The BiG Friday Edit | 16

*Picture is from my trip last week. Love blue skies with an unexpected pop of colour!

The only thing better than a long weekend is a surprise long weekend which is what I’m about to be treated to as I hadn’t realised it was coming. Looking forward to catching up on sleep, catching the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel and maybe, possibly, potentially thinking about finishing unpacking from my trip…which I returned from more than a week ago. We’ll see how it goes…

In the meantime…

The Health Edit: Turns out that absence really does make the heart grow fonder! After a minor hiatus from 1Rebel they’re already sending me emails saying they miss me and offering discount codes. They know the way to this girl’s heart!

The Book Edit: This week I’ve had two books on the go – my ‘in transit’ read has been The Big Life by Ann Shoket and my ‘before bed’ read has been Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. Starting with The Big Life (written by the former Editor in Chief of Seventeen Magazine in the US): more inspiration than strategy this book is filled with uplifting stories of fellow millennials living their ‘big life’ and realising that there’s no such thing as work life balance (who knew?) Though I would have preferred a bit more how to’s and advice there’s no denying that this is a buzzy, enjoyable read with good takeaways about focusing on your own goals, ignoring the BS and living the life you deserve. In a completely different genre is Hidden Figures. Recently made into an Oscar-nominated movie, this is the true-life story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. I’m not too far into it but I’m already completely engrossed in the behind the scenes look at what was such an interesting time period in US history on so many levels.

The Shopping Edit: I got my Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets!!! After a 7-hour wait with no happy ending last time tickets were up for grabs I am so excited to be going to see the play for a second time…in July 2018. Whatever. I have tickets!!

The Screen Edit: Are any of you watching/have any of you watched 13 Reasons Why on Netflix? I started it last Saturday and finished the entire series in less than 24 hours (pesky sleep got in the way!) I was absolutely blown away by this show. The storytelling, the acting, the messaging, the learnings – this is one of the most powerful shows I’ve seen in recent memory. The themes are dark – a teenage girl commits suicide and leaves a series of cassette tapes dedicated to the ’13 reasons’ (people) why she chose to end her life – and watching main character Clay (the boy who loved her) come to terms with not only her death but also the secrets revealed after she’s gone is heartbreaking. There are a number of scenes which are not for the faint-hearted (2 rape scenes (which I fast forwarded through because I refuse to watch emotionally damaging content like that) and a graphic depiction of suicide) but I still highly recommend it and would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve seen it!

The Blog Edit: This week I (unintentionally) continued my discourse on digital, shared my review of Tata Harper skincare and indulged my love for London’s architecture.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Early Morning City Streets

After a very early start yesterday in order to fit in some life admin before work I found myself with some time to kill before my first meeting of the day. Luckily for me, the sun was (almost) shining and I was in one of my favourite parts of central London – the stretch from Trafalgar Square along Pall Mall to St James’s Palace.

As I had nothing but time on my hands I treated myself to the most leisurely of strolls and couldn’t help but stop and take a few photos on the way.

I love love love the diverse architecture in this city! Every magical era of history is captured in the facades that line the well-worn roads and it’s nearly impossible to pick a favourite.

Thankfully we don’t have to – we can love them all!

A round-up of my wanderings to help you through this Thursday, starting with Trafalgar Square.

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Pall Mall

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St James’s Palace

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St James’s Street

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The Royal Academy

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Fortnum and Mason (who knew these gorgeous wrought-iron gates existed? The benefits of going before they open!)

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I couldn’t resist popping into Hatchard’s – one of my favourite London bookstores. I could happily browse these shelves until the end of time. Literally.

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I love you, London!

Natural Beauty with Tata Harper


Whenever I travel I’m all about packing light. Whether I’m out for the day or away for two weeks I scrutinise everything going into my bag(s) – what is its purpose, when and how will it be used while I’m away, how necessary is it really? My goal is always to take only what I’ll need…and if it’s travel size and takes up less space? Even better!

It’s no surprise then that when I saw Tata Harper’s Daily Essentials kit I snapped it up to take with me on my trip home. Unlike other sets which contain bits and pieces of my usual skincare regime this one ticks all the boxes with the added bonuses of being 100% natural – a side of the beauty and skincare industry I’m increasingly fascinated with – and available in teensy, tiny, travel-ready bottles!

