Valentine’s Day. The day when card companies around the world have convinced us to express our love for our better-halves. I’m sure some of you don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day and think it’s a “made-up” holiday, and to an extent, I agree! However, I do think that amongst our hectic lives it can be a good reminder to show the people you love how much you appreciate them!

So whether you are single wanting to treat yourself, newly in a relationship and panicking about how to not seem too keen or deeply in love and wanting to spoil your significant other rotten I have a suggestion for you!

The Makeup Addict

Does your partner love makeup? Treating your significant other to a luxury piece of makeup that they wouldn’t normally splurge on could be the perfect treat! I think Charlotte Tilbury products make perfect gifts especially Pillow Talk lipstick (if you want more suggestions I have a post here that might help!). Alternatively, Burberry and Guerlain have both got Valentine’s themed limited edition products that are gorgeous! I especially love the heart shaped Guerlain lipsticks. Finally if you want to splurge then a new set of makeup brushes would be a great option!

The Home-Bird

I love interiors and I know I’m not alone! Especially if you live with your significant other why not buy something to help make your house feel even more like home! From waffle knit blankets to a cute pair of big spoon, little spoon pillowcases there is a range of options at different price points. My interior favourite this year is the limited edition Rose Delight candle from Diptique which is a blend of their classic Roses scent and Turkish Delight, it honestly smells good enough to eat and the packaging is beautiful!

The Galentine

So you are alone on Valentine’s and planning on spending the night with your gals or having a good pamper sesh’. I don’t live near Tom so this is definitely what my February 14th will look like! A hot bubble bath, scented candle and a good read makes for a perfect night in my opinion! Oh and if you can’t buy yourself heart-shaped chocolates then you clearly don’t love yourself enough! I also love giving my skin a treat with a nourishing face mask and my beloved Magnitone!

The Perfume Lover

If you fancy treating your partner to a new scent, Valentine’s is the perfect excuse. A new perfume is definitely a very generous Valentine’s Day gift and I’m sure any girl would feel spoiled rotten! I’ve linked a few of my favourites to give you some ideas but I recommend going to smell some in person. I’m currently loving Miss Dior which I received last year for my birthday and the new Tiffany scent is top of my personal wishlist! Perfumes are a very personal thing so if you haven’t been together long it might be worth waiting until you know which type of scent your other half likes!

The Cliche Romantic

We all know a cliche romantic who wants to be wined and dined and then to head back to a room with a bed covered in rose petals! If that sounds like your partner you have lots of easy options, a nice box of chocolates, bunch of roses, cuddly toy or fancy meal. However, if you want something more personal Not-on-the-high-street is my go-to! From personalised love letters to date night vouchers they have something for everyone. You can even send roses via the post if you aren’t together on Valentine’s Day.

The Foodie

If your partner a big foodie? Why not opt for a nice bottle of Champagne and a luxury box of chocolates! It might be cliche but its certainly tasty! If you can’t do a meal out on Valentine’s Day itself (because Wednesday’s are a bit annoying) why not buy a meal experience voucher from somewhere like Prezzybox? That way when you do eat out it will be a “proper” delayed Valentines. Alternatively, if your partner isn’t a big drinker why not treat her to some nice tea or coffee? I’ve really been enjoying the T2 french earl grey and they have hundreds of teas from traditional loose leaf brews to fruit tisane infusions!

The New Girlfriend

So you’ve only just started dating and you don’t want to scare your new girlfriend with excessively romantic gifts and if you are totally honest with yourself you don’t know her well enough to get something too personal. What do you do? Well, I’ve been in this situation before and I think there are a few fail-safe options! Last year my boyfriend treated me to a spa-day which was a lovely thing to do together and not too specific. I think when you are newly dating opting for an experience-based gift such as theatre tickets, a day-out or maybe even just offering to cook dinner so you can spend some time getting to know each other better is a great option! You can even get a night’s Glamping trip for £50 which I think looks super fun!

My Valentine’s Day pick!

