Monday, 29 September 2014

Something lovely happened at the wedding show on Saturday - my friend asked me to be her bridesmaid! She's the first of my friends to get married, so I'm really honoured that she chose me, alongside two other school friends and her sister.

Have you been to a wedding show before? Are you planning on going to one? Here are a couple of useful tips we picked up along the way:

GO VIP For £35 (instead of £15) my friend bought us VIP tickets to the National Wedding Show. The VIP ticket gets you access to the lounge, a free glass of bubbly, priority seating for the catwalk shows and a luxury goodie bag (with a full size essie nail polish!). It was so worth it to have somewhere to sit and regroup, especially at lunchtime when most of the other visitors had to make do with sitting on the floor.

PLAN It's worth having a chat about what you/your bride is looking for before you go in and get overwhelmed by all the stalls. My friend had already sorted out a lot of the major things like reception venue (parents' garden), photographer (the one who did her sister's wedding) and catering (mum!), so we knew we didn't need to pick up any leaflets for those things. Actually, considering she was so sorted in what she wanted, it was really just a fun day out! Saying that, it's also worth going to the fair if you have absolutely no idea what type of wedding you want, as there are so many different stalls to give you ideas, from Caribbean and European weddings abroad to castles, stately homes and marquees for your garden.

PREPARE There were lots of wedding dress stalls offering 10-15% discounts if you pay a deposit for a dress on the day, so if you're prepared to try on dresses at the show itself, you could make a real saving. I overheard one lady being told that if she changed her mind about the dress she chose that day, the deposit could be used towards another dress at the brand's showroom, and she would still get the discount. If you are planning to try on dresses on the day, make sure you're wearing seamless nude knickers and a strapless bra so that you can really imagine what the dress will look like before you stump up the cash - I saw a few brides with black bra straps poking out, which spoils the illusion a little!

WATCH THE CATWALK I thought the catwalk show sounded really naff, but it was actually one of the highlights of my day. Half an hour sitting down and not thinking about anything but the pretty dresses in front of you really helps to refresh you a bit. I'd recommend going for an afternoon show - you'll be tired and probably a bit overwhelmed by mid-afternoon, and it will be a really welcome break. If you don't have a VIP ticket, you can book catwalk show tickets in advance for free to ensure you get a seat.

ENJOY YOURSELF I was expecting lots of bridezillas, but the show was really calm. Yes, it was busy, but it was full of excited brides with groups of friends, sisters or mums (and a few fiances) - really, it's just a lovely girly day out! I think most people go with the intention of having a look around and getting a few ideas rather than sorting out their whole wedding in one fell swoop, so any Friends-esque situations of fighting over discounted wedding dresses are few and far between!

Now that I know I'm a bridesmaid, I can really get into the planning stages! Do you have any tips for bridesmaids? I need all of the help!


Friday, 26 September 2014

This week has gone by in a whirlwind! I’ve been covering two jobs at work, as well as my own, so I’m just about ready for a cocktail in a jug or a bucket of ice cream. My friend is coming down for the weekend – I’m so excited to see her! She’s getting married in 2016 so we’re heading to a wedding show tomorrow. I have mixed feelings about this, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for free cupcakes and champagne!

This picture is from last weekend. I’m completely in love with the Australian textile artist, Rachel Castle, and I bought this limited edition tea towel from her collection months ago (practicing what I preach with the affordable art over here!). I’ve been meaning to frame it for ages, so when I found this picture frame sitting on the pavement, I lugged it home, gave it a few coats of paint and got it up on the wall quick, sharp. Looks like Scampi approves too! 

See more on my instagram, or follow me on bloglovin!

FRUGAL RECIPES: japanese omelette

Wednesday, 24 September 2014
This is an easy recipe that I got from my mum. It's a Japanese-style omelette, called tamagoyaki, which is tightly rolled to create a springy texture that goes perfectly with rice. It has the perfect balance of sweet and salty and, once cooled, makes for a good packed lunch accompaniment too.

