Tuesday 24 February 2015

February's Birchbox 'Birchbox Loves...'

This months Birchbox is based around the theme of love (it is February after all..). A few of the Birchbox team have selected a few of their favourites, along with a handy card that states the smaller things in life what people love, that we often take for granted. For me it would be Lush bubble baths, early nights, a good book and candles..

Lets take a closer look...

Wild About Beauty Rose Water Illuminating Serum - RRP £22
This claims to be a "super luxurious solution to boost your skin’s radiance in a flash. The Rose Water Illuminating Serum is packed with light-reflecting particles, Organic Rose Water and Caigua Extract to help regenerate and revitalise your complexion instantly. It also contains pearls (fancy!) to add a subtle shimmer and boost luminosity". I've tried this a few times now and I'm still not sure what I think of it. It certainly doesn't blow me away, I'm not overly fond of the consistency if I'm honest, however I don't usually use illuminating skin products, simply because I always wear foundation, so I think it'd be pretty pointless to wear!
T London Darjeeling Bath & Shower Wash - RRP £18 (for 300ml)
I'm still yet to use this shower wash (I like to keep these size samples for breaks away instead) however after smelling it, I found the scent very mediocre and standard, exactly like you would expect to find a middle-of-the-range shower gel to smell - fresh with a kick of citrus. Unfortunately I'm no lover of this scent so this hasn't blown me away.
TheBalm Cosmetics Stainiac - RRP £10
This two-in-one lip and cheek stain gives us "a natural, understated flush and helps us get out the door faster! The gel formula looks dark in the tube but delivers a sheer tint. The tinted gel leaves a lasting stain on lips and cheeks. Since it’s water-based, it has a longer setting time than most quick-dry stains, which means it won’t leave any unsightly streaks behind as long as you take care to blend well. Use a single coat for a subtle look or layer it on for a more visible (yet still discreet) hue." I've been trying this on and off for a few days now and I'm unfortunately not blown away. The consistency when applied to the lips just feels... weird. I feel like I'm applying water. It provides a very subtle tint (and very subtle at that), however within an hour or so I found that my lips were just left with an outline (almost as if I've applied lip liner but not filled my actual lip in). Not good. I can't say I've tried it on the cheeks as I'm more of a bronzer person than I am blusher. I do already have one of these in my collection from another brand, and I have the same thoughts on that product too. Just not my cup of tea!
 Cynthia Rowley Beauty Eyeliner (Silver) - RRP £11
Although not usually my chosen colour of eyeliner, this was one of my favourite products from the whole box. Its creamy consistency helps to glide onto the skin and releases a vibrant metallic silver tone. Just out of curiousity I tried it on the waterline and although it took some getting used to, it did actually open my eyes up a little. I think I will stick to wearing it on my upper lash line though, and blend it in for a smokey eye. I love the packaging of this too!
Liz Earle Botanical Shine Shampoo - RRP £10 (for 200ml)
I'm always pleased to see a well-known brand in the box, and Liz Earle is no exception. I didn't know that L.E did shampoo's either! I'm yet to try this shampoo (again, saving it for a weekend away!) however if it lives up to its name, I do expect good things!
The Chia Co. Oats + Chia - RRP £$.95 (5 pack)
"Whether you’ve only got 10 minutes to spare at home, or you’re breakfasting al desko, this creamy blend of wholegrain oats, sun-ripened chia, fruit and virgin coconut oil can be prepared in a minute or two so there’s no excuse not to get munching! Plus, it delivers a fibre boost and essential fatty acids to fuel both your muscles and your brain. Perfect!" - Here's a little story - I received the exact same sample in my monthly Degustabox a few months ago. Upon attempting to make this, I accidentally put too much water in, and it was unable to soak in, so I had to throw the whole thing away.. second time lucky! (and no, I haven't tried them yet to comment!)
I wasn't blown away by this months Birchbox, so I'm hoping next months is going to be a little more exciting!
What were your opinions on this months box? 

Friday 20 February 2015

Book Review: Into the Darkest Corner, Elizabeth Haynes.

