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Showing posts with label Lifetsyle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lifetsyle. Show all posts

28 Feb 2014

Birthday Presents !!!!

It's my birthday today!!!

I thought I would share with you some of the gifts I was given as my family bought me some lovely thoughtful gifts and I am so pleased with all my new things. Thank you so much everyone !!!


I got a new wallet as my old one, which my husband bought me as a wedding present was starting to give up the ghost after 5 years.  I went for a bright coral Michael Kors one with a strap and it also holds your iPhone too.  I am hoping this will solve my regular dilemma of what to take when I go out.  My Husband bought me this whilst we were in Vegas as they are a whole lot cheaper there it worked out at about £60! bargain.

My Brother-in-Law always buys such thoughtful gifts and bought me a set of Molton Brown toiletries which I am delighted with as I love their products. I can't wait to try them all out.

My Mum bought me these cute ballet pumps for everyday wear.  They were only £26 from Next. I am hoping they will add a bit of sparkle to the school run and be comfy too.  The grey will hopefully go with most things and yet avoid my usual pitfall of being black.  I also got a lovely bunch of flowers with chocolates, wine and a balloon (which the kids stole before it even got through the door).

My Grandmother-in-law got me the cutest voucher from M&S, the teabag is the gift voucher! Very lovely idea, and I can use it to treat myself in their new much improved beauty department.

I also kind of bought myself a present along with some money Dad gave me for my Birthday.  My old iPad2 was starting to really annoy me, it is so heavy and makes any bag I put it in ridiculously unwieldy.  I spent ages researching the best new light tablets and in the end I settled with the iPad mini.  I have an iMac at home and an iPhone and for a short time I very nearly switched over to the dark side (Android. ) But in the end the larger screen size of this over the Nexus 7 won.. Even better I got £145 for my old one so to upgrade just cost me £60.  I bought it here...  and it only weighs 300g.  It is a lot easier to hold here is a comparison.

My Parents-in-law sent me some money so I have treated myself to these lovely things off my Amazon wish list.  This was an ideal present as I can get a bit of what I want and a bit of what I need.

I ordered a new eyeshadow brush after my son massacred my MAC 213, a long handled blusher brush as my current one is a bit stubby.  I went with Real Techniques for both as I have been happy with the other brushes I have ordered and the price is good too.  I also repeat ordered some Seche Vite as it is super cheap at the moment on Amazon and a cute Ladybird Paddle Brush for travelling.

real-techniques brushes

Thank you very much everyone, you have made me a very happy girl

24 Feb 2014

Blogging Awards

I was just nominated for a Liebster award by Sarah from Seriously Shallow. Please take a trip over and view her great blog.   

The award is for bloggers that have less than 200 followers and is a great way to discover new or niche blogs.  There is no prize or judges, it is just a nod of recognition for upcoming bloggers, and an excellent way to find something new to read.


Sarah gave me these questions to answer and then I get to nominate my own Boutique Bloggers and get to set them some questions (yeah!)

What is your first make-up memory?

I think it's the same as most girls, it would be doing my dolls makeup with a biro and whatever else I could lay my hands on.  I was obviously crazily talented at this! My first real makeup was either Natural Collection at Boots or those little tubs of lip balm from the Bodyshop.  I used to keep it in my pencil tin and apply it like it was the most exclusive lipstick ever.

What makes you follow a blog?
  • Great design, I'm a sucker for a good looking blog, great photography and typography work for me.
  • Honest writing, without pretension, I like people to say it like it is, as i'm a northerner who just happens to live down south.
What is the one blogging trick you’ve learnt since starting?

Taking good quality photos and including alt tags for them to make them searchable on google images.

How did you choose your blog name and what does it mean?

I chose my blog name as I was trying to find a name that showed that my life is often lived in opposing directions.  I am a stay at home Mum, but I also love all things OTT and glamorous, you can imagine my confusion with school run fashion.

Your desert island beauty item is… 

Waterproof Mascara.  When I'm on holiday it is often the only thing I wear.  I reckon it is the only makeup item that can be worn in isolation.

If money was no object, what beauty products would you buy?

  • Urban Decay Naked 3 Palette - I can't justify it when i have 4 palettes on the go at the moment.
  • Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair - Again I am put of by the £45+ price tag, what happens if its pants?
  • GHD's - I use a Wahl ceramic Hair Straightener  at the moment, and I find it hard to believe that these can justify the extreme price tag, but it would be nice to know for sure.
  • Tarte Blushers, they look amazing but again if I pick the wrong shade I would be gutted.

If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be and why?

I don't really do regret, I am so lucky to have the life I do and so I feel that if I changed anything my life would be different and that would be awful.  The only thing I would/could change that I don't imagine would have a knock on effect is that I would have brushed my teeth more as a child, and therefore saved myself some painful and expensive dental work.

When do you feel prettiest?

I'm not really a pretty type of girl, but I feel the most attractive when I have the luxury of plenty of time to get ready. I really enjoy a couple of hours with a great playlist, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and my iPad to watch Youtube Beauty Channels on.

