Saturday, 31 January 2015

5 alternative ideas for celebrating Valentine's Day

Cosy Valentine's Day with Lindt

1. Hibernate without missing out on the fine dining

Tis a cold month, is February, so spend the 14th hibernating with a generous supply of Lindt chocolates, your fave tv series and a whole load of tea or red wine - whatever your preference. Skip the stress of having to book a table a few weeks in advance of Valentine's day at your chosen restaurant and instead use apps like DineIn and Deliveroo to order straight from your favourite restaurant and get a delivery to your door. Who needs to dress up now, eh?

2. Go stargazing 

Neil & I's choice this year: Visit London's Royal Observatory and book yourselves in to hear lectures inside a beautiful planetarium. Learning about the universe, and watching CGI images of the stars is every bit as romantic as stargazing in a field somewhere, only not as weather dependent, hoorah. Failing this we'll drive out somewhere with less light pollution and see the stars in all their glory with a big flask of hot chocolate.

Alternative Valentine's Day with the Biscuiteers

3. Protest your undying love... WITH BISCUITS!

Flowers are so predictable these days. Beautiful, yes. But it's a little bit sad cutting 12 stunning roses from their stems just to pop them in a vase for a week. Either buy your other half a 'grow your own' rose bush, or get creative!

Nothing says I love you more than a personalised biscuit! The Biscuiteers have such a tasty selection of loved up biccies that will leave your boyfriend/girlfriend wowed (and stuffed!) for the rest of the day. Or better, surprise your loved one with a visit to the Biscuiteers Icing café and be schooled in best icing techniques! That'll be a memorable Valentine's day :)

Alternative Valentine's Day gift idea

4. Personalise a puzzle!

I thought this idea was so sweet. I spend much of my time trawling through looking for gifts for family and friends and came across this. You can personalise a puzzle to include a map of where you first met, and carve out your own message. It would look so cute placed in a glass frame.

Cosy & alternative valentine's day

Cosy & alternative valentine's day

Cosy & alternative valentine's day with Lindt

5. Invite your besties over for a singles or couples gathering

Share the love with all your pals by organising a Valentine's soirée. Any excuse for a giant takeaway, experimenting with new cocktails, dressing the house up in red pom poms and generally having an ace time :)

Hope this gives you some ideas if you're struggling!

Thanks to Lindt & for providing all the grub in my photos and making me one happy lady.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

It's just dawned on me. I'm happiest when in my wellies!

Our visit to Nymans, Sussex Style

This is in Nymans, about a 20 minute drive from where we are in Brighton. Nymans is an idyllic, peaceful little place with stunning gardens, the dreamiest house and 360 views of the rolling Sussex hills.

We popped up there the weekend just gone, the sun blazing in the sky, warding off the frost as we clutched our travel mugs full of tea.

Neil and I were given a National Trust annual membership as an engagement present from my bezzy Jo and her family - possibly the best present we've ever been given, and so suited to us; we're always out and about exploring the best of the countryside around us. This was our first trip with it, and we spent the whole time waltzing around the gardens dreaming up a list of all the other places we want to visit in 2015, to share with you on here.

Our visit to Nymans, Sussex Style

Our visit to Nymans, Sussex Style

Our visit to Nymans, Sussex Style

Our visit to Nymans, Sussex Style

Our visit to Nymans, Sussex Style

Our time there got me thinking how excessively happy I am when I'm in wellies, with a brew in hand, relaxing in the great outdoors. An epiphany moment I think, where I realised if I'm ever feeling like life's giving me lemons, it's easy for me to switch off from it all if I just get outside.

Our visit to Nymans, Sussex Style

What is it that makes you happy? When you're feeling stressed about work, life, money, what is it that takes you away from it all? It's so important to find something that can instantly take you away from current worries, like your very own natural medication for the soul :)

Once you find that one thing that changes your mood instantly, use it as your weapon and pull it out of the bag every time you need a pick me up. It might be drawing, yoga, watching TED talks, baking, spending time with children, anything that makes you feel happier. 

For me, I'm instantly cheer up when wearing my wellies.

Posh Totty necklace

Posh Totty necklace

Like my new necklace by the way? It's a personalised silver chain with 'Fiona' engraved on the heart, and a small star charm with the letter 'N'. (I'll give you two guesses what that stands for!) I wore it to Nymans, and don't think I've taken it off since being given it.

My friends at Posh Totty gave me this necklace as a congratulatory engagement gift. It means so much to me. I only ever wear jewellery that has sentimentality - my ring & this necklace. 

I will talk a lot more about my friends at Posh Totty in upcoming posts. They are such a wonderful team of passionate lassies based in the same office building as me and I often head down for cups of tea, spending lunch hours chatting to them about blogging and jewellery making. It amazes me watching all of the stunning items they sell on their site being custom made right before my very eyes. 

It would mean the world to me & them if you paid their pages a wee visit, particularly if you're on the look out for birthday, wedding or valentine's day gifts in the coming months:


Everything they do inspires me. A great company to add to your little black book of lovely designs, and a delight to have in my news feed.

