Wednesday, 29 April 2015

London Marathon 2015

Sunday morning. It's 10.10am and supposedly the 2015 London Marathon mass start has begun. I'm pushing my way into the start pen, having stood for 30 minutes in a drizzly porta-loo queue and checked 20 times that yes, I have my iPod Shuffle, energy gels and that my timing tag is fastened to my shoe. I'm not sure if I'm shivering because it's cold and wet or because I'm just about to willingly run 26.2 miles and yes, I'm terrified. Despite the long weekend runs, the turning down of the second G&Ts and the enforced (and actually less enjoyable than imagined) carb-eating on Saturday there's nothing that can prepare you for this actual moment. The crowd of people pushes forward, I worry that the man next to me can hear my teeth chattering and wonder if I need the porta-loo again but its definitely too late for that. Suddenly we turn a corner and the start line is there - this is it.

london marathon 2015
Pre-race mirror selfie. Just because.
I run past a camel, Nigel Farage, what I later find out is a testicle and a man in a pink dress (all here). At mile 3 the clock shows that one hour has passed since the official start time and I decide to start timing my miles from this point, thinking of the first 3 miles as "freebies". A small girl sees my name on my top and shouts "LILY LILY LILY" in excitement (I think it might have been her name, too) and I start smiling and allow myself to enjoy this marathon running thing. The drizzle stops and we're running past the Cutty Sark although I barely even notice the giant ship as we pass it around mile 7. All my prepared thoughts (think of people who cannot run, who are not allowed to run, of the women who fought for the right to be able to run marathons, think of people you dislike and imagine the road is paved with their genitalia, think of your training and how you know you can do this, think of the three slices of cake you have eaten in the last few days and how they are giving you energy, think how lucky you are to be alive and don't you dare even complain) are not yet needed. I can't even think of anything, my legs seem to be running of their own accord. I overtake the five hour pacer but force myself to not run any faster than this because there is still so far to go. I spot my parents at mile 7 and am relieved that I'm running fast and smiling because 19 miles is a long time for them to be worrying about me!

london marathon 2015
Pre-race team photo with the runners from Leonard Cheshire Disability
Tower Bridge appears far quicker than I was expecting it to. Despite running over it countless times in my own runs on marathon day it feels like being in a film. I pause my playlist to savour the noise and on the other side of the bridge my Pineapple Crew (Hannah, Sarah, Sarah and more - such a lovely surprise!) are smiling and waving and I hope that I look like I'm enjoying myself (the pictures confirm that I was - I felt like an actual super woman at this point) as mile 13 (halfway!) approaches ahead of the long stretch in the Docklands. More friends appear at Limehouse (twice) and 20 miles comes and goes and still the thoughts are not needed despite the fact that I'm now officially running my longest run ever. I've been running for over 4 hours but the previous miles are a blur and the shouts of the crowds get louder and louder, peaking at mile 21 for Run Dem Crew's cheer spot. Still the thoughts do not surface as Tower Bridge appears again and I scan the crowd for the Pineapple Crew a second time.

london marathon 2015
Halfway!
At this point I let myself think that even if I walk from here, it's ok. I'll definitely finish whatever. I lost the 5 hour pacer at mile 16 but I'm still on track for coming in at less than my anticipated finish time of 5:30. People around me are walking, hobbling, crying but as much as I'd like to walk I don't need to - I dodge around them and running through the 25 mile marker to the finish the final 1.2 miles feel like the longest as The Mall approaches. I'm definitely still in the zone as I don't even see or hear one of my friends cheering for me and suddenly I'm crossing the line and it's over. I'VE RUN A MARATHON!

london marathon 2015
Hannah with the pineapple poster!
I'm massively pleased with my time of 5:23 but time aside, I'm overjoyed that I achieved my main goal which was to enjoy the day and run with a smile on my face and for pretty much all of the 26.2 miles I can say I did just that. Unless you are a professional then the only person you are racing against is yourself and while I'm never going to be the fastest runner I enjoyed every minute and never once regretted signing up or clearing my schedule for all those long training runs. The crowd were amazing, hearing total strangers shout your name is an incredible feeling (like being a celebrity without seeing pictures of yourself in Heat magazine with your spots and sweaty armpits circled in red pen). The marathon is over but it's also not over. I love running more than ever, I love how it makes me feel and how I've learned so much in the process - beyond what trainers are best and that a sports bra really is an essential and that energy gels do not taste nice.

london marathon 2015
Um, YAY!
Running has changed my life - back when I went for my first run in 2011 I never dreamed that I could even run for a mile, let along 26.2. If you're even thinking about entering the ballot on May 4 or taking up a charity place then do it. Respect the distance and your body (because some of the runners did not look like they were enjoying themselves - it's a bloody long way). Train hard, prepare well and it'll be awesome. Running has made me realise that I am strong(er than I look), that even though I still doubt myself I shouldn't, that the world is beautiful and that my problems are small in comparison. That what I did wasn't a "sacrifice". What I lost in drunken nights out and lie-ins I gained in feeling fitter and happier and just better than I have for ages. Seeing some of the t-shirts of the other runners around me was truly humbling and really makes you realise what "sacrifice" and hardship are and choosing to run a marathon isn't either, it's a privilege and despite over 35,000 running on Sunday something that few people will ever be able to say that they have done.

london marathon 2015

Thanks, London, for a fucking brilliant day that I will never forget. Even the weather played nicely and was perfect for running if a bit chilly for the crowd. Walking home (yeah, I ran a marathon and walked home afterwards) wearing my medal and having strangers say "well done!" in the street was pretty sweet and more than made up for the fact that despite running so far I didn't even feel that hungry for a crazy post-marathon meal!

