Sunday, 12 August 2018

What happens when you get eyelash extensions?


A couple of weeks ago, I did something that I had always been curious about. I got eyelash extensions. And it has been my favourite non-invasive cosmetic procedure to date.

I've had acrylic nails (pretty, but really chewed up my real nails, and a nightmare to remove), hair extensions (I had micro-rings and they felt awful. I couldn't wear my hair up, or brush it properly) and an eyebrow tint (quite pointless as I have dark eyebrows anyway, but I was bored). No, my list of treatments may not match Kim Kardashian's, but as a beauty writer I've either had or witnessed most procedures - and I have to say that, out of all of them, I could get addicted to eyelash extensions.

One of the best things about them is that they're completely tailored to your look. For me, it was all about having naturally fuller and longer looking lashes. However, you might want to go full glam instead. It's all down to what you prefer and what your technician recommends. Eyelash extensions can be found in a range of lengths, thickness and degrees of curl for a perfectly personalised look.

Before
For my treatment, I went to Lashes By Beckie, who is a certified Novalash technician. For the entirety of the appointment, I was lying down on a comfy beauty bed, which was fine by me. There's nothing more enticing than literally doing nothing for an hour and a half. We had the radio on, as well as the soft hum of Beckie's fan (it was late July and baking), and it just felt like a relaxing evening with a friend.

Beckie placed adhesive strips over my lower lashes to keep them out of the way. This was a weird feeling at first - as if someone was softly pulling your lower lid down - but I soon forgot about it. The hard part was keeping my eyes shut. I'm a blinker, for some reason. I blink a lot, and I didn't really realise that until this appointment. I was just so tempted to open my eyes to blink. But I urge you to keep them shut, and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, opening your eyes will let the eyelash glue seep in which, although it's not going to blind you, can leave you with bloodshot eyes for a couple of days. Secondly, you'll annoy your technician - it's kind of similar to someone moving their hands around at a nail appointment.

After

Every so often, Beckie would use a small dryer to set the lash glue. This was a weirdly nice sensation, as the air felt cool and seemed to stop my eyes from watering from the fumes of the glue. Another little treat was the ocassional brushing of the lashes with a tiny spooly - again, oddly satisfying. And you'll probably find yourself doing this at home with your own spooly to stop any criss-crossing or wonky eyelashes.

Once Beckie had finished applying the lashes, and they had dried, I took a look in her mirror and fell in love with the results. I'm an unfortunate member of the short-eyelash-group, so it was a real treat to be able to have that extra length framing my eyes. I feel more 'feminine', which is an odd thing to say as my boyfriend has lovely, long, thick eyelashes (and what does 'feminine' even look like, anyway?) but I just feel like the word epitomises their appearance.

The great thing about Novalash extensions is that they're water and oil resistant, so you can get them wet or wear them with makeup. However, since my appointment, I haven't worn makeup as I'm so happy with how the lashes make me look 'done'.

Two weeks have passed and, although a few have dropped out with the completely normal growth and fallout of my natural lashes, the falsies still appear long and full. I give them a gentle comb every other day, and avoid rubbing them, as I find that this is helping their longevity. Infills are recommended every two to three weeks to keep lashes looking full, but if you're not planning to top up, expect the lashes to completely fall out within six weeks.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

TV series to watch if you're a career girl

TV series to watch if you're a career girl

It's so easy to get caught up in junk TV these days. With so much choice available, you can often find that hours go by and you feel like you haven't really 'done' anything. For me, I like to find programmes that are inspiring or provoking in some way - so you won't generally catch me down a Love Island-hole (in fact, the 2018 series was so boring that I stopped watching halfway through).

It's not that I'm a TV snob. I have nothing against epople who watch a little TV to relax and switch off - I totally get that. But I just love programmes which either start a conversation, prod at your sense of humour, or inspire you to do more with your life, which is why I adore the series I've listed below (and they're even better if you watch them on a great TV - try these on for size: HD Televisions Panasonic).

The Bold Type

TV series to watch if you're a career girl
c/o Instagram @theboldtypetv
After The Devil Wears Prada sparked my lifelong love affair with fashion journalism, I had been searching for another film or TV programme to match up to the hype. And then The Bold Type came along. This series is like TDWP crossed with Girls, and is actually based on the life of former Cosmo editor-in-chief Joanna Coles (a big inspiration to me).