I decided towards the end of last year that I was going to stop doing book reviews for 2 reasons;
1. Because I personally don't feel I'm great at expressing my love for a book without telling you the whole plot, which would be a complete spoiler for those that fancy a read! I occasionally read book reviews that are so much more descriptive and expressive, which puts mine to shame.
2. They don't seem popular with my readers so I kinda see it as why waste time and effort?

I am however, going to write reviews about books that stand out from the crowd, and this one really did for me.

As you all know, I'm a regular reader of chick lit, however I do try and come away from that and sample something else, because cute love stories tend to get a bit tiresome after a while. And although completely fiction, they're never great to read when you end up comparing your own relationship to that in a book - that's always going to end in disaster!

I was reading Kate's (from gh0stparties) reviews a good few months ago, and this book went it my 'to buy' list.

I started reading it at the beginning of the new year. Within 2 weeks I had completed this book (You're probably thinking '2 weeks for a book you claim to be amazing?!') But on average, a book usually takes me 6 weeks to read, simply because I only read a small amount each night before bed, and usually, I'm so tired that I can only manage a few pages!). However this book was a real page turner... I never wanted to put it down, and if it wasn't for having work the next day, I think I would have stayed up well into the early hours, because I just couldn't get enough.

I remember when I first started reading this I got very confused and a little worried that I would get lost in it. The pages flit between past and present, but this is made clear with dates before each 'entry'. Within a few pages the back and forth of dates began to make sense and a story began to emerge - A young woman 4 years previous, and the same woman in the present day. It showed you how an incident 4 years prior has changed her personality and outlook on life, and how a mental health disorder had formed due to the incident. It contains themes of domestic violence, sex and love.

Without giving too much away, I loved how the mental health disorder was portrayed. It really gave me an insight into how tiring it could be for anyone who suffers from it. The author gave so much attention to detail which enabled my imagination to go wild and really picture the scene, which is what I love from a book. I love to feel like I'm there, and involved.

Right from the start, every turn of the page left me wanting more. The incident in question which shaped this woman's life from then on wasn't revealed till towards the end of the book, which was both frustrating and exciting for the reader, and kept you in a great deal of suspense.

Usually, within a few days of completing a book I often forget book plots and characters, but weeks after finishing this and I still remember every detail quite clearly, and that to me, is a sign of a good book.... Go read!

Sunday 15 February 2015

Happy Valentines Day!

This is the 8th Valentines Day I've spent with my boyfriend, and it's unfortunately true what they say; novelty does really wear off. Despite minimal plans, I was still looking forward to it. Mike was working Friday night into Saturday morning, so it meant for pretty much all of Saturday he was in bed. However when I got up in the morning there was a lovely huge bunch of red roses waiting for me in a vase. Cute! I went about my day doing a few errands, and then ran myself a candlelit Lush bath in the afternoon with my heart throb bubbleroon. I then put on a new dress and made myself look pretty! Mike got himself up & ready and we exchanged gifts. I already knew what I was getting because I had chosen them a few weeks prior. We stopped getting 'traditional' valentines day presents a few years ago. He still always gets me flowers and chocolates (although this year I was minus them due to being on SW!) but I don't appreciate the typical 'I love you' teddies and the like, so we always get practical presents like any other occasion.
We drove to the restaurant that he had booked and ate a lovely 3 course meal. I tried to make it  SW friendly but dessert was included and how in their right mind would refuse a chocolate brownie with hazelnut icecream?!
We returned home and played a game that I had previously picked up, it was similar to Mr & Mrs.
Shortly after this Mike fell asleep! I spent some time catching up on the Internet before residing to bed!

In the early days of our relationship we used to go all out on V day, booking hotels and going away for the weekend,  but as the years progress, novelty really does wear off, and things slide, and it really does just become another day. Even though we didnt do a great deal, it was nice to have a technology-free night, eat good food and just talk. Something that sometimes we don't do enough of.

I know Valentines is controversial for some but even if you don't celebrate it, I hope you had a good weekend.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

January's Degustabox

The past few weeks I seemed to have an influx of parcels through the post - Bits I bought in the sales, new books for a new year, homeware items, my beauty subscription, and then my Degustabox!

For those that don't know, I started Slimming World a few weeks ago, so was a little bit apprehensive of receiving my Degustabox because I had a feeling it would be full of items I can't use without going over my syns... how wrong could I have been!

