How To De-Stress From Work

You know it's going to be one of those weeks when you sit down at your desk on Monday morning, blink and it's 6pm. Your inbox resembles the aftermath of a Uni campus kebab shop, the to-do list is now spread over two pages and there's a sense of rising panic constricting your throat. Cue the late nights, early alarms and a bitter kiss goodbye to any kind of a life. Four weeks ago, this was me. I was a mess. A crying, sweating, stressful mess who by the evening, couldn't even find the words to construct a simple sentence. It was that bad. So, when Monday came around again, I promised myself I wasn't going to lose another week of my life to the never-ending abyss of work. This blog post has been a long time coming and I'm by no means now "cured", but these tips worked for me and maybe, maybe, they could work for you too!
Before we get stuck into it, I just want to caveat that these past few week when I have somewhat achieved more of a work/life balance, it hasn't been at the expense of effort, motivation, or giving anything less than 100% to my job. I've just made a few subtle changes to my head space that has allowed me to place emphasis on the things that make me feel better in myself; namely my diet, my exercise regime, and most importantly, my sanity. It wasn't easy, I have to admit. There were times I had to have a stern word with myself and I hate being told off! So, here's how I did it...

There is beauty in the simplicity of this one but I found it to have a profound effect on my state of mind. A job never comes with an end point. It's a never-ending stream of emails, requests and tasks. Your role is a series of projects with various deadlines and you know once one project is complete no sooner will the next one be upon you (or three). Once you actually say it aloud, it's so obvious! To that point, what is working until 10pm every night going to achieve? It's an impossible task to get your job done. You have to draw the line somewhere and it's down to you to determine whether that line is a hard finish at 6/7/8pm or "the line is a dot to you" and you're chasing a phantom hope of satisfaction striving for the unachievable 'job done' moment. How I used this to my advantage this week was to ensure that I was a) effectively prioritising throughout the day so I knew all urgent matters were dealt with (a to-do list helps here) and b) I acknowledged and reflected on the hard day's work I had put in. I thought about it like this; If I was working for my own company, would I be pleased with the bang I'd got for my buck?

This literally started by turning off my email notifications on my iPhone. Simple and effective but I hadn't quite realised how much I remained on 'high alert'. Given I work in a global company with offices in multiple timezones, the emails never cease! When your work phone and personal phone are one and the same, it's hard to be so disciplined to leave work at the office. Last Saturday morning, I made the point of switching off my emails and held strong until I was back in the office. I kept this discipline of switching off my work emails as I left the office which felt like a daily victory. I'd often contemplated this idea but was always terrified of how out of control my inbox would be without this, however I found I was more focused and productive during the hours I sat at my desk. I've stopped waking up, switching off my alarm and seeing straight away 35 unread emails - throat constricts, absolutely can't breath and a horrible start to each day. Plus, what is going to be really so urgent that reading an email at 11pm at night will do anything but ruin your evening and make for a fretful night's sleep. One my favourite quotes from my days working at L'Oreal was "It's PR, not ER!"
There's a reason holding your pulse-points is soothing and that's because you stop, focus and breathe. Breath is the most underrated asset we have in our arsenal which literally has the power to change our physical and mental responses to stress. Stop and count to ten. During an average day, I'd be terrified to see how many adrenaline spikes I punish my body with. I really challenged this on Tuesday early afternoon after a string of back-to-back meetings and raised action points when things just got overwhelming. To break the pattern, I stood up from my desk and walked to the kitchen to make a coffee. On the way, I took several deep breaths and forced my shoulders to drop. 'I can't do it all' I said to myself but I can get through this by compartmentalising and effectively prioritising. Stepping away from your desk forces your body to move and deep breaths can really help release some of that tension. Make a drink, take a quick breather - stop the anxiety in its tracks and talk to yourself calmly - you got this, girl!
I'm an emotional eater. Possibly the biggest emotional eater. We were chatting in the office about those of us cursed with this trait who wish we could be the 'too-nervous-to-eat' kind of stress-head. Instead, and rather unfortunately, I find the hand to mouth action rather soothing (I blame my mother, it must be something to do with my childhood!). Looking back at my final year of University, those crucial last weeks writing my dissertation and I barely left my desk except to pop to the loo and stock up on Minstrels from the corner-shop. Time for a nice nutritional meal? No way! Constant feeding of chocolatey treats? Absolutely.

