Life lately - six November highlights

Another month over and I can't believe that Christmas is now less than 4 weeks away! As it's our first one as newly weds I'm looking forward to all the festivities, food and fun, but first a look back at a few of my favourite November highlights:

Blogging
After a patchy start this year I've finally been able to dedicate some proper time to blogging this November and I'm really enjoying the whole process of writing posts, taking photos and being part of the community again. 

What started as a place to share my love of all things beauty has evolved into more of a lifestyle blog and it's been so nice to relive the day and share our wedding and mini moon as well as my favourite bottomless brunch in London

Afternoon tea with the girls 
One of the best things about blogging is the friendships that we've made and in November I was able to catch up with the lovely Aysha and Safira. We had a really lovely afternoon tea at Amba Hotel and chatted away for hours over endless cups of tea, sandwiches and scones. You can see more photos of the amazing food on my Instagram here.

Christmas cooking class
This year I've been feeling uncharacteristically festive in November so when an invite to a Christmas cooking class landed in my inbox I jumped at the chance. Using state of the art AEG ovens we made our own mince pies and a super easy but delicious vegetable pastry parcel, before being treated to our first Christmas roast of the year. With free flowing prosecco and all the beautiful decorations it was such a lovely way to kick off the festive season. Currys PC World have also put together some of their top tips so if you're cooking this Christmas then check out their blog post here.

Taste of London
We were also given tickets to Taste of London and we both loved going around all the food stalls and restaurants. As a celebration of the best that London has to offer, there were so many great restaurants to choose from and as all the dishes are on the small side we were able to try quite a few. Highlights include the chicken bun from Bao, scallops from Les 100 de Taillevet and the most amazing waffle and ice cream from Rok. Sadly Taste of London has now finished but it'll be back next summer at Regent's Park.

Vuelio blog awards
Just before the end of the month I put my party dress on and headed off to Bloomsbury to celebrate all things blogging at the Vuelio awards. With a sparkling drinks reception, 3 course meal and a chance to chat with other bloggers it was a really lovely evening and big congratulations to Menswear Style for winning Best UK blogger!

Personal training and fitness
I never thought I'd be someone that enjoyed exercise but I have to say getting a PT has completely transformed my routine. We do a mixture of cardio and weights which is a complete killer but you always feel so good afterwards and combined with a healthier diet I've really noticed the results this year. I'm now working towards doing 10 pull ups in a row and it's so satisfying being able to increase reps or to go up a weight.

Have you ever been to Taste of London? What were your November highlights?

*We were guests of Currys PC World

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The everyday make up essentials - 5 products for a natural polished look

As much as I like to experiment with make up and try out new colours, there are a few tried and tested favourites that I always find myself reaching for, especially during the week when I need to look polished and professional for work:

The everyday make up essentials

Base
I find a good base is key and as I prefer something more lightweight the Chantecaille just skin tinted moisturiser is perfect. It's so quick and easy to apply and adds just enough coverage to smooth over the complexion and even out my skin tone. I also like that has SPF and offers protection against pollution, thus avoiding the need for extra sunscreen and anti-antioxidant. 

Concealer
Next I like to go in with a concealer for those dark circles and any patches of redness. I first discovered Bobbi Brown instant full coverage concealer at a bridal make up trial and loved how creamy yet pigmented it was. The doe foot application means you can be precise with your application and I find that it sits well on the skin without settling into any fine lines or creasing.

Blusher
A blush is always essential to lift the complexion and recently I've been reaching for Bobbi Brown blush in Apricot. Another bridal trial discovery this was actually the colour I wore on my wedding day and I just love how flattering and warming the pinky coral colour is on my skin tone. It's fairly pigmented so definitely one to build up the colour slowly, but it lasts well during the day and photographs beautifully.

