Low Key Valentines Date Night

Valentines is a sweet night that offers the opportunity for a little extra thought and care than usual. Whether you’re dining out or staying in as we are this year, it’s thoughtful to make an effort for the one you love. As Valentines falls on a Tuesday this year (aka a school night!) we are celebrating on the Friday therefore shareing several glasses of fizz and enjoy each others company. This is my “recipe” for a simple yet romantic night in…

1. Pop a bottle of your favourite fizz or tipple in the fridge, to chill well in advance!

2. If cheesy heart shaped bunting isn’t your thing, scattering small tea lights around your living room or bedroom adds a simple yet romantic touch

3. I’ll apply few extra coats of my favourite (non toxic and cruelty free) mascara — I love this particular one as it someone how curls and thickens my lashes

4. & 5. Have queued up on Spotify a playlist of your mutual favourite songs – you may favour something more smooth and melodic to set the mood on this particular date night

6. Download the latest episode of your favourite current TV show, or a movie you’ve been aching to see. We’ve been watching Taboo on BBC iPlayer and are obsessed with this new moody, gritty period thriller. Tom Hardy is menacing, sexy and intriguing in equal measure!

7. Of course I’ll be wearing my favourite perfume, it wouldn’t be date night with out it 🙂

8. So I’ve discovered this brand of candle recently and love them! It’s a wood wick candle and as well as lightly scenting your room, it crackles and pops as it burns thus giving the subtle sound effect of a small crackling fire — If like me, you don’t have a fireplace, talk about added ambience right?

9. For DINNER: Choose a mutually loved recipe that isn’t too difficult and preferably low maintenance. You don’t need to cook several courses and feel moderate amounts of stress. I’m going for Jamie O’s scrumptious Paella — 1 pan dishes are perfect! It also reminds me of our first holiday together to Barcelona, which has many drunk on love memories 🙂
Final tip! Sophisticated napkin folding tutorial is a sweet final touch to smarten up your table!

I hope whatever you do for V day, you eat well, exchange cards with friends or lovers and furthermore enjoy your own company!

What are your plans?

Love & hugs

xxx

Sukin Foaming Facial Cleanser Review

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I want to share with you today my new favourite high performing, cruelty free, natural cleanser. I’ve been using the Sukin Foaming Facial Cleanser over a month and have been ecstatic with the results!

“Sukin was launched in 2007 by a Melbourne based family on a mission to provide high quality, affordable and effective natural skin and hair care. Sukin products are formulated with high efficacy, high quality botanical extracts and essential oils, carefully selected to bring out the best in your skin and hair.”

I’d purchased the cleanser on a whim whilst shopping on MyPure . When I “gave up” my old cleanser that I’d used the last few years, I was keen to find a replacement that was natural with no nasties. This is where the super hero Sukin cleanser swept me off my feet!

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It is…

Paraben Free
Cruelty Free
Suitable for Vegans & Vegetarians
Sulphate Free

*Virtual high five*

I have been using this cleanser as part of my daily skin care routine and have been overjoyed with its quality and performance. It smells deliciously earthy and herbal. The packaging is sleek and understated and most importantly makes my skin feel ameliorated.

The cleanser is a clear, gel like consistency and only requires a small amount to remove a full face of make up. I dampen my face and hands, pump some product into my hands, gently rub it between my palms and press onto my face.

This is followed by a gentle circular massaging motion from my hands which quickly and effortlessly removes ALL my make up.

 

 

I used this product consistently through the Christmas period as well, where I was putting on a full face most evenings, even lashes. It completely lifted, cleansed and removed all signs of make up. It leaves my skin stripped, soft, smooth, clear and fresh feeling. I also have a frustratingly oily forehead and found this was one of the few products that removed, healed and absorb this problem. I cannot describe how comprehensively CLEAN and fresh my skin felt after one use!

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If you are looking for a new cleanser, please give this one a try. It’s incredibly affordable without compromising on quality, ethics or performance.