These days my daily dependency in the working world is Diet Coke. Something about the fizz and all the E-numbers my body craves and I have a stupid association between a productive afternoon and this canned drink. But this week, in a bid to increase my overall wellness, I swapped it for Kombucha which is a rather tasty preoiotic drink to aid digestion, mood and mental stability. Thank you Liz Earle for the tip via 'At Home With' series by The Anna Edit and Lily Pebbles. Flavoured with Pink Lady Apples, it really is a delightful tasting drink. It's not giant leap for mankind but for me, this was monumental. A fizzy drink that is a) good for you and b) good for you. Every sip and I felt like my body wasn't getting bloated by the greedy stress-ball within!
As most of you will know from reading my blog over the past year, I'm very lazy when it comes to exercise. It took a looming wedding and revealing wedding dress to get any kind of gym dedication out of me. Now there is no similar motivation (sorry Ryan, welcome to married life), or so I thought until I realised my clothes were getting tighter. Maybe the launderette machines were shrinking them? At the end of a working day there's barely enough energy left in me to stay awake on the subway ride home, let alone squeeze into some exercise leggings and burn come calories. Thanks to ClassPass though, I discovered and fell in love with Physique 57. Having realised in Spring this year how bad my mental head space was and identifying that my lack of exercise could easily be exacerbating the situation, I took control and booked a month's unlimited pass to the studio. I was in a great groove of weekend classes but weekdays? Nuh-uh. At my most-stressed point, I didn't make it to a single class and I could feel myself getting more and more down about it as the week went on. This week, I turned it around. I checked the night before for the timetable so I could know exactly where I had to be and when. And I made a point of leaving on time. On one occasion I had to bring my laptop home as I hadn't got everything done but I wasn't prepared to let it be at expense of my exercise class. After a day of mental exhaustion, there's nothing more satisfying, I have found, that the physical exertion of overloading your muscles and clearing your head by the sheer concentration that's required at the barre!

It wasn't uncommon for a day to go by where I wouldn't leave the office at all between arriving and leaving. In the Winter, I barely see daylight. Once I'm in, I'm sucked in and it's very hard to get away.
And I'm pale so you can bet what that did for my complexion! So I figured 'Rose by name, Rose by nature', I need a little fresh air and water to bloom! Fifteen minutes outside of the office to stretch my legs and soak up some Vitamin D is just what the doctor ordered. And realistically, what harm is fifteen minutes in the schemes of things? I'm working my way up to the full hour (I can hear my New York colleagues gasping at the sheer thought...!)
This has the most calming effect on me but having the time to do it is another thing! So, I made a point to enjoy each 12 minute subway journey to and from work to sit on my Kindle app and just read. This has stopped me getting irate at the dropping WiFi connection and frantically iPhone typing a response to work emails and meant I savour a little of the calm before the storm. I've just finished reading Giovanna Fletcher's 'Billy and Me' which was just delightful and provided an escape into the British countryside for a dose of baking and romance! I'm now tucking into my AUTUMN READING LIST - check out the blog post here.

So there you have it...small steps for mankind but a giant leap for my sanity. I hope if even one of these points works for you then it was worth writing! Is there anything that really works for you to help switch off or battle with stress? I'm always up for more recommendations to keep me on this path! Sharing is caring, after all.