What makes your heart jump for joy? 

A new book from favourite author and the time to read it uninterupted.  I am the worlds biggest bookworm, follow me on good reads for recommendations. I am currently reading JK Rowlings book The Casual Vacancy
and then I have The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which I have waited 10 years for.

What do you do for your ‘day job’? 

Currently I stay at home with my children but I used to be a Business Analyst in an Investment bank.  Other random jobs I have done include the makeup counter at the Bodyshop, Mystery Shopper (not as glam as it sounds), Companion, Nappy Laundry Owner and Cook. Despite all of these random jobs my degree is in Media hence blogging.

What post are you most proud of on your blog? 
Probably French Living Manifesto, it got over 8000 hits and it sums up a lot of the changes I have made as I have got older.  I still try to work on these things now, and it is like my own personal creed.

So here are my nominations...

  • Nina at http://makeuploviingmummy.blogspot.co.uk
  • Lisa at http://beautyslicedaily.blogspot.co.uk
  • Stacey at http://beautydiaryy.blogspot.co.uk
  • Jenny at http://beautalee.blogspot.co.uk

And here are their questions.  

  1. What inspires you?
  2. Who is your style role model?
  3. Who are your fantasy dinner party invites?
  4. What songs are your favourite to get ready to?
  5. What is your Holy Grail Beauty item, that you just couldn't live without?
  6. What is your favourite drink?
  7. What is your favourite Season
  8. Where would you go on holiday if you could only go to one place (money no object)
  9. What is your favourite book and why?

I can't wait to read your answers 

19 Feb 2014

4 Days in Vegas

I have recently returned from an AMAZING trip to Las Vegas with friends for my Husband's 40th.  This was my first time in the US, and I loved every minute of it.  I thought Vegas would be just kitsch and good fun, but it is amazing. It has some of the most gorgeous (and ridiculously large) hotels combined with outstanding natural beauty.  When I say the hotels are large, some have 5 lane roads just for the entrance, they have upwards of 5000 rooms! Everything in Vegas takes a long time to get between because you can't account for scale.

We decided to fly Premium as it is a 10hr flight each way and we wanted to enjoy it as part of the holiday, not find it a chore.  As usual Virgin were great and the time flew past with plenty of alcohol to smooth the way.  I even found the entire series of Broadchurch to watch, which I did back-to-back and that took 6 1/2 hrs.  Great series btw.

We stayed at The Wynn/Encore and it was such a gorgeous hotel.  The service was impeccable and everything was so carefully thought out.  From the smell as you walk in the door, to the beautifully lit tress, The Wynn is pure class.

We visited on Chinese New Year and therefore there was an enormous dragon on display in one of the open spaces.  The Wynn is a oriental themed hotel anyway and it looked gorgeous with all the extra Chinese touches.  I was also surprised to see a Jeff Koons in real life, as his sculpture "Tulips" was on display, Steve Wynn had bought it for $33.6M, bargain!


Chinese-new-year-at -the-wynn


The room was lovely and was one of the main reasons we choose to stay at The Encore. They have lovely large suites with great modern facilities (massive TV's iPod docs etc...)  The double bathrooms are exceptionally luxurious with a large super deep bath and enormous shower with plenty of room for two ;) The beds are everything you expect of a 5 star hotel but the great part is the lounge/office area with L-shaped sofa overlooking the floor to ceiling strip-view windows.  My only slight reservation with the rooms is the lack of tea making facilities, which I consider an absolute essential. btw...what is it with American hotels and phones in the loo, why would you do that?




The other things that has to mentioned about The Wynn is the Buffet.  OMG. It is like nothing you have aver seen.  Whatever you want for breakfast, you can have it.  We saw toffee apples, tiramisu, roast rib of beef, sushi, dim sum and lobster omelette. The food wasn't mass produced junk either, it is cooked with the care you would expect in a 5 star hotel.  It was so hard not to eat till you were stuffed.  The decor is severly over the top too.  


On the evening of my Husband's 40th (and our 5th Wedding Anniversary) we went to  The Barrymore Restaurant (this has slightly odd connotations in the UK, that I think may be lost in Vegas)  We found it on Trip Advisor and thought it was amazing.  We had Cocktails and Champagne on the outdoor terrace complete with patio heater and realistic flame effect background thingy bob. There was a party of 7 of us.  My Husband and I had the fois gras starter and Kobe beef main and it was so good.  I think 5 out of the 7 of us went for the Kobe beef because at $40 it was amazing value, you would pay upward of $70 in the UK.

We treated ourselves to a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon which was completely awe inspiring, what an stupendously large place America is, and what natural beauty.  The helicopter was great fun too.  I'm afraid no-one really got to enjoy the champagne picnic as we all felt like crap after the previous nights exploits and the 8am pick-up.

I love gambling and we had some luck on the roulette tables (my personal favourite, as I actually get what is going on, unlike the other tables)  It also happened to be the Superbowl Weekend when we were there which is the biggest gambling day of the year in Las Vegas.  We bet on there being a Safety (whatever that is) during the Super Bowl and there was one in the first 2 minutes so we were all up $100, thank you for the tip Mr Helicopter Pilot.