It's based around three friends and colleagues working at a magazine called Scarlett, whilst living in New York and dealing with love, life and sex. It's lighthearted and fun, with a certain amount of relatability and a lot of inspiration for modern, young, aspiring fashion journalists.

Absolutely Fabulous

TV series to watch if you're a career girl
c/o Instagram @abfabmovie
If you ever find yourself in need of something a little more British, then Ab Fab is the one. It'll tell you everything you need to know about what NOT to do when working in fashion PR, and give you a lot of laughs along the way.

Starring Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders, perhaps my two favourite British comedy actresses, this series has been really sporadic across its 20 years in production. But it has always charmed its way to the top of my TV viewing list.

How to Get Away with Murder

TV series to watch if you're a career girl
c/o Instagram @howtogetawaywithmurder
Shonda Rhimes blows my mind with how many great TV shows she's behind, and How to Get Away with Murder does not disappoint. The show will either make you want to become a criminal lawyer or law professor, or completely scare you off.

It's gripping, engaging, thought-provoking and will make you hungry for more. Plus, it plays into that millennial obsession with death and morbidity. We're a strange lot, aren't we?

The Carrie Diaries

TV series to watch if you're a career girl
c/o Instagram @thecarriediariesofficial
This frothy teen drama follows the life of everyone's favourite New York fashion-obsessed columnist, Carrie Bradshaw, during the 80s when she was an intern. Starring AnnaSophia Robb, the show was cancelled after two seasons, but while it ran it was a fleeting look into the determination and persistence of a young woman in a big city, trying to pursure the career of her dreams.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2018

What to do when all your friends are settling down (and you're not)


I've pretty much always been in a relationship. Since high school, I've lived my life with my partner at my side. In fact, I can't really remember being single. And I'm happy with that - I'm one of those lucky, smug people who found their soulmate young.

But when you reach a certain point in your twenties (especially if you're from a small town), you start to get 'the questions'. They'll often pop up at weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, births - any 'do' which involves family, really. And you'll come to expect them; you'll start bracing yourself once you spot Aunt Helen sidling her way up to you while you're stocking up on mushroom vol-au-vents, because you know what'll come next.

It always starts with 'so'.


"So, have you found a house yet?"
"So, when is *** going to propose?"
"So, when am I going to get a grandchild?"

Or it'll be the ominous 'you're next', as if you're about to become the victim of a rampant serial killer making his way through unsuspecting freelance journalists. Whether it's at your cousin's engagement party or your brother's wedding, it's automatically assumed that you'll be next on the list for a relationship milestone because the family member closest in age to you is your nephew, and he's only twelve. Lucky shit.

And I know it's all meant in the nicest of ways (or is it? I'll consider writing about the detrimental effects of pushy family members in another post), and that the uncle you haven't seen in a year really does just want to know how you're getting on. But, what if you don't even know?

There's definitely an unspoken plan that you're expected to follow when you're in a relationship: get a place together, get engaged, married, have kids, try not to get divorced, die. But what if you're not really that fussed about all those things (apart from dying - you can't really get out of that one)? I've never been someone to gush over the thought of a dream wedding with a frothy white dress, or feel an overwhelming tug in my ovaries when I hear a child cry. In fact, I don't like kids. And I'm not really that bothered about getting married.

I've come to a crossroads


I've been thinking about this plan a lot lately, and how differently I picture my future in comparison. But a recent event has made my mind go into overdrive. One of my oldest friends has just got engaged.

Of course, I love her and I'm so happy for her. As much as it may seem from my cynical tone and sarcastic humour, I'm not bitter (I'm just a journalist). I couldn't think of a person anymore deserving of a happy relationship, and I can't wait to see her happier than ever on her wedding day.

However, it has made me think of my own future, and how I'm going to cope when everyone I know embarks on the road to marriage and kids. Everyone has that unmarried, child-free friend who tries to phone up when you're battling through a terrible-twos-tantrum, and gets a little bit more disappointed every time you decline their offer of a vino down the local. Will that be me?