Autumn Reading List // Book Haul

Autumn is my favourite season of the year. From the wardrobe updates (jumpers, oh how I have missed you!) to the Saturday night TV (hello Strictly) and to the hearty cooking (casserole, anyone?). But best of all is the evenings drawing in which makes for snuggling down on the sofa with a cup of tea, blanket and a new book. Reminiscent of my back-to-school vibes which included an annual trolley dash around W.H.Smith (this girl loves her stationary), I find myself drawn to a book haul around this time of year. Enter Amazon (sorry, W.H.Smith, I've gone digital). Approaching this time of year when there's a lull between the summer BBQ's and Christmas parties, my social diary is freed up for early nights of reading in bed and Netflix binges (can I really be arsed with starting 5 series of Breaking Bad now?!). I've spoken before about my bestie Elizabeth Ruth and how we bonded from day one at University over chick-lits and nachos. Since then, we've had a book club for two which has taken itself online now we are an ocean apart and Pinterest is our online library. Without further ado, this Autumn I have a rather eclectic bunch of reading material and here's why I'm excited to tuck in...
Rhonda Byrne The Secret
 I'm starting with the very much talked about and best-selling self-help book The Secret. It's been around since 2006 so chances are you've heard of it too. From colleagues, vloggers and pod-casts of late, there have been so many references to this book that, frankly, I want to know what all the fuss is about. This book claims it can change your life - or at least give you the power to change your life once you know 'the secret'. Fundamentally, it's all about positive visualisation. It might not be up your street, especially those on the cynical end of the spectrum, but I've heard one too many first-hand accounts of it working that I want in on the 'law of attraction' action! 
Paige Toon The Last Piece of my Heart
Ask me who my favourite author is and this lady is first in mind: introducing Paige Toon. If you are new to this author, I highly recommend you read all her books starting with Lucy in the Sky. The perk of reading in chronological order (although not essential) is that Toon very cleverly weaves together characters from various books into a larger network just emphasising her genius. Having spent 18 months out of the loop from her most recent releases, I was beyond excited to find I was behind on her two latest releases.

Paige Toon The One We Fell in Love With
 I challenge anyone to read the Kindle Preview of this book and stop there. Within minutes I utterly gripped!! Genuinely nearly missed my stop on the subway ride home! Plus one of the (many) reasons I love Paige Toon is the way she brings romance to life. So much so you won't be able to put the book down! The gist here is one guy + triplet sisters and he's in love with one of them - navigating this complex love triangle! (Or square?)
Naomi Alderman The Power
The cover of this book may look familiar and that's because it's graced so many Instagram posts over the course of the summer that my FOMO scale finally tipped the balance. Science fiction isn't my typical genre so it'll be interesting to see how I get on with this 'dystopian fiction' but the synopsis intrigued me and appealed to my inner feminist. The premise explores women discovering they can emit electrical jolts from their fingertips establishing them as the dominant gender. Boy, there are times I wish I could’ve emitted electrical jolts but had to settle for a killer stare. Written by fellow Brit, Naomi Alderman is a literary genius that has been on the rise and adorned with accolades since her debut novel in 2006. Quickly winning the Orange Award for New Writers in that year, The Power is her fourth book and winner of 2018 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.
Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza Techbitch
In my mind, this book will be The Devil Wears Prada meets the digital age. Imogen is the editor-in-chief of Glossy magazine who, returning from sabbatical, finds herself being upstaged by her social-media savvy former assistant Eve. In typical Millennial style, Eve is taking on her old boss in a battle of the generations and it's print vs. digital - who will win? It's going to be an indulgent delve into the fashion and publishing world - two of my great loves - and written by two journalists from the world itself. I cannot wait to laugh at the parallels the authors draw upon as these two characters go head-to-head!

Giovanna Fletcher Happy Mum, Happy Baby
This is a controversial one and before anyone gets ahead of themselves, a little disclaimer: No, I'm not pregnant and no, I'm not planning to get pregnant anytime soon. This is literally a by-product of the 'At Home With' podcast series by Lily Pebbles and The AnnaEdit. As my own mother can testify, I have always been fascinated with pregnancy which manifested into a brief desire to become a midwife but was quickly satisfied by VHS recordings of the 80s answer to 'One Born Every Minute'. I figure this 'warts-and-all' approach to motherhood is best served cold (i.e. way in advance), to act as an effective contraceptive in the short-term and hopefully lead to a long-term knowledge-is-power effect. Given the friendly and down-to-earth character of Giovanna Fletcher (check out her Instagram stories to see just how warm and lovely she is), this will literally be like my best friend telling me the ugly truth.

Madeleine Shaw A Year of Beautiful Eating
Again, credit to The Anna Edit's recent vlogs and cooking up a storm in her Brighton kitchen to get this recipe book in my basket. Feeling excited to tackle the kitchen! My desire to embrace my inner-Nigella/Delia/Mary Berry has been thwarted by New York's grocery store prices yet my expanding waistline has called for desperate action. Given a limited number of kitchen resources (damn you shipping costs for parting me with my spice rack!) I wanted a no-frills yet healthy selection of meals that my picky husband won't turn his nose up to - the jury is out for now but the Autumn and Winter chapters have been heavily bookmarked!