We spent our winnings going out to Andrea's restaurant at the Encore.  It serves asian fusion food and it is some of the best I have ever tasted.  I also liked that their service is spot on.  As I had made the booking, I was taken to be the host, therefore all decisions were directed to me, wine tasting, menu's etc.  in the UK they always ask the man.  We had Wagu beef sliders, Miso black cod and Sui Mai.

We also went to see a show, which we felt was the done thing in Vegas. We picked La Reve as it is a Cirque Du Soliel Show but it also includes water.  I was absolutely blown away.  They had dropped a 1.1million gallon tank into the theatre to perform the show on and the performers where all scuba trained.  There is no bad seat in the house as no-one is further than 42ft from the stage and there are no obstructed views.  It is a truly amazing show and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone (even the guys liked it).  The only downside is the massive feeling of physical inadequacy that you leave with after watching these super-beings perform.

Other things we did were;-

  • Visit The Cheesecake Factory @ Ceasars Palace - stupidly over the top cheesecake
  • Shoot guns at the Gun Garage - bit scary at first but a great experience.  Americans are crazy with their guns though, you could buy silencers and concealment holsters wtf...
  • Go downtown to El Cortez for gambling at $1 a go on the tables instead of $10+ at the Wynn.
  • Go outlet shopping near Downtown - great Michael Kors outlet I got the wallet I have been after for just $90 instead of £120, bargain, thanks to husband for buying it for my upcoming birthday.
  • Watch the Bellagio Fountains at night, even my grumpy husband was impressed with the dancing fountains.

I will definitely return, maybe for my 40th, which gives me 5 years to save up again, as it isn't a town to do on the cheap.

26 Mar 2013

Beach Holiday Packing Essentials

My list making and organisational tendencies obviously extend to a love of packing, therefore  I usually begin a week or so before by laying out my suitcase somewhere out of the way in my bedroom. I can then put things in as and when I come across them in the house.


In Flight

When packing for long haul flights I tend to make sure  have everything really well organised so that I can sit back and enjoy the sheer luxury of having nothing to do for 8 straight hours. For entertainment I take my Kindle (loaded with a nice mix of holiday junk literature and Booker prize winners, see below for what I am taking to read) and my iPod (playlist also below), I don't travel with iPads or even smart phones as they are heavy and liable to getting stolen or broken when travelling, plus wifi is always a bit hit and miss and 3G ruinously expensive abroad. Besides, I like to switch off fully when on holiday and go off grid, no Facebook or any of the usual wastes of time.

For comfort I always take a big greige pashmina that doubles as a lightweight blanket. It's always like the arctic on the plane and those blankets they hand out are made for people more petite than me. I like to bring some snacks regardless of whether I am flying cattle or club class as I don't always want what is served and food means too much to me to leave it to chance. I tend to lean towards cashews and peanut M&M's rather than mung beans and goji berries.  I take noise cancelling headphones (just £20 jobbies) to help reduce the endless racket of the engines and other passengers. They also came with an adapter that lets them be used in those annoying planes that have special 2 prong jacks, to stop us using our normal headphones and force us to pay for their inferior ones. I take the obligatory blow up pillow and a comfortable eye mask for night flights.  I also pack Werthers Originals for when the plane descends so I don't get that awful underwater hearing.  I carry wipes with me everywhere, even before I had 3 kids I could be relied upon to need to to wipe up something, so these are a must for me.

For the more boring stuff, it's just all the travel paperwork in a see through file (I tried a stylish leather "travel wallet" but it never fitted everything in and took up too much space, a exemplary case of style over design.)  I have a small wallet I use just for going on holiday, that contains my Boots Advantage Card and cash in both my home and holiday currency.

I also take my usual handbag make up bag, with a few quick pick me ups (Revlon Lip Butter, Rimmel face powder, L'oreal Telescopic mascara, Revlon concealer, brown eyeliner pencil (that doubles for eyes and eyebrows,) solid perfume, ibuprofen and plasters (in case of blisters.)

I have a great nappy bag Skip Hop Dash Deluxe Diaper Bag,Cherry Bloom that I always use when travelling, stuff the fancy Bayswater, it's a nightmare to find anything in when crammed on a plane and I can sling the nappy bag over my body if I need to run to catch a connection.

Beach Beauty

I am a hell of a lot more minimal on holiday, I tend to not wear foundation, just waterproof mascara (of which I have never found a really good one), and a decent lip balm (Revlon Lip Butter rather predictably.)  I find any pre-grooming always pays dividends though, so I do a DIY manicure and pedicure and have my hair coloured and trimmed.  I also must admit for 2 week prior to my holiday I use sunbeds 3 times a week so I have a base tan. This is part vanity, part common sense.  I am not one of those people who can sit there slathering on the factor 50 all day, I HATE the feeling of sunscreen on my skin, it is so greasy and thick.  So I try to find spray oil ones and get a pre-tan so that my skin has had chance to develop some of it's own protection.  This stops me getting burned on holiday (which is apparently the worst thing you can do for your skin) and gives me some colour for the first few days so I don't go crazy lying out in the sun to get a tan.  I nearly always lie with my head in the shade to protect my face and so I can read without squinting.