I'm not going to lie, it can be a little tricky to get right the first few times, but once you get the hang of it I promise it's so easy.

Ingredients for 2
4 free range eggs*
0.5 tbsp soy sauce
0.5 tbsp mirin (or 1/4 tbsp sugar)
Oil to fry

Whisk the eggs in a measuring jug and add the soy sauce, mirin/sugar and a tablespoon of water to thin the mixture a little. Put a (very) non-stick pan on the hob and turn the heat up to medium/high. Coat the pan with about a teaspoon of oil.

When the pan is nice and hot, pour in a very thin layer of the egg mixture. You want to imagine that you are making a crepe. Turn the pan to coat the bottom. Gently coax one of the sides with a spatula and, if it comes away from the pan easily, start to roll up the egg. You want to roll it as tightly as possible, so you might find a pair of chopsticks or a second spatula help you to do this.

Once the egg is rolled up, push it to the back of the pan away from you and pour in a second layer of egg. Turn the pan to coat and ensure that the new layer of egg is touching the rolled up part. When just set, start rolling the first rolled up layer back towards you. Repeat until all of the egg is used up, then turn out of the pan and slice into rounds.

Once you've don't it a few times, you'll be a pro! You can even add in a light sprinkling of vegetables, such as grated courgettes, peas or seaweed for extra. I like to serve mine on hot rice with lots of vegetables.

Cost per portion: 40p (plus whatever you serve it with)

*If they sell them in your local supermarket, boxes of mixed size eggs are so much cheaper! Actually, in both Tesco and Waitrose, they are only £1 for six free range eggs, rather than about £1.60 for a box of medium eggs, and you often get larger ones in the mixed boxes, too.


Monday, 22 September 2014

I've read about using apple cider vinegar on your hair on lots of beauty blogs (most notably ohdeardrea), but it wasn't until my friend tried it and raved about the results that I was sold on giving it a go.

WHY If you live somewhere with hard water, like I do in London, chances are it's affecting your hair. Hard water causes the shafts on each strand of hair to stand up, instead of lie flat and smooth. When hair is dry, the soapy deposits in shampoo cling to the shaft and are less easily rinsed out, which means you are likely to get a build up of product that results in limp and lank locks. Using conditioner only masks the problem, using silicone and other chemicals to coat the hair shaft, creating a smoother look. But, as the cycle continues, the product build up will only worsen.

WHAT It might seem illogical to put something acidic like vinegar on your hair, but the results are really surprisingly. I did some research, and it turns out that apple cider vinegar is actually close to the pH of hair, which is naturally acidic, while shampoos and other hair products are strongly alkaline. The apple cider vinegar actually closes the hair shaft, unlike conditioner, resulting in a smoother finish, and it's also a natural detangler. I was sceptical it would get the knots out of my hair like conditioner does but when you rinse it through, it makes it really easy to comb through wet hair.

HOW I'm not ready to go no-poo just yet, so I wash my hair first with a gentle shampoo. To make your own apple cider vinegar rinse, mix 1 part vinegar to about 5 parts water in a jam jar with a secure lid so you can store it in the bathroom. I pour it over both the crown of my head, through the hair at my temples and over the ends, working through any knots with my fingers. Be careful not to get it in your eyes though, it really stings! Once you rinse it out, there is no smell whatsoever left behind. For extra conditioning, you can use it as a leave-in conditioner without rinsing it out. You might smell like a salad for a little while, but my friend assured me that the smell completely goes once hair is dry (and I smelled her hair - it's true!). I dry my hair with a towel using this helpful hair tip and leave it to air dry for a smooth, silky finish.

Would you try it? Let me know how you get on!


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Chances are you've you got the Nike Training Club app and you might even have given some of the workouts a shot, but did you know they do classes too? The best part is, they're totally FREE!

I tell all my friends about it (because it's always more fun - and motivating - working out with friends) and they're always surprised to hear about it. I go every Sunday, and every new person who joins says 'I just can't believe it's free!'

