Pale Skin Summer Saviours

How to be an English Rose and survive the sunshine with these pale skin SPF saviours.
English Rose by name, English Rose by nature. Since my childhood, my pale skin has forever been a source of frustration and sensitivity (emotionally, physically...). I was the pale, brown-haired girl with freckles opposed to the beautiful fair-haired flawless beauties in my year at school. For some reason, the beauty of freckles hadn’t started trending in my suburb at this point in the ‘90s. But, alas, come those tricky teenage years and Collection 2000 full-coverage concealer, I erased my freckles for almost a decade (along with the late night under eye bags and alcohol blemishes). Back to the present day, it’s all hail the “no make-up make-up” unleashing our “natural” complexion. 

For me, the summer months are a battle of head over heart. My heart dreams of a sun-kissed golden glow that my instagram feed is tantalisingly oozing with, but my head knows there is no alighting at the station of Bronzed Goddess for me. No, I’m stuck on a fast train between Pasty Pale and Lobster Red. I’ve been the subject of laughs amongst my friends as they assume I’ve over-embellished the sunburn stories over the years. There was the time in Tenerife, aged 10, when I had insisted to my parents I had applied my SPF 50 - having detested slathering the white paint-like suntan lotion c.1999 onto my already white limbs. I spent the next six hours playing in the swimming pool, only have very clearly been caught out later in the day as the burn lines smoldered! I had to sit in an ice cold bath for the whole evening and was banished to the shade-equivalent of the naughty step for the rest of the holiday (with a bucket for a nasty dose of sunstroke). Another time, aged 18, I was in Australia and spent ten minutes atop a catamaran in the Whitsunday Islands eating breakfast...all I can say is thank goodness it wasn’t an all-you-can-eat-buffet because one course was long enough! I part-blame my stupidity and part-blame the damn ozone layer. My legs were so burnt I couldn’t actually straighten them for days! Walking was a serious challenge. Waking up a few days later in a dorm room (bottom bunk...luckily), still in agony, I pulled back  what had been a bed-sheet soaked in cold water to help ease the sting so I could sleep, only to take a layer of skin off with it! 

It’s not big and it’s not clever, kids, always use protection. 

Ten years on, I still have a yearning for having a tan - a fact that after six months honeymooning around the world in some of the hottest climates I’m not sure is humanly possible for me! The extent of my progress was realistically moving from Very Fair 01 to Fair 02 in the foundation stakes! These days, there are more anti-ageing products gracing my bathroom shelves assembling a line of defence against the highly-documented fact that sun damage is a cause of accelerated skin ageing. Pale I might be, but I’m hoping I’ll be seeing the benefits in my 40s and 50s as I truly have learnt the lessons of my careless, sun-cavorting youth!

Along with the now essential fake tanning session required on the eve of beautiful weather, here is my skincare toolkit for keeping pale skin safe in the sunshine (and one to relieve skin SOS!)

La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo(+) SPF30
A brand I am loving at the moment for its blemish-solution skincare, I have become so obsessed Effaclar Duo that I now own all three iterations available: #1 the original; I use this as a serum before day/night cream to really sink into the hormonal nightmare on Chin Street, #2 with SPF30; great UVA and UVB protection to work into your everyday routine, especially if your day cream doesn’t, and #3 with B.B. blur; a great light base with a hint of tan-like coverage to let your skin breathe instead of slathering it in foundation (guilty, Serg).
La Roche Posay Anthelios XL SPF 50+
Giving a mighty SPF50 protection, the higher the better when it comes to protecting your face from the sun. This product is incredibly light, non-sticky, non-greasy and available with and without tint. I picked up this one after hearing great reviews over on YouTube and was so pleased to have had the added colour to help warm up my skin tone for poolside antics. This Anthelios product is perfect for all skin types (even oily, combination as tried and tested by yours truly). Converted. 

What I’ve come to love is mixing it with the Effaclar Duo BB Cream which has a slightly thicker texture (containing those spot-hating ingredients) and slightly more coverage and I’ve got one hard-working, beautiful base.
Dry-Mist Sun Protectors
Gone are the days of white, chalky, sticky creams and lotions. Now, the texture library for SPF protection has blown wide open. I can remember experimenting with a shimmering suntan lotion on a holiday to Mexico a few years ago...pretty sure I looked like even more of a sweaty mess than usual! 

I’m an advocate for applying my bodycare SPF totally butt naked (...just the first application of the day, I might add!) - it’s a trick passed down from a family friend to avoid those nasty slices of red from where your swimwear moves throughout the day and a streak of unprotected skin gets you caught out! Whilst I still practise this, I’ve gained 10 minutes of my day back thanks to these new formulations, without having to wait for the lotion or cream to sink in! This summer, whilst away in Europe, I used three different brands who all promised “non-greasy”, “non-sticky” “ultra-light” dry protection mist. Total game-changer.

Nivea Sun Protect Lip Balm SPF30 
Very rarely do I go anywhere without a lip balm (work meetings, loo breaks), I have so many dotted around (night stand, coat pockets, desk drawer, every handbag I possess) and Nivea and EOS are my brands of choice. Whilst red lips can be great painted in Mac’s Ruby Woo, mother nature’s versions of sun-red lips is horrendous. I highly recommend you keep one of these in your beach bag and top up regularly! I find dry lips the perfect alarm clock for topping up all my SPF protection!

