Lately, one thing has been really helping to banish my Monday blues.

It is not just the promise of a good Netflix boxset (I’m currently obsessed with Peaky Blinders and The End of the F**king world) but my weekly Monday flower delivery from the wonderful Freddie’s Flowers.

UK Flower box services

Freddie’s Flowers are a flower subscription service that deliver fresh, seasonal flowers to your door on the same day each week. For £22 each time, they will deliver not only across London but also across mainland UK. (For someone originally from a small industrial town in the Midlands, this made me very happy to hear!)

Freddie’s Flowers kindly invited me to trial their boutique flower service and sent me a weekly bouquet every Monday throughout January. I came to look forward to these deliveries so much that I wanted to share a full review here, for anyone thinking of treating themselves – or perhaps their mum for upcoming Mother’s Day!

WHO ARE FREDDIE’S FLOWERS AND WHAT DO THEY DO?

Freddie’s Flowers deliver weekly bouquets of fresh flowers to your door for £22 a pop.

They are a London based florist that deliver weekly bouquet boxes by hand, both in London and across mainland UK. (As the flowers aren’t sent through the post, you must make sure there is somewhere safe for the team to leave the box).

Its flowerful stuff

The bunch is different each week depending on the best flowers that season. Even though you can’t choose from a variety of options like you can from a regular florist, I liked being surprised each week and learning about new flowers and arrangements.

Payment for the flowers is taken on the day they are due to arrive and you are able to pause and freeze deliveries if you are going to be away.

HOW DO THE FLOWERS ARRIVE?

The flowers arrive in a large cardboard box, that arrives to your door on the same weekday each week. You don’t have to be in to receive them however if you won’t be in, make sure to alert the FF team to a safe place to leave the box, as it definitely won’t go through a standard letterbox!

Freddies Flowers box

Each individual flower is lain flat in the box and kept secure in brown paper and string, with Freddie’s own flower food alongside.

Weekly flower box

What I loved most of all was the creative instructions card that accompanies each delivery, which details each of the flowers, teaches you how to artfully display each bunch and also suggests the best vase types to display them in. Such a lovely, unique touch.

How to make your flower bouquet last longerFreddies Flowers tip card

WHAT BOUQUETS DID I RECEIVE?

Over four weeks, I received a wide selection of bouquets, from sunshine yellow lilies, forsythia and waxflowers to white roses and snapdragons.

Forsythia bouquetYellow bouquet Freddies FlowersUK weekly flower deliveryFreddies flowers blog reviewFreddies Flowers 2018

HOW LONG DO THE FLOWERS LAST?

Most of my bouquets lasted at least a week and some lasted for over 2 weeks! I found that when I followed the instructions to change the water and flower food every few days and to regularly trim the stems, this really did help to prolong their life.

In fact, the flowers lasting so long was sometimes a bit of a problem, as we only own 2 vases and needed new containers to display each weekly flower delivery!

I don’t believe FF have a way to change the number of deliveries yet but perhaps in the future, fortnightly or monthly flower options would be a good idea, for people who don’t always need flowers every week.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I think Freddies Flowers is a beautiful flower delivery service. Even though I’m not sure if I would need weekly deliveries for every week of the year, during my month trial I realised how much they helped to brighten up my Mondays and how I really looked forward to coming home to the box on my doorstep. I also enjoyed learning about a wider range of flowers and how to display them.

The main downside I saw to the service was that the flowers are only sent in the weekdays and if you don’t have anywhere safe for the florist to leave them at home or a neighbour who can collect for you, it would be very difficult to get the delivery. Especially as they arrive in pretty big boxes!

However if this is not a problem and you would like floral treats for yourself or a subscription gift for a loved one (it is coming up to Mother’s Day after all) then you might want to consider giving Freddie’s Flowers a try. They were bloomin’ lovely.

White rose bouquet

Rose gold love balloon

I’m a sucker for a good love story and love it when you discover a beautifully written lyric or passage.

So as today is Valentine’s Day, I thought what better time than to share 10 of my favourite cute lyrics and lines on love.