Each session comprises of an hour of hardcore bootcamp-style drills, with plenty of warm-ups, stretches and even some sprints (depending on the trainer). I've been going for nearly two years now and I am so much stronger and fitter than I ever could have imagined - I'm even doing full push-ups! But the classes don't get any easier, you just start pushing yourself even harder.

If you live in London, there are classes everywhere from Shepherd's Bush (actually in the middle of the Westfield shopping centre - totally mortifying...I've been) and Clapham Common to Victoria Park in East London. There are even a couple across the UK, like Glasgow. With multiple classes during the week, you might even find you can replace your usual gym membership for some free sessions and a couple of solo workouts with the app to fill in the gaps.

Find out if there's a class near you and sign up here.

I NEED YOUR HELP! aka how to get up in the morning

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

I am most definitely not a morning person by any stretch of the word, but these past few days I have really struggled to get out of bed! As summer winds down into autumn, it's now darker in the early hours when my alarm goes off and my boyfriend's early morning starts aren't helping either!

Here's the lowdown: my alarm rings at 6:45, I snooze it twice and then I scroll through instagram to wake myself up. This is the only way I can ease myself into the morning, but I'm pretty sure it's contributing to those sluggish 11am slumps at my desk. This isn't helped by the fact that my boyfriend's alarm goes off at 6am, and unlike he who can not only spring straight out of bed, but somehow also fall asleep in 5 seconds flat, I lay awake getting gradually more and more annoyed at his fumbling in the dark, before forcing myself back to sleep at what is probably 6:35. Not productive, hey?

The solution: I want to know what you do! Are you an alarm snoozer, do you have a way to ease into the morning without mindlessly scrolling through your phone? The main issue for me is that I leave the house at 7:30, but I really only need 15/20 minutes to get ready and I eat my breakfast once I get to work or else I'm ravenous by 9:30, so I would just kind of be hanging around if I got up any earlier. Over the next couple of weeks I'm planning to try out a few different methods - 1 snooze, no phone reading, get up and make breakfast; no snoozes, get up and go for a run; no snooze, a bit of light phone reading and a 10 minute yoga video. Getting complicated yet?

I'd love to know what works for you so leave me a comment below!


Monday, 15 September 2014

Yesterday was one of those Sundays where you just want to lie on the sofa and do not much else. I managed to motivate myself to go to an exercise class, leaving me absolutely ravenous for the rest of the day. This gorgeous end-of-season sweetcorn made the perfect snack, rubbed with a little butter and sprinkled with a generous helping of chilli flakes and a pinch of salt (Maldon's smoked sea salt is a revelation!). Sweetcorn season is over mid-September so I suggest you buy yourself a couple of cobs this week and get down to business!


Friday, 12 September 2014
This week just flew by! It's about a month until my big holiday (Malaysia! Indonesia! I can't wait!) and time seems to be whizzing by in a blur - I couldn't even tell you what I did this week. But scrolling through my album I decided to post this picture I took in my morning commute

There have been some amazing sunrises this week and this one, with the sun coming up and the moon not quite ready to take his leave yet, is a perfect reminder that all days come to an end, even if it's been the worst day ever, and tomorrow you can start over.

This weekend I'm going to the seaside to see my boyfriend's parents (fingers crossed for a Friday fish and chips) and then on Sunday I'm saying goodbye to my friend who's going back to Japan (don't go Mariko!). Have a good one!


Wednesday, 10 September 2014
Is there anything sweeter than reading the words 'IKEA klippan sofa free' on Gumtree and finding out that the sofa in question is available to pick up tonight, one road away from you? I think not. The IKEA Klippan is a total classic - there's been one in every student house I've lived in, but my parents have one too and its simple lines blend in perfectly next to their designer pieces. You can't fault the price either! We thought we should buy a second sofa and I had my eye on some lovely vintage-style ones, but we weren't even sure a second sofa would fit in our living room, let alone look good, so we decided to get this one as a placeholder.