Photos all by Neil William Shaw, Brighton Wedding Photographer

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Who needs icing when you have posh chocolate spread!

Just a little trick I have to save time and effort making chocolate icing from scratch, and it works every bit as good. Use chocolate spread, or in this case "Lindt Crema Nocciola" - posh nutella! 

I baked a basic sponge x 2, let them cool down, used Lindt chocolate spread to combine the two cakes and smothered it in more on top, and hey presto! I had a fairly fancy cake to sprinkle with white chocolate stars in around 30 minutes. 

It turns out I'm not alone on the alternative uses of choccie spread either. After a google around, and a half hour on pinterest, I came up with a whole load of bloomin' amazing ways you can use up a tub of it in no time. Check out my ideas:

- wrap a chunky banana in a chocolate smothered pancake for 1 of your 5 a day

- bake a braided chocolate spread loaf - marble style - like this invention by Inspired by charm

- inject a shot of chocolate spread to your morning coffee and make it a mocha!

- heat up your chocolate spread in the microwave, take a bowl of fresh strawberries and pour the warm chocolate all over with a dusting of icing sugar for another healthy-ish snack (and a great way to wow on Valentine's Day)

The Lindt chocolate spread is definitely a cut above any other choccie spread I've ever tried, so if you're trying to impress, treat yourselves :) At just £5.99 a pot it would also make a fab addition to a homemade hamper, and just generally looks pretty in the cupboard. Who needs excuses.

Right, when can I get my hands on another jar!?

Thank you Lindt, for making me the happiest, most chocolate-filled lass in the world and gifting me this little jar of heaven. I love you. 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

7 ways I've made my life better this month (January edition)

Here it is. 2015 and another fresh start.

I posted 7 ways I've made my life better this month back in October and I received the most hits I've ever had on a blog post during 2014. It scared me a little clicking publish on that one given the transparency, but I guess it worked. So here's round 2.

7 ways I've made January a little less blue.

1. I'm reading a book a month

That's 12 books in 2015. Not a huge amount, but a challenge for me being a really slow reader. This month is The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry (a recommendation from Carrie) and it's one brilliant read to kick off the year - it's jam packed full of techniques for having better, more actionable ideas. Next on my list is Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In (one to check out if you're career-driven) I can't wait to get learning.

2. Yoga (of the Fifi variety) happens three times a week

I can't help it, I'm a wannabe Erin Motz. The girl is perfect. Since finding out about the bad yogi movement she's behind, it made me see how accessible yoga is for anyone. I wouldn't say I'm on a health kick, more of a brain kick this year, in search of more focus and less dependency on google and all things digital. Hatha yoga is allowing me to become more, y'know, mindful. I use youtube videos to get my confidence up before I'll eventually find a class or yoga retreat so if you see any gooduns, let me know :)

3. I've made my kitchen a better equipped place to create healthier meals... FINALLY!

When you don't have the right ingredients in the cupboard, or the right tools to work with, it's easy to just reach for a bag of crisps and have that for din dins saving all the effort (and washing up) of cooking from scratch. Neil & I paid a visit to Home Sense in Brighton and did a big home haul of things we needed for better ease of meal creation.

A non-slip chopping board, that's LIGHT! has been the biggest change in our lives. Who else starts screaming when you're trying to cut up an onion and end up cutting yourself because your cheap chopping board won't stay put? What's worse is washing them up, they weigh a tonne. This Home Sense bamboo one is a dream to use and I find myself wanting to prepare meals now. We were also in need of a new peeler for similar reasons (I'm accident prone) and I let out a squeak of delight finding this copper one for only a fiver. I copper. Life's too short to live with crappy kitchenware, stop your frustration and do a home haul.

4.  I now drink only green tea & water*

This is another change I've made for my brain kick. Green tea is much lower in caffeine and packed with anti-oxidants. I make up a travel mug of it to start my day and it keeps me toasty on my walk to work. So far I feel much more switched on, healthier and hydrated so I aim to keep this up throughout the year. Cutting back drastically on alcohol too, I'm convinced, has made my brain function better and I'm more articulate.

*unless it's Friday night - a girl gotta have a small glass of wine.

5. Introduced more creativity through colouring

Yes, I've bought an actual colouring book. For grown ups though. I'll talk more about this in a post I have planned, but in the book I mentioned in point 1, the author highly recommends incorporating "unnecessary creating" into your week to give you something to look forward to inside a hectic weekly rhythm. So far I don't know how much good it's doing for my overall creativity levels, but I'm loving any excuse to act like a kid again. 

6. I began writing a gratitude journal 

The idea came about when I was given a beautiful Orla Kiely print notebook from Neil's ma & pa for Christmas. I found myself not wanting to write the usual notes, telephone numbers and to-do lists inside it, it was too nice to ruin with my scribbles. So I did exactly what I'm trying to not do so much of, and googled "what shall I write in my new diary" (Google dictates my life). Lots of cool ideas came up, but this I loved. Every night I think of 3 things I'm thankful for that day and write them down. It'll be fun to read through them when I'm old and grey.