What's on your reading hit-list this Autumn? Or have you any great Summer books to share with me? You can always follow my Pinterest board for live updates!


New York // Life Update

How is August over already already? Last week I was sat in my parents' kitchen on a rainy Wednesday afternoon and it hit me that we are two-thirds of the way through the year!! How the heck did that happen?! I found myself on vacation (I'm embracing "being American") over the Bank Holiday weekend and back in Blighty for a friend's wedding followed by a week's "stay-cation". It's ironic when you have to fly 3,000 miles just to be home! Having literally had dreams of trolley-dashing Tesco and escaping the mad prices of New York (everything but a $1 pizza slice is extortionate), I've been stocking up for winter! Literally. I'll be amazed if there isn't a nationwide shortage of Heinz Salad Cream as a result of my visit.
September always feels slightly melancholic despite it being the start of my favourite season. It must be the inherent 'back to school' vibes from years gone by when you know the light evenings and summer holiday fun is at an end. But new wardrobe, better TV and cosy evenings in, what's not to love? This past week, I found myself clearing through my cupboards, packing away the bikinis and summer playsuits, and discovering what winter items hadn't been devoured by moths since I'd stowed them away. 'Autumn-sorting' as opposed to 'Spring-cleaning' if you will. Entirely satisfying.

It's been a crazy year. With everything that happened in 2016 - the wedding, moving house, leaving our jobs and travelling the world - it was always going to be a tough act to follow. This year got off to a bizarre start; we were on a come down from our crazy adventures honeymoon-ing overseas and found ourselves living at opposite ends of the country in our respective parents' homes while we waited for the New York offer to be finalised. Now, we're six months into being New Yorkers and have set-up home in a downtown Manhattan apartment. The stereotype of working all hours and living off coffee is so true - did you know the average New Yorker only gets 10 vacation days a year and doesn't even take them all??! Utter bonkers if you ask me. After six months of steam-rolling through, moving the team out here and being part of a new start-up arm of the business, I was ready for my straight-jacket fitting and a month in a rehab facility. Cue massages, lots of cups of tea (thank you, Mum) and lung-fulls of country air. Despite working for the same company for five years previous, there's been an interesting cultural shift from London to New York. I'd certainly never have dreamt of working six months straight in London, at least, there would have been the odd weekend away to stay with friends outside of London or escape to the country for some home-cooking. It occurred to us that Ryan and I have never spent a solid six months in one place without so much as a night away - until now. It's no wonder living in this busy metropolitan city that we were both due a change of scenery and luckily that's what August provided for us both.

Fast-forward a few days and now I'm back in the Big Apple. The warmer climate has been welcome after the nippier temperatures of the UK (after a glorious Bank Holiday weekend I might add). I'm clinging onto my holiday zen as much as possible. I've been rejuvenated by seeing all my loved ones, drank enough alcohol (honestly, are anyone elses parents a bad influence?!) and laughed more in the office in this past week than I had collectively pre-trip. Sometimes, absence makes the heart grow fonder - yes, I was so glad to get back to our apartment, our view and enjoy some one-on-one time with The Husband. And sometimes, a little distance helps give you the perspective you need to see the bigger picture. So, New York, bring on Part 2.


First Wedding Anniversary // Gift Ideas

The 1st July 2017 marked our first wedding anniversary and I can absolutely say it was the best wedding anniversary I've ever had!! It didn't involve big fancy celebrations or stupidly expensive gifts so our bank balance could take a deep breath and keep recovering from the wedding last year. You might be familiar with the traditional wedding anniversary landmarks that pave your #MarriageGoals future - Silver 25th, Ruby 40th and Diamond 60th - but for us newlyweds, did you know the first year's traditional gift is paper? So, a card and your sorted, right? Don't you even dare! If you find yourself approaching the same mile stone, here are some great gift ideas for all budgets for your beloved...
Scratching the surface.
A couple that travels together stays together. Start your adventure at Not on the High Street with this deluxe world map. If your honeymoon seems a distant memory, this gorgeous map is the ultimate stylist tick-list! Scratch off those countries you've visited and get planning that next trip!

