The Sleep Challenge: How Did I Do?

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Tired of, er, being tired, I set myself a challenge last month to get eight hours of sleep or more for four weeks and see if I felt like a new and improved woman. Well those four weeks have flown by, and I promised to let you know how I got on. So did I sleep like a log, party like an animal, or count sheep all night? Well…
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.
I didn’t always manage to get the full eight hours that I was after. I remember for the first few days, I’d go to bed at a decent hour with the best of intentions – and then toss and turn as I tried to get to sleep. Either that or I’d stay up talking to the lovely Mr.D.

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And the really bad news is that there were a couple of weekends (especially the long weekend) where I was very naughty! And there were a couple of week nights were I probably got my usual five to six hours of sleep.
Oh dear. Slapped wrist for me!
Now here comes the good part.
Although there were some nights where I did get the full eight hours, I’d say that on average I managed about seven and a half hours most nights which isn’t bad for someone who barely used to get any sleep at all and would walk into work a total zombie who could only be revived by the sweet taste of caffeine (and lots of it!)
And has it made a difference? Hell yes it has!
I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I sprang out of bed every morning, but it definitely wasn’t a struggle either. I looked and felt a lot less tired and there was no need to plaster on the make-up so another plus point is that I no longer looked like a toby jug! I’ve also noticed that my skin appears to be so much better and healthier, and even without the make-up, I definitely look a lot less haggard and, dare I say it, a little more youthful!
I felt more alert and my performance at work had improved. There were actually some days where I didn’t really need my morning cappuccino which I had previously  depended on to help me open my eyes and could have forgone it if I wanted to – but hey, it’s one of my few simple pleasures in life so I went ahead and indulged. And outside of work, I feel as though I got a lot more done – especially in terms of blogging which is great.

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However I think it’ll take a few months of early nights before I see an improvement in my memory – if at all!
So I didn’t quite meet the challenge of eight hours, I’m disappointed to say, but I got closer than I thought I would. Best of all, I’ve experienced for myself the great benefits of a good night’s kip  – I look tons better and feel more energetic – and that’s something I don’t want to give up ( the days where I only got my once usual five hours sleep, I felt even more rotten than I had done before  so I’m definitely getting used to more sleep.) So I will be aiming to get, at the very least, a minimum of seven and a half hours sleep from now on, especially as from next month I will be starting work earlier than normal which means I’m going to have to get up extra early.
I’m totally thrilled that I did this challenge. I’ve (almost) gotten rid of a bad habit, and experienced lots of positives – with the only drawback being that I’m now going to be the one slumped in a corner at parties come eleven o’clock – I suppose I’m just going to have to blame it on the shandies!

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Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea

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Here in Britain, we celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March, but tomorrow people in the rest of the world will be celebrating motherhood and honouring the very special women in their lives: mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers and even aunties. So what could be a more special way to spoil the extraordinary women in our lives then by treating them to a decadent afternoon tea – which if you ask me, is an occasion made for mums!

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In case you didn’t know by now, I really love the idea of a themed afternoon tea (come to think of it, I love the idea of a themed anything!) and when it comes to a Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, vintage is the only way to go, with mismatched, floral, china teacups, an elaborate cake stand, bird cages, and decorations in the form of pearls and lace. Mothers are obviously all different, so you’ll cater your tea party to your mum’s tastes but inspiration for my ideas have come my own mother who’s pretty big on tradition.  Chocolate and flowers also feature quite heavily as they tend to be gifts we traditionally give our mothers on their special day. Colours for this event could be in the traditional pink and lilac, or any pastel hue, or maybe even cream and gold for a classic vintage feel. With the weather getting warmer, there’s a good chance that you could hold your tea party outdoors.

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When thinking about the menu, I went for old-school English classics, real ‘like mother used to make’ stuff, with an added touch of elegance and luxury. After all you can’t get more English than afternoon tea, so English classics it is!  The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your afternoon tea party menu:

SANDWICHES

  • Egg and cress
  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Crab
  • Ham and English mustard
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Rare roast beef and horseradish
  • Rose petals with honey
  • Prawn mayonnaise

SAVOURIES

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  • Smoked salmon soufflés
  • Mini sausage rolls
  • Blinis with smoked salmon
  • Mini Cornish pasties
  • Parmesan thins
  • Roast beef-filled Yorkshire puddings
  • Goats’ cheese rarebit
  • Spinach and parmesan muffins
  • Cheese straws
  • Potted shrimp on melba toast
  • Trout pate on melba toast
  • Mini chicken and asparagus pie

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

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  • Crumpets
  • Tea loaf
  • Tea cakes
  • Brioche
  • English muffins
  • Scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

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  • Victoria sponge cake
  • Apple pie with cinnamon cream
  • Chocolate fudge cake
  • Lemon drizzle cake
  • Cherry Cake
  • Jam tartlets
  • Battenburg cake
  • Rose and raspberry  or chocolate macaroons
  • Fruit cake
  • Mini Bakewell tarts
  • Chocolate mousse with sugared violets in shot glasses
  • Mini English trifles
  • Pink and lilac iced buns
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Chocolate éclairs
  • Strawberry shortcake
  • Custard slices
  • Florentines

DRINKS:

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  • Tea!
  • Frozen strawberry daiquiris
  • Mixed berry tea
  • White chocolate mocha
  • Jasmine tea
  • Pink lemonade
  • Chilled Chrysanthemum tea
  • Raspberry bellini
  • Cava with nasturtiums
  • Pomegranate Martini
  • Chamomile tea
  • Champagne with hibiscus
  • Chocolate flavoured cocktails

Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles.