And as the title suggests, this is a non-cheesy list, so No Take That on here I’m afraid people…

1: ‘She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together’. – J.D. Salinger

Salinger love quote she wasnt doing a thing that I could see

 

2: Alice: How long is forever?

White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second. – Lewis Carrol.

Alice in Wonderland quotes how long is forever

3: ‘She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for that sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul’. – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Beautiful and The Damned Fitzgerald

4: ‘We’ll be friends forever, won’t we Pooh’? Asked Piglet.

‘Even longer’ Pooh answered. –  A. A. Milne.

Winnie The Pooh love quotes we'll be friends forever

5: In this moment, I swear, we are infinite. – Stephen Chbosky.

In this moment I swear we are infinite

6: ‘In the cold light I live to love and adore you, it’s all that I am, it’s all that I have’ – Mumford and Sons, There Will Be Time

Mumford and sons in the cold light of day

7: A thousand miles seems pretty far, but they’ve got planes and trains and cars, I’d walk to you if I had no other way’. – The Plain White Tees, Hey There Delilah

Hey There Delilah Lyrics

7. ‘When I need to get home you are my guiding light’ – Foy Vance, Guiding Light

Foy Vance when i need to get home you are my guiding light

8: I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words, how wonderful life is now you’re in the world’ – Elton John, Your Song

I hope you dont mind that i put down in words

9: ‘I hope I didn’t speak too soon, my eyes have always followed you around the room’ – Noel Gallagher, If I Had a Gun

Let me fly you to the moon my eyes have always followed you around the room

10: ‘How long will I love you? As long as stars are above you. And longer if I may’. – Ellie Goulding, How Long Will I Love You

How long will i love you as long as stars are above you

Let me know if you have any personal favourites to share below!

It was around a fortnight before my wedding that I decided to try a facial.

I had never had a facial before and didn’t want to risk trying one with lots of products or invasive technology in case it broke my sensitive skin out before the day. (Especially when I had just managed to get my breakout-prone skin under control with this skincare routine for sensitive skin).

However, I was recommended Face Gym by an old colleague as it is more of a ‘face workout’ that uses various hand movements to help lift, tone and tighten the face.

The idea is that by knuckling, massaging and using high energy whipping strokes, it will stimulate the 40+ muscles in the face, encouraging blood circulation and collagen production. As one of my main areas of concern was my flabby jowels and non-existent jawline, I thought I would try out their Signature Facial and see whether it could help give me any definition between my face and neck.

FACE GYM SALON – KING’S ROAD, CHELSEA, LONDON

Firstly, the Face Gym salon on Chelsea’s King’s Road was such a beautiful spot to visit, complete with copper ‘skin bar’, apothecary cabinet and plenty of Instagrammable touches:

Face Gym Copper BarFace Gym LondonFace Gym Signature FacialFace Gym ChelseaFace Gym bloggerDo it for the selfie

THE SIGNATURE FACIAL

The Signature Facial, designed to naturally help lift and contour the face, lasted around 30-40 minutes and the best way I can describe the experience was like being in a (not unpleasant) human carwash!

The facialist massaged, knuckled and ‘whipped’ my skin with her hands and fingers and also used a handheld electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) device that emits mild electrical waves to stimulate the muscles and restore skin’s elasticity. This was a fairly strange sensation as it caused different parts of my face to twitch involuntarily but it didn’t hurt.

Face Gym blogger review

The trainer began by doing half of my face so that I could see the difference. I have put the pictures below for you to guess which side of the face it was but I won’t lie, the brightness was too high on my camera so it doesn’t reflect the difference as much as in real life!

Face Gym Before and AfterFace Gym half face

Congratulations if you guessed correctly – it was the right hand side of this picture that had the treatment! The changes are generally subtle but like I say, more noticeable in real life.

The treatment made my face looked more lifted, tauter, fresher and amazingly, it had really reduced the dark circles underneath my eyes. My flabby jowls were still there but did look a little firmer than before.

The effects of this treatment probably lasted 3 days maximum, so would be ideal before a big event or party. Face Gym do recommend visiting regularly to help train your facial muscles (the same way that you would go to the gym regularly and not see long-lasting results after just one session) so if you have the bank balance, I would say go for it!

