7 Lessons I've Learnt in 2017

Returning from six months travelling around South America, a new husband on my arm and a job offer that would move us across the world to New York, 2017 was never going to be ordinary. Like our last few years if truth be told. It feels like a whirlwind - a magical, dreamy one - since our wedding last July and I haven't for a minute forgotten how lucky that makes me! Another year on this earth and with more incredible (and challenging) experiences under my belt, here are the lessons I have learnt in 2017.

LESSON #1
Self-care is important. Six months into a new job and a new city, I was ready for a straight jacket. The moral of that story? Take a break! Use your vacation / holiday days and recalibrate. Treat yourself to a massage, go on a yoga break or just retreat to your parent’s/friend’s house for some TLC and a change of scenery. I got my escape in August and returned back to the UK to see all my friends and family with a wedding thrown in for good measure - the perfect antidote. I realised I needed to make a few lifestyle changes to prevent that from happening again. Enter Headspace, Berocca, herbal teas and lunchtime walks around the park - some little changes can make all the difference, it doesn't have to be moving mountains. There’s only one of you and burn out is not fun, yet, sadly on the rise. It was out of this period that I wrote my blog post 'How to De-Stress from Work' and even I have to go back to remind myself what will help keep the work sweats under control!
LESSON #2
(It's OK to) Take your foot off the gas. Blame it on a Millennial trait but I see it in myself, my friends and my colleagues that no sooner have we accomplished something, we are fixated on the next challenge and getting there quickly. We take no time to stop, acknowledge and, dare I say it, celebrate our achievements and it's so important that we do!

“In between goals is a thing called LIFE, that has to be lived and enjoyed.”

It’s no surprise 2017 has seen more mental health topics brought into the fore and it's fantastic that we have the Royal family working to help end the stigma, raise the profile and change the conversation on mental wellbeing with the 'Heads Together' campaign. I'm no expert but a saying my mother always told me, 'a problem shared, is a problem halved.'

LESSON #3
Go with the flow. I’m not the most spontaneous of people. In fact, you'll find me at the other end of the spectrum meticulously planning everything with military precision. But, what I have discovered is that I am spontaneous when it comes to creative writing. 90% of my blog posts have been written on my iPhone on the commute to work or return home from some weekend escapades. I’ve learnt to just go with it. I have totally loved working on my blog this year but found that if my head or heart isn't in it, the words don't flow so whilst I hope to keep developing my ideas in 2018 with some semblance of order, I'm not going to sweat the small stuff if I miss a week. This Christmas break has proven just that, even with the best of intentions, if you’re not feeling it and the wine isn’t spurring you on, wait until inspiration strikes (and so it did on my last night in the country!).
LESSON #4
Have a hobby. When I was a kid, I had activities every night after school. Mostly dancing, apart from a phase I went through when I wanted to be an actress and my mum insisted I enrol in fencing lessons as if to prove I was really serious about my new ambition (I think she had a motive...). I quickly re-routed my career path once I had grown bored of that. Fast forward to my late twenties and since our evenings have been reclaimed from wedding planning, this has been the year of having my evenings back! Enter Netflix. (Does this count as a hobby if you call it 'cinematography'?). Well, it’s certainly been my main hobby in 2017 (alongside the blog, of course). Moving to another country, and with a period of turbulence, we switched our social life for a sofa life and I have loved every couch-potato moment of The Fall, Billions, Stranger Things, and The Crown - to name just a few of the marathons I have completed.

LESSON #5
Endorphins are everything. Three months into life in New York and I pretty much hadn’t moved my butt between my desk and my sofa. And it was getting to me. It was then I realised I needed some of those happy hormones to lift my spirits; one defrosting of a credit card later and I had signed up to ClassPass. Exercise classes are my go-to as I find gym work just boring, boring, boring so I was delighted when this introduced me to my new exercise love Physique57 for some hardcore barre workouts! It’s the most intense overloading of every muscle group in the body, something to make you drip with sweat and feel empowered in just 57 minutes... my kinda exercise! Plus, the physical pain was rewarding both for helping my brain switch off from the work-day and releasing endorphins for a happy Mrs A to head home of an evening. 

LESSON #6
Sociable Me. For me, 2016 was the year of Twitter but 2017 was definitely when I fell down an Instagram-filtered rabbit hole. I love the five hour time difference of living in NYC for the one purpose of having a host of Instagram stories at the ready to view whilst waking up for the day! Personal highlight - hitting 500 followers. It was a marathon and not a sprint but I found it sickeningly rewarding. Dare I make a four-figure target for 2018? But it can certainly harbour an unhealthy appetite and literally every blogger I follow has voiced the negative effects of social media on their mental wellbeing this year. The biggest lesson is to do it only if you're enjoying it. When you're not, let yourself have time off and dare I suggest a digital detox?