Here’s a recipe for the unusual but delightful sounding rose petal sandwiches which is taken from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree

ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES

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Makes 24

INGREDIENTS:

60 dried organic rose petals

Few drops of rose essence

25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature

12 slices of soft white bread

6 tsp lavender honey

METHOD:

1. Soak the dried rose petals in a bowl of cold water with the rose essence for 20mins.

2. Drain and set aside.

3. Butter the bread.

4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.

5. Divide the petals between 6 slices of honeyed bread.

6. Top with remaining slices.

7. Cut off crusts.

8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.

9. Serve immediately.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!

 

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Things I Got From My Mother – And Other Stories!

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Here in the UK, Mother’s Day was way back in March. But the rest of the world -including Mr. D. – will be honouring their beloved mums on Sunday. But whether we’ll be celebrating or not, we’ll definitely be keeping our mums in mind.

Everyone says I’m my mother’s double. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve actually been mistaken for her. No it’s not that I look so old (well at least I hope not!) but Mum looks so young. She really could pass for my (slightly older!) sister. But I always felt that our looks are where our similarities begin and end as personality-wise we couldn’t be more different. I’m definitely more outgoing whereas Mum’s a bit reserved. Our style in dressing is very different: I probably dress a little too young for my age (why not? I can get away with it. I think!) whereas Mum dresses in a way that makes the Queen look like Avril Lavigne (which always frustrates me!) I like a good drink and can really put those cocktails away but Mum’s a teetotaller  who just has to look at a glass of wine and her head starts to spin. I like my music loud and angry while Mum’s the queen of the easy listening classics. We couldn’t be more different – or so I thought…

I was in bookshop this afternoon, perusing the cook books and wondering what to add to my already ever-increasing stack of cook books when it dawned on me where I got my addiction from – Mum! As a kid Mum had a whole load of cookery books (and I do mean a whole load of books) which I used to pore over, looking at the pics, while Mum would be putting the recipes to good use. All these years later, I’m doing the same (all I now need is the little girl to sit on the kitchen worktop and pore over the books…)

It got me thinking about other ways in which I’m a lot like my mother. I’m often so busy focusing on the differences that I don’t think about things that we have in common. It’s the same with the majority of my friends – they love their mums to bits but don’t think that they’re anything alike. Maybe one day they’ll also discover that they’re more alike than they think.

1. MUM AND I ARE BOTH FEEDERS!

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This is where the cook books come into effect. When you come to our homes, you’d better be coming with an empty stomach. Just don’t think you’ll be leaving with one. In fact you may need a crane to carry you out because we’re in danger of overstuffing you! Nothing makes us happier than cooking for other people and having people around our table (something we both get from Mum’s mum and my lovely grandma) and we feel really humbled by the appreciative comments we get.

2. WE WATCHED ALL THE SOAPS RELIGIOUSLY… BUT DON’T NOW!

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I got my love of soaps from my mum who used to watch them all: Coronation Street, Crossroads, Dynasty, Dallas, Emmerdale Farm… and naturally I’d watch these too and became something of a soap addict myself, especially with the advent of EastEnders, Neighbours, and Home And Away. It was amazing because I couldn’t remember my six times table but I could remember what caused Sue Ellen to slap JR six episodes ago!

However over the years our love of soaps dwindled. In Mum’s case it’s because she’s too busy to keep up with what’s happening in Weatherfield or Albert Square, and in my case it’s because I just don’t watch TV as much as I used to, and on the odd occasion when I do tune in, I’d much rather watch something other than soaps (which in my opinion aren’t as good as they used to be anyway!)

3. WE’RE GREAT WHEN IT COMES TO THE OLD HOSPITALITY!

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I only invite people into my home if I really like them, so it’s very important to me that everyone who does come to our home, whether it’s for a quick visit or to stay for a while, is made to feel very welcome and know that we are happy to have them over. So we go out of our way to make sure they’re happy, comfy and that they treat the place like their second home  (even though all of the above meant that Mr.D. and I once had to sleep on the sofa. Not good but hey – it was for our friends!)

And looking after guests is something I learned from Mum. However I think most people prefer to go to Mum’s than mine because she’s a much better cook than I am!

4. SPORT IS NOT OUR THING.

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Just about everyone in our family is into a sport of some kind. And just about everyone supports a particular football team.

All except Mum and me. I’ve tried to get sporty in the past but it just wasn’t happening. Mum didn’t even try! It’s a good job I don’t live in California or I really would be in trouble.

We do however tune in to watch the World Cup especially when England’s playing. That’s as sporty as we get!

5. AND NEITHER IS DRIVING!

Mum never learnt to drive and nor has she ever wanted to. I once asked her why and she said that if she learnt to drive then that would be one less thing that Dad did – and he doesn’t do much as it is!