Introducing: Tata Harper

Tata Harper skincare is 100% natural and non-toxic and grown on a 1,200 acre farm in the heart of Champlain Valley, Vermont, USA. Unlike most of the rest of the beauty industry they manufacture in small batches to ensure products are as fresh as possible, with all processes being led by Tata herself (I love it when there’s a real person behind the name – it gives a brand credibility and makes it more interesting!)

From Tata (and her website):

My founding mission was to give the skincare industry a fresh start with highly effective and luxurious beauty products that are completely free of synthetic ingredients. I believe people deserve beauty products that deliver the results they want, without synthetic chemicals of concern. As a company we seek to challenge the assumption that ‘natural’ means less effective. I’m passionate about promoting a modern, health-conscious natural beauty lifestyle that’s committed to safety, honesty and sustainability.

An amazing ethos!

So, now that I’ve converted you all to natural beauty lovers and savvy packers (not yet? Give me time…) I’m sure you’re all dying to know: What’s in the box!?*

* If you don’t understand this reference you need to go and research it and watch the movie** and then come back.

** Blonde In Grey is not responsible for any sleep lost tonight.

The Products

  1. Regenerating Cleanser – a daily exfoliating & clarifying treatment to get your skin squeaky clean and primed
  2. Resurfacing Mask – a weekly mask for when you need a bit of extra glow
  3. Hydrating Floral Essence – an essence and moisture boosting toner in one – gotta love a product that effortlessly multitasks!
  4. Rejuvenating Serum – your new age-defying superhero
  5. Repairative Moisturiser – silky, smooth – your skin’s new best friend!
  6. Restorative Eye Crème – another superhero – this time for your eyes
  7. Replenishing Nutrient Complex – a face oil for all skin types packed with multivitamins

The How To:

  1. Regenerating Cleanser: Massage on to dry skin then rinse with warm water (AM & PM)
  2. Resurfacing Mask: Apply 1-2x per week to dry face, neck and chest (how low you go is up to you, daredevil!) Leave for 15-30 mins then rinse with warm water
  3. Hydrating Floral Essence: Spritz all over face and neck after cleansing (AM & PM)
  4. Rejuvenating Serum: Massage on to skin after Floral Essence (AM & PM)
  5. Repairative Moisturiser: Massage on to skin after Rejuvenating Serum (AM & PM)
  6. Restorative Eye Crème:  Using ring finger pat around the eye area (AM & PM)
  7. Replenishing Nutrient Complex: Massage on to skin as final step (AM & PM)

Yes, this looks like a lot but it’s actual quite straightforward and you’ll have the steps memorised in no time. (Or you can do what I did and line them up in the correct order in the medicine cabinet to take the guesswork out of it.) I know there are people out there who can’t fathom spending more than a couple of minutes on skincare morning and night (and some who *gasp* go to bed without even taking their makeup off!) but I promise you it’s worth the time investment. It’s a chance to take some quiet time to wake-up/unwind and the long-term benefits are massive – for your skin and your mental well-being!

My Review:

The packaging it gorgeous, the size is right and the products are amazing. They aren’t overly fragrant, they absorb quickly without leaving any greasy residue and they leave your skin feeling smooth and refreshed.

My hero product was, without a doubt, the Hydrating Mist. It was like wafting myself with the essence of a refreshing spring rainfall. It felt great, smelled great and made me look great. Ideal!

The only drawbacks? The eye cream is actually only good for one use (easily fixed though by bringing another eye cream), the roller ball on the Replenishing Nutrient Complex make it difficult to apply (I’m guessing the roller ball was chosen to help prevent spills while in transit so can’t really fault them for it) and if you forget the directions (like me) you may end up using the Resurfacing Mask wrong (like me).

Ultimately, a set like this is a great way to ease your way into a new line or product as it gives you an opportunity to sample a bit of everything. Though you could certainly get samples of them all from the beauty counter they won’t be large enough to allow you to use the products over an extended period of time – the only true way to test how a product reacts to and impacts your skin.

Tata Harper – you exceeded my expectations and have earned a place on my Top Shelf!


The Digital Detox – The Sequel

*This post was totally meant to be a review of Tata Harper skincare but I got sidetracked by an unintended rant against the digital age so just rolled with it. The Tata Harper review will likely go up tomorrow so watch for it then!

As you’ll have noticed by my (unusual) radio silence over the past nearly two weeks, I took my digital detox rather seriously and took the opportunity to completely disconnect for my trip home to Canada to celebrate my maternal grandmother’s 100(!!!)th birthday.