It might seem selfish, but that genuinely worries me. Who wants to be the last one standing when the lights come on, and everyone else has moved on? From what I've read, I'm not the only one who feels this way - although the majority of others in this boat are single. I'm happy where I am in my relationship; my partner is happy, too. I just need a chance to - for lack of a less cliché phrase - find myself.

What next?


My plan is to travel. Travel until there is nowhere else to explore, until I'm experienced enough to know what I want out of life, until I'm ready to embark down that road (or not, as it might turn out). I want to make more friends, with likeminded people who also don't really know what they're doing, and have stories to tell. I want to take photos of amazing things, and learn about cultures that I never knew existed, and eat food that I've never tried before (oh, the food - possibly my largest motivation).

I've thought about travelling for a while now, and now that it's written down, I have to do it. And if anyone I know personally knows a thing or two about it, or wants to come with me - hit me up. It'd be great to have a companion on this next leg of my journey.

Where I've been, and where I want to go


Although the countryside has and always will be my home, I love visiting cities. I'm not really one to laze about on a beach, because I feel like there's so much I'm missing out on. The cities I've visited have always been vibrant, bustling and exciting - apart from Monte Carlo, which really does feel like a billionaire's playground.

Although I would definitely be open to exploring other areas, cities are where I'm best suited, as I feel it's so much easier to get around for a first-time visitor. I'm dying to go to Australia and visit Sydney and Cairns, so I think that'll be first on my list. And there are a few places I want to visit again, like Los Angeles (especially), Paris, Rome and Amsterdam, as these are some of my favourite cities.

Manila
Los Angeles
San Francisco
Orlando
Barcelona
Rome
Monte Carlo
Nice
Paris 
Amsterdam
Antwerp
Sydney/Cairns
Reykjavic
Dubrovnik
Venice
Positano
Santorini
Mykonos
Copenhagen
Tokyo
Singapore
New York
Vancouver
Los Angeles (again)
Las Vegas
Honolulu
Edinburgh
Dubai

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Friday, 6 July 2018 / London, UK

You're doing beachy waves all wrong



Research by Philip Kingsley found that ‘beachy waves’ were the hottest summer look by far, voted for by almost half (48%) of British women. I can see why. This hairstyle has that effortless look about it - even though we know that, most of the time, it wasn't really that effortless to create. I mean, apart from Kate Moss, who really rolls out of bed with perfect hair? 

My hair has calmed down since my days of adolescent frizz, and now I love to wear it with a bit of a wave in it. I stress 'wave' here. Not a curl. Curl's are my winter thing - in summer, any form of heat stying is futile, with curls dropping like flies in the heat. When it comes to beachy waves, I prefer to plait my hair the night before, then seal in the look come morning with some product.

Although Liu Wen (one of my favourite models)
looks amazing with her new choppy bob, I always
thought she worked the beachy waves look so
well with her long hair
However, the products I use are probably the most important part of this style. Because my hair has been processed with chemicals (due to a good few years of bleaching), I have to avoid products which are dehydrating, such as salt sprays, to prevent further damage.

In my time as a beauty journalist, I developed a love of Philip Kingsley products. The packaging is unfussy, but not cheap looking, the formulas smell great, and I see genuine improvements in the look and feel of my hair after using their products. 

Last summer, I relied on their summer solutions to get me through holidays and lazy weekends in the sun. Their Instant Beach spray comprises a salt-free conditioning formula which conditions your hair whilst at the same time giving you soft and natural-looking texturised waves. It's a great alternative to super drying salt sprays for those who don't want to see a gruesome thinning out of their hair by the end of summer.

At £22, it's a little more pricey than your average drugstore beach wave spray, but it'll help you take far better care of your hair. And alongside skincare, I see haircare as an essential investment with endless great returns.

Talking haircare, it's not just styling products which are key to gorgeous beachy waves - it's partly about the preparation, too. One of my all time favourite hair products is Philip Kingsley's Elasticizer. It's their bestseller, for reasons that you can only truly discover if you try this amazing product - but, if you need convincing, read my review!