I did get my licence but sadly I’m a real hazard on the road so I tend to leave the driving to those who are less of a calamity.

6. WE’RE NOT ONES TO COMPLAIN

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OK maybe not strictly speaking true as we have been known to have the odd grumble. But compared to a lot of people we know, we hardly ever complain. If life’s getting us down, something seems unfair, or we’re just having a bad day, we just suck it up and get on with it.

And on the rare occasions when we do complain, it’s only because it’s absolutely necessary. I guess you could say that we know how to pick our battles.

7. OUR BODIES ARE MADE UP OF NINETY SEVEN PER CENT SUGAR!

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It’s not just my looks I got from my Mum but my incredible sweet tooth. Thanks to her, I’m a real sucker for sugar and it’s virtually unheard of for me to go to a restaurant and not end a meal with a dessert. And if I’m too stuffed for dessert, I at least take a peak at the dessert menu to see what I’m missing out on!

8. WE’RE USELESS WITH TECHNOLOGY

Oh my goodness, where do I begin with this? At least with Mum, she was born way before technology took hold of us the way that it has. She didn’t grow up in an era where people stopped breathing if they were clinically detached from their iPhones. I however, have no excuse especially as I’m a blogger as well. I’m not as bad as I’m making out as given a certain amount of time, I can usually figure things out. That said, I’m still far from good!

9. ADVICE IS OUR MIDDLE NAME

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For as long as I can remember, people having been calling on my mum whenever they had a problem of some kind – and they still do. Perhaps it’s because Mum’s very understanding, a good listener, gives good advice, and tries to help out in any way that she can.

Well it’s a good job I’ve been trained by the best because at I’ve had all sorts of people – friends, family, colleagues, clients, random people on the bus – confiding in me about their problems.

I guess I just have one of those faces!

10. WE’RE REAL HOME BIRDS

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Mum was always a home bird. I don’t think she even went to the pub as a teenager. I, on the other hand, was a real night owl, and once I got a taste of London night life there was no stopping me.

However now that I’m older, those wild nights out are pretty much a thing of the past – although nothing comes between me and my rock gigs! I’d much rather stay at home and cook for friends. and believe it or not, we still manage to have a great time!

Hope all the mums out there enjoy their special day!

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Land Of Milk And Honey Hand Treatment

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My hands are really in a shocking condition and I can’t understand why. Despite applying twice my weight in hand cream, and taking my vitamin E capsules religiously, my hands are extremely dry, rough and look as though they’re in danger of starting a fire if I rub them together! It’s actually quite embarrassing. My hands get used quite a lot in my job as they are always on show so I’m starting to feel more than a little self-conscious.

Feeling low at the dry condition of my hands, I’m considering hitting the bottle.

The milk bottle that is!

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I’ve had dry skin pretty much my whole life and when I was in my late teens I developed a mild form of eczema. I only have flare ups maybe once every couple of years so I’m quite fortunate. But during periods when my skin is very dry, I use milk on my skin instead of water. It’s very moisturizing and hydrating, and I really notice the difference. After about two days, my skin comes back to life again.

So I’ll be resorting to this treatment for my dry hands but I’ll be using honey as well which is another ingredient I’ve found to be very effective for dry skin. And of course this treatment isn’t just limited to your hands. You can use it for your face, feet, elbows, knees, lips… anywhere where you’re skin’s a bit parched, isn’t looking it’s best and needs a much-needed moisture boost.

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You can use any kind of milk or honey that you prefer. I generally stick to my favourite manuka honey. This treatment is so simple as it only uses between two to four ingredients, so it’s well worth giving it a go.

MILK AND HONEY  TREATMENT FOR DRY HANDS

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YOU WILL NEED:

1 tbsp. honey

Enough warm milk to fully submerge your hands in

Pure rosewater

METHOD:

  1. Apply honey to your to both sides of your hands. If you wish you could gently warm the honey before applying it to your hands.
  2.  Leave for around ten minutes.
  3. Then place your hands in a basin of warm milk. Remember the milk should be warm not hot. You want to revive your hands not scald them!
  4. Leave them in the milk for about five minutes or until all the honey has rinsed off.
  5. Once you’ve taken your hands out of the milk, you can either give them a super quick blast with cold water to remove the honey-milk residue (with the emphasis being on super quick.)
  6. Or  you could remove all traces of milk and honey with cotton wool soaked in rosewater.
  7. Slap on lashings of hand cream.
  8. Use this treatment once a day for as many days as you need.

HANDY HINTS:

  1. If you have any discolouration on your hands, rub a slice of lemon over it before applying the honey.
  2. If you are using this treatment for a part of your body that you cannot simply just dunk in a basin of water, wipe the honey of with milk-soaked cotton wool pads.

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Happy New Kids On The Block Day

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The best boy band in the world!

Originally posted on Nostalgia Pie:

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It’s that time of year again. The one where I get to dress up and go back to being a thirteen year old again.