Elemis Instant Refreshing Gel
I carry a little travel size of this in my in-flight skincare bag of tricks. I find it the perfect aching foot relief and it’s tingling menthol action super invigorating on a long-haul flight. I’ve also now added this to my list of sunburn hacks for soothing any redness, especially when that skin-hotness is prohibiting you from sleeping!

Whether you are trolley-dashing Boots ahead of an imminent summer holiday or lapping up this glorious British weather (did I actually just write that??!), the time for beckoning some serious sun protection skincare is now to ensure the only thing in the ice bucket are the drinks (and not my legs!)

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What To Do in New York City

New York is the holy grail of city breaks; the ultimate shopping expedition, romantic trip for two or girls weekend away. With incredible flights across the pond being enviably more affordable thanks to the likes of Norwegian airlines, check out this list to fill a short break to the city that never sleeps.

PLACES TO DRINK.

Bathtub Gin, Chelsea, is an amazing hidden speakeasy. You'll be forgiven if you walk back and forth along the block looking for the inconspicuous cafe entrance. Once behind the hidden door you'll be plunged into an ostentatious speakeasy. The cocktail menu is incredible and yes, there is an actual gold bathtub in there! www.bathtubginnyc.com
Apotheke, Chinatown, is a hospital-themed speakeasy. A great place to grab a cocktail before/after dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlour, the oldest restaurant in Chinatown.
www.apothekenyc.com // www.nomwah.com
Tao Downtown oozes New York social scene as per Sex and the City. It's the kind of place where you look around the dimly lit restaurant and wonder who's at the next table. Also the scene of Carrie Bradshaw's 'Last Supper' pre-wedding to Big. www.taodowntown.com
Dead Rabbit, near Wall Street, for an olde world cosy drinks spot. Watch out for the cobbled street in those heels. www.deadrabbitnyc.com
Mr Purple, Lower East Side, is on the top floor of Hotel Indigo and has incredible views of the city. Perfect spot for an outdoor drink watching the sunset. www.mrpurplenyc.com

BRUNCH SPOTS.

Nomo Kitchen, Soho, is the perfect spot for a girls get-together. Having first seen this place in the final scene of The Other Woman, I was on the hunt for the location of an incredible glasshouse ceiling, chandeliers and long bar clad in fairy lights. Oh, and a table of girlfriends sipping Champagne. www.nomosoho.com
Two Hands Cafe, Tribeca, is an Australian healthy cafe. You'll find lots of brunching yogis here. Highly recommend the Smashed Peas. www.twohandsnyc.com/tribeca
Locande Verde, Tribeca, is a Mediterranean restaurant with incredibly tasty rustic Italian takes on brunch. Do not forgo the Banana Monkey Bread. www.locandaverdenyc.com
Jack's Wife Freda, Chelsea & Greenwich Village, is the cutest spot with checkered table cloths. Prepare to queue but it'll be worth the queue time. Grab a Mint Lemonade whilst you wait on the sidewalk in the New York heat.  www.jackswifefreda.com
Tavern on the Green, Central Park, is perfect pre or post stroll, row or horse-drawn carriage ride. This restaurant has an incredible courtyard if the weather is in your favour and beautiful big windows if not! Given the stereotype of American meal sizes, the pastry basked is enough to feed a family of four!  /www.tavernonthegreen.com
Sarabeth's, various locations, is an upmarket American chain, the perfect family-friendly restaurant with an incredibly huge menu to fuel a big day of exploration. www.sarabethsrestaurants.com
The Brooklyn Diner, Times Square, I've been going to this place since my first ever visit to New York and it's the most amazing retro diner. Look for the name plaques around the room whilst you enjoy the unlimited coffee and best goddamn pancakes in New York! www.brooklyndiner.com
Clinton Street Bakery, Lower East Side, it'll be worth the wait when you taste the twice-voted best blueberry pancakes in New York City. I went here for my birthday breakfast and after popping our name down on the door, walked to nearby Alphabet City for work up an appetite. www.clintonstreetbaking.com

EATING IN THE BIG APPLE.
Julianas or Grimaldis, DUMBO, Brooklyn. If you have time to try both places, it's tasty pizza from two ex-best friends who ran a successful pizzeria for years and then, after a massive falling out now run rival pizza restaurants right next door to each other! Both have long queues at peak time. The liquor license and ambiance of Julianas wins in one respect but I personally preferred the casual vibe and delicious pizza from Grimaldis. I recommend burning off some of the calories afterwards by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan - stunning! www.julianaspizza.com // www.grimaldis-pizza.com
Chelsea Market, Chelsea, is an absolute must on your to-do list whilst in New York and this has the roof over a huge array of eateries of sushi, lobster, Mexican. Stroll around the arcades and follow where your nose takes fancy to, especially if it's the Doughnuttery. www.chelseamarket.com
Smorgasburg, Brooklyn & Williamsburg, is a seasonal outdoor food market where the crowds draw in from afar between April and October. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the incredible choice and - friendly tip - the longest queues tend to lead to taste bud heaven! www.smorgasburg.com
Levain Bakery, Upper West Side, you smell the cookies baking before you see the blue awning and it will sure get your mouth-watering in the queue. The best double chocolate cookies that $4 can buy! www.levainbakery.com
Alice's Teacup, Upper West Side, is a quirky, whimsical tea house which makes for the perfect pit stop from exploring nearby Central Park. www.alicesteacup.com
Katz Delicatessen, Lower East Side, is home to the famous When Harry Met Sally scene which, frankly, you can re-live yourself once you take a bite of their pastrami sandwich. Big enough to share between two... make of that what you will. www.katzsdelicatessen.com
Do, Greenwich Village, pronounced 'Dough'... as in cookie dough. This place is worthy of its own Twitter feed informing fans of the queue status! Considering itself "gourmet edible, bakeable, customisable cookie", its a truly fancy New York take on licking the spoon! www.cookiedonyc.com

THINGS TO DO.

