I’m Getting Married!

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged but I’ve got a very exciting reason to get started again. Two weeks ago my lovely, lovely boyfriend surprised me in the park after a picnic with a gorgeous sapphire and diamond antique engagement ring.

If I’m 100% honest, it wasn’t a *total* surprise, given that we’ve been talking about getting married for a while, and he’d checked with me on what style of ring I liked, but it was still a bit of a shock to see him actually on one knee. I almost asked him “Why are you weirdly kneeling like that” but thank god I kept that to myself.

I don’t wear any jewellery on a day-to-day basis (I’ve tried, but I’m just not an accessories kind of gal) so he really wanted to make sure I’d actually like it, which of course I do. I’ve gone full Gollum and am refusing to take it off, save for sleeping or washing up.

Now, onto the big one – the wedding planning. I’ve done pretty damn well in the past two weeks with getting everything lined up. It helps having a secret Pinterest board (that can finally go public – hurrah!) and a keen sense of organisational detail.

So far, I’ve lined up the venue, the photographer, the DJ (he’s a cracker) and bought my shoes which I nabbed in the sales online. Our working date is 25th March next year which is only a crazy seven months away.

We definitely want a low-key wedding and both of us want to get married as soon as possible. For me, it’s because my grandma has been unwell this past year and she is 88 so seems a little unfair to make her wait much longer. Her response when I told her I was engaged was hilarious: “Oh thank god, it’s finally happening!”

The big next steps are sorting out the guestlist (both my SO and I have big families – eep), booking the registrar and sending out the invites. Once that’s done I’m going to take a breather until October when Operation #FindMyWeddingDress begins.

Any brides-to-be or married ladies with wedding planning tips, hit me up! I’ve taken to scouring Pinterest and sites like The Knot and Rock My Wedding but a personal recommendation is always a winner.

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The Cult Beauty Box by Vivianna & Lily

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It’s a little less than two weeks until my birthday, which means I’m looking for any excuse to treat myself. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to start taking better care of my skin – I’m officially past the mid-twenties bit of my life and a quick dash with a cleansing wipe at the end of the day just isn’t cutting it anymore.

So I chose to treat myself with the Cult Beauty box collaboration with Anna of ViviannaDoesMakeup + Lily of LilyPebbles. It’s been a while since I’ve tried a beauty box, and this one really appealed to me. There’s definitely a focus on skincare, which was perfect for me considering that’s my new obsession!

The Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel is a big blogger favourite, and I can see why. The gel turns to oil on the skin, which feels gorgeously hydrating and leaves your skin feeling completely clean but with a good layer of moisture. I normally use the Liz Earle Hot Cloth Cleanser as my usual cleanser, but I think Oskia may replace this as my daily cleanser of choice.

I’m also loving the Pixi Hydrating Milky Mist. As a last step before applying primer this has totally changed my base game. My skin is usually pretty well behaved but adding this to my routine has meant that my foundation goes on even more smoothly and sits better on the skin. It’s also really refreshing on hot days so I can see this being a staple over summer.

Another product that has also been incredible to trial was the Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil. I’ve seen this featured in Harvey Nichols and Space NK a lot recently but the price tag (an eye watering £85 for 30ml) has put me off. It does come in a slightly unnerving shade of blue which means massage is required to really let it sink into the skin, but the fragrance and texture of the oil is just lovely. As a final step before bed it really relaxes you and I’ve seen a huge improvement in the texture of my skin since I’ve started using it.

Finally, a bit of a wildcard but I really loved the addition of the Jade Facial Roller. Keeping this in the fridge has meant puffy morning skin is a thing of the past.

And, ahem, it’s incredibly soothing on your temples if you have a morning-after-the-night-before headache… #JustSaying

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Sveiki Lietuva! | How to Party in Central Europe…

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It’s almost the end of a long and cloudy January and, despite there still being about five weeks until spring, I’m firmly looking forward to a new season. However, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom this January. In fact, we kicked off the year in a spectacular fashion by heading off to snowy Lithuania.