Another twist on this idea came from our amazing friends who sent us this gorgeous, personalised travel map to document where our love story has taken us.
Picture Perfect.
The year has gone in the blink of an eye and the Facebook tagging notifications are only just calming down. Now it's time to look back over all those pictures captured and get the best day of your life hanging up on your wall! We printed a large colour and black and white picture and framed them ourselves in these gorgeous rose-gold frames to fit in with our home decor. Available now with 20% off; Habitat Copper Frame.
Wedding Album of Dreams
Your photographer captured the most incredible pictures and you're finding it impossible to narrow down your favourites. Perhaps now it's time to create your own special edit of the best ones. Go that one step further and opt for a personalised front cover. You know that wedding logo still has some legs in it!
A Fine Gift
Pencil drawings are having their hey-day in wedding stationary and it doesn't need to stop there! Not many buildings are more special than where you tie the knot and having that memory in the form of a fine art illustration is much more personal than a photograph. Enter the incredibly talented artist Kay Armstrong Illustrations who can bring to life your chosen venue from a photograph to any size. Contact Kay directly via her site for a quote.Image result for kay armstrong illustrations
A Personal Touch.
Cinema stubs? Gig tickets? Train tickets from that first weekend away? I'm a sucker for sentimental receipts and collating your love story in the pages of a scrapbook is the ultimate romantic gift! This one requires a bit of time investment but the reaction will be worth it (maybe have a tissue at the ready!). Check out Not On The Highstreet for some scrapbook inspiration...
Pen & Paper
A traditional take on gifting and perhaps one for the professional ladies out there. Style up her desk with a Moleskin notebook and fountain pen. Parker has grown up since our school days and among several other gorgeous styles at Selfridges, check out this Urban Premium fountain pen which has a beautiful pearl iridescence and etching detail.

Music Memories
For some unique wedding memorabilia, hunt down the LP of your first dance to frame (the exercise in itself is rather fun if you're into your music and cover art!). In our case our first dance was a medley of songs, so we chose the top three!
A Ticketed Event
For the woman who has everything, make a clever play on the paper theme and create tickets for a day adventuring together. Pick the date, the time and the place and let the rest be a surprise. Curate your other half's dream day from brunch to a massage, an exhibition to cocktails and from London to New York, here's some ideas for the lady in your life.
Brunch with a view at Heron Tower's Duck & Waffle // Manicure at London Grace // Hand-in-hand stroll along the Southbank // Pre-dinner cocktails at Beach Blanket Babylon // Dine on the best steak of your life at Hawksmoor

A hearty brunch to fuel the day at Jack's Wife Freda // Manicure and a coffee at The Chillhouse // Stroll through the dappled sunshine and admire the street artists along The Mall in Central Park // Time for a gin & tonic at Bathtub Gin // Dinner at Asiate in the Mandarin Oriental hotel overlooking Central Park as the sun sets.

I hope you've enjoyed reading through my gift ideas. One way or another, Mr A and I have done pretty much all these gifts over our time together. Here's to another year of wedded bliss before the 2nd Wedding Anniversary theme of cotton!


My Summer Beauty Favourites

Summer is a challenging time for skincare. Particularly when I find my pale English rose complexion + sun and heat = a sweaty mess (to say the least). More than ever I have needed my skincare to work harder to counteract the increased dehydration and sun damage that occurs throughout the hotter months. For the first time, I find myself living in a humid climate and New York summers can be brutal - now I realise why everyone escapes the city! With 30+ degree temperatures and a total reliance upon air-conditioning day and night, caring and protecting my skin requires a trip to fill up the bathroom cabinet and make-up bag. Here I talk you through my most-used additions...