LESSON #7
Carb-loading works. If you insist on eating a diet of mac'n'cheese and pizza, your waistband will expand. See Lesson #5 for further development next year!

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and fulfilling 2018!

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Christmas Past & Christmas Present

Christmas Present- 23rd December, 2017

Landing back into Heathrow airport on a grey, drizzly day would have been nothing short of unremarkable (and incredibly depressing) if it wasn't for the fact it was December 23rd and (nearly) Christmas. It's been made more remarkable for the fact that 'December 23rd' for the past two years has consisted on "flying home for Christmas". Today, we have flown "home" from New York, where we currently live, for a Christmas in the English countryside. In 2016, exactly one year ago to the day, we took a similar long-distance flight, but this time from Cuba to London after 134 days away travelling the Americas on the honeymoon of a lifetime. 

This blog post is a retrospective account of where my head was after returning from six months exploring North, South and Central America with my new husband. I'd had the most incredible adventures seeing several Wonders of the World, living out of a backpack and working tirelessly on what will always be known as this English Rose's best tan to date. Little did I know that no sooner than seven weeks later we would have been granted visas and moved across the Atlantic to set-up a new life in New York...

Christmas Past - 23rd December, 2016

Our arrival back to the UK was much anticipated and the festive spirit had certainly rubbed off on my parents who tackled the M25 rush hour to replicate the opening scene from Love Actually. Our version would be called Tears Actually. Which there were. Sort of. 

Playing up to the stereotype of men chaotically last-minute shopping, Mr A dashed off into the airport crowds to enjoy the temperamental service of Southern trains (clearly some things haven't changed since we've been away!) and headed for Selfridges. Meanwhile, feeling like my right arm had been chopped off without him by my side, I was embracing every bit of the festivities and particularly bowled over by the live music at Gatwick's Arrivals Lounge sharing some definite Christmas cheer. 

In a whirlwind of unpacking the trusty (yet a little disheveled by now) backpack and re-packing for our first 'Mr & Mrs A' Christmas in the 'shire, I was more than ecstatic to reacquaint myself with a fully-stocked fridge. Forty-eight hours back into life on British soil and I'm remarking on the biggest shocks of being home...

My iPhone can do more than just Candy Crush now??!
If you were following my blog during our travels in the latter half of 2016, you will know of my despair at lack of wifi and, lately, the Internet as a whole in the 1950s (aka Cuba). So, to have constant 3G and broadband connecting to my iPhone is a luxury that I won't be taking for granted anytime soon! Hello new apps, updated iCloud and new downloads on Spotify and, of course, the blogging world is now back at my fingertips - Planoly, Buffer, Crowdfire, Blogger, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram - ...my good friends, I've missed you!
Who turned the lights out...
I forgot what it was like for it to be dark at 4pm! The days weren't massively longer in a Central America of late, with sunset typically around 6pm which felt short at the time but is nothing compared to Blighty. Luckily I'm in proper snuggle mode so cosying down by the log burner and drinking mulled wine totally works it! For those of you who are feeling the endurance of Autumn/Winter, just remember that since December 21st (Winter Solstice) we get an extra five minutes of daylight a day!

...and turned down the heating?
Having been used to spending the majority of the last eight to twelve weeks in shorts and a t-shirt, usually sweating it out very unglamorously and stripping into my bikini whenever it was culturally acceptable, I'm now embracing layers, and crucially, jumpers! Pass me the roll-neck.

The budget books have closed.
The discipline of writing down each and every expenditure (even for using the loo!) seems to be a habit I'm feeling at a loss for. You mean I can buy a drink and not have to write it in my Notes, tally up all costs at the end of the day, convert it from whichever of the ten currencies we were using into Sterling and add into our Excel spreadsheet? Well...I don't know what to do with all this free time!

Yet there's cash at my fingertips?
Until my little trip to South America this year, the only queues I had ever seen at a bank were on the BBC News when Northern Rock was in trouble and everyone was panic withdrawing. I now know that queuing for hours (I'm talking literally) to get to an ATM or cashier is commonplace in South America. And there's absolutely no guarantee that the cash machine won't run out of funds for several days. Thank you banks of Britain for your easy and FREE withdrawals. Not being charged a fortune to get hold of my money is just the kind of treat I've been waiting for (oh and cashback after this extravagant year of spending!!)

And the other silly things...

...Not having to pay for every meal, snack or bottle of water (thanks Mum & Dad). In the same breath, having to cook. I had next to no knowledge beforehand but now I'm back to uni days and boiling a kettle. 

...Wearing high heels, boy did that hurt! Pass me my Havianas. 

...Putting my wedding and engagement rings back on after safe keeping. Whilst I feel very attached to the silver band I handmade in my Yr 9 Design Technology class which has travelled with me during this trip, I'm glad to be reunited with the real McCoy!

