Holidays Are For Reading

Lazy morning in bed, a hot cup of coffee and a great book in hand. Read on for my top 3 fiction and non-fiction reads you need to have on your nightstand.
Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash
Two things I have come to notice make a positive impact on my stress levels and wellbeing are (1) Exercise (man, those endorphins really do make a difference) and (2) Reading. And this blog post is about the latter since this year is the year I have read the most. Ever. Twenty five books, as you asked. And yes, I’m counting.


I haven’t always been an avid reader, although I have fond memories of Roger Red Hat and Billy Blue Hat from my early years at school (remember them?). In truth, as a child, my preference was always to be read to and a particularly frequent request was The Famous Five (with all the voices please, Dad!) There was, of course, a moment around the late nineties when Harry Potter-mania began. It took two attempts for me to get into The Philosopher’s Stone but after that I was hooked. I may not have joined the midnight queues at Waterstones but I was first in line the next day. These remain in an elite place on my bookshelf which I have re-read once or twice since.

However, my real love affair with reading began at University. ‘I’ve got some reading to do’ sounded like a valid and rather respectable excuse to retreat to your room when you’re meant to be studying but it certainly wasn’t the course reading list I was getting through. I know I wasn’t alone there either as my fellow housemate would say she’s getting an early night only to be found reading the Twilight series at 4am when we stumbled in from a club. I managed to catch up on to that series in my early twenties when I would sneak off to a café behind Selfridges on my lunch break determined to read the full book series before the last film adaption left the cinemas.

It was my new friend from down the halls of residence who recommended Lucy in the Sky by Paige Toon and from there, I was converted. Up until that point, I had never read a love story quite like it - my repertoire up until that point consisted of Pride and Prejudice! I was completely addicted to the place I could escape to in their story for hours at a time. Paige Toon is an author’s name I’m sure you’ve heard on this blog before – she is easily my favourite wordsmith and conjures characters and love stories like no other! For the avid fan, Toon really cleverly (and satisfyingly) intertwines characters from past books into her new stories. You wouldn’t be lost if you read her books out of order but it’s a lovely added extra for the super-fan like me! Now I follow @PaigeToonAuthor on Instagram to know exactly where she’s at with her next book and get my pre-order in (If You Could Go Anywhere coming in May 2019)! I flew through The Last Piece of My Heart and Five Years From Now this year and loved them both! Last Christmas I read The One We Fell In Love With in two days so now eagerly anticipate the next release!


When I lived in New York, I went through a sort of reading deprivation and this is when I realised just how much it had an impact on my headspace. The relocation itself meant that most of my beloved unread bookshelf were left behind and so I didn’t have reading material to hand. One of the first things I did when I came back briefly to the UK was to make a batch order from Amazon to keep myself entertained throughout the remainder of my time in NYC. That where this blog post came from and it was the best money I’ve ever spent!

At the start of this year, I wanted to set myself a target to make sure I kept up with reading – as a person I’m quite motivated by a to-do list as the satisfaction of ticking some off is just too much! I like the idea of carving out time away from screens (especially my vice of double screening) and maximising any down time I have, whether that's on the commute or before bed.

Twenty-five books down and these are my top three reading greats. Add to your Kindle/Audible Wishlist or bookshelf NOW - you won't regret it!

Top 3 Fiction Recommendations

Top 3 Non Fiction Recommendations

Each of these was utterly addictive, I-could-not-put-them-down kind of books. I found I created more time in my day than I even knew I had. Even Netflix noticed and started emailing me to ask ‘Is everything OK?' as I'd fallen off the radar. I hope you find yourself curled up under blanket by a roaring fire getting lost in the pages of these great reads very soon!

Follow

How I'm Ending 2018

A long overdue post to fill you in on the tumbleweed that has been blowing a gale on my blog recently. My 2018 goal to post more regularly is making my cheeks redden but, seriously, where has this year gone?! I cannot believe another twelve months has passed by in what feels like the blink of an eye. Life is speeding up! It's been another jam-packed year though on reflection. Just the three new home address, two jobs and one country move. It's really bonkers to think I still lived in New York for the first three months of this year... that feels like forever ago.

Many people ask me if I miss it and I do, occasionally, but for all the pizza in the world, it's no contest against having friends and family down the road! Although we had already made our minds up we were moving home when we touched down for the last time on New Year's Eve, those last few weeks were all about ticking through the New York bucket list. I still have two pieces of confetti in my purse which I found in Times Square on New Year's Day post brunch at The Brooklyn Diner.

MRS A TO B: NEW YORK CITY GUIDE

The move itself was a giant 1-0 for womankind when I single-handedly emptied our flat, discovering the aptly-named Let Go app to sell our electric items and remained undefeated against our king size mattress that had to go down 23 floors! Quite a feat for my 5ft 3in frame! I felt (and still feel) hugely grateful for the opportunity to live in New York. I know the city is so easy to fall in love with, as I did on my first visit aged 18, and it's still one of my favourite cities even after experience 'real life' there. If either cities were a relationship, New York was the unforgettable fling whereas London is the 'The One'.

LAST WEEK REFLECTION: NEW YORK, NEW YORK

Life back in the UK has been DE-LIGHT-FUL! We have been so happy to set-up our own home, decorating it all over within weeks of moving in and getting into the swing of a new (and rather long) commute. Transitioning back into the Elemis UK team was amazing and I have loved working with my new team. It's been full-on but that's probably thanks to the social life that has come with being back on home soil. Weekends are booked up far in advance and my tolerance for alcohol is on the rise (I was basically tee-total whilst living in NYC, $20 for a glass of wine... go figure!)

LONDON: FIRST IMPRESSIONS

This summer, we hopped over to enjoy some Spanish sunshine in Marbella which consisted of sleeping, eating, and reading on repeat. So good to get away and popping over to the continent was one of those things I realised I took for granted when it was no longer on my doorstep. 2019 is going to be all about using up those air miles and getting away more frequently #WorkHardPlayHard


After a quick flick through my iCal, here are some of my favourite highlights I got up to in the year!

