A Touch of Taste

Things have been pretty quiet on The Gem Word lately and that’s because I’ve been re-evaluating the direction I want my blog to do in. While I love beauty and lifestyle content, it is the food side of my blog that brings me the most joy. I’ve decided to make a leap into a self-hosted blog and I would like to introduce to you, A Touch of Taste.

A Touch of Taste is an all-things food blog where I’ll be posting recipes, tips/hacks, restaurant reviews and others. All with the ethos of easy, delicious, versatile and nutritious food. Whether you are looking for new everyday recipe inspiration, want to up your fruit/vegetable intake but don’t really like them or want some tips to save you time, and money in the kitchen, there is something for everything.

What will happen to The Gem Word? I think two blogs is too much to take on so if inspiration hits, you may see a few more posts but when my plan runs out, I have no plans to review. My food content generally gets the most traffic so I’m hoping if you love The Gem Word then you’ll follow me to A Touch of Taste.

Social Media

Instagram – @_atouchoftaste
Twitter – @atouchoftaste

I really hope you decide to join me on my next adventure and want to thank you for taking the time to visit The Gem Word.

What I’ve Been Watching on Netflix | April 21

What I’ve Been Watching on Netflix | April 21

My time spent on Netflix hasn’t been quite as much this month because I bought Disney+ after much deliberation, so I’ve been spending a lot of time re-watching old school Disney Channel and thoroughly enjoying. I have ticked a few things off my list and a few things I’m very excited to talk about.

The Bold Type

My favourite. From the moment I read the synopsis, I knew if executed properly then it would be so up my street. The Bold Type follows three twenty something girls working at Scarlet magazine, a women’s magazine in NYC (think Cosmopolitan). The show navigates their career, love lives and is underpinned by the love, respect they have for each other and their friendship. From the clothes, to the events, to the glam, it’s all very sexy and It’s the ultimate ‘I wish this was my life’ show. It brought me so much comfort whilst thoroughly entertaining me. Working for a magazine as a writer is my ultimate dream, so I was living vicariously throughout the four seasons and enjoyed every minute of it.

Operation Varsity Blues The College Admission Scandal

I’d heard about this scandal when it hit the headlines because a few big name actors were involved, and subsequently sentenced to jail time because of it but I didn’t pay too much attention to what had happened. I put this on as background and before I knew it, I couldn’t tear my eyes from it. It was so interesting to see how it actually happened, how it was facilitated and the amount of money people have at their disposal. It was crazy but I’m so glad there was a form of justice served for the crimes committed. If you have a spare few hours, it’s well worth a watch.

Run

A thriller which follows Chloe, a young disabled girl who’s care is solely at the hands of her mother. Things are on track, she’s hopeful to go to college when she uncovers something that makes her question everything. It’s an hour and a half, which is my ideal length for a film. I really enjoyed this, gripping but not too jumpy and it had a few really good twists and turns. I’m not normally into thrillers, but it was trending no.1 and, having read a similar book with a similar plot in the past, I had an idea of how this one would go and I was right. I would recommend it and if you’re not into thrillers, watch it during the day and you’ll be fine.

Tales of the City

A ten-part series based on the novels by Armistead Maupin, the story begins with Mary Ann returning to San Fransico after leaving her daughter, and ex husband behind to pursue a career. The series focuses on the residents of 28 Barbary Lane, which is an apartment building and follows their lives. Think colourful Rent-esk characters but in modern day. Sometimes I was really interested in this, and other’s less so. There was some good storylines but I was a bit bored in places. Glad I watched it to the end, but probably wouldn’t watch another series.

The Crown

I mentioned this in last month’s post but I hadn’t finished it and this month I’ve watched the third and fourth season. I really enjoyed the last two seasons, probably more so than the first two (which I still really liked) because it was familiar storylines. The acting is outstanding, the characterisation is uncanny and it’s incredibly entertaining. I loved it, would absolutely recommend you give it a watch if you’ve not already… but you do need to concentrate, it’s not background watching.