I hope this has given you some ideas! In my opinion, you don’t need to spend lots of money on presents to have a lovely Valentine’s day. A home-cooked meal and a night snuggled up on the sofa suits me fine! If you are interested in what I’d buy if I had a special woman in my life I love the personalised bracelets from Rachel and Joseph, they are handmade in the UK, not too expensive and BEAUTIFUL. I’m not actually going to get to see Tom on Valentine’s Day itself because we live about 2 hours apart, but I’ll see him at the weekend to celebrate instead!

What are you doing for Valentine’s Day? Let me know in the comments below!

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We’ve all read stuffy reviews by theatre critics who supposedly know what they are talking about. In my experience reviews rarely align with my experience of the show as someone who has no formal theatre training but has seen and loved a lot of shows! So I thought I’d start giving you my relatable reviews from the perspective of someone who just buys a ticket, sits in the stalls and waits for the magic to begin.

The images in this post are not my own, and are taken from the press photos of Eugenius! Don’t take photos in the theatre enjoy the show!

Why did I see Eugenius?

I was convinced to watch Eugenius by my theatre-loving friend Hannah who I actually met watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. She’d heard good things and I love musicals so I was sold!

The Venue/ Price

Eugenius began it’s life with a one-off performance at the London Palladium, and is now running for six weeks in The Other Palace theatre (a five-minute walk from Victoria station). It’s a beautiful theatre with steeply banked rows meaning that everyone gets a great view. The roof was decked with fairy lights and the stage was well designed with multiple tiers and exits that were used with versatility throughout the show. Depending on where you were sat some audience members were in the spotlight (literally) before the show began with lights shining straight into their seats! Luckily Hannah and I were right in the middle so we had no problem!

The tickets range from £15 (for more restricted view seats) to £40 which for a show of this quality is pretty impressive. We paid £35 each for ours and were sat right in the middle in row D which gave us a central and intimate view of the stage. The band is on stage in Eugenius and therefore there is nothing separating the front row from the action. I’d recommend being a least a few rows back to ensure you can see everything happening onstage. The final show is March 3rd but there are still tickets remaining for most performances.

What is Eugenius about?

Without spoiling the story Eugenius is about a boy called Eugene who writes a comic book about a character called “Tough Man”. He dreams of making a living by sharing his story and making it into a movie and unsurprisingly as a comic book lover is labelled a geek at school. Along with his best friends Feris and Janey he tries to make his dreams come true!

This is a show where geeks get to rise up, be the hero and find a way to make a difference (which as a self-identifying geek definitely put a smile on my face). At heart, it is a hilariously cheesy musical with a LOT of pop culture references!

What did you think of the cast?

The cast undoubtedly MAKE this show. I can’t remember the last time I went to see a musical where I can honestly say there were no dud-performances or underdogs. Every single cast member shone, even the chorus have widely diverse roles during the course of the play and were all stand-out in their own ways.

Liam Forde, who is making his London debut in the lead role of Eugene carries the play with skill and his talent is evident. He was giving 100% whenever onstage even when the action wasn’t focussed on him. He also has to sing a wide range of songs in the play both in pitch and style and his voice is incredible.

Special mentions have to go to Melissa James, Scott Paige and Daniel Buckley who played Super Hot Lady, Theo and Feris respectively. They all had me rolling around in hysterics and Daniel’s first solo song introducing Feris as a character was one of my highlights of the show.

Also there is a robot voiced by MARK. HAMILL. Yes that Mark! I know, enough said, this show is COOL.

Honestly, I could go on and on talking about how I loved every member of this cast (shoutout to Ian Hughes who as Lord Hector managed to make a LOT of awkward direct audience eye contact without corpsing!) however for me there was one performance that left me truly breathless.

I’m a redhead, and a geek so it’s hardly any surprise that I instantly loved the role of Janey, played by Laura Baldwin. Laura honestly stole the show in my opinion. The repertoire of songs she has to sing is diverse and HARD, she managed to fill the music with genuine heartfelt emotion even during more comedic moments such as when a wind-blower is suddenly on stage. She had me captivated from her first scene to her very last, it was an inspirational performance. As a soprano myself, her high notes were INSANE. If you ever read this Laura. RESPECT. You slayed.