Skyscrapers...One World Trade Center has a very slick, theatrical experience which as the newest kid on the block you'd expect it to have! This may be the best views to grab a seat at the bar and take in the far-reaching views of New Jersey, Brooklyn, Long Island and Queens. The Empire State Building is the classic, and most romantic, experience thanks to Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The art-deco interior is appearing a little worn these days but its the Empire State so the magic of it still makes this hot on your list! The Rockefeller is best at sunset for the more photography view of the Empire State, Times Square glowing far down below and 360 twinkling lights.
Grand Central Station... Standing on the central concourse in rush-hour is a sight to behold. There are some seriously awesome photograph opportunities here. Take an onward journey to Connecticut, New Jersey or anywhere from the other fifty tracks.
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island... book up in advance to join the 'official' tour and I recommend getting 9am ferry slot to enjoy people-less pictures as you arrive at the statue. For a cheaper option, grab a pretzel and hop on the free Staten Island Ferry for passing views. There's not much on Staten Island itself but fabulous views of Manhattan and Liberty Island before completing the loop.
Central Park...a piece of green to escape from the concrete jungle and you can choose to explore it by foot, by bike or horse-drawn carriage. If you're there in winter, take to the ice and there in the summer, take to the lakes.
Chelsea High Line...a perfect walking route above the beeping horns that used to be an old trainline. I recommend walking the direction from North to South as there's so much more to do once you end in Chelsea, e.g. Chelsea Food Market, The Whitney Museum and the shops of Meatpacking.
The 9/11 Museum, Financial District, allow at least half a day. As to be expected, it's incredibly moving but touchingly delivered.
Bleeker Street, West Village, is the central hub leading to Carrie Bradshaw's stoop (66 Perry Street), the Friends building (90 Bedford Street), and Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake!
Dylan's Candy Bar, Upper East Side, is the largest candy store in the world (apparently) and can sort any sweet cravings in between floors at nearby Bloomingdales.
Madison Square Gardens, Midtown, is the location to grab a bucket of popcorn, beer and take in the entertainment of the Knicks (Basketball), New York Rangers (Ice Hockey) or gig.
I hope this gives you food for thought in planning a trip to the Big Apple! The reality is, this is little more than a bite size offering to give you a taste of what New York has to offer.

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London: First Impressions















Touchdown was two weeks ago. 

How does it feel to be home? 
Strange. 

Does it feel like New York never happened? 
Kind of…
I’ve been asked so many variations of these questions over the past few days and I feel like I’m still figuring out the answers. Yes, of course, I’m happy to be home. Seeing loved ones, speaking on the same timezone and buying halloumi for less than $16 is AMAZING. But do I feel like I’m home? … that’s not quite so easy to answer. My home has been Apartment 23M for the past year - the location of my bed, sofa and Netflix account. We are incredibly fortunate that we were able to move back to Mr A’s flat that had been sat waiting for our return. We haven’t lived here together before and apart from a handful of nights somewhere back in 2013 we haven’t found ourselves in this part of Zone 6 for a long time. So, needless to say, I'm finding myself back in a 'transition mode' which given it’s only been a year since we were last here, shouldn’t be so unfamiliar in itself.

So long, New York.
If ever you’ve wondered if a 5ft 3in woman could shift a king size mattress down 23 floors, I am living proof it’s possible. The to-do list was pretty epic in the last 72 hours, especially when so much depended on me doing it in the last few hours. I literally finished hoovering the apartment, handed back the keys and was in a yellow taxi to JFK within minutes. Throw in a leaving party the night before of drag queen karaoke and you can imagine exactly how ‘epic’ it was to complete. Funnily enough, I slept the whole flight home.
If only all my packing fitted into this little beauty...
Touchdown.
I’ve never felt so happy to land back to grey, drizzly Blighty than I was on March 15th. I had been operating on adrenaline for the last few days and my smiling parents at Gatwick Airport was just the tonic. I was super excited to see them yet equally excited when I glimpsed the signage of Marks & Spencer. Hello hot-cross-buns!

No rest for the wicked.
Thank you, Global Warming, for bringing snow in March. Seriously, where is Spring?! In a bid to avoid being snowed-in or carrying boxes through a blizzard, we had to change up our moving plans. So, after much sorting and packing in New York, I was thrown straight into more sorting and packing to do here that jet-lag had no time to register! It’s crazy how much stuff we have - the majority aboard a ship somewhere on the Atlantic, some in my parents garage and even more in Lincoln. With the amazing support of our parents, two van hires and gallons of cups of tea later, we had moved in! Within 48 hours, we’d already got two coats of paint on the walls. Who needs sleep?
New start.

