Cake by the ocean – the countdown to 21!

In exactly a week today, I will be making my way back up north with only 24 hours to blitz my wardrobe and pack for my birthday vacay…LAS VEGAS. Now as much as I have loved being down in the sunny south, I absolutely cannot contain my excitement for what’s ahead in the next few weeks! And whilst I’m sat here, sipping my coffee and daydreaming of jetting off to somewhere warmer, I can’t help but smile thinking about my year of being 20. Good times!

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Throwback to my delicious 20th birthday cake – my boyfriends mum made this gorgeous dairy free chocolate cake with pink edible glitter, she knows me too well!

My blog was recently featured in a Manchester Tab article (click for link), with a short interview about my food & lifestyle thoughts, it’s a really fun read so be sure to check it out! The writers also interviewed one of my fave foodies – Livia’s Kitchen, along with a few other motivating blogs and instagrams. Thinking about some of the questions they asked really inspired me to blog again, as it’s been quite a while! So here goes – another post: No recipes in this one…no exercise tips…no words of wisdom or advice – just a few things to be grateful for in the lead up to the big two-one celebrations!

One of the most exciting parts of coming back down to Dorset is undoubtedly the coast. The beaches here are somewhere that I have never taken for granted, and although I’m now a self-confessed city girl, I crave the sandy shores of the UK’s version of California.

You can’t beat a beach BBQ, late night sand walk, or cosy hot choc by the sea at shore road’s Jazz Café. FullSizeRender (9)So what better way to kick off the celebrations than with an afternoon tea by the sea. There are two places in Bournemouth that I’m particularly fond of when it comes to cake by the ocean. First up, the Cumberland Hotel (below left) – sat on a hill at the edge of the world where you can see the sea for miles, whilst you’re sipping on tea and catching up with the girls. And secondly, but not second best – the newest member of the club – the Hampton by Hilton (below right). Here’s one to take the parents! And although the views don’t beat my fave spot in the clouds at Manchester’s Hilton Cloud 23, it’s a perfect place to order your signature cocktail, or feast on a stack of perfectly miniature cakes for lunch!IMG_3847 (2) Now before I get totally side-tracked babbling on about cake and coffee’s, don’t let me forget another classic coastal treat – the BBQ! Some of my favourite memories from this year are the times with my best friends, laughing about the weird and wonderful things we’ve experienced in our first year of being twenty-something, whilst our (still raw in the middle) chicken skewers and  chipolatas burn on one side over the cheap disposable grill we bought on a whim! But sometimes we really do get it right and if I say so myself, we’re not bad at rustling up a delish, although rather make-shiftgourmet BBQ.

If I’m honest, I’ve never really been the biggest fan of a burger or hot dog, so when my best friend suggested grilling fish & Mediterranean veggies for our al-fresco feast instead, I was super pleased. It was so simple, we laid on a few salmon skewers and fillets, topped with garden herbs, along side some foil trays of sweet potato wedges and a rainbow medley of chunky veggies with big, juicy king prawns – absolutely delicious and not a pink bit of chicken or charcoaled sausage in sight.

So today my plans are simple, I’m going to head down to my fave beach spot and make the most of a dry day in one of the most beautiful places in my little world. I’m sure there will be plenty of tea, cake and cocktails to come in the near future, as the countdown to 21 begins! Just like they say – start as you mean to go on!

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‘Yogafy’ your gym workout!

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There’s a sign up in my gym at the moment that says – “There are 1440 minutes in a day, you only need 30 to have a great workout” – I love this! It’s so important to look after our bodies and to stay active throughout our lives. There are plenty of ways to reach that recommended dose of fitness, from weight lifting to simply walking more – yoga is my favourite way to workout and I strive to practice as often as I can. Not only does it relax and calm my mind, it totally energizes my body, leaving me feeling super strong and healthy both during and after practice. I’m often asked about the yoga that I practice at home and outside of the classroom – so I decided to bring yoga to the gym today to share some of my fave moves and flows that can be done wherever you choose to workout! These are just a few fun moves that you could add to your workout, with all the stretching and toning benefits of yoga! Remember to listen to your instincts, and with each pose to only go as far as your body tells you you can. There is a fine line between challenging yourself and pushing yourself too hard – balance – yoga is about progression not perfection.