So what did you think?

Eugenius is the best original musical I’ve seen in years (and that’s saying something given my recent addiction to The Greatest Showman”) I would definitely go back to see it again and I am really hoping it gets a West End run because it’s truly incredible. I laughed, I cried and I gasped (and cringed at the innuendo at some points because I’m internally a teenage boy).

It’s energetic and by the end, I was on my feet dancing and singing to a song I’d never heard a few hours before along with the rest of the audience! Forget standing ovation it was a standing dance party. My only complaint? I ended up with a few funny looks on the tube as I sung to myself the entire way home!

Note: There were some VERY cheesy jokes in this show so it’s musical and cheesy comedy aren’t your thing this probably isn’t the show for you. But if you love a laugh and a boogie I’d definitely recommend seeing this before it’s gone! I can guarantee you’ll leave the theatre singing #GOEUGENIUS

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Photography- Thomas Worthington

So it’s finally February, after the month that felt like it lasted approximately 2675849 days I am glad to be turning over a new page and beginning the next chapter of my journey. Now January hasn’t been a particularly great month for me to be honest but after the incredible response, I had to my post all about feeling Chubby and accepting that I’m fat I knew I need to keep my promise of monthly updates.

The absolutely lovely comments I received last time showed me how important it is to be open and honest and I know that my last post helped lots of you so I hope this one is just as useful! Once again please be kind in the comments, these posts are by far the most personal thing I put on the internet so I appreciate you being considerate. If you don’t have anything nice to say then just don’t leave a comment!

What went well?

FODMAP Diet

Largely speaking I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to the FODMAP diet that I am using to help with my ulcerative colitis symptoms. It is VERY restrictive which has at times proven a real issue, however, I’ve stuck with it. Eight weeks is a long time to be stuck eating fairly bland food and it has been more of a mental battle than a physical one.

I am off to see my dietician near the end of February so the end is in sight! One issue with the FODMAP diet is that in order to ensure I get enough protein and I feel full lots of my meals have ended up including foods that are higher in fat (and calories) such as cheese and peanut butter. And I’ll confess I’ve had the odd chocolate bar because I’m allowed small amounts of milk chocolate (a.k.a my nemesis). Therefore I haven’t lost a lot of weight this month, only a few pounds. Therefore in February, I want to take a healthier approach to FODMAP and try to be more conscious of what I eat from a weight-loss perspective and I’m banning myself from chocolate!

However, a small victory was I am bloating less thanks to the diet helping ease my symptoms so I have had to wear a belt for the first time in FOREVER! Which made me quite excited (I know I’m so cool!)

Water

I’ve made a conscious effort to increase my intake of water to around two litres a day and I’ve managed that most days this month. Having a desk job definitely helps with this and I use an app on my phone to keep track of how much water I’ve had so far in the day.

Two of my sisters have the hour-tracker water bottles and I am very tempted to get one to take my water tracking to the next level, I particularly like this dot tracking bottle from Joseph & Joseph! I haven’t seen a massive change in my health due to my increased water consumption but my skin is looking better than it has in ages however that may well be due to Glossier Solution!  P.S that link gives you 10% off your first order if you still haven’t joined the Glossier bandwagon!

Personal Care

This one might seem strange but I feel like I’ve prioritised looking after myself physically this month. I had my brows done for the first time in forever thanks to the fabulous team at The Brow Gal. I’m tackling my dry skin by being CONSISTENT with my moisturiser application and I’m ensuring that I always make time for my skincare routine, brushing my teeth, showering, shaving and all those things that a) are NECESSARY why did I ever skip any of them and b) Make me feel much better about myself.

Social Life

I tried to improve the balance in my life this month by spending more time with friends. I finally met the gorgeous Beth in person in order to celebrate her birthday and got to spend time with some other blogger babes, both familiar faces and some newly discovered gems. I’ve also made more of an effort to see and speak to my university friends. It’s easy to not talk often when we are all so busy but reaching out to them when I was feeling low earlier this month made me realise that wherever we are they will always be there for me.