Happy Moments: Five weddings down in 2018 and not a single one affected by jetlag - yay! The fifth and final nuptials of the year was the cherry on top as I had the honour of being bridesmaid for my absolute fave couple in the Gloucestershire hills and the squad shots are to die for!
Musical Memories: Starting big with my bae at Bey and Jay-Z's world tour. It's funny but it seems the lyrics for '99 problems' has been sitting in the recess of my brain for the last ten years! After a weekend in Suffolk and car journeys to the coast later, I was a newly converted George Ezra fan. Our most requested Alexa command ever since? 'Alexa, play George Ezra' knocking Imagine Dragons off the top spot! December's finale was Ellie Goulding's Streets of London charity gig including Dua Lipa, Bastille and Sigrid to name a few.

Theatre Time: Reinstating Theatre Club from our A-Level Theatre Studies days, I ticked off the classic Les Miserables, a new and incredible retelling of the suffragette's campaign for Votes for Women with Sylvia at The Old Vic and Heather The Musical which was dark and hilarious in equal measure!

Sport Spotlights: From Boxing at the old establishment York Hall, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars at the NFL International Series at Wembley and the FA Cup Final, to cheering on my sister in the London Marathon.

And to wrap up: Celebrating Ryan's 30th in March at Hawksmoor (the best steak in London) and family reunions in Lincoln, two hair colour changes (one accidental) and officially becoming Mrs A on paper (3 years later!)

So I've been busy, right? At what I haven't mentioned yet is we've just moved house! An eye-opening experience selling a property and being caught between solicitors and estate agents. Wow. But, finally, I can say Hello to our new home back on the Underground. Bring on exploring North London in 2019.



Follow

Christmas Gift Buying Hacks

How to boss Christmas Shopping like a pro.
It's a busy time of year. If not, the busiest time of year. Not only do social engagements dominate the calendar but the hangovers eat into a big part of the weekend's shopping opportunity and not to mention cash-flow demands at this time! My favourite part of Christmas Day (after all the food, of course) is seeing people open the gifts I have bought them. I can't help look on hopefully that the present they open delights.

Of course, when it comes to approaching gift buying, it is obvious to say that organisation is key. After one too many Christmas Eve's spent dashing around Oxford Street and one year in which a particularly nasty case of tonsillitis found me hospital-bound for the full week leading up to Christmas, I pledged to myself Never again will I leave it so late! So, here are my tips to tackle the Christmas shopping whilst retaining a bit of ye olde festive spirit!

1. Write a list... (and check it twice!)
As an all-time lover of stationary, this first point comes particularly easy to me as I've got into the habit of having a notebook by my side when I open presents. Why? To quite simply remember who gave me what whilst my brain has left the building to focus on digestion. I used this list as a checklist for thank you notes and also transfer it to my phone where I keep a note of who I exchange gifts with and what those gifts have been over the years. Partly, I'm having to combat my own terrible memory more than anything! I keep this list in my iPhone Notes section so it's on hand whenever I see something spontaneously in a shop and make a note ahead of prime gift-buying season (told you, bad memory). It also makes sure you aren't relying on a slightly frazzled brain when it comes to, 'Do we do gifts?' when you're thinking through your gifts list.

2. One-stop-shop.
Thematic gifting is not only hugely efficient but also helps take a lot of the stress out for it. One year, it might be that you focus on books, another stationary, another... you get the picture. If that doesn't work for a particularly eclectic bunch, pick a shop and do your damage! A bit like having a wedding gift list at John Lewis, you can get a strike off ten-presents in one fell swoop!

3. Feet up 1st December
If you're the kind of person that works well to deadlines, set yourself the task of having everything bought by 1st December. Then, it's simply a case of setting up the dining table, playing Christmas movies on repeat and wrapping them all whilst sipping on some mulled wine - de-ee-lightful! Last year, a little off the beaten track of the British High Street (and Amazon), I found myself in Kew Garden's gift shop in August. Yes, August. Having flown back from New York for the first time since I'd moved out there six months prior, this was my one and only chance before touchdown on 22nd December. Never knowing how the flights, snow blizzards and my mother's intentions not to let me out of her sight once I'd landed, meant gift-shopping had to be done and dusted way in advance! So, back to the summer heat of August, post-stroll around the Botanic Gardens and I left with three large bags and 80% of my Christmas shopping done. Boom. (The fact I actually wrapped the presents in August was probably a step too far, but, being organised gives me a buzz. Loser, I know!)
4. Black Friday
There's nothing worse than the pinch of Yuletide dinners/drinks/parties (and new outfits for said dinners/drinks/parties) that hits your bank balance hard. It can feel like eleven months of socialising in the space of three weeks! The practicality of getting your Christmas shopping done earlier, either drip-fed across the year or a least two or three paychecks before the 6 week financial drought known as January, may not be for everyone. You'll have all seen those adverts that get played around this time of year to help the people manage their funds so they can afford Christmas and plan for the expenditure in advance. There's a great idea in there somewhere, but, like most us, come February/March, there couldn't be a thought further from my head than, 'Oh, just pop £50 into savings towards next Christmas'. Sounds easy enough when I write it down but somehow never seems possible. The saving grace is, of course, the American phenomenon that has hit our digital shores known as 'Black Friday'. Born out of the public holiday that proceeds Thanksgiving, it is the biggest shopping day of the US calendar, hence retailers offering up incentives to part with as much (and typically, more) dollar than you had anticipated! Still, some great bargains to be had and this is where that list from #1 comes in handy so you can snap up those items that have already piqued your interest before the 'Out of Stock' message pops up!

Here's hoping that post-hangover one weekend in December you're like me, sat on the sofa with your feet up eating a mince pie knowing that all yours gifts are wrapped to perfection under the tree. All that's left is for your mother/sister/cousin/gran to say those treasured words, 'Shall we open some presents?'