It's a pre-shampoo treatment, which really gets deep in the follicles and moisturises your hair. Originally created for Audrey Hepburn to help her hair recover from excessive styling between films and shoots, this product has been around for over 40 years - so you know it's good.

Last year, when I got my hair styled at the beautiful Josh Wood Atelier in Notting Hill, I met Anabel Kingsley. She's the daughter of the late Philip Kingsley, and a trichologist at the forefront of the brand. Not only is she a lovely person, but she gave me some really helpful tips about caring for my hair and alleviating the symptoms of my ongoing issue with dry scalp (if you want me to write a blog post about this issue, please leave me a comment!)

Of the Elasticizer, Anabel said, "Time in the sun can decrease the hair’s moisture content – and hair that is dry is less elastic and breaks far more easily than it should. The most effective way to improve elasticity and strength is to use a weekly pre-shampoo conditioning treatment. We make one called Elasticizer that we originally formulated for Audrey Hepburn. You apply it to damp hair at least 20 minutes before shampooing and then shampoo and condition as usual." 


Philip Kingsley has released 'Geranium & Neroli' and 'Coconut Breeze' versions of the original Elasticizer, and this year they're launching one more! This August, say hello to the Pomegranate & Cassis Elasticizer, with its stunning new packaging design and gorgeous-sounding scent. I can't wait to get my hands on this!

Now, personally, a pre-shampoo product like the Elasticizer really does wonders for your haircare routine. But a conditioner is by far the most important product for me. I've used dozens and dozens of different conditioners - honestly, this is no joke. I have been on a quest for years to find the right conditioners for me. So I like to think I know what I'm talking about when it comes to this area of haircare.

If you like to keep your routine all within one brand, then might I suggest Philip Kingsley's Moisture Balancing Conditioner? This is a great product for medium or fine hair, and especially hair that has been chemically processed. If you find that your hair is dull, dry, or tangles easily (argh, those awful tangles), then pop this on your mids and ends for a simple and effective fix.

Anabel says, "During summer, the hair’s protective outer cuticle can become raised and damaged. A raised cuticle does not reflect light well, so the hair can look rather dull. To help close the cuticle, use a post shampoo conditioner formulated for your hair texture every time you wash your hair."

My tip for you is to use this conditioner after washing your hair at your normal preferred temperature, then wash the product off after a couple of minutes with water as cool as you can stand it. This should close the cuticle, lock in moisture and make your hair look shinier. Try it and let me know what you think!

Will you be trying out the beachy waves look this summer?

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Friday, 29 June 2018

Chocolate DOES make everything better


When it comes to gifts, I'm a giver. I love giving people presents. I'll always bring a bottle round to dinner to thank you for having me. If you're ill, expect some flowers. I even regularly bring in food for people who work at my gym. Why? I guess I love seeing that look on my people's faces when they receive something nice. It's heartwarming, and genuinely makes me happy - so, in a way, it's almost selfish (as Phoebe once said, there's no such thing as a selfless good deed), but I don't care. I shall continue to be selfish, if that's the case.

If you're like me, then Lily O'Brien's personalised chocolate gift boxes make gifting a little bit more special than a bouquet of flowers or bottle of wine. With these, you can add photos to a box of their delicious chocolates, so that you can enjoy a yummy treat whilst reminiscing over your favourite memories. 

Lily O'Brien's got in touch with me to nominate someone to receive a box* of chocolates, and I chose my sister. Over the past few years, we've been through a lot together and separately, and I can see her growing into a stronger person every day, which has been inspiring. Although I don't share too much about my family on my blog, I thought it would be nice to feature my sister, as she has been a constant in my life where others have not.

Needless to say, she was super excited to receive this lovely box of chocolates, which contained two layers of chocolates from Lily O'Brien's Elite Collection consisting of all my favourite flavours: Himalayan Salted Caramel, Zesty Orange Chocolate, and many, many more (are you salivating as much as I am?)

You can choose one, two or three photographs top top off your box, and these come framed to form a gorgeous keepsake for your recipient. This particular box is £30, and you can also find the Chocolate Indulgence photo box for £16.50 and the Desserts Collection photo box for £12.15. Have a browse on their site now and let me know if you made an order for your special someone!