I’d never been to Lithuania before, and I’ll shamefully admit it had never crossed my mind to even think of going there, but now having been for a long weekend I definitely want to go back. We braved ice, snow and -20 degree weather, but with such pretty architecture and historic castles, this meant the wintery setting seemed somewhat fitting.

We were there to celebrate the engagement of Jasmine and Karolis – a truly lovely couple who my boyfriend has known since school. I had only met them once before, at the wedding of Alexis & Romin, but they’re the kind of people you instantly warm to. Funny, welcoming and just so completely right for each other; both J & I didn’t hesitate when they invited us to join a group of friends and family out in Karolis’ home country of Lithuania for a party to celebrate their engagement.

We flew out on a painfully early flight to Vilnius on Friday morning for a long weekend, returning Monday afternoon. What followed was three and a half days of laughter, dancing and a LOT of vodka. Since the main event was a fabulous party in the town of Trakai on Saturday night that’s what I’ll focus on, however there’s a short guide to our stay in my new travel writing style (Stay, See, Eat) below for those interested.

After a whirlwind of a Friday, involving a lot of hugs, late night drinks and snowball fights, Saturday morning was spent lazing around the Margis hotel’s pool & spa area. I indulged in a massage (highly recommended) but wasn’t quite brave enough to try the outdoor sauna in -20…

When the afternoon rolled around, we all retired to our rooms to prettify ahead of the evening’s big event in Trakai (only a 10 minute taxi ride away).

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[Quick outfit note – Oxblood red dress of dreams is from ASOS. Smile is courtesy of a large vodka.]

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[The gorgeous venue!]

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The party was held at the gorgeous BONA Lounge in Trakai, with a stunning view across the frozen lake towards Trakai castle. Jas & Karolis and their noble team of decorators had done an incredible job of dressing the venue.

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[The happy couple!]

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As the champagne poured, the night went by in a flurry of hugs, toasts and dancing. Heels were kicked off, bodies were dragged to the dance floor and dance-offs ensued.

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Whilst my memories of the night as it progressed got ever so slightly more blurry (I *think* there were shots), it was plain to see the love for the happy couple radiating from everyone. Both J & I are in agreement that it was definitely one of the best nights we’ve ever experienced – Jasmine & Karolis, you guys are a fantastic couple and you certainly know how to throw a party. Bring on the wedding!

Stay

We stayed at the Margis Hotel, some 35 minutes outside Vilnius, in the region of Trakai. Rooms are comfortable and spacious, despite being almost unbelievably cheap, and the food there is genuinely delicious. One of the best hotel restaurants I’ve ever experienced… There’s also a lovely spa, pool and outdoor sauna experience for those of you brave enough…

See

We didn’t get much of a chance to check out Vilnius (any excuse for a return trip) but can highly recommend Trakai castle which was close to our hotel. With an almost fairytale style, it’s the perfect place to stomp around through the snow and pretend to live up to your secret princess-y aspirations.

We also hit up the slopes in Liepkalnis much to my delight. You can hire pretty much all the gear you’d need – ski boots, skis and poles, plus the equivalent for those rebel snowboarders out there. Pricing is decent so if you’re looking for something unusual and fun to do in winter I’d certainly recommend it. There’s also a nice chalet style bar for those of you who are too stubborn reluctant to try skiing…

Eat

You need to try Cepelinai (a dumpling style dish) which is apparently the national dish of Lithuania and available pretty much everywhere. Also, Lithuanians are pretty hot on their beer snacks, and we tried delicious fried rye bread with cheese which made an excellent pre-booze snack. On the whole, the food was just amazing which really surprised me – if in doubt, ask the restaurant what they’d recommend and you won’t regret it. Don’t forget, in -20 degree weather it’s practically health and safety to eat (and drink!) as much as you can. Promise!

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Gutentag Berlin

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Back in December, I hopped on a plane from Stansted to Berlin to visit my other half who’d been out there working for a few weeks. I did a very similar trip last summer and had fallen in love with the relaxed atmosphere of Berlin, so I was intrigued to see if Berlin in December would live up to my memories of that trip.