I ran for Leonard Cheshire Disability who had a brilliant support team and do amazing work to support disabled people, you can sponsor me here or sign up for one of their 2016 places here.











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Saturday, 25 April 2015

What's In My Bag - Marathon Edition!

A bit of a different "what's in my bag" post today - here's what's in my marathon bag for tomorrow morning although it's pretty similar for all the races I've done in the past:

what to pack for a marathon

Pre-Race

Race number and safety pins - essentials! I always take a few extra safety pins as someone else is bound to need one and they're so easy to lose.

Timing tag and ties - essential if you want a time and for others to be able to track you around the course.

Pre-race snacks - Nakd bars are my favourite pre-race snack and I'll take a banana and some water too. Most organised races provide water en-route so there's no need to bring loads of water with you.

Tissues and hand sanitiser - because porta-loos are disgusting even when people are stone cold sober.

Blister stick and vaseline - feet saviours for last minute top-ups!

Phone, Oyster card and cash - for last minute texts / Instagrams and for post-race meet-ups. Some cash just in case - some races will have water and snacks for sale at the start but leave the rest of your wallet at home.

Old clothes for the start - the start might be cold so pack some layers which you don't mind discarding at the start.

Cap and sunglasses - these probably won't be coming with me tomorrow but I dug them out just in case it was going to be a sunny day!

Mid-Race

iPod - my iPod shuffle is loaded with my favourite running songs.

Suncream stick - I'm an optimist and a huge huge SPF devotee. Although depending on how grim it is at the start this may be checked in.

Hairbands and lipbalm - these hairbands double as bracelets so perfect for mid race hair adjustments and SPF lip balm will be popped in my race belt too.

Energy Gels - always always the ones you have trained with to avoid and race day disasters...

Chewing gum - I like chewing gum while running - it's a nice change from the sickly energy gels.

Post-Race

Face wipes - because sweaty face is not a good look.

Change of clothes - pack a change of clothes of give a bag to someone you're meeting at the end - there are too many post-marathon free food deals to waste time going home to shower!

Snacks - a lot of big races give you snacks in the goodie bag but if you know you'll want a specific snack then pack it!

Flip-flops - again, weather dependent but for hot races I always swap trainers for flip flops straight after.





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Friday, 24 April 2015

Book Worm - What's on my Kindle?

One of my main goals for 2015 (other than run marathon, eat less rubbish etc etc) was to read more. Easier said that done - while it might not involve lacing up a pair of trainers or turning down a slice of cake, in an increasingly connected world it's sometimes hard to find a spare ten minutes to read a book. I've always loved reading (I'm sure every student who signs up to do a law degree does only to find that three years of reading law books only makes you want to read Grazia in your downtime) and wanted to reconnect with the girl who used to love nothing more than a good book. It also turns out that half an hour of pre-bed reading is far more conducive to a good night's sleep than continually dropping your phone on your face while WhatsApping in bed...

I don't have a particular "type" when it comes to books other than a "no chick lit rule". I guiltily download everything to my Kindle which I love as it's never not in my bag (the paperback of Cloud Atlas is pretty chunky) but really do need to start using my local library more because...free books! Continuing the theme of 2015 goals, I've recently joined a new bookclub (new hobby - tick!) so hopefully that will motivate me even further to continue reading.

1. Margaret Atwood - MaddAddam

My first book of 2015. This is actually the third in a trilogy so it was bittersweet to finish it (Oryx and Crake and Year of The Flood are parts one and two). Set in a future world which sometimes seems all-too-familiar, this trilogy combines speculative fiction with a strong female voice. I loved the dark humour and that the characters don't get lost along with the underlying message.

2. David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas

This book requires some work. The first 100 pages were quite difficult to get through but I'm so glad I persevered. There's really nothing I can compare this book to - interlinked stories flow through the novel set in different places, historical periods and told from different character's points of view. Parts are laugh out loud hilarious, parts are tragic and parts are just downright confusing but this book is like nothing else I've ever read. Reading it feels like an epic journey, appropriately enough for the title.

3. Haruki Murakami - A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance

So these books are part 3 and 4 in Murakami's "The Rat" series. Unfortunately, the first two books (Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball 1973) are not available in English but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of these two. I actually read Dance Dance Dance first without realising that there was a prequel. The nameless author is flawed but likeable in his quest to find a nameless girlfriend from his past. As a lover of Japanese culture, this made me want to book a flight to Tokyo (and made me wonder whether "ear model" is an actual career...).