Follow

Selfcare Sunday Bathtime Fail

The name of this blog hasn't deceived you, the hugely ironic stock image goes here! 
Ever find yourself at 8.30pm on a Monday evening wondering what to do with yourself? No, this never happens to me either! I’m either breaking a light sweat thanks to ClassPass, engrossed in the latest Netflix series or out for dinner with friends. But, there I was on a Monday evening wondering just that. It’s 8.30pm; I’ve cooked dinner and tidied away (that bit usually gets forgotten), I’ve pulled an outfit for the next day and whilst someone hogs the TV for PlayStation time, I’m at a loss for a TV programme to entertain myself. Then I thought, what would I want to do with this free time if, like normal, I’m dashing about on a school night? That’s when I remembered a blog post I had written about switching off from work and there I wrote about the ol’ cliché of taking some ‘me-time’ and running a bath.

Now, I’ve only lived in our current apartment for six months, but it was previously inhabited by two twentysomething men and I don’t think they knew what a pair of Marigolds was between them. The thought of stewing in their dirty (and let’s face it, hairy) feet soup made my toes curl. One professional deep clean later, I am ready to do a Monica and get the bubbles, salts, candles and magazines at the ready. Oh heck, I may even pour myself a glass of wine. If I’m going to do this, I may as well do it properly! What ensues is approximately 20 minutes of bath-time prep and *spoiler alert* a less than successful bath-tub encounter. Here’s how the story unfolds…

Let’s start with the basics shall we? Take one bathtub, add a generous helping of a luxurious and gorgeous smelling bath milk/oil/bomb and surely the result is one of those perfectly Instagram-worthy bubble meets #bathcaddy moment? A dressing gown hanging from the hook ready to snuggle my very relaxed, warm, moisturised and delightfully smelling self post-heavenly bath. A now half-filled glass of wine.

But, no, a problem.

The hot tap isn’t hot. Unlike the shower above it, it’s chugging out lukewarm water that’s getting colder by the second. Cue an urgent dash for the kettle and a couple of journeys back and forth later to top it up with some boiling water. Meanwhile, the bubbles have gone... 


Flat. 

I’d wanted to try something new > enter: Kiehl’s Lavender Foaming-Relaxing Bath with Sea Salts and Aloe. "Formulated...for their soothing and relaxing properties"? Hell yes! In goes a third of the bottle. But…wait. Where are the bubbles? 'Foaming' the label said? I see no evidence of this. To be fair, this has probably been in my bathroom cupboard for over two years, moved back and forth to New York with me still unopened. Can bubble bath go off?! A bath without bubbles is just not on so I dash to my wardrobe full of beauty products and grab an equally questionably old Virgin Vie (remember them?) bubble bath and chug in another third of bottle. Bubbles? It looked like a toddler had attempted to use party bubbles for the first time and instead just slightly foamed at the mouth.

OK, let’s salvage this.

To set the relaxing scene, I opted for a couple of candles along the window-sill which was now closed to avoid the onslaught of goosebump-gate. Atmospheric. Shame about the overhead lights which were a necessity if I was to do some...

Light reading.

Hello Sunday Times Style Magazine perched on the side of the bath, on a stool, with a towel for the inevitable wet hands / soggy paper situation that would arise. I mean, can you tell how much effort went into this momentous free evening and treating myself to a bath? Not before:

Monday Masking.

Before I let the soaking in a nice, hot bath open my pores and make for a nice deep cleanse, I reach for a couple of masks to let my skin have a bit of a treat – it survived Monday after all! Enter ELEMIS Absolute Eye Mask and Liz Earle’s Intensive Nourishing Treatment Mask.

So, there we have it.

Two bath products smouldering away. A little steam rising from the two kettles-full of hot water that were poured in. My reading material and iPhone at the ready for entertainment. Face looking like Mrs Doubtfire post-pavlova. Flickering candles to create a calming atmosphere. I think I’m ready to get in.

Oh wait.

We have one bathroom, which means one toilet between two. A cursory shout out to the husband in the nearby living room, ‘Do you need a wee? Because I’m getting in the bath now and I don’t need that interrupting my calm scene!’ ‘Not right now…but leave the door open in case I do.’ That’s marriage for you. If a girl can’t cut a break and have a bath in silence then what is the world coming to?!

Alas.

I’m getting in.

Big toe first. I expect to gasp at how bloody hot it is. That’s normally how this plays out, isn’t it? After running it for so long, I should have to top it up with cold water until I can tolerate the temperature to place in my whole foot. Not this time. OK, this temperature feels good… maybe I’ve mastered the art of the perfect ‘getting in’ temperature.

Submerged.

Or…not quite. At least, top of legs, belly and boobs are definitely not in. Bone dry, in fact. Not even a generous amount of swooshing is going to get this water level working for me. Did the well of the bath rise two feet since I’ve been running the tap? Check the plug. Yep that’s secure. OK, more water needed.

Turns on hot tap.

Ah yes, slinks down to enjoy getting cosier by the moment as the hot water envelops around me.

Wait a minute.

That’s not hot. That’s bloody cold. FREEZING in fact! Panic and splashing to quickly get to the other end to switch off the tap. OK, maybe I need to give it a minute to refill the tank or something. Why don’t I just lie back and at least read Dolly Alderton’s latest column whilst I wait? It’s not so freezing I guess, I’ve got the candles burning, a few shy little bubbles floating about me, this can 
work.

Reach for magazine.

Sit back, resting against the back of the bath and…

WHOOSH.

Nearly slide under as my shoulders lose contact with the bathtub and I’m nearly dunked under by my own body weight. New low. I should have known it was a vain attempt to keep my newly-washed-this-morning hair dry. OK, I think my toes need to be pushing against the other end of the bath to prop myself up if I’m going to stay upright. Tricky for someone skirting around the 5ft 3in mark.


Ouch.

Toe cramp. 


I’m really not long enough for this bath. 

Time for a refill?

Still cold water.

OK, reach for my phone for some Instagram scrolling. Immediately dunk half my phone half under the water. Gah! Scrabble for nearby towel to dry off. Crisis averted, Instagram is still working people!

So, there I am, marinating in some bath product from the early Noughties, goosebumps most definitely appearing on my arms which are poised at right angles out of the water to keep me afloat, toes pinned to the edge of the tank, neck straining away from the water’s edge and exposed nipples that could, frankly, cut glass.

That’s it.

Abandon ship.

Man overboard.