Brows (and mascara)
I think it's safe to say that I fell in love with Bobbi Brown cosmetics in the run up to the wedding and another product that made it's way into my daily make up routine is the Bobbi Brown perfectly defined long wear brown pencil in Espresso. If you have dark brown/black hair like me then this is the perfect shade. The waxy pencil is also super easy to apply with it's slanted angle and the brow comber so handy for brushing through and correcting any mistakes.

(Also not included in the photo is a good mascara - I'm currently switching between Maxfactor false lash effect and Benefit Roller Lash).

Lips
Finally a slick of lip colour and I'm good to go. This time of year it's all about getting as much moisture as I can which is why I tend to reach for a Clinique chubby stick over lipstick. Mighty mimosa in particular is a really gorgeous pinky nude shade which is great for everyday wear, adding just a hint of colour and finishes the look off perfectly. 

Have you tried any of the products above? What are your daily make up essentials?

Other posts you may like:
Clarins instant light lip comfort oil review
Three new cleansers to try
Perricone MD no make up makeup

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Esthechoc beauty chocolate advent calendar - a guilt free treat

With Christmas just around the corner I've been on the lookout for an advent calendar and this year I've found a guilt free treat in the form of Esthechoc beauty chocolate advent calendar:


Chocolate is one of my favourite treats anyway, especially this time of year but what makes Esthechoc unique is that it's been specifically designed for skin health with a blend of antioxidants, polyphenols and astaxanthin. So each morning I can enjoy my chocolate guilt free knowing that it's helping to reduce inflammation, boost circulation and promote a youthful looking complexion, which is definitely something I need help with as I tend to be quite unhealthy over the festive season.

Each Eschechoc comes individually wrapped and I like that the portion sizes are slightly bigger than what you'd get in a standard advent calendar. Quite often with 'healthier' foods I find that the flavour can be affected but these taste just like a good quality dark chocolate, not bitter at all and really enjoyable to eat. 

It's also beautifully packaged in a luxurious gold and white box with 24 doors and a pretty snowflake design. At £60 Esthechoc beauty chocolate advent calendar is definitely one of the more luxury calendars but I like to think of it as skincare and food combined and I'm looking forward to seeing how my skin will benefit over the festive season. 

Have you tried Esthechoc before? What are your favourite advent calendars this year?

Other posts you may like:
The Body Shop advent calendar
No 7 advent calendar
Christmas gift guide for her
Christmas gift guide - stocking fillers and secret santas

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Jo Malone bridal consultation - how I chose my perfect wedding fragrance

I've always loved how fragrance has this amazing ability to evoke memories and transport you back to a moment. So when it came to choosing my wedding perfume there was only ever one brand in question - the beautifully scented and luxurious Jo Malone:


With over 25 perfumes there really is something for everyone, but I'd always found the choice a little overwhelming so I booked us in for a bridal consultation so we could really explore the perfumes properly. 

Jo Malone Scent Your Wedding is a complimentary service designed to introduce you to the range and to help you to choose the perfect fragrance for your big day. Available at various boutiques and counters across the country, it starts with a lovely glass of chilled prosecco before we sat down to discuss our wedding plans and our fragrance likes and dislikes. I've always gravitated towards fruity floral scents so wanted something similar but a bit more grown up and luxurious for the wedding.
Based on this, the Jo Malone consultant brought over a selection of perfumes for us to smell and after hearing our comments she was able to narrow down the range to a few favourites. After this came the fun part of trying out different combinations to create an even more unique scent. 

Now as anyone who knows me will tell you I'm super indecisive and it took me a good 10-15 minutes to decide on beautiful Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia as my main perfume. There were a few combinations which I liked, but ultimately the warmth and sweetness of Jo Malone Orange Blossom won and I soon had my perfect wedding perfume combination. 

The Jo Malone Scent Your Wedding consultation then ends with a hand and arm massage using your chosen body creme and cologne which is such a lovely way to relax and be sure that it's definitely the right combination for you. 