What didn’t go so well?

Exercise

My exercise goals weren’t a total fail. I’ve been reunited with my Fitbit and I do 10,000 steps most days however I haven’t done any heart-raising exercise other than running for the train or bus!

To be honest I’m really struggling to find a way to fit regular exercise around my job and the dark, cold evenings don’t really inspire me to get out for a run! If anyone has any advice for how they exercise in the winter I’m taking suggestions! My concern is joining a gym might just end up a waste of money if I can never find the time to go because of my commute.

Sleep

Switching off my phone 30 minutes before bed definitely hasn’t happened every night! I have started leaving my phone on the other side of the room when I sleep (partially so my alarm drags me out of my warm bed in the morning and also so I can’t be tempted to roll over and go back onto Instagram in the early hours of the morning. I’ve never been great at getting to sleep and I find it particularly hard at this time of year. My Fitbit also measures the hours I’ve been asleep so I’m going to keep an eye on that in February and try to ensure I get at least 7 hours.

Keeping a food / weight / sleep / symptom diary

I have not been doing this.

Which is bad.

Because I think I need to for my dietician. Oops.

Partially I find having to write everything down in front of people awkward, which is STUPID considering I know people from work read my blog (Hi Big Huw) but hey, we all have silly thought processes and worries sometimes. However, on a more positive note, I dug out my bullet journal again and have set up February spreads so hopefully, I can keep track of everything this month!

Mental Health

This was the big stumbling block this month. I’ve struggled with anxiety in various guises over the last ten years from panic attacks to just avoiding any stressful situations. January is a busy time for me at work, my life is really hectic and I’m studying for some big exams so half-way through January I ended sat crying on my bed with no idea what was wrong.

I spoke to my family, Tom and close friends who all helped me decide it was time for a trip to the GP. They were really helpful and supportive and as I write this I’ve just had my first day back on my anxiety medication which I haven’t taken since June. When I stopped taking the medication I did so cold-turkey and without medical supervision which was NOT. SMART. Hopefully feeling better mentally will help with other issues on this list like my lack of sleep!

So that’s my January update, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag but overall I feel like I’ve made steps towards my goals and some positive changes. However, there is certainly a lot more work to do! See you in February for another check in!

I’m still not entirely sure what format these update posts are going to take so if you have any opinions and what you liked or didn’t like about this one let me know in the comments down below.

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Photography: Kaye Ford

It’s 6:00, pitch-black outside and once again my alarm is going off, I groggily roll over and hit snooze. It’s 6:15 my second alarm is going off, I don’t even remember the first one, I roll over hit snooze and drift back to sleep. I hear my sister’s alarm from upstairs, the sound and my inability to turn it off cause a moment of annoyance before I realise that it is 6:45, I need to have left the house to get to work in 15 mins and I should have been up nearly an hour ago. I run around like a mad-woman rushing to get ready and try to look vaguely human before I run out the door.

Sound familiar?

Dark mornings and cold weather aren’t exactly a recipe for success. I’m sure we all have mornings when we’d rather stay in bed and I know that I find not seeing daylight Monday-Friday really lowers my mood and energy levels. So today I thought I’d talk about the 8 ways I’ve been trying to beat the Winter Blues.

Outfit details: Headband– Jack Wills, Jumper and Culottes– River Island, Heels- Michael Kors (similar), Earrings- New Look, Bag- Ted Baker (similar)

1. Try to go to bed earlier

I am definitely guilty of staying up too late, especially in the winter when I haven’t got sunset to remind me that I should be headed to sleep. I’ve made an effort recently to switch off my “screens” at least half an hour before my planned “bedtime” in order to try to help me get to sleep faster.

2. Optimise your “dead” time

Whether it’s your daily commute or the time you spend waiting for an appointment we all have “dead” time in our week. The time when you have to be in a certain place but you aren’t really “doing” anything. For me, the clearest example of this is definitely my commute. I spend over three hours and day travelling to and from work. Most of this time is spent on a train or a bus but I’m often standing so I used to waste the time because I felt I couldn’t work on my laptop or read a book.

