Wedding Update: February

This month's wedding update is going to be a relatively short one I'm afraid, as although we've got quite a few things done it's not necessarily anything spectacularly exciting. But in a way I kind of like that, as I'm one of those people who likes to get things sorted well in advance, especially with the wedding as it means I'm hopefully not going to have to stress about huge important things. I'll probably just stress about small silly things instead...

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So, here's what we've got done in February:
  • Booked our florist. I've got ideas of what I'd like for the flowers - at the moment we're thinking of lots of green and fairy lights around the pillars in the ceremony (so something similar to the above) and then red and white roses for the various bouquets and buttonholes - but I'm going to meet the florist in a few weeks so will see what they suggest as well.
  • Booked our photographer. We actually found him through emailing another photographer and getting an email back from him saying he'd taken over from the other guy. However we really loved his pictures and he was also the most affordable of all the photographers we'd seen. Plus having spoken to him on the phone he's a lovely guy, very friendly and personable and really enthusiastic, which is exactly what we wanted from our photographer.
  • Booked appointments at wedding dress shops. I have two booked and am going to try to get a third before going to look in a few other places if I need to, but am hoping I won't need to do that. My mum and chief bridesmaid are coming with me so I will be reporting back afterwards.
  • Started looking at stationery. My mum has very kindly offered to make it and has ordered a couple of kits to get some ideas, but at the moment we're thinking something very simple and classic (which seems to have been the theme of pretty much the whole wedding so far!).
You can read what we'd done by the end of January here.

And now, jobs for March:
  • Choose menu for wedding breakfast.
  • Choose flowers.
  • Start thinking about readings and music for the ceremony.
  • Finalise guest list.
  • Decide on anything we're making ourselves - I'm still currently leaning towards personalised tea bags for the favours and I may also make little confetti pouches to stick on the orders of service.
  • Confirm arrangements with the DJ.
I also have a post on the ins and outs of giving notice coming soon and will write one on the wedding dress shopping experience next month when I go to try some on, but do let me know if there's anything you'd particularly like me to write about. And as always don't forget to leave me links to your wedding planning posts!

The #LondonBlogProject: Advice

It's the last post of the London Blog Project today *sniff* and today it's about advice - the insider tips that we would give to someone who was moving to London or coming here for a visit. Having now lived in London for coming up on three years, whilst I don't consider myself an expert on the city by any means, I think I've gained a decent knowledge of the city and the things I'd like to have known when I first moved here. So these are my tips for any newbie Londoners or visitors - hope they're helpful to someone!

Get an Oyster card or a travelcard.
Even if you're only here for a visit, I really can't recommend getting an Oyster card enough. They will save you so much money on your transport costs - a single Tube journey in Zone 1 costs £1.90 on an Oyster card, compared to £4 for a ticket from the machines. Plus they're capped after a certain point every day, meaning that once you've made three or four journeys within 24 hours you're effectively travelling for free after that. You can pick Oyster cards up at most major Tube stations in central London and then return them for a refund when you leave. If you're moving here permanently, you may want to pick up a travelcard, which work in a similar way but can often save you money if you're travelling more frequently or early in the morning.

The Tube is not the be-all and end-all.
When I first moved to London, I remember people asking me what Tube station I lived closest to. When I said I lived somewhere with a DLR and a train line, some of those people were absolutely horrified! But in actuality living on a train line can be just as convenient as living near a Tube station - from where I live, I can get to London Bridge on the train in less than 10 minutes and Charing Cross in less than 20. The last trains are at similar times to the last Tube and I've never felt like I couldn't do anything because I had to get a train home (and in the worst-case scenario there are always night buses and cabs).

Explore.
Similar to the previous tip, I would highly recommend that you explore London on foot as much as possible. It will help you immensely with your sense of navigation - too often the Tube can confuse you as to where things are and in the amount of time it takes you to get into a station, on and off the train and back out at your destination it may well have been easier to walk. I now try to walk or take buses to meet people or go to places in London whenever I can and it's so useful in terms of being able to link up different areas, which I'm sure will come in useful one day! Plus it also helps you with finding those little gems of secret places that otherwise you might have overlooked. Start with the area you're moving to/staying, go for a walk and see what you can find.

Try new things as much as possible and take advantage of discounts.
London has such a huge array of opportunities to try new things - there always seems to be a new exhibition or restaurant opening up somewhere. I find the best way to keep up with this is to sign up to the weekly Time Out email which comes around every Thursday and includes lots of tips for things to do in the city, whether that's clubbing, cafes or cocktails. There's also now a free Time Out magazine that's handed out at major Tube and train stations on Tuesday mornings, and Stylist magazine's daily Emerald Street email includes possible weekend activities in its Thursday email. Equally, don't forget to look out for various free and cheap activities - as I mentioned in my sights post most of the museums are free apart from special exhibitions, and you can also often pick up cheap theatre tickets via the stalls in Leicester Square or lastminute.com. Groupon is also worth a look as well as they often have deals on beauty treatments and things like afternoon tea.

What would be your tips for anyone moving to your town?

My Make-Up Brushes

Before I really got into make-up, I never used proper make-up brushes - I just applied it with my fingers or used the little brushes that came with compacts, which I know is a really bad habit and probably contributed to why my skin looked worse rather than better when I first started wearing make-up regularly. However, in more recent months I've started building up a brush collection, and it's making a huge difference to how my make-up looks when I apply it. It's also been something of a revelation that I didn't need to spend a lot of money on my make-up brushes. There are still pricey ones I'm lusting after (MAC 217 anyone?) but equally there are so many good, affordable brands out there that you can quite easily build up a decent basic collection for around £50.


I keep my brushes in a Tunnock's Teacakes mug my sister E bought me for Christmas. I like it as it's quite an unusual way to organise my brushes and makes it easy for me to find the one I'm looking for rather than rummaging in my make-up bag. Plus it gives the mug a purpose as we don't have space in our kitchen mugs so I haven't used it to drink tea out of (well at least not yet, I haven't got that desperate for a brew!).

L-R: Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, EcoTools Airbrush Concealer Brush, Real Techniques Base Shadow Brush, Models Own Powder Brush, Real Techniques Blusher Brush, The Body Shop Eyeshadow Blender Brush, Real Techniques Shading Brush
I don't have that many brushes compared to some people - just seven, although that would have seemed like a lot to me even a couple of years ago! That said, I would like to perhaps get a paintbrush-style foundation brush as an occasional alternative to my Real Techniques foundation brush and maybe a bronzer brush in the summer, but right now this is enough for me to do most looks.