Time for a hot shower. (And another glass of wine)


Follow

How to Survive the Commute

Discovering Audible has given me a silver lining to life in the commuter fast-lane. A personal account of audiobooks changing my reading habits.
From one cosmopolitan city to another, you wouldn't think that life in New York vs. London is that different. I swapped living along the River Thames in Hammersmith for views of the Hudson and spent a year navigating one of the busiest cities in the world. For this once-upon-a-time West-Londoner, the biggest lifestyle change from moving back across the pond was the commute. Turns out, there's nothing quite like a bump back down to earth than uprooting your life and moving from Manhattan to... Essex. 

I left behind a super quick and easy twenty minute subway ride, come blizzard or heatwave, from Battery Park City to the Flat Iron District. Today, living in Zone 6, BOOM! there goes 2 hrs 30 mins of my day to hopping on the commuter belt (and expect delays if it rains, snows or someone sneezes). I appreciate that as commutes go, it's pretty moderate, tame even, compared to some. I grew up in Zone 4/5 but on an exceptionally quick train line into Victoria in 15 minutes so, this is a shock to the system. For me, Zone 6 feels like Outer Mongolia! 

With this new-found time on my hands, here were my options as I saw it:
1) Sleep - and risk being that person with the embarrassing head bobbing or dribbling onto your shoulder,
2) Netflix - I managed to get through all 7 seasons of Suits in an ashamedly short space of time,
3) Read...or should I say 'Listen'? Enter: Audible. 

What's Audible? An Amazon company selling and producing spoken audio entertainments (digital audiobooks, ad-free TV and radio programmes, audio magazines and newspapers)

I love me a book. Reading is literally a sanctuary I escape to from the world outside my front door and, having discovered the enjoyment of reading somewhat late in life whilst at University, it's something I struggle to now fit in around life of a 9 til 5-7. But, tell me I can 'listen' to books whilst taking a bath, cleaning the kitchen or to distract me from the sweaty armpits of London's commuters, and you've got my attention. Initially, I had my reservations; Will being read to aloud spur on a childlike response in me to fall asleep? Can I really count it as 'reading a book'? Will I feel the same investment and fondness for the characters? Will my imagination still create the world I'm reading hearing about? After five months testing it out, I have come to an opinion for what works for me.
Choice.
My first dalliance in the world of Audible was Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher. I had subscribed to a free month, as anyone can, some point back in April this year and four days later, I was buying my second book. I am now enjoying a monthly direct debit of £7.99 and receiving one new credit a month; a credit which buys you one new book from an extensive library. My wish list has grown over the months thanks to Audible's clever profiling of the genres of books I like and crafty recommendations, combined with their semi-regular '2 for 1' sale opportunities. In my five month membership, I've downloaded 11 books in total; read 8, have 2 on standby, 1 on the go and a credit in the bank! My annual goal of twelve books in March seemed ambitious, but fast forward five months and I've smashed it. Total game-changer.

Non-fiction vs. Fiction
I am, historically, a fiction kind of a girl. In fact, I admit it, My name is Rose and I'm a chick-lit fan-girl. Give me a parallel (but, ultimately, relatable) universe where there's some light humour, a heart-warming and endearing female protagonist, a romantic storyline (which obviously has a bump in the road before the happy ever after) and you've got yourself one avid reader. Reading is my escape so I want warmth, cosiness and comfort when delving between the pages. My first Audible experience was, as the name suggests - Some Kind of Wonderful - basically everything I look for in a good read right there in the title. As my first experience of listening to a book aloud, I was relieved to find I developed the same compulsion to, metaphorically, rush to turn the page to keep the story unravelling. When you find yourself wishing your commute longer, you know you're onto something - I even discovered the function which increases the pace of the audio by up to twice the speed!

Voices.
The biggest game-changer for me in terms of listening to different types of books over the past few months is how well I resonate with the voice artist and whether he/she fits with the image of the character in my head. For instance, I'm currently reading Three Things About Elsie and finding it hard to decipher between two particular characters (both elderly women); Elsie and Florence. I've had to spend a fair amount of time skipping back to the start of chapters to make sure I'm following, else I end up as confused as the characters in the plot! However, I LOVED hearing Charlotte Ritchie and Josh Dylan bring to life 'Eve' and 'Bram' in Eve of Man. I am literally counting down the days to the second instalment in the trilogy. The voices are so perfectly matched to their characters, it's almost like they're the voices I would have heard in my head reading the words from the page. Similarly, Sharon Small's accents in Never Greener by Ruth Jones was utterly captivating. I would genuinely hunt out audiobooks she has recorded for her pure class performance!

Better still is listening to non-fiction (a genre I never much delved into before now) and the authors themselves reading their words aloud; Rhonda Byrne for The Secret, and Adam Kay in This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor. With the former, a self-help style book, it felt utterly compelling to be told, almost convinced by hearing Byrne's voice (and that of her advocates), to truly believe in what she is saying. Having read the book a year before, I was refreshing my memory but it felt like I absorbed it on a whole new level. Now, I  often go back to hear and be reminded of particular chapters thanks to the compelling way it is read. Similarly, listening to Adam Kay and Alex Jones' in their 2018 book releases this year, I have literally gobbled up their recordings and loved hearing their own inflects, telling their story like I'm a friend they're over-sharing with over a pint in the pub.

Freebies.
If you're not already tempted to try Audible yet, I should probably mention the free audio shows available on demand for all subscribers. Pick from a vast array of genres and a whole host of topics are covered. Thanks to The High Low, I have just discovered Where Should We Begin by Esther Perel, a relationship therapist who bares the raw, intimate details by inviting you and 10 anonymous couples into her office for a session. For something completely different, I also have bookmarked Earpedia by Sue Perkins and Fry's English Delight by English delight himself, Stephen Fry.