No Halloween has not come early. I’m talking about New Kids On The Block Day, and as I’m a die hard fan, I absolutely love this day which remembers all that is fabulous about the most awesome boy band ever to walk this earth: Jordan, Jon, Joe, Danny and Donnie.

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So come on Blockheads: don those ripped jeans, flash those smiley faces and peace sign medallions, wear your New Kids T-shirts with pride, and crank up the volume so that the whole neighbourhood hears those NKOTB tunes. Watch those videos to your hearts content, and prepare to fall in love with the Boston boy band all over again. It’s what today is all about.

Back in 1989, then Massachusetts governor, Michael…

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Begin With That Summer Skin In Seven Simple Steps

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Summer is just a matter of weeks away and it’ll be here before we know it. And despite the fact that it’s very cool today, no one could have failed to notice that the temperature has been rising these last few days. And as the temperature starts to soar, there’ll be lots of legs, arms, shoulders and tums on display, so it’s important to start getting your skin looking it’s very best. The winter months means that we’ve cranked up the central heating and indulged in long, hot baths which aren’t the best things for your skin. In addition to that, our bodies have been kept under wraps during the winters months and our skin hasn’t been getting the TLC it needs.

Well now’s our last chance to get our skin looking and feeling in tip-top condition before the big reveal in the sweltering heat of the Summer.

1. EXFOLIATE

It’s super important to exfoliate before you tackle anything else as it makes hair removal easier, and the moisturising and tanning products more effective. Exfoliating is also important for removing and preventing ingrowing hairs, getting rid of scaly skin, and preventing blocked pores. For those of you who shave as part of your hair removal regime, exfoliating means that your razor won’t get clogged with flaky skin.

If your skin is a bit on the parched side, it will be more effective for you to use a scrub on dry skin rather than wet. Pay particular attention to heels, knees, and elbows.

I swear by using my loofah but I don’t have a particular favourite scrub although I generally prefer to use one which has lots of lovely natural ingredients and is cream based rather than oil based. Find the scrub that works best for your skin but remember NEVER use a scrub designed for your body on your face – it’s much too harsh.

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2. HAIR REMOVAL

I still can’t get over the shock of seeing a lady on the bus wearing a short skirt with seriously hairy legs. It was definitely a case of ‘what were you thinking?’ in conjunction with ‘are my eyes deceiving me?’ Unfortunately they weren’t but it goes without saying that summer clothes generally mean fuzz-free skin, paying close attention to legs, underarms and bikini line – especially if you’re hitting the beach.

There are a whole ton of hair removal methods – shaving, waxing, epilating, depilatory creams,  or laser hair removal – so choose what works best for you.

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3. MINIMISE CELLULITE

Urgh the dreaded dimply, orange-peel skin that strikes fear into the hearts of women everywhere! Cellulite has been the bane of my life for more years than I care to remember but I know that my unhealthy diet and lack of exercise is to blame so I can’t really talk. The key here is to stick to a diet that is rich in wholegrains, raw fruit and vegetables and oily fish and low in salt, caffeine, and processed fatty food (yes, all the things I love!) Oh yes, and to get exercising!

There are also a lot of cellulite creams that reduce the appearance of cellulite by eliminating the toxins under your skin. And of course body brushing is fantastic for eliminating cellulite and getting rid of dry skin. Sadly it does feel like you’re being attacked with brambles but once you get passed this stage the results will be worth it!

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4. MOISTURISE

I know, I know – we’re all a little lazy when it comes to moisturising and I must confess I’m no different. But if you want to keep skin looking young, supple, hydrated and flake-free then it’s a must so regular moisturising is a stage that should never be skipped.

There’s some fantastic products out there in the form of lotions, oils, body butters, whipped body butters etc. but if you’re a bit neglectful with the old moisturising, then try adding some oil in your bath water for some much needed hydration.

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5. ELIMINATE DARK PATCHES

It would be delightful if we all had an even skin tone but in reality a lot of people don’t. Toes, knees, elbows and knuckles are just some of the areas that typically tend to be a little bit darker than the rest of our bodies. There are creams available which even out skin tone, and you can naturally lighten these areas by rubbing  half a lemon over them for fifteen minutes a day. Yes, you’ll feel a bit of a lemon while you’re doing it but it does work! If you find lemon to be a bit harsh, try potato slices.

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6. BANISHING ACNE

I really sympathise with women who have acne on certain parts of their bodies. I was lucky as a teen in that I didn’t have facial acne unlike a lot of my schoolmates. But life had a bigger surprise for me in store, and as I approached my twenties I got hit by the acne stick all over my chest, upper arms, and worst of all my back. It was not a pretty sight and quite embarrassing, and I was stuck with it for years.

Thankfully I was spared a visit to my doctor. Changing to organic bath products that were free of SLS, using a body wash that contained tea tree oil, and cleansing, toning and moisturising these areas the same way I did my face (yes, even my back which might explain my super long arms!) helped tremendously and now, apart from the odd spot every now and again, my skin is very clear. And I have to admit, I do love wearing, sleeveless, strapless, off-the-shoulder, or backless clothes because there was a time I could never get away with such outfits.