Foundation brush - Real Techniques Expert Face Brush
This is the most recent addition to my collection and I have completely fallen in love with it in the short time I've had it. Whereas the more paintbrush-style foundation brushes can sometimes leave your foundation looking a bit streaky, the domed shape of this one means you can buff it in much more, helping you to blend the colour and build it up much more easily. I genuinely don't think I'd be without this brush now.

Concealer brush - EcoTools Airbrush Concealer Brush
This is my absolute favourite of all my brushes. As someone who regularly gets breakouts and still has a few scars from my bad habit of picking my spots (attractive I know), being able to conceal my spots is a vital part of my beauty routine. What I love about this brush is that as well as using it to paint on concealer, it also works really well as a stippling brush to help me build up the coverage a little more. Plus I like the wooden handle as a nice contrast to the pastel rainbow of my Real Techniques brushes.

Blusher brush - Real Techniques
I really like blusher as a way to brighten up my face, especially if I'm not wearing much other make-up. This brush is absolutely perfect for applying colour to my cheeks - it's got a great rounded shape, with lovely fluffy bristles and is fat enough to pick up plenty of product but also blends the colour really nicely to avoid the dreaded clown-face. Plus it's so, so soft, which is always something I look for in a make-up brush as there is nothing worse than that feeling of bristles scratching your face.

Eyeshadow brushes - Real Techniques base shadow and shading brushes, Body Shop eyeshadow blender brush
For someone who claims not to wear a lot of eyeshadow, I use my eyeshadow brushes a heck of a lot. I got my two Real Techniques ones a few weeks ago in a make-up swap and since then I've used them most days - the base shadow brush just to do a wash of brown or ivory shadow for everyday looks, and then the shading brush if I need to do some blending with another colour for a special occasion. I also have my Body Shop eyeshadow blender brush as an alternative when the shading brush is out of action, for example if I've used it to do a different look and don't want my make-up to look sludgy.


Powder brush - Models Own
With powder brushes, bigger is definitely better, and this Models Own one is huge! I have to admit I wouldn't necessarily have looked at Models Own for brushes but after Sali Hughes recommended them in her Guardian column I decided to pick this one up. And it is brilliant, picking up just the right amount of product whilst giving plenty of coverage so you can just sweep it over your face as a quick finishing touch to your make-up. Very, very impressed.

The last thing I want to stress is to make sure you take care of your brushes! I wash mine once a week - normally on Sunday as that tends to be my 'home' (read: blogging) day - then leave them to dry so they're ready for Monday morning. You can buy special brush cleaning products from the likes of MAC but I find baby shampoo does just as good of a job for far less money. If you give them a good thorough but gentle clean once a week then they should last for a good while and stay in good condition.

Are any of these make-up brushes in your collection?

Book Review: Anita and Me

Even though I'd be lost without my Kindle, I still love the feel of a paperback book: the smell of the paper, the weight of it in my hands, the occasional food or drink stain that makes it feel lived-in. So, when my friend C recently moved to her new flat and asked if I wanted to take any of the books she was otherwise going to give to the charity shop, I of course filled my boots. I ended up leaving her flat that day with seven - yes, seven - paperback books weighing down my backpack, and the first of them I read was Anita and Me by Meera Syal, who is probably most famous as the star of Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No. 42.


Set in the fictional Midlands mining village of Tollington in the 1970s, Anita and Me is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel. Meena Kumar, the only child of Tollington's only Punjabi family, longs to fit in with the other local kids - specifically, to be part of a gang led by the titular Anita - and to have a 'normal' childhood of chippy teas and Christmas rather than dhal and Diwali. Gradually she ends up falling in with Anita's gang and trying to work out not only who she is, but what it means to be part of two very different cultures at a time of huge social upheaval.

The first thing I have to comment on is how brilliantly Meera Syal captures the contrast between the village of Tollington and the Kumars' Indian friends - there's a brilliant image of a flock of 'aunties' getting out of a tiny car in a multitude of beautiful saris in every colour of the rainbow and the stark contrast to the dingy backstreets. I also love that she writes onomatopoeiacally, meaning that you can hear how the characters speak as you read it in your head, which works so well for a novel where having that sense of place and displacement is absolutely vital. It also comes into play later on when the use of language becomes particularly significant in Meena's world and amongst her peer group. Thirdly, even her peripheral characters are fantastically well realised, from Auntie Shaila and her supposedly perfect daughters Pinky and Baby to Meena's grandmother, who barely speaks throughout the entire novel but has an enormous impact on her granddaughter's life. When you've got such a huge cast of characters, making them all unique is an enormous juggling act, and Syal pulls that off with aplomb.

Now, you all know what I'm going to criticise here: the ending. Once again it feels like it's all a little bit rushed. I can't say too much because it will spoil it, but things do happen very quickly and there's a sense that Syal wasn't necessarily sure how it was going to end, meaning I felt a bit like I was left hanging. I am aware that there's an art to leaving your readers wanting more - and the book certainly does that - but the point at which it ends just doesn't quite feel natural. But that is a very, very minor nit-pick, and now I've stepped away from the book for a little while I actually really appreciate that I didn't get a satisfying ending at the time, because it's making me desperate to find out what happened next to Meena and Anita!

Overall, I really enjoyed Anita and Me. The characters are full of personality, the setting is brilliantly evoked, and it captures the sense of feeling of not quite belonging that I think all of us go through at some stage, whether that's through Meena's parents missing their family in India or Meena herself unwittingly saying the most shocking things in a desperate attempt to be 'one of the gang'. It completely transports you to a different world and takes you on a journey with the characters, and at the end of the day that's exactly what I want from a book. Just wonderful.

If you fancy reading Anita and Me it's available on Amazon at a cost of £5.59 for the paperback or £3.85 for the Kindle version (other book retailers are available, as they say on the BBC).

Do you have any favourite coming-of-age novels?

#2014BloggerChallenge: High Street Vs High End

This week's topic for the #2014BloggerChallenge is high street vs high end, and I have to start by admitting that most of my make-up comes from the more high street end of the spectrum, mainly because I've been trying to save money for what feels like forever. I am going to start setting myself a beauty budget and treating myself to more high end things, but equally I'm all for singing the praises of the high street, especially when you need a quick pick-me-up on a budget.

I thought of loads of ways to do this post - a high street face video, a wishlist - and then I thought about a high street vs high end tag, as you all know how much I love a good tagged post! I had a bit of a hunt around on Google and Youtube but, surprisingly, I couldn't find anything that fit the bill. So I decided to have a go at writing my own tagged post. I have to admit it's surprisingly hard to think of good questions, so if you'd like to have a go at this tag do feel free to add some more or take things out!

