You know that I’m a complete Halloween addict. I love all the little bits and bobs that come out around this time of year, and yesterday I was nosing around John Lewis, intending to buy a few baking bits to make my spiced chocolate skeleton gingerbread men (more of these in a second). They have some absolutely gorgeous gifts, decorations and treats for Halloween this year and I ended up buying rather a lot of that stuff too (I mean, mini pumpkin fairy lights, come on!).
We love where we live. We’re so lucky to live in this beautiful part of the world, surrounded by gorgeous countryside and yet just 30 minutes’ train ride away from London. I feel like we have the best of both worlds. Recently, the lovely chaps at booking.com asked about our favourite places to eat and stay in the Chilterns, and it’s honestly taken us lots of evenings of chat (and lots of bottles of wine) to narrow down our choices, such is the wealth of fabulous places throughout Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and beyond! Here, then, without further ado, is my perfect foodie weekend in the Chilterns. I do hope if you’re ever in the area, you’ll come and give some of these fab places a try!
Let’s be honest, one of the best bits of being on holiday is getting to try ALL the local cocktails, am I right? When the lovely bunch at Travel Republic asked me to contribute to their cocktail-themed travel guide – packed with information about destinations and their signature cocktails – I was happy to oblige and I knew exactly which city (and cocktail) to champion. Mr E and I absolutely love Paris, and to us, the French 75 (or soixante quinze) is synonymous with our favourite destination: chic, stylish, and just a little bit outré. It’s Paris to a T. Here’s how we make our perfect French 75 cocktail at home.
Now Charlie has gone off to university, I’ve been doing a bit of research on student discounts for 2017 and beyond. Loads of companies are really generous with their student discounts and, as some will be on a limited basis, this is the best time to think about using your discounts. First things first, though, you need to prove that you’re a student and most companies want to see your official NUS Student Card.
Since arriving back from Orlando on Thursday, we’ve really noticed how autumnal it seems to have become in just that short period. Our gorgeous parrotia tree, experiencing its first autumn in the garden, is now aflame with orange, coral and red, showing off its glorious, glowing colours every time I’m at the kitchen sink, and there’s a new nip in the air that I’m certain wasn’t there when we left. Still, I’m happy to be spending a few days snuggling at home before I jet off on my next adventure, and top of my weekend wishlist are some delicious, autumnal interiors: scented candles, soft throws, plump cushions and more (I need all the comfort after the trauma of waving Charlie off to university). Here are a few bits I’m loving right now:
I’m obsessed with make up. I love watching beauty tutorials, and I’ll often be found happily attacking a pile of ironing while watching my favourite YouTubers, the lovely Pixiwoos, gorgeous Victoria, superstar Tanya Burr, skincare guru, Nadine Baggott and fabulously funny and honest Ruth Crilly. One problem this does present is that they’re always discovering fab new makeup and skincare and making me want to buy it. Obviously nobody has unlimited funds for that sort of thing, but I do keep a little list on my phone of items that the experts have recommended, so that next time I’m really, honestly in the market for that specific product, I can check it out. Here are a few of the new season beauty recommendations that have caught my eye:
I think I told you a while back that I’ve been working with Nat and her team from The Hair Secret in Berkhamsted to save my poor, frazzled hair. I love being blonde, but I find it quite damaging on my fine hair, so Nat’s been using Organic Colour Systems colour on me, which is a lot kinder (and also ethically sourced and cruelty free), and suggested that I try their new Organic Colour Systems Rep-Hair Follicle Strengthening System: a great range of products designed to strengthen hair and reduce the amount of hair that falls out. I was keen to give it a go.
I’ve never been particularly tiny or particularly big, so apart from the few occasions over the years when I’ve completely and unhealthily starved myself down to a ridiculous and completely unsustainable size 8, I’m generally around a healthy size 12. We eat quite well (we’re experimenting more with meat free, veggie-rich recipes at the moment and loving it) and try to be sensible with alcohol. Add that reasonably healthy lifestyle to the fact that, thanks to the NHS Couch to 5k programme I’m now running 5k three times a week and I’m kind of annoyed that I haven’t really toned up that much. Cue, then, the most exciting email I’ve had in ages from the fabulous S-Thetics Clinic in Beaconsfield, inviting me to come and try SculpSure body contouring: the first ever treatment to use gentle heat technology to eliminate stubborn body fat without going under the knife.
Okay, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s definitely autumn now. Regular readers will know I’m an absolute autumn obsessive. I always think of it as a time of new beginnings. It’s a ‘new notebook month’, not just because of the new term connotations, but because it’s maybe a time when we retreat indoors a bit more, giving us time to reflect, take stock (see my positive life plan if you’re interested in exploring this a bit more) and to welcome a bit of softness and comfort, even – dare I say it, more joy – into our lives. Autumn is snuggly jumpers, soft throws, cushions and flickering candles (and let’s not even get started on comfort food, shall we?). The change to cooler weather also brings the opportunity for a bit of a wardrobe refresh – retiring our summer pieces and exploring new collections from lots of our favourite brands, and – wow – the M&S autumn winter 2017 collection has so many nice things – I’ve taken you through a few of my favourites.