There's no pressure to buy but having tried it so many times before I couldn't resist picking up a bottle of the Jo Malone English Pear & Freesia cologne and it wasn't long before I was back for the Jo Malone Orange Blossom too. You can also buy certain perfumes in a beautiful bridal lace bottle and get it engraved too which is now top of my wish list for Christmas.

On our wedding day I absolutely loved the combination of the two perfumes together and received so many compliments too. Now whenever I spray either of the Jo Malone colognes I'm instantly transported to happy memories of our wedding and mini moon in Sorrento

Have you tried any of the Jo Malone perfumes? Which fragrance did you wear on your wedding day?

Other posts you may like:
We got married - a quick catch up and life update
DKNY Be Desired
Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire
Boss Nuit and breakfast with Gwyneth Paltrow 

An indulgent Han Setto brunch at Roka Aldwych

Is there anything nicer at the weekend than a long lie in followed by a lazy brunch? Over the years we've tried a lot of different restaurants in London, but with it's Asian inspired menu the Han Setto brunch at Roka Aldwych is one that we always find ourselves returning to: 


The brunch starts a refreshing glass of Bellini each as you settle into the restaurant and peruse the menu.

 Edamame beans and a selection of vegetable pickles

Soon a variety of starters are brought to the table. These are all designed to share and Roka regularly changes the menu too, so you are always guaranteed to try something new. Don't worry though as the favourites (such as dumplings and sushi) stay, although you might be teased with a new flavour.

There are 10 (unlimited) starters in total and of the cold selection I was particularly impressed with the sliced sashimi and tomato salad. Both very light and refreshing and the perfect start to a delicious meal.

Also included in the Roka Han Setto brunch are unlimited drinks for the duration of the meal. There's a choice of red, white or sparkling wine and naturally we went for the prosecco. The waiters were brilliant at topping up our glasses - in fact I don't think mine was empty the whole time and I definitely felt a little light headed by dessert.

Crunchy vegetable and prawn temperura with a dipping sauce. These were so moreish - the vegetables had just the right amount of bite, and the batter light and crispy without any hint of greasiness. 

No Japanese meal would be complete without some sushi and we both loved this plate. Little bite sized rolls filled with salmon and avocado as well as a crunchy tempura. 

There's one dish that stands out though and it's these delicious dumplings. Over the years we've tried both the beef and pork options and I think Roka are currently serving a chicken dumpling as part of the brunch. Think umami rich filling encased in a lightly fried skin, all served with a soy based sauce and lightly picked vegetables. So good that we ended up getting a second portion to share.

I always find it fascinating watching chefs at work and at Roka Aldwych the robata grill is located in the middle of the restaurant so you can see the meat being cooked right in front of your eyes. It was impressive the skill and speed they managed to cook all the dishes and I'd definitely recommend eating at the bar at least once. 


For mains you each choose a dish and on this particular occasion we went with the beef sirloin and ribs. The beef was grilled to perfection - medium rare and juicy but it was ribs which were the star of the show. Tender, melt in your month and smothered in a delicious sweet sticky sauce with just a hint of zinginess from the lime, these were so moreish and definitely worth getting your hands dirty for.

By this point we were pretty full but there was still one more course to come, and the dessert platter at Roka is seriously impressive. Again this changes regularly but there's always a selection of fruit, ice cream and desserts. I loved the chocolate mousse Budda and the green tea crumble as well as the selection of sorbets which rounded off the meal nicely. 

All in all an absolutely delicious brunch with bottomless drinks, and I'd go so far as to say it's one of my favourites in London. Highly recommended and it's worth keeping your eye on the Time Out Offers website too as they regularly have offers for the Roka Han Setto brunch. 
Have you ever been to Roka Aldwych? What are your favourite restaurants for weekend brunch?