...Still saying 'Gracias' and my poor Spanish lingo coming out. Apparently my mother doesn't understand 'Donde este le wrapping paper?'

And so on this note, I wish you a 'Feliz Navidad' as I tackle the jet-lag and reflect on just how lucky I am for another year of adventures.

DID YOU MISS: WHAT IF...WANDERLUST STRIKES?

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My Christmas List

I have the best childhood memories of writing my Christmas list. Every year, at some point during October or November, my sister and I would stay overnight at my grandparents. After several games of What! and Monopoly, a dinner of sugar sandwiches (you’d never guess my Gran grew up above a sweetshop), we would be tucked into bed. Only we’d be far too excited to sleep and, as a tactic to wear us out, my Gran would hand us both the Argos catalogue and a notepad each to write our Christmas lists. 3,000 pages later and my list would be complete. I particularly remember being age 8 or 9 and obsessed with getting a pager (the pre-cursor to the mobile phone and not something that any of my peers had so I don’t know what I expected to achieve by owning one!). Years later that obsessive yearning would move onto the Sims computer game and eventually the Friends box set which I spent all of my pocket money on filling the gaps until I owned every episode! Needless to say, aged 28, I still love writing a Christmas list and love even more that my family still asks for it!

MISSOMA.

I have been crushing on this duo since Missoma took the YouTube scene by storm (you will see a trend emerging here in my Christmas List, I confess...). I’m not very fickle when it comes to jewellery but this duo is a completely different look from my usual. After months of lusting, I think I'm ready to commit. LUCY WILLIAMS MINI FANG NECKLACE £105 | LUCY WILLIAMS LARGE HORN NECKLACE £139

KAREN MILLEN. 

These boots are to die for. I’m not generally an over-the-knee kind of a gal (I think you generally know if you are or not) and historically all my boots have all been below-knee in life thus far. I, however, have been on the lookout for a good pair of winter boots for the last five years as my damn Letley calves (read: larger-than-your-average) make this an incredibly difficult task. I love the block heel and light grey colour which make these perfect for daytime. SUEDE OVER-THE-KNEE BOOTS £395
          

SWEATY BETTY. 

My gym kit has been seriously tested since my Physique 57 membership has been reinstated. Needless to say, the endless washing is taking its toll on a few items. Sweaty Betty is a brand of dreams so it has its rightful place on my Christmas List (if a little punchy for most gift budgets) but I’ve had my eye on this sports bra - a tried and tested design that I know offers the support I’m after for the ladies. I'm completing the look with this slogan top that has my motivation nailed to perfection plus a pair of their iconic gym leggings. VICTORY PADDED RUN BRA £45 | ASTEYA LONG SLEEVE YOGA TOP £55 | reversible 7/8 yoga leggings £90

LONGCHAMP.

I had this exact item on my Christmas List about five years ago but after much love and use, I literally wore it out! Now it’s time for a replacement. I am loving the limited edition all-black design and it’s the perfect size to carry my make-up bag, book and gym kit in one go (and even a laptop if needs be). I’m currently resembling a saddle-horse every Monday morning as I carry my laptop case, gym bag and handbag to work! LE PLIAGE NÉO TOTE BAG L £95
HUM NUTRITION.
I found this brand on the Sephora website and have been intrigued ever since. I’m a big advocate of vitamins and have, over the years, taken Evening Primrose Oil, Cod Liver Oil and Calcium amongst others. If you’re new to this world, HUM have a great online consultation tool on their website which is super simple to fill out and gets to the bottom of what your body needs. Their business is built upon a network of qualified nutritionists reviewing your answers to tailor a bespoke package just for you. Tackling every kind of digestive issue, nutrient-deficiency and health concern, HUM have you covered. A regular addition to my morning routine is a vitamin hit for skin, nail and hair. Ideal for the winter and to kick-start 2018. Runway Ready Skin, Body and Nail Repair Kit $35

BY TERRY.

My sister first introduced me to By Terry a few Christmases ago thanks to her frequent visits to SpaceNK (what a haven that place!)! It’s a beauty brand that has been rising in popularity but comes with a pretty hefty price tag. Their cult hero product, Baume de Rose, is in good company of other beauty classics such as YSL’s Touche Eclat, Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream and Nars Blush in Orgasm. So, inevitably, I want in on the action and I love the look of this packaging vs. the traditional Baume de Rose pot which can be a little messy on the go. Anyone else have lip-balm smears down their sleeves and coats? Another product on my radar thanks to Lydia Elise Millen’s constant advocacy is the Cellularose Brightening CC Lumi-Serum as a perfect base before foundation. It’s available in different shades to match your skin tone. Mini Baume de Rose Crystalline $19 | Cellularose Brightening CC Lumi-Serum $90

SEZANE.