What products would you always buy from the high street?
Probably body products like shower gel and body lotion. I like a nice scented body lotion to match my perfume on occasion but the idea of spending double figures on a shower gel (other than for a huuuge bottle and even then it'd have to be pretty darn good) just seems pointless.

What products would you always buy high end?
The only one I can think of is eye cream, mainly because Benefit It's Potent! is the only thing I've found that does anything for my horrible dark circles. But if I could find a great high street one I'd be willing to give it a go...

If you could only shop at one high end brand which would it be?
I think NARS just edges it because they are good at everything - foundation, mascara, blushers, bronzer, eyeshadow and lippy. Its only drawback is that it's expensive!

If you could only shop at one high street brand which would it be?
This is a tough one, because I find that all the high street brands are really good at different things. But I think because my two big things are foundation and lips, then it would probably be Revlon, who do awesome lip products and my favourite high street foundation. 

Which was your most surprising high end product?
Living Proof Prime Style Extender - I bought this after Sali Hughes, the Guardian's beauty writer, recommended it to stop your fringe getting dirty as the day goes on. Initially I was a bit sceptical about it, especially at £17 a tube, but it is honestly a miracle product and now I wouldn't be without it. Look out for a review coming soon!

Which was your most surprising high street product? 
Revlon Nearly Naked foundation. I'd heard good things about it but wasn't expecting it to be anywhere near as good as it is - lovely feel on the skin, good coverage and decent range of colours especially for the more pale amongst us. Now, if only they could make it with a pump...

Are there any products where you've switched from high street to high end (or vice versa)?
I used to be a real reverse snob about fancy haircare, but since buying the Living Proof Prime Style Extender I've had my mind changed on that a little (though I'm still not sure I'd buy any other high end hair products). To flip reverse it, I've been semi-converted to high street perfume by Body Shop Coconut Eau De Toilette, which smells like summer holidays in a bottle.

You've got £30 to spend - do you splurge on one high end product or go on a high street shopping spree?
Oooh this is hard! I think I would probably go for the high end product, just as there are so many lovely posh things I'm coveting at the moment. I might even be a bit cheeky and maybe split the money between two products - say Estee Lauder Double Wear mascara and Clinique Chubby Stick For Eyes in Whopping Willow (though I think that would take me over the £30...)

What's your desert island high street and high end product?
High end would have to be a MAC lipstick - I think I'd probably go for something like Girl About Town as I love a bright lip - and high street would be Rimmel Hide The Blemish concealer.

Let me know if you do this tag, I'd love to see your answers!

What are your favourite high street and high end products?

The #LondonBlogProject: Sights

This week's London Blog Project is all about sights. I have to admit that living in London means I probably don't appreciate the various attractions enough, and so this was actually quite a hard post to write as I did struggle to think of things. But hopefully I've come up with a pretty good list - let me know if you've been to any of these...

Museums
As regular readers of this blog will know, I love museums - to the extent that N and I got each membership to the British Museum for Christmas this year. But there are so many great museums in London, and they cover such a mix of topics - whether you want to find out about the history of the home or Victorian surgery, you can do it in London. Plus the vast majority of them are free to enter, although you will have to pay extra for the special exhibitions, and several of them also do late opening one night in the week or once a month for those wanting to beat the weekend crowds. I have so many favourites it would be impossible to list them all, but I think my top picks have to be the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill - both for the amusing name (admit it, you sniggered) and for its inaccurately stuffed walrus, who has to be seen to be believed - and the Natural History Museum, which is housed in the most gorgeous and intricately decorated building.

Seven Noses of Soho
This is a bit more of an unusual one, but it's one of my favourites. The Seven Noses of Soho are part of an art installation dotted around various areas of Soho, and the story goes that if you can find them all you will receive infinite wealth. Obviously I'm not going to tell you where they are but you can find them for yourself by doing a walking tour - the next one is on the 15th March and you can buy tickets here. As well as the seven noses, you'll also see a false nose, a ghost nose and a bonus ear, and learn about the history of the area. It's a really great way to get to know an area of London in more depth and I thoroughly recommend it.

Buskers
One of the great things about London is the sheer amount of free entertainment that's on offer, and that includes the buskers. Many of the main busking areas, like the streets around Covent Garden Piazza and the tube stations, operate a very strict auditions process and competition for slots is fierce, but it guarantees you're going to get a good show. Though the tube stations are limited to musicians, the styles can cover everything from folky guitars to smooth jazz and it makes for a great soundtrack to your travels through the city. Covent Garden, on the other hand, is much more diverse, with everything from circus-style performers to magicians and moving statues, and it's a great way to pass some time in that area.

London Zoo
I'm not entirely sure whether this counts as a sight, but London Zoo is one of my favourite places in the whole city - to the extent that I briefly toyed with it as a wedding venue. It's not the biggest or the cheapest by any means, but there's loads of different animals, the exhibits are constructed really well and you can hop through various talks throughout the day with loads of really interesting information about the animals. Plus they also run a Zoo Lates programme in the summer, where the zoo stays open after hours for adults complete with silent discos, face-painting, giant lawn games, food stalls and cocktails. I haven't been to that yet but it looks so much fun so will definitely be heading there this year.

I'd also like to give a shout-out to Greenwich, which has some amazing sights and architecture, from the recently restored Cutty Sark to the beautiful Old Royal Naval College. You can see some of it in my post on Greenwich here.

Finally, a sneaky protip: rather than forking out £15 for a London bus tour, get an Oyster card from any Tube station (you can get them refunded at the end of your trip if you won't be coming back for a while) and then hop on a vintage Routemaster bus at Charing Cross station. A Routemaster, for those who don't know, is basically what you think of when you imagine a London bus - all rounded shapes and open at the back. They've been phased out over the years but there are still a couple running on routes 9 and 15 in central London and they will take you round all the sights and announce where the stops are, so you can jump on and off and go explore as you choose. A single bus journey on an Oyster card costs £1.45 and is capped daily at £4.40 if you're only going on the bus, making it much cheaper than a paid bus tour.

What are your favourite sights in London?

Awards Show Fashion: The BAFTAs

I always have a soft spot for the BAFTAs. Once the bridesmaid of the awards season (it doesn't seem that long ago that they used to be in May!), they're now widely seen as a predictor for Oscars success. Though the evening threw up a fair few surprises, the dresses were consistently gorgeous. I swear choosing my favourite looks for this post was the most difficult yet, because there were so many amazing looks on the red carpet, but I think I can safely say this was the best batch yet.