Other posts you may like:
Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley Hotel 
Lunch at Babylon - Kensington Roof Gardens
Barbecoa St Pauls
Senor Ceviche 

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Three skincare heroes to try this Autumn/Winter

With the wedding this summer and now winter just around the corner I've been making more of an effort with my skincare, and after trying out various new launches there are three products which have really impressed:


The original liquid gold is somewhat of a hero product but I must admit the idea of an acid seemed rather scary. So when Alpha H launched their new Liquid Gold Rose I was instantly intrugued. The active ingredient of glycolic acid is the same as in the original formula but the addition of rose makes it gentler and more soothing on the skin, great for a first timer like myself. You simply apply some of the liquid onto a cotton pad then sweep over the face and the glycolic acid works by loosening dead skin cells and gently exfoliating the skin. There's a delicate floral scent and my skin definitely tingles on application but it's nothing too uncomfortable or burning. I then apply my night serum and cream as normal. Because of the hype I had high expectations and I have to say I was not disappointed. The next morning my skin was so smooth and radiant and even after just a few uses my skintone seems better and spots less problematic. Definitely a new favourite!

Now that I'm in my late twenties I've been reaching more for anti-ageing formulas and for day cream I've been loving Lancome Genifique Youth Activating Cream. It's rich and hydrating but at the same time non greasy and quick absorbing so ideal for using under make up. I can't seem to find much information about the ingredients online but it's designed to target the first signs of ageing, namely dullness, fine lines and lack of elasticity which is definitely something that I need help with! With continued use I've noticed my skin's hydration levels improving and it just generally looks more plumped up and healthier. 

With all acids it's important to use sunscreen to protect the skin and although I still love Piz Buin as my morning SPF I've been topping up throughout the day with Garnier Ambre Solaire Hydrating Face Mist SPF50. A relatively new concept you use it as you would a face spray and it's great for on the go applications, lunch breaks or in my case after a workout at the gym. I find the spray so light  and it can also be used over make up, which is such an advantage compared to the more traditional sunscreen. To avoid any white patches I find it works best when sprayed from a distance and I also like that it contains glycerin for long lasting hydration. 

Have you tried any of the 3 products above? What have been your favourite skincare launches this year?

Other posts you may like:
The everyday make up essentials
Three new cleansers to try
Clarins instant light lip comfort oil review
The holiday skincare essentials

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We got married - a quick catch up and life update

Hello remember me?! It's been a while since my last blog post and it's safe to say that 2017 hasn't been my best year for blogging. There's been a lot going on behind the scenes though so today I thought I'd share a few highlights from the last few months:
We got married!
After nearly 2 years of planning we got married this July at the beautiful Kew Gardens. In typical British summer style it poured with rain for most of the day but I can honestly say that it didn't matter. If anything it kept everyone together and we both had such a fun day. Our registrars were so lovely and and the ceremony felt so personal and meaningful. We both also loved the bubble confetti and whizzing around the gardens in a golf buggy afterwards for our photos during the reception.

I'm still debating about how best to share wedding content (we had some great suppliers and both learnt so much from the process), but for now feel free to check out my Instagram for more photos and a big shout out to Camilla for capturing our day so beautifully.



Mini-moon in Sorrento and Rome
Our main honeymoon will be next year but just after the wedding we hopped onto a plane for a blissful few days of relaxation and exploring in Sorrento and Rome. I've never been to Italy before but the country is so beautiful and a few days by the sea was just what we needed after all the stress of wedding planning. Wherever you looked the view was just so picturesque in Sorrento and the pasta and gelato unbelievably good. Highly recommended if you're ever looking for a short break or mini-moon.

Personal training and fitness
Like a lot of people I've struggled with health and fitness over the years but at the start of 2017 I decided I wanted to tone up for the wedding so signed up with a personal trainer and it's made such a difference.

We do a combination of strength and cardio which is always a killer but it's reassuring to know that I'm doing all the exercises correctly and getting the most out of every workout. I'm also constantly being pushed and it's surprisingly motivating being able to increase the number of reps or move onto that next weight. For the first time ever I can honestly say I enjoy exercising and I feel a lot happier in myself as a result.


