The joy of snail mail

I’m going to say it: I miss handwritten letters.

There’s something so comforting and personal about receiving a handwritten letter in the post. A letter you can hold and feel and turn the pages of. You can see the writer’s handwriting style and that can tell you a lot about them.

My friend George is a freelance illustrator and she sometimes writes to me. I love it because not only do I get an update from her, it’s handwritten and she doodles all over the letter and the envelope. I love them so much I keep them!

Here’s the most recent letter I received in the post from her:

Handwritten letter and doodled envelope

I don’t write to my friends enough but I should do as a letter in the post is still so exciting. It also gives me an excuse to buy lots of pretty stationery and nice pens, which I’d otherwise have little use for (it doesn’t stop me looking and drooling though).

Perhaps I need to start a bloggers’ snail mail? In the past I’ve seen Secret Santas where bloggers have signed up to send each other presents and I think that’s a really nice idea too, but something with a little handwritten note in the post is even more personal. Anyone up for it?

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A beauty consultation with Laurie Hadleigh

Have you heard about the beauty consultations that Tesco is offering? It’s a new campaign where a few well-known beauty industry experts and bloggers have teamed up with Tesco to offer one-to-one personalised beauty consultations – for free! You just need a Google account to sign up as the sessions are hosted as Hangouts and you need to provide details of the beauty topic you want to discuss.

The beauty consultation booking process

I decided to sign up with Laurie Hadleigh, a celebrity stylist and beauty editor to get her advice on everyday make up. I have got into a bit of a rut with my make up; I pretty much wear the same style every day. I shape and define my eyebrows with a pencil and slap on a bit of liquid eyeliner and mascara. Done. I suppose I’m lucky that I don’t really need to wear foundation as I have quite clear skin, but I could at least change the rest of my make up routine.

I feel like what I’m doing is a bit boring – and it’s been the same for about 10 years! I suppose it’s mostly because apart from the basics I find make up a bit overwhelming as there are so many different types of products. It’s difficult to know where to start. I’d like to liven it up a bit but keep it looking natural and after a read of all the bloggers’ profiles, it seemed like that was exactly what Laurie specialises in.

The Tesco beauty experts

I booked my session and after a couple of emails with Laurie I was good to go. I was a bit nervous about having a personal video chat with someone I didn’t know but actually I loved it! Laurie was so sweet and really knowledgeable about products she recommended to me. She tailored them exactly to what I was asking, showing me each product by holding it up to the camera from her own make up bag and even demonstrated a few products on herself.

She was very complimentary, saying I was lucky that I have a good complexion and so don’t need to wear much make up. She suggested that I can still focus on my eyes with mascara but also accentuate my eyebrows and cheeks for a different, but easily maintainable, look that’s not too over the top.

I currently use a Lancome eyebrow pencil which I get on quite well with but Laurie recommended the Barry M Brow Kit and a Revlon angled brush – so I might look at those to create an alternative look.

She suggested I use Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess and showed me how to apply it – or MAC Blush in Raisin on the apples of the cheeks to create a bit of colour. I’ve never worn bronzer so I’m definitely up for this.

Laurie also recommended some nude lipsticks for a really subtle accompaniment to the natural look. I’m a bit lazy with my lips, I tend to leave them bare (apart from my trusty Vaseline) in the day and might wear a red lipstick if I’m on a night out. She said she thinks that Maybelline Baby Lips in Pink Punch might suit me and also recommended a couple of alternative pillar box red lipsticks for evening wear.

Finally I asked her about concealer as I struggle to find a colour that matches my mixed race skin. Laurie is also mixed race, and although she has a different skin tone I thought she might be able to recommend some brands or types of products to try. She suggested the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser (I love Laura Mercier so will definitely investigate this one), BD Trade Secrets Light Effect Concealer Pen or Rimmel London Wake Me Up Concealer so hopefully one of these will help me to effectively conceal the dark rings that I sometimes get around my eyes.

I left the chat feeling so positive and pleased that I’d had some personal recommendations. I’ve been tempted before to book onto a make up course with a make up brand or chat to sales advisors in Boots or a department store but I’ve been put off because I felt they’d likely just try to sell me their products rather than recommend the items that were actually right for me. So this consultation was perfect, just what I needed. I’m tempted to book another session with Laurie to get some hair styling tips!

If you’re interested in a private tutorial with one of the beauty bloggers, whether it’s to get make up, nails, hair or skin care advice, check out http://www.tescoliving.com/beauty/consultations

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Recipe: Fillet of sea bream with salsa

I’m always looking for healthy recipes that both Rob and I can enjoy together. We actually tend to like quite different foods so it’s a challenge. Whereas I really like salads and pasta dishes, Rob is very much a meat and two veg man – it’s bangers and mash and hearty stews all the way.

So I was quite pleased when I came across this recipe as it seemed like something we’d both like – fresh sea bream with a salsa salad (and a sneaky side of chips!). Additionally, it’s really simple to make and mostly uses ingredients we’ve already got at home. I hate buying ingredients for a specific recipe knowing that I’ll never use them again, it seems like such a waste of money.