A week after landing, a lot of painting, life admin and growing back broken nails later, we had time to celebrate and kicked off Ryan’s 30th birthday celebrations with an incredible family dinner at Hawksmoor. Turns out we couldn’t survive without a Mac’n’Cheese fix, and seriously it is the most incredible steak ever! The novelty of being so close to our friends, family and having a fridge stocked full of Prosecco is far from wearing off. Roll on April and with it a diary full of plans proving exactly what we were so excited to be 'home' for. 

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LAST WEEK REFLECTIONS: New York, New York

My last full week in this amazing city is at a close. In my dreams, I'd be wearing a tutu, Manolo Blahnik's and running around fancy bars drinking Cosmos. In actual fact, I'm halfway through my last round of laundry, living off a mattress in an empty apartment and eating mega-size bags of mint M&M's (which I'm half relieved I've only just discovered and half devastated in equal measure). The biggest conclusion of living in New York: It's nowhere near as glamorous as you might think. Yet I fear I'm also a walking cliche...here's why:

Coffee
I'm sure the fact New York is known as the city that never sleeps is purely down to the amount of caffeine its inhabitants drink. Oh, and to be clear, for any New Yorkers reading this, I'm talking about "cwoffee" as you guys pronounce it. Having been a latecomer to developing the taste buds for coffee (tangent: I actually discovered it in Costa Rica two years ago when the tea I requested arrived as black coffee), I can't quite believe how much I rely on it to get through the day here. On my New York Bucket List, I had set out a search for "the best coffee of my life" and think I've settled with "the most coffee of my life". I anticipate shakes and headaches from the withdrawal - can someone remind me that's not an aversion to the UK when I'm back?

Neck Ache
The reality that I'm leaving is creeping in and I've noticed I'm looking around more as if to soak up the sights, sounds and smells (though some of which I'll be glad to leave behind, like walking through a doggy urinal twice a day...particularly a treat in the summer heat!). But with skyscrapers all around, working on the 16th floor in NoMad and living on the 23rd floor in FiDi, I can't imagine how flat the rest of the world will feel now by comparison. Having got somewhat lost in the day-to-day routine of life, I've forgotten until recently that I see the Empire State Building on the walk to work, have a view of One World Trade Center from my apartment window and walk to the gym past Lady Liberty herself. As much as I've moaned about the rental prices here, I am savouring every last glimpse out the window and commute to work to soak up that these incredible icons that I can, at one time, call 'home'.

THROWBACK: NEW YORK IN THE SNOW

F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
If ever there was an appropriate need to binge watch series one through ten, it seems now is my time to pay homage to Manhattan (shot in a studio in LA, I know but shhhh). I'm echoing Chandler and Joey in Season Four when they've had all their possessions stolen from their apartment and their living room contains nothing but a canoe. Instead of said canoe, I have a mattress and I've swapped Mr A for Rachel, Monica and the gang. Adulting at its best.

Let Go
In a desperate bid to be organised and prepare for a smooth transition back to life in London, we had our belongings collected for shipping at the beginning of February. Turns out a studio apartment would have been adequate all along (damn!) and the husband is now passionate about a minimal living space (this could end badly!). But "letting go" hasn't been an issue for our American household items thanks to a little discovery. Let Go is an app that allows you to sell your items quickly, with no service charge and no interaction with the US postal system required. The rules: (i) Only speak via the app (ii) Meet in public (iii) Pay in cash (it's less dodgy that it sounds, I promise). It has literally been a dream for selling on items we aren't shipping home... as a result, my last weekend here I have no kettle, plates or TV - how will this Brit survive??!
I have no idea when I/we'll be back to this city and I'm also curious how I'll feel about New York once I've left it behind after this experience. What I do know is that I am incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity and, more than that, a husband that has come along for the ride! How lucky am I that when I was mid-brushing my teeth and he was in the shower, and I blurted out "What do you think about moving to New York?" and he said, "Errr, yeah, okay!"

New York is not for the faint-hearted and I honestly couldn't have done it without him - and luckily I have his 12,000 photographs as memories of this awesome chapter in our lives. I also have new-found respect for owning a washing machine. *Waits for elevator*

HOME TIME LOOMSIt feels like only yesterday I was writing a similar post at the end of our five-month honeymoon. Did you catch it? What a lot can happen in a year! 

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Mrs A to B Review: Benefit Bad Gal Bang Mascara

A $20m influencer campaign, a gravity-defying formula and 26 hour full-blast volume - really?! How out-of-this-world can a mascara be?! Mrs A to B challenges this to infinity and beyond...or, instead puts it to the test of the working world of New York City. Same, same. First admission to make is despite a career in marketing, I was totally sucked into the hype around this product and found myself in a queue at Sephora behind a long line of women also jumping on the Bad-Gal bandwagon. With this review series, I like to delve into a little about the brand and the how the product has been marketed before getting stuck into the results - scroll down if you want to skip to the conclusion!

The Back Story
Raised 'brows everywhere thanks to Benefit, or at least that's what I know them to do best. Chuck in the Pore-fessional Primer and Hoola Matte Bronzer and you've got yourself some makeup bag heroes. A very trustworthy brand in the beauty arena with a loyal fan-base looking for something a little more premium than your Rimmel and Revlon of the world. What I hadn't known is the history of the brand until I came to writing this review...