Blogging and the future of Peonies and lilies
At the start of the year I became quite disillusioned with blogging and combined with a broken laptop and hectic schedule Peonies and lilies naturally look a bit of a back seat. I've missed it a lot though and now that the wedding's over and I'm looking forward to sitting down and writing posts again. There'll still be beauty content but I'm hoping to have lots more travel and restaurant reviews as well as a few wedding posts too. 

Photo above from my birthday meal at Hutong at The Shard - look out for a review soon and let me know if you have any blog post requests!

Have you ever been to Sorrento or Rome? How has your 2017 been so far?

Other posts you may like:
Jo Malone bridal consultation - how I chose my perfect wedding fragrance
2016 - the highlights
Life - July/August round up
Life - a little update


A delicious steak and Sunday roast at Barbecoa St Paul's

One of the best things about living in London is that there's always somewhere new to try and since I've been working in The City it feels like we've discovered a whole new area of bars and restaurants. And seeing as steak is one of our favourite treats, Barbecoa St Paul's seemed like the perfect location for a Sunday lunch:



As we were celebrating we decided to start off with a round of cocktails, me with the Jessica Rabbit and R with a Country-side Cobbler. The Cobbler was light and refreshing but the real star of the show was the Jessica Rabbit. A blend of vanilla vodka, strawberry puree, elderflower, lime and and prosecco, it was fruity and sweet, with just the right amount of fizz -probably one of my favourite drinks of all time.


With the wedding less than 3 month's away I've been making an effort to eat healthier and as I love the fresh zingy flavours of Ceviche this seemed like the obvious choice. The portion size was really generous and I loved the delicate balance between the scallops, sea bass and citrus fruit.


R went for the spicy chicken wings, which although heavier had a lovely crispy coating and smokey paprika flavour. Wings and blue cheese sauce is such a classic combination and the pickles on the side provided a nice touch of freshness.



Located at the top of One New Change shopping centre Barbecoa had a great view of St Paul's Cathedral and the giant glass windows ensured the restuarant felt light and airly at all times.


Time for another round of cocktails and I loved the Jessica Rabbit so much I couldn't resist ordering another one. We also tried Salty Dog's Gimlet which was an interesting combination of gin, salt & lime cordial, seaweed and explosive. A good one to try if prefer your cocktails a little less sweet. 


On Sundays Barbecoa St Paul's only offer a set menu but with most if not all the a la carte starters and desserts on the menu we didn't feel like we were missing out too much. Plus it was great value, especially considering the location and portion sizes. The pork belly and loin was deliciously flavoured and tender with crispy crackling and a roast apple for sweetness.


Although there's sirloin included on the Sunday menu there's also the option to order a fillet at an additional charge. We asked for this medium rare and it came perfectly cooked with a delicious carmalisation on the outside, served with bone marrow, toast and rich Bernaise sauce. 


All roasts come with a huge pot of sides, included potatoes, Yorshire pudding and vegetables as well as a little jug of gravy. For the steak we chose chips and broccoli although I have to admit we were also very tempted by the Mac & cheese!


Me looking very happy with my cocktail!



The restaurant has a chic modern decor which I thought suited the location perfectly and I loved that one side of the wall was a giant wine rack.



By this point we were feeling pretty full but upon seeing the apple custard brioche we couldn't resist ordering a portion to try. For a dish that could have potentially been very rich the brioche slices tasted surprisingly light and the stewed apples and raisins perfect after such a meaty meal. I'd also recommend the Mai Tini which was almost like the dessert in drink form.

Overall, a really enjoyable Sunday lunch and given that Barbecoa St Paul's is so close to work we'll definitely be back another day to try the a la carte menu.

Barbecoa St Paul's, 20 New Change, London, EC4M 9AG

Have you ever been to Barbecoa St Paul's? What are your favourite restaurants in The City?

Other posts you many like:
An indulgent Han Setto brunch at Roka Aldwych
Indian Accent New Delhi - restaurant review
Overnight stay Careys Manor Hotel and Senspa
Lunch at Sky Garden, Walkie Talkie building

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