Reasons to love Audible:
  • It doesn't demand a roomy handbag to carry the paperback (or worse, hardback) from your reading list. It doesn't require shelf-space or smacking yourself in the face if you drift off to sleep mid-sentence.
  • You'll never have to turn down the corner of a page as you walk between platforms or stations, this reading experience maximises literally every moment of your commute!
  • Your virtual bookshelf is more extensive than your local library, not to mention, equipped with an awesome algorithm that makes stupendous recommendations (and never requires dusting!)
  • Hack the speed of the audio to make every minute 1.25x or 1.5x faster and, therefore, more efficient. Twelve books in a year? Pah, you're laughing!
  • Regular promotions allow you to boost your listening potential on a monthly basis. I've made the most of 2-for-1 and 40% offers that land in my inbox on a semi-regular basis!
I can offer anyone a free audiobook to trial Audible, just send your email address to MrsAtoB@hotmail.com and I will pass on the offer! Next on my reading list is:

Sally Rooney Normal People
Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere
Holly Bourne How Do You Like Me Now?
Mary Ann Shaffer The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society
Catherine Price How To Break-Up With Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life
Libby Page The Lido
Nora Ephron Heartburn
Heather Morris The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Mark Manson The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Happy reading listening!

Follow

Goodbye, Summer. Hello, September.

Hello, Autumn. I couldn't be more excited to be writing this in a jumper and slippers. I've embraced the arrival of September like you would coming into a cosy, warm home with a fire crackling closing the door on a cold, windy night. Although, a more timely analogy would be walking into an air-con apartment escaping the sweltering heat of the summer that has been - and gone (thank goodness). Adios to the daily dilemma of 'What do I wear?' only to be greeted by an unresponsive rail of clothing that was either far too casual (not to mention creased) holiday-wear or, simply, climatically inappropriate. So long sweat dripping down my back, chaffing thighs and sweat-tache. You do not bring out the best me. I literally skipped onto the platform on Friday wearing TIGHTS! All hail a 40 denier!

This may, in fact, be my favourite season of the year but before I unpack all my jumpers, light a candle and skulk under a blanket for the next 13 weeks of Strictly, I wanted to have a moment to talk about what I've loved this summer. Maybe in the hope that come next year I can be reminded of the things I've enjoyed (whilst being a sweaty mess!).

August Highlights

River. Escaping to our little haven in Hammersmith, I spent as much time as possible by the river. I literally love it so much I would consider living on a boat there (frankly, it's the only thing we can sensibly afford!). Sunset drinks by The Blue Boat or dinner at The Dove, it brought back many happy memories of our pre-wedding years when we made pretty much every big life decision (travelling, wedding, etc.) overlooking the river at one drinking establishment or another.

Parkrun. Successfully completed my second ever 5k run thanks to the volunteers at Parkrun. My goal was to get around the course without stopping or walking. I didn't care what my pace was, I just wanted to prove to myself I can run. Turns out, I can! I didn't get a PB but, hey, I'm three years older and three years more unfit. What I hadn't anticipated was what followed...Aching muscles and feeling stiff? Yes I'd expected that and had the foam roller at the ready. Sore toes? Sure. Maybe even a blister? Fine. Stress fracture? You have GOT to be kidding me. In one week, I had gone from new, aspiring 'I-Can-Do-Anything-I-Put-My-Mind-To' 5k runner to... Minor Injuries clinic with the diagnosis to rest up.

Staycation. A little time off work is always a good idea and three months on from our escape to the Spanish sunshine, I had booked off a few days to spend the week with my favourite people....and on trains. Luckily, that meant more down-time reading Dolly Alderton's Everything I Know About Love, catching up on the BBC's The Bodyguard, and listening to This Is Going To Hurt; Adam Kay's humorous yet eye-opening memoir as a Junior Doctor. In other news, I spent an entire day planning an Instagram revival, buying smoked garlic from a French market feeling utterly grown up, and baked a Christmas Cake (not realising it's a Christmas Pudding that needs feeding and Nigella's cake recipe only needed baking 3 weeks before! I just hope all that expensive dried fruit isn't mouldy by the time I open the tin again. I added an extra slosh of brandy for good measure!)

HAVE YOU READ: WHY I HATE INSTAGRAM? HOW TO ESCAPE A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH INSTAGRAM AND EMERGE UNSCATHED...

Newcastle. On a mission to see more of the UK for myself, Ryan and I had a little mid-week trip to the Toon. I was given a walking tour by the husband who studied there and shown all the places that, admittedly, we feel far to old to step inside now (e.g. a nightclub, or loud bar after 9pm). Cue lots of drinking, eating, and more train journeys when we popped over to Durham for the day. The Harry Potter fan in me squealed with delight when I realised I was on the set of the corridors at Hogwarts! Magic touch to the trip, you might say (I wouldn't though...far to cheesy).

Five Things I Want To Try In September...

Alarm Call. My least favourite moment of the day. Isn't it for everyone? I've read a lot over the summer, and heard it first-hand from my good friend, that setting your alarm for the same time every day and actually getting up then is really good for you! It helps regulate your body clock and get better quality of sleep amongst other things. My work-week can be a little all over the place and especially as we're now back in Zone 6 with a longer commute, an earlier start is necessary. However, it's currently a mad panic to get out of the door on time. The alarm clock is getting set for 6.15am and the kettle should be switched on by 6.17am. Wish me luck.

MRS A TO B: HOW TO DE-STRESS FROM WORK...

Hello Fresh. I have recently got a taste for - excuse the pun - a spot of home-cooking. I was once told, "Rose, you don't cook, you just heat things up!" and that left me a rather scorned anti-domestic goddess. However, having become utterly bored by the same five meals on repeat, I ventured to Hello Fresh in a bid to improve my skills and repertoire in the kitchen. You can use the code ROSEANDRY to get £20 off your first box (that's more than 50% off!). In other news, I ticked off my 2018 goal of baking a cherry pie and went very Desperate Housewives on my friend when I actually turned up her doorstep with said warm pie fresh from the oven! Next month, I'll be trying more home-cooking and I still have a rack of ribs and Nigella's mer-cookies on my 2018 list!
Juicing. Unlike most, our Wedding Season is about to kick off and to get 'dress-ready' I'm on a morning juicing plan with key ingredients being ginger, grapefruit and turmeric to set me up for a healthy start to the day. I've also recently subscribed to Holland & Barrett's Healthbox with daily supplements to boost hair and nail nutrition.