That is my Netflix picks for this month, I can’t believe we’re now at the end of April already! I really hope you enjoyed reading, please let me know if you’ve watched any of the above or are now going to add them to your watch list. If you have any recommendations, please leave them in the comments below.

Why I Went Dairy-Free | April 2021

Why I Went Dairy-Free | April 2021

I was always aware of the link between what you put into your body, and your overall health. I knew I shouldn’t eat too much fat or sugar, I knew I should eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables and encorporate a balanced, variety of foods into my diet. I knew I should drink lots of water and limit my caffeine and alcohol, and I knew that If I ate rubbish then I’d feel rubbish. I’ve never been able to get away with a poor diet. Whether it be to maintain a healthy weight, or for energy, my body wouldn’t be long in reminding me that I wasn’t fuelling it properly. Despite feeling hard done to as a child, while my friends would live off beige foods and chocolate where as I could only have those foods in moderation, it meant when I became an adult and had control over my diet, it was a much easier transition. It also gave me an interest in nutrition and the relationship between how you fuel your body and how it affects you.

I was diagnosed with a connective tissue disease in 2019 and while it was a sight of relief, knowing there was something wrong with me for so long but not knowing what, it was a new thing in my life to manage which I felt powerless too because it’s incurable, and unpredictable. As I managed the first two years of my diagnosis, my body got used to the medication and it took me to a point where it was under control and we were as far as we could go in terms of medication. I was still frustrated because I was in a lot of pain at times, fatigued, and felt like I was losing control. I’d thought about a homeopathic route but in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt it was too much money to part with for a Skype call. The other thing I wanted to explore was the effect my diet could have on managing my condition. I’d read stories about how diet modification could improve conditions. Ella, from Deliciously Ella turned to a plant based diet to help with her conditions, and Nic Chapman from Pixiwoo has credited her diet in keeping her MS under control. I had read article after article about various diet options but as I have a sensitivity to dairy, I can eat it but if I eat too much I don’t feel great, I was interested to see if cutting it out completely would improve my health.

I made the decision fairly quickly so going cold turkey, seemed like a set up to fail. I decided for the month of March and up until Easter weekend, I would cut it out as much as possible but have the odd cheat day here and there for Mother’s Day, Easter, occasions. I also didn’t want to hassle anyone else with my dairy free diet while I was still tinkering with it. That would give me a solid fortnight off dairy to learn, settle into a new routine and see if I noticed a benefit.

I studied the free from sections of the supermarket and other than them being (at times) eye-wateringly more expensive, there wasn’t anything I found that I could haven’t have a dairy free alternative, which was assuring. From cheese, milk, yoghurt, chocolate, even condensed milk, there were options. Having a sweet tooth, I was nervous about giving up chocolate and even though I’ve found dairy free alternatives that I like, there is also some ‘accidentally’ dairy free products I’ve found which means I can still eat some of my favourite treats, like Bournville and Bourbon biscuits.

I cook a lot so found it pretty easy come mealtimes, but I did do a stock take and was surprised at some of the ready made foods that contain dairy like tinned soups and even some chicken sausages. I swapped cows milk for oat milk, switched cheese for free-from cheese which is coconut based and surprisingly delicious, I started blending cashews to make creamy sauces and swapped ice cream for soya based products. Dairy provides lots of vital nutrients so to supplement this, I made sure I was eating a vast range of veggies, I added more nuts, seeds and pulses to meals and nutritional yeast. I also take Vitamin D supplements so switched to Vitamin D + Calcium and now take a multi B vitamin daily and that seems to be working well so far.

Within the first week, I definitely felt better within myself which was a real positive and I didn’t find the dietary change difficult. My joint pain is definitely calmed down which is a huge benefit (although I’m pretty sure the dairy free has a lot to do with it, these conditions are unpredictable so I can’t say for sure that’s what it is). I’m not crippled with fatigue right now, but I haven’t been since Christmas so I haven’t noticed any direct impact, I suppose I’m moving more so should feel more tired, but I still feel pretty good.