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 7. TAN

I have to admit that I’ve never used a fake tanning product in my life as I’ve never needed to so I can’t pretend to be the world’s greatest expert in this area. But I know that for some ladies, the appeal of a fake tan is that they feel healthier and look slimmer. Tanning products work best with smooth skin, so if you’ve followed all the previous steps, your product should go on easily and effectively with minimal risk of streaking.

Build up your tan gradually every day or use one that develops overnight and lasts several days. And don’t forget areas such as feet, ankles and fingers.

And I have to say, I’ve seen some awful fake tan jobs in my time (who hasn’t!) so go easy on the product and aim to get a gorgeous, naturally-looking, sunkissed glow.

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Bring on Summer!

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The 8- Hours- Or- More Sleep Challenge

 

 

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Last year I set myself a challenge where I wanted to see if I could cope without using my hair straighteners for a month. I’d discovered the benefits of straightening my untameable waves since my mid-twenties and couldn’t live without them. But years of using the heated hair appliance had left my locks parched and frizzy so I decided to abandon my straightening regime for a while. Over the course of a month – with the exception of straightening the front sections of my hair (I just had to!) – I found that I didn’t need to use my straighteners all the time and my hair got it’s va-va-voom back. A challenge well worth doing.

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Well now I’ve set myself a new challenge. And it’s one that’s much more vital than forgoing the old hair straighteners…

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been one for getting a good night’s kip. We’re supposed to be getting, on average, eight hours of good quality sleep a night but I can’t remember when was the last time I’d slept for that long. I currently get on average around five to six hours sleep a night. So naturally I’m shattered every day. Furthermore, I’ll be starting work an hour earlier in two months time which will mean getting up even earlier in order to begin the long commute into work. Not good!

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When I was younger, I was often told how tired I looked (and quite often I felt it too) and things got worse when Mr.D. came along because we were long-distance for quite some time, and the nine hour time difference meant that I’d either go to bed really late after talking to him or I’d have to get up mega early to Skype him. My sleep patterns became quite erratic and I’ve never been able to regulate my sleep schedule. And I definitely, definitely need my sleep. Without it I can’t concentrate, can’t string a sentence together, cab be rude, snappy, and irritable. In short, I can be a right bitch! And I can also see the toll that lack of sleep is taking on my face.

Lack of sleep makes me feel like tearing out my hair!

Lack of sleep makes me feel like tearing out my hair!

 

It doesn’t help that I’m something of a night owl and can stay up for hours. But then it’s an ordeal having to get up in the morning. Is it any wonder that coffee is my best friend? But even then coffee can only do so much and it definitely can’t work miracles. It can’t banish my under-eye circles, or illuminate my tired-looking face. I don’t think make-up can hide my tiredness. I just look tired with a whole ton of make-up on! And it can’t make me focus better or improve my memory – but I believe sleep can do all these things and more which is why I’m challenging myself to get eight hours of sleep (or more) every night for a month.

Sleep makes you feel healthier and fitter

Sleep makes you feel healthier and fitter

 

I’ve been sacrificing sleep in favour of other things I feel I need to do but sleep should never be ignored as it’s so vital for our overall health and mental performance. The health benefits include:

  • Improved memory
  • Less fatigue
  • Increased stamina
  • Sharp attention
  • Less stress
  • Increased immune response
  • Feeling happier
  • Less depression
  • Decreased dependency on caffeine
  • Better judgement
  • Reduced chances of developing certain illnesses and health problems
  • Improved efficiency and productivity
  • Reduces risks of accidents and making errors
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Better sex!

And let’s not forget the beauty benefits – after all, it’s not called beauty sleep for nothing:

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  • A radiant complexion
  • Bright eyes
  • Smooth skin
  • Look more youthful
  • Gives your body a chance to renew, restore and rebalance
  • Reduced dark circles and bags
  • Gives overnight beauty products a chance to get to work
  • Look better in photos and not like a Toby jug!
  • Less make-up  needed!

Now with all these fantastic benefits isn’t it worth getting a little extra shut eye. Hopefully the new and improved me will be reporting back exactly a month from now feeling like a whole new woman.

Wish me luck!

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Easter/Spring Afternoon Tea

new-years-clip-art-12   Easter is just around the corner and we are looking forward to yet another gloriously long weekend. For me, long weekends mean gatherings, socialising, fun, food as well as a healthy dose of r n’r – and I reckon afternoon tea combines all of these elements perfectly. I’m a huge fan of afternoon teas, and when it’s a holiday-themed afternoon tea, then that’s even better! One of the great things about hosting an Easter/Spring themed afternoon tea party is that if it’s a gloriously sunny day, you might just be able to hold your party outdoors. Inspiration for this party comes from colours and ideas associated with this time of year as well as food that is in season. Colours in soft, muted pastel shades are typical of Spring, and chicks, bunnies, Spring flowers, eggs and chocolate are what springs to mind (excuse the pun!) when we think of Easter, so these will probably play a role in your choice of food, drinks and décor. The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your Spring-themed afternoon tea party menu:

SANDWICHES

  • b9d882970272f55c1f2f15c626dfbf93 Egg and cress
  • Cucumber and cream cheese
  • Chicken salad
  • Chicken and pesto
  • Ricotta and apricot jam
  • Egg and asparagus
  • Prawn cocktail