Have a great week!
Charlotte

 

 

P.s I was not paid to write, endorse or test this product 🙂

Why I Went Cruelty Free and Never Looked Back

I’m going to be sharing reviews of cruelty free and paraben free products here on my blog; I’ve gradually made a change over to this lifestyle which I thought I’d share with you.  I felt this decision deserved a little context – There’s so much information online about animal testing especially and I would encourage anyone curious to do their research with an open mind.

 Cruelty free cosmetics… I’d not been ignorant to the fact that many designer and high street brands still tested on animals, however it wasn’t until I did further research throughout 2016 that I realised quite how prevalent this issue was. Something simply “clicked” in my head. I could try to reason to myself why animal testing MIGHT be essential for medical reasons, but for make up?

cruelty free, bunny, honey, cfbloggerI honestly felt embarrassed.  I didn’t want to buy products from a company that still tests on animals for reasons as superficial as make up. That’s the most simple and reductionist way I can put it.

I don’t believe that human vanity warrants pain, unfair conditions, shortened life spans, torture for innocent creatures and ultimately death. You wouldn’t dare do this to your own beloved dog, rabbit or kitten. So why support the plethora of companies that conduct testing on a massive scale? And for something as vulgar as profit? Cruelty free means living a kinder and more compassionate lifestyle.

I do not want to fund or buy into that culture. It is inhumane and cruel. 

I used to have a very large beauty and make up collection, but through 2016 I tried my best to use non-CF products up, be economical and not wasteful. Even if this meant using lipsticks as cheek stain! Products that I didn’t finish or want I gave away. At Christmas I put all of the make up, beauty and skin care items into a big box and let various family members root through and take anything they wanted. The few remaining left overs, were eventually binned.

Once I had released myself from the idea that I needed the next hype product, the latest wonder mascara or whatever marketing rubbish that would be inevitably trolled out… It was much easier to shed attachment to the high end brands. I ultimately knew “they” didn’t support my ethical beliefs. There’s a tiny part of me that thinks I’ll be curious when a new lip kit pops up, but knowing some of my pre-CF favourite brands and high end label products, were testing on animals, really upsets and offends me. It’s not a stance I’ll be going back on.

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Going cruelty free was a slow steady process and I personally couldn’t afford to do it over night! As I’ve already acknowledged, I dwindled down my make up and skin care over the last year, slowly repurchasing and replacing products with CF alternatives. Testing and researching as I went, reading blogs and reviews to support and educate this relatively new lifestyle was immensely helpful. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds, but I promise you, it is far more rewarding knowing that your money is being spent ethically.

How you spend your money, reflects your opinions, your stand and your commitment to a lifestyle that encourages the well-being of animals. 

I haven’t done this only to feel “better” about myself, but because I truly believe that animals deserve better. Human beings should treat them collectively with respectful and with dignity. I no longer wish to carry around a sense of guilt.  I instead believe in supporting great, sometimes smaller, lesser known brands that have clear, cruelty free, ethical policies and practices, that don’t compromise on quality and high performing products.

This post isn’t mean to lecture you as to why I believe cruelty free is a better ethical approach to beauty consumerism, but if you are interested the Cruelty-Free Kitty is an incredible blog that I found so resourceful and full of information when I first started my research. Another equally comprehensive site, with a great search tool feature is PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies which allows you to check if what you’re buying, or what you already own, is truly certified as cruelty free. Finally, one of the ultimate posts to start you off with information on animal testing can be found here!

 

Have you gone Cruelty free? What products would you recommend? Please let me know!

HF xx

Isn’t it great 2016 is FINALLY over? January Goals | 2017

Happy New Year Darlings!

Goals or, resolutions are synonymous with the start of a New Year, so I thought I’d share mine for 2017.

I hope your hangovers weren’t too bad on New Years day and that you are feeling as joyous and excited as I am for the start of a fresh year. There are some huge goals that I’m about to disclose…  These aren’t only for January but for the next twelve months. Long term commitments aren’t often shared (on my part) so publishing them for public consumption will be a good way of holding oneself accountable

Volunteering at a museum  — There’s a beautiful literary and historic museum near where I live. I’ve been meaning to submit an application to volunteer there for a while now. I want to commit a couple of days a week, offering my skills and experience from previously working in the Museum and Heritage sector. This is a reminder to fill out those forms and give some support!