4. Haruki Murakami - Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage

The most recent Murakami novel, this obviously came up on my "recommended for you" page after reading the above two books. The central character is colourless in pretty much every meaning of the word as he looks to his past to discover why his high school friends abandoned him. Without giving anything away, I found the ending a bit of a let down and didn't love this as much as "The Rat" books but it was still a nice mental visit to Japan.

4. Paula Hawkins - The Girl on the Train

Just like the post-Twilight vampire novel explosion, the female-main-character-Gone-Girl-esque book seems to be the current literary trend. This changed the way I think about train journeys and featured a very different female lead to Gone Girl. I speed through this in a few days and while the book slipped from my brain pretty quickly afterwards it would make a great holiday or, appropriately, long train journey read.

5. Gillian Flynn - Sharp Objects 

The author of Gone Girl was always going to have a tough act to follow but this is just as, if not more, disturbing. The crime story develops throughout the novel but just how Gone Girl put marriage under the microscope this explores family relationships, communities and (without giving anything away) tackles some pretty hard-hitting subjects.

What have you read recently?

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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Skincare Favourites

When I first started this blog my approach to skincare basically involved a pack of face wipes and "Clean & Clear" foaming face scrub. My skin didn't complain about this one (RIP youthful glow even after 2 hours sleep) because that's the joy of being 22 but now that my 28th birthday is on the horizon my skin needs a bit more than a Boots Cucumber face wipe to look its best.

In my teens and early twenties my biggest skin concern was being "shiny". These days I still expect to see that my make-up has slid off of my face by lunchtime but instead working in an office with erratic too-hot-or-too-cold air conditioning, running outside and being, er, older means that my once shiny skin is now in need of moisturiser and that putting oil on my face rather than trying to get rid of it is now a thing. My 22 year-old self would be recoiling in horror at the thought and reaching for a face wipe...

These are some of the products I've added to my routine lately which will hopefully stop me resembling a prune by age 30 (along with drinking more water, avoiding refined sugar and wearing SPF every damn day). I like to use natural products where possible and do believe that less is often more with skincare but Korean women use 11 steps in their skincare routines so adding a couple more products isn't that much of a chore!

best skincare for late 20s skin

best skincare for late 20s skin

best skincare for late 20s skin

best skincare for late 20s skin

best skincare for late 20s skin

best skincare for late 20s skin

1. Bare Biology Lionheart Omega 3 Oil - I first read about these on Caroline Hirons' blog. Despite never eating oily fish (sorry, mom) I'd neither thought of taking a supplement or that doing so could help my skin. These aren't cheap but the literally glowing reviews and reassurance that they don't taste fishy was enough to convince me to add them to my skincare routine. Sadly they're not suitable for vegetarians or vegans (or if you have an allergy) as they do contain fish - I try not to think of what's in them and dutifully swallow 4 before dinner. Available here.

2. Pai Rosehip Oil - Apparently rosehip oil sold out when a Daily Fail article alleged that K-Middy was using it during her pregnancy but whether royalty approved or not rosehip oil is amazing for our skin due to it containing pro-vitamin A (a proven wrinkle-reducer). Sadly this oil doesn't smell of roses, it has quite a woody smell but it disappears quickly and despite being a bright orange it has not made me look any less pale! 1-2 drops is plenty and used twice a week this bottle will last a long time - I've already noticed a difference in my skin (especially on acne scars) and love that this is organic and natural. Available here and at Planet Organic.

3. Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate - I love Kiehls products - everything I've tried so far has been great for my skin and the sales assistants are so helpful and always happy to provide samples. This night treatment is now one that I can't do without - I love the smell (unlike the Pai oil this does smell absolutely lovely) and taking a few minutes each evening to massage a few drops of this into my skin definitely helps me feel more relaxed too. This stops that awful dull look that comes about from not enough sleep and too much time in front of computer screens.

4. Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 - this product really helped me get over my fear of moisturiser - I used to think that moisturiser would make my shiny and block my pores but this product is amazing, it feels like it's just pure moisture (hydrolauric acid is the magic ingredient) without the grease, fragrance and other rubbish that your skin doesn't need. This was my saviour during the winter when I was running outdoors in freezing weather. 1-2 drops are all that are needed and its perfect for under make-up as my skin just drinks it in. More information here and find stockists here.

5. Lush Imperialis - this moisturiser is perfect for combination skins. It's light but nourishing and full of lovely natural ingredients. I use this at night if my skin needs a bit more moisture. As well as being packed with natural ingredients, Lush products are cruelty free and the packaging can be recycled (and 3 empties gets you a free face mask!).

6. Balance Me Skin Bright Hydrating Face Mist - like the Hydrating B5, this also contains hydrolauric acid to moisturise. I love the rosewater smell of this and it's super refreshing while also being moisturising unlike the harsh "toners" I used as a teen which were basically just scented alcohol! I can't find this online - I hope it hasn't been discontinued as mine is half empty (/half full!).

What are your latest skincare discoveries?

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Sunday, 19 April 2015

Lazy Sunday

Casual dressing is not really my thing. My office's monthly dress down Friday always induces morning panic and my aversion to trousers makes the whole "jeans and a t-shirt" thing...not really a thing.