True, it helped that I consciously turned the data on my phone off to avoid extortionate roaming charges and so could only connect to wi-fi when it was available. But what initially started as a temporary turn off turned into a full-on hermit-style embracing of pre-app, pre-digital-addiction life.

I didn’t log on to promote last week’s blog posts (so I should probably mention that you can find them here and here. And reading the second one will help explain why I’ve suddenly become digital-adverse Old Lady Blonde on you) and instead trusted that they would promote themselves.

I took a picture of the sunset and the ones I love…and then put the phone away and enjoyed the moment rather than fretting over a filter.

I let the Tweeters tweet and the Instagrammers gram and didn’t care one little bit about the mounting emails.

And it was AMAZING.

I felt free. I felt lighter than ever and I was so incredibly happy to give 100% of my attention to the people I was with and the things I was doing.

When I returned to the UK I didn’t have the usual urge to switch on and dive in. Instead I sent off a quick note to the family to let them know we’d arrived back safely and then I plopped my phone down in the other room and didn’t look at it until Monday morning when I tentatively eased my way back into the digital sphere with some Hamilton sing-alonging.

Now, here we are a day later and already I’m not sleeping as well and I’m back to constantly worrying about the state of the world.

Though it’s near impossible to completely disconnect on a day to day basis I’m officially going to be looking for every spare second to put my phone away!

The BiG Friday Edit | 15

Hi friends!

The Life Edit: I’m back from a wonderful trip back to Canada and missing everyone terribly already. To ease myself back into real life I’m continuing my digital detox and spending the weekend relaxing in front of some favourite movies.

We’ll be back to regular programming next week. 🙂

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

The Digital Detox

If you had to guess, how many times a day do you look at your phone? How many apps do you have open and running at this moment?

My guess is that the answer to both will be: a lot.

With the entire world literally at our fingertips it’s almost impossible to resist the pull of technology – the thing that keeps us connected not only to the people we know and love but also to people we’ve never met but know intimate details of their lives.

And I’m just as bad as the next gal.

Instagram is my obsession and I can’t get enough of the beautiful visuals and revealing portraits of people revealed in their insta-stories. It’s the first app I open in the morning and the last one I browse at night.

Twitter has become my number one news source. It’s where I find out who lives and who has died, what’s hot and what’s not, what terrible new tragedy the world is suffering through and the true depths of crazy that exist in the human race.

Pinterest has replaced my childhood pastime of cutting favourite pictures and portraits out of magazines. Why waste time buying the magazine, reading it all and then cutting it out only to store it in a box when I can do it all with the flick of a finger and have the image in my pocket and ready to access at any time?

Facebook is….a love and hate relationship. At the risk of sounding very old, it’s not the same as it was when it first started and the constant trickle of ads and ‘so and so liked this picture’ (of complete and total strangers) it’s actually a bit impossible to use it for its original purpose – to keep up with what’s going on in your friends lives.

In short, I’m on my phone a lot.

But more and more I’m becoming a fan of the digital detox. It could be for an hour, a day, a weekend – as long as you put your phone down and engage with the world and people around you it counts.

As I’m back in Canada for a family visit at the moment I thought this would be a great time to challenge myself to really shut off and recharge. Other than quick check-ins to let you all know when new posts are up my phone has been at the bottom of my bag and completely out of my mind.

I’m looking forward to living in the moment and really being present while I spend time with the people I don’t get to see nearly as regularly as I’d like. I’m sure my brain, neck and hands will also benefit from the absence of a handheld screen!

Want to join me in a digital detox? Here’s some suggestions on how to incorporate it into your life.

  1. Whenever you meet up with friends leave your phone in your bag or pocket. No mindless scrolling or ‘So sorry I just have to answer this’. Give the people you’re with your full attention. They deserve it!
  2. This should be a given but I’ve had too many bad experiences not to know it needs to be said. DO NOT use your phone in any way when at the movies. Put it away and respect your fellow viewers!
  3. When you leave the office on Friday put your phone away and vow to touch it as little as humanly possible before Monday. The emails can wait. Life can’t!
  4. Consider leaving your phone at home when you leave the house for the day. Yes, you may get a bit lost without CityMapper at your side but some of the best adventures come from wandering down the wrong streets!
  5. Take a vacation…and leave the phone at home! Enjoy the feeling of being completely disconnected and free of stress.

Ultimately, it will all come down to your lifestyle and commitments. You don’t have to go completely off the grid but it’s worth taking a step back now and again (especially at the movies. Please can we all be adults and act accordingly here?!).