Slimming World Online — Oh Gosh. A diet plan, weight loss goal for 2017. I will do a “proper” post explaining but briefly, I REALLY need to lose weight. My health, well being, and body need a serious shake up from some of the poorer lifestyle choices I make. Starting this plan will be the first steps I take toward being a healthier human in 2017 and I will be sharing the results and efforts with you

Keep Reading 3 Books a Month — I couldn’t keep up with a-book-a-week attempts in 2016. I have slightly adjusted this to something more reasonable, that way if I want to take on a huge 600 page, historic biography, there’s still breathing space for some easy reading

Paraben free and Cruelty free — I’ve gone Paraben free, cruelty free and am now using products with high percentages of organic, natural materials and ingredients. This applies to not only beauty, make up and skin care but all other products in my life. Whether they’re used in the kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom, I ultimately want to move forward utilising healthier alternatives

Have you made any NY goals or resolutions this year? Please share them with me, I’d love to know!

Love always,
Charlotte x

10 Honest and Intimate Tips to Combat Anxiety

My life was becoming increasingly restricted due to having Generalised Anxiety Disorder, with a side helping of panic attacks and depression. I was saying no to social events, dreading travelling anywhere new, struggling with agoraphobia and even putting off going on holidays abroad. I was exhausted and barely sleeping, overeating yet completely depleted of energy. My brain was a mess.

Does this sound familiar?

As someone who has suffered with debilitating anxiety, I’ve compiled my ultimate list of techniques I use to tame and control my demons. I hope they are useful for you too!

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Meditation —  Introducing… the Headspace app This was my first step into the education of Mindfulness. The podcast type format allows audio classes full of techniques to quieten and distance a busy, fretful mind from painful thoughts that exacerbate anxiety or depression. These in turn break down into guided meditations of tailored, specific packs that you can download to target areas such as low self esteem or depression, that are well worth the small subscription fee! Get practicing regularly and feel reassured of the convenience of having this powerful, comforting app on your phone, wherever you go, for whenever you feel overwhelmed.

Knowledge –  A thorough understanding of the various mental health conditions I have is very empowering. This knowledge made me feel less freaky, disconnected from my body and broken. I realised that the symptoms were common things that could be conclusively diagnosed and that there were actual explanations as to why these symptoms were manifesting in the bodily way I was experiencing.Take some time to really research and read around the symptoms and causes of anxiety. Ask your Doctor questions, discuss your symptoms, talk through in detail your issues with your therapist and buy a good few books. This particular book  really really changed my life, it was recommended to me by my therapist and is incredibly resourceful

Say No – in a world full of super positive happy vlogger, bloggers entreating us to say a big yes to more opportunities and purported happiness, I would say fuck that. Learn to say no! Don’t let stupid FOMO win, I found if I kept forcing myself into situations that made me feel uncomfortable, it was setting me back, before I was ready and aggravating my anxiety. There will be other social events in the future and your good friends will understand. Be selfish and do what’s best for your brain. You won’t enjoy the night, you probably won’t be the most awesome guest and sometimes self love has to come first!

Hone Your Routines — The night before work, I make sure I’ve packed a lunch, laid out my outfit choice, have my train pass/purse/security access etc so that when I wake up I’m not rushing around sorting all of the above! It sounds really obvious but it is one less set of tasks to worry about, it starts my day off right, it stops the morning being flustered and ultimately ceases any anxious thoughts that are exacerbated by being disorganised.

Learn your triggers –  Once your anxiety attack or particularly bad depression spell has hit, try to remember to take the time to write down what you think contributed to triggering it. When you’re in bed or fraught with a million thoughts whirling psychotically through your dizzy brain, this isn’t the easiest thing to commit to paper, but the more we learn about our triggers, the quicker we can identify them in the future and help prevent the percentage of anxious feeling or attacks

Pick a positive mantra – something that imbues trust, love, calmness, and/or positivity. It can be a line of poetry, a paraphrase piece from a political figure, lyrics, or a quote from your favourite fictitious character. There are times you need to close your eyes, to try and quiet the racing thoughts and quickening pulse in your chest, you can slowly focus on your breathing and gently/slowly recite your mantra to help centre yourself. I find that by focusing on my personal mantra, the repetition and breathing combined helps draw away/distracts me from my spiraling panicked thoughts and realigns the impending panic attack