Being the start of a brand new year, Degustabox knew people would be starting new diets so they popped out a box full of healthy stuff, which may not sound exciting to some, but to me it was fab because I knew I wouldn't have to give half of it away!

Lets take a closer look...


Simplee Aloe - £1.79

Aloe Vera drink is a bit like marmite for most people, you either love it or hate it. Personally I love the stuff. I discovered it in Tesco's a year or so ago, and found that you can buy a small bottle for 99p. I regularly used to buy it whilst I was at work and loved it. I then went one day and it was no where to be seen, and I haven't found it since, so I think they may have discontinued it. Simplee Aloe I will admit wasn't as tasty, it was a little more bitter, so I probably wouldn't reach for it again. Its nice knowing you are putting some goodness into your body though.

Little Miracles - £1.49 each

I got 2 bottles of these in 2 different flavours (black and white tea with peach/agave etc). I preferred the white tea over the black, but they were still both drinkable. I took both of these to work with me and had them to hand at my desk whilst I was in the office.

Alfa One Rice Oil - £2

I've still not used this as we only just started on another oil before receiving this, however due to being on SW, I have been using the 1kcal Fry Light spray for oil, so because this is yet another healthy oil, I definitely wont hesitate in using this.

Koko Dairy Free Milk - £1.39

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of this. I've tried it on both cereal and in my tea. It's an alternative to normal cows milk and is made with pressed coconut milk. It had a strange after taste and didn't have the creaminess of usual milk because it's dairy-free. I tried a chocolate dairy-free milk a few weeks ago and this reminded me of this... all dairy-free milk appear to have a similar taste despite their flavour. I'm just glad I'm not intolerant to dairy foods because I'd be sad if I had to live on this!

Magners Light (Orchard Berries) - £4.99 for a crate of 4.

I'm not a massive alcohol drinker, but this light fruity cider does sound like something I would be able to drink, but I'm waiting till it gets warmer! Till then its sat chilling in my fridge!

Sukrin Bread Mix - £5

My first thought when I saw this was '...but I haven't got a bread maker'. After reading the packaging, you only need an oven to create this low-card sunflower and pumpkin seed bread. It's gluten free, which again, is something I'm not used to trying. You can make tortilla wraps, pizza bases, burger buns etc with this, so I'm excited to eventually give this a go. I saw a few people receive a cake mix from this brand as opposed to a bread mix, and that sounds exciting too!

Kabuto Noodles - £2

These Japanese-esque noodles are in celebration of the Chinese New Year. I've yet to try them but I love a good bowl of noodles for a quick snack!

Haywards Piccalilli - £1.89

This one was a bit of a bizarre one for me. It's been around years which confused me, because I though Degustabox are meant to introduce you to new food products on the market. Nevertheless, I like piccalilli. I can't say it's my go-to sandwich sauce filler, but I'm sure we'll get some use out of it.

Clipper Green Tea ('Special Gift')

A box of 10 green tea teabags. I'm no green-tea lover, or any 'unique' tea for that matter. Give me good ol' English Breakfast tea any day. These got passed onto some colleagues at work who were very thankful of them.

Finn Crisp - £1.20

These are the equivalent of Ryvita, which is perfect because I have been having this occasionally for my lunch breaks at work as part of my Healthy Extra B (only people that attend SW will understand this!). So I will definitely get some use out of these. They are baked with sourdough, which means these beauties are low in fat with a 'distinctive tangy flavour' - perfect.

Mornflake Porridge (with Nutella/Golden Syrup) - £1.19 each

I was super excited when I saw these - Porridge can be used as part of my Healthy Extra B, so I'd only have to syn the Nutella/Syrup should I choose to add them. I think the idea behind these are brilliant, and so convenient for people that have breakfast at work. I've already ate both of these (Obviously going to go for the chocolate one first!). Unfortunately I was left feeling a little deflated - I put the whole sachet of Nutella in and mixed it into the warm porridge. Upon tasting it I could barely recognize that it has Nutella in it - I think the amount of porridge outweighed the Nutella, so the taste was very faint, and may as well have not been there at all. The golden syrup flavor was a lot better, and I may have cheated and added a little sugar in to sweeten it even more!

