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Sunday Catch-up #30

I am writing this week’s Sunday post in a rather excited state as Ian and I are off to the States tomorrow for two weeks on a little East Coast adventure! We will be celebrating both my 30th birthday and our two year wedding anniversary when we are away as well as visiting New York, Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Washington. I have been busy planning like crazy to fit in as much as possible so expect a shedload of travel posts when we get back…bon voyage!

This week I have been…

Making: a summer reading list to enjoy

Going: for various beauty treatments…the things us ladies have to do pre-holiday!

Wearing: my pyjamas all day today

Eating: this lovely quinoa, hummus, chorizo and falafel lunch

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Drinking: tea

Reading: Cosmo magazine – it feels like ages since I’ve read a proper magazine as opposed to something online

Watching: Sons of Anarchy – we finished a series in a week!

Buying: this delicious and pretty-looking granola

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Planning: the last leg of our America trip

Cooking: pulled lamb

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Baking:  nothing this week

Writing: endless to-do lists

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Favouriting: the Lenny newsletter – looking forward to receiving the first one

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Working on: our America itinerary

Trying to decide: what colours to paint my nails tonight

Wishing: for a speedy non-delayed flight tomorrow morning

Enjoying: a well-deserved lie-in on the first day of my summer holidays

Needing: to finish packing

Feeling: so excited!!!

Giggling at: how orange I looked post-spray-tan (it has significantly faded now!)

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Beauty Review – July Birchbox

Hello and Happy Saturday! I am on my third load of pre-holiday laundry today and have spent the morning booking the final few travel bits and bobs ready for our American adventure on Monday (2 more sleeps!) – it has come around so quickly that it almost helps me forget that this time next week I will be 30!

I nearly missed reviewing this month’s Birchbox but have managed to find an hour or so before Ian’s parents arrive later this afternoon to squeeze in a quick blog post.

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Not so much a Birchbox this month but more of a Birchbag – I received my monthly goodies in this jazzy yellow plastic clutch. I actually quite like this, especially the little leather pouch inside. There were four colours of this bag and the yellow one is inspired by my home county of Somerset which feels quite fitting!

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Here was my first look in the bag (and as you can see, you can squeeze quite a bit of stuff inside it!)

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As expected, the July Birchbox has a holiday focus which is fine with me as we are going away and my travel make-up bag for the States consists mainly of Birchbox samples!

First up, Benefit Dream Screen. I have used this sunscreen before and am very happy with another tube. It has SPF 45 and is a matte finish to avoid the usual shine sunscreen can give – a very handy size to pop in my handbag.

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A tube of Unani Aloe Vera Body Treatment next. Useful as an after-sun product but not something to get overly excited about.

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I also received the Congested Skin Serum from Balance Me. I like this brand and look forward to using this.

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The whole Beauty Blender trend is still going strong and I got this sponge from Barely. I have to say I prefer applying my base with a brush rather than one of these sponges but this one seems to be a bit smaller and has a point on it which looks perfect for setting concealer around the eye area – I may need to give these another go.

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A handcream next from Cowshed. This smells amazing and is something I like to keep on my desk or bedside table for regular application.

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Finally, a make-up item from POP Beauty, a brand I haven’t heard of before. I received this mini trio of eyeshadows in Peach Parfait. They complement each other well and are the exact shades I love to wear. The lightest one is a bit too shimmery for me but the pink and bronze shade are ones I would use. I wish companies would just stop including the foam applicators now – does anyone use these anymore?!

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Overall not a bad monthly offering but not the most exciting either. I think my favourite items are the Benefit face cream and the Balance Me serum but I am looking forward to testing out the eyeshadows too.

Restaurant Review – Timbrell’s Yard, Bradford on Avon

Today’s post was an unplanned lunchtime visit but one that made me very happy to have found this restaurant! A few weeks ago, Ian and I were having a wander around Bradford on Avon’s summer fair and felt a bit peckish. There weren’t that many food stalls so we were on our way to buy some picnic ingredients when we stumbled across this place.

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Timbrell’s Yard is tucked away from the main high street, right next to the river, and is housed in a beautiful Grade 2 listed building. As it was a lovely sunny day, we opted to sit outside as we looked through the menu. We decided to get some little bites to share from the bar menu and I think this was a great way to get a feel for how good the food is at this place.

We had chorizo sausage rolls, served with fennel seeds and a great crunchy apple slaw, salami chipolatas with a spicy hummus, popcorn cuttlefish with paprika mayonnaise (a lovely twist on calamari and aioli) and cauliflower and smoked cheese croquettes with a truffle aioli. I loved the way everything was served with an individual dip or accompaniment which really completed the food.