I suffer from psoriasis that reacts favourably to sunlight so when on holiday I tend to wear my hair up to allow the light to reach all of my scalp.  I wear my hair up maybe once or twice a year otherwise so this is a big change for me. As I have mentioned ad nauseum, I have very fine, flat hair so I tend to go for messy unstructured up dos to give some much needed volume, I also find it easy to maintain when swimming etc...  I take Aussie 3 minute miracle with me to treat chlorine and sun damaged hair. I find this stuff really works, i leaves my hair sift and silky after a day of crispy, sticky scruffy hair.

My favourite facial sunscreen is Cellex C Suncare SPF30+ It feels thicker than my usual moisturiser but not as heavy as a usual sunscreen does. I don't end up with parched skin after using it, that dry, tight feeling just doesn't happen and I never get a red, face even if I only remember to put it on once in the morning.


I am absolutely not a shorts girl, someone with the generosity of thigh that I was gifted with, should steer well clear of shorts. I do wear a lot of dresses though, I try to find ones that require no ironing and that don't cling too much so I can enjoy my food on holiday without fretting too much about bloating. I tend to favour strapless bikinis to avoid tan lines, and obviously ones with a higher waistline than usual (though not grannily so) due to mummy tummy issues.

Kindle Reading List

In the Holiday Tat Category I have;
  • Clive Cussler - Atlantis and Inca Gold, for those of you who like me have never read his works before, they are like Dan Brown style action/history adventure books.
  • Michael Crichton - Next, so sad he died, I loved his books.
In the "I-would-not-be-embarrased-to-be-caught-reading-it" list I have;
  • Diane Setterfield-The Thirteenth Tale - Actually, I will probably have finished this when I get there but one of the best books I have read in ages.
  • Gillian Flynn - Dark Places-I really enjoyed Gone Girl (along with three quarters of the adult population) and so am looking forward to this.
  • Alain De Botton - Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion - I am an Atheist but I raise my children Catholic (Catholic Husband) and I also attended Catholic school. I think religion has so many important parts to play in life I just hate all the judgement associated with it and am actively feminist (female priests really need to be allowed) and I wholeheartedly support gay rights (which of course would fit well with the Catholic priesthood you'd think!) I thought this would be a great book for me and appeal to my disparate viewpoints.

Ipod playlist

  • Ludovico Einaudi -I Giorno 
  • The XX - XX 
  • Goyte - Making Mirrors
  • Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials
  • Emeli Sande- Our Verison of Events

10 Feb 2013

The Not So Relaxed Week

We have just booked our getaway for Easter without the kids to the Carribean, so with images of dusty white beaches and indigo pools floating around my head I have had to come to terms with the awful visage of bikini wearing! With this in mind it has been much easier to "Eat French" than usual and am 3lbs down in only a few days, I would like to loose 10lbs though, so still a bit to go, but I have 7 weeks.


I have been reading Anna Barone's fantastic Chic and Slim books as motivation.  I already own Chic n Slim but this week her second book Chic and Slim Toujours was free on the Kindle and so I also treated myself to Chic and Slim Encore for £2.75  These books are so inspirational, if like me you need reminded to make the right choices instead of taking the path of least resistance.  They also appealed to the bargain hunter in me.

I am also reading Kate Morton's The Distant Hours, which I have borrowed from my local library.  I loved her first 2 books, they are so evocative.  She always sets up an intriguing mystery which keeps you coming back. I am about a third of the way through, but at 670 pages I think it may take me some more time. I am really enjoying it though and so I am trying to savour it.

I need to get a couple of great novels for my holiday to download to my kindle, any suggestions?


I have eventually succumbed to the Beauty Bloggers favourite quick cleanser and bought some Bioderma Crealine, I got it from Ebay as it not available in-store yet in the UK (though I have heard it is coming!) I must say it does exactly what it is supposed to, It removes so much more of your make up than standard cleansers and also leaves my pores tightened. It does all this without any irritation.  I am using this on a morning to freshen up, before applying my make up, and occasionally on an evening if I have been out and don't feel like doing my full nighttime skincare routine.

I mentioned in my post on what didn't make my decluttering cut, that I have stopped using shampoos and conditioners with dimethicone in them.  I have had to give up my beloved Herbal Essences as it left my hair silky but also tragically flat!  I have tried the Tres Semme Deep Cleansing Shampoo as I was reliably informed that it was great at removing non water soluble silicones from you hair, and it has done a great job.  I then had to find a silicone free conditioner so I decided to give Tres Semme another go (mainly because it was on 2 for £5) and tried their naturals range of conditioners.I have been impressed, they detangled my hair after shampooing but left no heavy feeling when dried.  I have always avoided the Tres Semme brand as it had the most awful adverts and the packaging sucked, but it goes to show that you shouldn't judge a product by it's marketing team or pricing.