Recently I’ve been using Audible as an alternative. It’s far more commute friendly because I can continue listening to my audiobook through train changes and even when packed into a rammed tube. Plus I am enjoying having books back in my life because I definitely missed having the time to read. Most importantly it’s made my commute feel like less of a chore because I’m looking forward to hearing what happens next!

3. Get outside in the daylight as much as possible

Now I know this one can be hard especially if like me you have a 9-5 office job like me. I’ve been trying to go out of the office during my lunch break and go for a walk for 20-30mins. Not only is the exercise good for breaking up the hours spent at my desk but the fresh air and sun does wonders for my mood and always leave me feeling revitalised.

4. Have a good pamper session!

I don’t know about you but I sometimes “let myself go” a bit during winter. Stubbly legs (because no-one is seeing them), chipped nail varnish and three-day-old hair because I hate going outside with wet hair and I don’t have time to dry it. The thing is this laziness just leaves me feeling grotty and awful.

So I prioritised my self-care routine and gave myself a fresh manicure and pedicure earlier this week (despite the fact no-one will be seeing my toes until May at the earliest!). Normally my default would be a long hot bath but we are having our bathroom renovated at the moment so I’ve been using face masks to give myself that “pampered” feeling instead! They always leave me feeling really zen and my skin looks and feels great so that’s a plus!

5. Wrap up warm but still wear something you love

Oversized jumpers and slouchy trousers definitely have a place in my wardrobe but wearing snuggly chic outfits is definitely one of the best ways to improve my mood. I hate being cold but I always feel like I’ve got my life together when I’m wearing a put-together outfit that I love. The pieces in this post are a great example of this. The off-the-shoulder white jumper is one of the warmest items in my wardrobe but it always makes feel really chic as well. I also love my white fluffy faux fur headband from Jack Wills. I think it’s a great alternative to a slouchy beanie and still keeps my ears super warm. Finally, when it’s not too cold or wet I love wearing this simple pair of Michael Kors heels (similar), they are surprisingly comfortable and have a magical way of making me feel like a girl boss! Whatever you love wearing rock it!

6. Eat Healthily

What goes into your body is important. And while I believe in balance (and that life isn’t worth living without a bit of Dairy Milk occasionally) eating heavy stodgy foods that we often associate with the winter doesn’t always help the lethargy. Salads aren’t just for summer and making sure you are eating foods with a  wide range of vitamins can not only boost your mood but also give you more energy.

7. Give yourself something to look forward to!

I booked a holiday last week. Well, actually I booked two. A trip with my uni friends to sunny Spain in July, and a trip to New York with Tom at the end of March. I have my next set of exams in the middle of March and the combination of work and revision is leaving me spread a little thin. I wanted to have something exciting on the horizon that would motivate me to work hard and pass those exams so I enjoy a trip of a lifetime. My step-sister was actually born in the Big Apple and it’s a city I’ve heard a lot about so I’m looking forward to exploring it for myself. If booking a holiday is a bit extreme for you why not make plans to see friends or go for a nice meal! Having enjoyable plans on the horizon always helps make the daily grind a little easier.

8. Get Active

It’s tough to motivate yourself to go on a run or a cycle ride when it is SO COLD AND WINDY. And it’s January so fitness classes and gyms across the country are packed with eager people trying to keep to their New Year’s Resolutions but even if it’s only a 20-minute walk find a way to incorporate some physical activity into your day is scientifically proven to raise your mood #endorphins!

Finally on a more serious note SAD a.k.a Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real medical issue that can affect people at this time of year so if you have been suffering from a consistently low mood don’t be afraid to ask your GP for advice.

If you got this far why not leave me a comment to let me know your favourite way to perk yourself up in the winter!

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Photography: Kaye Ford

I’ve never been skinny. I always had curves and an excessive love for chocolate. Long ago I resigned myself to the fact that I was never going to look like the slim, toned women I saw in glossy magazines.

