty – it is good honest comfort food and I have to say it was delicious!


This Week’s Nails – Sephora Mani and Pedi

I have set myself the challenge of trying to go for a run or do a Pilates session everyday over these holidays. I find that exercise is the thing that gets pushed to one side when I am busy with work stuff so having some time off is the perfect time to get active again. It was a gorgeous sunny morning today although I am aching somewhat now after my fourth run in as many days!

I am painting and cooking today. I sanded down the walls I am working on yesterday and got dust EVERYWHERE…even in my ears (TMI maybe…?!) I hate all the prep work decorating involves but I love getting the colour on the walls as it means you are almost there and it really transforms the space you are working on.


I found some king prawns in the freezer so am defrosting them and currently deciding on how to cook them tonight – I should try stay healthy but I have a creamy saffron sauce in mind that I also want to try…watch this space!

Today’s post is a double whammy of nail varnishes, both from Sephora – brought back from my Mum’s recent trip to Copenhagen as a present (thanks Mum!)


I like Sephora polishes and noticed they have had a bit of a makeover, both in the bottle and brush. The bottle is small (5ml) but perfectly formed and they come with a lovely chunky brush that ensures you get a lot of product on your nails with minimal strokes.


I opted for the pastel blue, Jacuzzi, on my fingernails and the metallic turqiouse, Walk on the Wild Side, on my toes.

The pale blue took three coats to become opaque but is a lovely, fresh blue which is perfect for springtime. As I mentioned previously, I did spend a good few hours yesterday sanding and unfortunately this manicure didn’t make it through in one piece but I don’t really think that was a fair test!

I also had a little visitor when I was taking some photos…


On my toes, I used two coats of this metallic shade which is actually a beautiful green-gold colour when applied. This formula was the better of the two and is quite unusual…can’t quite believe I’m in flip-flops either!


I know Sephora has started shipping to the UK, but I still see it as a treat when in Europe or the States and next time I’m there, I will definitely pick up a few more of these shades to add to my collection.

(yeah, too soon for flip-flops – am just nipping upstairs for a pair of socks!)

Before and After – Our Conservatory

I love these ‘Before and After’ posts. Not only does it mean I can tick another room off our to-do list but it is just so lovely to see your ideas come together and look even better than you had imagined!

I have to admit I have never been a huge conservatory fan and if our house didn’t already have one when we moved it, it wouldn’t be high on my lists of things to do. However, now that ours is finished and functional it is one of my favourite places to sit and work!

I have trawled through the estate agents photos of when we came to view the house and here is the only one I can find of the conservatory:

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As you can see, it leads out to the back garden and given how much furniture has been crammed in by the previous owners, it looks really small and pokey with too much stuff on the walls and wires hanging down from the dark light fittings.

This room wasn’t very high on our to do list when we moved in but when having some work done on our roof, we decided to ask the builder to fill in one of the doorways. We never used this door but because it was there, it looked strange whenever we put something in front of it meaning this whole wall was in effect useless.

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After the plaster had settled, we fitted a new skirting board and started to rub down the plaster.

Then it was time to fill in all the holes left behind by the previous owners, slap on a base coat then two coats of duck egg, my absolute favourite colour for walls! As our conservatory joins on to the dining room without a door, I wanted to continue the colour throughout the whole of the kitchen-diner.

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I cannot take all the credit for this room though – my lovely Mum sat and did all the skirting boards for me when she stayed recently and helped wipe off all the paint I managed to get on the white PVC frames and floor as I painted!

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Here is the empty, repainted room with the floor sparkling after a steam clean (my new toy!)


And just in case this all sounded too relaxed, here is the absolute chaos in the room next door!


My main purchase for this room was a new rug. I wanted a statement piece that would also tie in the wall colour and I fell in love with this chevron rug from Urban Outfitters. Their home section is great – I bought two more rugs at the same time!

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Next, as I would be working in this room a lot, I wanted some storage so bought this sideboard/ storage/ bookcase from IKEA. After a lot of pondering, I got some floral and a red storage box too.


I already had this little table from our flat but it is the perfect size for my new desk. I also bought a new comfy desk chair from IKEA in black and white and a pretty lamp with a lace-like pattern on it.


In the corner, I added a chair and my new bunting cushion to break up the black a bit.


Ian has already put up some artwork for me – these vintage paper hearts sit above my desk…

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…and this pretty heart frame sits above the new light fitting.


Finally, on the side board is our Bath Pigs poster and this lovely little duck wearing the same red Hunters I have!


The final piece of furniture is my new drinks trolley. Currently empty, I plan on pottering and filling it this week as I suddenly decided every house needs a decent drinks trolley to make a cocktail in the click of a finger! It may prove a distraction having the drinks trolley next to my desk but on the plus side, expect some cocktail recipes soon!

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So there you have it…a huge improvement from the dumping ground it became over the past year and a lovely extension to the dining room where I can work but not feel completely shut away, take photos in good natural light and start experimenting with cocktails!

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Beauty Review – Reverse Hair Washing

I have seen this term popping up a few times on beauty blogs over the past few weeks. If you aren’t familiar with it, there is a school of thought that believes that switching round your shampoo and conditioner and using them the other way round will lead to better, cleaner hair and add volume.

I was sceptical but thought I would give it a go with some new products I am trialling.

I got the Tommyguns Fig, Plum and Marshmallow Conditioner in a recent Birchbox and after weeks of searching, finally tracked down the matching Fig and Plum Shampoo – I have a weird thing about using the same brand of shampoo and conditioner!


The theory behind this routine is that you leave too much conditioner in your hair which leaves it flat and lacklustre so switching your hair washing products around means that you get the hit of the conditioner to make your hair silky yet the shampoo will ensure all of the excess residue is washed out.

As someone who uses a leave-in conditioner in my hair, I probably wasn’t the best candidate for this trial but I tried it out on a quiet weekend (just in case the results were disastrous!)

I applied the conditioner first and left it for a few minutes. As I don’t use a hairbrush at all, I usually run my fingers through my hair when the conditioner is on to remove any knots but this was impossible! My hair was really tangled and full of knots which doesn’t ever happen.

When I wash my conditioner out, my hair normally feels lovely and silky but this time it had a weird greasy feeling to it like there was too much oil or product in my hair, despite swilling it out really well.

I moved on to the shampoo, hoping it would get rid of that greasy feeling and after lathering it up and swilling it out my hair felt awful! It was still full of knots and didn’t even feel particularly clean, which I think is the feeling this process is meant to leave you with.

Suffice to say, I think this is simply another fad that will soon go away. It left my hair feeling awful and to be honest I just didn’t get it! Like they say…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

I am writing this post at my new desk in my newly finished conservatory/ office/ blogging room – just a few finishing touches to make then I will bring you some lovely before and after photos of my new favourite room! x


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