Last Sunday was not the laziest - a 16 mile run in the sunshine (a bit of a shock to the system when all my past training runs were at much cooler temperatures) and then realising I had 20 minutes to get ready for a lunch date with Sarah (I'm an I-need-an-hour kinda girl) meant grabbing what for me is a pretty casual ensemble:




Shirt: New Look (similar)
Denim Jacket: Vintage (similar)
Leggings: River Island (similar)
Trainers (not the ones I run in!): Sketchers (similar)
Bag: Mulberry (similar)
Sunglasses: Ray-Ban

How do you do lazy Sundays?

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

It's A Marathon Not A Sprint - How To Deal With Life Envy

No, this isn't about running the London Marathon (but oh em gee it's soon now!). It's about our goals, our dreams and our feelings of being not-quite-good-enough (20 mile runs provide a lot of opportunities for deep thinking).

Stop and smell the blossom. And then remember that you're allergic to pollen.
Just like training for a marathon, no one gets out of bed one day and runs 26 miles. Just like no one just falls into the perfect job, perfect relationship and perfect house. These things take work. Hard work. Slowly saving the pennies for a deposit, going on dates with Tinder Frogs, writing endless covering letters...

It's so easy to look at others and think "I'll have what she's having" without thinking of what it's taken to get there. To get caught up in what we don't have (um, where did my Prince get to and where's my Chanel handbag?), rather than what we do have. To forget how far we've come when it sometimes feels like there's an impossible distance still to go.

So here are my tips for the next time you're feeling less than great about not having your own place, your dream job or a diamond ring on your finger:

1. Stop comparing!

For me, this is the hardest. I sometimes look at my (amazing and high achieving friendship group) and wonder why I'm not planning my dream wedding, working on deals that make the news, writing a novel or becoming fluent in my fourth language. But, instead of giving myself an imaginary "could try harder" sticker I think how incredibly lucky I am to have such interesting and talented people around me. Take inspiration from others rather than jealous and negativity and try to see your achievements through other people's eyes - when my real life friends ask my about my blog or marathon training it makes me realise that to them I'm the friend who blogs as well as works full time or the crazy friend who runs 26 miles for a "fun thing to do'!

2. Celebrate the little things

You've just saved your first £1,000 for a flat deposit, finished a project at work or run 5k for the first time - while these achievements may seem small they're still worthy of celebrating. Treat yourself to a little something (a new nail polish, a coffee from the "naughty" section of Starbucks' menu, an afternoon of magazine reading...) to celebrate your small victory and to help keep you on track.

3. Share

When I was working in my first Grown Up Job most of my panic and stress came from the fact that I thought I was the only person finding it hard - everyone else was flying through and having a great time while I was crying in the loos and feeling like maybe my application had got mixed up with that of the actual "clever person's". Despite how others act, everyone has things they find tough and sharing your problems with supportive friends is basically like free therapy - you won't be the only one who's struggling. Try not to turn it into a pity party though, support each other but also try to work through problems together - some of my friends work in totally different areas to me but sometimes their fresh approach really helps.

4. Perspective

If you're reading my blog you're probably in your twenties. No one expects you to have everything sorted by now (yes, my mother was married and had a house and maybe I was "on the way" when she was my age but times have changed). There's no time limit on your dreams and ambitions and there's no prize for having it all sorted by 25. It's hard when suddenly you and your friends are all at different stages but look at the positives - if I ever do get married I'll have a lot of friends to turn to for wedding planning help! Life isn't a race and just because friend x has just landed her dream job or friend y has just got engaged doesn't mean that those things can't happen to you to. One person achieving their dreams does not mean that there are fewer dreams to go around.

5. Don't forget to live

Keep working towards your goals but don't forget to live your life as it is. You're not waiting for your life to start once you buy a flat / get a boyfriend / land your dream job - life will go on no matter what and you need to live it. A guaranteed way to be miserable is to think that things are going to be better when x happens and to be constantly hoping that achieving a goal will magically solve your problems - it's the life equivalent of people who have cosmetic surgery but, shock horror, still have tragically low self esteem. Live in the here and now because you can't live in the past or the future, can you?

How do you deal with life envy?

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Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Burger Review: Byron's Byronissimo

Eating free burgers is a guaranteed way to beat the Monday blues. After multiple failed attempts I finally got a free burger voucher from the Byron Burger Club to try the new special, the Byronissimo.

The Bryonissimo features a 6oz hamburger, pancetta, fontina cheese, tomato relish, picked red onion, tomato, shredded iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise - phew - all packed in to Byron's brioche bun! The deal with the Byron Burger Club is that the burger is free but you pay for everything else. I can't go to Byron and not order the courgette fries - they're just the best - and a sneaky Diet Coke in a glass bottle ordered itself because, well, it was Monday.

The Byronissimo is so good - messy and decadent but with an Italian influence that makes it a little classier than your regular dirty burger. The standout for me was the cheese which is salty and very melty. I'm not sure how long this burger will be on the menu (edit: until 25th May!) for but its definitely worth trying - I love how Byron change up their menu to keep things interesting while keeping the familiar staples (the chicken burger is a trusted favourite). The food never disappoints and the service is always fast and friendly, definitely one of the better chain restaurants out there.





Are you a Byron fan?