Spend Less Money

I have tackled this in a big way and I now feel I have gotten it under control.  I am using cash for all my purchases (even food shopping) and it is really helping.I have been reading books that I already own or getting them free or at least very cheap. I have also set a realistic budget.  My Huband is great at this and has really helped me.

Simplify, Reduce and Clean

I am doing so well here, I cleared out my office yesterday and removed so much unnecessary stuff, I sold about £50 of books on Amazon and gave a lot more to the charity shop.  I cleared most of my things from the desk and just left what was absolutely necessary  I have been trying to strip away all the rubbish in every area of my life so that I can enjoy the really special things I own and be able to use them.  I still have so much to go but the house is already looking better for it.
We have taken a big step and cancelled the cleaner. I first hired a cleaner when I was 6 months pregnant with my son and we had just moved into a much a larger house and I had 2 children and a dog already.  At first she was very much needed to keep the house under control, but as my son has grown up I am finding I have the time, and also the inclination to clean again.  I hate the feeling of having someone in my home and regularly use to go out to hide from the cleaner. So far so good, but I am sure the novelty will wear off.


My husband has been on a business trip to the US so I have been able to watch more films than usual in his abscense. It has been such a treat to just pick them and not have to compromise. My degree is in Media Studies and so I am a completely unapologetic TV and film viewer.

This was the second time I have watched this, and enjoyed it just as much.  I love the idea of being able to retain anything you had ever read and access it. I am a natural information glutton so this film really appeals to me.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
I first watched this at University when I was 18, I fell immediately in love with the imagery and also Clare Danes and Leonardo Dicaprios portrayal of the star-crossed lovers. When I wed my husband I used the scene where Juliet is on her Bier as inspiration for our wedding ceremony (that sounds really weird when I put it like that) We lit the entire venue with hundreds of candles.

The Holiday
I don't really do Chick Flicks but this one I make an exception for.  Great outfits by Cameron Diaz throughout and an adorable story line.


4 Dec 2012

Tips for a Relaxed Christmas

I absolutely adore Christmas, but I have a tendency to over commit with regards to what I intend to do, so this year I want to get as much of the prep work done in advance so that the holiday time we have together as a family can be stress free.  I hope to have some time this year to do the details, to wrap my presents nicely, to watch Christmas films with my kids and to cook some new recipes. Here are my top tips for a stylish yet relaxed Christmas;

  • Limit your colour palette and try to stick to a theme with your decorating, this also applies to Christmas lights, choose 1 colour for outside your home and stay with it.
  • I find using natural materials gives your house a chic yet relaxed look.  Check out my Chic Christmas Pinterest Board for inspiration

star-garlandI hope to make this cute star garland for my Kitchen from Confetti Pop

Outfit choices
  1. For Christmas day try to think about what you'll be doing, the gorgeous sequin dress will only work if your having Christmas Dinner in a hotel, if you have to cook the dinner, wear something easy to move in.  Will you be going to church, do you go for a walk after dinner, do you spend time playing with the kids on the floor.  Bear these things in mind when choosing what to wear.
  2. Try to wear soft luxurious fabrics with just a hint of sparkle, you want to look elegant and glamorous but at the same time effortless.


LK Bennet black ribbon Valeria dress, Cute cosy outfit by 9to5chic, sequin dress by Freemans
  • Take your time wrapping your gifts to make them look extra special.  Start early and do them in batches then you will have time for the ribbon and bows that make the presents look well thought out.


  • Start early and book your hair/nail/threading appointments now, before the rush.
  • Spend time each week on maintenance tasks such as intensive conditioners and face masks so that by Christmas you look your best.
  • Don't just decide what you want to eat, but decide how you are going to present it, check you have the platters and serving bowls you need now, so you have time to go get whatever will help your food look it's best.  
  • Check your table decoration ideas too, see what you already have and what is needed to finish off the look.


Got to love a bit of lifestyle porn at Christmas, care of Nigella
  • Book taxis so you can wear your best heels without ruining them or your feet.
  • Book the babysitter for 30 minutes before you need her so you can finish getting ready in peace, feeling rested and relaxed is a large part of looking good.
  • Invest some time and money in longwear makeup, so your look last the whole night.
  • Cook or prep everything you can in advance so that you can enjoy the festivities too, buy in some of the items so you can save your time for the finishing details.
  • Do your cleaning or book your cleaner to come the day before your guests arrive so your house feels fresh but you are not hurried.

decodivadebi and canapes by Williams Sonoma

Have you got any good tips for making less work at Christmas?


29 Nov 2012

French Living Manifesto- The Conclusion

It is now the end of November so this is my last post for my French Living Manifesto.

Next month (December) I will be doing my Resolutions for a Relaxed Christmas.

Over the past month I have now lost a total of 10lbs and generally feel more in control of my eating.  I am now more considered and slower in my actions instead of running around firefighting all the time.  I have learnt to take my time over things and enjoy each moment instead of rushing on to see what's next.