New womenswear brand of the moment and my new favourite shop in New York is Sezane. Having said a tearful goodbye to a (very old) Warehouse faux leopard print handbag, I’m having withdrawals. It’s the perfect pop to add to a darker winter wardrobe. I am loving this bucket bag – their signature style – and super cute Arthur boots. I promise not to wear them together but definitely have a home for both of these in my wardrobe! LEOPARD HOPE BAG $280 | LEOPARD LOW ARTHUR BOOTS $235
     
Now that piece of festive admin is done, someone pass me a Radio Times, I have my highlighter ready for planning out my sofa schedule with Christmas specials and movie time! What’s on your Christmas List this year?
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November Highlights

December is nearly here - get your advent calendars at the ready! It's been a jam-packed couple of months since I last checked in with a 'Life Update'-style blog and, as the saying goes, time flies when you're having fun! I cannot believe we are almost in the final month of 2017. Michael Buble's Christmas album has been on repeat for a couple of weeks at this point and I've had my first viewing (of many) of Home Alone. Between shopping for baubles (despite not having a Christmas tree this year), writing Christmas cards to beat the international shipping schedule and keeping up with six hours of Strictly entertainment each week, I've managed to cram in a surprising amount.
October: Travelling here, there and everywhere
I'm becoming a seasoned Amtrak traveller this Autumn as I first ventured to Boston with my girl friends for three days of exploring, Instagram hotspotting and espresso martini-ing. It really is such a gorgeous city! Up to the Hudson Valley next in upstate New York for a taste of the rural life and walking around Franklin Roosevelt's Hyde Park with my parents. Why I love Autumn was born out of that weekend kicking around in the leaves. And finally, a trip back to Blighty for a Tesco trolley-dash and breath of Lincolnshire air in late October made for the perfect top-me-up to get me through until Christmas!
"A month off"
September and October were awash with visitors keeping every moment of life outside of work busy touristing, eating and adventuring with friends and family. The New York Bucket List is slowly getting ticked off and so November has been my 'month off' before we have some more pre-Christmas guests flying in. With Ryan also flying off to Mexico earlier this month, I found myself living my best single life on a diet of wine, pasta and HBO series 'Big Little Lies'. Re-energised by a brief encounter with ClassPass, I'm getting my butt back into gear with a month's pass to Physique 57 to hopefully make up for the Christmas indulgence to come.

November...
Hello cold weather! I knew wishing away the summer heat would bite me on the a*** and it's come in the form of a) my heating bill and b) discovering the entrance to my apartment is a bitter wind tunnel. But, I'm not complaining! Honest! I'm keeping cosy in my new M&S thermal purchases (sexy!), cashmere roll neck from John Lewis and Burberry scarves that have been poised for the occasion. Whilst my inbox and I are still recovering from Black Friday craziness, I've been making my way through my Autumn reading list. In fact, just this weekend I finished Paige Toone's The One We Fell in Love With - I forgot what an amazing character web she weaves! Hoping to not lose momentum (I have a tendency to go into a period of mourning once I finish a good book), I'm now onto a new read Some Girls Do by Clodagh Murphy, which I've been assured is utter chick-lit easy-reading to keep me entertained on my commute. I really wanted to read ten books this year but still three to go!
With the change in weather, I've been a big advocate for changing up more than just my wardrobe this month. I'm responding to my skin's reaction to the seasonal change: redness + dryness = publishing my Autumn Skincare Routine. I've switched up my skincare textures to incorporate more nourishing oils to give back to my skin everything I'm losing throughout the day. My nighttime routine begins with Elemis Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil and I love taking a moment to breathe with a hot cloth melting off the day. This is my favourite blog post from the last month and partly because it involved hunting for beautiful leaves in Central Park with the husband. Credit to Ryan for the photography.
Whilst I've been harping on about the importance of sofa-time for a) reading b) podcasting or c) binging on Netflix latest and greatest (Stranger Things #justsaying), I've taken to multi-tasking and bringing in some regular me-time in the form of homemade manicures. Autumn Nails shares with you the seasonal (and new) colours I've been reaching for.
My First Thanksgiving
And I'm hugely thankful for this one. It was a bit of a pinch-me moment waking up in our apartment in New York on probably the most important holiday of the American calendar knowing that I was legitimately taking part in Thanksgiving!! After years of watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I knew that this day was about Monica fretting over the turkey, Joey forgetting to be at the Macy's Parade and the gang getting together for a game of American football series three style. Loosely based on those foundations and embracing all things cliche about this holiday, our day got off to an early start heading up to Midtown to catch a glimpse of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. All 5ft 3inches of me didn't get much of a view at all but we were lucky to even make it to daylight from the subway - hordes of crowds weren't so lucky and so once we'd seen Olaf floating past, I was happy to retreat away. I really wouldn't advise this activity for anyone with even the slightest claustrophobia! Walking through Grand Central Station armed with our Starbucks, we had a few hours spare before our Thanksgiving dinner reservations. A spur of the moment later, we were in the lift ascending 86 floors up the Empire State Building! Well, we figured if we couldn't see the parade on the ground, this was a better alternative! After living out my best Meg Ryan x Tom Hanks moment, we were back to base to walk a few blocks to Maialino for an Italian-American Traditional Thanksgiving four-course feast. Such a treat! Walking off the turkey with a stroll through the sunshine-dappled autumn leaves and home to binge on Christmas films! So much to be thankful for on this beautiful day and on this New York adventure in general!

