Sunday, 22 May 2016

Naturally Beautiful - honey + avocado


I've never really been one for facemasks, not for any particular reason, it's just not something I'm that into. However, over the past few weeks with the hopeful snatches of summer we've seen, wanting to go makeup-free has been on my mind and I've turned my attention towards my skin which, admittedly, has been getting a little 'out of control' over the past month or so.

I tend to dismiss redness, blemishes and lumps on my skin during winter and blame it on the lack of sunlight, harsh weather conditions and (around the festive time), too much alcohol and rich food. I've been in denial recently about how bad it's got and only really shocked myself into realising this as I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the wing mirror coming back from circuits with no make up on the other day. I didn't recognise the skin as my own!

I've never really struggled with acne or bad skin, I had my fair share of spots as a teenager but nothing to comment on really. But now, as I see more and more of my friends go makeup free,
I get totally self-conscious at the thought of people I know seeing me with these huge red blotches, and a couple of times I've actually skipped going to the gym in the morning just so I don't have to parade my makeup free face! Other instances include slapping on the CC cream moments after waking at a friends house in a bid to harmonise my poor face.

I know, it's ridiculous.

I don't know what the driving force behind this sudden break out is - my bets would be stress, lack of sleep and water and potentially a reaction to having been a bit more 'lax' in my diet over the past few weeks - but I'm determined to sort it in time for summer!

So on Friday, I  tried out my very own homemade facemask and ohmygod what a revelation. No chemicals or shit ingredients, just two kitchen staples known for their skin enhancing qualities.

Ladies and gents, I give you... the avocado & honey mask.

You'll need:

  • 1x avocado (ripe)
  • 1x tablespoon runny honey

Naturally, the size of the avo will determine how much mask you make. I had baby avocados in and used a whole one. If you've got a normal, medium to large sized avocado I'd say it would make enough for two or three masks.

Simply mash it up (this is where it helps to be ripe; easier to mash), and drizzle over a tablespoon full of honey. Mix thoroughly.

Wash your hands, and get stuck in!


Leave on for 30 mins. Wash off with cool water and pat your face dry.

I can't believe I haven't been doing this regularly. My skin feels soo soft and silky afterwards, and looked really glowy. It definitely reduced redness and soreness too.

Why avocado + honey? 

When it comes to Vitamin E, avocado is on a pedestal and deemed as fantastic for the skin. So say, it can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles due to its antioxidant qualities, helping to protect the skin from free radicals. It's also high in oleic acid, which maintains moisture in the skin, and also helps to reduce inflammation.

Honey is thought to be naturally antibacterial, making it a good choice when trying to combat acne. It's moisturising and soothing (which explains the soft, silky feel) and great for giving skin a 'glowy' quality. I thought it would leave my skin feeling a bit sticky, but not at all.

I read up on this on the articles below, so if you're interested, check them out:
  • http://www.sheknows.com/beauty-and-style/articles/1017621/beauty-benefits-of-honey  
  • http://healthiestfoods.co.uk/avocado-skin-benefits 
  • http://www.beautyandtips.com/natural-skin-care-products-2/25-benefits-and-uses-of-avocado-for-skin-hair-health-and-beauty/ 
  • http://www.livestrong.com/article/112833-benefits-honey-skin-care/
I did see a few recipes suggesting to use oats but I feel like this might be a bit too harsh on my skin at the moment...

If you have any homemade natural facemasks that you swear by please let me know on social media as I reeeally want to see if it helps my skin long term!

image credit: http://www.wimp.com/avocado-seeds-contain-a-surprising-amount-of-nutrition-for-something-weve-all-been-throwing-away/


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Thursday, 21 April 2016

#EatPastaRunFaster @ Vapiano, Manchester



On what would have been a very ordinary Monday evening (dash from work to the gym, sprint it out, dash home, cook, tidy, shower, watch some alright TV before sliding into bed...), I wound up in Vapiano for dinner as part of their #EatPastaRunFaster campaign.

The ethos behind it is to debunk the myth we've been bombarded with over the past few years that carbs are the devil and to show that you can (and should) enjoy carbs as part of a healthy, balanced diet, *especially* if you're training.

I've been upping my running game over the past few weeks, sneaking in two ten milers and a couple of shorter, speedier runs too (#bragger). Now the weather is getting nicer and the evenings are lighter it's much easier to slot running into my workout schedule, and I love it.

I find it such a powerful means of stress relief and I get a real sense of achievement when I've reached a new distance or found a new running route. I've also recently been listening to TED Talks rather than music on long distance runs; I find them really inspiring and 'wholesome' to listen to - you should give it a go!

Anyway. Carbs.