All in all, I was pretty impressed with January's box. Healthy boxes may not always be as exciting as boxes filled with naughty treat-type foods, but we have to remember to look after our bodies sometimes!

If you want to have a Degustabox delivered to your door every month, using the code NT7KZ at checkout will deduct a massive £3 off your order, so your first box will be only £9.99 inc P&P! Please visit Degustabox for more details.

Please note - I receive this box for review purposes. Degustabox have 2 separate boxes on offer to customers, one including alcohol (i.e. the magners that is shown above) and a non-alcoholic box (which would be replaced with the Simplee Aloe drink, also above). Customers would not get both of these. I have received both solely for reviewing.


Sunday 8 February 2015

My Slimming World Journey - 1 Month In - Inc weight loss & photos!

Background/Reasons for 'dieting'

My weight has been a battle for the past couple of years.. it's gradually increased ever since I left uni 7 years ago. I've been on umpteenth diets, some have lasted days, some have lasted a few weeks, but I've never had the willpower to stick to one long enough to see great results that I'm happy with, and more importantly, results that I maintained.

If you read my '2015 Diary Events' you will know that I have 2 main events this year - My 30th birthday and a trip to Florida. I went to Florida almost 2 years ago now and I left that country not visiting a single waterpark. The only time my body saw a swimming pool was for 10 minutes, and that was only because we had our own private villa and everyone was out (i.e. my brother/dad etc) except my boyfriend and I, so I quickly jumped in for a dip, only to be forced out 10 mins later because of a late night thunderstorm. This made me sad because as a kid I used to love the water, and could play in it for hours, whether that be in a simple swimming pool or at a water park, so as you can imagine, I was pretty gutted when I revisited Florida and didn't have the confidence to bare all around a waterpark. Not only that but hot weather obviously means less clothes, and I just felt yucky and that people were secretly judging me. I felt ugly and didn't want to be in many photos because I was too conscious.

Knowing that this year's holiday will be our last 'big' holiday for a while, I wanted to make it a good one - I want to feel confident, healthy, light... like there's a spring in my step almost. I want to actually be in photos this time, as opposed to being the one taking them.

This is why I joined slimming world along with my friend, and I wanted to take you along on the ride. I'm going to do monthly updates (I figured monthly would be most attainable for me!). The posts will include my weight loss and thoughts, as well as meals that I've been eating, hoping to maybe give you some inspiration.

Weight Loss Although I'm not going to give you my starting weight (as I don't feel comfortable disclosing that on here just yet) I will still share with you my weekly losses (or gains!).

Week 1: -4lb
Week 2: -2lb
Week 3: -2.5 lb

Total weight loss for month 1 = 8.5lb.


Week one I felt I breezed through. I got a little bit addicted to weighing myself almost every day for a full week, but was loving watching the scales decrease. I sampled my first few SW meals (one being nice, the other being totally bland!). I was extremely happy with my 4lb loss. I don't think I've ever lost that much in one week.
Week two I felt a little bit disheartened. I weighed myself 4 days in and the scales hadn't budged from my weekly weigh in that I do myself on a Monday morning. I felt deflated, knowing I was sticking to the plan, and even exercised a little, but nothing. My friend pointed out that maybe it was because I had ate carbs for 3 days running at tea time - Mash on the Tuesday, Jacket Pot on Wed, and SW chips on Thurs - All of which have probably just sat in me which I haven't burnt off because I just veg out at night and then go to sleep, so the carbs have no where to go! I decided to switch it up and make sure I wasn't eating these types of foods for tea and it seemed to work. I went out for something to eat at the weekend and although I tried to look for something healthy, there wasn't a great deal. I went for beef stroganoff (which can I say was A-mazing, the sauce was made with what tasted like cream.. yum!). I didn't eat all of this though, simply becaue I was stuffed! Weigh in came and I was a little nervous.. expecting a 1lb - 1.5lb loss at the very most, and I ended up losing 2lb which was a nice surprise!
Week three I started the week being less careful than usual, and being a bit more 'lenient' with syns in my head. I didn't over-eat as such,  It was little things that I was doing (i.e. putting butter on bread etc and not spreading thinly!) - this is where I could go massively wrong. This was the week I also discovered a cookies & cream spread that Mike had bought in the cupboard. Usually I don't touch these kinds of foods because I don't like them, especially not on bread anyway, and tend to eat them by the spoonful instead if I do like them. Out of curiosity I tried this one and oh.my.god. It was SO good, and definitely up there with Nutella, if not better! Every day since I've had at least a few spoonfuls of this, so this really made me unhopeful about my next weigh in, but I felt like I just couldn't stop eating it. I did try and ask Mike to hide it, but he said I need to take control over my willpower instead, so left it in the cupboard. This was not good!
Week 3-4 I've called it week 3-4 because this is the last week of the month but will cross over into February, but whilst it is still January, my OCD tells me this needs to go into this post ;-)
3 days after my 3rd weigh-in, I feel like I've spoilt it a little - it was my friends last day at work today so we went and had a quick meal out in our lunch break (we're both on SW). We both ordered quiche, chips and salad.. followed by cornflake tart. The annoying thing was, it wasn't even that nice, but I ate the majority of both dishes. Later on today after arriving home I continued to have a Jaffa cake roll and bag of crisps, so I've completely gone over my syns today, and I'm scared that this is going to have an effect on next week's weigh in.
Also a few days ago Mike (my boyfriend) gave me a pretty attractive incentive. He said if I can lose a stone by the end of Feb I can treat myself to 10 Lush bath bombs (I'm pretty obsessed with Lush at the mo!). I've worked it out and it means I need to lose at least 1.5lb every week for the next 4 weeks. It's pretty do-able IF I don't make too many slip-ups.