*Gifted for review
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Friday, 22 June 2018

What is gaslighting and has it happened to you?


Gaslighting isn't anything new. In fact, the term stems from a play by Patrick Hamilton called Gas Light, in which the main character Bella is made to feel insane by her husband Jack, who disappears every night and flirts with their servants.

The word has been used to describe behaviour in a relationship where one party tries to manipulate the other's perception of a situation by making them second-guess themselves. For example, in a physically abusive relationship, the opressor may deny that they were ever violent towards the victim, making the victim question themselves. It creates dependency for the victim and control for the opressor, which is obviously toxic in a relationship.

The reason I'm talking about gaslighting on my blog today is due to the amount of media coverage surrounding Love Island's Adam and his attitude towards Rosie. I'm a follower of the show (and I'm not afraid to admit that because I think you can watch something and just appreciate it for what it is instead of trying to rise above it and criticising it when it is obviously trashy TV), and from what I've seen over the past few seasons is the beginnings of some very real instances of emotional abuse. We'll get to Adam later, but we've also witnessed Jonny being controlling over Tyla, Olivia verbally abusing Chris (who was then revealed to have a history of struggling with mental health) and Kady hurling abuse at Tina and Scott (the latter being arrested for assaulting Kady following their departure from the villa).

Some might say that, with all of these negative relationships being portrayed, Love Island is a pretty toxic show. But I think that it's important that these kind of relationships are highlighted and talked about, as creating a dialogue could help people who are struggling in similar relationships get the help they need.

Unfortunately, these situations happen too often, and victims may not even know about it. For example, I was gaslighted when I was younger. I didn't know it was happening, and now looking back I wish I had seen Love Island and read the media coverage so that I could have helped myself.

I was a teenager at the time, and was seeing a boy who had a very close relationship with a girl who he insisted was a friend and made me feel insane for thinking otherwise (and even painted me out to be insane to other people). But I knew that they went on nights out together a lot and texted each other at all hours, and even other people were asking me what was happening between him and this other girl. All the signs were there - lying, denial, and a completely sociopathic lack of empathy for me and how the situation was crushing me inside.

Eventually it turned out that I was right to be suspicious, and I'll leave it at that. But I really wish I had been able to identify this behaviour, or at least had someone 'in the know' to tell me how to deal with it. Instead, people were giving me the old 'boys will be boys' talk, or telling me to 'leave him alone otherwise he'll think you're nuts and leave you' - like it was my fault he was acting like that, and I was pushing him away.

It was a really sad time in my life, and because of that, it really hurts to see it happening to other women. When I watched Rosie pouring her heart out to a stone-faced (and almost smirking) Adam, it reignited that sadness, as well as frustration and anger. Rosie told Adam, 'I don’t think you have any idea how much you’ve hurt me and how much you’ve really upset me. And the worst thing is, I don’t think you care,' whilst Adam tried to make her question her interpretation of his actions towards Zara, before claiming that she pushed him away with her jealousy. Sound familiar? This is the very start of gaslighting, and again Rosie was right to be suspicious as we then saw Adam and Zara kissing later in the show.

If you feel as if this relates to a situation you're in, here are 11 warning signs of a gaslighter, as laid out by Psychology Today:


  1. Lying about their actions, thoughts or emotions
  2. Denying somthing they or you did or said, even with proof
  3. Getting personal (i.e. accusing you of having a jealous personality)
  4. Gradual worsening of behaviour
  5. Conflicting their actions with their words
  6. Throwing you off with a positive comment or action after a series of bad behaviour
  7. Making you feel confused
  8. Accusing you of engaging in similar behaviour to distract from their own
  9. Aligning their or your family, friends or co-workers against you
  10. Telling others you're crazy
  11. Telling you everyone else is a liar to make them seem like they are the truthful one
I can't urge you enough to seek help if you feel that this is happening to you. If you feel that you can't get through to the person you're in a relationship with, either talk to someone you trust and ask if they can help you through the situation, or talk to a helpline if you feel think an outside perspective will aid you more. Either way, it's important to remember that you're never 'insane' for being suspicious, that there are people out there just like you who have been through the same thing, and that you can seek help if you need it.