Now, obviously Berlin in summertime with 30-degree heat (and in the midst of a victorious World Cup) was something special, but I’d heard so much about Christmas markets that I really wanted to go.

So, I packed my bags, had a quick glass of champagne and hopped on a flight.

Stay:

My boyfriend already had a room at Hotel Casa Camper, which is I think a chain of Spanish hotels and was a really great choice. It’s in a good location, right in the heart of Mitte, which is the most central borough in Berlin. It meant we were only a short walk away from the very buzzing Alexanderplatz, and the massive Christmas market right underneath the TV tower. There’s also a pretty well stocked honesty bar, open 24 hours a day (ahem).

See:

Now because we’d only been to Berlin just a year ago, we’d pretty much done all the touristy, necessary sights that you really have to see: Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, the Berlin Wall… I did however manage to score free tickets to go up the dome of the Reichstag building with a fabulous view across all of Berlin. In typically efficient German fashion, you need to fill out an online registration form (here) and submit a booking request, giving some dates and times that you’d like to go. It’s an incredibly quick process and I received confirmation back within an hour so it really is easy.

The dome itself is beautiful, designed by Norman Foster and built to symbolize the reunification of Germany. If you get the chance, I’d definitely recommend it.

Also on the list was Charlottenburg Palace, which I’ll happily admit I only insisted we visit because it has my name in it. There was also a pretty dreamy Christmas market there too. With gluhwein which is way more fun to say than mulled wine.

We also got the chance to see Sebbi & Rike, friends of my boyfriend’s from university, and their seriously cute baby, who I basically held for the entire night and didn’t let go of, even when she punched me in the throat. Ouch. She was still adorable though.

Eat:

Obviously you have to eat German food at some point during your stay – I ended up getting a bratwurst from one of the Christmas markets – but some of the best restaurants we ate at were not typically German at all.

For the best burger I have ever eaten, I’d recommend Shiso Burger. It’s like a Japanese version of a burger, which I’ll admit sounds weird but it was absolutely amazing. I didn’t take any pictures because I ate it all within a few seconds. #NOREGRETS

We also went to Transit, an Asian restaurant right next to our hotel that was delicious and convenient.

On my final night there, my boyfriend and I went to an Italian restaurant, Vino & Basilicio, which made some of the best pasta I’ve had outside of Italy and made me very happy that I’m in a relationship with someone who lets me share their food.

But of course if you are looking for serious German eats, there’s a restaurant in Hackescher Market that does a sausage platter (I think it’s called Weihenstephaner). My boyfriend managed to persuade me last year that this was an acceptable breakfast although I’m pretty sure my arteries disagreed… Either way, it’s delicious.

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Life Lately: Paris

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As I write this, we’re coming to the end of a gloomy Sunday, the close of a particularly depressing weekend. Friday night saw the horrific events in Paris unfold: I was out having drinks with friends when we saw the news filter in via alerts on our phones from BBC News. Shock turned to disbelief, which in turn became horror as it became apparent it wasn’t a mistake of reporting.

There isn’t much I can say that hasn’t already been written, but as any big city dweller will tell you, we all felt a kindred sense of loss and pain for Paris that night. I’ve been to Paris lots of times; sometimes for work, sometimes for leisure and sometimes as a stopping point to another destination. I’m not particularly religious but I prayed nonetheless for the victims, lighting candles as I did.

This is my first blog post in a while, after the upheaval of home repairs and a particularly busy work schedule collided, meaning my spare hours were spent collapsed on the sofa in front of Catastrophe with my other half. I didn’t mean this post to be on such a melancholy subject but it felt wrong to write a post about life lately without mentioning the events of this weekend. I have a separate post in mind about exciting things coming up, which I’m keeping as a Reasons to be Cheerful post, but tonight, I think this is all I can say.

The French embassy is in Knightsbridge, very close to my work, so I think tomorrow I’ll go lay some flowers out of respect.

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A Little Life Update: The Home Edition

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After doing quite a lot of traveling over the past two months (see some of my Italy posts here and here, and my post on a gorgeous Greek wedding here), it’s been almost a bit of a relief to be at home for a little while.