Your mind (and loved ones) will thank you!

Diary of the Clean Cleanse

*Before you start this (extremely long) post, do yourself a favour and grab a snack – you’ll be thinking non-stop about food in just a moment and it’s good to be prepared!

Hi. My name is Laura, and I am susceptible to pretty much any health fad which promises ‘life changing results’.

The first time I ever heard about the Clean cleanse was in a GOOP email from my good friend Gwyneth Paltrow. The premise seemed simple enough (2 liquid meals a day with a healthy lunch for 7 days) and I was convinced I could do it with ease.

Cut to 5 years later and I finally got around to actually doing the cleanse. And it was not as easy as past (cocky) Laura thought. There were moments of hunger (though fewer than you’d expect) but I actually managed to restrain myself from eating everything I craved which was unprecedented (confession time: I ate 4 Oreos during the 30-hour famine in high school. My head still hangs in shame.)

I learned a lot in the seven days of the cleanse but before I share my ‘wisdom’ I thought I’d share my journey…

Day 1:

I’ve been looking forward to the start of the cleanse so I’m up bright and early to make my first shake and feeling excited to start this challenge. I combine all the ingredients, battle my blender until it’s actually blending (stupid non-working machine) and then pour my first cleanse meal into a tall glass to enjoy. I had made the smoothie previously just to try it out and it was delicious – I mean, look at this yummy recipe:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 3 pitted dates
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 packet Cleanse Shakes Vanilla or Chocolate
  • optional: 1 tablespoon ground flax seed

I had thought the addition of the cleanse protein powder wouldn’t change anything.

I was wrong.

There’s a distinct, slightly chalky vanilla taste that changes the overall experience. It’s not terrible…just unexpected. I do my best to adjust.

I finish the shake, down the supplements with a massive glass of water (start as you mean to go on!) and head out the door into the day.

I make it to lunch without any hunger pangs (hurrah!) and I’m excited to try my first ‘Clean’ meal – Mushroom and Artichoke Heart Millet ‘Risotto’ – which I had successfully helped make the night before.

I should have known things were headed south when it slid out of the Tupperwear in a single lump.

I heated it up and the first few bites weren’t bad. Millet is not nearly as chewy and comforting as risotto but the resemblance is close enough that I could convince myself they were one and the same. I made it through lunch (accompanied, as always, by a packet of supplements – this meal’s pack came with two bonus tablets which I saved rather than taking).

After an afternoon of many glasses of water (gotta keep hydrated/trick your stomach into thinking it’s definitely not in need of a mid-afternoon snack!) I took a boxing class after work and then headed home for my evening shake.

I opted for a smoothie with cocoa and almond butter and chocolate protein powder because I was convinced it would taste like a peanut butter cup.

It did not.

Is there such a thing as a smoothie that’s too sweet? Yes, yes there is. It was a bit like a quadruple chocolate mousse and I ended up eating it with a spoon, taking large gulps of water between each bite.

I went to bed feeling like I’d gotten past the worst of it – I’d survived Day One!*

*Ah, the blind innocence of the ignorant…

Day 2:

I’m up before the sun to make my smoothie and take it with me to enjoy after my morning workout. (A key part of the cleanse is leaving yourself 12 hours between your evening and morning meal so your body can not only digest but also start repairing the damage you’ve inflicted with all the delicious sugar you’ve enjoyed over the years.)

The workout nearly killed me but the morning smoothie is, dare I say it, enjoyable! This delicious recipe:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 giant handfuls of spinach
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 packet Cleanse Shakes Vanilla
  • optional: 1 tablespoon ground flax seed

Mid morning the first stumbling block lands and all I can say is whoever invented the office treat shelf is cruel. I bypass the chocolate Hob Nobs and digestives knowing that I’m making the right choice and I will emerge healthier and happier for it in the end.

The second day of millet risotto is definitely more trying than the first. I make it through half before abandoning the bowl and opting to fill up on water for the afternoon.

Dinner is another unpalatable creation that promised to taste like cinnamon and chai but decidedly did not.

I brush my teeth early to avoid the temptation to have something else and repeat my cleanse mantra: ‘you are stronger than this. You will survive. You can have peanut butter M&M’s in less than a week!’

