At Home Blowout Kit

Up until about age 21, I was all for the hair straightener. I loved the finished look, and I got it down to the point where it only took about 10-15 minutes to do my whole curly head. However, my hair was always gross and greasy by the end of the day. And it was absolutely fried.

I always wanted to be able to do a perfect blowout, like the ones you get at Drybar. However, I was convinced it wasn’t for me – my hair was too curly and frizzy and only a professional could deal with it!

Two years later, after many, many frustrating attempts and countless different techniques, I am confident that I have come pretty close to the perfect formula. So, to all the curly headed girls out there – give this a try!

 

Products

The Protector – Blow drying your hair without spraying thermal protector first is like going to the beach without sunscreen – you’ll end up fried! I have never seen my hair so dead and dry as when I stopped using heat protector. It’s the first thing I put in my hair before doing ANYTHING.

The Defrizzer – For the curly haired folk, this is essential. There is nothing worse than finally getting your hair blow dried straight and then realizing it is a straight but frizzy mess! Add a bit more into your hair when it’s dry if you still feel it’s on the frizzy side.

The Smoother – I usually mix a straightening balm and defrizzer and work them into my hair together. The straightening balm smooths curly hair and relaxes it for easy blow drying. To be honest, I have not noticed a major difference in using straightening balm versus not using it, but I have friends who cannot go without it! It’s just become part of my routine, as well.

The Prolonger – My blowouts usually last at least three days – two without dry shampoo. On the third, I spritz a bit to bring my hair back to life. It’s just as effective of starting from scratch but cuts down on the number of blow dries in a given week. I’m at 2-3 instead of 3-4 thanks to this product! I prefer the Oscar Blandi spray, but my blonde friends love the powder. Here’s to straight, volumized hair for days!

The Healer – No matter how much product you religiously use, your hair will eventually need a break from the heat and styling. Use a deep conditioner or a hair mask to give it some life. It’s your hair’s version of a spa day! (Plus – Drybar products smell amazing!)

Tools

Clips – Sections, sections, sections! Don’t try to go at your entire head of hair at once! Start with underneath to ensure you get a nice, dry base before you start going at the bulk of it. I usually keep my bangs and the sections surrounding my face separate as well and spend a bit more time styling them. These alligator clips (the ones your hairdresser uses!) are great, but on a day to day basis I tend to use claw clips – they work just as well.

Dryer – Ah, the essential piece for a blowout. You don’t need to invest in one that costs hundreds of dollars. Find one that works for your hair!

Round Brush – I used to think the need for a round brush in blowouts was a myth, and that hairdressers just used them to look cooler. I was wrong. Round brushes make the whole process so much easier, and I can’t even tell you why! I would spend more time picking out the brush than the dryer – get one that feels good on your head and will last awhile. It’s going to become your best friend!

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It’s patience. I nearly gave up on the idea of an at-home blowout on countless occasions. The first excuse was that it didn’t work with my hair. The next was that I didn’t have the time. And then that would never look as good as a professional one, so it’s not even worth it. Keep going. It turns out that, even when you’ve perfected it, it’s still going to take about 20 minutes. Keep going. Not only is it great for arm toning, but you’ll eventually find the right formula for you! I’ve gone from using my hair dryer about once and week and using a straightener seven days a week to using my hair dryer 3 times and my straightener only once or twice. And the final product is SO. MUCH. BETTER. Your hair will be feeling softer and fluffier in no time!

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Culinary Delights

I am going to start with a disclaimer that this was probably the least healthy eating week I have had in awhile, and the Super Bowl really didn’t help!

Our home cooked meals this past week included the remaining half of our Boxing Day honey baked gammon (we froze it for a month and a half and it was still amazing!), scallops with parmesan risotto, and my go-to fancy ravioli and vegetable combo.

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[I started eating “fancy” ravioli, such as this one with chicken and pancetta, with parmesan, pepper, and olive oil, and I refuse to turn back! It feels 100x lighter than traditional ravioli and is so delicious]

Of course, our Super Bowl party on Sunday meant lots of American-style fatty foods, all of which I happily devoured. All of the planned food turned out wonderfully, and we added on Bacon Cheese Fries at the last minute – they probably ended up being my favorite dish of the night!

You can read about all of the dishes on my Super Bowl Snacks post, but here are my pictures of the final products. Be prepared for some mouth watering!

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[Had to show the cheese fries twice because they were actually heaven on Earth]

As a bonus, we used leftover Spinach & Artichoke fondue as a pasta sauce the next day by adding a splash of water and reheating it until it reached a creamy texture. This might just become my go-to sauce for pasta dishes – it was even better than as a dip!