After an indulgent Easter, I now have no interest in dairy products so feel like I’m in a good position to give it a real go and see if it makes a difference to my life. I am slightly worried about eating out, many foods contain hidden dairy so don’t want to eat it unknowingly, but I don’t have an allergy so I’m not as worried about cross contamination as someone with an allergy should be. Time will tell how I get on, but if it’s going to improve my quality of life, then I’m willing to try anything.

I plan to post a lot more dairy free content including things I’ve learned, accidentally dairy free treats and recipes so if you’re interested in that, or have any tips then please leave a comment below.

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My April Goals | April 21

My April Goals | April 21

This year, I’ve found it helpful to set myself goals at the start of each month to keep myself on track rather than big resolutions. I find it easier to break things into chunks, with shorter periods. The weather is getting warmer, things are looking up but the turn of 2020 into 2021 feels like a long time ago and this is normally my danger zone to fall out of touch with my resolutions, so I thought I’d share them.

  1. Clear out my iCloud keychain

    Probably not what you expected the first one to be, but I have so much rubbish on their that, what should be useful is a hinderance and I end up frustrated. I could avoid that if I took an hour and sorted it out.
  2. Change my car

    This should be an exciting one, because getting a new car is a big thing. The car I’m changing is my first one so I’m a bit nervous about the whole changing process, plus I hate all the sales chat when car shopping, on top of the whole Covid mask wearing, do you shake their hand or not?! It’s causing me minor anxiety. I need to just bite the bullet.
  3. Reach 160 WordPress followers

    My goal for March was to reach 100 followers and I exceeded that so I’m trying to push for 160. If you’re not already following my blog, and you enjoy the content then please do follow via email or WordPress, it really does make a big difference.
  4. Finish the first draft of 2 chapters of my novel

    I don’t know how this keeps slipping away from me, but it does. I find it easier to write storylines, then add them into chapters and fill in the gaps around them. I did barely any writing last month so I need to get back on it.
  5. Schedule my tweets for the week

    I find this is a better strategy for me than tweeting links a few times a day. I like to do this on a Monday and I notice my blog views dip if I don’t do it, so I want to be a bit more consistent.
  6. Improve on my March views

    As long as the number is going up, I’m happy and it is so encouraging to see my stats go up. I’m not putting a figure on it, as long as it’s at least one higher than March then I’ll consider this goal reached.
  7. Get into a routine of planning my content

    I’ve just started using Trello to plan my blog content and actually, I really like it. I want to get to a point where I don’t feel like I’m on a deadline to get a post out, but actually am always ahead of the game with my content.
  8. No Dairy after Easter

    I decided to give a dairy free diet a try to see if it improves my health. Throughout March, I tried to cut out as much dairy as possible but had ‘cheat’ days for Mother’s Day, and Easter weekend. From the 5th April, I’m not eating at all to give it a fair chance and see if I notice an improvement.
  9. Have at least 2 treat-free days per week

    I always notice my diet slipping between Christmas to Easter and I personally feel much better when my diet is good. I need to start getting it back on track on this month and I think the majority is habit. By limiting my treat allowance, I’ll be more conscious and hopefully start to break the habit this month.
  10. Post twice per week on The Gem Word

    This is my fourth month of blogging and I’m generally posting twice a week but there’s always a fall somewhere in the month where I don’t make it. This month I’m going to push to post consistently, twice per week.

That will more than keep my busy this month. What are you goals for April?

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What I’ve Been Watching on Netflix | March 21

What I’ve Been Watching on Netflix | March 21

Since the country has been grounded for the third time, ‘what have you been watching?’ seems to come up in conversation with the limited human interaction we are allowed. Whether you’re bored, need to unwind or just escape for a while, it’s hard to imagine a world when Netflix wasn’t a thing.

Bridgerton

I finally gave in to the hype and watched Bridgeton and for ten episodes, I very much enjoyed it. Think a period drama mixed with Gossip Girl, mixed with porn. There’s a lot of sex in it to the point I though, do these kids ever tire? The Duke, lives up to the hype and I had all kinds of heart eyes watching him in it. The response I’ve seen to Bridgerton so far has been either, meh it was okay, or I’m going as Lady Whistledown for Halloween this year and no in-between. I am very much in-between, it was good and I enjoyed it but it fell short of one of the best things I’ve watched this year.

