spinning: a beginner’s guide

I first encountered spinning when watching Romy and Michele’s* High School Reunion in 1997. Phoebe Buffay and Mira Sorvino were basically doing rising trot on an exercise bike, and I was intrigued.
 
Then I promptly forgot about it for 10 years until SoulCycle was born, and the world and his kale-eating wife were making beelines for pitch-black, musty-smelling rooms at the gym, with a mid-noughties club soundtrack thrumming out of them. Making everyone else in the gym feel guilty they weren’t astride a bike in the dark.
 
But I stood strong. I resisted. It’ll all blow over before you can say ‘kettleball swing’, I told myself.
 
What to expect from your first spinning class via {what you fancy}
 
Well, it didn’t, did it? The more I planked outside the spinning studio, the more intrigued I became. I also heard that you can burn an inordinate amount of calories peddling away in front of someone shouting orders at you down a Britney-esque microphone. Plus, Brooklyn Beckham is totally into it and he looks like he’s got life sussed. I wanted in.
 
After signing up and resisting the urge to call and cancel, like, 48 times, I sauntered into the studio 15 minutes early. Y’know, to show I wasn’t afraid (exercise bikes are like horses – they can smell fear). I saw someone else draping their towel across a seat to bagsy it, so I casually followed suit… plumping for a bike on the back row, just to be safe. The room soon filled up with people of all ages, shapes and sizes – and I figured if they’d come back for more punishment after their first class, it can’t be that bad.
 
Our instructor was very friendly but she was definitely of the ‘I’ve got a body like Jennifer Lopez under here’ ilk. I told her I was a first-timer, so she fiddled with my bike seat and gave me a quick Spinning 101: Stand up on the pedals when I tell you to, pedal faster when I tell you to, and change gears when I tell you to. The gears were an innocent-looking dial on the bike frame – I just needed to twizzle it. Easy. She asked if I’d ridden a road bike recently. I nodded confidently. I just didn’t tell her it was circa 1994. In Center Parcs.
 
Feeling a little bit like I was in a kids’ roller-disco (flashing lights, pumping music, but minus the Slush Puppies and slouch socks) I started peddling. I don’t know if I was doing it right, but no one else in the class gave me a ‘what on earth are you doing, you eejit?’ look, so I carried on. We all happily peddled along to a weird club version of Eminem… so far so simple. Although at one point my little legs were peddling so fast J-Lo singled me out and told me to calm down and change up a few gears to make it harder. Ah. It did seem a bit effortless. I just thought it was my ex-horse-rider’s thighs making light work of it all.
 
We then started an uphill climb. This is when, in real life, I would probably opt to get off the bike and push it, perhaps stopping off at a pub halfway up for a G&T and some honey-roasted peanuts. Sadly, dismounting and roadside refreshments weren’t an option… so instead I put my back in to it. For motivation, I conjured up images of my fitness instructor of choice, Jillian Michaels, yelling at me that, “I want you to feel like you’re going to die.” I puffed, I wheezed, and I sang along to the Rihanna song in my head – hopefully not out loud, but I can’t be sure, it was very loud in there – as we made the epic climb. It may have been a gentle hill for all I know, but it felt like I was winding round the Pyrenees.
 
Finally, J-Lo released us from our standing position and I lowered myself back onto the sweet seat of comfort. Well, ‘comfort’ in the ‘it’s all relative’ sense of the word. We chugged back water, caught our breath, and I wondered how many club-style Eminem songs they could possibly play in one class.
 
After a couple more mountains/hills/gentle inclines, the clock on the wall told me I’d made it through a whole spinning class without collapsing. Joy. Rapture. Exhaustion. Oh, and a sore behind (I might take a sheepskin saddle cover next time – that’s a thing, right?). But, man, did I feel self-righteous.
 
So, if you’ve been eschewing spinning classes for years – as I have – I say go for it. I now go every week and am even considering signing up for a second weekly class. I know! I’m practically Gwyneth! Let’s just not mention the fact I often reward myself with a double cheese burger, sweet potato fries and a frozen margarita on the way home. Paltrow wouldn’t approve.
 