The cover was a little misshapen and there were a couple of stains, but I think the reason this sofa is so popular is because it just stands up to everyday life. It has a very sturdy frame and the cushioning keeps its shape - even after my boyfriend and I hauled it up six flights of stairs (this, obviously).

But, in three easy steps, our little sofa looks good as new, and I think we're actually pretty happy to keep it as is!

CLEAN If your sofa has a removable cover, pop it in the washing machine and run it for two cycles to really give it a good clean. If you have a white cover, use a little bit of bleach to get rid of tough stains. Let it air dry outside if you can - the sun actually bleaches stains too! When they are dry, put the covers back on and, if there are any lingering smells, try a few spritzes of febreze. Our sofa smelled perfectly nice, of washing detergent and general homeliness, but it was weird how much the smell of someone else's home affected the smell of ours!

COVER A replacement sofa cover for the Klippan is only £35, but you might have a sofa without an interchangeable cover or not have access to an IKEA. I used one of my favourite blankets as a throw, tucking it into the crease between the seat and the back to secure it. A few cushions will perk it up a bit and can be easily changed along with the seasons. If your cover still has a couple of visible stains, you can buy great dyes that go in the washing machine with your covers and offer really pigmented, even coverage (we used Dylon on our other sofa).

DISTRACT As a finishing touch, don't forget to style around your sofa! I never noticed how bare that wall was until we put the sofa there and I was forced to look at it. The side table came from my parents' attic, and the two prints are actually sheets of high quality wrapping paper, a tip I shared in this post about affordable art. I also thought about painting the little silver feet (inspired by this site), but I think I'll save that for another day.

In the end, I didn't have to buy anything at all for our new sofa, meaning an instant living room upgrade for £0!


Monday, 8 September 2014
Summer is on its way out - total bummer - but I have to say that the idea of getting out my knits again  kind of dulls the pain. I like to ease into autumn by layering jumpers with skirts and eking out the bare legs for just a little bit longer, but then I realised that that would make this blog post basically the same as the one I posted back in spring. Here are a couple of things on my wish list right now:

I'm definitely not ready to get my winter coat out and I always think - what do have left to wear when it gets properly cold if you do that! A big blanket scarf is perfect for bridging the gap between knitwear and outerwear, plus it's a slightly less scary way of dipping into Burberry's blanket cape trend! It looks perfectly nonchalant with a casual weekend look, but is somehow chic and pulled together with tailored pieces too. {1,2)

Turtlenecks are such a classic piece (think Brigitte Bardot and Audrey Hepburn), but wearing them with jeans is instantly modern and cool, yet still chic. I'll be wearing chunky knits with skinny jeans and lightweight sweaters with my boyfriend jeans - I might even try it with a pencil skirt. What do you think? {1,2,3,4}

A leather jacket is on my wish list every year - they go with absolutely everything and never go out of style, but I just haven't found the right one yet. I get a pretty hefty discount on lots of designer brands through my work, so it might be time to invest in a great quality one, though I have seen some really good faux versions at H&M and River Island, where I can always rely on a good fit for my body shape. {1,2}


Friday, 5 September 2014
A single photo and a story from my week:

I had the best time last weekend! My friend Mariko’s return from Japan for the month coincided with another friend from uni, Sophie, visiting for the weekend. I went to a very international university with a big emphasis on languages, which inevitably meant that as soon we graduated, most of my friends upped sticks across the globe. It’s really rare that we’re back together, so by gosh we made the most of it!
Sophie arrived late Friday night so it was quite quickly to bed, rising nice and early for boiled eggs and soldiers.

Sophie used to live with us, so I felt an extra pang of nostalgia for our lazy weekend mornings. We decided to check out the Southbank’s Festival of Love and I’m SO glad we did – it was the last weekend and it went out with a bang with over 200 couples getting married at Royal Festival Hall! There was such a lovely celebratory vibe with a live band and people swing dancing out on the terrace, the usual street performers and a handful of foodie stops too – we indulged in Bob’s Lobsters, Wahaca and a quick trip on the hot pink, double decker Snog bus (all delicious!). Maybe you saw my instagrams?