Useful helplines: Women's Aid, Refuge, Victim Support
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Saturday, 16 June 2018 / London, UK

What the hell is up with H&M's sizing?


H&M aren't doing well at the moment. Not only are they one more racist t-shirt away from worldwide boycott, their sizings are just awful.

Here, I'm wearing a polka dot dress from H&M's SS18 collection. You might have seen this on a few bloggers via Instagram. I think it's little bit of a hit, because, well, it's a really pretty dress. But all is not as it appears.

This dress kind of came to me accidentally. I didn't buy it - my sister did. I was round her place about a week ago when she gave it to me, telling me that she bought it as a size 12, took it home and upon trying it on, realised that there was no way it was actually the size that was advertised. It was much, much smaller. To put it in to perspective, I'm a size 8, and it fits me perfectly.

In what world does a 12 translate to an 8? H&M's, I guess. And this isn't the first time I've come across dodgy measurements with this brand. A pair of size 8 jeans I tried on about a year ago made me feel like I was squeezing my legs into extremely tight sausage casing. It was terrible. I think I almost cried ugly tears when I was in the changing room.

Unfortunately this is an ongoing issue with H&M. You might remember a story that surfaced a year ago, when a size 12 girl from Swansea couldn't fit into a size 16 H&M dress. Well, it turns out that the brand's sizes are actually labelled incorrectly. Apparently, they don't abide by standard sizing conversion charts, for some reason. So you're doomed from the start unless you have prior knowledge of their weird system.

Obviously, there's no problem in sizing up for clothing occasionally. You should never have to feel shameful for wearing clothing which is a size larger if that's what fits you. Not all clothing at all stores fits the standard size charts (cough, Miss Selfridge, cough). However, two sizes or even three sizes larger? That's just a joke.

What's been your experience with H&M clothing? I know that all their clothes aren't like this, becuase I've bought things from H&M which have fitted just fine. But this problem is happening all too often... am I right?



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Monday, 28 May 2018 / London, UK

I tried HelloFresh and this is what happened

HelloFresh got in touch with me about reviewing one of their boxes. Me of course, being a glutton with no shame, agreed. If you haven't heard of HelloFresh, they're a subscription box service, providing all the ingredients you need to create several meals in one box.

I'm a vegetarian, so it's important for me to check with anything like this if a vegetarian option is offered. If not, I generally won't feature it on my blog because, well, I can't really test it. And I want to be honest with you guys about what I really think of the products I write about.

Luckily, HelloFresh do offer a vegetarian option. Unfortunately, that's not what I received - but I'm not going to put that on HelloFresh's shoulders as I think it was a miscommunication between me and their representative. If you order directly through their website, I'm certain that you'll get what you order - why would they want to deceive their customers, after all?

They also offer a gluten free box (however it does state on their website that they cannot guarantee no cross-contamination, so if you are a coeliac, I wouldn't take the risk), but no vegan box as of yet. This is something I'm sure they're working on, as so many more people are vegan these days - and there are also many people who aren't vegan, but would love to try vegan food!

What I got in my HelloFresh box


I ordered the 'Classic Box' for two people, and received three recipes:

- Mexican Style Chicken
- Herby Burgers
- Toulouse Style Sausages

All the ingredients for each recipes were included, minus oil, water and salt and pepper. This is the case for any recipe with HelloFresh, so don't worry about going out shopping beforehand - unless you want dessert.

Obviously, each recipe contained meat ingredients, so my boyfriend cooked and ate the meat, whilst I bought vegetarian alternatives for myself. Luckily, there are great chicken, burger and sausage options available in most free-from sections in the supermarket, so I could create these recipes pretty much exactly the same as I would do if I ate meat.


The Mexican Style Chicken consisted of chicken (obviously) with a herb and shallot garnish, peppers and refreid beans. I had vegetarian-alternative chicken fillets with mine. 

This was delicious - it had a little bit of a spicy kick to it, and I'm a sucker for refried beans, so that was a plus for me.


The Toulouse Style Sausauges was my favourite meal. It comprised a base of carrots, lentils and other veg and herbs, with sausages on top.

It was filling, healthy and so tasty, that I even recreated it with roasted asparagus and tender stem broccoli the next day, as I was out of veggie sausages (see below).