Square Meal
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Sunday, 12 April 2015

How To Travel By Yourself

Yes, my series of personal posts is maybe starting to make me look like a bit of a sociopath. I promise you that I do spend time with other humans and do enjoy their company but there's nothing really that mind-blowing in writing about "why I like spending time with my friends" and, anyway, I gushed about them here. So there.

Today we are talking about holidays. Holidays are my favourite thing in the world. As a child we didn't travel must aside from the usual two-weeks-in-the-sun during the school holidays but since travelling around Japan on my gap yah I've been hooked and now can't get enough of seeing new places. I like to do a longer trip and a few shorter trips each year - when I first started working a 25 day holiday allowance sounded so pitiful but if you use it wisely you can definitely fit in a lot of trips and don't forget to take advantage of bank holidays (they're not just an excuse to get drunk on a Sunday night) and even a weekend break away can make you feel so refreshed.

I've travelled a fair bit on my own and thought I'd share some tips as I know that some people find this scary / weird / totally unappealing but I have to say that I love solo travel and even if you never take a solo holiday then you might end up traveling alone with work or having to take a solo trip at some point. 


Planning for this year!
Hong Kong Peak Selfie

1. Pick your destination wisely
I personally wouldn't do a beach holiday on my own - I'd probably be bored after two days and from past experience its super stressful having to get someone to watch your stuff while you take a dip in the sea. A city is perfect as there's so much do to and no chance of getting bored. I've also done a language holiday which was great as my French got so much better in a really short space of time and I made friends on the course and am considering a yoga holiday for next summer - I guess these are in-between options as even though you're on your own you'll meet people and most others will be by themselves too.

2. Consider tours
In Australia I did a Top Deck tour which was great as all the planning was taken care of and I just had to turn up. I do love planning but it's sometimes nice to let someone else take care of all that. Lily Melrose recently went to Japan with Contiki which looked amazing too and for more far flung destinations a tour can take away a lot of the stress. It's also a great way to meet others while having a balance of group and solo time - I think I'd feel a lot of pressure to be entertaining if I were taking a two week trip with a friend, weirdly it can be easier to relax around total strangers!

3. Research research research
When I went to Shanghai I spent hours researching things to do so that I could plan my days before I went. Plan 2-3 things per day or do one neighbourhood of the city each day. Research cafes and restaurants too - I wouldn't sit down to a three course meal on my own but finding a cute café with free wifi is a lifesaver and seriously, no one cares that you're eating lunch on your own. Solo travel makes me feel like I live in the place I'm visiting rather than being a selfie-stick wielding tourist. Check and double check visa requirements, flight times, how to get from place to place...no one else is going to do it for you! I love this site for useful tips on how to book train tickets just about anywhere in the world...

4. Staying safe
Pick somewhere central to stay or somewhere near a metro station so that you're not navigating an unfamiliar city alone at night. Pick an area that will always be busy - in NYC while I loved the look of some of the places on the LES staying in mid-town in a more touristy area made more sense from a safety perspective. Don't just look at hotels - consider smaller B&Bs or hostels which may have a friendlier vibe and may be a good way to meet people. I'm going to Seoul in September and have booked the cutest guesthouse for some of my stay - the reviews from other solo travellers were great and this convinced me away from an anonymous hotel.

5. Books
Avoid awkwardness on public transport or in cafes by loading up your Kindle - I love taking time out over a coffee to read and hardly ever do this at home so a solo holiday is perfect for getting your me-time fix. A decent guidebook is a must too - I like Lonely Planet for providing lots of practical tips and decent maps. I usually buy just one but get a few beforehand from the library to read up (I have become obsessed with my local library lately - free books!).

6. Activities
Break up the solo time by planning some activities - I love doing walking tours in cities as you'll often get younger people and also recommend cooking classes if you're somewhere with interesting food as even if its you and a group of strangers there is no better way to bond than over your mis-shapen xaiolongbao.

7. Enjoy
Lasting, have fun! Do all the things that you want to do and don't worry about upsetting anyone else. Want to sleep in one morning - go for it! Want an early night? An entire 3 hours in forever 21 (no that didn't happen in Shanghai)? It's your holiday so do what you want. I try to stay off my phone as much as possible when I'm away but the occasional WhatsApp is great for updating friends back home and telling those tales that at the time seem baffling but that would be hilarious were you with someone else. Being by myself somehow makes me feel so much more immersed in that place - I pay a lot more attention to my surroundings when I'm not bemoaning my at-home issues somewhere else in the world!

Solo travel is so empowering and we are so lucky (especially as women) that we have the chance to travel this beautiful world and explore new places. Enjoy it and make some amazing memories and maybe even get to know the person worth knowing the most while you're at it (that would be you!). 

Have you travelled anywhere on your own?