The business was founded by twin sisters in San Francisco who flipped a coin in 1976 to let fate determine whether a beauty boutique or casserole cafe would be the girl's future empire. Lucky for us, the beauty gods were in our favour! The charm of the brand - then named 'The Face Place' - was its quick-fix solutions for beauty dilemmas. They launched with a lip and cheek stain now known as "Benetint" and remains their bestselling product, although it was first created for an exotic dancer who was in need of a nipple tint! Is that a raised eyebrow I detect?
The Promise
  • 36 hour full-blast volume...you know, for all those 36 hour benders you go on! Or maybe the idea is to last the entire weekend without reapplication? Marketing at its best peeps!
  • 90% saw dramatic volume
  • 94% said it instantly lifted lashes
  • 92% said it lengthened lashes
  • ProVitamin B5 known to fuel thickness & strength
  • Smudge-proof & flake-free
  • Water-resistant
Have I been living in a cave or does it seem that this brand has gone ALL OUT with its marketing claims? Not only have they gone to the four corners of the world with the glitterarti of influencers, they've gone beyond, quite literally into space, for the aero-particles in their formulation for some serious BANG to shout about.

The Application
For me, this is the best part. The application is fantastic - it's genuinely a great product to apply starting with the really ergonomic wand design which achieves great volume with just one coat. I have never known my lashes to look so defined! Plus, it still adds generous volume avoiding the pit-fall of clumping. The flexi brush head helps get to even the tricky corner lashes - I literally find the application mesmerising and *spoiler* that keeps me going back!
The First Impression
Wow. Are those my lashes? Love. Love. Love.

The Ongoing Impression
Now several weeks in, my previously owned and perfectly fine Lancome and Too Faced mascaras have been relegated to the bronzer-dust-covered bottom of my make-up bag and haven't seen the light of day since. However, I do have one complaint and that's the broken promise of "smudge-proof" and "flake-free" as I find myself with a five o'clock shadow under my eyes. Bearing in mind my eyes are shielded behind reading glasses, I find this rather disappointing! But come to actually wanting to remove the mascara and you'll find yourself with a 36 hour attempt to remove every trace! A dose of perseverance is required and despite my best efforts, and that of my eye-make-up remover, I still wake up looking like a panda! I'm quite certain that my first application of the week still resides on my lashes by Friday!
Would I recommend it to my best friend / sister / mother? 
I'd say try before you buy at a Benefit store to see if it's just my eyes/eyelashes that smudge.

Would I repurchase it?
I am slightly addicted so I have to say yes. Whilst my quest for utter smudge-proof daily mascara is ongoing, for definition and volume from this product is second to none. 

What product would you like me to road-test next?

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How to make a big decision

Waking up to twenty WhatsApp messages from a friend in need is how I woke up this morning. Promptly followed by an emergency FaceTime session. Said friend has labelled me "the wise one" - a wholly unjustified title for being her go-to sounding board. An ear to chew off. I love that my friends come to me for advice, after all, who doesn't love to help out a loved one and, as the saying goes, two heads are better than one. 

I realise that amongst my girlfriends, we have all made rather big decisions lately; accepting proposals, moving abroad, buying a house, changing careers, going travelling - to name a few! Some decisions are instinctive and take a split second to make - like for me atop Bath Abbey when Mr A surprised the hell out of me by going down on one knee - but other times I can't for the life of me make my mind up, frequently revolving around what to have for dinner more than anything!
But if you've read my post Living in New York, you will know I* have made a rather big decision recently having been at a crossroad of whether to stay in New York for another year or move back to London. It wasn't an easy decision or one that was taken lightly so I have some recent experience of deciphering various factors, battling my head vs. my heart, and also dealing with people who like to project their opinion on you without asking for it. Always a delight.

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, “it got me to thinking...” How do you make a big decision? 

Over the years I have come to rely on a few mechanics to help me work out what to do. I'm sure most of it should be credited to motherly advice. My Mum is the ultimate "wise one" and is there for me on a daily basis as well as setting up her own Life Coaching business to extend her talent to more than just her daughters! But here goes with my unprofessional, yet friendly, advice for helping you make that decision and being happy with the one you make.

FOR & AGAINST
Playing to my love of stationary, pass me a notebook and let me draw up a 'Pros' and 'Cons' list. I'm a visual person so this can really help see how both sides of the argument weigh up against each other. Getting all those whirling thoughts written down in black and white can really help un-muddle your head. But it's not just a case of the side with the most items wins. With everything in writing, you can sort through each point on the paper and tackle the negatives to determine if they are deal-breakers. To pull on a light-hearted reference, do you remember in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. when Ross is torn between Rachel and Julie and, with Chandler and Joey's [terrible judgement and] encouragment, writes a list but all he can write under Julie's column is, 'She's not Rachel' (or 'Rachem' as the true scene plays out owing to Chandler's poor typing skills).

THE MIRROR TEST
"What would you do if you were me?" It's one thing to talk things through with a third party for an outsider's perspective but it's a very different thing to ask them to tell you what to do. That's a dangerous question to ask and usually it's never that simple for anyone to answer. Sometimes, even if opinions are given, I suggest you hunt out a mirror and ask yourself. Being honest with yourself face to face with your reflection will act as a filter for any bullsh*t - if you can't hold your own eye contact or you get a niggling feeling when you do (more on that later), you'll often find the answer staring you right in the face. It's a lesson I learnt as a teenager: if you can look yourself in the eye and know you are being honest then that's being true to yourself. Other people might not like your answer or agree with your decision, but if you can sit comfortably with the reflection in the mirror, you know you are on the right path.