And this is so quick to make!

The original recipe is from Sunrise Care and it’s designed for four people so I roughly halved the amounts for the two of us. I also adapted it slightly to be low fodmap (it originally had onions in the salsa too so I removed them).

Ingredients – serves two

2 sea bream fillets

10ml olive oil

25ml white wine

Fresh rosemary (the recipe asked for fresh but I could only get dried)

1 tomato, cored and finely diced

1/4 red pepper, seeded and finely diced

1 tsp malt vinegar

1 tsp brown sugar

Few drops of Tabasco sauce

2 big handfuls watercress

For the dressing:

25ml olive oil

1/4 tsp French wholegrain mustard

Pinch of salt and ground black pepper

2 lemon wedges to serve

Recipe ingredients

Method:

1. Preheat oven to  200C or 180C (fan).

2. Place the fillets skin side down on a baking tray lined with a greased baking sheet. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary, sprinkle with wine and season with salt and pepper.

3. Cover the tray with foil to create a parcel and bake for 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile make the salsa – combine the tomato, red pepper, vinegar, sugar and Tabasco and season.

5. Make the dressing – combine the olive oil, French wholegrain mustard and season with salt and pepper.

6. Arrange the watercress on a plate. Layer a few spoonfuls of the salsa and position the cooked sea bream on top. Top with the remaining salsa and the dressing. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.

Sea bream with salsa meal

This was a really quick and simple meal and we both loved it. Rob particularly liked the salsa so I can see that popping up with our other meals soon!

Sunrise assisted living have their own team of dedicated chefs who come up with a range of healthy delicious recipes, including this one. I was provided with the ingredients to make this recipe.

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Best friends, a birthday and a beach

At the weekend I went on a mini holiday to Wales to celebrate my friend Emily’s 30th birthday. Her parents live on a farm near Tenby and they have two holiday cottages in the grounds – perfect for a big group of us!

The cottages were compact but lovely and cosy, each with two bedrooms and a large open plan living area. We had a log burner in our cottage which was lovely on the cold nights.

The weekend was full of good food, drinks, walks and lots of card games (anyone else know Shithead?!). On the Saturday we went for a quick power walk and jog in the morning which was actually really nice and has – almost – inspired me to start running again. We went for a walk along the beach in Saundersfoot too which was really pretty and the sea was so calming. Although I live in Brighton I don’t actually go down to the seafront much outside of summer so I really enjoyed just watching the waves.

Saundersfoot beach

Larking around on Saundersfoot beach

We also had some amazing food. On one evening my friend made Spaghetti Vongole, a gorgeous Jamie Oliver recipe for spaghetti with clams in white wine. Here’s the recipe – mine was adjusted to be gluten free and low fodmap of course!

Gluten free Spaghetti Vongole

We also made a huge roast dinner for 11 people – with both meat and vegetarian options, amazing roast potatoes and loads of veggies. I actually had the meat option (I’ve been eating meat for a few months but prior to this I was a pescetarian and before that a vegetarian for many years). We had lamb which wouldn’t have been my first choice but we went with the group majority – and being in Wales it seemed like a good choice.

Playing card games

Drinking card games

Not forgetting the drinks – I got a little too drunk on one of the nights (lets not get into that…)! There was lots of wine, prosecco and gin, but a favourite was a Singapore Sling which was made with gin, syrup, cherry brandy and tonic – gorgeous! I’m not normally a big gin fan but the cherry flavouring was just lovely. Here’s the recipe for that too.

It was so lovely to spend the whole weekend with friends that I normally only get a couple of hours with every three or four months (we live in different areas of the country). I was sad when the trip was over!

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Review: Personalised romantic novel

When a press officer from U Star Novels got in touch and asked if I’d like a personalised steamy romantic novel for Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t resist. I knew that Rob would find it hilarious.

The customised books let you step into the leading role of your own romance or adventure story. It asks you a number of questions about you and your partner – such as your names, eye colour, jobs, favourite foods and drinks and drops them into a book to make it personal to you. I remember having a Little Mermaid type book like this when I was little, which named me as the mermaid and also named some of my family and I loved it.

I chose a book called English Encounters simply because it was about a romantic trip away to Brighton. How could I not take the Brighton story?!

I haven’t read it properly yet, just skimmed a few bits, as I’m intending it to be a Valentine’s present for Rob rather than for me. Here’s an excerpt though:

Personalised book excerpt

I’ve attached the copy as a photo rather than typing it out just in case there are any copyright issues! But as you can see it’s using our names and mentions my favourite perfume – Diesel Fuel For Life. Not quite sure why the shop is called Pecksniff?!

It even has a photo of us both on the back cover!

Personalised book front cover

Personalised book back cover

I can’t wait to see his reaction and enjoy our own personalised little book. If you’re looking for a unique last minute Valentine’s present for your beau, this customised 50 Shades rival could be it!

 

I was provided with a free personalised book for this post.

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