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My favourite dish however was the BBQ beef brisket served with a very spicy hot sauce. The meat was so tender and well-cooked and absolutely delicious – I was very tempted to order a second portion!

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I popped inside to have a look at the dining area and it is such a gorgeous space. The menu is seasonal and local and we are definitely looking forward to coming back soon.

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I am now off to carry on tackling our mountain of holiday ironing and packing up our suitcases ready for our holibobs! x

A Belated Sunday Catch-up #29

Oooops – I completely forgot about this week’s Sunday post! We went to London this weekend to stay with friends and after a delicious BBQ and sunny afternoon in the garden on Sunday, we didn’t end up getting home until late that night.

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The end (also known as the summer holidays!) are in sight now. I said farewell to my class today and just have a planning day tomorrow followed by our staff party then we are off to America on Monday!

This week I have been…

Making: a 200 page Power Point – I am an expert on those transitions and timings!

Going: to Borough Market, one of my London happy places

Wearing: my new ear cuff

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Eating: a sneaky Wahaca burrito

Drinking: this

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Reading: I’ve just finished Girl on the Train and am trying to decide what holiday reads to buy for my Kindle

Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Buying: $$$ dollars $$$

Planning: the next 6 weeks off

Cooking: with chick peas

Baking: a tomato and parmesan tart using some pretty  heirloom tomatoes from the farm shop

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Writing: in my new diary

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Favouriting: tripadvisor…my travel guru!

Working on: packing light

Trying to decide: how many pairs of shoes I need for two weeks away

Wishing: for sunny but not too hot weather in New York!

Enjoying: these refreshing ice lollies

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Needing: a good lie-in!

Feeling: tired (see above)

Giggling at: the funny things children come out with!

Latest Purchases #84 – Summer Sales

It’s almost the summer holidays! This is a funny time of year as I try to cram the last few things into the end of term (prom tomorrow!) and start to get ready for our American adventure, plus a weekend in London with friends on the cards…busy but good busy!

I have been picking up a few bits and bobs in various sales over the past few weeks and thought I would bundle all of the items together into a blog post.

First up, Forever 21. We don’t have one of these in Bath but we popped into a store in the Trafford Centre and I came out with one of the least summery offerings available; a pair of chunky boots!

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Despite not really needing them at the moment, I couldn’t leave these gold-plated beauties on the shelf. I love the colour (not brown or black like my other boots), the gold hardware and the straps across the front. They also have cut-out side panels which I really like and means I can start wearing them as soon as summer is on its way out as they aren’t solely winter boots.

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Whilst I was in Forever 21, I also picked up a basic black cardigan, these pretty gold and white earrings and this cute polka dot makeup bag which I will probably take with me to America.

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I needed a few boring bits from Primark recently but I defy anyone to pop in there and not pick up something new! I spotted this dark grey tshirt with an embellished neckline and bought it a few sizes bigger than my normal size as I wanted a looser fit.

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Next an ebay impulse purchase after I decided I wanted something embroidered in my wardrobe! I found this navy dress and really like the coral pink of the flowers. This is a loose, flowing smock-style dress which looks good with bare legs or over leggings.

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I also bought this shirt from H&M on a whim but have worn it loads already. I like the print and I also really like the fact that the hem is slightly longer at the back.

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ASOS did their usual thing of tempting me with some sale emails so I caved in and bought a few items; a pair of black, slim-leg trousers for work, some funky patterned trousers and a white top from Mango that I meant to photograph but is still sitting on my ironing pile!

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A duo next from TKMaxx and Superdrug which work perfectly together. I had wanted a new powder brush for a while so thought ‘why not try out a new powder too?’ This ecotools brush is my first from the brand but is soooooo soft! It’s quite chunky so maybe not great for travelling but it is lovely to use and is perfect for applying powder or bronzer evenly across the face. The Bourgois Healthy Balance Powder is a blogger’s favourite and I can see why.

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Finally, I popped into Accesorize and picked up some earrings. Both the orange and lime green pairs remind me of something you could pick up in a Mexican market and feel very summery.

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However, my favourite purchase was this gorgeous ear cuff which just about fits my tiny ears!

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Right, I’m off to binge on the new series of Veep! x

My Sugar-Free Journey

A couple of weeks ago, inspired by various friends and online stories, I went sugar-free and cut refined sugar out of my diet for 14 days. Let me begin by saying that I don’t think that refined sugar is the root of all evil and I definitely don’t want this post to come across as preachy in any way – I really just did it to see if I could see it through to the end and if it would make a real difference to me.