GUT FEELING
We've all heard the saying, "Go with your gut" - the clue is in the title here and the answer lies in your stomach. Sometimes butterflies can flit around in there and other times it can feel like your stomach is lined with lead - these are pretty clear physical indications of how your body feels one way or the other. I've tried in the past saying out loud different answers and seeing how my body responds - is it heavy with dread or fizzing with excitement? I spoke to a friend of mine about this when she went wedding dress shopping and found herself torn between two dresses - I said put one of them on, close your eyes and see if you can envisage yourself walking down the aisle towards your Groom and wait for the feeling in the pit if your stomach. Then switch dresses and repeat. The result was a purchase and a very happy Bride.

THE REGISTER ✅❎
Sometimes you can feel like you're going around in circles - some days feeling certain that Answer A is the right decision and the next day you can do a complete 180! I've even spoken to friends about doing this when they've been in an unhappy relationship; at the end of each day, reflect on whether it was a good day or a bad day. Set yourself a date in the future and keep a log of ticks and crosses, happy or sad faces, sunshine or moons, whatever the symbol you get the idea! On that future date you work out if the positive or negative results take the majority. Life is too short to be unhappy. Similarly, when making a big decision such as deciding to change careers or move away, make a note of which decision you're veering towards on a daily basis and then take a look back at the general consensus.

To put all of these into context, when we were contemplating staying in New York, between us we could only write down three reasons to stay vs. the tens of reasons to move home and none of them could stack up against the pull of friends and family. I tried talking myself into staying of an evening whilst taking off my make-up in the mirror but I couldn't believe my reflection. Plus, the prospect of moving home literally filled me with excitement. Whilst my head told me to stick it out for another year, over a three week period, there were more ❎ against life in New York than ✅ and how could I sign up to a year full of more  than ? There was no surefire way of making that decision, we were both on a roller coaster - sometimes stopping at the same destination, other times making loop-the-loops in different directions but once we had verbally said to each other the case is strong for heading home, we started to feel at peace with it and the pendulum swinging came to a halt - that was the right decision for us.

Of course, these aren't foolproof mechanics for everyone or indeed every situation, but these have worked for me over the years and recent months. If you or someone you know is currently weighing up a big decision along the lines of whether to switch careers, relocate or dust off the backpack for an adventure or two, I hope this post may be of some help. If only it was always so simple as ‘Should I buy that pair of shoes?’ - that answer then is, of course, always YES!


*Funnily enough Mr A to B also plays a part in our decision making. That's one of the fun qualities of marriage but as the blog is called Mrs A to B, I like to pretend in this little corner of the Internet that I wear the trousers and call all of the shots around here.

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5 Easy Ways to Selfcare

...and how to do it without breaking the bank!

The world is a big and scary place. When you contemplate some of the issues going on in this world, it can get rather overwhelming and terrifying. That’s why I love to escape to my blog, post pretty pictures and talk about books, films, skincare, make-up, clothes, TV programmes...essentially everything I would chit-chat about with my girlfriends. Admittedly, these are largely unimportant in the grand schemes of things but they bring pleasure to my day after spreadsheets, budgets and artwork deadlines!

'Time-Out', TLC, rest & relaxation or whatever you call it, we all need it yet we rarely carve enough time for ourselves to truly recalibrate. This isn't 'new' news but the rise in the importance of selfcare and self-awareness is almost becoming another pressure or marker by which we are falling short. How we are looking after ourselves is now a whole booming industry and the reality is that investing in your wellbeing can come with a hefty price-tag. So, here are some bank-balance friendly ways to reinstate a little balance to your life.
TAKE TEN.
My impression of meditation is solely based upon Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. A racing mind from one thought to the next, panicking about the incomplete to-do list and inevitably being annoyed by the buzzing sound from the light/coffee machine/fly in the room. Rather than sitting cross-legged in a retreat in India, try Headspace at home. You can sign up for a *free* 10-day trial to see if it’s your cup of tea. Plus, Headspace explain meditation in layman's terms so it quickly feels accessible and achievable. After I completed the ten days, I was by no means 'hooked' but I had felt the benefit of time away from multi-screening and focusing on my breath. I found it the perfect substitute for nighttime TV and sooooooooo relaxing that my sleep quality improved. FYI - Best not to try this in a public place as I couldn't help but fall asleep the first couple of times I tried it!

My most recent discovery that I LOVE is Madeleine Shaw's meditation programme - a 10-part series available on download for the very reasonable price of £9.99. My two favourite episodes, so far, are 'Sleep' and 'Anxiety' - the latter literally gave me a hug in audio form last night when I was feeling super anxious!

[Side note: I'm living my best single gal in New York life featuring just a mattress on my floor thanks to this announcement - have you seen it?]
READ ON DEMAND.
Finding time to read is rare and I envy those who can tear through a book in a day or a weekend. My friend being one of those people and her steady stream of reading material is impossible to keep up with! My best reading time is on a holiday, pool included and a sunlounger with my name on it. Then, and only then, can I fly through 3 or 4 books in a week. My favourite way to buy books (and it helps to afford said holidays) is from charity shops; I know the money is going to a good cause and a much loved book is going to a new home. The second way - and more convenient I have to add - is via the Amazon Kindle app. Millions of books at your fingertips and so many only $0.99. It only need take a few clicks or swipes before you can escape into another world. If you like that, check out Kindle Unlimited which works in the same way as Netflix with a monthly subscription and unlimited books at the touch of button!