I’m already feeling the need to revisit after the amount of Hotel Chocolat I put away this Christmas…. that did no one’s jowls any favours.

London fashion blogger

Marc and I were about to walk back from our local pub recently when a bus happened to pull up just outside. I wanted to hop on as a) it was freezing and late, b) it was going exactly to our stop and c) it is so rare that a bus ever arrives when you need it to, I took it as some sort of sign.

But Marc being healthy and frugal (and not into signs) suggested that we walk the 15 minute walk back instead. Plus, he said, he hates the bus.

It got me thinking back to a time at Uni where for me, getting the bus was a special treat. I went to Exeter University and though of course Exeter isn’t the biggest city in the UK, sometimes that 1 mile walk from town to campus on a rainy, cold, hungover day felt like 100 miles. On days like that, I would decide that I would treat myself to the £1.30 bus journey and enjoy the comfort of being dry and warm. (It was one of the few times that I would actually feel genuinely warm too, as we couldn’t afford to have the heating on in our student house unless absolutely necessary.) In fact, this picture kind of sums up how I felt throughout Uni…

Paignton

However the bus treats came to an end when one week, I caught the bus three times and knew that if I didn’t stop soon, I would have little money left for basics like food. In fact, that could have been around the same time that I ate an evening meal of stuffing and cabbage three nights in a row, while my overdraft was maxed out and I was waiting for my waitressing salary to come through.  (I told this story recently to my family as I actually didn’t mind those dinners and thought it was funny, although they saw it as a lot more tragic.)

It wasn’t that I was bad with my money, in fact I am known to be a saver and I was always very mindful at Uni, working as both a waitress and a Student Ambassador during term time to earn money, sewing any holes in my tights and leggings instead of buying new ones and having a strict weekly grocery shop that never exceeded £20. It was more that the student loan wasn’t enough to cover the cost of living down south and as the loan didn’t cover my accommodation costs, my savings and earnings had to fill in any gaps. Not to mention the travel expenses that came with having a long distance relationship at Uni.

London post box

The funny thing about that time is that although I knew I was skint, and sometimes felt it quite acutely, nearly everybody else I knew at Uni was skint too. A housemate once had to abandon half her food shopping in Tesco because she ended up running out of money to pay for it all. Another would eat these awful looking pies out of a tin because it meant that you could get a family sized meal for £1. Some other girls I waitressed with and I would put up with occasional inappropriate ‘banter’ from the male boss in order to get more shifts. (Sound familiar?) But because everybody was in the same boat, it never seemed so bad. We were in it together. We challenged things together. And bonding over it could sometimes be funny.

This all passed through my head as Marc and I stood outside the pub, tightening our coats around ourselves, deciding on whether or not to get the bus. It was weird to think that something that was once treated as a special luxury was now more of a last resort.

And though Marc and I both earn more now than when we were new graduates (you would hope so really), it helps to be mindful of money. When we earn more, we tend to spend more – we live within our means. (And these days the spending can vary massively between friends who have all taken different paths throughout their twenties – some are still as skint as they were at Uni while others are buying flats in London and going on far-flung holidays. We aren’t all in the same boat anymore).

So as we go into 2018, I am determined to be more mindful of money. To cut down on unnecessary expenditures, like the smoothie after a fitness class or the box office film when there is a free on-demand film. Just because we have a little more to play with, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t forget ways to live more frugally. Making small changes can mean big savings and ultimately more money to spend on the experiences that do matter.

Starting by walking and not catching the bus.

Red jumper check coat

Most of the things that changed when we got married were admin-related.

Clearing up all the post-wedding decorations. Writing thank-you notes (which we are still yet to send, sorry everyone). And figuring out how to change all of my documentation with my new surname.

This actually ended up being the weirdest part for me. Though I was generally sad that all of the wedding excitement and honeymoon were over, it was the surname change in particular that was getting to me.

Steph Style wedding

It was a strange feeling as I had of course known that it was coming. Marc and I have been together nearly 10 years so naturally throughout that time I had imagined myself with his surname (which incidentally is Easton and not too dissimilar from my maiden name Marston). I was happy to be joining his family and my family were excited for that too. So I was surprised at my sadness and resistance to it (it took me two weeks to change it on Facebook, which as we know, is the biggest deal of them all).