It was also interesting to see the trends that have taken a firm foothold, with lots of block colour in pastel shades, but also the hangover from the winter trends and the merging of the two, such as Cate Blanchett's dress. There wasn't a massive amount to write home about in make-up and hair terms beyond Helen Mirren's berry lip; most of the stars went for something very toned-down and let their dresses do the talking. So, without further ado, here are my favourites.

Lupita Nyong'o in Christian Dior
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Lupita has been knocking it out of the park with her awards dresses - I loved the dress she wore to the Golden Globes - and this dress continues that trend. The mint green block colour works beautifully with her skin tone and I love that she kept the rest of the outfit simple with gold accessories and toned-down hair and make-up.

Cate Blanchett in Alexander McQueen
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Wow! Cate looks absolutely stunning in this dress; it hugs every curve but is still so flattering. I also love the details of the flowers - a nice touch of the beginnings of spring on what could have been a very wintry outfit - and the long necklace, which draws your eye down the dress and is reminiscent of something Galadriel might wear. Those little extras turn what could be quite a severe look into something beautiful and classic.

Angelina Jolie in Yves Saint Laurent
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Continuing the trend for women wearing trousers on the red carpet (see also: Ruth Wilson), Angelina looks fantastic in this YSL suit. It's beautifully tailored and is perfectly set off by her pointy heels, smoky eye make-up and tousled hair, giving the impression that she just fell out of bed after a night on the town, threw on the clothes closest to her and looked almost sickeningly fabulous. Best version of this look I've seen yet.

Helen Mirren
Just gorgeous. The 'older' ladies were incredibly well dressed this year (I also loved Judi Dench adding splashes of colour to her classic black gown), but once again I have to put Helen Mirren in my list for this gorgeous sparkly number. It screams 'awards bash' and is fantastically glamorous without being too full-on. Love the berry lip and classic hair as well.

Oprah Winfrey in Stella McCartney
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Oprah is completely rocking this dress. I'm a sucker for lace and sleeves, and this dress works perfectly on her - the beautiful plum colour looks stunning on her, and I like the fact that she's not shied away from the fact that she has curves but instead chooses to highlight her waist with a bow belt. Add in the natural hair and a cocktail ring that could probably have your eye out, and this is, as Craig Revel Horwood might say, "Fab-u-lous!"

Samantha Barks in Calvin Klein
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Samantha looks absolutely gorgeous in this Calvin Klein dress. It fits her shape beautifully and I like that it's edged up a bit by the belt and the almost beachy necklace. White dresses can sometimes look a bit bridal on the red carpet, but I think this works because it isn't too frilly or overloaded and because she's kept the rest of the look very toned down. However, I think what makes it work is her smile - she looks like she's having the time of her life!

Gillian Anderson in vintage Balmain
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As regular readers of my Awards Show Fashion posts will know, I am a sucker for a gorgeous blue dress. Clashing blue is one of my favourite fashion looks in any situation and Gillian Anderson is pulling off this beautiful Balmain gown perfectly. You can't quite see from the photo but it ties at the back, which just makes me love it even more. Add in the slightly regal necklace and we have a winner.

Emma Thompson
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 I'll be honest: I didn't get the love for Emma Thompson's Golden Globes outfit, which I thought made her look way too frumpy (though I loved her taking her shoes off on stage). Thankfully she pulled it out of the hat for the BAFTAs with this amazing red sheath. I am a big fan of red as regular readers will know and this was elevated by the unusual neckline of the gown. Keeping her hair and make-up natural just adds to the overall effect of the look; it's cool, classy and elegant. She also wore the most amazing white coat on the red carpet which had a brilliant Cruella de Vil vibe to it - perfect for a chilly February evening!

Tinie Tempah
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This edition of Awards Show Fashion Token Bloke goes to Tinie Tempah. On anyone else this would look like they'd been attacked by Hugh Hefner's costume department, but on him it works brilliantly. I like the blue velvet as an alternative take on a suit jacket and the glasses add just the right amount of quirk without going too far into Dalston hipster territory. Plus, I don't know any other man who could work velvet loafers quite so well.

Honorable mentions
Uma Thurman in Atelier Versace
Amy Adams in Victoria Beckham
Laura Bailey
Michelle Rodriguez
Sari Mercer
Naomie Harris in Gucci
Olga Kurylenko in Burberry
Laura Carmichael in Erdem

Did you watch the BAFTAs? What did you think of the outfits?

Restaurant Review: Jamie's Italian

So, how many of us went out for a Valentine's Day dinner yesterday? Normally I hate restaurants on Valentine's Day - the rows of tables for two, the set menu, the cheap plastic roses on the table. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for having a day to celebrate being with someone you love (though it shouldn't be something that's reserved for one day out of the year by any means) but I dislike the identikit nature of it. Happily, my trip to Jamie's Italian in Greenwich with N last night was about as far away from that as you can get.

Unfortunately I didn't manage to get any pictures as 1) it was dark and 2) I felt a bit rude getting my blogging self on on what was technically the first proper date we've been on in ages, but based on the meal last night we'll definitely be heading back and I promise to take photos then! The first thing I noticed on walking in was that it's a really relaxed atmosphere - there's a little lounge area where you can wait for a table or grab a snack from the deli next door, then huge US diner-style booths opposite the bar before walking into the main dining room, which is all tiled floors, Italian-brand bottles of olive oil and tomatoes and a noticeable buzz that still feels relaxed. Basically, it's like eating dinner in your friend's really trendy kitchen, only on a much bigger scale.

Despite my saying I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day set menus, we did end up getting two of the evening's specials, including for our starter. We went for the sharing bruschetta, a lovely mix of prawns, avocado, a little bit of chilli and some really tasty sauce on delicious sourdough bread. I've also heard good things about the arancini (risotto balls) and crispy squid so will definitely be trying those next time we go.

For our mains, both of us went for pasta, which seemed just the thing for a stormy winter's night. N got sausage parpadelle - a lovely warming dish with a ragu of sausage, red wine, cheese and breadcrumbs. I slightly wished I'd ordered it myself (and I'll definitely get it next time!) until my own meal, wild rabbit casarecce, arrived. It was described on the menu as 'slow-cooked ragu with garlic and herbs, marscapone and lemon'. That originally suggested to me a kind of creamy rabbit bolognese-style sauce, but that was about as far removed from what I got as possible. Instead, what I actually ended up with was little curled tubes of pasta with a light sauce and chunks of rabbit throughout. It was still really good though - a fresh, almost summery take on an ingredient that's often seen as more of a winter dish, and I really liked that they did something different with it.