*No, that’s not a typo. Yes, it made me cross, too. Still… great film.
 

interior trend: boucherouite rugs

Beni Ourain… you’ve had your time. There’s a contender for your crown of ‘most likely to be found on the floors of interior bloggers and stylists’, and it goes by the name of ‘Boucherouite’. Boucher-what-now? Yeah, I know, I don’t know how to pronounce it either, so let’s just call them Moroccan rag rugs for now. And aren’t they pretty? They’ve got a lot more going for them in the hue department than Beni (although I don’t want to diss BO too much, in fact I have one in my living room and it’s not going to be ousted any time soon) and the unsual textile texture means that half the rug doesn’t stick to you every time you rest your backside on it (anyone else?). A quick perusal of Pinterest uncovered these gorgeous specimens – I love how they either complement the colour scheme of the room or add a striking focal point to an otherwise neutral palette. So Beni, old buddy old pal. I wouldn’t get too comfy. The Mighty Bouche is muscling in on your territory, big time…
 
beautiful-boucherouite-rugs
{images via cococarpets, apartment therapy, casa del caso & sfgirlbybay}
 
So, where can I bag myself one of these boucher-wotsits? I hear you cry. Right here, my friends…
 
beautiful-boucherouite-rugs-to-buy
{1, 2, 3, 4}
 

my top 10 beauty heroes

It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve been into beauty products and looking after my skin. Previously I’d just use wipes to get rid of make-up, then go straight to bed (yes, the make-up came off, but that’s not to say my skin particularly thanked me for it). As for make-up brands, I’d opt for the cheapest on the shelf, and prepping my skin was non-existent. But as the natural youthful glow we take for granted in our early to mid-twenties wore off, and too many late nights and stressful jobs took hold, I knew action needed to be taken before my laughter lines were no longer funny.
 
So, I swotted up. I read the Beauty sections in magazines I used to skip over. I pinned dewy-skinned looks on Pinterest and found out how they achieved them. I listened to experts’ recommendations. I started building an understanding about my skin type (sensitive/combination) and what I can do to get it looking its best. So – if you’re anything like me – you may be interested in hearing about my absolute favourite beauty products right now… the ones that live up to the hype and more, and the ones that are constantly on rotation as they bring back certain memories. Let’s delve into my make-up bag, shall we?
 
beauty-heroes
 
{The make-up bag}
 
Clarisonic Brush // You need one of these in your life. Simple as that. They’re pricey, granted, but the amount of times you’ll use it per week will make it more than worth it. It’s a complete game-changer, your skin will feel so smooth the first time you use it, you won’t be able to stop touching it. I use mine about 3-4 times a week and I honestly wouldn’t be without it. I tend to follow it up with…
 
Balance Me Radiance Face Mask // This feels like such a luxurious product. It contains ground walnut shells that gently buff away any dead skin cells, soothes your skin and loads it up with lost moisture. It smells gorgeous (that’ll be the rosemary and lavender) and leaves your skin feeling and looking radiant. I leave it on for a good hour to get the most out of it.
 
Essie ‘Ballet Slippers’ // I wore this colour on my wedding day after seeing it referenced as the ‘perfect nude’ everywhere. So, we’ve got history. It has just the right balance of pink and beige tones, and looks glorious with a tan and strappy gladiators. Sometimes I stray and go for coral toes in the summer, but on my fingers I tend to stay faithful to this subtle hue.
 
Stila One Step Correct Colour Corrector // You know when you wake up in the morning, approach the mirror and your skin is all, like, ‘I can’t believe you made me get up at this ungodly hour… I’m going to throw a hissy fit and be all red and blotchy and unattractive just to teach you a lesson.’ That? Well, this is when Stila comes to the rescue. It looks weird on your fingers – that’s the green in the helix – but once you’ve primed your skin with it, it’s like you’ve given your face a bacon sandwich, a black coffee and the promise of a mid-afternoon nap. It just calms it down so it’s ready to cooporate. And BB cream or foundation goes over it like a dream. My secret weapon.
 
Origins Plantscription Anti-Aging Power Eye Cream // This little cult classic is never leaving my bathroom cabinet. It’s really light and sinks in effortlessly, so you only need a tiny amount. And it keeps fine lines at bay like nobody’s business. Even if I’m about to pass out from tiredness, I always make sure it goes on before bed.
 
Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish // Now, this. This stuff is GENIUS. I’m not kidding. I think this product single-handedly turned my complexion around. After I take off my eye make-up, I slather this cleanser all over my face and neck (don’t forget to look after your neck, ladies) then dunk the cloth in almost-too-hot water. Cover your face with the cloth like you do with those amazing lemony hot towels at the Indian restaurant, and you’ll feel all the stresses of the day evaporating from your pores. Give your face a wipe, splash with cold water, then tell me it’s not the most heavenly product ever invented. Follow up with a generous layer of night cream and your skin will be singing the next day. I’ve given it as a present to so many people, and I’m sure at first they’re thinking, ‘nice, she thinks I have bad skin.’ I really don’t. I’m honestly just sharing the love.
 
Bourjois Little Round Pot Blush in ‘Rose D’Or’ // For nights out I tend to reach for my NARS powder blushers, but for every day you can’t beat Bourjois. A tiny dab on the apple of your cheeks and it gives you that healthy I’ve-just-run-though-a-meadow glow. If I’m rushing out without a face of make-up, sometimes this is the only product I’ll use. And it’s a bargain.
 
Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation // I never knew what the hell I was doing with foundation before I discovered this industry favourite. I had bad experiences with orange jaw lines, trowelled the wrong colour on either too thick or too thin, and mostly just sacked in the whole idea since I ended up looking a complete mess. After researching natural-looking foundations that enhance your skin rather than mask it, this name kept coming up. Best money ever spent. I usually just use a small blob and mix it with a BB cream or highlighter, and bingo… flawless skin.
 
Benefit Laugh With Me LeeLee // Aww, my wedding perfume. It was a change from my usual Marc Jacobs Daisy, and I’m so glad I switched it up for my big day. Every time I spritz it on, it takes me back to getting ready at my brother’s house with my favourite girls the morning of my wedding. There’s a light blend of citrus, jasmine and lily blossoms in there which smell like pure summer, and the bottle’s a pretty little number. Please don’t ever discontinue this, Benefit, I beg you.
 
Bondi Sands Self-Tanning Foam // Recently discovered this after a foray with St. Tropez (“ooh, smart guy’s a rhymer…”). Would never go back. It smells like coconuts, not biscuits. First win. It doesn’t streak and doesn’t make you look like you’ve rolled in Doritos. Ding-ding-ding. I use the lighter version, apply with a mitt, leave it on overnight and shower it off in the morning. Hey presto… even, natural tannage. Total convert.
 
So, there you have it… the teacher’s pets of my beauty arsenal. But I’m always looking for new wonder-products – do you have any you’d like to share with the class?
 

best moments of #orc2015

Six weeks. Twenty bloggers. A variety of budgets. And that, my friends, is the essence of the One Room Challenge. Each year, Linda of Calling It Home organises for 20 bloggers to transform one room in their homes in just 6 weeks, and interior obsessives like me (and probably you, since you’re reading this) get to be voyeurs along for the ride. The class of ’15 has been strong, featuring some of my all-time favourite bloggers like Swoon Worthy and Savvy Home. I trawled all 20 of the blogs religiously, and although everyone firmly put their own design stamp on their makeovers, some made me look more lustfully at my screen than others. So, without further ado, here are my #ORC2015 best bits and the reason why they made the cut…
 
ORC-cover
 
 
WAITING ON MARTHA
{Colourful gallery wall + hanging chair}
 
waiting-on-martha
 
 
STEPHANIE KRAUSS
{Pastels + muted hues}
 
stephanie-krauss
 
 
HI SUGARPLUM
{An update on the traditional bedside table}
 
hi-sugarplum
 
 
SWOON WORTHY
{Feminine-meets-masculine office space}
 
swoon-worthy
 
 
DESIGN DUMP
{Sophisticated, layered vignette for a teenage girl’s bedroom}
 
design-dump
 
 
SAVVY HOME
{Copper bar stools + cosy accents}
 
savvy-home
 
 
JULIA RYAN
{A calming bedroom palette}
 
julia-ryan
 
 
JILL SORENSEN
{Dream kitchen scenario}
 
jill-sorensen
 
 
I HEART ORGANIZING
{Cool greys + panelled ceiling}
 
i-heart-organizing
 
 
6TH STREET DESIGN
{Pops of colour + Jana Bek lamp}
 
6th-street-design
 
 
KIMBERLY SCHLEGEL WHITMAN
{Hunting lodge vibes}
 
kimberly-schlegel-whitman
 
 
JENNA SUE DESIGN
{Brass taps, freestanding bath + tiled floor}
 
jenna-sue-design
 
I’d love to hear what you think of my choices – any favourites?
 

a week in marrakech

A few weeks ago, Tom and I headed off to Marrakech for a sunshine break. Sadly, although we did get to see a smidgeon of sun, the temperatures in the whole of North Africa took a substantial dive the exact week we’d chosen. It also rained. A lot. So, there was nothing else for it, but to turn our planned fly-and-flop into a city break. Although I made sure that ‘city break’ involved lots of reading and napping time, obviously. Let’s not get crazy.
 