SAVOURIES

  • pea Scotch eggs
  • Mini asparagus and quail’s egg tartlets
  • Mini Yorkshire puddings with lamb and mint gravy
  • Pea and mint soup in shot glasses
  • Bite-size lamb samosas
  • Chicken tikka on bite-size naan bread with mint raita
  • Spinach and ricotta/feta in filo pastry
  • Cheese and spring onion scones
  • Broccoli and spinach mini quiche

SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS

  • images10ARJEL0 Hot cross buns
  • Fruit loaf
  • Apricot muffins
  • English muffins
  • White chocolate and raspberry scones
  • Rosewater and vanilla scones

CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:

  • sim Lemon cupcakes
  • Chocolate fudge cake
  • Carrot cake
  • Simnel Cake
  • Mini rhubarb and custard tartlets
  • Crème egg chocolate brownies
  • Pastel coloured macaroons
  • Chocolate whoopie pies
  • Lavender shortbread
  • Raspberry panna cotta in shot glasses
  • Mini chocolate and cherry trifles

DRINKS:

  • imagesE0VT0C19 Tea!
  • Lemon tea
  • Raspberry tea
  • Vanilla latte
  • Mint tea
  • Elderflower cordial
  • Shot glasses of thick chocolate milk
  • Chocolate flavoured cocktails

Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles. And now I’m going to leave you with an awesome recipe for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. Yum!

RASPBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MACARONS imagesJ11H9KO3 INGREDIENTS:

Meringues:

  • 130g pure icing sugar
  • 110g almond meal
  • 2  egg whites
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 4-5 drops of pink food colouring

White chocolate and raspberry ganache:

  • 50ml double cream
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 45g raspberries, coarsely chopped

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 140C.
  2. Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground.
  3.  Triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Whisk two-thirds of the egg whites in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks form.
  5. Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined and mixture is thick and glossy.
  6. Add food colouring.
  7. Stir in almond mixture in batches until fully combined and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted.
  8. Add remaining egg white to loosen mixture.
  9.  Spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
  10.  Pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays.
  11.  Stand until a crust begins to form  which should take around 5 hours.
  12. Bake macarons until firm.
  13.  Cool completely on trays.
  14. Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan.
  15. Remove from heat.
  16.  Add chocolate, stand until melted, stir until smooth and glossy.
  17. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable then stir until smooth.
  18. Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set.
  19. Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

Enjoy! imagesCAHZOS9O

Video

Fool That I Am!

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On our usual daily commute to work this morning, I peered at Mr. D.’s copy of the Metro when a short article caught my eye.

It was about the new trampoline aisles that Tesco were introducing to their stores which would enable those made of shorter stuff (like me!) to grab things from the hard-to-reach top shelves. It was demonstrated by TOWIE star Lucy Mecklenburgh.

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An interesting concept but I was slowly beginning to wonder if Tesco had lost their mind…

Me: Do you see those new trampoline aisles?

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: If I was from Tesco, I’d be worried about shoppers having an accident.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: Plus you’ll get dummies just mucking about on them and making a nuisance of themselves.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: Plus I think elderly people would find it a struggle.

Mr. D: Hmmm.

Me: And also if you leapt up and tried to grab a tin of something, you’d just end up knocking over a whole ton of stuff.

Mr. D: Of course you would.

Then the penny dropped.

Me: OMG! It’s an April Fool’s gag!

Mr. D: Well of course it is. Did you think it was real?

Me: I forgot what day it is. I’ve never seen one of these pranks in the press before. And anyway I didn’t think anyone bothered with April Fool’s Day anymore.

So I spotted my first ever April Fool’s Day prank in the press.

And it got me!

And here’s a clip of an famous April Fool’s prank played by the BBC back in 1957 which I’d heard about when I was a kid and I wondered “Who on earth would be taken in by that..?”

 

 

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When You’re The Only Married Couple In The Village…

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It’s not just that I love being married but I love being married to Mr. D. It took him a long time to appear but he was definitely worth the wait. And I also love my fabulous close female friends. These are the girls who have been there for me long before Mr. D had me at ‘Hello’ and who always have my back. And luckily for me, my friends and Mr.D. get on well, so we’re all one big happy ‘framily’! The only slight issue is being one of the few married couples among our friends of mostly singles as at times we can find ourselves on different wavelengths.

My friends who are single are forever telling me about the problems they encounter due to their single status and as someone who’s been both single and married, I definitely know where they’re coming from: being the only singleton amongst a bunch of marrieds and feeling like a spare part; having your mother do a spot of matchmaking with anyone and everyone; sympathetic looks and ‘well-meaning’ advice; the endless questions about why you’re still single and warnings about ending up like Ms. Haversham; everyone assuming that you’re lonely and unlucky… and sometimes you really do feel as though you’re lonely and unlucky. The list goes on and many of my friends forget that I once walked in those shoes so I totally understand.