A happy November indeed and perfect warm-up for the best time of the year! #HolidaysAreComing

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The Autumn Nail Edit

Claws. Talons. Pincers. For such a small surface area, fingernails can sure make a statement. But you wouldn’t be alone if you confessed to feeling overwhelmed when you sit down for a manicure. Firstly, there’s the lingo for what shape you want; round? almond? squoval? ballerina? lipstick? – Yes, believe it or not, I’m still talking nail shapes! Next decision; polish or gel? And then there’s the unlimited choice of nail colour! I’m sticking with the autumnal theme for today’s post and sharing my favourite shades this Fall. It’s been a labour of love – if you can call weekly at-home manicures ‘labour’ – and a personal mission against chipped nail varnish – hope you enjoy!
Slate Grey
Bringing a cool tone number to the table and the newest addition to my collection. At the bank-breaking cost of 90p from Primark (for my American friends that’s about 70c), my expectations were rationally low. How good could it be? I had visions of it peeling off like the children’s nail varnish my mum used to buy me from Woolworths. I actually bought it thinking I’ll have fun using it for prop photos, splashing it around in my own version of a MAC campaign. I have to say though, I’m impressed. This shade is staying! Be sure to layer it up though; a good base coat, then 2-3 coats of the colour before a glossy top coat seals it in. It doesn’t have the staying power of some of these other formulations but price per wear is ridiculously good. I’ll be going back to check out more shades when I’m back in the UK.
Red Alert
In my lipstick drawer, handbag collection and now my nail varnish stash, pops of red are appearing everywhere. This, however, is a relatively new one too thanks to wedding I attended in October. Cue the excuse for a trip to Kate Spade and a gorgeous poppy print dress in the bag, I had to make the outfit complete with red accent nails. Unlike the popular pillar-box red, this was a gorgeous deep shade which felt perfect for the muted tones of an autumnal day. Rimmel, Rapid Ruby.
Black Cherry
Aubergines and maroons always come out this time of year; it’s goodbye bright pinks and hello deep reds. This is probably my favourite shade of all as it’s a beautiful dark red-wine colour that goes so well with my very grey/black/denim workwear wardrobe. And the name is totally in-keeping with next week’s Thanksgiving cherry pie that’s on the menu! This is such a timeless, classic look but utterly perfect for autumn when only the tips of your fingers are peeking out from under cable knit jumpers and fluted sleeves. Nails Inc, Saville Row.
Black & Gold
Fondly named (by me) “The Keyboard Crasher”, this is the most fool-proof nail design to last the working week (and the most technical for my amateur abilities). The perils of a desk job require me to be sat (read: slouched) at two computer screens sweating the small stuff over campaign deadlines for over 40 hours a week. So, I’ll be damned if come Hump Day my ferocious typing has chipped off my latest manicure efforts. Layer up a base colour of your choice with a glitter top coat or two and you’re good to go for at least a week. I shot this around Halloween so got into the festivities with No7 Speed Dry Into the Night and L’Oréal Paris Perfection ColorRiche Nail Top Coat Goldleaf. Around Christmas time I like to swap this up for a festive red and red glitter – Watch. This. Space.

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My Autumn Skincare Routine

A new season has arrived and with it, over-the-knee boots, questionable tassels and splashes of my favourite colour red! But whilst that’s the rundown of catwalk trends, this post is reserved for updating your bathroom cabinet and not your wardrobe. I’ve spoken before about my summer skincare routine but this season’s demands are a little different so, it’s time to regroup for the colder months. Just as you reach for your jumpers and coats, your skin’s needs change too. I say treat your skin like your Netflix account; with time, money and dedication.