Meal Inspiration

The majority of these are SW recipes. They may not look presentation-worthy but most of them were delish!
Smaller photos - 1st Column - Turkey Mince Moroccan Meatballs | Salmon & Veg | Chicken, Garlic & Lemon Casserole | Beef Stew. 2nd Column - 'Eggy' Bread | ? | Ham & Mushroom 'Cakes' (these were like omlettes but cooked in a muffin tin) SW Chips & Beans | Jacket Pot with beans and salad. 2 large photos - Mini Fry-Up | Spicy Chicken & Broccoli with green beans.

Overall Thoughts/What I've learnt

The first month has definitely not been as hard as I had anticipated. At times I've craved, but I've been able to fight the urge for the most part. I think also because I haven't completely neglected myself of sweet foods (which is my downfall) I haven't felt like I've been 'missing out' - I've always had some form of low-syn chocolate snack in the cupboard, and for the most part been content with just having one and drawing a line for the day. I've learnt not to over-stock the cupboards with treats, just in case. I've really changed my eating habits, and spent a hell of a lot of time cooking and food prepping! I've played with spices that I've never used before, and managed to create a fair few yummy (SW) dishes. I've ate more fruit this past month than I think I have in my entire life! I've sampled new foods, and discovered foods that I also hate! It's made me a lot more adventurous in the kitchen and I'm loving the results. (And don't forget, my 8.5lb weight loss was achieved in 3 weeks, not a month, because we started 1 week into Jan!). I've done almost zilch exercise, which, whilst I'm still losing weight, I'm happy with! Haha - why exercise when you can get away with not doing any and still lose?! I know in the near future I will have to start moving in order to begin shifting more lbs but for the time being, I'm enjoying just eating healthy and losing those extra lbs! One step at a time...!

Are you on Slimming World? Get in touch! I'd love to share my experience with more people! Also follow me on Instagram for regular SW updates! @kateld85. Follow me on GFC or bloglovin for monthly updates and my progress!

Wednesday 4 February 2015

My Month In Photos | Monthly Positives

I've decided that this year I'm going to do a monthly round up of positives and I feel that I've cracked it off to a flying start.

Clockwise from top left - Slimming World Mag/Achieving my half a stone sticker. Giving knitting a go for the very first time. A stack of books I bought from Amazon, Into The Darkest Corner becoming my fave. Shoot For The Stars Lush Bath Bomb.