Find someone to chat with online!  – The charity Mind has an awesome forum called Elefriends  and you can chat to individuals, reach out when you’re struggling and share mutual experiences. It’s basically like a large Facebook feed, but confidential! An excellent place to discuss mental health which I would really encourage you to try, its changed my life

Make a YOU board – I have a private board on Pinterest of what I want for a positive future. It is combination of my favourite quotes from literature, favourite actors and actresses, positive images, grey interiors and design, mouth watering food, country English homes, good book shelf porn, cute puppies… but also a culmination of what I want to ask the universe for in my life. It helps to look at the images to remind myself of what I want career wise and helps balance me. It also, most importantly, reminds me of what makes me happy in life. I also really enjoy adding to it and creating a virtual scrapbook of joy!

Work on one trigger at a time – My anxiety is compounded by a plethora of triggers, when I first started trying to work on them, I found it very overwhelming. I held myself to the standard of “FIX ALL THE THINGS!” and it wasn’t plausible. It was stressful and upsetting. I would encourage you to single out one small thing you want to work on and focus on that. Even if it takes a year, concentrate your efforts on one thing at a time, it sounds stupidly simple but stop trying to attack anxiety as one big monster. Pick off the scratchy little side mobs to break down that big boss, it will make the fight so much easier.

See a good therapist — It might take a while to find one that you click with or feel is helping you. I had a couple of sessions with different medical professionals, but when I started seeing my current therapist and it really changed my experience; my therapist speaks to me at a more mature academic professional level and I felt more respected and able to discuss mental health intellectually in a way that gives me so much hope for the future.

I’d be really interested to hear how you cope with your own mental health conundrums, what do you find is currently helping you?

Stay strong. Love and hugs,
Charlotte

Barcelona | 2016

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A few snaps from our recent stay in Barcelona, this August.

1. Boyfriend and the beautiful boulevard by the Arc de Triomf
2. Incredible underground Roman ruins
3. Another shot of the museum, slightly creepy…
4. & 5. Our villa was part of a huge vineyard, the hosts gave us a friendly, personalised tour of the vines and their factory/company. It was educational and I got to do my first wine tasting after!
6. The temperature was around 30-33 degrees every day, I’ve never stayed somewhere so hot or been spoiled with so much sunshine.
7. My little nephew, who is currently fascinated with my glasses and keeps pulling them off my face, declaring “Wow, it all looks funny!” before passing them back
8. This. Pizza. Ohmy. Truffles, truffle cream, delicious herbs, rocket… also located next to the Sagrada Famillia so lunch with an awe inspiring view
9. Mid jump shot! Our infinity pool was one of the best parts of our villa, the view across the hills and vineyards was incredible
10. This bar boasted the best mojitos in the city, they were fresh, sugary, zesty and bloody potent!

August Goals | 2016

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Hello there!

I appreciate this late in the month is a little late for “goalz” but in my defense I’ve been on holiday for 2 1/2 and half weeks and with packing/last minute errands, I didn’t have time before that to post!

 

  1. Properly unpack when back from holiday and not leave laundry stagnating in a suitcase! Decant make up products and hand out gifts and souvenirs for friends and family — you know, the proper holiday decompression process.
  2. Wardrobe clear out! Put up on Ebay the masses of unworn clothes that have been sitting (or hanging up) in my wardrobe, I’m never going to wear those weird tweedy Ralph Lauren trousers that I impulse bought, they cost quite a bit, so I really should sell them on and let someone else appreciate them in all their eccentricity and get a bargain…
  3. Make an effort to spend some time with my little sister, hang out and try not to antagonise each other… possibly have fun! This is a biggy as we live relatively close but aren’t good at making time for each other, its mutual but I feel as we get older we should be getting into a habit of it. As I type this, we’ve got a sister day out at Ikea planned, cheap scented candles and new bedding here I come!
  4. Ask a favour of my Dad and get him to come and fit my new copper light shade — I haven’t been able to do this since I recently redecorated my bedroom and it’s one of the final touches to complete.
  5. Rewrite and update my CV. This is something I’ve been putting off for a while, I’m currently searching for a new job so really need to get a new covering letter together and update the whole document. Eurghhhh. (If anyone has any hints or tips, hit me up!)

