Why I always fall for autumn

It’s no secret, I’m a lover of autumn 🍂🍁.. And all things autumn at that. Maybe it’s because I’m a September baby and autumn was my very first ‘season’ or perhaps, much like my cats, I like the idea of hibernating in front of a fire. So, whilst many are mourning the loss of summer, pining for long sunny evenings and the prospect of just ‘another mini heatwave’, I’m pulling my boots, tights and chunky knits from the wardrobe, reaching for a blanket and upping my intake of tea.

Every year it’s the same, each time I feel like I’m experiencing it for the very first time – but this year has felt a little different. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older or maybe it’s because this year we’ve been graced with a particularly stunning autumn, either way, it’s time to embrace the season and indulge in it.

Whether you’re an autumn-lover like me or someone that needs a little more convincing, here are just a few things to relish in this season.

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1. Cosy lighting 

I’m not a fan of ‘big lights’. I can often be heard at home asking the husband to ‘turn off the big light’. If I have a bath it’s with candles, if I read in bed it’s with a bedside lamp, I find bright lighting offensive. And, as the evenings draw in it’s even cosier at home when you can light candles, turn on the fire, and switch on those lamps. 

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2. Festive foliage

Even if you hate autumn with a passion *although I’m not sure we can be friends* I defy you not to love the way this season makes everything change colour. Living in Winchester means we are surrounded by THE most beautiful countryside and seeing the leaves change colour is pretty magical. And, once those leaves hit the ground leaf crunching is in full effect.

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3. The heat is on…

And not just at home with a cosy fire, but your drinks heat up too – cider becomes mulled, red wine becomes warm – and it’s acceptable to add a drop of whiskey or brandy to your coffee or hot chocolate, right? 

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4. Hearty eating

Soups, stews, pies, oh my… there are so many great seasonal veggies out there that it’s yet another reason why I love this time of year. And with a husband who’d eat stews and roasted veg till they were coming out of his ears, my kitchen has never been so busy. Apple crumble and chicken pie are regular requests at the moment. So it’s a great time to reach for the cookbook and try something new. And all this cold weather makes me feel pretty darn hungry – and you can’t beat the simplicity of a great loaf of bread. 

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5. AW16 

Summer requires you to wear too little for my liking. I’m not someone who likes overheating but I equally can’t stand much being ‘on show’. Enter autumn – the season that allows me to cover up, pull out the oversized cardigans, throw on a scarf and don a hat. And don’t get me started on the boots. And, because it’s practically dark by 5pm it’s even more acceptable to get home and get straight into your pyjamas – no questions asked.

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6. The countdown is on

With Halloween behind us and Bonfire Night looming it can only mean one thing – the countdown to Christmas has begun. If you’re frightened of the ‘C’ word then you might not want to check back here till Christmas is done. But for the rest of you, it’s officially time to start planning all things festive and really get into the spirit. 

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So, if you’re looking for me this season you’ll probably find me either hibernating at home with the cats or under a pile of leaves.

Happy autumn, guys!

Do you love autumn? What’s your favourite thing about this time of year?

Ciara sign off

Savour the moment… The weekend series | Part ten

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// Title image by Decordots //

Just in case you hadn’t guessed, from my incessant Instagram/Facebook snapping of foliage, leaf crunching and all things warm and cosy,🍁 autumn is my favourite season. AND, with this Sunday being #NationalLieInDay (with an extra hour in bed), it seemed like the perfect time to kick-back into some weekend reading.

Almost a whole season has been and gone since I shared some weekend reading with you, but I hope you’re ready to sink back into bed, armed with a cuppa and breakfast-in-bed (if you’re lucky enough) and make the most of your Sunday* – that’s exactly how I plan to use my extra hour this morning. What about you?

*Apologies in advance to all those reading this who have been up an extra hour earlier with little ones demanding Peppa Pig on repeat.


My lovely friend Jenna (of The Country Girl Bible) , her sister from another mister, Lucy (of Pinderpix) and I were all due to hang out last week at the Gather with Gill event at River Cottage Canteen Winchester, for the launch of Gill’s book. Unfortunately, I was poorly so I wasn’t able to make it but Jenna and Lucy looked like they had a fab time. If you’re a lover of good food, local produce and fancy getting your hands on a tasty new cook book then read both Jenna and Lucy’s blogs – autumnal indulgence at its finest.


One of my favourite bloggers, Monica of The Elgin Avenue, has posted a blog about her top newsletters that she values AND opens. I’m already subscribed to most of these and can agree that they are packed full of great news, lots of lovely content and I also get pretty excited when it lands in my inbox. Make sure you also sign up to Monica’s emails too – her croissant reading is one of my favourites.