Day 3:

The first weekend day of my cleanse but I’ve packed it with activities to keep my mind off what I am and am not eating. I head to a workout (I’m determined to live as healthily as possible during the cleanse so am simultaneously doing a workout challenge at 1Rebel. It seemed like a good idea at the time…) and then to the salon for a treatment and then home for lunch. Determined to eat something I actually like I opt for simplicity – chicken in olive oil with some salt and pepper, brown rice and half an avocado. It is delicious. And I usually don’t even like chicken!

When dinnertime rolls around I decide it’s time to learn from my mistakes and opt for the same smoothie as yesterday morning because it was tasty.

Day 4:

Two workouts today (WHY, past Laura, WHYYY?) and then some time at Grace Belgravia using up a free pass I got at a work event. I have lunch at the restaurant and do my best to enjoy the miso-glazed chicken and seasonal greens when all I really want is pancakes and french fries and hot chocolate and…

I spend the afternoon taking it easy, watching movies (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is just as awesome on the small screen) and trying to convince Graham that just one peanut butter M&M won’t count as cheating but he stands firm and I end the day grumpy but just as healthy as I started.

Day 5:

This morning’s smoothie is actually delicious. I went back to the original recipe from smoothie 1 on day 1 but I skipped the flippery and simplified:

  •  1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 1 giant handful spinach
  • 1 packet Clean Chocolate Shake mix

No dates, no vanilla extract…just things I know I like. It’s literally the best shake I’ve had yet. YUM.

The morning passes quickly and though I’m not hungry I CANNOT stop thinking about bread. And pizza. I miss them desperately. Instagram has become a no go zone as every other picture seems to be temptation personified.

Lunch is the trusted chicken/rice/avocado and I eat every bite.

I make it alive through a boxing class after work (I pretend the bag is my common sense and beat it for deserting me) and fill my evening smoothie full to bursting with pineapple to try to drown out the now familiar vanilla ‘shake taste’.

Day 6:

I’ve hit on the winning breakfast combination! Recipe:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 giant handful spinach
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 1 chocolate Clean shake packet (the chocolate makes all the difference!)

Look at me really* mixing it up! I’m practically a masterchef! (*not really)

The morning flies by in a whirl of work and suddenly it’s lunch. For my last two cleanse lunches I’ve created a random combo – spinach, rice, beans and avocado salad with tamari sauce.

It’s tasty (mostly the rice and avocado bits, let’s be honest) but I’m left desperate for a cookie or croissant. JUST GIVE ME ALL THE CARBS ALREADY!!

Despite the temptation I manage to stay strong and persevere, smug pride fuelling my determination.

My final ‘Reshape’ class at 1Rebel leaves me on what feels like the edge of death. (If you need a visual – imagine the seventh circle of hell…but with leggings) I limp to the bus and head home for my third last smoothie and the sweet relief of sleep. We’re in the final countdown.

Day 7:

I wake up feeling super proud of myself for making it this far. Only three meals and one boxing class stand between me and success!

Breakfast is my chocolate fruit delight and I can’t help but think it tastes better knowing this is the second last smoothie.

The clean box is looking pretty empty once I take my supplements and have the last probiotic and the realisation that I’m thisclose to be able to say ‘oh the Clean cleanse? Yeah I did that. So easy’ is making me a bit giddy.

The morning is one long meeting and then frantic catching up on emails but mid-afternoon the world stops.

Have you ever found yourself pondering what your worst nightmare looks like when you’re cleansing? (….Just me then?) Well, friends, I CAN TELL YOU IT LOOKS A LITTLE SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

Every time I walk by the bowl for the rest of the afternoon I pick one up, put it in my desk drawer and whisper ‘tomorrow’ to myself as silent tears stream down my face.*

(*This is not entirely true but it MIGHT AS WELL BE)

After one final boxing class which leaves me sporting bloody knuckles (like a true champ!) I head home to my final smoothie and go to sleep with a feeling of real accomplishment.

The Aftermath:

Though I thought I’d be ravenous the first day after the cleanse I actually find it a bit odd to be preparing something other than a smoothie to start my day. It’s weird how quickly something can become a habit!

I’m really proud of myself for having finished the cleanse but I don’t know if it’s something I would do again, primarily because it makes more sense to incorporate the learnings from it in my everyday life – drink more water, give your body proper time to cleanse overnight by not stuffing it with a roast dinner at 11pm, move everyday (if you work up a sweat even better), take time for yourself and make more conscious choices about what you ingest.

In the end I lost 7lbs, my skin looks great and I learned my willpower is a lot stronger than I ever thought. Not bad for a week’s work!