The Good Place

From the Gossip Girl days, I was a fan of Kristen Bell and The Good Place looked like a quirky comedy with twenty-odd minute episodes, perfect background watching. The premise of the show is Kristen’s character has died and admitted into “the good place”, but it becomes apparent that she’s there by mistake. I really struggled to get into this and it almost touched on sci-fi in places, which lost me even further. I struggled through the first two seasons before giving up with this one.

The Crown

The Crown was one I always intended to watch, but never got round to it. After watching Prince Harry on The Late Late Show with James Corden, he references how the show is fiction, but gives you an idea of the machine behind the British Monarchy so I tuned in. I’m just about to go on to season 3, which I’m super excited for, but the first two seasons takes you through coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the early years of her marriage to The Duke of Edinburgh. It’s fascinating, and my eyes have been opened. It is one you need to concentrate for though.

Mother’s Day

One of my favourite films, ever. I love films where the story has lots of different characters, and their stories end up crossing paths. It show’s the love of mother’s in a variety of formats and addresses death, strained relationships, those who’ve lost children, adoption and more. It’s a really heart warming story and a great watch.

I would love to know if you’ve watched any of the above shows, what did you think? For April, The One, The Bold Type and New Girl are on my list but if you have any recommendations please let me know in the comments. I have just bought Disney+ so I will be splitting my affections between both Netflix and Disney+, currently re-watching all my favourite childhood shows.

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is one of my favourite holidays, I absolutely adore spoiling my mum and this is the perfect opportunity. I am normally super prepared and have a gift organised early in the year, so thought I’d share a few suggestions to give you some inspiration. I appreciate not everyone is as lucky as myself and may have lost their mum or have a difficult relationship so find this day hard. Mother’s Day doesn’t need to just be about a mum, it’s about showing someone you appreciate all they do for you be that a gran, auntie, friend, step-mum, dad, anyone.

If your mum needs some R&R time, why not gift her a book? One I’ve recently read is Because of You by Dawn French which is a story about motherhood. In the early hours of the millennium, two women give birth but only one goes home with a baby. It’s a heartbreaking yet heartwarming story, the narrative is beautiful and it’s a really great read. You can pick this up in larger supermarkets or on Amazon.

My approach with gifts for my mum, is things she would never buy herself. Something that is really lovely and indulgent is the Neom Real Luxury Intensive Skin Treatment Candle. You light the candle while you’re in a relaxing bubble bath or just before you go for a shower, then blow it out and use the wax as a body oil. It will leave your skin feeling soft, hydrated and the scent to relax will linger for the rest of the evening to put you in a calm state, ready for sleep. I’ve had this candle before and it’s worth every penny. At £40, it is expensive but you’re getting two products in one. It’s a real treat.

If you want to show your mum she’s your best friend, this Monica Vinader Linear Solo Friendship Diamond Bracelet is a step up from the pasta friendship bracelet you would’ve made her as an infant. I bought this for my mum last year and it went down a treat. It’s delicate, stylish, suits all tastes and can be engraved complimentary if you want to make it that little bit more personal. MV is my favourite jewellery brand and a big reason for that is their ethical sourcing and 5 year warranty. If in a few years it’s looking a bit battered, they’ll repair or replace it for free. This is £80 but keep an eye out for flash sales as this is normally included in them.

While no-one is going anywhere right now, if your mum is anything like mine, she’ll travel with lots of jewellery. My mum loves to accessorise and over the years has build up a lovely collection which you don’t want rolling around at the bottom of a make-up bag in transit. Katie Loxton have designed a beautiful One in a Million Jewellery Roll with dedicated compartments for jewellery. Be quick with this one, it’s currently on sale for £17.49 at John Lewis & Partners.

Caring for your hands has never been more talked about than in the last twelve months. In the cold british winters, I rely on hand cream and I also think it’s make a really lovely, thoughtful gift. For indulgence, Molton Brown have some decliciously smelling, rich but not greasy handcreams including this Heavenly Gingerlilly which is £10. If you want to go extra indulgent, what about Jo Malone English Pear & Fresia hand cream which at £25 for 30ml? This is one of my favourite Jo Malone ranges and is a perfect spring fragrance.