Originally we weren't going to get desserts but I couldn't resist the Valentine's Day brownie. Jamie's Italian does offer a brownie dessert as part of their regular menu, but this one involved raspberry sorbet, crushed amaretti biscuits and nuts, and chocolate sauce. The brownie was really dense and gooey - almost more like a chocolate fondant - and balanced really nicely with the cold tartness of the raspberry sorbet and the crunchy biscuit and nuts. N got the tiramisu which looked absolutely lovely as well.

Grand total: £62.25 for three courses and wine for both of us, which I thought was pretty reasonable. Plus we don't go out for a dinner a lot as we've been saving for what seems like forever - first for travelling, then because we were unemployed, and now for a house and a wedding - so this was a nice treat. I also have to say that the staff were utterly lovely; despite this clearly being one of their busiest nights of the year they couldn't do enough for us and were attentive without ever stepping over into pushy territory.

Overall, we really enjoyed our night at Jamie's Italian and can safely say we'll be back. The food was really good, with fresh quality ingredients used in really interesting ways, and although everything was very simple it tasted absolutely fantastic. Throw in lovely staff, nice wine, a good atmosphere and very reasonable prices, and I can't wait for my next visit.

Did you go out for dinner this Valentine's Day?

Charles Dickens Challenge: The Pickwick Papers

As you may recall, last year I decided to set myself an extra reading challenge this year. I'm aiming to read 50 books in 2014, but I also wanted to finally get round to reading the works of Charles Dickens. This became my Charles Dickens Challenge, and I'm now reporting back on the first book in the challenge (and the first book Dickens wrote), The Pickwick Papers.
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For those who haven't read it, The Pickwick Papers is the story of the titular Mr Pickwick, who together with his companions Mr Tupman, Mr Snodgrass and Mr Winkle sets out to explore the nature of humanity in contemporary England for one year and report back to the members of the Pickwick Club. Along the way they meet a cast of characters, including the comically villainous Mr Jingle who often causes trouble for the Pickwickians and Mr Pickwick's longtime friend Mr Wardell.

Dickens originally started out writing short piece for magazines, and many of his novels were originally published in serial format (as was common for novels in the Victorian era). This is still fairly evident in the structure of The Pickwick Papers; it often feels like a series of sketches strung together rather than having any coherent plot, with characters disappearing and reappearing every few chapters and the scenarios getting increasingly more outlandish. It always seemed like Dickens was trying to cram in just one more adventure before the end, so it felt simultaneously dragged out and then, when the ending did come, like it was all tied up too neatly and done in a bit of a rush.

However, it does have one of my favourite characters in all literature: the wonderful Sam Weller, who the Pickwickians meet at a pub in London and who Mr Pickwick takes on as a servant and companion. Constantly bungling his pronunciation and mixing his metaphors, but with unwavering loyalty to his master - to the extent of getting himself arrested so he can stay with Pickwick in a debtors' prison - Sam is a fantastic comic creation and often brings much of the humour when things are getting a little too serious. The scenes with his father are particularly brilliant, with the two of them bouncing off each other constantly. That said, there are some great moments for the other characters, particularly in the early chapters with Mr Winkle's lack of sporting prowess and Mr Tupman's romantic misadventures.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Pickwick Papers. Yes it was a bit of a slog at times (it's 760 pages), but it made me laugh out loud on the bus several times and in terms of the imaginative scope it's just breathtaking. The characters leap off the page as fully-rounded people - a feat in itself - and you become immersed in their world, feeling like you're saying goodbye to old friends when you reach the final pages. It's certainly different from the stereotypical image of Dickens, in that there's a lot more humour, but also foreshadowing the themes of some of his later books which I'm looking forward to seeing more of. Next up: Oliver Twist.

Have you read The Pickwick Papers or any other Charles Dickens novels?

The London Blog Project: Food and Drink

I love food - whether it's eating it, making it or talking about it - so finding out the second London Blog Project post was going to be about food and drink was just perfect for me. Discovering various new restaurants and bars is one of my favourite things about living in this city and it's rare that I'll go somewhere I've been before. Getting it down to my five favourites was tough, but these are my top picks.

The Diner
OK, it's a chain, but it's a damn good one. As the name suggests The Diner is an all-American joint with rock music on the stereo and a selection of classic US dishes. I always go for a burger - my favourites are the Hawaiian (with cheese, bacon and pineapple) or the Californian (with cheese and guacamole; it sounds like it shouldn't work, but it does) - and hanger fries, a heart attack on a place in the form of skinny fries slathered in cheese, burger sauce and fried onions. But my favourite has to be the Snickers milkshake - chocolate ice cream, Nutella, peanut butter and maple syrup. It's thick, sweet, a little bit salty and utterly gorgeous, and is basically the reason why I never want dessert.

Greenwich Market
I love a good food market and Greenwich has that in spades. The market is packed with amazing food stalls selling every type of food you could ever want to eat, from Japanese to Jamaican, but the sweets are particularly good. Depending on my mood I'll nearly always go for the mini pancakes with bananas and Nutella or the churros with cinnamon and chocolate sauce (sensing a theme here?) and then eat them sitting looking out onto the Cutty Sark if the weather is nice. They also have loads of local independent traders selling the most delicious food to take home, and whilst I'll always stop by the cheese stall my favourite has to be the coffee stall, which does a fantastic selection of delicious flavoured coffees that make a great gift or a Sunday morning treat. They'll even grind the beans for you!

The Reverend J. W. Simpson
Finding a good cocktail bar in London is surprisingly difficult - just when you think you've got it, they suddenly get rid of all their nice drinks (Jewel, I'm looking at you). The Reverend J. W. Simpson, however, has some truly delicious cocktails. It was formerly a dubious nightclub but since being overtaken the walls have been stripped back to reveal the original decor, and it's now populated by comfy sofas and chairs.  It is a little bit more expensive than some of the other cocktail bars in London but it's worth it for the atmosphere and because the drinks are so good - I can highly recommend the Gardener's Tea Break and the Silver Sunshine Fizz.

Sacred Cafe
London has an abundance of great Antipodean cafes (see also: Lantana, who do my favourite breakfasts in the entire city), but the one I will always go out of my way to stop off at is Sacred. The original branch is just off Carnaby Street and is absolutely tiny, with 'interesting' decor that hasn't changed in years. But the crucial thing is that the coffee is great - strong, flavoursome and tastes great whether you need fuel before a day on Oxford Street or have come to escape from the onslaught of shoppers. It's not a fancy coffee menu but the darn good flat whites more than make up for that.

Have you tried any of these places? What's your favourite place to eat or drink in London?

My Favourite Shops: Joy (Part One)

As regular readers will know, N and I are currently saving to buy a flat and for our wedding in November. However, that doesn't leave a massive space in my budget for new clothes (or makeup, for that matter). So I decided to start a little series of posts on my favourite shops, so I can show you all the lovely things I'm currently lusting after and hopefully show you some places you might not necessarily have thought to shop at. This is also something of a wishlist post in the hope that it will make me sit on my hands and not spend (too much) money!