In the evening we headed to Brixton Market for drinks at ChickenLiquor (try the Paloma – I’m hooked) and of course ended up getting a big tray of chicken wings – the Chicken Shop and Korean ones were especially top notch, and such a uni throwback. I wish my favourite girls were in town all the time!

I thought I was in for some downtime this weekend, but I’m going out dancing tonight – it’s been too long! I’ll be taking part in Michelle’s #1day12pics challenge this month, so you’ll have to wait for my post to see what I get up to on Saturday. Toodle pip!


Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Don't you love the allure of a little gold ring? I prefer my jewellery on the smaller side and, especially towards the end of summer, a hint of gold is perfect for accentuating a sun-kissed glow.

How to wear them: simple gold bands are really popular right now and its little sister, the midi ring, is everywhere! I think it's really modern to mix your metals - rose gold, yellow and silver can all be best friends - and I'm also a big believer that you don't just save your best for best: it may seem scary to wear your grandma's heirloom ring, but as long as it's not the mother of all diamonds that will attract unwanted attention, it's nice to give your treasures a bit of fresh air. I'm personally in the camp that gold rings and diamonds are perfectly pared back with a white t-shirt and weekend denim.

Where to get them: everywhere! My rings come from high and low and I'll happily wear my £1 Accessorize sale bargain next to my more expensive, handcrafted pieces. I'm obsessed with catbird nyc's affordable designs (time for a trip to New York?), but my favourite pieces that you can get in England come from Alex Monroe and Bee Goddess. On the high street, Cos and & Other Stories are fab for unusual and minimal pieces. For sweet stacking rings, Accessorize is a firm favourite - their sales are epic and they've also just launched Z for Accessorize, an affordable collection of gold plated pieces that will help pad out your collection.

How do you like to wear your jewellery? Big and bold or firmly understated?

THREE WAYS WITH: little gem lettuce

Monday, 1 September 2014

I've been trying to come up with a way of saying 'little gem is my favourite type of lettuce' without sounding like a total loser, but there isn't one, so there we are. Little gem is my favourite type of lettuce. It's crisp, crunchy and fresh with soft buttery leaves and a bit more flavour than your typical iceberg, in so much as lettuces can be flavourful. Here are three ways to try it beyond the usual salad:

CHARGRILL Cooked lettuce might seem like a bit of a foreign concept, but bear with me. Popped on the barbecue or face down on an olive-oiled griddle pan, these little gems came out wonderfully smokey with a hint of sweetness. They are actually quite robust, and cooking them in this way really brings out that 'lettuce-y' flavour. Serve them plain with a sprinkling of sea salt as a tasty side to barbecued meats and steak, or treat as a Caesar salad and top with a dollop of creamy dressing and a grating of parmesan - crispy bacon and grilled chicken would make a proper meal of it, but I was pretty happy to munch on it as is.

BOIL This is a classic Asian side dish. mum does it, so at least I think it is. Sometimes when you're having a big blowout meal, it's nice to have something plain to go with it. Boiled lettuce is perfect for cutting through any greasiness and, as with the chargrilled version, this really brings out the natural sweetness, while still maintaining a bit of a crunch. Simply boil for a couple of minutes, drain and serve with a light drizzle of soy sauce and some chilli flakes. It goes perfectly with pork belly and rice, or I often pop a head of little gem into a pan of instant noodles to make a quick snack into something a bit more meal-worthy.

WRAP I'm sure you've seen this variation around a lot - it's a super healthy alternative to a wrap and the natural cup shape is perfect for scooping up lots of tasty fillings. This Jamie Oliver recipe is an all-time favourite in our house, but we've also used our cups to cradle Mexican chicken and avocado, pomegranate-studded cous cous with halloumi and all the fixings for a round of Vietnamese summer rolls.