My top picks:
  • Giovanna Fletcher ‘Billy and Me’
  • Jojo Moyes ‘The Girl You Left Behind’
  • Clodagh Murphy ‘Some Girls Do’
Next on my list:
  • Mhairi McFarlane ‘Who’s That Girl’
  • Shari Low ‘One Day in September’
  • Katie Khan ‘Hold Back The Stars’
  • Cassie Rocca ‘A New York Love Story’

Mrs A to B: Reading List & Book Haul

BATH TIME.
I was pretty determined to find an apartment in New York with a bath. As a teenager, I got into a habit of running a bubble bath every Sunday; lighting candles and taking a magazine into the tub for a good old soak. Funnily enough, despite having a bath in our New York apartment, I haven’t got around to it, but it creates the perfect STOP moment in your day or week to breathe and let your body unwind from all the tension it’s holding onto.

Favourite bath time treats whether you want bubbles or bombs, milks or salts:
SCHEDULE HAPPINESS.
Force yourself into a new habit and reflect upon each day with the things you are grateful for, things that made you happy and things to get excited about for tomorrow. Encouraging living in the moment and to help frame a positive outlook, The Happiness Planner has all the notebooks to help you become a happier version of yourself. It might seem impossible at first - what’s there to be grateful for in a mundane day at the office? Perhaps you got a seat on your commute, or had an especially delicious coffee or got some positive feedback from a colleague? Or simply you had an evening on the sofa watching back-to-back episodes of The Crown. Once you start to realise what little things you can find happiness in, your outlook will change.

As much as I’m a sucker for stationary and love my Happiness Planner, you can do this without it costing a penny; of an evening, simply grab a pen and paper or open Notes on your iPhone and write 3 positive things about your day. Soon, you’ll be coming up with more than three every time! Today my positive thoughts are:

#1 Getting out of the office at lunchtime = sunshine + fresh air!
#2 Laughing to my parents' sledging videos
#3 A productive evening work on my blog.
TIME-OUT.
How many times have you heard... Where does the time go? If only there were more hours in the day! Time doesn’t always seem on our side and we are rushing around like blue arsed flies, so carving a little time out is actually a massive luxury! I found setting my alarm clock an hour earlier meant I got to have some 'me-time' before the day runs away from me. This way I get to enjoy my morning beauty routine, make a cup of coffee that I have time to drink and actually eat some breakfast. To have such a calm in the morning is rather rewarding ahead of an 8-hour stint in the office. This way you know you’ve done something for yourself before you even get to work and that's a great start to the day.

Best morning treats:
  • Tepid tap water + a slice of lemon to kick-start the digestive system
  • Hot mug of Earl Grey tea
  • Vitamins washed down with a Berocca to keep the bugs at bay
The best thing about these five #selfcare tips? They can all be done with a face mask on so can feel doubly as efficient!

Mrs A to B: How To De-Stress From Work

What do you do to take care of yourself?

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Living in New York

Time for champagne indeed as today marks the one year anniversary of us moving to New York! Wow, what a crazy year it has been. They say ('they' being the seasoned expats I've met this past year) that the first six months are the hardest and it really takes two years for the place to feel like home. Now four seasons down, I have had a great taste of the highs and lows (aka real life) of living in the Big Apple. 

As my favourite city in the world, the opportunity to move here was a dream come true. The timing wasn't bad either, as we were just home from our crazy-long honeymoon (although this would later make homesickness more of an issue...) but an opportunity that we certainly couldn't say 'no' to. It was only a couple of years after Ryan and I had been strolling down the Thames riverpath on a Sunday, post-pub session (our favourite past-time in our old West London life) and asking each other the question of 'Would you ever want to live abroad?' We both did. If you're a fan of the Secret you might agree, and as my life-coach friend pointed out, we put the message out to the universe and the universe responded. If you're not inclined to that way of thinking, then we're just bloody lucky!
After 365 days living in New York, only two trips back to London and one trip outside of the state, we've thrown everything into living the Manhattan-life. Our apartment and its view is easily one of the best aspects of living here and this President's Day Weekend is also the anniversary of us finding Apartment 23M and making it home. We've come a full 360 as the apartment is, frankly, almost as bare as the day we first saw it owing to the fact that we have decided that a year has been quite incredible enough and the heartstrings of family, friends and a more settled life is beckoning us back to Blighty.

Whilst we have been ferociously ticking off the bucket lists that both Ryan and I set ourselves (separate ones I might clarify... funnily enough Ryan wasn't too bothered about sitting on Carrie's stoop), these photographs are from our toast at The Plaza celebrating the risk we took, the challenges we overcame and the fact we have this incredible adventure under our belts (with all that pizza too!)

Cheers to the next adventure...

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2017: The Highlights

Given the political climate, stress and struggles we will have all felt at points last year, I think it's important to have these STOP moments to celebrate and appreciate the amazing moments from the past 365 days (I also like the idea of winning against my awful memory and reminding myself of what I've achieved in the years to come!). Although 2017 will certainly be hard to forget!