First of all, I’d just like to point out the glaringly obvious, that I’m not a scientist, so my thoughts on these collagen supplements are literally just my own views – however, I must say that before I was offered the absolute collagen protein rich marine collagen oral liquid supplements for review, I’d actually read quite a lot about collagen supplements and was quite keen to give them a go. Here’s how I got on.
You all know I love Anthropologie: I love the quirky collections of kitchenware (I have far too many Anthro mugs), and the ranges of clothes that will almost guarantee you’ve got something great quality and original in your wardrobe. As far as I know, apart from the lovely kitchen things, bed linen, and towels, etc, Anthro has never really ventured into the realms of furniture, but oh, they’ve done it now and it is spectacular, with the introduction of their brand new partnership with none other than Liberty: they of the fabulous floral print and the beautiful, must-visit mock-Tudor store on Great Marlborough Street (built from the wreckage of HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable – I don’t know why I retain useless information – I just do). Anyhoo, Liberty’s iconic prints have now found a new home in this wonderful collaboration with Anthropologie. And oh, it’s breathtaking. Dive in to Liberty for Anthropologie:
This week saw the announcement of the new hush autumn 17 collection and it really is a gorgeous one. I’ve seen them go from quite a niche online company to wandering the racks of their clothes in John Lewis like a proud mama, and I continue to love everything about their relaxed, grown up style. I absolutely love it when a new season collection lands and it’s no secret that autumn’s my favourite: all those snuggly jumpers, muted colours and soft fabrics make me so happy. Let’s face it, our summer’s been pretty nonexistent, hasn’t it? During our dog walks recently (yup, in wellies and rainwear), we’ve picked handfuls of blackberries for crumble, and the crabapples and sloes are dotting the hedgerows already… It’s like mother nature wants us all to forget it ever happened and move straight on to autumn. And honestly? At this stage, I’m pretty happy with that.
Fashion seasons are so fickle aren’t they? I always think it’s weird how in the middle of August, when we should all be enjoying the sun (okay, I appreciate this really hasn’t happened), all everyone is talking about is school uniform, and things that are ‘new in for Autumn’, ‘new season’, etc. Still, I get it. If you’ve got kids going back to school (I haven’t – for the first time ever – sniff), you need to get uniforms and school kit organised, and if not, if you’re anything like me, those little glimpses of deliciously soft knitwear, leather boots and coats still make my heart do a little skip – autumn is by far my favourite season! Recently I’ve been considering investment handbags. I tend to buy a handbag – generally leather but not hugely expensive – and use it until I get sick of it, or ruin it. I’ve currently got a cavernous, ‘chuck it all in’ soft leather bag that I bought in John Lewis. But September, with all its back to school newness, does seem the season to maybe invest in something new and beautiful – a kind of new school bag for grown ups, if you will.
Do you do much to your brows? I actually don’t mind the shape of mine, but I do think that every time I go and get them threaded, they seem to take a tiny bit more away and I’ve started to notice recently that this means they’re a bit thinner than I’d like them. I mentioned this to Nat Lupton, owner of The Hair Secret in Berkhamsted (my favourite hair salon – I’m going there tomorrow for a mega-makeover – watch this space!), and she recommended that I book in for HD Brows at Bloom Beauty Bar, located just inside the salon, with their mega-talented make-up artist and HD Brow specialist Zoe Kennedy.
Did you keep a diary when you were younger? I kept one for a few years when I was in my early teens, and me and my best friend also wrote to each other all the time (this was before the internet, people!) and I kept those letters for years and years too. I’d love to read them again now and get to know my teenage self again. I wonder what happened to them? Think of the positive life plan as the grown up equivalent of those teenage ramblings: a constructive and uplifting way to keep track of all aspects of your life and maybe even make a few changes along the way too. Here, we’ve listed five reasons why you should start the positive life plan. Plus, a chance to win a gorgeous personalised TOAD notebook to do it in!
Are we allowed to say ‘staycation’? Well, whatever we’re currently calling it, I had a bit of travel cancelled recently and was getting majorly itchy feet, so I suggested to Mr E that we take a little weekend trip to London. And what a lovely weekend it turned out to be. We stayed at the very lovely Dorsett Shepherds Bush, which is the perfect hotel for a city break: it’s literally a five minute walk from the tube station (and Westfield Shopping Centre), and we spent the whole weekend exploring and hopping on and off the tube.
- My guide to dining at Universal Orlando Resort, Florida October 17, 2017
- Baja fish tacos with fresh tomato salsa and guacamole October 14, 2017
- Creamy fish pie with sweet potato mash October 12, 2017
- Grand Cayman: my perfect destination for Plan a Cruise Month October 10, 2017
- Spiced chocolate skeleton gingerbread men – Halloween baking with John Lewis October 7, 2017