Capsule Wardrobe. Feeling slightly out-of-love with my clothes, I'm on a mission to streamline into seasonal collections with only items I love. The idea being to get excited each season when I rotate and refresh and unpack clothes to a "OMG, I forgot I had this!" style-gush. Blogger Anna Newton is my guiding star as the absolute Queen of The Capsule Wardrobe. I just love her geeky excitement for the organisation and planning that just speaks to me on such a level, I bloody love this woman. I recommend you check out The Quickie Guide To Starting A Capsule Wardrobe.

ClassPass. I've given up the gym. Yes, I admit it. My name is Rose and I've quit the gym. I hate it. Even when I actually went to the gym, I never went into the gym. I'm an exercise class kinda girl. Yep, trap me in a room for 60 minutes being told what to do and I'll do it (for the sake of not losing face by running out the studio!). Remembering the New York days of Physique 57, I've hunted out another Barre Class and also trying out some new classes on offer at Frame. The aim? Three workouts a week.

What have you got planned for September? 

Follow

Hormonal Breakouts: How to Fight, Tackle & Eliminate

Ever wondered why you get a spot on your chin every month? Or that a spot on your forehead means something different to a pimple on your cheek? In the last few years, my battle with hormonal breakouts has hit a new, infuriating high and here are my (now sworn by) tried and tested blemish solutions.

During my teenage years I was fortunate to have mostly avoided the evil force of puberty’s pimples, except for the odd one, so rare that I bestowed a name upon him each time 'Dave' appeared. Whilst many of my classmates were enduring train-track braces and ferocious pubescent skin, I had been one of the 'lucky ones' in the complexion stakes. I made up for it with a dodgy fringe I had cut in around my 14th birthday party but, luckily, it grew out just as my friends emerged from that phase into clear-skin, straight-teethed young women. So, aged 26, it was my turn for a chin-full of sore, large spots each month that has become a regular battle of the hormonal breakout.

Working in the skincare industry by day, I asked one of the trained skincare therapists about these spots and this is when I learnt something fascinating: our skin is, in fact, the largest organ of the body and it reflects on the outside what is happening on the inside! Like Reflexology, where the foot is a map of the human body, areas of the face represent what is going on within. I have to admit it’s rather clever when you think about it... 

Forehead? A map of hydration so expect boozy nights to show up like a beacon. Throughout university, the alcohol spot needed its own seat in the lecture theatre!

Cheeks? You are what you eat...especially if that’s fatty, dairy things! Damn that Brie. Overindulgence rules the roost here and whilst they are generally easier to conceal (hallelujah makeup) they don’t half hang around for a while!

Jawline? That’s your large intestine's activity personified.

Chin? Hormones...hello ovaries of my chinny chin chin.

Whilst you might be glad to read that the solution could so easily be clean eating, higher water intake and sensible lifestyle tweaks to put most of those blemishes to bed, there's one area which Mother Nature retains control and that is where I struggle the most. Given the whereabouts of the breakouts along my jawline, I can tell which ovary is in production that month based on its activity upon my chin! I’ve also tuned into the fact that every other month is worse - oh, the joys of womanhood! The aftermath of the havoc my hormones have wreaked is a graveyard of scars (yes I, like the rest of us, could not resist a squeeze/pop/burst!). Now it’s time to share the cavalry I call upon to help defend against the hormonal war raging upon my skin.
La Roche-Posay’s Weapons of Puss Destruction
Known as one of the laboratory brands, this French cosmetic company make blemishes quiver in the face of its topical treatments. 'Effaclar Duo' is one of the most talked about spot solution products in the market and for good reason - I can't be without it! I’ve added it into my routine twice a day as a serum, applied after cleansing and toning, before I apply my day or night cream. It could be used as your primary moisturiser, but I choose to layer it so I get added anti-ageing benefits from my day and night moisturisers (nearly 30 after all)! It’s such a lightweight formulation that you don’t feel like you’re clogging up your pores or that it’s heavy upon your skin, instead my skin drinks it up without knowing it will be keeping those vicious outbreaks at bay.

Whilst my breakouts revolve around my menstrual cycle, my biggest insecurity is the scarring that is left behind - something which this product is proven to reduce in just four weeks.

"Specifically formulated for oily and acne-prone skin in both ADULTS and teenagers. A DUAL ACTION gel moisturiser for every day that MINIMISES the appearance of SPOTS and blackheads, CONTROLS SHINE and helps PROTECTS the skin from the CAUSES OF REDNESS and brown coloured marks that are often left behind by spots. Keep skin hydrated for 24 hours. Suitable for even sensitive skin." - Extract from product description on boots.com

It gets even better that La Roche Posay have taken this magic recipe and developed different variations for our other skincare requirements: for example, with SPF30 protection mixed in - perfect for this hot summer we've had or for taking on holiday - or, with a tint for colour correction which lives in my make-up bag. 

The original formular for day or night - Effaclar Duo+, 40ml £16.00
For extra SPF protection - Effaclar Duo+ SPF30, 40ml £16.00
For makeup bag - Effaclar Duo+ Unifant Tinted Moisturiser Light (also available in Medium), 40ml £16.50 

It works. Whether there's a placibo effect going on here, I can't be sure, but both my skin and I have been calmer since this was added to my skincare routine. I still get the odd spot but I think it would be unrealistic to expect them to cease altogether. However, what I have noticed is that it has become isolated incidents whereas before there would be a couple of Dave's mates coming along to the party. The recovery time is also significantly reduced to a couple of days when I’ve been treating any outbreaks with Effaclar A.I applied topically. This is a “targeted imperfection corrector” delivering a strengthened dose of blemish-be-gone. This is one small but mighty product and in the six months I’ve been using it, I’m not even halfway through the 15ml tube despite using most days.
These are without a doubt my knight’s in shining armour when it comes to spot solution skincare. However there are a few other tricks I’ve come to live by...

Professional Facials
The difference it makes to be in the hands of a professional is the difference between the car wash and a bucket and sponge. Sometimes you do need to treat yourself as I found the benefit whilst I was on my skincare journey to my wedding day. I get that this isn’t an option for everyone’s budget but there are some great 4 for 3 deals out there and 30 minutes in the middle of a shopping session is the perfect amount of time for a deep cleansing, circulation boosting and skin-treating facial. Check out Elemis at Debenhams or John Lewis for their blemish solution 30 min facial. 