The Herby Burgers were also delicious, but as I'd made burgers before, it wasn't a hugely stand out meal for me. But I definitely still enjoyed it. Potatoes were provided for wedges, and we were even given some mayonnaise as a condiment.

We don't have burgers often, so it was a nice treat for us on a Friday night when we just wanted something a bit more 'naughty' - even though they were as healthy as burgers could be, considering they had been made from scratch (well, mine weren't as they were pre-packaged veggie alternatives, again).

The pros and cons of HelloFresh


Before receiving my HelloFresh box, my cooking inspiration had become a little stagnant. I was plating up the same meals over and over again, week after week. This wasn't because I'm not a good cook (I like to think I am, at least), it's because I'm so busy that I don't have time to sit down and research a recipe, then go out and buy all the ingredients for it. I'd rather just cook with what I've got in my cupboard, and rustle up something that I know can't go wrong.

With HelloFresh's recipes, I cooked food that I had never cooked before, and even used some ingredients which I had never used in my own food. I loved the easy-to-follow recipes, and would wholeheartedly use them again.

I think these boxes are ideal for people, like me, who really don't have time to be creative with their cooking, whether that's because they're a parent, or they've just got a super busy working life - or both!

I couldn't find much wrong with HelloFresh, aside from the large amount of plastic packaging involved. Most of the packaging is recyclable - however, I think HelloFresh could work on reducing the volume of plastic regardless.

The food arrives in a large cardboard box, with insulated fabric wrapped in plastic to keep the cold in. Inside that is a number of ice blocks in sealed plastic pouches (which are re-usable, but I don't have any freezer space so I had to throw mine away). Each meal is separated into brown paper bags, but the meats, and other things like herbs or condiments, are plastic wrapped.

To be honest, unless you buy from a butcher/fishmonger and bring your own tupperware, and compliment that by shopping at the greengrocers and bringing your own bags, it's unlikely that you can carry out a weekly shop without buying something wrapped in plastic. It's a sad fact, and I hope to see it change, but until then I don't think I can complain that buying a HelloFresh box is any worse for the environment than shopping at your local supermarket.

As a thank you for reading my blog post, I'm giving you 50% off your first two HelloFresh boxes. Simply click this link or visit the website in your own time and use the code JENLOUMEREDITH

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Tuesday, 22 May 2018 / London, UK

Ghost White Light Diamond Dust

Ghost White Light Diamond Dust
Ghost White Light Diamond Dust

I'm not a perfume snob. I'm really not. BUT in the past I've always been attracted to high end scents. Maybe it's the abundance of minimalist packaging that satisfies the blogger in me, or maybe it's the use of exclusive ingredients that I've never found on the high street, but there's something that's kept me away from more affordable brands. 

The thing is, because I've been used to buying high end perfumes for so long, I've never even bothered to look at anything more affordable because I've conditioned myself to believe that I won't like it. But you never really know something until you've tried it, right? So I got sent the Ghost White Light Diamond Dust gift set and, goshdarnit, I really liked it. 

I hate to use the cliché, 'spring scent', but it really is. And I seem to be reaching for it every day, which says a lot for something who really is picky when it comes to picking perfumes. I'm definitely not one of those sultry vixens who can pull off a smouldering, oud-like scent with ease. Neither am I one for super sweet fragrances (they give me a headache, in fact). But this variation of the Ghost White Light perfume is pretty spot on.

Now, I could go on about top, middle and base notes, but to be honest as a consumer that doesn't mean a whole lot to me. I've read on The Perfume Shop that this contains mandarin, patchouli and jasmine somewhere in the middle (as well as quite a few other fruity, floral-ly ingredients), which is frankly enough for me to deduce that this is more on the sweet side than the sexy side. 

What makes this perfume a little different is the sparkly dust which comes with every spritz. If you know me, you know I love a good sparkle. And in the soft summer twilight, this is just the right amount...