We started off with a tour of the restaurant and got to know how the place works. You're given a chip card, and once you've chosen what you fancy eating, head on over to one of the chef stations and they cook it in front of you.

We had a good choice for seating and chose a high table with an olive tree in the middle.



Despite it being Monday night, the place did start to fill up and there was a lovely, chilled vibe to the place (I imagine this is different on a Saturday lunchtime or if there's a gig on at the Arena, though!).



To start, we went for the Insalata Caprese and the Piatto Antipasti. Oh my god. The mozzarella in the salad took me straight back to a restaurant called Mimi e Coco in Rome; so creamy and perfect against the fruity tomatoes and tart balsamic. I could've eaten that three times over (despite the portion size being HUGE), it was that good. The antipasti was amazing too; a generous helping of grana padano, roast veg, chorizo, salami and Parma ham, as well as a delicious slice of bruschetta. It was the perfect amount and we were both very impressed.



For the main carb fest affair, James went for the calzone (ham, spicy sausage, mushrooms, tomato sauce, mozzarella and chicken).


I went for gamberetti with a tomato and chilli sauce, and spelt spaghetti. Spelt is an ancient grain (a 'cousin' of wheat, if you will..) and so-say boasts more B-vitamins and iron than traditional pasta.


Dolci:


The campaign isn't called #EatCheesecakeGetLean, and we definitely didn't need pudding, but our lovely waiter highly recommended that we try their baked cheesecake (lemon and vanilla cheesecake, baked, served with a strawberry sauce). I also let slip that I was a salted caramel fan, and so out came the Cioccolata bianca (white chocolate and cream on a biscuit base with a salted caramel sauce and honeycomb). We also ended up with white chocolate icecream too, because, why not...


My favourite was the Cioccolata bianca, it was delicious.

I thought I wouldn't like the self-service element to the restaurant but I actually didn't mind it; in fact, it was nice to be able to choose your food at your own pace and I really did enjoy the fact that all the pasta is made fresh right in front of you.



Vapiano kindly treated me to dinner, however as ever, you know the drill, all opinions are very much my own.
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Monday, 28 March 2016

Sometimes I feel like I'm in Barcelona..

Fresh fruit juices in la boqueria market - I had plantain + coconut milk... it was delicious.
First up, this post is lengthy one because: there are too many amazing places not to mention here and, a 3 day weekend turned into a 5 day holiday thanks to the French airstrikes.

The trip was made even more special by the fact that James surprised me and said we were going away to our fave spot in "Portugal", so I'd packed for the beach... it only dawned on me (thanks to doctored boarding passes and being so late I didn't have time to think about the departure gate), that we were flying to Barcelona as we were at the gate.

Naturally, as an organised control freak, I was panicking at this stage, thinking (read: accusing) James of looking at the wrong gate number. In fact I was marching up to the front desk to find out exactly where our gate was before James blurted out that we were in fact flying to BCN, and not only that... but he'd organised it with the other halves of some of my closest best friends from Uni, so we were all out there together!

FRIDAY



After an early alfresco continental breakfast of cappuccinos and croissants on a lovely boulevard, we had a quick walk around the neighbourhood before heading over to the apartment to meet everyone.

Our Air b'n'b host Alex recommended we try Vinitus for a lunch, a tapas restaurant on the same street as our apartment. It was fantastic. A decent bottle of red cost nine euros, and the tapas menu was extensive and very well priced.

Favourites included the cod with honey and aioli, crispy camembert, ham egg + rosti potato and the textured chocolate pudding.
Cod with honey + aioli, + crispy camembert @ Vinitus, Barcelona

Iberian ham & egg rosti


Because we hadn't seen in each other in a while (in fact we hadn't been together since the wedding in Thailand), it ended up being quite a drawn out affair with more wine, beer, and a seemingly endless supply of Tapas being summoned to the table to fuel our chatter.

We meandered back up to our apartment - I'm annoyed as the pictures just don't do this place justice! It was in a beautiful building with a large winding staircase leading you into the huge apartment space (four bedrooms, four bathrooms, 2 living rooms, a dining room and open plan kitchen) - we were all blown away. Seriously one of the nicest places I've ever stayed in. It was absolutely vast but in a homely, arty way. Having coffee each day on the balcony was the absolute dream, I'm telling you!

credit: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/10574270
There's more on air bnb here.

The owner, Alex, was great - really top bloke with a great sense of humour, full of brilliant recommendations and very accommodating. If there's 6 or more of you going, you should definitely check this place out. Carrer del Consell de Cent is about a five minute walk away from the placa de catalunya and an amazing location for bars / restaurants and tourist attractions.

We walked everywhere.