The first shop I'm going to write about is Joy. Even though I go there a lot - admittedly mainly to browse rather than to buy - I've found that a surprising number of people still don't know about it, which is a shame as they have some really lovely things. One of the main things I love there is their dresses. They always have really pretty designs and although they are a little bit on the expensive side, they're also really good quality and won't go out of fashion too quickly.

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The Dawn dress (£49) is an absolute classic. I can see myself wearing it now with black tights and my Mary-Janes and in the summer with tan ballet pumps and a tan belt. I actually went to Joy the other day to try on three dresses and this was the one I thought I wouldn't like, yet it turned out to be the one that suited me best!

The dresses are a big draw for me but sometimes I find that they don't work for me because I am, shall we say, 'blessed' in the chest department and the necklines can be quite high. So whenever I go to Joy, I usually end up buying a top or a skirt rather than a dress, and this season they've got a couple of really cute tops that are currently on my radar.

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It's a fox. He's wearing glasses. What is not to love? This is something I'd wear for a casual Saturday of just hanging out with friends and family or schlepping round the shops. This little chap will set you back £24 and also comes in pink.
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More red! I'm always on the lookout for nice girly tops as it's still an area I struggle with, but this is perfect. I love black and red together and also the polka dot print and bow at the back add nice details. I'd wear this top with my black skinny jeans, ballet pumps or ankle boots and a slick of red lipstick. It's £28 and you can also get versions in black and white.

Joy also stocks loads of lovely skirts with wonderfully quirky prints - they often do a dress and a skirt version of a pattern, so if you like the print on a dress but the shape doesn't suit you then you might be able to pick it up in a skirt. This is the one I'm loving at the moment:
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I'm starting to sense a bit of a theme here... but then I would put bows on everything if it was up to me. Again it's something I'd wear with my long-sleeved red and black tops now and then with black ballet pumps and a white half-sleeved top in the warmer months. And it has pockets! Pockets are always, always A Very Good Thing. It's £35 which again is a little on the steep side but worth it for something that you'd have and wear for years.

Finally, Joy also do some lovely accessories. I'm not normally one for accessories as I tend to wear the same few pieces all the time (though I am trying to get better about wearing a different necklace and more bracelets as a regular thing), but I will make an exception for this adorable headband:
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I know, it's red and it's polka dots again! But for someone who is absolutely blimmin' useless at tying headscarfs (though I admit you could quite easily make this yourself by buying some fabric and tying it round a headband) this is a perfect cheat's way to getting that retro look. Plus, add a denim shirt and ta-da - instant Rosie the Riveter fancy dress outfit :)

There are quite a few branches of Joy dotted around the UK - admittedly mostly in London - but you can also shop online via the Joy website if there isn't a store near you. They're also giving you this unicorn print dress free with all orders over £75 at the moment. Do be aware sometimes stock in the stores is different to what's online; I tried on a dress with a cat print and Peter Pan collar in the Greenwich branch the other day, and have also seen it in the Waterloo and Islington branches, but it doesn't appear to be on the website yet.

Have you ever bought anything from Joy? And what do you think of this post - would you like to see more of them? Are there any particular shops you'd like me to cover? I'm planning to do a second post on Joy as I love their homewares but didn't want to do an epically long post, so look out for that coming soon!

What's In My Bag?

Hello lovelies! Today I have a nosey post for you about what's in my handbag. Quite a few other blogs I read have done these kinds of posts, and as I think the contents of someone's handbag can reveal a lot about them I thought I'd share what's in mine.



This is my bag. It was a Primark special and cost a grand total of £8. I bought it just before Christmas after seeing N's nan with it at our Christmas meal with his family and falling in love with it. I know some people might think, "Ooh that's weird, why do you want a bag your fiance's nan has?" but personally I think it's proof that you can be stylish at any age. And trust me, N's nan is as glamorous as they come! But I thought it was a lovely classic ladylike design that would go with loads of different stuff and last for ages. Plus I'm a sucker for anything with bows on it.

I do also have a bright blue Lowe Alpine backpack which is my main work bag, but my Primark one is the bag I use at the weekends, for offsite meetings or if I'm going out in the evening and have more stuff than will fit in my clutch. My main requirement for my bags though is that there's enough space for all my essentials but isn't too bulky or heavy, and these two definitely do that.

So, that's the outside of the bag. Now let's see what's inside! 


  • Purse. This one is from Cath Kidston and cost £26. I like it because it's got lots of pockets for my various loyalty cards, notes and coins, as well as having a lovely classic pattern - I am a sucker for polka dots of all colors and sizes, and the navy blue colour is a bit different.
  • iPod. I listen to podcasts every day on my way to work and when I go to the gym - I find it a great way to educate myself and learn something new. I've got a post on my favourite podcasts in the works so stay tuned for that!
  • Kindle, because I'm the kind of person who get nervous when the cereal packets are taken off the breakfast table and nearly always have a book on the go. At the moment I'm reading The Pickwick Papers for my Charles Dickens challenge - look out for the review soon!
  • Keys, obviously to get into my flat! Keyrings are a satchel (present from my mum), an evil eye charm I bought in Istanbul on my first holiday with N four years ago, Anton du Beke and Erin Boag off of Strictly when they did their first tour, and my Tesco clubcard.
  • Chewing gum, in case I need to freshen my breath before going to a meeting or out after work.
  • Hand mirror, which was a present from my sister when I was her bridesmaid five years ago - how time flies! It's from Monsoon and is great for if I've got meetings or am going out after work and need to do a quick touch-up.
  • Tissues, in case of a sudden sneezing fit or needing to wipe something up in an emergency.
  • Burt's Bees pomegranate lip balm and almond milk beeswax hand cream - these were both presents from my future sister-in-law as part of a bigger Burt's Bees kit she bought me a little while ago. I love the lip balm as it's really moisturising and makes my lips feel lovely and soft, and the hand cream smells gorgeous and is working wonders for my dry hands in the current cold snap!
  • Batiste mini dry shampoo in Cherry, which I use for a quick touch-up post-gym or if I'm going out after work and haven't had time to wash my hair that morning. I love the slightly retro look of the packaging on this and it does do the job of helping my hair feel cleaner and adding some much-needed boost, but the smell isn't my favourite - it's a little bit too artificial for me.
  • Kent 7T comb for sorting out my fringe after a particularly windy walk to work! Also makes a good emergency jumper de-bobbler.
  • Travelcard, for getting around and about.
I do also normally have my umbrella, glasses case and phone in there as well but the brolly and glasses case were still in my backpack from my week at work, and I was using my phone to take the pictures :)

So that's my bag! Well done if you made it to the end of that, go get yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit as a reward :) It sounds like an awful lot written down like that but in a way it's quite good to see what I've got. If I had to say how my bag's contents describe me, I'd say organised and practical, with a penchant for quirk and a slight gadget addiction, which I think is pretty accurate!