Ghost White Light Diamond Dust
Ghost White Light Diamond Dust
Ghost White Light Diamond Dust
Ghost White Light Diamond Dust
Ghost White Light Diamond Dust

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Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Oysho Polka Dot Dress of my Dreams

Oysho Polka Dot Dress | Jen Lou Meredith | Fashion Blogger

Last week Suffolk-based photographer Luke Pyett and I decided to chill out in some buttercup fields during golden hour. These mindblowingly beautiful photos were the result (and I'm not saying that because I'm in them... I'm talking about Luke's killer photography).

I wore a dress I bought on a whim from Oysho whilst out in Portugal. If you missed my photo diary from that holiday, find it here. I'm so in love with this dress. It's maxi length (which, on my 5'something frame, miraculously doesn't drag) and it's covered in big polka dots - a pattern which I'm learning to love, and this dress is helping a lot.

The dress has a kind of South of France vibe. Very relaxed, with billowy three-quarter length sleeves, a tie-waist and a thigh high slit. In fact, the only qualm I have with this dress is that the slit is so high. I think I might have flashed Luke several times (sorry, Luke, if you're reading this) - but he's too much of a gentleman to say anything.

I wore this with white plimsols, because no doubt I would have fallen over in heels whilst wading around in this buttercup field. I liked the casual vibe the plimsols gave, to be honest. But you can 'dress it up' as they say, with wedges.

Oysho Polka Dot Dress | Jen Lou Meredith | Fashion Blogger
Oysho Polka Dot Dress | Jen Lou Meredith | Fashion Blogger
Oysho Polka Dot Dress | Jen Lou Meredith | Fashion Blogger
Oysho Polka Dot Dress | Jen Lou Meredith | Fashion Blogger
Oysho Polka Dot Dress | Jen Lou Meredith | Fashion Blogger
Oysho Polka Dot Dress | Jen Lou Meredith | Fashion Blogger

All images by Luke Pyett - please do not re-post without permission!

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Follow Luke Pyett on Instagram @lukepyett
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Wednesday, 9 May 2018 / 8200 Albufeira, Portugal

Albufeira, Portugal | Photo Diary

Albufeira, Portugal | Photo Diary

Early May Bank Holiday 2018, I took a well-deserved break with a couple of friends to Albufeira, Portugal. I can't tell you how much I needed this. My brain has been so frazzled from the stress of freelancing that I didn't know whether I'd actually survive the wait - but as soon as I got off the plane in the glorious Algarve, it was all worth it.

We stayed at the Alfagar 2 Aparthotel Prestige - these are stunning serviced apartments on a huge resort complex with huge balconies and beautiful views of the North Atlantic. Our apartment had a modern kitchen, large living space and a clean, spacious bathroom with a massive rainforest shower. The resort itself is in a great location - close to the beach and just a quick taxi ride away from town, but out of reach of lairy stag/hen-dos. I would definitely stay here again.

We explored Albufeira's Old Town, which comprises lots of pretty white buildings, bars and cafes, souvenir shops and a random set of outdoor escalators. The weather was so beautiful, so we just spent the day exploring the area and popping in and out of shops, and completed the day with a trip to the beach.

Being young and enthusiastic, we also visited The Strip on a Friday night out. This is the main bar and club area in Albufeira. Honestly, it is what it is, and if you're expecting music, cheap drink, sticky floors and lots of trollied Brits, then that's what you'll get. The highlight of our evening? Dane Bowers playing a set at Matt's Bar.

If you're a keen shopper, I recommend visitng AlgarveShopping. It was a fifteen minute taxi ride away from our resort, and 100% worth the trip. It's a shopping mall with a Sephora (YES!), and a handful of my favourite Spanish fashion brands: Bershka, Zara, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear and Oysho. I probably spent most of my holiday budget here. Photos to come 😉

Albufeira, Portugal | Photo Diary
Albufeira, Portugal | Photo Diary
Albufeira, Portugal | Photo Diary
Albufeira, Portugal | Photo Diary
Albufeira, Portugal | Missguided Gingham Bikini
Albufeira, Portugal | Alfagar Resort
Albufeira, Portugal | Bershka Red Dress
Albufeira, Portugal | Photo Diary
Albufeira, Portugal | Missguided Crop Top & Nasty Gal Bikini
Albufeira, Portugal | Missguided Crop Top & Nasty Gal Bikini


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