Double Cleansing
This isn’t a “fad” this is a fact that skin needs every ounce of makeup and dirt removed from your face before you go to sleep. I think most of you reading this will know that nighttime is when your skin gets to work recovering from the day, replenishing and rejuvenating.  If it’s suffocating under leftover makeup and pollution from the day, it’s going to do a half-arsed job under those circumstances. In fact, I wouldn’t blame it if it went on strike altogether! Don’t see double cleansing as a chore, see it as a moment of reprieve from the day, peace and quiet to treat yourself and your skin to a relaxing facial massage and a hot cloth to melt the day away. My favourite combinations are:

ELEMIS Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm + ELEMIS Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Wash

Or

OMOROVICZA Cleansing Foam + CLARINS One-Step Exfoliator

Make-Up Free Days 
I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t always possible but where you can embrace the #SundayScaries approach, do! I find it so liberating to have a bare face of a weekend, when I’m popping to the shops or the gym. I’ll admit, I’d never practice this at the office - if only my confidence levels in my own skin were that high - but to have even half a day off from the makeup bag will make all the difference. Besides, it truly feels like my skin is breathing.

Good Hygiene
Make sure you’re regularly cleaning your beauty tools, such as foundation brushes and beauty blender sponges. At least once a week, minimum. I tend to do this on a Sunday morning when I know I’m going makeup free that day and they can air dry and be ready for Monday’s game-face. 

Breathable Bases
Whilst it feels natural to reach for a heavy coverage foundation, make sure this isn’t at the expense of your skin getting worse. I’ve found that whilst heavier textures achieve that more air-brushed finish, particularly erasing those red marks, my overall skin health seems to suffer. It’s like it can’t breath and as a result more spots pop up! I’ve been loving It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream for a lightweight formulation that gives you colour correction without over-clogging. Add a powder to help it set and you’re good to go! Read my full review of this product here  I can’t wait to try their new matte formulation that’s just launched!

I hope you have found this blog post helpful. Spots aren’t really something I felt comfortable talking about even though they’ve been an issue for me for a few years now, but I hope this helps you or maybe a friend/sister/cousin to equip themselves against the hormonal horrors we face as women!

Follow

Why I Hate Instagram


Instagram and I have had a troubled relationship of late #hatersdonthate. My urge to curate photographs and write captions has fallen to an all time low and, instead, I’ve become a sitting tenant not paying my dues and just free-loading off the Instagram Stories for entertainment’s sake.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying the pressure to churn out beautifully crafted flatlay after flatlay, look #nofilter-beautiful in every selfie and be all #housegoals with the perfect Farrow & Ball painted walls, natural light, and rose gold props of dreams, just gets TOO MUCH. The reality is somewhat different 'unfiltered', to say the least.

Despite completely falling out of love with Instagram over the last few months, I've just spent about 8 hours and 100% of my iPhone battery organising, archiving and planning the way forward for my @MrsAtoB_ account. Those are 3 things I love to do, so, when combined, I am hoping the tables can be turned.
Star shirt, Marks & Spencer, Rose necklace, Beaverbrooks
But first I think I should explain my main reason for going off the boil with Instagram in the first place…

Feed Envy
Despite being told by @EvaChen212 herself at an Instagram-hosted event in New York last year, that having a beautifully crafted, dare-I-say colour-coded, feed does not deliver higher engagement (generally speaking).

SIDE NOTE: Eva Chen is basically Mrs Instagram – the mother of the ‘gram past, present and future working at HQ.

Account visits, and what I mean by that is clicking onto a person’s account to scroll through all their previous posts, is not a popular behaviour as most of us digest our content through the homefeed. But! Try finding a perfectionist that will listen to that! (Plus, those perfectly curated, tonally beautiful, consistently lit accounts are the ones I like admire the most!)

Like me, like me!
Flashbacks to my school days when being ‘liked’ was the currency of the playground, IG has become in my eyes *that* kid who makes the popular kids more popular and those below the radar just don't exist. That’s quite a melodramatic metaphor for saying that the statistics became an obsession of mine and like weighing scales for someone trying to lose a few pounds, the results never quite pay off for the effort involved. In short, the algorithm that everyone loves to moan about (even when they have +10k followers) wore me down. 

Not enough time – that old cliché.
Living back in London has generally left me time-poorer than I was in NYC and I do miss that Sunday focus of writing, editing and blogging when we were living in Manhattan. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so much happier being back in London but I am less inclined to carry my camera with me than I was in NYC where everything was a novelty (and as much as I’ve gone on about the novelty of supermarkets, I don’t think a pic of a Tesco Metro will cut it!).

If you want it so bad, make time!

It feels like a cop-out of an excuse when I write it down, but even the Bloggers of Class 2010 (@lilypebbles @theannaedit @icovetthee) have spoken about how much time things take to produce. Which takes me back to the point above… after all the time and energy put into a post, if you don’t get the likes, where’s the satisfaction in that? With the likes of @mariajblogs who is storming the Insta-game over the last year or so, there is hope that you can make a success of it.

Of course, there’s always an excuse for those of us who don’t have IG running through our veins…

Stories.
Total game-changer. Despite not posting on IG for months, I still interact everyday sharing Beagle pics with the husband and watching (hours of) Instagram Stories. I take my hat off to anyone who can be normal / entertaining about their lives in front of a video camera. It’s a hurdle I’ve yet to jump over (or, more likely, run at the hurdle, get winded, fall over and curl up in a ball). Favourite people to watch: @carlyrowena @mrsgifletcher and @lindseykelk


Q: What’s the Plan?
A: Playing to my strengths.
My ‘a-ha’ moment yesterday was literally just a case of identifying my strengths – so simple, it’s embarrassing really. What do I love to do that I can utilise here to make my Instagram account less tumbleweed and more #goals? Firstly, I love to plan. I love to be efficient. Combine these two traits and I’ll never have to feel the guilt of not posting in a while thanks to the help from Mosaic – an Instagram planner with the (apt) tagline ‘Plan, Perfect & Schedule’. It’s like being 27-steps ahead in a chess game. #Winning

Secondly, I must deal with the fact I’m a perfectionist and whilst striving for ‘perfect’ is so old Instagram, it doesn’t have to be a negative for me here and now. Let’s face it, until I own a mansion with several marble bathrooms, White Company styled bedrooms, a mirrored walk-in-wardrobe, sweeping staircase and @lydiaemillen style kitchen, who am I kidding? Perfection just ain’t gonna happen!