No7  Lift & Luminate Triple Action Serum. 
It works, it works, it works. Well, that's their strapline and I remember it plastered across every Boots counter in the UK a few months back so I was excited to try it out and put their statement to the test. The 'triple action' refers to the key anti-ageing benefits of tackling wrinkles, improving firmness and smoothing your skin tone. Given I'm probably slightly younger than their target demographic, I'd say I'm still in the age bracket of wanting 'firming' from my products even if not (yet) wrinkle reduction, but, as my mother advised me on my 18th birthday, you're better off starting early! The product itself is actually a pleasure to use, from it's uplifting fragrance to smooth and nourishing texture - I absolutely love reaching for this from my bathroom cabinet every morning and will definitely be repurchasing. Buy here. 
Marc Jacobs O!mega Bronze Perfect Tan.
I was eyeing this purchase for a while and given the cost of it (an eye-watering $49), it certainly felt like a new season investment. Luckily, it's not one I've lived to regret. Marc Jacobs isn't my typical go-to beauty brand as they're on the higher end of the price spectrum but I was bored of my decade-long addiction to Rimmel's bronzers that do the inevitable split and spill all over my bag/bed/carpet. This limited edition bronzer has been an amazing purchase to warm up my pale tones and give me a hint of bronzed glow to my cheeks. It's a great buildable shade so you don't look tangoed from first swipe. Totally chic and gorgeous packaging plus a coconut fragrance to make this just utterly #makeupbaggoals - honestly, anyone puts coconut in the title and I'm sold. Having been using this for the past couple of months and it looking like I've barely scratched brushed the surface, I cannot recommend this enough. Buy here.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2%.
Contrary to the name, there is nothing 'ordinary' about this new brand that's arrived to ASOS. If you have managed to miss the circus surrounding this skincare line, let me enlighten you from beneath that rock. Their ethos is delivering efficacious product without the price tag and YouTubers and beauty bloggers have been going mad for it. I was intrigued to say the least and so it was an easy decision to toss one of their serums into my most recent ASOS haul. I have been applying three drops into the palm of my hand, mixing and patting onto my skin post-cleanse and tone. It's a really wet texture so smooths on easily but then quickly dries into an almost tacky feeling - this bit I'm not mad about as I feel a bit sticky. Having said that, knowing I'm giving my skin a great watering every evening keeps me reaching back for the bottle. Buy here.
Creme de la Mer Eye Balm Intense.
Creme de la Creme, there aren't many beauty brands more high-end than Creme de la Mer and as such, the miracle broth has remained far out of my (financial) reach. Therefore it was quite the miracle indeed when I was gifted a beauty bag containing The Eye Balm Intense. I savoured it for so long in my beauty cupboard, in poll position in the shrine that I almost forgot to use it. However, with the stress and jet lag caused by moving country, my eyes have never needed more TLC in their life - Enter Creme de la Mer. This is a beautiful little pot of blinkin' marvellous eye balm that is a seriously hydrating (yet not heavy). I have literally loved working my way down to pan and now savouring every last application. It is eye-wateringly pricey but eye-soothingly brilliant - if I was feeling flush, I wouldn't bat an eyelid at repurchasing!  Buy here.
Lancome Flash Bronzer. 
Unless you are gifted with olive skin that soaks up the merest glimmer of sunshine, chances are you need a bit of fake tan in your life. My pasty limbs have had to be unveiled due to this heat and since my travel-moon tan has faded into mere remnants of freckles, I've been loving having this mousse bronzer in my bathroom. I slather on a little moisturiser in those key places (knees, elbows, hands and feet) fresh from the shower and then add a layer of this flash bronzer. Applying with a mitt is super quick and easy and helps ensure a streak free finish! It gives you an instant bronze-effect plus develops over the following hours for a deeper hue. I find this super lightweight on my skin, easy to keep topping up after a couple of days and not the wiffiest biscuit in the tin. Love it.  Buy here.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen, SPF 30
Find yourself on a rooftop, at a BBQ or sat with one arm out of the car window at any point this summer and you need one of these within your reach. Being caught out myself, a friend of mine offered me some of this sunscreen mist and it was the most refreshing, sheer and effective sunscreen I have used in forever!! In fact, I can't remember the last time using SPF was as pleasant. I just HATE that sticky, oily feeling on your hands which makes you want to run to wash them. Well hello Neutrogena - game-changer! Spray on application, no need to rub and so far, for me, totally burn-proof. Convenient hand-bag size too for carrying on the go. Buy here.
Redken All Soft Argan Oil.
Having worked for Redken back in the day, most of my professional haircare knowledge and much-used products have come from this brand. However, having diverted to more mainstream brands since arriving in New York, I've recently rediscovered and fallen back in love with their Argan Oil. When I first tried it, I loved it in my long locks for speeding up blow-dry time (proven fact by the way) but since I've had the chop, I'm more cautious than ever to nourish my hair. Every week, the night before I plan to wash my hair, I've been slathering this oil over the ends of my hair for an overnight treatment. It's an incredible texture that doesn't ruin my pillowcases in the process and I honestly have the healthiest-looking swishy hair ever the next day. Buy here.
Palmer's Coconut Oil Formula Body Oil.
I was absolutely craving an oil to add into my bodycare routine and like I said before, coconut is such a winning ingredient for the summertime - it just smells like holiday! I tried a little tester of this whilst walking around Duane Reade and literally couldn't stop stroking my hand - it was THAT soft after one application. Now I'm halfway through the bottle and my skin couldn't be more grateful! This is an easy win for top-to-toe hydration and a beautiful, healthy glow to your skin. Buy here.