With autumn being the perfect time to #Savourthemoment, a little Hygge *pronounced hoo-ga* can go a long way. Not yet discovered the Danish concept of Hygge? Then read on here and find out why you need to curl up with a good book more, give in to that bottle of wine or indulge in that oversized bowl of pasta.


A new season is a great time to take stock, especially at this time of year as, dare I say it, Christmas is approaching and 2017 is just over there 👉🏼 . As a business owner myself, I will be taking the great advice from over at Elle and Company on getting back to basics. Evaluating, game-planning and working out my priorities.


And, I couldn’t end this week’s Savour the moment without a little decadence. Whether you’re planning breakfast in bed or just fancy a treat, then make sure try this french toast recipe

Hope you have a great weekend, whatever you’re up to.

Ciara sign off

How to create a routine when you work from home

Whether you only work from home a day or two a week, or like me, you’re here pretty much here 24/7, it’s so important to establish a routine. Just because you don’t have to rush out the door at 7.30am or require make-up to face the day, routine is still important. In fact, I’d say it’s even more important that you create a rigid routine when you don’t have a ‘boss’ to report to. 

Same time every day

When you don’t have to have set working hours it can be easy to fall into bad habits. One of my biggest downfalls is being sat with my laptop long into the late hours. Set an alarm each day, get up and finish work at a respectable hour and do your best to switch off. I tend to leave the door to my home office closed until I start work and I shut the door when I finish, firmly leaving my work behind it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll often return if I need to (or have an urgent project on) but I do try to follow the same routine each day. 

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Dress for the occasion

I, personally, don’t believe that working from home should mean sitting in your pyjamas all day. Despite popular belief, many of us ‘work-from-home-ers’ do actually get up each morning, shower, get dressed for the day, and treat the day as if they were at work. It also works well when unsuspecting guests rock up for a cuppa cos, you know, you work from home! 

Plan ahead

I plan my day the day before. And, I find that a weekly planner really helps me to see at a glance what I need to be doing and where I need to be (add to that list Google calendar and an old fashioned filofax). The last thing I do on a Friday afternoon before I ‘clock off’ is to write down my work schedule for the week ahead and my to-do list. 

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Head outdoors

If a client or colleague is local then I usually arrange to meet them face-to-face. Working from home can be pretty isolating if you don’t push yourself to leave the house, so it’s important you seize as many opportunities as you can. I tend to opt for independent coffee shops to conduct most of my meetings (unless I’m required to go and visit a client at their office). And, if I really need to get away and focus then I sometime pop to my local library or cafe to feel like I’m around people. 

I try and take some time outdoors each day too. Many of my phone calls will be ‘taken outside’ so I can get my daily steps in and get some fresh air at the same time. I’m a walker and talker; not very good at sitting still. 

Your space

You might not have an entire room that you can dedicate to your workspace but it is really important to carve out a little place in your home that is your very own personal place of work. I found that once I had an ‘office’ it made a huge difference to how I saw ‘working for myself’ and also it gave me a mental distinction between work me and home me. Sometimes the lines do get blurred but you’ve just got to be stricter. 

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Do you work from home? Do you have your own little routine? I’d love to know your tips for staying motivated!

Ciara sign off

Savour the moment… The weekend series | Part nine

 

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So summer is here *apparently* and the longer evenings and brighter mornings are certainly making me feel a lot more motivated and productive.

The past few weeks have been really hectic and the weekends have been jam-packed. But this morning I’m making the most of some peace and quiet and taking my time to just enjoy a cup of tea without panicking about checking emails or running through my endless to-do list.

What have you got planned for the weekend? Whatever it is, make sure you put aside some time to catch up on some indulgent reading.


As a renter myself, it can be hard to add updates to your rented home and to make it it feel like it’s ‘yours’. Myself and Mr B have actually been quite lucky with our landlady who’s allowed us to make quite a few changes to our home, but if you’re struggling to put up a picture or paint a wall then this blog post  by Fran at Fall for DIY has plenty of ways to refresh your home – damage-free.


The beautiful shop, Hero, is located in the picturesque town of Stockbridge. Its stunning space is worth a visit and they run great workshops (I attended the blogging workshop run by Amanda Smart of The Online Stylist). I love learning about people who run blogs whilst working in a full-time job (something I’m trying to balance myself) and up on the Hero blog is an interview with blogger, Kat Louise, on how she manages exactly that.


Emily, of Cupcakes and Cashmere, has recently revealed her new office… and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Her decor and inspiring creation has given me all the home/office decor feels. *Swoon*.