Talking about the brand I like to think I know the best (I say this, readers, because I work there...*), ELEMIS has an amazing library of textures for all skin types and skin concerns. ELEMIS’ mission is to evolve with you and your skin’s needs whether that’s during the 365 days of the year or over the years themselves. Listening and responding to your unique needs curated by your own lifestyle choices; from city to country air, light to deep sleep and a fast or healthy diet, to name a few factors. Whilst what I need will vary from what my sister or mother needs, here are my top picks and adjustments I’ve made this Autumn that you may find makes the difference too.
OIL CLEANSER. I’ve put away my micellar water from the summer when convenience and refreshment were top of the agenda and replaced it with an entirely different texture. With the nights drawing in, my evening skincare routine takes on a slower pace and becomes part of the day I really look forward to – a little me-time in amidst all the busyness. With 2-3 pumps of ELEMIS Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil in the palm of my hands, I mix together and smooth onto dry skin. The texture makes for an easy glide and apply in circular motions around the cheeks, forehead, nose and jawline. It feels like a mini massage for your face – enjoy it! I find I can stand there in the mirror for ages and feel the tension loosening from my face, particularly around my cheeks and mouth. Don’t worry when it gets a bit messy; the oil is ideal for lifting off your day’s make-up so just grab a warm, damp washcloth and sweep away. The clue is in the title and ‘nourishing’ is exactly how your skin will feel after.
EXFOLIATE AWAY. No matter how well your make-up withstands the day (and that in itself is a challenge), there is nothing more satisfying than getting that squeaky-clean feeling at the end of the day. I remember the first time I started working in London and literally seeing the soot and dirt on my skin from travelling on the London Underground. New York is much the same, as is any city, so exfoliation is key. For me, it’s the step that feels truly satisfying and particularly so with ELEMIS Skin Buff’s small grains within a cream. Having started out with the uber-coarse St Ives Apricot Skin Scrub, as most girls my age I’m sure, don’t let the pain of rubbing that into your skin put you off. Forget ‘scrubbing’ and think ‘buffing’ as it requires minimal effort to lift away excess dirt, grime and dead skin cells. (If you want exfoliating action but without any grain, try ELEMIS Papaya Enzyme Peel which is an entirely smooth cream that you apply and carry on with the housework whilst enzymes nibble away at your dead skin cells – sounds kind of gross but the result is marvellous).
AN OIL A DAY. One big switch for me is from serum to facial oil. It’s time for a heavier texture to inject extra hydration into my skin whilst the freezing weather and central heating zaps it. And don’t fear at the mention of ‘oil’ – it’s actually the perfect thing for oily/combination skin like my own! Best way I find to apply ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Marine Oil is straight after I’ve cleansed and toned, whilst my hands are still warm. Apply 2-3 drops into the palms of your hands, rub together and pat into your skin. The heat from your hands onto your skin is D I V I N E and the oil rapidly sinks in. Once you’ve applied the product all over your face (don’t forget your neck!), lightly smooth over the surface of your skin to ensure even application. This is my favourite step in my skincare routine and that feeling when I apply it will keep me returning time and time again to this product, I’ll just throw in the other benefits such as moisturising, hydrating, nourishing, revitalising and renewing.
LOOK ALERT. We may have just benefited from an extra hour’s sleep as the clocks went back, but it’s something about the dark mornings that make getting up more and more difficult! My tell-tale sign is my eyes, more specifically the bags underneath them. Between early mornings and hours of screen-time, the fragile skin around my eyes definitely needs some love. As I near the end of my twenties, I can certainly see those early signs of fine lines too so the anti-ageing power in ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Advanced Eye Treatment is a godsend morning and night! Dab 1-2 drops onto your ring finger and dab around the eye socket until your eyes have drunk it all up. It’s a soothing feeling to apply this and I love knowing it’s counteracting all the weariness!
ENERGY KICK. My favourite range of all is BIOTEC which targets dull, lacklustre skin and boosts skin’s energy levels. Think of it like Lucozade for your skin, just calorie-free! ELEMIS BIOTEC Skin Energising Day Cream is a dual-chamber moisturiser combining the power of zinc and copper (total skincare buzzwords FYI) to boost skin cell ATP (a fancy acronym for 'energy') – I know it sounds like a chemistry lesson but it’s pretty fascinating! Read more of the technical stuff here. Science aside, it’s a range I have used on and off several times over the year, a method I choose to adopt to kickstart my skincare at certain times; change of season, if I’ve been feeling run-down or to just recalibrate my skin after weeks or months of a particular routine. It’s not an overly heavy moisturiser which I like to reserve for the coldest, wintry months, but it certainly brightens my complexion.

I’d love to know what you have changed up with autumn or if you haven’t maybe this is the inspiration you need!

*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. In fact, my boss has no idea I’ve spent my weekend picking up leaves from Central Park, writing until the early hours of Sunday morning and then taking photographs in my living room on Sunday afternoon. This is genuinely my skincare routine with products I genuinely love. And I do this blog malarkey for fun.