Don’t get me wrong I still love traveling, but especially during this time of year there’s something so comforting about curling up at home, going for weekend walks through the autumn leaves and spending these ever darkening evenings in front of a lovely warm pub fire (ahem).

I’m a little while away from enjoying this at home however, as we’re currently half way through #PinterestFlatMakeOver2015 (yes, I made up my own home decorating hashtag). As I type we have no floor or wall tiles in our kitchen, a seriously dusty living room, and a hallway wall covered in paint sample swatches.

A recap on what we’re having done:

The kitchen is having the most work done and is getting gorgeous new terracotta kitchen floor tiles to replace the black and white vinyl tiles I thought would be a good idea three years ago… We’re also replacing the horrible old wall tiles with lovely metro wall tiles in duck egg blue. We’re also replacing the very tired looking kitchen worktop and getting a new shiny sink in there too. We’ll have a fresh coat of paint on the walls and ceiling as well to finish the room off.

Our bathroom is having only a tiny tidy up – a new coat of paint on the ceiling, and a fix to some broken white metro tiles that the plumber broke getting in to fix a leak.

The living room, hallway, spare bedroom and master bedroom are having walnut wooden floors installed. This is what I’m most excited about. When I moved in, the previous owner had used really cheap, horribly beige carpet, which despite steam cleaning regularly got very dirty, very fast. It was a happy day when the builder ripped it all up! We’re also having our hallway painted a medium grey shade.

It’s so lovely to watch it all come together, despite the disruption and the fact that our house seems permanently covered in sawdust. I’ve been taking reassuring glances at my Pinterest board to remind myself that the work will be over in just three more short days and I’ll have a newly decorated, hopefully gorgeous flat to live in. I can’t wait to do a home tour soon!

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Greek Island Dreaming: the Wedding of Alexis & Romin

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Last week we packed our bags and hopped off to sunny Santorini for the wedding of Alexis and Romin. Jonny, my boyfriend, has known Romin since he was a boy at school, and we were so excited to see him marry Alexis in the most stunning of settings.

Top tip up front for you couples out there – always book your flights together. As we discovered when we rocked up at the airport at 4.30am to find Jonny had been bumped from the flight as we’d booked separately. What followed was an agonising two-hour wait to find out if anyone who was booked on the flight wouldn’t turn up. Thankfully, the (Greek) gods were smiling on us and we were rushed through security just in time to make our flight.

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However, our travel stresses were quickly forgotten as we arrived in Santorini. We stayed a little out of the way, near the archaeological site of Akrotiri, in a hotel/apartment complex named Apanemo. I’d recommend the hotel in a heartbeat. Run by the very friendly Spiros and family, beautifully decorated, and with a view to die for…

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The wedding itself was on the Saturday, the day after we’d arrived. A traditional Greek ceremony, held in the utterly incredible cathedral perched up high in Fira, the capital of Santorini.

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Alexis arrived in truly traditional style: on the back of a donkey to the sound of Greek music, clapping and cheering. She looked completely stunning and certainly more at home than I think I’d be in her place! Jonny and I went for a donkey ride the next day and our transport certainly wasn’t as well behaved as Alexis’s!

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After a Greek Orthodox ceremony at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santorini, Romin and Alexis were pronounced husband and wife, much to the cheers of the wedding party and the mesmerised crowd of tourists who’d gathered outside the church. The bride and groom had certainly timed the day well – their first entrance as husband and wife was to a backdrop of an amazing Santorini sunset.

sunsetweddingThe beautiful bride & groom!

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[You’ll see I went for this ASOS dress, from my previous post all about it here…]

Following on from the photos, the bride and groom departed, and the wedding party followed on to the reception venue. This was a genuine jaw dropper. Over 1,000 candles created an overwhelmingly romantic atmosphere and the detail that had gone into every piece of the décor was evident.

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Now, given the open bar situation, it’s understandable that my photos after this point went a bit haywire… But believe me when I say it was truly a gorgeous wedding, full of love and emotion. Alexis & Romin, we wish you a lifetime filled with happiness – and thanks for throwing such a fabulous party. Opa!

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