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Friday, 10 April 2015

Easy, Healthy and Instagram-Worthy Breakfasts

It’s the most important meal of the day but breakfast can often be a sad, rushed affair. Weekends might mean leisurely pancakes or baked oats but weekdays need something speedy but still tasty and healthy to get the day off to a great start. These options take hardly any time and are portable if you like to eat breakfast at your desk or after a morning spin session – no excuses for a sad cereal bar or those dubious “breakfast biscuits” - these options are tastier and far more Instagram-worthy! The following are all dairy, gluten and refined sugar free and are a lot cheaper than grabbing a croissant and a latte from Starbucks… 
Overnight oats
This is a super filling breakfast that makes itself in the fridge – the night before just throw the ingredients into a jar, shake up and leave to chill overnight. In the morning shake again and you’re done! I prefer to eat these at room temperature so they’ll survive the journey to work or they can be eaten straight out of the fridge. Top with extra nuts, dried fruits or cinnamon in the morning and it’s the perfect breakfast.
¼ cup oats
½ cup almond milk
Teaspoon of chia seeds 
Teaspoon of maca 
Small banana
Cacao nibs 
5 frozen cherries 
Pastel Pink Smoothie

Since getting my Nutribullet I’ve rediscovered my love for smoothies. I had a smoothie blender before and while it was good it wasn’t quite powerful enough to really blitz the ingredients to a super smooth texture. The Nutribullet isn’t cheap but for me it’s been so worth buying as I use it almost daily! For this pretty pink smoothie just blend the following ingredients together and either drink straight away or pop the lid on the jar and give it a good shake before drinking (pretty straw optional!).
¼ cup oats
½ cup almond milk
Small banana Teaspoon of maca
2 teaspoons freeze dried raspberry powder (available here)
Spring green smoothie
Green smoothies are now everywhere and drinking spinach for breakfast is no longer just for LA hippies. I promise this doesn’t taste of vegetables at all and is the perfect start to a spring morning now that the weather is finally getting better. This smoothie tastes so good and has so much goodness in it – it’s filling too thanks to the oats and keeps me full until lunchtime unlike a lot of shop-bought smoothies which can be as sugary as a chocolate bar. Mix up the following and enjoy!
¼ cup oats
½ cup almond milk
Small banana
2 handfuls of spinach
Teaspoon of maca
2 teaspoons cacao powder
2 drops of vanilla stevia (available here)
The best thing about all of these recipes is that you can experiment – adding in superfood powders, trying out different fruits and using different milks. If you're confused about some of the ingredients - Laura has a great guide here.
What's your favourite quick breakfast?

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Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Shoe-Drobe Update: Duo S/S15

The change in seasons brings about bare legs, summer sandals and boots being packed away until autumn...in theory. The Easter weekend was still so cold but it was finally time to at least get my feet into the new season, even if it was still coat weather! Sarah and I almost got blown away taking these photos by the river but thankfully I don't look quite as freezing as I felt...

These Duo Corvi mock-croc sandals will definitely be on my feet all the time once it finally gets a bit more spring-like! They'll be perfect for toning down my floral summer dresses and are so comfortable for (hopeful) walks in the sunshine. Since I upped my running I live in fear of blisters and rarely wear heels as keeping my feet happy is a much bigger concern than adding a few inches to my height - I've learned to embrace flats because you only get one pair of feet and when flats are as lovely as these its really no hardship.

Duo Corvi Tan Sandals

Duo Corvi Tan Sandals

Duo Corvi Tan Sandals

Sandals: c/o Duo
Trousers: Old Navy (similar)
Top: ASOS (similar)
Scarf: Vintage
Coat: Zara (similar)

The rest of my outfit is a bit of a mish-mash of in-between-seasons dressing. Yes, I am wearing trousers which is extremely rare for me! I bought these from Old Navy in Shanghai while in full holiday mode but back home felt too scared to wear them until now - dresses are my natural uniform but it felt good to wear something so out of my style comfort zone and the cropped length (yes, they are supposed to be cropped!!) meant that I didn't have to worry about my short legs being swamped in extra fabric.

What are you feet wearing this spring?

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Monday, 6 April 2015

Brunch at South Place Hotel

In case you didn't already know, brunch is the best meal ever. You can have it sweet, have it savory, have a bit of both and have it with alcohol. What's not to like? On the Saturday of the Easter weekend, Hannah, Sarah and I headed to the South Place Hotel in the City of London to indulge in their weekend brunch. With an a la carte menu, 2 course set menu, 3 course set menu and the option to add unlimited bellinis for £15 there really is something to please everyone. The hotel is tucked away in a side street off of Moorgate and while packed with City-folk during the week is quieter and calmer at weekends - perfect for a leisurely brunch:

south place hotel brunch

With two courses for £22.50 the brunch is great value - we booked in for 12.30pm and despite being told that we'd have the table for two hours were left happily chatting away until 3pm without being rushed out.

south place hotel brunch

An Americano to warm me up after a freezing "spring" morning in London...

south place hotel brunch

Warm bread while we waited for our food. The service was great - super friendly and with just the right amount of time between the courses. Hannah ordered the unlimited bellinis and one would barely be finished before our waitress whisked over another - they definitely didn't scrimp on the "unlimited" factor!

south place hotel brunch

Sarah started with the granola which looked amazing. I was going to order this but wanted us to all order different dishes - I always want to see what as many of a restaurants offerings as possible look like, even if I do not share food!

south place hotel brunch

Hannah had the soft boiled eggs and soldiers. The eggs were perfectly soft - hard eggs are such a disappointment and restaurants often struggle to serve soft yolks so top marks here!