What has been your go-to products this summer? I feel I'm missing a good exfoliator and hydrating face mask in my routine - send me your recommendations!


8 Reasons to Travel in a Tour Group

For many of you, just like me, the first go-to after deciding to plan a 'gap year' or 'sabbatical' is to head to STA Travel to map out a logical route. Their travel agents are all wanderlust enthusiasts and they try to pair you with someone who has visited the same part of the world you want to explore. Questions regarding weather, visas, immunisations and accommodation can all be answered along with the planes, trains or automobiles part of the session. Several visits and annotated maps later, we had planned our entire six month 'travel-moon' around the Americas with the help of STA Travel. In our jam-packed itinerary, Ryan and I had booked onto a couple of G Adventures tours  - a subsidiary company of STA - starting with Peru's Andean Discovery from Lima to La Paz and a round trip in Central America with the Costa Rica Adventure. Here are some of my thoughts on why you should sign up to an organised tour:

A dedicated tour guide will give you tips to adjust and feel and be safe in an unfamiliar territory. As much as we don't like to think it, we stand out like sore thumbs with our English rose complexions (a tan doesn't make you blend in with the South American locals!). Poor attempts at 'Spanglish' and with a backpack in tow really drives it home - you're a foreigner in a foreign land and if you're not careful it could mean you get taken advantage. Advice from your tour guide is a great starting point.
Let someone else manage the logistics for a change. No need to spend hours battling dodgy WiFi connections to book flights or hunting out a bus station to buy tickets to your next destination. Just wait to be handed your room key and told where to be and at what time to get from A to B. It was a welcome relief for us to have this kind of service in Peru after the miles accumulated and logistical effort required in North America and Ecuador. 
3. STANDARDS (you will sleep like a baby)
G Adventures have long-standing relationships with local businesses and, for the sake of their own reputation, have to ensure the hotels, B&Bs and hostels are up to scratch. Cue matrimonial rooms arranged for us honeymooners, private bathrooms and even a swimming pool or two along the way. There was never a bad experience, though manage your expectations according to the trip and budget you are working with. Even though they weren't 5* they were really decent.

4. MEALS ARE INCLUDED (*Well, some are) 
Meals are built into the schedule when accessibility to restaurants or shops is pretty limited, i.e. an overnight bus serves a dinner and breakfast snack and its included in a particularly isolated hotel/hostel stay in the middle of nowhere. Again, manage your expectations here, Peruvian breakfast frequently consists of two bread rolls with butter and jam. If you're gluten intolerant it might be worth stocking up on extra snacks, although some do provide fresh fruit. And the bread, whilst I'm sure it is fresh, could do the same damage as the young Nicholas Hoult did to a duck in About A Boy. 
A huge draw to the Andean Discovery was the inclusion of the Inca Trail or Lares Trek culminating in sunrise at Maccu Picchu. You're paired up with fabulous local guides who tell the story of the local land from their heart. A chance to 'live like a local' is through a homestay in Puno and Costa Rica’s Sarapiqui, the latter of which was only accessible by tractor. Now that's a great start to a dinner party story...