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We definitely need to go back to healthy until we leave for our skiing trip next weekend! Good thing we have a Gousto box getting delivered today – hello fresh food and portion control. (Currently ignoring the fact I have bottomless brunch plans on both Saturday & Sunday….)

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas (For Him & Her)

We are now under one week to Valentine’s Day, meaning that all the forgetful and procrastinating people among us need to get focused on gift purchasing. I see Valentine’s Day as the perfect day for a sweet little surprise. Many associate jewelry or chocolates with the holiday, but I just see it as another Christmas or birthday – get your loved one something they will really enjoy.

I’ve gone many Valentine’s Days without gifts, and I don’t think they are necessary to make the day special. To be honest, a card with a handwritten message means more to me than a gift straight off the shelves. However, if you are in the gift giving mood and still don’t know where to start, here are a few hints!

I selected all of these gifts from John Lewis (representing the UK market this time), but similar items are available nearly anywhere across all price points.

ForHim

 

Boxers | Button Down | Polo | Whiskey Set | Mug

Kindle | Messenger Bag | Sunglasses

ForHer

Pajama Set | Candle | FitBit | Casserole Dish

Pen | Frame | Mug | Bag

The Roundup: Super Bowl Snacks

I’m a huge sports fan. There’s something about throwing on a jersey, paying a ridiculous amount for some unhealthy food, and screaming along with the rest of the crowd while cheering on your favorite team. I just love the atmosphere! Watching sports on TV, though? That’s something I just don’t have the attention span for.

So when it comes to the Super Bowl, I’m one of the millions who look most forward to the food, the commercials, and the halftime show. The game gets my attention every once in a while, but it really comes down to that other stuff.

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Last year was my first year in London during the Super Bowl, so I felt like it was my duty to introduce the Brits to the magic deliciousness of Super Bowl food. We didn’t even make it until the Super Bowl (it starts at 11pm here), but we had a rockstar menu of Buffalo Chicken Bites, Pigs in a Blanket, Buffalo Chicken Dip, and Wings. I felt like I was right at home and everybody else loved it!

This year we are hosting a little party and therefore making even more food, so I thought I would share our planned menu and the recipes I will be following!

Dips

I could make and taste dips for days, but for events I try to limit it to 3-4 different types. Otherwise, it just gets confusing and frustrating!

Buffalo Chicken Dip: The classic Frank’s recipe will always be my favorite when it comes to Buffalo Chicken Dip. The fat content of all of the recipes gives me anxiety while I’m making the dish, but the final product is too good to turn down! I usually use Ranch Dressing and Shredded Cheddar when I make it (based on personal preferences). Serve with tortilla chips.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip: We are making our Spinach & Artichoke Dip in the Vitamix this year to try it out. I’ve previously followed oven recipes, though and they are delicious! My favorite think about Spinach & Artichoke dip is that you can really have an endless amount of the creamy goodness and it tastes good with pretty much everything – vegetables, bread, chips, etc.

Bonus – If you’re looking for something to serve a warm dip in, this bread bowl by Delish looks amazing and so simple. Imagine eating the bread once all the dip is gone…YUM!

Homemade Guacamole: When we were in the pool in Punta Cana, we met a couple who told us the secret to make the perfect homemade guacamole. We failed to write it down and have no recollection now! However, I found a recipe on Allrecipes that seems pretty close (Vitamix not required). Serve with tortilla chips.

Meats

This is Sean’s area of expertise, but I happily devour the final results. Most of the meat dishes we make are surprisingly easy and don’t take much time at all, but they taste fantastic!

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Pigs in a Blanket: In the UK, these are little sausages wrapped in bacon, so my concept of hotdogs wrapped in pastry was extremely foreign, and we struggled to figure out how we would make them. We ultimately bought hotdogs from the store, and pre-rolled pastry sheets and just cut and rolled. We cut each hot dot into three pieces for bite sized pigs. The end result was exactly what I wanted! For a greasy surprise, wrap bacon around the hot dog before wrapping it in pastry (about 1/2 strip per piece).

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Buffalo Chicken Bites: We cheat on this one. I’m sure we could make them from scratch, but they are so good when we do it this way that I have no desire to try. The secret? Go buy ready made breaded chicken (we like to get stars & moons, but you can use any shape). Cook them for about half the time required, then take them out and absolutely smother them in buffalo sauce – I use Frank’s!. Then, cook them for the remainder of the required time and viola!

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Wings: I previously shared my favorite recipe for Garlic Parm wings and 90% of the time we just smother wings with buffalo or barbecue sauce following our method for the buffalo bites. However, this year’s wing credit is going to go straight to BuzzFeed. We have our hearts set on trying all four recipes in this video, meaning we will have a pretty incredible wing spread on our table this year!