And the other thing they don’t realise is that you don’t stop having issues the moment you have a ring on your finger. Instead there’s a whole new set of awkward encounters that we have to look forward to. Married life is great, especially if you’re married to the right person, but when the vast, overwhelming majority of your friends are single you could very well end up feeling like a couple of jammy dodgers in a packet of shortbread fingers. And there’s tons of articles and posts out there on the subject of being the only single person when all your friends are married but virtually nothing when the situation is reversed.

So for all you singles out there who think we have it easy, read on:

1. YOU MISS OUT ON ALL THE COOL ALL-GIRL BREAKS

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I never got to do the crazy, raucous girls holiday abroad when I was single and I do regret not making the most of my days as a single young woman. Now that I’m married, it’s definitely not something that’s likely to happen. I don’t really have a problem with that because I have tons of fun holidaying with my fab husband but when the girls are off on one of their foreign jaunts, I’m glad that they’re having such an awesome time but I do know that I’m missing out on all the madness. And despite being invited, I would only spoil it for the girls with my constant moping because Mr.D. isn’t there.

But I do look forward to the stories and pics when they get back. Honest!

2. YOUR OTHER HALF IS INVISIBLE TO YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS

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Many of our friends extend invitations to the both of us when there is an event or a bash of some kind so we’re quite lucky in that respect. And likewise, if I was having a party, dinner, luncheon etc. I would make sure that my friends knew that their partners were invited regardless of whether I knew them well or not. When someone’s part of a couple it’s the right thing to do.

But some of our single friends don’t understand this and will only invite the person that they were friends with first when they’re having an event. I know it’s not done maliciously but the fact that we’re now a package deal seems to have gone over some people’s heads.  Now when it’s a stag or hen do, that’s perfectly understandable. But for all other occasions, I don’t feel that it’s acceptable. There was one occasion where one of my friends hired a cottage in Devon for a week of birthday celebrations. Rightly or wrongly, I’d assumed that the invitation was for the both of us and said that we’d be there and was looking forward to a week of festivies.

But as the date drew closer, I got an email from her which made it clear that it was to be a girls only thing which was the first I’d heard of it. All I can say is that I’m glad she said something before Mr.D. and I booked our train tickets – then I really would have been furious! I accepted that it was her right to host her event as she wished – but she also had to accept that I wasn’t prepared to be away from my most favourite person in the whole world for a week so I very politely declined.

So note to all: if someone’s part of a couple, be sure to extend invitations to both of them.

3. YOU’RE THE ODD ONE OUT AT THE HEN WEEKEND

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When all the ladies at a hen party are single and ready to mingle, and you’re the only married woman there, you can’t take part in all the shenanigans. In fact once you’ve finished throwing some shapes on the dance floor, you’ll find yourself sat at the table by yourself minding drinks, handbags and outrageous hen party paraphernalia while all the single girls find a fine looking fella to cosy up to. I don’t mind that I’m not joining in with the crazy escapades. I just don’t like sitting by myself like Billy-no-mates – or worse having to fend off unwelcome attention.

Times like that I could do with a married friend so we can both discuss how glad we are that we’ve passed this stage (although it was great fun at the time!)

4. YOU’LL EXPERIENCE SOME SPITEFUL BEHAVIOUR

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When we had to announce our engagement, I was very careful to be sensitive about it despite wanting to shout it from the rooftops as I knew that there were some friends who were going through all kinds of difficulties in terms of relationships. And even though most people appeared genuinely happy for us, I was stunned by the behaviour of a couple of people.

The daughter of my mother’s best friend stopped talking to me and as hurtful as it was, I had to be understanding as her own engagement had hit the rocks. I tried to keep the lines of communication open but wasn’t getting any response. I thought that in time, she’d come round but I haven’t heard from her to this day.

Then there was one of my best friends who’ve I’ve known since we were both toddlers. Within a month of Mr.D. and I getting engaged, she amazingly got engaged to a guy she hadn’t been seeing for very long. This surprised me as I didn’t think she was that into him but as weeks went by it was very obvious that she was being competitive. I saw a not-so-nice side to her character with lots of snidey comments aimed at me; losing her temper because I couldn’t go on a shopping trip with her; I wasn’t invited to her engagement party, and despite me asking her to be bridesmaid at my wedding, instead of following me down the aisle, she was seen sitting among the other guests – in her bridesmaid’s dress! When I asked her why she had done that, she said that she had forgotten what she was supposed to do! Seriously, you couldn’t make it up!

I know deep down that she never wanted to get engaged to her fiancé (now husband) and she was mad at me because she felt I’d somehow forced her hand (?) We’re still friends but I think it’s safe to say that we don’t really regard each other as best friends any more and don’t meet up as often as we used to.

A real pity.

5. YOU GET ASKED THE INEVITABLE BABY QUESTIONS ALL THE TIME

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First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage!

Or so the playground song goes anyway. And it would appear that most of our friends – single or not – agree. Admittedly it is something that everyone’s going to ask but I can’t help getting annoyed – both by the question and from having to answer that same question all the time. And it seriously peed me off when at a recent dinner party, a close, single female friend asked across the table in front of everyone if we wanted to have kids, if we were trying and when it was going to happen. Oh wait, let me just grab my crystal ball…

Yes, kids are part of the plan but I’m not sure when the time will be right. But I absolutely resent being asked something so personal in public – even if she is a close friend.