We stayed at the ClubHotel RIU Tikida Palmeraie, just 15 minutes from the main square – Jemaa el-Fna – and it was the perfect choice. The pool went on for weeks (just a shame it was too chilly to even dip a toe in), the food was go-back-for-thirds good, and the staff were some of the friendliest I’ve ever met. And I’ve been to Thailand. For the days when it was warm enough to sit out on a lounger (albeit swathed in numerous layers), I devoured a pile of books. Including The Miniaturist, which was just as mesmerising as I’d heard. And when it was too cold, I found a cosy little nook that I’d curl up in with a giant bag of Cheetos from the gift shop. Holiday happiness, right there.
 
morocco1
 
But when we weren’t slothing, we headed out into the great unknown. I love an excursion, especially when the lovely people at Thomson do all the legwork for you, so all you need to do it show up on time for the bus. On one of our trips we took a walking tour around the old fortified city and had a chance to dive into the souks, which has been on my wishlist for years. If you’ve been there yourself, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s an experience. It’s an assault on the senses. It literally thrums with activity… there’s incessant drumming, you’re offered the weird and the wonderful from every direction, you can smell sweet and sour spices in the air, and it’s more than just a maze of stalls. It’s a tangled web of tiny alleys and passageways that go on forever, all looking exactly the same. Do not attempt to navigate them yourselves because you will get lost… I don’t care how good a sense of direction you have. There’s no 80′s David Bowie to help you, either.
 
morocco3
 
The souks were another level of crazy, and I can’t say that I’d visit them again in all honesty, but the eye candy for interior design fanatics like me almost made it worth it. Perforated gold lanterns that would look stunning above a kitchen island, a rainbow of ceramics that would make a cultured addition to a coffee table, throw blankets at prices that make you want to buy two more suitcases for the journey home. If, like me, the thought of haggling for your chosen item cranks your anxiety levels up a notch, then head to the nearby Berber Cultural Centre. It has all the goodies you’ve eyed up in the souks, but the (incredibly reasonable) prices are set in stone, and the shop keepers leave you to browse in peace.
 
morocco4
 
On our walk through the city, I was aiming my iPhone at everything. Intricate tiles (oh, the tiles), tranquil white-washed courtyards, and the local wildlife, including this very contented feline…
 
morocco5
 
Archways, fabrics, dress materials. Interior inspiration was everywhere. If it wasn’t for the fact that Tom reminded me that I already have a zillion cushions at home, you can betcha I would have smuggled home many many new companions for them.
 
morocco2
 
Let’s talk about the food. Because it was magnificent. We ate our body weight in cous cous soaked in all manner of delicious spices, tender lamb stews, sweet orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon (trust me, try that one at home) and, yes, random buffet food combinations like pizza with a side of roast beef. One night we had a tasting menu at a riad. Not only was the restaurant out of this world – twinkly lights, sumptuous courtyard, all the Moroccan trimmings – the food was so god-darn-good, Tom and I still have lengthy conversations about it.
 
Tom – That chicken pie, though…
Me – That salad platter, though…
Tom – That tagine though…
Me – Those pancakes, though…
 
You get the picture. Also, the mint tea. Not the same as the bog standard peppermint stuff from Twinings. It’s meticulously prepared and served in a shot glass. Oh, and forget your sugar embargo and make sure you add a lump or two, I promise you it’s worth it.
 
morocco6
 
So, the verdict on our Marrakech holiday. It was the perfect blend of loafing and exploring, with food that I’m still dreaming about, and that gratifying feeling of seeing somewhere completely removed from your everyday routine. Like a great book, it does stay with you for a long time… but whether I’d go again, well, the jury’s out. Although, that chicken pie could well be enough to convince me.