‘Spontaneity’ isn’t a word you would use to describe me...

As the saying goes, ‘good things come in threes’ so that’s what you’ll be seeing from me going forward in the horizontal form should you be one of the minority who click through to my page. It may not mean you get ‘off-the-cuff’ updates in photo-form but, a bit like blogging, I’d rather put my effort into the captions and writing than being behind (or worst, in front of) the camera on a daily basis. Any of that ‘of-the-moment’ stuff will live on stories as and when I feel the urge!

Let’s see where this #adventure goes but, for now, I’m three steps forward.
Follow

Five Highlights from the month of July


How we have flown through this last month? In fact, it feels crazy to believe I started this year living in New York! I have now been back in the bosom for over four months - four glorious months - and I think my rose-tinted spectacles are firmly fixed upon my nose and life in the UK has never felt better. I can't tell you how many moments I've just been overwhelmed by happy feelings; dinner with friends we haven't seen in over a year, moments spent by the river and, yes, even popping to Tesco on the way home (still a luxury)!

If it weren't for all the talk (read: borderline moaning) about the heatwave, the nationwide shortage of electric fans and air-con engineers being in hot demand, you could be mistaken for thinking the UK had moored up in the Mediterranean. Yet, if it weren't for the hard-to-avoid scorcher of late, I can hardly believe how quickly summer has come around. As a way to capture this year before it's over, my first blog post in a while is capturing the 'best bits' from this month just gone by.

Where did that time go?
July is one of my favourite months of the year, especially now the 1st of July commands champagne and happy memories as we celebrate our wedding anniversary. Before 2016, I was never really a fan of the summer months owing to the challenges of a summer wardrobe, permanent sweat 'tache and a complexion that was either ghostly white or lobster red. I've been particularly grateful that we even had a little rain on the morning of our wedding day to ensure I wasn't a sweaty mess on our big day!

As the novelty of wedding anniversaries hasn't worn off yet, we like to make a little effort with marking the happy day. Last year, for our first anniversary, we gave each other paper clues of places to see on a day adventuring around Manhattan. This time around, we went back to the scene of the crime and spent the day chilling (read: walking, napping, eating) around Kew Gardens. In fact, I realised I have never walked all the way to the end of The Mall which was glorious not only for its dappled shade, and I also got to see the newly renovated Pagoda. I just love this place so much, it really is a little sanctuary in London!

What a world cup.
Don't worry, this will be short and sweet - football is not a topic that lives on this blog. But, didn't our boys do well! I have always got behind our England football team (well, approximately every two years) but this year, they really did us proud. I personally think huge credit for the morale boost among us (fickle) supporters, particularly my generation, is the man at the helm who we all cried with in '96, Gareth Southgate. The man who brought back to life the love of the home-team and drove sales of waistcoats (well played, M&S). Whilst there were tears at the semi-finals, I don't think my nails could have taken another 90+ minutes of tension. Plus, the pub-drinking action has definitely taken it toll!

Weekend pleasure.
One of the perks of being home in London is, of course, that we can spread our social butterfly wings again! After spending much of June unpacking, sorting, redecorating our two-bedroom apartment, we are now happily hosting most weekends! As we are based nearer to Liverpool Street / Shoreditch way, I've come to know this area a lot better and whilst we (mostly Ryan) show our out-of-town friends around London, I'm feeling as much a tourist as they are! July 2018 was the first time I have ever been to The Breakfast Club - I know, shocking for someone who loves breakfast, particularly when I saw they had a 'Cabbies Breakfast' - oh em gee - and took a trip up The Shard for London's very own skyscraper views. Plus, not to forget I wasn't totally defeated at a game of crazy golf at Swingers. Ryan was victorious, if not a little shocked I wasn't far behind. As per the aforementioned hot weather, it has called for drinks, drinks, and more drinks. We're not picking where...by the river, on a rooftop, on our balcony (with a side of Dominos).

Seeing some sights.
Almost six weeks since our little jaunt across the continent for some much-needed R&R, last weekend we hopped on the train to my parents for a spot of country respite! For years, I dreaded going back to their country pile because it was, quite literally, a pile of rubble - bugs everywhere in the summer, freezing cold the rest of the time and that's without mentioning the caravan phase! Ugh! But, we made it through the wilderness (aka. the building years) and now their home is nothing short of a sanctuary. Late afternoon, we popped down to Hastings for a breath of sea-air and were quite literally breath-taken by an impromptu aerial display courtesy of The Red Arrows. Growing up, I would hear them fly overhead near to Biggin Hill but this was truly a spectacular sight to watch. A full twenty-five minutes of jet-plane acrobatics. Mind. Blown.

To end the night, it was a trip down memory lane to see my Dad back where he belongs on stage behind a drum-kit. He was playing at the White Rock theatre with The Quo Experience. It's been a five years since my Dad took his final bow at the 02 Arena with the actual Quo after thirteen years of smashing it all over the world (or I should say "rocking"). It was quite incredible how knee-twitchingly, head-bangingly and scarily accurate the mannerisms of the band members were to make you believe you were watching the 'real thing'. If you're a fan of the music, I cannot recommend the show highly enough as a night out!

--

So, here's to a lovely August ahead! It feels rather French of me to say we'll be spending the month in West London in a (sort of) summer city break. Basically we've migrated from Zone 6 to Zone 2 in a bid to enjoy more of our beloved river, shorter commutes, a spot of house-hunting and trying to find my London-equivalent to Physique 57!

Follow
© Mrs A to B

This site uses cookies from Google to deliver its services - Click here for information.

Professional Blog Designs by pipdig