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.
LONDON
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

NEW YORK
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!

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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!

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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:

1. PERFECT INTRODUCTION TO AN UNKNOWN CULTURE. 
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.
2. TAKE YOUR FOOT OFF THE GAS.
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. 
5. OUT OF THIS WORLD EXPERIENCES.
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...

6. TRIPLE 'A': ADVENTURE, ACTIVITIES & ACTION.
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.
 
7. MAKING FRIENDS.
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.
8. GET TIPS FOR YOUR ONWARD TRIP. 
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. 

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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. 

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© Mrs A to B

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