What are your plans with the remainder of this summery month?

 

xx

Monthly Reads |February and March 2016

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Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Whenever someone saw me reading this, I was asked “Have you seen the film? It’s so good!”. I haven’t yet seen the film but this book had been sitting on my “to read” pile for a long time. There were parts of Wild that were so evocative and emotionally raw, I had to put it down and take a few deep breaths to stop myself from crying. Cheryl Strayed vividly describes bereavement and loss but also her growth, strength, and victory as she hikes over 1000 miles of the PCT on a personal mission to help heal and guide herself. This is a moving read that that is suspenseful and bildungsroman, documenting a demanding physical and emotional journey. I really adored this

 

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

I loved the Sapphic Dickensian novel Fingersmith, so post-reading I immediately added all of Sarah Waters works to my Amazon basket as I had fallen head over heels with this author. However, The Night Watch is an appalling work  in comparison which was depressing, flat, dull, two dimensional and left me wondering if this was written by the same person.

This book is also responsible for why I didn’t have a chance to read much else through February as I felt unmotivated to keep reading this lifeless, soporific novel. I committed to the 500 pages hoping something would happen but it didn’t, I felt fucking deflated and annoyed when I finished. The personalities of the different women in the multi-stranded narrative were boring, the plot was nowhere near compelling enough to encourage you to continue reading as the story was told in reverse and ultimately there was a blandness to the limp ending.

 

Bassoon King, The : My Life in Art, Faith and Idiocy by Rainn Wilson

I am massive fan of The Office which is probably what I have in common with 99% of readers that bought The Bassoon King. I personally think of Rainn Wilson as having quite a singular identity, as an actor and my hero for playing my comedy favourite Dwight Schrute. However Wilson is far more multi-dimensional and his biography explored his revelatory relationship with faith, family, education, charity work and acting career (MORE EXCITING BEHIND THE SCENES STUFF ABOUT THE OFFICE!) which resulted in some thoroughly philosophical musings and extended critical observations explored in the footnotes throughout.  I was surprised how well written it was and how open Rainn Wilson was about his life…, a consistently amusing and richly revealing memoir of the man behind Dwight Schrute.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Some of the tone and content of this book is unbearably hysterical and hyperbolic. However, I found when Lawson writes of her experience with long term depression (in between chapters on drugs, taxidermy and her work) they are gems of lucid, mesmeric and painfully relatable essays. For this reason I adored this book because her description of mental health is refreshing and her refusal to be a victim of it, prescribes an unusual and amusing set of coping mechanisms… in which she started the Furiously Happy movement.

 

The Easter Tag | 2016

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This tag is currently going around Twitter so I jumped on the chocolate laden band wagon…

1. What does Easter/Good Friday look like in your country?

A long extended bank holiday during which most families get together, exchange eggs and sit down for a big roast on the Sunday!

In our household, Easter Sunday is a long lie in, then usually a special breakfast with croissants and fresh coffee, followed by exchanging chocolate and small presents. We normally have a roast followed by parlour games or silly quizzes and drinks.

2.Do you have Easter/Good Friday Traditions?

When we were little, Easter time meant a lot of church/mass as my sister and I were brought up Roman Catholic. Although I would not deem myself a “religious person” anymore, my fathers side of the family are, so our extended family drop in to our house more frequently as they attend mass with my Dad post-various services during this period.

Due to our religious upbringing, Easter seemed to be infused with so much more meaning and celebration in our family than it was in any of my friends from school. None of my class mates or friends from my neighbourhood were Christians so for them it was seen as “chocolate weekend!” whereas we understood it was a symbolic religious celebration.  I don’t remember feeling bothered about this, although I felt a little resentful when I was younger about the amount of church we had to attend, giving up all sweet treats for lent and generally feeling a little scared about the mass involving the crucifying of Jesus.