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Now, I’ll be honest and admit that it wasn’t a 100% sugar-free fortnight but probably about 95%. It is a definite learning curve identifying what I could and couldn’t eat as there are so many things that formed my everyday diet that contained a small amount of sugar, such as condiments, which I would add to my food without thinking. I also didn’t cut out fruit and natural sugars as I really don’t see what’s wrong with fruit!

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The first few days were a real mixed bag. As with any new diet or healthy eating plan, I was really enthusiastic to begin with, filling my fridge with lovely fresh vegetables and looking up new recipes to try online. I didn’t really have to make huge changes to what I was eating as we eat pretty healthily for our main meals, but I had to change my habits with snacks (chocolate) and drinks (fizzy drinks).

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I had read about people experiencing ‘sugar-withdrawal’ after a few days and I thought it would just be a mild headache I could treat with some paracetamol…well, I definitely underestimated it! On the second evening, I had such a painful headache that I could only open one eye. Painkillers didn’t help and I was so miserable that I ended up going to bed at about 8:30pm. It really did make me think about the effect that sugar has on your body if this was the reaction I had when I cut it out.

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After that initial hiccup, it was pretty plain sailing for the rest of it. I became a bit obsessed with reading labels, spent a lot more time in the kitchen cooking things from scratch and was a regular on the Deliciously Ella website.

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There were some definite pros and cons to this little experiment. On the plus side, I felt great, my skin was in really good condition and I lost over half a stone with what felt like very little effort. I rarely felt hungry and discovered some delicious new recipes.

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However, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was missing out and denying myself on certain occasions. We went to the pub and instead of a glass of wine, I stuck to sparkling water. We went to the farmers market and I had to walk past my absolute favourite brownie stall and instead bought an apple to snack on. We also didn’t really eat out as I just wasn’t sure what I could really have on the menu. So whilst I didn’t have any cravings for sugary food, I definitely had a bit of a moan when I couldn’t have some of my favourite treats.

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When I reached the two-week mark I gave myself permission to start introducing sugar back in to my diet again. It was amazing how much sweeter things tasted and it was also interesting to see which changes I kept, such as having water with meals instead of a fizzy or sugar-based drink.

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So, am I going to keep up a sugar-free lifestyle? In a word, no. I enjoy eating out and trying new foods too much to deny myself to such an extent. However, I would say that I follow a ‘reduced-sugar’ diet now. I am much more aware of how much sugar is in food and do try to choose the healthy option when I can. However, I won’t feel guilty about wanting a proper chocolate brownie now and then because let’s face it, a ‘Chia, Date, Coconut Oil and Pecan’ version just doesn’t hit the spot in the same way! x

Sunday Catch-up #28

I’ve been a bit of a rubbish blogger again this week but we’ve had my parents staying for a few days and a few birthdays to celebrate. This weekend has been really fun – I spent Saturday morning in Bath hitting the summer sales and getting my hair cut and coloured before picking up my brother and his girlfriend to head to Magners Bristol Comedy Festival. Set up like a mini festival in Queens Square, we enjoyed Pimms and some good food before heading into the big top tent to watch Seann Walsh, Sara Pascoe and Mark Watson. All were great and we laughed a lot!

Today, we had a really lazy morning and lie-in before going out for a delicious Sunday roast. I’m now back home in comfy clothes with tea and Wimbledon on the TV…a pretty perfect weekend for me!

This week I have been…

Making: time to read before I go to bed

Going: out for birthday pizza with the fam

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Wearing: flip flops and sunglasses one day and a coat and boots the next…British weather, please make your mind up!

Eating: delicious hazelnut ice cream

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Drinking: Pimms

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Reading: Girl on the Train – I’m hooked!

Watching: The Fault in Our Stars and finding it just as sad as the book

Buying: a new candle

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Planning: next weekend with my besties

Cooking: banana pancakes on Saturday morning

Baking: nothing this week

Writing: my end of term school reports

Favouriting: The mini New York neighbourhood guides on LoveTaza

Working on: my long-forgotten cross stitch project!

Trying to decide: what to cook for dinner tonight

Wishing: my Yorkshire puddings turned out as well as this!

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Enjoying: Bath in the evening sun

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Needing: all the beautiful homeware in Anthropologie

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Feeling: very content

Giggling at: the comedians we saw last night

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