south place hotel brunch

I had the Bircher museli which was delicious - not overly sweet and a great first course. I liked how the menu offered more "breakfast-y" dishes like eggs and museli as well as more "lunch-y" dishes like chicken pie and macaroni cheese.

south place hotel brunch

For mains, Hannah and Sarah both had the croque madame - again, look at the perfect round egg! This came with fries and looked delicious.

south place hotel brunch

I had the smoked salmon and scrambled egg for my main. I loved the huge portion of smoked salmon and the eggs were lovely. Mine came with a slice of sourdough toast.

south place hotel brunch
south place hotel brunch

For dessert, Sarah opted for the milk chocolate cream and Hannah for the waffles with chocolate sauce and pecans. I tried a bit of both - the chocolate cream isn't something I've seen on dessert menus before and it was super rich and very sweet!

I'd definitely re-visit South Place. The brunch was lovely and the unlimited drinks are a great way to celebrate a long weekend - if only they also did unlimited teas and coffees too as I did feel that these were a little expensive given that the set menus were great value for the quality and quantity of the food.

What's your favourite brunch?


Square Meal
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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Easter Sunday - Sweet Like Chocolate...

Since starting work the Easter weekend means one thing - FOUR DAYS OFF! I spent the last Easter bank holiday moving flats so this year is all about just chilling out and making the most of a double weekend (even if the weather is still awful). As for Lent...well, I failed on giving up Diet Coke but did drink less of it and I stayed off of ASOS until Wednesday when I accidentally ordered three dresses. I'll try harder next year...

I don't really celebrate Easter but given that the shops have been full of eggs for months I had a go at making my own healthier sweet treats (I was going to make cereal nest cakes but having Mini Eggs in the flat is dangerous when you live alone) - Deliciously Ella's raw brownies made into "eggs" are sweet but without the "ick" factor:

deliciously ella raw brownies

And Deliciously Ella's quinoa treats as "nests" for my Easter chicks also make for a sweet weekend treat - I wasn't convinced that these would be a success but they were actually really good and I should have made more than the tiny batch I did make:

deliciously ella quinoa treats

I might have mentioned before that I'm a bit of a Cumberbitch so on Friday I couldn't resist popping down to a very busy Westfield Stratford to see the Chocobatch! Sadly he wasn't for eating... I do wonder if he made it to the end of the day without someone taking a cheeky bite though (let's not think about what body part you would go for...):

chocolate benedict cumberbatch

It might not feel like spring lamb weather but there are some sheep decorating the streets of London at the moment - I went on a bit of a sheep hunt (perfect for working off those Easter treats although if you did eat the Chocobatch then there is really no hope - 40kg of chocolate!!) for the Shaun in the City sculptures:

shaun in the city

And, far, far sweeter than chocolate were these gorgeous kittens that Sarah and I saw when we visited Battersea yesterday. The one with the little white feet! Sadly these fellows had already found new homes - there really couldn't be a better Easter gift. Note to self - add "kitten" to wishlist...

battersea cats home kittens

Happy Easter! 


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Friday, 3 April 2015

How To Love Living Alone

One of those "meeting someone new" questions (other than whether I have a boyfriend) is inevitably "who do you live with?" It really makes me wonder how meeting new people has become just so tiresome sometimes. Anyway, life confession number two: I live alone.

Home-inspo in spring pastels - metal candle stick, heart shaped bowls, tidy drawers, wine glasses, Leon cookbook, pineapple lamp and champagne saucers - all from Oliver Bonas.
Personally, I love living by myself and I always knew that (being rescued by Prince Charming aside) I'd live alone once I was earning money and able to pay the rent. The pluses: I don't have to talk about "my day" when I get in from work, I can take my bra off within 10 seconds of getting through the front door and I can pass on a night out in favour of Netflix without anyone questioning my excellent decision-making. Apart from my parents I've never lived with anyone so living alone feels normal! At university I lived in student accommodation but I had my own room and en-suite and we didn't have shared kitchens so despite "living" with 600 other students it definitely didn't feel like it. I've never flat-shared with friends, obviously never lived with a boyfriend and so have spent all of my "grown-up" life living alone - over the past 3-and-a-half-years I've learned a lot about myself and a little about this hole "how to be an adult" thing.

As much as I love my friends, I'm glad I don't live with them. I've never had to fight over the unwashed-up washing up, argue over bills, been kept awake by my friends' "nocturnal activities" or had friendships fall apart under the strain of being in one anothers space. Not seeing people all the time means that I can always be (or try to be) my "best self" when I do see them and no one has to put up with my bad moods, my 6.15am alarm clock and my habit of taking 30 minute showers. I'm an only child and this is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to living alone - what I lack in sharing ability I make up for with my never-ending ability to keep myself busy and entertained. I never feel bored or lonely living by myself, the older I get the more I feel that those feelings are things we have to solve within ourselves anyway - don't look to other people to make you feel less lonely / less bored / less sad because only you have the power to ultimately change that.