I remember the frisson of excitement which was on par with Christmas eve when Good Friday came around and remember getting significantly more presents than my non-Christian friends on the Easter Sunday, result!

3.What is the perfect Easter/Good Friday?

Relaxing really! Normally doing a few last minute chores to make the house look extra clean and tidy. We put an Easter tree made of twigs and decorate it with small painted eggs and tiny decorations such as rabbits and chickens. My Mumma normally lays the table in advance of the Sunday roast as she likes to decorate the dining room, put up bunting, special candles etc. then we aren’t allowed in there until the Sunday.

4. Do you believe in the Easter Bunny?

We don’t really have the Easter Bunny in England — presents are shared and given amongst family members.

5. What is your favorite Easter Candy?

I love Lindt chocolate, although I don’t really have a sweet tooth so often I will melt my Easter chocolate down and make scrummy hot chocolates over the next couple of weeks.

6. What part of the chocolate bunny do you eat first?

Ears to feet? I feel so cruel saying that!

7. What is your favorite thing about Easter?

I love shopping for pretty Easter cards, chocolates and finding small gifts for my family and boyfriends family. I look forward to decorating my house with neat little bunting, bunches of daffodils and spring flowers and generally treating Easter as a celebration to welcome Spring into our house, after a very long, cold, dark winter in England.

8. What was your favourite Easter memory?

Probably my earliest memory, coming down from my bedroom to see our dining covered with chocolate eggs and toys.

9. What are your plans for the Easter weekend this year?

I spent it with my boyfriends family, we cooked a big dinner together on the Saturday, played with our niece and nephew, organised an egg hunt for the Sunday morning, went out to a local country bistro for a Sunday lunch and I had a yummy nut roast followed by an insaaaane cheese board (possibly a highlight of the weekend?). We then relaxed, curled up on sofas and watched a couple of family movies together. It was really special.

10. Do you colour eggs?

When we were little we did, I still remember aged 3, dying eggs at Nursery, dipping shells in warm coloured dyes and painting them once they had dried.

11. What would your perfect coloured egg be?

White with rose gold details.

12. Favorite Easter/Good Friday treat?

It’s allllllllllll about the big Sunday roast: chicken (or trout for me), crispy roast potatoes, greens, roasted butternut squash, broccoli, Yorkshire puddings, gravy…

13. Do you hunt/hide eggs?

We hide eggs for the little ones, so in addition to their big Easter egg, they have little baskets to hunt for smaller chocolate eggs.

14. What do you typically put in Easter baskets?

We don’t have baskets here, gifts are just given out in gift bags.

15. What does Easter/Good Friday mean to you?

Family time, food and rest.

 

VALENTINES @ RICK STEIN’S | 2016

A quick hello! I hope you had a lovely Sunday, whether you were doing Valentines related things or treating yourself to some extra chocolate and wine…

On Friday night my love took me to Rick Stein’s in Winchester, which is quickly becoming one of our favourite places to go to for a special occasion.

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I had the mackerel salad with mango and papaya salad for starter. It was powerfully spicy due to the chilli and the pieces of mackerel were sprinkled over the salad like crispy seafood croutons – yum!  Sam had the salt and pepper squid (which he has tried before) and it did not disappoint.

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For main, Sam favoured the famous cod & chips, I have tried this previously and can attest it is divine. If perfectly battered fish with a stack of the hugest/chunky/crunchy triple, quadruple (?!) cooked chips are your thing, this is for you.  I was treated to lobster thermidore which I will be dreaming about for months to come. I had never eaten lobster in this style before, the price is perhaps a little eye-watering but it was like nothing I have ever tasted; thick lobster meat in a decadently rich, creamy, sauce topped with hot, bubbling Gruyère — #foodporn

I had a side of skinny fries with my lobster to dip in the sauce, because why not? In Mr Stein’s own words: “There’s a renaissance of classic French seafood dishes. I’ve made it lighter and more fragrant and it’s rather good.” — Indeed it is! We only took one quick snap, which was of course of the food not us!

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It was a sweet and very romantic evening, phones away, giggling and catching up over a delicious bottle of wine.

Thank you very much, my love! <3

Charlotte, aka HF x