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IT Cosmetics // A to B Review

IT Cosmetics has been one of the most coveted brands of 2017 along with classmates Glossier, Tatcha and recently launched Fenty Beauty. Gracing TV screens on QVC since 2010 and hitting the news last year with its $1.2 billion acquisition by L'Oreal, the brand has an impressive track record. However, you'll be forgiven if you don't know it for those reasons. If I mention 'Superhero Mascara', 'Confidence in a Cream' or 'Bye Bye Under Eye', these catchy names may ring a few bells. With an aggressive influencer campaign this year, it’s the brand that literally every YouTuber has been praising. I have both admired it from afar and being utterly drawn in. Read on for a full beauty review of the latest bestseller to join their Top 10.

Founded by Jamie Kern Lima after she followed a career in journalism, IT Cosmetics was born out of her motivation to create problem-solving products for flawless skin, a sufferer of rosacea herself. The brand's ethos is wrapped up perfectly in the name of the product under the spotlight in this post - "Your Skin But Better". Amen to that. I just have to look at my close girlfriends to see that whilst we all have very different skin types, we all have one thing in common and that's wanting make-up that brings out the best in our skin (and hides the worst!).
The Back Story
With a hint of my father about me, some* purchases are incredibly considered (*some are most definitely NOT. Like shoes.). IT Cosmetic’s Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF 50+ was one of those more considered purchases. I was curious to test how fickle my darling vloggers would be about the product, keeping on an eye on how quickly they moved onto the next item in their blogger mail (I love to hate those videos!). After some serious staying power in their acrylic beauty boxes, I was psyching myself up to part with $40. Turns out, all it takes is three months of contemplation and a sprinkle of girly encouragement on a trip to Sephora to get my VIP Rouge status flexing. God, I love that loyalty scheme. And, as easy as contactless payment (although the Americans haven’t got there yet!), I was the new owner of a foundation - sorry, colour corrector. If it was good enough for The Anna Edit and Lily Pebbles to squeeze the tube to the very end, get that stuff on my face and colour-correct the hell out of me!
The Promise
This product claims to be ideal for people with oily/combination complexions *puts hand up* and so I have high hopes for a mattifying effect throughout the day. One colour match later and surprise surprise, I'm the palest on the spectrum. Refreshingly, the 'Light' shade is literally a perfect match for this English Rose so I have high hopes for superior blending capabilities.

The Application
Despite just finishing a bottle of Nars Sheer Glow Foundation and their advice being to apply with your fingertips to help warm up the product, I am deferring to my squishy Real Techniques beauty blender. (Side note: I didn’t realise for the first few weeks that you’re meant to dampen it. Rookie. Then once I realised, I couldn’t be bothered to walk to the bathroom every morning in my half-asleep state, so I discovered a cheeky hack of spritzing my Urban Decay All Nighter setting spray all over the surface of the sponge. All(!) that time saved). Couple of pumps of the CC Cream onto the sponge and dab onto forehand, cheeks, nose, forehead and chin*. (*As I suffer from hormonal breakouts and scarring, this is more of a full jawline application!)
First Impressions
It's fragranced! I wasn't expecting that. It's a pleasant citrus aroma... but it's fragranced! Not sure many other foundations or CC creams out there possess such a high perfume in my experience so it might not be for everyone, particularly those with sensitive skin. However, it evokes the feeling of it working well on the skin, soothing, healing what lies beneath! The application of the product is A M A Z I N G. Super easy to blend in and layer up for those more stubborn areas of concern. It feels very light on the skin, unlike most full coverage products, but certainly does conceal!
Ongoing Impressions
I’m not (normally) a demanding woman and when it comes to foundation - there are just two things I want:
  1. Cover (z)it up.
  2. Be day-proof.
When I leave in the morning, no matter what heat or air-con my poor skin is exposed to, no matter how stressed and crinkled my forehead will be after a day in the office, and no matter how big that sandwich is I attempt to shove down my pie hole, I don’t want to be retouching every five minutes! Life is too short! I need a base to have confidence in and keep my best face forward. Whilst that may be a product from utopia, this CC Cream is a strong runner-up. My skin can breath, it doesn't feel weighed down and I don't get those crease lines as the day wears on. A little light powder is required to get through the full 9-hour day but that's no better or worse than any other product I've used over the years. 

Would I recommend it to my best friend / sister / mother? 
Yes

Would I repurchase it?
Yes

I hope you enjoyed reading the second instalment from my A to B review series. Whilst I'm off scouring the shelves of Sephora for the next product to come under the spotlight, I'd love to hear what new products have wowed you this year!


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Why I Love Autumn

What’s your favourite season? I suspect a lot of people answer 'Summer' for its warmer weather, light evenings and open invitation to barbecues and Pimms. I’m afraid, I just can’t jump up and down for Summer. Blame my pale-skinned disposition but between the fake tanning and sweat patches, it just doesn't make it an attractive time of year for this English Rose. The moment September struck, I was packing away the shorts and cami tops and banning it to the top shelf of the cupboard (literally out of my 5ft 3" reach). Unfortunately, New York had other ideas. Whilst I envisioned strolling wrapped up in cosy scarfs and kicking through leaves, the reality was 26 degrees and I was resentfully summoning Ryan to bring the "summer suitcase " back down from said cupboard. One broken pair of Haviannas later, I was delighted to be back in the UK to get a proper run-out for the Autumn wardrobe (hello coats!). Watch out for my new Autumn Wardrobe Wishlist coming soon.... For all the reasons I love Autumn, read on.