Eternally trying to be a fitter, healthier and thus, a happier version of myself, I’m always on the look out for some new workouts. I get bored VERY easily when I work out so changing things up and trying new things always helps. Career Girl Daily has come up trumps with some new 30-minute workouts to try.


I love a seasonal clean of my home and this post from the girls at A Beautiful Mess has come along at just the right time. I can’t wait to get organised and inject a bit of professional-style organisation into my home.


I hope you all have a fab weekend and that the sun shines where ever you are. If you’re on social media then do say ‘hi’ over on Instagram – you’ll find me @ciaraanjali.

P.S After watching her musically seduce Pharrell Williams in a video that went viral, I’ve become a little bit obsessed with the super talented Maggie Rogers. If you’re yet to check her out then have a listen here.

Happy weekend!

Ciara sign off

Healthy baking made easy

I was recently asked by the lovely people at Sweetpea Pantry if I’d review some of their healthy baking mixes. And, as someone who is always on the look out for something sweet, tasty, but oh-so much better for you (not to mention a lover of anything biscuit-based), I soon got to baking.

Well, when I say baking what I really mean is a few easy steps before being able to sit down, with a cuppa, and a plate full of biscuits.

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Sweetpea Pantry create really healthy and delicious mixes, everything from pizza dough and pancakes to flapjacks and biscuits, with no refined sugars and 100% natural ingredients. If you have kids then I imagine that these are the ideal treat – no crazy sugar high and you don’t feel bad for feeding them biscuits when you want five minutes peace.

I tried the Ginger Giggles biscuit mix which is packed full of good stuff like flaxseed, wholegrain rye, and barely.

It was really simple to do, all you need to add to the mix is:

  • An egg white (local and free-range, of course)
  • Butter (or you can use a non-dairy alternative)
  • Honey

To make the biscuits you need to follow these steps:

  1. Prepare

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees. At this point, whenever I’m baking, I line my tray with greaseproof baking paper so I don’t end up covering half my kitchen in flour as I fight with the a roll of brown paper.

Then you need to melt the butter and honey together. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until it’s frothy.

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2. Mix

Mix all the ingredients together, along with the Sweetpea Ginger Giggles mix, and stir it until it combines. You should be left with a dough to knead that’s a lovely rich brown colour. Simply roll this into a ball and leave it to cool. I wrapped mine in cling film and popped it in the fridge for a while (I’m pretty pants at rolling pastry).

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3. Bake

Finally, grab some flour, dust your worktop and roll out the dough to around 3-5mm thick and cut it into biscuits. I used a round cutter to make proper-looking biscuits. If I had kids I’m sure they’d be made into actual gingerbread men but the husband prefers a manly biscuit rather than a novelty looking one.

Then bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes – my oven is not the greatest as it gets very hot, very quickly, so my biscuits only took around 6 minutes to bake.

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And there you have it, yummy and healthy ginger bread biscuits. It’s nice to sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit (or two) and know that it’s not packed full of rubbish and sugar. A lovely, little healthy treat.

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P.S. The husband is an absolute biscuit fiend so they didn’t last very long.

 

 

Savour the moment… The weekend series | Part eight

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// Title image by Fashion and Style //

How are you finding the spring evenings and the longer days? I finally feel as if I’m coming out of hibernation, but still very much in need of some down time, extra time in bed on a Sunday morning fuelled by tea and LOTS of breakfast food.

Last Sunday morning I was recovering from a very muddy Rough Runner  (hence the lack of post), but this weekend I’m grateful that there is no crazy obstacle course ahead of me, no mud to wade through and no ice cold water to fall in. Although, our Sunday brunch at Cote Brasserie certainly made up for it (their French toast comes highly recommended). This weekend however, I’ll be catching up on some much needed blog reading and tea drinking.

What about you? What are your plans for the weekend?


The amazing and super talented, Zanita (if you’ve ever watched Fashion Bloggers on E! then you’ll know who I’m talking about) has written a post on cleaning your make-up brushes. And, as banal as it might seem, a clean make-up brush is essential if you want healthy skin (and brushes). Never underestimate the power of a good, clean make-up brush!


As sad as it sounds, my bed is my happy place. On my first date, with my now husband, he asked me where was my favourite place to be in the world, the place that made me happiest, and I said ‘Tucked up in bed’. It’s still true now. It’s the place I feel calmest, safest and it’s where I do most of my good (and bad) thinking. I love this post on ‘How to turn your bedroom into your happy place’ by Advice from a twenty something. Pillows, blankets and candles are certainly essentials.


I love the idea of a spring reading spot … and I can’t wait to get stuck into some of the books on this list by Lobster and Swan.