I love exploring on foot because you see so much of a city - I definitely appreciate a place more if I've walked around. We were walking around 20,000 -30,000 steps a day, so sensible footwear was a must.. As luck would have it, as well as flip flops for 'Portugal', I'd packed my newest pair of trainers - it was really fortunate actually; the team at Clarks had got in touch a few weeks before asking if I'd like to review a pair of their women's trainers - I'll be honest, at first I was a little skeptical as my memories of Clarks shoes conjures up the back to school days with my mum or dad pressing down on my big toe to see how much room for growing there was, and the chore of having my feet clamped in the measuring apparatus.

Anyway. These were no chore to wear. They were so comfy and haven't rubbed at all, despite me wearing them for five days straight for over eight hours at a time. I'm really impressed with the design - it's a collaboration between Clarks and fashion designer Christopher Raeburn. I love the heel loop tab and the texture of the nubuck (leather).



How nice are they?!

On Friday evening we happened to stumble across something called the VanVan market at the port. It was a gourmet food and drink festival celebrating old vehicles, and tours round in convoy.

Burgers, burritos, waffles, cheese, churros and more, the smells from each stall were amazing. We drank red wine, soaking up the atmosphere and listened to a live band before walking into the Gothic Quarter.






SATURDAY

Running in Barcelona was a great way to explore at pace (and burn off some of the excess tapas / sangria!). I did a 5 and a 6 mile run here over the five days and what I found so beautiful about running was the variety of the terrain. From our apartment I ran down the busy placa de catalunya, down the infamous las ramblas, along the port and up to the beach, mixing bustling boulevards with wide open spaces, pavements and sand.

Nichola + I blew away the cobwebs with a slightly chilly run and came back ready to attack brunch.


We'd heard about Cosmo through Alex. A cafe-cum-contemporary art space, it was brilliantly edgy and just hipster enough to feel like I was back in the northern quarter in Manchester.

Brunch was fab, too:


I opted for 'Munch': toasted bread with oil and salt with avocado, egg and salmon, a cappuccino and an orange, carrot, apple and ginger juice.





I'd definitely recommend this place for brunch or coffee. It was bustling with groups of friends and young families - we were only sorry we couldn't sit outside!

After fueling up on that it was time to get touristy, including a trip to the Sagrada Familia, ascending one of the towers and creeping slowly back down its narrow, winding staircase. Despite not being overtly religious you can't not feel a sense of sublime inside; it's without a doubt a must-do.








Beautiful La Pedrera
For dinner that night, we walked around for ages (maybe an hour?) to try and find somewhere we all wanted to eat, weaving in and out of side streets in the Gothic Quarter and reaching new levels of hangry.

Kate's friend had recommended Palosanto and it was pure chance that we stumbled across it in our time of need.



I'm so glad we did. I had the best patatas bravas I've ever experienced. The atmosphere was great; groups of friends sat at high, long tables and waiters rushing back and forth with hot plates and jugs of sangria.

We followed suit...


James + I shared; patatas bravas (so, so good - crispy potato skin, fluffy inside, with a hot sauce and a garlic aioli sauce)


Iberian ham, olives + tomato, salt and oil on bread (this bread was a common occurrence in BCN in all restaurants, and it was a winner with me!)


Chicken wings (sticky soy sauce was greeeattt).


Spicy peppers (these were ridiculously moreish and amazing when you got a large salt crystal with one)


Egg + potato (I've never eaten so many egg / potato / ham combinations as I did last week - this simple dish works brilliantly and was a firm favourite).


The fried aubergine with honey was insane and I urge you to get this if you ever go.

I can't decide between Vinitus and Palosanto as to which was my favourite tapas restaurant - Vinitus was great and we liked it so much we went twice (and also because it was so close to our flat), every time we walked past the place was so busy. Palosanto was definitely the right place to eat on a Saturday night.


SUNDAY




In my book Sunday's are made for chilling and that's just what we did; after a breakfast of waffles and fresh juices we ambled along avenue diagonal down to the beach to relax...




Barcelona has everything - a busy city feel, a palm tree lined port, a beach, bars, history, art, architecture, amazing food, I could go on... It's the ultimate destination for a getaway - city or beach break!
Fresh fruit at la boqueria

Places we couldn't go to but really wanted to:

  • Brunch + Cake - we tried three times to eat here but the wait was too long, the queue was always out the door with groups of people waiting outside. The reviews sound great and the photos look incredible - if you ever get in, let me know how it is!
  • Green + Berry - I spotted this little jaunt on a walk to Av. Diagonal, but unfortunately didn't have time to stop. Looks like an amazing place for juices, healthy lunches to go and vegan treats!


Barcelona really reminds me of Nice, I felt so at home after a few days. It was one of the best trips ever, a top weekend! Thank you James + the boiz for surprising us.

Sunset @ the Princess Negresco



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