January Positives

  • I've begun a new hobby - I'm slowly teaching myself how to knit. A knitting magazine caught my eye last week whilst in Tesco - it was an introductory magazine for 99p and came with 2 knitting needles and 2 balls of yarn.. how could I refuse?! You get the magazine each week and every week you knit a new square. You eventually (after 90 weeks!) create a gorgeous knitted throw with all different types of stiches.
  • I started Slimming World with my friend, and in 3 weeks I've managed to shift 8.5lbs which I'm pretty happy with! I feel more determined than ever now and Mike's starting to give me pretty good incentives to keep me going (my first one being if I lose a stone by the end of Feb he's going to treat me to 10 Lush bath bombs.. too cool to refuse!). Weight has been a huge hang-up of mine for a few years now so I'm determined to finally fight it.
  • I read a fantastic book this month that has gone to the top of my 'favourite book' list.
  • This kinda goes hand-in-hand with the one above, but I'm making more of a conscious effort to read more, and I've almost finished my 2nd book this month (usually it takes me approx. 6 weeks to read 1!)
  • There's an area of my life which I'm not entirely happy with, and I've took the first step in doing something about it, and this has now progressed onto the next step, so I'm super excited to see what happens (wont into too much detail but I will reveal all if it pulls off!)
  • I've finally started painting a wardrobe that has been in my garage for 18+ months. I'm hoping to transform the back bedroom into some form of bedroom, instead of a dumping ground, and this was my first step!
  • I've been having a lot of Lush baths and really enjoying them... trying to make the most of them because I don't tend to have baths in the warmer months...
Things I've been loving...Despite being on Slimming World, I discovered Tesco's Cookies & Cream spread after my boyfriend bought it for himself - Oh dear god... this stuff is beyond amazing. I actually think it's better than Nutella. Eaten neatly off the spoon, of course. It's that good that when he went to boy some more, they'd sold out! Lush baths.. I've become pretty obsessed with Lush stuff - I've spent over £100 on Lush items in the last 3 months.. whoops! Anything sweet and candy scented and I'm gonna love it!

All in all, a pretty successful month with some quite 'big' tasks accomplished.

What are your monthly highlights?

Monday 2 February 2015

Home Interior: How I store my Books | Shabby Chic

Last year I was on the hunt for a sideboard for my living room. I came across one, and when I went to collect it, I realized it wasn't really what I was looking for, in fact I didn't quite know what it was. My mum said it was meant as part of a kitchen dresser or something...

Being stuck with a piece of furniture I had no idea what to do with, I then had a lightbulb moment.. it has shelves, and 2 doors.. why not use it for my books? After all, my book collection was growing by the month and I had no where to put them.

With a quick lick of paint (and I mean quick... I hate painting, and techinically it's not even finished, but shush!) it was sat looking pretty in the corner of my bedroom. It's a bit different to what you'd normally store your books in, but I like that.

I was thinking of putting some fancy wallpaper behind the glass so the books can't be seen, but I kinda like how they're all on show.. I love occasionally sitting down by it and looking through all the books I've managed to read through the years. I do own a few more books than this, but they are somewhere else...

The bottom shelf has a few decorative items on at the minute, simply because I don't have enough books to fill it just yet, but I'm sure by the time the year is out these will have to be moved in order to make room for more.

It's doesn't have heaps of space to store books - It can probably fit around 60 books, which is good enough for me. In time I'll probably rotate them, and when new ones come in, I'll take some old ones out and find another place for them (or give them to charity!).

I decorated the top of the 'bookshelf' with a bouquet of flowers that originally sat on a windowsill in our hallway, but I've since had decorated. Luckily they go with the colour scheme in our bedroom. The iron star I got from a homeware shop in Manchester about 4 years ago just before we moved into our house. I think it's quite unique and a bit of a statement piece. I don't often get round to lighting the candles for this though. The photo is of me and my boyfriend - it's when we were first dating, before we became 'official' - this was one of my boyfriends favourite photo's of me... it's over 7 yrs old now.. crazy! The photo frame I received as a gift one Christmas.

Some people ask why I don't 'upgrade' to a kindle instead of buying paperbacks. Truth is, I love to hold a paperback, and then see them all building up once I've read them. It gives me some sense of achievement, knowing that these are all the books I've read. I love covers of books too, and I've seen some that are pretty enough to be part of my d├ęcor. I'm a very visual person and although having a kindle would free up so much space in the long term, I like my books too much to give them up completely.

Are you a paperback or kindle kinda girl?

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