After all, I don’t think she’d have been too pleased if I’d publicly asked her why she’s still single or when was the last time she had sex… but it might help to get my point across!

6. YOU LOSE FRIENDS

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I had very few friends get married when I was in my early twenties but I soon learnt something – that the last time I’d ever see my friend again would be on their wedding day. It’s a good job I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have been blubbing so hard, the guests would have called for Noah and his ark! But it was true – once my friends got caught up in their newly-married status, new home and the kiddies that eventually came along, they found that they had less and less in common with their single counterparts and we inevitably drifted apart despite my efforts to prevent that from happening. And of course they formed new friendships with other married couples who they felt that they had more in common with. I decided that when I got married, I wasn’t going to let my marriage have such an impact on my friendships even though I knew that things would have to change a little.

Unfortunately it seems as though some of my single friends didn’t get the memo and instead opted to spend their time with other single friends. True, I couldn’t go out on the lash with them but that didn’t mean that we’d turned into Mr.and Mrs. Pipe-and-Slippers now that we’re married. We still liked to have a laugh, great fun, and a fab night out. I know other married friends have experienced this problem too. I’m glad that I haven’t technically lost any friends – no one has actually ended the friendship – but we hardly ever keep in touch.

7. EVERYONE THINKS MARRIED LIFE IS LIKE LIVING IN DISNEYLAND

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Married life is what you make it but you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice if you expect it to be perfect all the time. It’s definitely not like ‘in the movies’ and there are times you’ll both get on each others nerves. However this seems to be lost on many of my single female friends who seem so eager to settle down, I’m pretty sure they’ve already got the long, white dress hanging up in their wardrobe!

They perpetually drone on and on about how awful it is to be single, how they wish they were in a relationship and how they hope to be married by the end of the year (even if it’s November!) Then they ask you about married life and look so hopeful and expectant that it would be cruel to shatter their dreams. So I don’t tell them about how Mr.D. drives me mad with his excessive video game playing, or how fed up I am that he doesn’t seem to know where the bin is for his empty crisp packets and coke cans. Neither do I tell them that my nagging (his word not mine) annoys the hell out of him and that he wishes I’d stop stressing over things that don’t matter.

So instead I tell them the truth (or part of it anyway.) I tell them that married life is wonderful when it’s with the right person but that it requires a lot of work, effort and respect on both parts, but that they really should enjoy their single life while they have it because one day their prince will come and then they’ll never have this time again.

Somehow I doubt they’ll be taking my advice.

8. YOUR SINGLE FRIENDS DON’T ACCEPT THAT YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE

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A friend who’s in a relationship with two kids, recently put up a post on Facebook ranting at friends who expect her to drop everything to go out and party with them. She also made it very clear that it was unacceptable for friends to keep texting and calling at all hours of the day and night as she has a family to care for and they are her priority now.

I understood where she was coming from but I do know that a lot of other people wouldn’t. And it’s the attitudes of these people that really grate on me. If we all did as we pleased after we got hitched, what would be the point in getting married? I’ve had people try to convince me that taking a teaching post abroad would be a brilliant idea, very conveniently forgetting that’s it’s a decision that also involves my husband. I’ve also had single friends who’ve kicked up a massive fuss because they think I run around after Mr.D. too much – when he’s ill!

Whenever one of my friends got married, my mum would always remind me that their priorities in life have changed and that I have to respect that, give them their space and accept that they’ll have new ways of doing things now. And now that I’m married, I hope my single friends will be as understanding.

9. SINGLE PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE SMUG

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Do I think I’m happily married? Absolutely. Would I call myself smug? No – but then I don’t have to as I have other people do that for me! I’ve had (single) friends tell me that Mr.D. and I are absolutely ‘nauseating’ and I even had one friend delete both me and Mr.D. from Facebook because he said (yep, this one’s a fella!) we were just too lovey dovey and he’s not big on romance. He clearly didn’t know that he could have just unfollowed us! And yes – we’re still friends. Just not on Facebook!

From the way people carry on, you’d think that we were re-enacting the Karma Sutra in public. Admittedly we are affectionate in public (not sickenly so in my opinion at least!) And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t think that marrying Mr.D. is the best thing I ever did because it makes other people feel better. But smug marrieds will make out that their marriage and their lives together are perfect and that they never have any problems. That’s not something Mr. D. and I would ever want to do. We both know that we’re not perfect as people but we do think that we’re perfect for each other. And we’re the first to admit that it’s not always wine and roses behind closed doors – and anyone who’s ever heard either of us moan about the other will know what I’m talking about.

And besides, I always think that being too smug about your relationship is like tempting fate. And if I wanted to tempt fate, I’d get a tattoo of Mr.D’s name!

10. MR.D. IS THE ONLY GUY AMONG A BUNCH OF SHRIEKING, OVERLY EXCITED GIRLIES!

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Mr. D. often comes along when I’m meeting the girls of dinner. And as none of them are in a relationship, he often tends to be the only man there and has to put up with our non-stop chatter, shrieks of laughter and and general over-excitement.

Hang on, what am I talking about? The only guy among girls – Mr.D. LOVES that!

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