If you’re thinking along the lines of a sweet treat, M&S Swiss Truffle Chocolate Assortment for £8, she’ll be eating a mixture of milk and dark chocolate truffles for days. In my eyes, these are better than Lindor truffles and are so very morish. M&S chocolate is Throrntons chocolate which is my favourite, a hidden gem.

If you’re still stuck for idea’s, you could make your mum a gift box with all of her favourite little things, the supermarkets normally have nice little Mother’s Day trinkets and you could include things like bath bombs, photographs, hot chocolate, face masks, slippers, soap, or other bits and bobs depending on what your mum likes. I assure you this will go down a treat because it’s so thoughtful and personal- which is really what Mother’s Day is all about!

To make the day a bit more special, and since it’s unlikely we’ll be going out for lunch this year, you could make your mum a special afternoon tea to share and spend some quality time together. If you’re not a baker, lots of cafe’s are doing afternoon tea boxes for Mother’s Day this year.

Let me know if you think any of the above are good idea’s, if you have any idea’s of your own or if you are a small business owner and have anything that would be a good Mother’s Day gift, please leave your links below.

Is Online Dating The Answer?

Is Online Dating The Answer?

I was about eighteen when I first heard of Tinder. At a work night out, one of the older girls showed us this new app where you could match with men/women in your area, that were Facebook friends’ of friends. I didn’t view it as online dating. At that time, I viewed online dating for middle aged divorce’s or those who really were desperate for love that they didn’t have the patience to let it happen organically. Too naive and fresh-faced, and in the words of Rachel Green, I just assumed everyone would get that chance where you’d meet someone, fall in love and that would be it. I thought online dating was unnecessary.

Fast forward to 2015 onwards, online dating, in particular Tinder has taken off, and now has more than 340 million downloads. It’s become a common conversation, a giggle with your girlfriends, an easy hook-up, a success story for some but for a high number of singles under 30, the app sits neatly beside Instagram on their Home Screen. Online dating has intensified in the last twelve months when we were all told to stay at home, and singles everywhere were left scratching their heads while couples on Instagram baked banana bread and did wall panelling together.

My experience with Tinder is very lemon and herb. I’ve got a few hundred matches but have properly spoken to only a handful of people and they have ended in me ghosting, or guys getting fed up because I don’t want to meet and ghosting me. Why do I not want to meet them? Firstly, have you seen You? I still have the mind-set that I’ll end up in a glass box and/or dead if I meet up with someone I’ve met online. Secondly, I’m still of the hope that I’ll meet someone organically, in person and probably subconsciously stigmatise against the idea of explaining ‘oh we met on Tinder.’ That being said. I’ve been single for a while and other than a boomerang ex, there’s not been anyone for a while, which gets me thinking – if not Tinder, where?

Work = too complicated.
Through a friend = I mean how viable is that, really? My friends barely have male friends never mind single ones.
Club = How can you hear anything over the music, plus I’m normally too busy having a good time.
Bars = Everyone is focused on their own friends (myself included).
Out and about = Taylor Swift had my heart from the second she said she still hoped she’d meet someone in Starbucks. Ironically, on the two occasions someone has spoken to me at Starbucks, my shoes became real interesting.

Now you’re probably thinking, you don’t seem to be prioritising love here, to which you would be correct. It’s not a priority for me right now, and maybe that’s why I’ve never given Tinder a fair trial but the romantic in me (she’s buried way deep, but she’s there) wants to be swept, not swiped. While I’m not necessarily looking for a partner, in the last year I’ve opened myself up to the idea of it and maybe going into the above situations with a different mindset would’ve been enough, thanks to Covid we’ll never know.