Have you done a 'what's in my bag?'-style post? What do you think your bag and its contents say about you?

#2014Blogger Challenge: Once Upon A Time...

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It's post three of the #2014BloggerChallenge, and this time it's about books. As regular readers will know I am a huge bookworm; I'm the kind of person who gets nervous if she doesn't have something to read and who takes her Kindle everywhere she goes. So a books post was exciting and scary at the same time - so many ideas, but how to choose what to write about? I thought long and hard about my topic for this one, and eventually settled on a review of my favourite book, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.

For those of you who haven't read it, The Time Traveler's Wife is a fantasy science fiction love story. Henry, the main character, has something called chrono-displacement, which means he randomly disappears and reappears somewhere else in his lifetime - by hours, days or even years. On one of these disappearances, he meets a young Clare, and with that we're catapulted into the craziest, most bizarre but wonderful love story that I've ever read. The book was also made into a film a couple of years ago, but I'd strongly advise you read the book before you watch the film as it's not that great - Clare doesn't even have red hair! (Sorry, I'm that kind of book nerd who gets narky about characters not looking like they should. But I stand by my view that the budget could have stretched to a box of red hair dye or a wig.)

Why do I love this book so much? Firstly, because the characters are so brilliantly written. Clare and Henry may be completely loved-up - sometimes almost disgustingly so - but they still have flaws and their lives are by no means perfect, which made them feel much more rounded. I'm not a fan of characters where everything is wonderful for them, or equally where everything sucks, and Audrey Niffenegger does a great job of balancing that light and shade. Henry and Clare are a very believable couple, with all the highs and lows that most relationships go through, which makes me warm to them and keep rooting for them the whole way.

Niffenegger also has a fantastic ability to make a world where people randomly jump through time and space seem completely believable, as well as resisting the urge to explain things too much. We don't know why Henry does this; all we know is that he does, and that it's hard for him and Clare, and it made me love them even more. Finally, she's brilliant at creating that emotional tension. Because you've become so invested in Henry and Clare's story, when the twist comes, it is absolutely heartwrenching. I remember reading this book on a train going home after visiting N (this was before I moved to London) and absolutely sobbing my heart out for the last quarter of it, because it was so sad and then so poignant at the end. I won't say any more at the risk of spoiling it but it was utterly, utterly wonderful.

Writing this post has made me want to go back and read it again, and I'd really recommend that you read it too. I've also just discovered there's a sequel coming soon so make sure you read this one quick if you want to get up to speed for the next one - because, trust me, you will.

Have you read The Time Traveler's Wife? Or do you have any other favourite unusual love stories?

The London Blog Project: Shopping

I am going to admit that my first post of the London Blogging Challenge can be chalked up as a big fat fail. I had completely forgotten that we were supposed to have posted today and only found out when I went to check my emails. The moral of the story: always know when your challenge posts should go up and plan, plan, plan!

This week's post is about our favourite places to shop in London. I have to admit my shopping goes one of two ways - I can either wander around and browse and not spend anything, or I get very focussed on going in, getting what I want and getting out again. These places are where I come to do both of those things, which is really all you can want in a shopping area, right?

Westfield White City
I feel a bit bad for including a shopping centre on this list, but I do really like Westfield. It feels less like a shopping centre than the Stratford one and is less insanely busy than Oxford Street, so is ideal if I know exactly what I'm after. Plus it has most of my favourite shops and they're a decent size, meaning that I very rarely need to go elsewhere to find something. I particularly like the huge Boots as it has loads of different beauty counters (including some that aren't found anywhere else in the centre) and the section upstairs where the various card shops seem to cluster. It also has loads of different places to eat - I tend to opt for Bill's if I'm having breakfast or Penang!, the Malaysian version of Wagamama - and a cinema if you fancy a film after your shopping.

Upper Street and Camden Passage, Islington
If I'm in need of some retail therapy after work or have to make an emergency purchase, this is where I come. Upper Street is the more mainstream and is largely populated by high street brands, particularly in the N1 shopping arcade opposite Angel tube, whilst Camden Passage is home to more quirky shops and independents. I think Camden Passage is my favourite of the two as there always seems to be something new to discover there, especially on their ever-changing antiques markets, although Upper Street is home to a branch of Joy which is one of my favourite shops ever (look out for a Joy wishlist post coming soon!). It also has loads of lovely little independent beauty places, such as Blow Bar, and one of my favourite cafes in London, The Breakfast Club.

Columbia Road
Most famous for its Sunday flower market (get there early - and I mean 6 AM early - for the best stuff), Columbia Road also has loads of lovely quirky little shops which mostly specialise in homewares. There are so many amazing shops here selling everything from cinnamon wood boxes to vintage china via magnetic maps. I love Ryantown which is Rob Ryan's shop (he of the beautiful papercuts that seem to be everywhere), although it is very expensive and always makes me feel like I'm going to break something. Maybe one for the wedding list... However, there are also some great clothes shops which cover every era and price point you could hope for - I've found shops selling £5 pinstripe jackets here opposite designer clothes exchanges. But my favourite has to be Queenie & Ted, who sell clothes customised with the most gorgeous embroidery and will also customise things you bring in yourself.

So that was my first London Blog Project post! Hope you liked it :) And now I'm off to make a spreadsheet to help me get more organised.

Where do you like to shop in London? Or, if you're not a Londoner, what are your favourite shops where you live?

Day Tripper: Greenwich

I don't know about you, but yesterday felt like the first really lovely day in a long time - glorious sunshine, milder air and a sense that even though this winter has felt so l-o-n-g, spring will be here soon. So I decided to go out for a walk rather than spend yet another weekend cooped up in my flat and going a bit nuts, and headed down into Greenwich.

Originally the plan was a mooch round the shops, but it actually ended up being more of a day of taking pictures! And as I haven't done a day trip post for a while, I thought I'd write a short one on Greenwich. Hope you like it (with apologies that this is a very pic-heavy post!).


The Ranger's House near Greenwich Park - it's a beautiful old building and I love the contrast of the red brick and white windows aainst the bright green grass and the gorgeous blue sky.