1. Eat more generous meals, but don't snack.
This is the number one change I have made.  I now enjoy much more fulfilling meals so the need to snack has been greatly reduced. I think this is the best lesson I have learnt as instead of thinking "what's next to eat" I have been free to get on with just living.  This allows me to try and enjoy all the recipes I watch on TV, pin on Pinterest or read in cookbooks while still keeping control of my eating.

2. Eat Real food, no pre-prepared junk, try eat food as close to it's natural state as possible, go for quality over quantity.
I have enjoyed cooking lots of new rich dishes from scratch and trying plenty of new cheeses. I still struggle not to eat "cheap" chocolate as I am so used to it as a treat, but hopefully I can reduce it even more so I actually enjoy the food I am eating not just eat out of habit. When you are only eating 3 times a day you put more thought and effort into those meals rather than just grabbing anything.

3. Look after what I have and only buy quality items if I really need them.
This is another important part of the French Living Manifesto, I have made a conscious effort to fix what we already have and buy quality items that will last in the first instance.  Convincing my husband not to buy the kids cheap tat toys is a lot harder though!  I have made a real effort to take my time making purchases not just going for the easiest option but really considering what I need from the item before spending the money.

4. No shopping for anything but food or Christmas presents.
Major fail.  I wish I could be better at this.  I haven't bought anything over the top but just a little treat here and there. I think this is going to be my New Years Resolution. 

5. Moderate my alcohol intake, keep to 1 glass on weeknights.
Hmmm, again not my strong point, I really enjoy wine and enjoy drinking good wine even more, but it is not good for my health or waistline to drink too much. I am now much more conscious of my alcohol intake (it's not over safe levels) but I still wish I had more self control with regards to saying no.  I have said no more times this last month than ever before in my adult life, except when pregnant, but there is still room for improvement.  I need to remember to drink sparkling water between glasses of wine.  I am good at making a glass of wine last though, so I get the most enjoyment from it

6. Slow down, drive slower to save fuel and the car's paintwork! 
I have got a lot better at this, there is no rush 9 times out of 10 and so I can just take my time and do my bit for the environment and road rage.

7. Slow down, eat more slowly and savour each bite, put my fork down between bites.
I have noticed that instead of being the first to finish at the table I am now the last, and I even have smaller portions.  I feel more satisfied at the end of a meal and have gained more enjoyment from it as I spent longer actually tasting the food.  This is a really important thing to master and I think is the key to French Living

8. Walk when/wherever possible.
 I am hoping for a few more crisp autumn days instead of the grey damp we currently have so that I can still enjoy the walks I take each morning.  I feel like I have missed something if I do go in the car to school but sometimes needs must.  I have made the journey to school at least 3 out of 5 days every week regardless of weather for the last month, which works out at roughly 10 hours spent walking.

9. Read the books, wear the clothes, play the games, watch the films I already own. Don't keep things for best and then rarely use them.
I have taken this on board and started to look for the diamonds in the rough.  By appreciating what I already have and perhaps just re purposing it or just using it, I feel that I have much more.  I have sorted through the beauty products, the lingerie, the jewellry and the books that I already own and found many things I had forgotten about.

10.Spend time on grooming, paint my nails, deep condition my hair, give myself facemasks.
I have spent some time on this in the last month but as I was not as committed as I could have been.  I have done at least 2 grooming items a week but I intended to do more.  This resolution will be part of my Resolutions for a Relaxed Christmas.

11. Dress well everyday, not just special days.  Wear stylish outfits even at home when relaxing, try to look put together.  Aim for a 7/10
I have done really well at this over the last week. I have stopped keeping certain items for best that could be worn on a normal day and just put them on. It is great to know you look your best whoever you bump into.  This does mean keeping up on the laundry, but that is no bad thing.

12. Lay the table for every meal, use napkins, water glass and jug etc.. don't sit in front of the computer or TV and zone out.
I make much more of an effort to make my lunch pretty, I use the best cutlery, a nice tray, I make an effort to plate the food nicely too.  However...I find it soooo hard not to then take the tray and sit down in front of the computer.  I have used my table linen more ercemtly and tried to keep fresh flowers on the table.

13. Sing more, dance more, socialise more, get out of the house more.
This has gone well, I now have a very active social life (after several years in the wilderness of babies and toddlers) and am making an effort to say yes more.  I have lots of Christmas events coming up so I will be dancing more than ever over this coming month.

14. Work together with everyone, make all your relationships a partnership not a contest.
I have tried hard with this but I think this is a constant item on most peoples to do lists.  I have to remind myself that a win/win is the best possible outcome when dealing with some people, and not just take the indignant righteousness route.  I find thinking 50/50 comes automatically for some of my relationships (my husband) and ridiculously hard for others (best left unsaid).

15. Do good, offer help and be there for others.
I have tried really hard at doing this and feel that I have given this a good go. I feel much better knowing I did my best rather than just got through the day.  I have tried to make life easier for people around me so that they can have some time to relax too.