Now some people love online dating, they’ll get all dressed up to sit at their kitchen table on video to someone, or talk to someone for a few hours before arranging to meet up. I’ve heard of people getting married, having kids, moving in together all from an app and I don’t know why I’m so weird about it. Props to the people who persevere on these apps because you do need to weed through the masses to find someone worth talking to. Someone once told me they wanted to put my head on a wall (not sure if it was a sexual thing, or a serial killer thing?!) and the amount of times I’ve been asked if ‘I’m recruiting for a big spoon’ (HR dad joke, come on!).

Plus, dating apps allow us to be a lot more judgemental, and to take people on face value. The slightest things have made me unmatched, swipe left or ghost (I’m a terrible person, I’m aware) which then makes me think, is it enabling me to be too picky?

I just don’t think it’s for me but I’m starting to worry wonder if that’s the most viable option when I get to the point I am looking, or does it still happen organically outwit education or the workplace?

I’ve come to the conclusion that I expect boys to do the ‘wooing’ but actually, they’re just as shy as girls, and in my experience, the confident ones want someone to take home for the night, not to their parents. Which begs the question, are we Millennials/ Gen Z’ers too socially shy? That the phones attached to our hands allow us to have the social skills of a tea spoon when it comes to meeting new people, so much so that online dating is now our preferred method of meeting a partner?

The other conclusion I’ve come to is that looks aren’t enough. Now while, despite what f**k boy Twitter would lead to you to believe, looks aren’t quite as important as we think in the sense that seeing someone you like isn’t enough to approach a stranger. I don’t know anyone who has been approached by a stranger, just because they were good looking.

So, where I’m going with this, are there lots of singles wandering about their daily life, too shy to flirt irl so rely on dating apps, or are dating apps just magnified because of the weird world we’ve been living in for the last twelve months and actually, I’ve just been blind to what was going on around me?

I would love to know your thoughts on this, whether you’re in my position or not. If you’ve been swept off your feet in Starbucks or have found love from a dating app before. If so, please share your success story! Tinder fails are also welcome, please share the weird and wonderful if for nothing else other than a giggle.

My Work From Home Routine | February 21

My Work From Home Routine | February 21

Working from home is my new normal, for the foreseeable and I mentioned in my post Let’s Talk About… Working From Home that I don’t think we’ll ever go back to a five day working week in the office. I went from no working from home, to blended working from home, to fully working from home and I think the key to getting it right is a good routine. A good routine doesn’t have to mean a routine that’s the pinnacle of health, it’s about finding what works for you.

7- 8am – If I’m starting before 7.30, I am known for working the first hour from my soft office with a cup of tea to wake up. I do this when I have quiet jobs I need done, and I know no one will try and call me on Microsoft Teams. If I’m starting nearer 8, then I’ll be sat at my desk, normally washed and dressed.

8am – I normally go through my emails when I log on, or do any jobs I’d planned the night before, to do first thing. Around 8am, I write my list for the day. I write two lists, a work goals and a non-work goals. I find writing non-work goals makes me move, makes me feel like I’m achieving things other than work and therefore keeps me productive and feeling a benefit of working from home. It’s a different way of working, you don’t spend ten minutes having a chat about what everyone is having for lunch, so you have those ten minutes for yourself.
An example list would be:
-Empty bins
– 3 minute YouTube workout (I love Lucy Wyndham-Read for quick workouts)
– Chop vegetables for soup
– Plan monthly blog posts
– Tidy out 1 drawer

8.30 – This is when I put light make-up on, do my hair, spray my perfume and really get ready. I know some people who happily work in their pyjamas but for me, I feel better being ready for the day. Particularly when I’m on calls and thanks to screen-sharing, seeing yourself on camera is a common occurrence.

9.40 – If I’ve not moved from my desk yet, this is my first break of the day.

11.30 – This is normally when I have something to eat. Normally eggs, porridge or yoghurt. I know it’s a bit late for breakfast but I generally try to fast 14 hours a day.

12.45 – Normally I take my half-hour break around this time and I always go for a walk unless I’m in meetings. It’s so important to get some fresh air and clear your head. Sometimes I’ll take the dog, but he’s getting older and likes to doddle so mostly I go myself. I like to listen to a podcast and my current favourite is Shagged, Married, Annoyed.