Roast Dinners
I started writing this after a cosy afternoon sat in one of our favourite pubs along the river in Hammersmith. In fact, Ryan and I realised we have made pretty much every big life decision sat in The Old Ship. Whether it be deciding to live together, get married or go travelling.. Now, here we are having done all three! We spent a special Sunday meeting up with my amazing school friends and their partners to catch up, meet the latest addition to the group (a puppy...babies = not yet!), drink wine and face-plant the biggest Yorkshire puddings you've ever seen! Autumnal food is literally the best - as the evenings draw in and the weather takes a chillier turn, it brings with it more kettle-boiling for cups of tea, early morning porridge and hearty soups. I've found I've switched salads for vegetables and lunchtime queues at Sweet Greens (oh my, there isn't a salad place quite like it in the UK) for DigInn when I get my fix of cauliflowers and pumpkin faro. (Side note, the Americans are obsessed with pumpkins. Literally every door, window and shop window are overflowing with pumpkins of all size! Pumpkin pie, anyone? I'm still yet to try! Plus, Brussel sprouts are a surprisingly common side order in NYC.)


Anyway...

Whilst cooking hasn't been my strong point since moving country (or ever), I feel myself getting in the mood for evenings spent testing out new recipes and have several pages of Madeleine Shaw's cookbook ‘A Year of Healthy Eating’ flagged for action.

Warmer Wardrobe
Ahead of an autumnal wedding in the 'shire last week, the wardrobe was under the spotlight. Flicking through my hangers I realised my wardrobe is severely in need of a refresh! Every day I wear an outfit that has been rotated for the entire five years I have been working at Elemis. This is dyer times, Ladies and Gentlemen. Having been on a tight budget of late, shopping hasn't been top of mind and so this trip back to the UK has called for several big hauls! Dusting off the coats stowed away, getting those dry-cleaning orders in and refamiliarising myself with my boot collection, it still calls for newness.

Boots
Colder climes in New York generally call for two types of footwear; wellington boots and snow boots. Not two purchases top of mind but the slightest bit of drizzle and the elevator is full of people in wellies! After experiencing Storm Stella in February, I know Ugg boots aren't up to the task (although their slippers are totally on my Christmas list!). Whilst Hunter boots are brand of choice for wet weather, I'm savouring the slightly milder months for more beautiful (read: slightly impractical) boot purchases. 
Leaves
Ever since I was aged 7 and spray-painting fallen leaves in gold, silver and bronze (rose gold wasn't a thing in the 90's), I've been obsessed with the leaves changing colour. At Hyde Park in Upstate New York earlier this month it was polls apart from the weather in Manhattan and I literally ran into a cluster of trees and kicked through the leaves like a child! Boomerangs were captured.

Re-light my fire.
In a bid to make our apartment feel more cosy, the evening candle lighting ceremony begins. Having spent seven months looking at them, I am so excited to be dusting them off for an outing. Favourite candle of the moment is Diptique's Baies for a beautiful flora aroma and ELEMIS’ Joyful Glow for a more festive spice from notes of orange, vanilla and cinnamon.
 
Strictly Boxsets
I've written before about Autumn holding this dream-like vision of evenings under a blanket with a hot drink and either (i) a new book or (ii) Netflix series (Stranger Things is taking over my social life!). The reality is somewhat less preened but is still bloody good! I'm the first to praise British television and so there was no way an ocean was going to get in the way of me and Strictly Come Dancing! Every weekend, three hours are dedicated to iPlayer and not to mention my daily fix of Zoe Ball's It Takes Two. Seriously, it's an obsession. It started as a family show when I was a teenager, evolved into a pre-drinking ritual that, at times, sparked the X Factor vs Strictly row amongst my Uni roommates and has now become a solo activity whilst the husband catches up on football/boxing/any-sport-it-doesn't-matter-as-long-as-its-not-Strictly! The weeks fly by and mark the key countdown points between the start of the new school year and Christmas. (Halloween special last week was AMAZE-BALLS!) If you can't relate to Strictly (as I found out one of my closest friends cannot...), what is your TV tuning into this autumn? It's literally when all the best films get released (cue popcorn) and perfect time to start a new series (hello sofa).

Whilst I’m snuggling down for Autumn, rolling out the new season wardrobe (or, handful of new items to be exact!), and upping my tea-intake, what are you loving about this time of year?

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© Mrs A to B

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