I have absolutely loved seeing everyone post their 2017 #bestnine photographs and year-in-highlights on Instagram stories so I wanted to get in on the action. My favourite style of 'highlights' blog has been a Q&A so I’ve had fun picking a few questions to pull together for this post. 
WHAT SINGLE ACHIEVEMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF? 
New York.

Ten years ago, when I first visited and fell further* in love with New York, I could never have imagined that a decade later I would be offered a job that would move us to my favourite city in the world. 'Moving' is, for anyone, a big deal and up until that point, I'd only known moving to involve my parent's car and a few journeys back and forth down the A4. The Atlantic made it logistically all the more challenging but it was certainly fun for Ryan and I to set-up home in downtown Manhattan and create a whole new lives for ourselves from scratch. It was big, scary and, at times, felt like downright madness, but it's my biggest excuse to pop the Champagne and celebrate making it a year to remember.

*Naturally I was already in love with New York thanks to FRIENDS and Sex and the City.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR EARLY-2017 SELF? 
You might feel like a nomad right now...[this time last January we were technically homeless and very grateful to your friends who let us house-sit their townhouse a stone's throw from Harrods.] The move to New York will be harder than you imagine. You might think you're moving to a country where you speak the same language but that will bite you on the a**e and your new boss will create a glossary of all your "Britishisms". But don't change who you are, English Rose, just laugh at it. You will survive the tough adjustment period and despite it being a long six months at first, you have your favourite person by your side...who will still be your favourite person by the end of it. Remember you're living out a dream of your eighteen-year-old-self and savour those weekends for exploring!

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MOMENT SPENT WITH FRIENDS? 
In August, I flew home for my lovely friends' Lou and Jamie's wedding. It was the first time I headed home since moving so I was beyond excited and ready for it! The wedding day started with a stroll around Greenwich Park walking my friend's dog, shouting "I'm back, baby!" to the London skyline before picking up sausage sandwiches and having a tour of central London by car. The wedding itself was utterly glorious - the most idyllic setting on the river in Marlow. My favourite moments were eating the homemade ice-cream on the riverbank before it melted in the summer heat, drinking games (and even a mention) during the speeches and dancing the night away with my girls on the dancefloor!

WHAT WAS THE BEST NEWS YOU RECEIVED IN 2017? 
When your best friend sends you a picture on Christmas Eve with an accompanying message 'Does this ring make me look engaged?' I literally screamed, burst into tears, then panicked I may have jumped the gun, called her, confirmed it wasn't a joke. Then cried again. All in front of a full audience of Ryan's immediate family. Megs & Chris' engagement on Christmas Eve literally made my year! Roll on the Hen Do!

WHO, OR WHAT, AM I MOST THANKFUL FOR? 
My husband.
Closely followed by Netflix.

FAVOURITE BOOK? 
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - read in a warm summer's weekend down by the marina.

FAVOURITE PODCAST?
At Home With…’ featured my two fave bloggers (#win) and indulged my nosiness by taking me behind the front door of some truly inspirational women - Jo Elvin, Alexia Inge (founder of Cult Beauty), Lisa Eldridge, to name a few. I picked up SOOOOO many lifestyle, wellness and beauty tips from listening and I became seriously obsessed with Kombucha over the summer as a result.

FAVOURITE TV SERIES? 
Stranger Things - so not 'me' as genres go but I LOVED IT!

WHAT NEW THINGS DID YOU DO? 
Largely influenced by our new location and my sports-aholic husband, I was initiated into the New York sports scene with baseball at Yankee Stadium, New York Rangers ice hockey and, my personal fave, watching the Knicks shoot hoops at Madison Square Gardens. Also, in lieu of Wimbledon, we popped to the Arthur Ashe court to watch Nadal in the US Open. Talking of stadiums, watching Coldplay at the Met Life Stadium in New Jersey was OUT OF THIS WORLD.
WHAT ACTIVITIES MADE ME LOSE TRACK OF TIME? 
Oh YouTube, you have a lot to answer for. These babes have kept me company on many a morning, evening and weekend. Totally inspiring with their Grade A content, all should be held responsible for my credit card balance and a great fix of British accents when I need it.
  • Lily Pebbles
  • The Anna Edit
  • Fleur De Force
  • In The Frow
  • Fashion Mumblr
  • Lydia Elise Millen
BEST DAY OF THE YEAR? 2017 was the year we celebrated our first wedding anniversary in July and honouring the traditional 'paper' gifts, we wrote secret clues to each other to make up an entire day of activities around midtown and downtown Manhattan (*passes the sick bucket*). The day before - and our actual wedding anniversary - it pissed itself with rain all day long so post-gym, we did naff all BUT we did get dressed up in the evening for an incredible sky-high meal at Asiate overlooking Central Park. Steak. Red wine. Sunset. Skyline. Incredible.

Honourable mention: 4th July is kinda a big deal out here and a rooftop BBQ with work friends overlooking the Empire State and fireworks on East River was pretty awesome.

FAVOURITE BLOG POSTS?
Mrs A to B: New York Bucket List > The absolute foundation of my year has been ticking off this list!
Mrs A to B: How to De-Stress From Work > Absolutely essential for every working girl, especially this working girl.
Mrs A to B: My Autumn Skincare Routine > My absolute FAVOURITE photography. Credit to Fall and Central Park.
Mrs A to B: It Cosmetics / A to B Review > Launching a new blog series - A to B Review - is a product detailed account of my first and ongoing impressions. Still love the two products I have first featured!


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