Love

For me I think it was because of two main reasons. Firstly, because it is a symbolic distancing from my family, who I love and cherish. Secondly, I was scared of my identity changing. For 27 years I had been known as Stephanie Marston (sometimes just Marston at school), had made my friends as Stephanie Marston and built my professional career as a Marston, so to suddenly be known with a new name felt a little saddening and unnerving.

Now I know in this day and age you don’t really have to change your surname, husbands can choose their wives’ surnames and you can even pick out a new surname together. Marc even said to me that I didn’t have to change it if I didn’t want to. But I knew I would change it as it couldn’t be double-barreled (Marston-Easton is a lot of S’s for someone with a lisp and just sounds, well, stupid) and if we do decide to start a family then I’d like us to be all known as the same thing.

I think what made it easier was my friends and family all referring to me with my new name and being super happy about it. By them doing this, it began to feel like an exciting new chapter and extension of my life, rather than negating everything that came before it. And also by realising that names are so arbitrary! No one chooses their name and really your actions in life matter more than a name.

Family shot

So my solution? Have two names! I have decided that legally I will change everything over to Easton but keep my social and blog profile as Marston. (Can’t have all that wasted SEO now, can I?) This way I can remember the old me and embrace the new.

Let’s just hope Stephanie Easton has much better outfits and eats much less chocolate…

 

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When people think of Mexico they might think of the tranquil beauty of Tulum or the party resorts of Cancun. What they might not know about is the northern island of Holbox (pronounced Hol-bosh) which lies about a two-hour drive (and a twenty minute ferry) away from Cancun and feels like a completely different world.

Holbox MexicoIsla Holbox

THE LOCAL WAY OF LIFE

For a start, the island feels much more local than for tourists. We didn’t meet many other Westerners there and instead ended up enjoying the national Independence Day with locals, sitting on plastic chairs in the main town square as different groups put on performances and platters of homemade food were served on long plastic tables from local Mexican women.

There are no cars on the island, no paved roads and very few motor vehicles – most people walk, cycle or get around on Golf Buggies. We desperately wanted to hire our own buggy but sadly due to a tropical storm, the roads were too flooded. It was still amazing to walk around the colourful streets and ride bicycles around the island, spotting flamingos out at sea and the odd happy, stray dog who would run cheerfully alongside us.

If you feel like getting away from it all, Isla Holbox is your place.

Holbox streetsColourful buildings HolboxHolbox beach toursHolbox sign seaStray dog bicycle holboxVacay straw hat

THE WILDLIFE AND NATURE

Much of the island seems largely secluded, with one town square and a selection of boutique hotels and homes scattered along the beaches. One of the joys of being in Holbox is being able to independently explore so much of the nature and wildlife, just by hiring a bike or golf buggy and taking yourself off.

There are also some boat tours which take you out to see flamingos, tropical fish, the plankton which make the water ‘glow’ at night and to dive with whale sharks, one of the few places in the world that you can, apparently.

Whatever you do, just make sure you catch a sunset there. They are beautiful.

Birds sunset HolboxBlogger review HolboxHolbox flamingos

THE ACCOMMODATION

As laid back as Holbox feels, there are still plenty of cute bars, restaurants and boutique hotels. We stayed at Villas HM Palapas del Mar which came with our very own mini private pool! We loved it because it was so much more affordable than Tulum (where we could not even hope to afford anywhere with a private pool!), because it was the perfect place to cool down after a hot day exploring and because we could lounge in the hammock reading when the tropical storms began. Every now and then the power would switch off due to the storms but it never lasted long and in fact made it feel even more romantic.

Private swimming pool HolboxVillas HM Palapas del Mar review

Private pool in Holbox

Villas HM Palapas del Mar

I don’t think it will be long before Holbox becomes even more popular, especially if people start to look for alternatives to Tulum. It really was such a unique, beautiful area that I would definitely encourage anyone to visit for a couple of days if they are headed to Mexico – before the rest of the tourists join you…

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