I have enjoyed this month so much and have definitely explored my Gallic side.  A couple of these points definitely need to be revisited to get a better grip on them and over the coming weeks/months I will focus on different points so that I can actually improve significantly on them.

The most pertinent things I have discovered from this is to slow down, take my time and savour life.

I hope my Manifesto gave you some food for thought, and that it's offered something of use to you.  Feel free to join me in my Resolutions for a Relaxed Christmas.  You can follow my on Facebook, Twitter, RSS or by email by using the buttons on the top right.


21 Nov 2012

Keeping Romance Alive

I have been with my husband for over 8 years now and with 3 kids, we don't get to spend toO much uninterupted time together. We have found the best way to feel like we are still a couple, not just Mum and Dad is to have regular "date nights" roughly once a week, and a couple of times a year we get to spend the whole day together without our kids. Yesterday was one of those days. It's a great way for us to do all those lovely things that pass you by in normal life. We are so lucky to live a 30 min train ride from the centre of London, yet we rarely enjoy the city and all it has to offer.

I like to plan the sort of day that new couples would plan, full of new places to eat, glam bars and wearing my best clothes.

I spent the day before running around arranging childcare, meals and tidying. Which meant I could relax and enjoy my day without any worries.

After unloading the children I was free to grab a takeout coffee to enjoy on the train, it's such a luxury to read and drink in peace, without fear of spills or interuptions.

When I arrived in London I went to my husbands swanky gym that overlooks the Thames. I did half an hour of interval running on the treadmill using my Merrell Barefoot trainers which are supposed to promote correct posture, all I know is that my calves burned like mad after I finished, so I guess something must have worked. I listened to plenty of inspiring of workout songs, my favorites are Skyfall by Adele (for warmup) Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson (such utter tripe, but still very good to run too) and some old school Beyonce, Rhianana and Shakira.

Then I went in the pool for 15mins of swimming, I really enjoy putting on my goggles and swimming under water, though obviously not 15 minutes continuously.


I also tried a new thing, which is probably old hat to everyone else. It is called jacuzzi spa bed. They are medieval looking metal contraptions that you lay on under water and then jacuzzi jets pummel you. You need to hang on, or you'll be shot into space. They felt great after all that hard work (or more like all that faffing around) The best thing about jacuzzis is that they are excellent for cleaning diamond jewellry. They bring up your engagement ring as good as new and your nails get a good clean too, this was very handy as I was wearing 2 coats of Essie Mademoiselle and I was worried that my nail tips weren't white enough for such a sheer polish.

We then went to Zorita's Kitchen on the Northbank of the Thames.  It is a small Spanish Restaurant that is part of a Organic Spanish Food Shop, it serves top quality Spanish meats and cheese with great wine, all from the Hacienda Zorita farms.  We had a meat and a cheese platter with wine and bread, it was great to try some new cheeses and the membrillo was fantastic.

After the food we walker over the Millenium Bridge and along the Southbank to the Christmas Market by the London Eye. We got some Mulled Wine and shopped for nick-nacks. When we tired of walking we went to Thomasina Miers fantastic Wahaca Restaurant.  It serves authentic Mexican street food and a wide variety of Tequilas and Margaritas. We had Pork Pibil Tacos, Chicken Quessildillas, Cactus Tacos, Potato Taquitos and a corn and bean salad.  The food was great as were the Reposado Tequilas.

After all that eating it was time for more walking, we crossed back over the Thames and up The Strand via an old pub called the Coal Hole, then at Trafalgar Square we had a quick detour into The National Portrait Gallery and then onto Regent Street to see the lights.  We popped into Regents Street's Food Quarter to Piccolino for a drink in an outside bar with beautiful outdoor heaters and then finished it all off with a walk up Oxford Street to Bond Street.piccollino
It was a great day, we talked lots, walked lots and held hands.

18 Nov 2012

15 Point French Living Manifesto Update - 2

It has been 3 weeks now since I first wrote my Manifesto for French Living, The comments I have had are so encouraging and have helped me stick at it. I have now lost 4.5kg (9lbs) and I don't feel like I'm missing out at all, in fact I feel like I've had more treats! 

1. Eat more generous meals, but don't snack.
I'm finding the lack of snacking hard, particularly in the afternoon, I have occasionally had a couple of squares of good chocolate or a cracker with cheese in the late afternoon to see me through to dinner.  In France they usually don't eat dinner till 8pm but a lot of french people regularly have an afternoon snack about 4pm, usually something sweet from the Patissiere, this is known as a gouter, we call it afternoon tea in England. so I am trying to convince myself that my snack is still very French.

2. Eat real food, no pre-prepared junk, try eat food as close to it's natural state as possible, go for quality over quantity.
This is really the easiest part of this, I have got to know the deli counters better than before and allow myself to get the more expensive cheeses. Cropwell Bishop Stilton is a particular favourite at the moment.  It is a really creamy blue cheese that I first tasted in The Chester Cheese Shop, and you can get it in Waitrose too.