My weight has always been something I’m self-conscious of. I first did Weight Watchers when I was THIRTEEN and back then I was three stone lighter than today. I’ve tried far too many crazy crash diets from cutting out all carbs to just eating sugar-free gum. I was recently diagnosed with a chronic bowel condition and over the summer before receiving my diagnosis I dealt with the pain the way I always have. I ate my feelings.

When I get into a cycle of binge eating I enter an almost impenetrable state of denial. I avoid the scales at all costs, make excuses when my clothes no longer fit and brush off comments from concerned family members. I’ve been like this my entire life, even as a child I’d get upset and eat all my Easter/Christmas/Dad’s chocolate all at once. After my parents’ divorce, I lived on Ben & Jerry’s for far too long and don’t even get me started on my sweet consumption during my final year exams.

Learning to love myself? Or not….

With the rise of “Body Positivity,” I made a conscious effort to accept my curves, my fat rolls and my stretch-marks. I tried to ignore the comments from random male strangers on Instagram that just said “Chubby” as I swiped to delete them. But however hard I tried to love myself I just wasn’t happy and then I had a realisation. MAYBE THAT’S OK!

I am “chubby” and I am not happy with the way my body currently looks. Since beginning university, I have gained nearly three stone. And based on my BMI (which is know isn’t always accurate yadayadayada but still) I’m obese. Not overweight. Obese.

I’m not treating my body the way I should and when I fighting so hard to beat my illness and improve my health I’d be kidding myself if I ignored such an important factor. So I’m doing something I’ve never done before in an attempt to hold myself accountable. I’m going to be really, really honest.

A quick disclaimer, the last thing I want to do here is fat shame. These are my numbers and mine alone. I am providing them for context so that as I continue to post updates about my health journey you know about my starting point.

I am 5”7’ and as of yesterday, I weighed 14st 7lb (in the morning, stark naked stood on my scales- let’s be real we all know that’s when you weigh the lowest!). That makes my BMI 31.7. I’m a size 14-16, and because of my bowel condition sometimes I bloat so much that leggings are my only option!

So I’m “fat” now what?

Due to my ulcerative colitis diagnosis, I have just started a medically prescribed diet (supervised by a dietician) called Low FODMAP. This is targeted at reducing my symptoms rather than weight loss but as I have to keep a food diary anyway I thought it would be the perfect time to try to focus on all aspects of my health.

I am also B12 deficient due to my condition and have been having injections to replenish my B12 store. Due to this, I have been so fatigued that exercise, (which I did regularly whilst at university) has become completely non-existent in my life.

To kick-start my journey I’ve settled on five simple goals:

  1. Keep my food diary every day, and stick to the FODMAP diet
  2. Record my weight weekly, and update you all on my progress at the end of each month
  3. Drink at least two litres of water a day
  4. Introduce exercise into my life three times a week even if all I can manage because of my fatigue is a walk.
  5. Switch off my phone to give myself a screen-free 30mins before going to bed and endeavour to get 8 hours sleep a night.

Over the years I’ve found the only thing that has ever worked is the simplest. Eat Less. Do More. My goals for 2018 aren’t about numbers I don’t have a specific goal weight or fitness challenge to aim for.

For me it’s simple. I want to feel healthier, stronger and less fatigued. If that leaves me looking better and feeling happier about myself then that will be the best bonus of all.

So why I am telling all of this to YOU? The internet.

Well, I need your help. I am giving you explicit permission to hold me accountable. If you haven’t had an update post by February 2nd ask me where it is!

In some ways, this set of images inspired me to share this with you all, because despite Kaye being an incredible photographer and despite my smile, all I see when I look at these pictures is my fat legs and my cellulite. And yet when I posted two of them on my Instagram all I received was comments about how much people liked my outfit or my hair! We are all hypercritical of our own flaws and I think it’s important to remember that everyone has insecurities.

Also please, please be kind in the comments. It is absolutely terrifying even considering pressing the publish button on this. But I spoke about being scared on Instagram yesterday and so many of you told me to do it.

So in the words of Demi Lovato, “This is Me” I’m not standing where I want to be, but instead of trying to love my unhealthy body I’m trying to make my actions speak louder than words and put my health first.

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