7. I've been waking up at 7.30am every morning (including weekends)

Not gunna lie, this has been the hardest of the 7. Trying to get back into a proper routine after the Christmas holidays was difficult. I don't have to leave the house for work until about 9am, and I used to wake up as close to 9 as I could. But since 2015 came, this has all changed. I now have time to tidy the house, pop to the sorting office or potter around before the day begins and it feels FANTASTIC!

What goals have you reached in January?

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Our trip to the Alps

Outfit in the Alps

Exactly a week before Neil & I got engaged in Bruges we found ourselves on the continent, literally living in paradise.

In my full time job, I help with events, marketing and general community-building for a small company here in Brighton - my job title is in fact, Chief Happiness Officer. I'll let you figure out responsibilities and pressures that might come with that ;) - and we were lucky enough to be invited out to the French alps with half of the team to unplug and plan some epic retreats we have on the pipeline. 

Honestly, it was a weekend I always thought I'd never be able to experience. It opened my eyes to some of the most beautiful mountainous scenery, luxurious chalets, eating fondue in hidden away yurts in the forest and challenging hikes with views of heaven. 

Travel blog - the French Alps

Travel blog - the French Alps

We narrowly escaped the snow by one day, which was a tiny bit disappointing given it was December 5th and I was bouncing off the walls thinking about Christmas being just around the corner. That said, we wouldn't have been able to climb as many peaks or seen the village in all it's glory if there was a foot of snow on the ground. The chalet and pine tree filled views were wintery enough to get me all excited. 

We stayed in the most stunning place I've EVER stayed. A massive chalet in the heart of the village - I lost count of the number of bedrooms, there was a grand piano, sauna and huge open plan workspace perfect for chilling out and brainstorming ideas. Neil & I took it upon ourselves to do a spoof Cribs video pretending the whole place was ours. We wish. 

Travel blog - the French Alps

Travel blog - the French Alps

On the last day we had a bit of time on our hands before flying home, so I collared Neil to take some snaps of me for an outfit post. The setting was too idyllic to not. 

Outfit in the Alps

Outfit in the Alps

We found the shell exterior of an old Alpine chalet just behind the one we stayed in and I dreamed of one day buying it, ripping it all apart and building it from scratch again, lining the interiors with furs and big log fires. If I ever win the lotto, property developing is the first thing I'd launch myself into (after sharing out some of the cash with family first, obviously!) 

Outfit in the Alps

Outfit in the Alps

Outfit in the Alps

I lived in my pair of Nordic Grip Wets during the weekend. They're essentially wellington booties that are 100% waterproof and keep my feet so toastie with their fleece lining. The weather was fairly mild, but had there been ice on the ground, these boots have an ice-lock grip on the sole, perfect for bambis like me who fall at the slightest glisten of ice. 

I got these from Unikia, who sell a whole range of colours. Initially wanting the yellow pair, they'd sold out and I was in a rush to grab some ahead of the holiday but now I'm really pleased with the black. Easy clean and very comfortable. 

Outfit in the Alps

Outfit in the Alps

I feel like 2014 brought so many incredible opportunities for Neil & I, and this trip stood out as one of the big highlights for us. I feel so thankful to work with such brilliant people to share this experience with, too. 

Here's to 2015 and many more weekends away I hope. 

What I'm wearing:

Knitted hat, River Island (many years ago)
Big scarf/blanket! Primark, £6 
Jumper, Primark was £8 now reduced to £5, bummer!
Jeans, H&M £12.99
Chunky socks, Knock International Airport €10 (real lambs wool fresh from the Emerald Isle!)
Booties, £38.99 Unikia

Sunday, 4 January 2015

We're engaged :)

The weekend I got engaged!

It's been a couple of weeks since I've written a blog post; there has been so many lovely things happening that I haven't had a moment to pause, upload photos and share news until now :)

How was everyone's Christmas? For me, it's been one I'll never forget.

Overseas best friends coming home for party times at our new flat, seeing my family all together after way too long apart, chilling out in hungover hazes with the first series of Orange is the New Black and stuffing my face with gingerbread houses until I can't move off the sofa - this is the best way to spend time away from the everyday routine.

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

Just before Christmas kicked in, something super crazy magical happened. Neil took he and I on a surprise trip to Bruges - one of the most festive and beautiful cities in the world, that felt to me like being inside a Christmassy snow globe. I had no idea where we were going - or what amazing surprises he had planned - until it all rolled out in front of me, and I feel like the luckiest lass in the world.

We ate some delicious food, overindulged in Belgian beer and chocolates and stayed in a beautiful farmhouse just outside of the city, that looked like something of a Disney film in the frosty early mornings. Magical is the only word I can use to describe it all.

This was a weekend I'll never forget. Neil got down on one knee and asked me to marry him by a beautiful canal, and of course I said yes!

Here are just a handful of the hundred photos Neil took of our engagement weekend, 12/13/14.

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

The weekend I got engaged!

I'm still on an elated high :)

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