2.30 – Depending on what I’ve had for breakfast, I’ll grab some soup or a quick bite. When I worked in an office, I used to make a pot of soup at the weekend for lunches through the week. I still try to do this so I’m eating healthy through the week and not spending too much time on it.

3.30 – Since I started working the 9-5, I always had a coffee/ tea at 3.30 pm. My rationale was that by the time you’d drank it, it was about 4pm which was into the final hour before finishing time. Now I’m very lucky that I have flexitime and generally finish at 4pm, but I still have my 3.30 pm coffee and usually a little treat to keep myself going.

4pm – Log off. I generally am more productive in the morning and especially during the winter when it’s dark so early, I struggle to stay productive after 4pm, so I try to finish up sharp. As I was so used to non-flexible working, 4pm – 5pm is like a new hour in my day. During this hour, I write be that my novel or a blog post or sometimes I read. It means that I’m always doing something for myself to be productive every day.

Tips:

  • Get outside every day, go for a walk or even just sit in the garden for ten minutes with a drink (weather permitting), you will feel so much better.
  • Have something handy, that isn’t your phone. There’s no one standing over you to make sure you’re not constantly on your phone, so you need to be that for yourself. I bought an adult colouring book which I have at my desk for when I feel like I’m scrolling too much.
  • You need to work harder to move, but you’ll thank yourself for it. Whether it’s quick workouts, jumping jacks while the kettle boils or ten squats every time you go to the toilet.
  • You generally get business done quicker at home, so take time out to check in with your colleagues. It’s fine to have a twenty minute chat about what you’re watching on Netflix every few weeks, it will make you feel better.
  • Do some online learning. Whether your organisation offers courses, or you seek them out yourself. There are lots of free courses out there and while you might feel like you can’t be bothered, you might surprise yourself with what you take out of it.
  • Speak up if you’re struggling, your boss, your colleagues, friends and family are there to support you so don’t struggle in silence.
  • Remember, right now you are not working from home. You are at home, during a pandemic, trying to work.

Please let me know your home working routine or even if you’re in an office, do you have a routine to keep you productive? I’d love to know about it in the comments below.

What I’ve Been Reading | February 21

What I’ve Been Reading | February 21

My reading goal for 2021 is to read fifty books because I feel so much better when I’m in a good reading routine and I find goals really helpful to keep me on track. This month I’ve read a variety from fiction, YA fiction and biographies and that is my reading style. Since bookshops have closed, I can no longer wander around and make a wish list of my next reads so recommendations are always welcome.

  1. Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall 

Three university friends have now grown up and are living very different lives, when one of them is murdered, Elenor and Mary try desperately to put the pieces together of what happened to Nancy that night whilst navigating their own tricky relationships. 

I liked this novel, it illustrates the complexities of friendship as the tie that keeps them together is loosened and the characters are very real. Split into three sections, POV from each of the girls, there’s a few good twists and turns. I think it’s a loose fit as a thriller, I don’t think that dimension was very strong, more mystery. 

  1. No Shame by Tom Allen 

A candid, funny yet heartbreaking memoir of comedian Tom Allen as he reflects on his childhood, coming of age and life as a young adult. He’s honest as he tells stories about being an outsider, navigating the gay scene and his journey into comedy. 

One of my favourite comedians, Allen writes as he speaks with a dry, sarcastic humour that allows him to get very honest with himself. It focuses on the Tom Allen we don’t know, rather than the one we do, which I think speaks volumes of who he is as a person. Thoroughly enjoyed it as a fan, and from a human interest point of view. 

3. The Magpie Society – One for Sorrow by Zoe Sugg and Amy McCulloch 

Audrey moves to Illumen Hall, an English boarding school, to escape the drama of her past, little does she know she’s about to walk into a whole new drama. When Lola Radcliffe tragically dies at a school party, the police put it down to mis-adventure but an anonymous podcast cries murder and Audrey, along with her roommate Ivy, try to figure out who killed Lola, and who is the voice on the podcast.