Each of the positions have a counter pose that will help to stretch you out and ensure that you are protecting your muscles from over straining, it’s really important that you add these counter-poses into your routine! If you’re at the gym don’t be embarrassed to ask for help whenever you need it, whether that’s with choosing weights/equipment, or simply just asking someone to help you in or out of a move, and remember – you don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great! So drop and give me zen!

6 ways to yogafy your workout:

1) Turn your Chair pose into squat rep’s:

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Benefits of Chair pose:

  • Tones the leg muscles
  • Strengthens hip flexors, ankles, calves and back
  • Stretches the chest and shoulders

Add in some weights or a kettle bell to your reps – this will get you warm! The counter pose for this is to bend forward with straight legs, letting your hands fall toward the ground or interlocking your fingers and holding your arms directly above your head as you fold.

2) Get a feel for the Wheel pose:

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Either coming into Bridge, with your hands interlocked underneath you, or full Wheel pose – play around with reps of upside-down push up’s or leg raises.

Benefits of Wheel pose:

  • Increases flexibility in the spine and lengthens vertebrae
  • Strengthens and tones your arms, wrists, abdomen, legs, shoulders and chest
  • Opens the chest and lungs

Remember your counter pose – a seated forward bend, no prize for touching toes, will counteract this stretch and should leave you feeling great!

3) Plank, plank, plank!

There are plenty of variations for the Plank, I like to add weights to mine and alternate bringing the weights to armpit level usually for 20 reps per side, per set.

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Be sure to stretch out into Upward Dog for your counter posture, and why not try the total core-busting yoga equivalent of a press up Chaturanga on your way there!

Benefits of Plank position:

  • Great way to tone your abs!
  • Improves posture and back alignment
  • Builds flexibility in posterior muscle groups

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You could also try some balancing variations – maybe add in the side plank and some leg raises to your flow – have fun with it!

4) Boat pose for a bikini body:

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The day I reach a straight-legged Boat pose will be a fabulous day! It’s all about practice, and i’m sure i’ll get there, but in the meantime I like to incorporate these weighted and non-weighted reps into my gym floor routine.

Benefits of Boat pose:

  • Stimulates internal organs, improving digestion
  • Tones the abs and legs
  • Strengthens the hip flexors and spine

The counter pose for Boat is either a forward fold, holding onto opposite elbows and letting the head hang loose, or simply a Child’s pose (one of my faves!).

5) Be a Warrior not a worrier:

Both warrior 1 and 2 are great lunge positions that will do wonders for your legs and improve your posture. By adding weights you are also toning your arms, and feel free to take a twist in this pose to detoxify your nervous system!

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Benefits of Warrior pose:

  • Strengthens the arms, legs and lower back
  • Improves stamina and balance
  • Releases built-up stress in the shoulders
  • Great stretch for those with desk/sitting down jobs!

Make sure that you are in proper alignment in Warrior, there are plenty of youtube/online tutorials for this (click here) and your best counter posture for this lunge is to take a twist or to come into everyone’s favourite Downward Dog.

6) Take a (Head)stand!

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Don’t be afraid to really take your time getting into a Headstand – the slow and steady balancing movements will really work your core strength! Play around with reps of leg raises, and if you’re brave enough – try a forearm stand, the wall can help you get into this pose but do make sure the area around you is clear in case of crash landings! I love this blog post about doing headstand’s every day – check it out!

Benefits of Headstand:

  • Stimulates brain function
  • Tones the upper body
  • Strengthens the core
  • Great for circulation
  • It’s super fun!

Take a shoulder stand to truly counteract this pose, or come into Child’s pose for some time to let the blood flow return to normal. Headstands get better with practice and really take some time to get the hang of – so don’t give up and don’t be annoyed with yourself if you find a pose difficult to begin with. Yoga is all about using your body and your mind to achieve strength in balance, so be sure to take this frame of mind into your workout!

Here are some of the counter posture stretches that I have mentioned above, and a few other stretchy ideas that will improve your post-workout feeling! There’s no reason why our workout can’t be fun and beneficial, exercise should make us feel happy and healthy!