3. Look after what I have and only buy quality items if I really need them.
I have mended a few of my clothes that have been languishing in my laundry waiting to be brought back to life, and also my husband and I have been doing lots of bits of DIY around the house so we have the house at it's best ready for Christmas. 

4. No shopping for anything but food or Christmas presents.
Hmmm, not sure if I will ever get good at this, I have bought Pippa Middleton's Celebrate book, I'm a sucker for lifestyle cookery books ( it's actually really good) I have also purchased a black fitted tunic top, (looks great with skinny jeans) Essie nail varnish in Mademoiselle , a new L'Oreal Telescopic Mascara (old one had started to dry out) and tights (a bit of a necessity to be honest).

5. Moderate my alcohol intake, keep to 1 glass on weeknights.
Total star at this, not drank much at all, 1 glass on 2 nights this week, and 2 to celebrate the beginning of the weekend last night.

6. Slow down.  Drive slower to save fuel and the car's paintwork! 
I have tried to take more time and effort choosing parking spaces, and I am a much calmer driver, though still in too much of a rush when there is no need to be, I am one of those people who is always first there, so I should just relax and take my time.

7. Slow down. Eat more slowly and savour each bite, put my fork down between bites.
I have got so good at this, it has completely changed the way I think about food, and also how much I enjoy it. I think this is the best point to master on this list first as the others follow on from achieving this mindset.

8. Walk when/wherever possible.
I was ill for 2 days this week so no walking on those days, but all the other days I walked to school with the girls.  Yesterday we all walked then took the train to the nearest shopping town and then walked back.  This aved us money, and we all got some exercise.  I choose to be chic over comfortable though and wore my black wedge heel knee high boots.  I should have put some insoles in first though as my feet were sore whn I returned home (nothing that couldn't be fixed with a nice body lotion and a rub but still something to remember.

9. Read the books, wear the clothes,play the games, watch the films I already own. Don't keep things for best and then rarely use them.
I have started re-reading a book I gave up on a while ago (as it was moving to slowly) rather than buy a new one. I am really enjoying it this time, it's more a book to savour, rather than a fast moving thriller, it's also about my favourite historical subject which is Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (it's Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell btw) I also sorted out my underwear drawers, and reorganised them to make finding my cutest underwear more easy, now that I see the pretty lingerie first instead of the more practical items I am much more likely to wear them.My husband and I have also started watching some of the old box sets we had started watching and then got tempted away by newer shiner tv programmes.

10.Spend time on grooming, paint my nails, deep condition my hair, give myself face masks.
I have used my Clarisonic everyday this week, painted my toe and fingernails once, I have also done the aspirin mask. To be honest, I was pleased to look even partially normal when I was feeling ill so it's not been as higher priority this week.  Must do better.

11. Dress well everyday, not just special days.  Wear stylish outfits even at home when relaxing, try to look put together.  Aim for a 7/10
I have tried hard with this, I have started wearing my best jeans more, not just for going out. I have also worn my relatively new black wrap coat for the school run instead of my comfy but not as stylish Superdry coat.  When I was ill I also made sure I didn't look to frightful, just yoga pants, vest top and zip up top. I felt a lot better after a shower and putting fresh clothes on.

12. Lay the table for every meal, use napkins, water glass and jug etc.. don't sit in front of the computer or TV and zone out.
Generally good, except 2 lunches at the computer, which was not so good.

13. Sing more, dance more, socialise more, get out of the house more.
I really enjoyed last weeks Karaoke with my friends  it was great fun to belt out old cheesy hits, even if I do sound like a drowning cat, we also danced for another 2 hours in the club. I made an effort to socialise on all days but when I was ill to.  I think this is really important for Mum's at home or you can loose perspective and get too caught up in little insignificant things.

14. Work together with everyone, make all your relationships a partnership not a contest.
Tried to be more understanding and less bossy with my daughters (my eldest is actually my step daughter but we bring her up 100% part of the family) and it worked on the whole. Could probably do more to understand my eldests' Birth Mother more, we get on well and chat regularly but It will always be difficult for both of us and it really helps my SD to see us as working as a team.

15. Do good, offer help and be there for others.
I helped out with friends kids/dogs etc.. and did some prep work for the school's impending Christmas Fayre. Unfortunately when I was ill my friends had to help me out with school runs and the like, so I probably only just break even on the good done/good received tally.

Another good week, but still a lot to be done.  Next week I need to focus on;

  • Being there for others more, making their lives easier
  • Trying to understand others point of view more
  • Driving more slowly 
  • Spending less 
  • Spend more time pampering

I have a day out in London with my Husband on Tuesday. He has given me a day pass to his gym (which has a spa) so I can go there in the morning get some time for pampering before we meet for lunch and do some Christmas Shopping.

Has anyone else tried and of the ideas? It would be great to hear if they work for you?

Also I've now fixed the email signup button so anyone who tried before to sign up to updates and failed, should now be able to.


Here is last weeks update if you missed it - French Living Resolutions Update

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