Arriving to a new destination every day or two with an array of options for how to spend your time is a brilliant position to be in, and again this all gets downloaded to you from your tour guide so put down the guidebook and grab a beer whilst you listen. From cooking classes to white water rafting and visiting Inca sites to hikes in the wilderness, the opportunities keep flowing and cater for all budgets. Simply raise your hand upon request and your CEO makes all the arrangements. Easy peasy.
Particularly good for solo travellers but also anyone looking for companionship and a few laughs along the way. On our Peruvian trip in a group of 20 there was plenty of entertainment, stories to be told and interesting dinner time chats (that I won't be repeating). In our case 8 Aussies, 7 Brits, 2 Austrians, 2 Suisse and 1 Kiwi ranging from 19 to 37 years old. In Costa Rica we were one of four couples and one of two pairs who were taking the trip as part of wider travel. Whereas the rest of the group were holidaying and you always count on four crazy Canadian ladies to make it real interesting. Especially when they too are also nurses with some interesting stories. In total, 4 Brits, 4 Canadians, 2 Americans, 2 Germans, 2 Danish and 1 Russian.
What's so interesting about travellers is that no two trips are the same. Everyone works to different timelines with varying countries on their passport hit-list and budgets to splash. Get talking to your travel buddies and get recommendations for places to stay and eat and activities to do from those who know it and know you. Nothing better than word of mouth for all those upcoming places. 


Whilst an organised tour won't be for everyone (if you can't stand being in a big group or being forced into a pretty packed agenda, it's best you give it a miss....) but these are the positives as I see it. A newly married couple on their honeymoon isn’t your stereotypical group members I assure you but young-minded people with a love of travelling certainly are. 


The Ultimate Travel Essentials

Or perhaps this post should be called 'Things I categorically could not have lived without during my recent stint of travelling'. Six months living out of a backpack and inevitably, no matter how organised and meticulous you've been with your packing, it comes down to a handful of items that you just couldn't live without. 
This Swiss Army Swiss Card was given to me as a leaving gift and possibly the most useful present I've ever received. It is THE most efficient space saving tool (and manicure kit) for every traveller, packed full of handy utensils you wouldn't think to pack but are bound to be in need of... tweezers, scissors, ballpoint pen, nail file, screwdriver, plastic toothpick, letter opener, needle and ruler.  

The ultimate security gadget. Linked to an app where you register your tile(s), you pop the small discreet plastic device with your handbag / rucksack / boyfriend and it helps you track them in a similar way to 'Find my iPhone'. Luckily, we didn't run in to any unfortunate situations but it was certainly peace of mind to know we may have had a chance of locating it had anything been lost or stolen! There's also web-access should the worse happen and you lose bag / purse and phone!
Literally saved my bacon on many occasions. I could play Candy Crush to my heart's content on a 5 hour bus ride and not worry I wouldn't be able to pull up my hotel reservation on's app later. I could watch endless hours of BBC iPlayer too. This handy charger has two ports so you and your beloved can both recharge - Amazon to the rescue.

Screw-top wine bottles are not a 'thing' in South America but good red wine certainly is so have one packed in your main backpack (don't get caught out by airport security) and stick two fingers up to sobriety. 

Although Mr A's Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus takes far better photos and always had stronger Wifi reach than my iPhone, it was the gatekeeper to home and therefore a treasured possession! It warranted wrapping up in bubble wrap to ensure the backpacker's life didn't take its toll. Or rather, a gold-heart printed case from an Ecuadorian shopping centre after my first one took a knocking. It would have shattered it if wasn't for those sticky screen protectors too - they are so worth it! I even carried a couple spare that didn't get called into action, they have some impressive lasting power! 
You can find them on Amazon here.

The place to let your blog posts come to life when spontaneity plants a great idea. The record you need for directions or addresses when WiFi can't be relied upon (i.e. everywhere!!). And where I kept track of every day spending. I literally recorded when I had to pay to 'spend a penny'. This proved a useful habit to ensure I kept track of budgets. The great thing about Notes on the iPhone is it's all backed up on the iCloud and links through to your laptop (of course, only if you can find WiFi).
Never underestimate the neck pain you will endure from head-bobbing sleep on any given transportation. Your inclination to sleep will be high but so is your risk of injury without one of these. 

I would be starved and untraveled if it wasn't for this app. A must have for any linguistically challenged travellers such as myself. 

What are your must-have travel essentials?

© Mrs A to B

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