Anything rich, boarding school tale, I’m generally sold on. While it has hints of Wild Child at the beginning, it quickly finds it’s own and I was hooked from early on. The chapters are told from Audrey and Ivy’s point of view but, like some novels, it doesn’t ever get confusing. I did work it out, but only with 20 or so pages before the reveal and it didn’t spoil it. It does end on a cliffhanger but not in the way you’d expect. I really enjoyed this and already can’t wait for the sequel.

4. What Would the Spice Girls Do? by Lauren Bravo

From the first three pages I felt like I was talking to one of my best friends, or someone who I’d love to be friends with. I remember thinking, damn this girl gets it and I was hooked. This book is about the girl power generation and how the spice girls influenced the millennial generation. It’s a really interesting read, regardless of your personal thoughts on the Spice Girls. If society has ever made you feel like you’re doing something wrong by putting yourself first as a young woman, you must read this. It’s an empowering, reassuring and relatable read and Bravo’s narrative is fantastic.

That was my January reads, I had aimed for five but with launching this blog, it may have been slightly overambitious. Next month my list is Becoming by Michelle Obama and Because of You by Dawn French to start me off. Any other recommendations are so welcome, please leave them in a comment below.

Buying Beauty Products Online

Buying Beauty Products Online

There’s not much I won’t buy online. From clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery, homeware, furniture, you name it. I don’t have the same anxiety about ‘seeing it’ in real life that others have, until it comes to beauty products. Foundations, lipsticks, even eye shadow palettes cause me so much stress when I need to buy them online. Pre-2020 this wasn’t an issue, my second home is a shopping centre and wandering around Boots or Superdrug with 7 swatches on my hand was a normal Saturday. Then the shops closed, and the shops that stayed open removed all their testers, so there was no merit in going to a shop to buy make-up. I started looking online and found a few tricks to make buying beauty online a little bit easier.

Findation / Match My Make-Up

Run out of your foundation, want to try something new but have spent hours agonising over Goggle images trying to find swatches? Sites such as Findation or Match My Make-Up provide a matching service. Put the details in of a foundation type, and shade, that matches you well and let it do the rest. This was a lifesaver when I wanted to buy a new Charlotte Tilbury foundation during lockdown but I didn’t know my shade.

Influenster

Think TripAdvisor but for products. There’s not much, beauty or not, that aren’t on Influenster. Detailed reviews with user photos, the ability to ask questions, as well as it’s own awards, Influenster will make sure you have all the information before checking out. I use this all the time and I contribute reviews as well as reading them. It is American based so not all UK brands are on there but I would say the vast majority will be. Influenster also has VoxBoxes where contributors can receive a VoxBox in exchange for reviews, there’s different campaigns for brands and you get a tailored selection of products or the full release. If you like to review products of all kinds, and you’re not on Influenster, I would recommend you sign up.

Blog Reviews

My favourite types of beauty posts to read are product empties, favourites, or new in beauty. I find it so helpful to see what other bloggers enjoy using and would recommend and find it re-assuring if I’m buying a product I’ve never tried, or seen before. Some of my favourite beauty buys have been discovered via blog posts. If you’re a beauty blogger, or enjoy beauty blogs, please leave your links in the comments below so other people can check out your beauty recommendations.

Read the Product Description

This sounds basic but I think the majority of people, myself included, have been caught buying products because of how they look, the name or because they’re heard other people talking about them but don’t actually know what the product is supposed to do. It’s so important to read the full product description and

Do You Know What You’re Looking For?

Understanding your skin is difficult. Everyone’s skin is unique to them and your skin type not only changes with so many factors, it can be difficult to understand in the first place. With brands throwing so many claims around about what products do, you need to wade through a lot of noise to get to what the product is, what it should do and more importantly, will it work for you. While we all have the luxury of time, if you haven’t already, I’d recommend putting some time in to research all things skin. You’ll be able to make more informed choices, reduce the time spent scratching your head and build a skincare/make-up routine that works for you. If you’re not sure where to start, I’d recommend Skincare by Caroline Hirons. The book is fantastic, it explains everything you need to know and gives some product recommendations.

I hope this post as been helpful and has given you a couple of ideas when buying beauty and skincare online. If you have any other tips, I’d love to know so please leave them in the comments below.