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Have a lovely rest of the week, please do let me know if you try and love these moves in your next gym session! And be sure to nourish yourself too with nutritious food, lots of water and plenty of rest – Namaste!IMG_2425.JPG

Harvey Nichols & Homemade Chocolates: My week of spreading the love

So why is it that I always wake up super early when I’m hungover? As if the fuzzy head and dehydrated skin isn’t enough, but being wide awake before the sun has even made an appearance just does not make sense! Although, I really can’t be in a bad mood this morning as I’ve had such a great week and my tired, achey feet are simply a reminder of how much fun last night was. Even if there were a few too many garden-martini’s involved!

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The start to my week really set the tone, after attending an evening at Harvey Nichols Manchester ‘Yoga at Dusk’ on Monday, I’ve been feeling really inspired to spread the love and the message that The Well Connected company so amazingly delivered. Throughout the whole evening, every yogi there was made to feel special, loved and totally energiseda class with Charlie Morgan will do exactly this to you. Being surrounded by a such an amazing group of people, all at different levels of experience, got me thinking about why I started yoga in the first place and how far I’ve come since then, in so many ways. I’m working on a post about this too – stay tuned! One of the phrases that Charlie repeated throughout the class really sticks out in my mind – You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great“. 

I love this. It’s so inspiring and simple and applies to every goal and aspiration you might set yourself, however big or small. This is something that I have been telling myself this week. After a fun and empowering work out, we were each handed the most delicious juice (avo, pineapple, coconut water & pomegranate – omg) and given the chance to try out the Yogandha company’s new line of yoga oils that are meant to improve your practice and your mood – but smell good enough to make me want one as my next perfume! Check out there website for more info on the benefits of yoga oils and other herbal skin treatments. I’m so thankful to Nici Hewitson and The Well Connected for creating such a wonderful evening of yoga overlooking the bright lights of my fave city, I would highly recommend having a look at their future events (a yoga retreat is definitely on my bucket list!) as well as checking out the Harvey Nichols website for more event info.  And if you are lucky enough to live near Charlie’s studio in London, get yourself booked onto one of her classes – your muscles will thank you the next day and you’ll leave feeling super positive and energised.

IMG_2175Now you can’t expect me to be spreading all of this love and not mention the V wordValentines. Whether your’re into it all or not, it’s the perfect excuse to do something nice for someone that you care about! If you’re like me and insist on the ‘no buying Valentine’s day presents’ rule, there’s nothing stopping you from getting creative instead and making something for your fave person/people, and isn’t this weekend just the best excuse to eat more chocolate?

Here’s a recipe for the most intensely delish, home-made dark orange chocolates. I couldn’t believe how much they resembles Terry’s! One of the chocs that I miss the most since cutting down on dairy. But trust me, you are in no way missing out on the chocolate-orangey goodness if you’re like me and can’t have the generic stuff, and if orange isn’t your flavour, you could totally swap it for something like mint, coffee, chili flakes or sea salt! Make it personal, sometimes the best presents are the ones that took time and effort to make, and they’ll never need to know actually how simple & easy these little bites of love are! This recipe is dairy & gluten free, you’ll need something like an ice-cube tray or silicone tray, and I would recommend making these the day before to give them plenty of time to set!

Delicious homemade dark chocolate-orange (DF&GF): (Makes around 20 small chocs)

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  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder (I get mine from Holland & Barrett but there are plenty of other places that also stock it)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, measured as melted
  • 2 – 3 tbsp honey (add depending on how sweet you like your choc!)
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • little pinch of salt (optional)

Start off by heating your coconut oil on a medium heat in a saucepan. Then stir in the cacao powder and mix well with a whisk. Add in your honey and give it a little taste test to be sure it’s sweet enough! Zest your orange and stir this into the mix – now resist the urge to use as a chocolate fondue – pour the choc into your tray molds and place in the fridge/freezer for at least 4 hours to set! These chocs will technically stay delicious for a week or so, but trust me they won’t last that long! It’s also worth mentioning that they will probably melt quite easily at room temp because of the coconut oil, so keep them refrigerated if you have the will power to not eat the whole bunch in one sitting.

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Here are the one’s I made for our early Valentine’s celebrations – a little decoration goes a long way! But remember you can totally tailor-make yours, why not try adding in some coconut milk to get a milker chocolate, or even some dried fruit & nuts! Get playful, after all chocolate is not just for Valentine’s day. Have a lovely weekend! Chocolates for breakfast will cure a hangover, right?