One of my favourite things about Greenwich is the Cutty Sark. This beautiful old, old wooden ship was once the world's fastest, but was very nearly lost for ever after a fire a few years ago (allegedly caused by someone leaving a vacuum cleaner plugged in). It's now been restored and is held out of the water in a glass building, so you can walk round the base of it.


 These guys were playing outside Waterstone's. They were really good too! I always love seeing buskers and they often feature in my day trip posts.



After stopping off for tea and cake at the Red Door Cafe (which I reviewed here), I popped into Greenwich Market after having a look in a couple of the shops to have a wander.






I love all the nautical-themed hearts hanging from the ceiling in the market. The anchor is my favourite.

 
The food and drink stalls are at each end of the market and then the clothes and crafts stalls are in the middle. It was jam-packed so I couldn't take any pictures but there were some some lovely things. I found a great stall selling pictures with photos of various objects in London that they then make into names and phrases!
 

The Greenwich Market clock.


The side entrance to Greenwich Market with the spire of St Alfege's Church in the background. Just ignore the betting shop...


Another busker, this time outside Greenwich Park gates. I also randomly bumped into my friends M and C here for a bit and we had a quick chat. It was lovely to see them, especially C who I haven't seen for ages!


The National Maritime Museum with Canary Wharf in the background.


The view across Greenwich Park with the Royal Observatory in the background. I love the stripes on the ground from the shadows of the trees.


The bandstand in Greenwich Park.


Look how close this squirrel came to me! 


This is my favourite photo of the day - the gates at the other end of Greenwich Park with the spire of Blackheath Church in the background. I did slightly risk my life to get this shot but I'm very pleased with how it came out!

Have you ever been to Greenwich?

2014 Resolutions: February Update

As you may remember, at the beginning of January I posted about my New Year's resolutions for 2014, which included my goals for the year and some smaller targets I wanted to achieve in January. It's now February and so I thought I'd post an update on what I've achieved so far and what my aims are for this month.

Let's start with the big stuff - my goals for the year:
  1. Blog at least every other day. So far, I've managed to stick to this. Scheduling is definitely working for me, I've been loads better at having writing blitzes and taking photos at weekends then scheduling posts throughout the week.
  2. Run a 5K. I've signed up for a 5K for British Heart Foundation in August and am going to start Parkrun next month. I'm currently able to do 10 minutes at an 8 minute/km pace on the treadmill which I'm quite happy with but hoping to get faster before the race.
  3. Buy a flat with N. This is on hold as we are still saving, but we're now thinking we might stay in our current flat a bit longer and look for something we can do up ourselves. Having looked at what's out there it's definitely doable though - I saw a perfect flat today but just a shame we don't have the money right now!
  4. Perfect my skincare and everyday make-up routines. This is very much still a work in progress, but it is improving. I wrote a post about my current skincare routine for the #2014BloggerChallenge and so far that's working pretty well, altough I want to keep it going for a few more weeks (or until I run out of something) before changing things. I may also start doing a monthly post on what's going on with my skin if people would find that useful or interesting.
  5. Use up a net balance of 30 beauty products. At the time of writing I'd bought seven beauty products this year and got rid of 10, so I'm reasonably on track to do this. That said, all the lovely new products *cough*Narsissist palette*cough* are weakening my resolve!
  6. Read at least 50 books. So far I've read three - The Pickwick Papers for my Charles Dickens Challenge, The Thirteenth Tale and Death Comes to Pemberley (which I reviewed here).
  7. Take more photographs that aren't just for blogging.
  8. Watch all the TV series I started but haven't finished. This is going OK so far; I've watched the first and second series of Heroes and have the third and fourth on order from Amazon, and lots of stuff on my Lovefilm watchlist, so I'm getting there!
  9. Wear the clothes I already own regularly and only buy new stuff when I need it. I admit to completely failing at this so far - I've bought four dresses, a jumper, a shirt and two pairs of shoes in January alone! But equally I am getting better at wearing what I've got and trying new outfit combinations.
  10. Eat more healthily. This has been a bit mixed; I'm currently giving up tea and coffee at work and replacing it with herbal tea, and trying to eat more fruit and vegetables, but I know our diet still isn't great a lot of the time so I think I might have to start using stealth tactics...
  11. Learn to drive. I've ordered a new driving licence and will hopefully book lessons this month. We currently don't have any weekend plans for a couple of months so I'm hoping with the longer days I can start to get out there.
  12. Finish writing my novel. I've made a bit more progress on this in terms of redrafting and refining things but it's going slowly because blogging is taking up a lot of my time. But I'm going to try and put aside a couple of hours a week to work on this as well in the hope it might help to pick up, as I've found the more I work on something the easier it gets.
  13. Go to at least one blogging event. I've done this one already! I went to the Domestic Sluttery blogging event earlier this month, which was absolutely brilliant. DS is one of my favourite blogs and it was a bit of a star-struck moment to meet the writers 'in the flesh', but I learned a lot and met some lovely people.
And three specific resolutions for January:
  1. Go to the gym at least twice a week. I have to admit I didn't manage to do this because my gym was so ridiculously busy this month - every time I went all the machines were packed, so I decided to switch to a run once a week and things like going for a walk at lunch to try and keep my fitness levels up. But I will be back in the gym in February as hopefully it'll be a lot quieter.
  2. Not go to bed wearing my make-up once all month. I have to admit I didn't quite manage this as I had a couple of late nights when I was out for friends' birthdays etc, but I did much, much better than I have previously and I think it's definitely helping my skin as I'm getting far fewer breakouts.
  3. Try at least one new recipe. I did actually manage to do this last week when N was away and made Bloody Mary baked beans from one of my favourite cookery books, Jo Pratt's In the Mood for Food (available from Amazon here). I know it's not much but it was a really great quick dinner and made me realise how much I've missed cooking, so am hoping to try and do more cooking with these types of quick and easy recipes and expand my repertoire a bit in the next few months.
So, let's move on to my February goals:
  1.  Finish watching Firefly. I might have to start this again as I was watching it in October/November, got halfway through it and then started watching other things, but I'd like to get it finished if I can as it's only 13 episodes (even though I wish it was more!).
  2. Go to Parkrun at least twice. For those who don't know Parkrun is a free 5K running session that takes place in parks around the UK - there's no time limit, it's just you against the clock, and I'm hoping it'll help me with training for my 5K in August.
  3. Shoot, edit and post my first YouTube video. I've been wanting to start doing YouTube videos for ages but haven't yet plucked up the courage to give it a go. However as I've now got my tripod on order I'm going to try this when it comes, although I haven't decided what my first video will be about yet - if you have any ideas let me know!
Did you set yourself any goals for January? How did you get on? And do you have anything you want to achieve this month?