A fab post by the beautiful and extremely articulate, Monica of The Elgin Avenue, has definitely helped me this week. An open, honest and true account of dealing with stressful thought patterns – and jam packed with good advice and top tips.  Certainly one to read, digest and put into action.


And finally, a mouth-watering post by Media Marmalade on gluten free comfort food. Just look at those pictures! I can’t wait to give this recipe a try.


I hope you all have a great weekend, whatever you’re doing.

Enjoy,

Ciara sign off

In review | LORD – The art of hair

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At the end of November last year, a stylish and unique hair salon opened on City Road. Tom Ferry and Jamie Holder, who between them have over 26 years of hairdressing experience, opened the doors to LORD.

Jamie, a wintonian through and through, and Tom who has worked in hair salons in Winchester for almost 17 years, have created a space that puts their clients at the heart of what they do. I was lucky enough to be invited in for a blow dry (and a glass of wine) to chat about what LORD, hairdressing, and Winchester means to them.

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From the second you step foot into LORD you can see that appearance and quality matters. Tom and Jamie have taken time to select the interiors for their salon by hand, along with Matt Blake (cabinet maker and carpenter) opting for high quality and eco friendly materials and first class salon products.

When asked what the ethos behind LORD was they both have the same answer – “It’s about our clients”, Tom says, “We wouldn’t be here without them and we’re lucky that wherever we go our clients come with us. We wanted to create something that we were proud of and a place we felt our clients deserved.


“For us it’s about offering our clients much more for their money. It’s not just about the quality of their hair cut, it’s about the surroundings, the coffee we serve and the products we use.”


One of the points made by Jamie is that it’s about that personal touch, going beyond the small talk and really “getting to know your clients, what they like, whether they like to sit and have a chat or whether they just want to relax in peace and quiet.”

So why would two young and stylish guys choose to open a salon in Winchester? Well, for Jamie it’s about his hometown, “I’m born and bred here and Winchester is where I want to be. Always. I have a passion for hairdressing and a love for Winchester and I’ve been able to combine the two things in LORD.

” It definitely feels different to your atypical salon. No one is treated as ‘Jamie’s client’ or ‘Tom’s client’ they’re all clients of LORD and from the moment you walk in your experience starts, not just from when you sit down in the chair (which by the way, are extremely comfortable). And, the team has grown since it first opened its doors. Dawn Robinson is the latest member of LORD and comes armed with a huge range of hairdressing qualifications.

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When asked what hair care tips were essential Tom and Jamie stress the importance of a decent salon shampoo, “PH neutral, sulphate free and no palm oil, especially if you want to keep your colour in good condition” says Jamie. “Also, the importance of a regular hair cut to help keep your locks looking healthy.”

And as for the latest trends? Ombre and balayage are high contenders for the latest look, putting the fact that you don’t have to have your roots done every six weeks as the reason why it’s so popular. Jamie also mentioned that a lot of people, especially the younger generation, are opting for silver and ash hair – so grey is in! And which famous tresses would they like to get their hands on? In keeping with the royal theme Jamie would opt for Kate Middleton, choosing to give her an updated yet classic look and Tom, well he’d quite like to get his hands on Caroline Flack’s hair!


If you want the true salon experience and to be treated like royalty then we suggest you book an appointment with LORD. These guys really know hair, from the latest trends to the best classic cuts. Lord is open Tuesday – Friday from 10am to 6pm, and Saturdays from 9am-5pm (Thursday evenings till 8pm). To book an appointment call 01962 813333. LORD, 19 City Road, Winchester.

Savour the moment… The weekend series | Part seven

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The long weekend is here, finally, and whether you’ve packed it full of chores, a bit of life admin and some family time or you’re just planning on taking it easy and eating l-ots of chocolate, here’s a bit of weekend reading to indulge in.


City Life (my local lifestyle newspaper in collaboration with We Are Winchester) is out now. And, if you’re not local to Winchester then you can download a copy here.


One of my favourite bloggers, Monica of The Elgin Avenue, has a fab post about what to do over the long weekend. Sadly I’ve failed already at the tech break but I am taking some time out to give myself a mini appraisal! Sometimes you need a little time to take stock, see where you’re at, what’s working and what’s not.


Spring and Easter is always a time for a bit of reflection – something about the extra time off from ‘real life’ and the change in season makes it feel like the right point to slow things down and focus. This great post by the lovely ladies at Hero (the most beautiful shop in Stockbridge, if you’re yet to visit I suggest that’s one thing for your list this weekend) is all about concentrating on personal values over the Easter weekend. Right you are, ladies.