Here are my top-tips / advice for how to live alone and love it:

 1. Bills bills bills. Let's start with the boring one. If you're living alone then you and only you are responsible for these. Be organised, set up direct debits or actually pay the bills when they come through (I make diary notes of when they are due and when they need to be paid). You can get a 25% discount on Council Tax so make sure you apply for this and submit regular metre-readings to your electricity supplier as this can reduce the price.

2. Food shopping. Cooking for one isn't the most cost-effective or fun thing to do - especially as most things are sold in quantities to feed a family of four. I only food shop for 1-2 days at a time so that I don't end up wasting food as there's no point filling the fridge only to get busy with work / my social life (the later being preferable) and throwing limp lettuce away after a week. My go-to dinners are stir-fries, courgetti and egg-based dishes all of which are easy to make a single portion of.

3. Bedtime rituals. When I first lived alone in a little rented flat with a cupboard-sized kitchen I frequently found myself staying up until 2/3am online, reading magazines, sorting out my wardrobe (nothing like it being 2am and having every item of clothing you own strewn across the floor!).... There's no one else around to remind you that it's bedtime! Nowadays I have a night time routine which has done wonders for my sleep patterns - a long bath with lavender oil, reading my Kindle and turning off the laptop somehow results in much better sleep than falling into a Wikipedia black hole for 3 hours.

4. Decorate! Even if you rent, you still have all the power when it comes to decorating. In my rented flat I jazzed up a bland Ikea sofa with a £60 polka dot cover which instantly made the place more "me". In my current flat I have grown-up soft greys, Scandi furniture and a few girlie accents. I constantly burn incense and scented candles which I could never do when I lived at home - small rebellions, eh? Create a Pinterest board of inspiration and whatever your budget you can make a place look like yours.

5. Safety. Ok, a serious one but if you're living on your own then you need to feel safe. If I'm out with friends we always agree to text one another to make sure we've all got home safely if it's late as its not like anyone is here to notice if I don't come back (morbid but true). This may seem very early 00's of me but if you're meeting someone from Tinder / OkCupid / POF then always always tell a friend even if you just dress it up as dating gossip. 

6. Party time. A downside of solo living is that your place is likely to be pretty small (at least if you're in London and haven't won the Lottery). My flat is tiny so I'm not going to be hosting NYE or having a Skins-esque house party anytime soon but I can still have friends over for drinks or for an indoor picnic and play hostess.

7. Tidying. Living alone is no excuse not to wash-up, do laundry or create a "floordrobe". I know it's not the funnest of tasks but keeping tidy will make your place feel bigger and make you feel calmer. I know I have hoarder tendencies which could remain un-checked without flat mates so every few months I have a huge clear-out and it feels so therapeutic.

Do you / have you ever lived alone?


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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

March Round-Up

It's hard to believe that March is over when it's still so bloody cold outside. I cannot wait to start wearing my summer clothes so hopefully the weather sorts itself out soon! Weather aside, it's been a great month - I've done a lot of running, took a few days out to chill back at my parents' (forgot how much I loved watching Neighbours twice in one day) and had an awesome weekend in Paris. Blog-wise I was so overwhelmed by the responses I got to my post about being single - I had been thinking of writing it for a long time and I'm so glad I finally did (even if writing about personal stuff is a million times more scary than sharing outfit pictures!).

Here's what I've been up to in March:


1. Using my Nutribullet to make my first batch of Deliciously Ella raw brownies - so good that I've made them again three times since! I have also been loving healthy no-bake treats and baked oats.

2. I had the most amazing weekend in Paris where I ran the Semi de Paris and had an early taste of spring weather.

3. A glimmer of sun on another long weekend run while I train for the London marathon. I did my longest run so far - 20 miles - on Saturday so the final countdown is on!

4. The Ruling Class at the theatre - such an odd but hilarious play. James McAvoy was amazing in this - not quite sure why people were leaving at the interval.

5. Post-theatre Mishkins with Hannah and Elodie - I had one cocktail which tasted so strong after not really drinking and this amazing bagel.

6. More Nutribullet experimenting with a "cereal milk smoothie" - recipe here. This actually tasted so good and is healthy-ish.

7. Mother's Day lunch at The Wolseley - always tip-top service and their cake table is the best.

8. Pineapple Breton-stripes for spring (available here).

9. Tea and carrot cake in John Lewis. Free cake is my favourite sort of cake.


1. The most amazing Oreo cake at Drink Shop and Do with a much-needed (and very NSFW) catch-up with Hannah and Lauren.

2. The V&A did a day of Persian New Year celebrations so my parents and I popped along for traditional music, poetry and origami.

3. Cake in the V&A. Once the marathon is over I'm going to have to scale back my cake consumption a bit...

4. Clarence Darrow at The Old Vic - so, so good. Kevin Spacey has to be one of the most amazing actors I've seen perform.

5.Family feast at Byron - courgette fries for me as always and my parents loved their first Byron burgers (I'm such a good daughter...).

6. Pho catch-ups at One New Change.

7. First Creme Egg for about ten years and they have definitely got smaller and somehow don't really taste of anything?

8. V&A Friday Late - such a civilized night out and this late was themed around the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition. The edible bubbles were so much fun!

9. The most beautiful owl at the V&A late - I don't think I've ever touched anything so soft (or touched an owl before).

How was your March?


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