Drinks

We are keeping it simple with Game Day beers and mimosas…in red Solo cups of course! They don’t have them over here, so my dad always brings some over because he thinks they’re funny. Naturally, we use them as the only drink holding option whenever we host American themed events (which is surprisingly often).

Note – All pictures are mine and were taken during last year’s Super Bowl on my phone. I promise my food photography has gotten better!

Culinary Delights

I’ve decided I am going to make this post a weekly thing. I’m starting to spend more and more time in the kitchen and would love to share what I’ve been making. I’m not quite to the point where I can come up with a brilliant recipe on my own, but between Gousto and altering other recipes slightly, I have established some pretty great regular meals in our small, London kitchen.

Plus, I take so many pictures of my food and need to do something with them!

This week’s Gousto meals: Korean Beef, Lamb Pasta, and Veggie Chilli


My favorite? It’s a toss up between the beef and the pasta! The veggie chilli had much more flavor than I was expecting, but the beef was unlike anything I’ve tasted before! And lamb on pasta? Brilliant!

 

My other favorites were our weekend brunch (crunchy kale and a fried egg on toast) and fajita bowls, which I turned into a lunch salad the next day!

Our kale turned out a bit too crunchy, but still had all the right flavors. We added a side of roasted sweet potatoes to take a small breakfast dish and transform it into a Sunday brunch that would last us all the way until dinner!

I got this Fajita Bowl recipe from Diethood, but we marinated the chicken overnight using a Vitamix recipe and threw some black beans into the dish.

As a bonus, I got a sweet surprise this morning in my breakfast. Now that I am working from home, Sean and I get the occasional nice morning in together on the days that he has off. This morning, that meant a Full English!

Blizzard Survival Kit

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I absolutely love the snow. There’s something about the idea of bundling up and getting all cozy inside while it’s absolutely freezing outside, but still having the liberty to go outside and run in the snow if you feel like it. It’s also a great excuse to open – and finish – a bottle of wine.

With #Blizzard2016 well under way, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of my favorite ways to survive the time stuck inside. I unfortunately spent the weekend binge watching The Good Wife instead of getting back to London thanks to this blizzard, but I’m looking on the positive side here.

Get Cozy!

Leggings, a big chunky sweater, and a hot cup of coffee. The corner of the couch and a warm blanket. These things are key for any lazy day at home, but especially when there’s a chill in the air and snow on the ground!  [Pajamas are acceptable as well…and lots of puppy snuggles!]

Pick a New Show

I’m not going to act like streaming isn’t a key part of snow days. Back in high school, it was Greek!, then The OC. Now, I’m hooked on The Good Wife. I prefer starting a new show when I know I’m going to be stuck at home for awhile because that means I can get really invested from the beginning and keep watching until I finally leave the house without running out of episodes.

Start a Project

This blizzard has been a rather lazy one for me, probably because I’ve been going non-stop since landing in the States between work and visiting friends and family. Therefore, my project this time was cleaning out the coat closet with my dad. And, oh!, it is beautiful now.

Open a Bottle of Wine

Not even going to explain this one. Go for a crisp white to match the weather or a smooth red to warm your insides. Or whiskey if you’re into that!

Pretend You’re Young Again

Play in the snow! Only if you’re brave enough, though.

On another note, I’ve come to realize that dogs in snow might be the cutest thing ever! So, it may be a long shot, but Get Yourself a Dog falls on the list as well.


Fashion Obsession: The Outnet

I’ll admit it – I like expensive clothes. For some reason, my eye has always gone to the  most expensive item in the room. I honestly can’t help it. However, I am also a 22 (almost 23) year old girl on a budget. So, naturally, finding a site with deeply discounted designer clothes and excellent customer service is bound to be disastrous for my bank account.

I had heard of The Outnet before, and I love Net-a-Porter, but I had never actually ordered from the discount site. I recently just bought a dress, though, have spent hours perusing the site for holiday dresses, and have decided it is probably my new favorite site.

After ordering, I selected the premier delivery option for just £4 more since they could deliver while I was at home on a Sunday. A driver in a suit showed up with a bag with the dress neatly wrapped inside, as if I had just bought it from a  luxury department store. Then, when it didn’t fit, it was so easy to return! So, I had bought a new one to try before the other one was even refunded.

I have my eyes set on so many options for holiday dresses, so thought I would share for my fashion loving friends:

Save (Under £100)

Tart Collections | Sandro | T by Alexander Wang

Spend (Under £300)

Maje | Elizabeth and James | Alice + Olivia | Atlantique Ascoli

Splurge (Over £300)

Wes Gordon | Mary Katrantzou | Giambattista Valli | Mary Katrantzou