With breakfast being my favourite, one of my favourite meals of the day, I was pretty happy when I stumbled across this amazing blog. Chances are, I’ll never make quinoa for breakfast, nor will quinoa ever be a treat, but the pictures alone are something to be admired.


I love having people to stay, and Easter weekend will be no exception. I’m always looking for little ways to make our guests feel welcome and one of my favourite bloggers (Cupcakes and Cashmere) has plenty of tips on how to make our future guests feel right at home.


I hope you all have a fabulous long weekend – and don’t forget, that the clocks spring forward today! You might lose an hour but it’s worth it for those longer days ahead.

Happy Easter.

Ciara sign off

In review | A seat at The King’s table

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to stay for a night to review The King’s Head in Hursley, a mere few minutes from Winchester city centre. So, on a sunny Thursday evening myself and the husband headed down after work to relax, unwind, and sample a little of what The King’s Head had to offer.

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On arrival, the super friendly Amelia Thornhill (it’s Amelia’s parents who currently run the pub) showed us to our room. Well, when I say room I actually mean suite. We were staying in The Spitfire suite, located to the side of the building (split over two floors with oak beams and plenty of character) it was the perfect place to retreat to for a bit of time out.

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The pub, which has been under new management in the last year by The Epicurian Times, is certainly fit for a king. The eight rooms are all decorated in their own style, from rooms with four-poster beds and free-standing baths to a cosy single room, complete with shower room.

But, by far the best part about The King’s Head, in our opinion, is the food. And, if you’re a foodie who loves local produce then you’re in for a treat. Award-winning Jenny Jones and her sous-chef, Matthew Heaven showed us just why The King’s Head has recently been awarded an AA Rosette for culinary excellence and 4 silver stars for the hotel. The locally-sourced menu made it hard to choose but we opted for the duck terrine with heritage beetroot to start and the potted salmon with Alresford watercress and lemon jelly.

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Beautifully presented, every mouthful was as good as the next. And, for main we chose the braised Hampshire beef and ale pie with creamy mash and the sea bass with tiger prawns and smoked haddock and spring onion cake, full of flavour and the portions were more than generous.

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The decadent dessert of sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce and ice cream had to be shared and all washed down with a crisp, dry bottle of pinot grigio. It’s safe to say you’ll be in food heaven.

The service from Amelia and her team was impeccable; attentive, on the ball, and without fault. And with an amazing resume from the likes of Gordan Ramsay and Marco Pierre White, it was clear to see Amelia’s passion for great food and excellent service.

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Breakfast was included and is served in the beautiful dining room. From fruit, cereal, granola and juice to a made-to-order breakfast, dependent on whether you can eat anything else after dinner from the night before, there was as much choice for breakfast as their was for dinner.

Needless to say, the hubby and I were pretty reluctant to leave The King’s Head and will certainly be planning a stay-cation there in the near future.


To find out more head to their website or call 01962 775 08 to book your stay or table.


Savour the moment… The weekend series | Part six

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//Title image from Adventures in Cooking//

Spring is here! And this time next week we’ll be treated to longer days again (I know I certainly could do with some more hours of daylight).

With issue three of City Life (my local lifestyle newspaper in Winchester) finally going to print, my spare time can go back to my favourite focus, Tea and Toast. And, with that in mind, I can resume normality with my weekend series and a bit of downtime with some blog reading.

Hopefully you’re having a great weekend, and getting a chance to relax and unwind.

Happy reading.


The wonderful, Jenna Shaw from The Country Girl Bible blog, popped into my husband’s shop last week and wrote a rather great post about who he is and what he does. It’s been lovely seeing his business from different eyes… and a nice reminder for him that all his hard work doesn’t go unnoticed!


I’ve fallen in love with the blog, Growing Spaces. I can’t wait to catch up on so many of her amazing and beautifully photographed posts. And, as a Marie Kondo wonderer myself, it’s been great to read her views and thoughts on the KonMarie concept and to grab a few other must-reads along the way.


So many spring blooms in this blog post by Chapter Friday, that you can’t help but feel pretty positive. Home doesn’t feel quite right until there are vases dotted around with beautiful flowers in them.


In answer to the question in this blog I’d have to say ‘yes’! (a digital detox, amongst other kinds of detox, food, skin, tea, alcohol… the list goes on). How do you feel about a digital detox? Sometimes I think it would be so good for our minds, as well as the relationships we have with people around us, to just be able to properly switch off and power down. I’ll let you know if  when I give it a try. 


And finally, it wouldn’t be weekend reading without a little eating and indulgence. These fab desserts only have five ingredients. Fool proof, right? Clean eaters, look away now.

Enjoy,

Ciara sign off

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