Giving up Gluten and Dairy - My Story

Today I'm going to tell you all about my relationship with food and some changes I've made to my diet to help improve my health. I've always loved food, well that's a lie actually I was incredibly fussy when I was a child, but as an adult I've always like food. I'd much rather spend my money on a fancy hamburger than a fancy handbag. Simon and I eat out a lot, we pick a new restaurant, talk about our day and share delicious bites.

Despite my food romance, for the past few years my digestive system has been incredibly unhappy. Every morning I began to suffer through terrible pains in my stomach similar to very bad heartburn. The pain was so horrible it made me want to be sick. Not a nice thing to visualise I know.

At the time when the pain was at its worst I had a job as the manager of a creative events company and my working hours were very erratic. I also wasn't eating properly or at all as there never seemed to be time. It got to the point where even thinking about getting on the tube to central london everyday to get to work gave me terrible physical discomfort and anxiety. I didn't seem to click that these pains were connected to my stress levels. I'm sure you have experienced felling nervous or a little worried and your digestive system protests a bit, its a sign to calm down.

( I have spoken quite frankly about my panic disorder and anxiety here if you'd like to read. This post is directly linked to that one so I suggest having a look.)

One Friday Simon and I were going to be leaving London for a weekend break in Surrey and when I woke up my stomach was in agony. I was being very sick and I thought that I might have appendicitis. Because I'm a stubborn idiot I didn't go to A&E instead I made my way to the train station to meet Simon and we decided to go to the emergency clinic the next day in Surrey if things didn't improve. I was told by a lovely nurse there that I had gastritis and a stomach infection. She also told me that my flare ups were most likely caused by my stress and panic disorder alongside eating foods that irritate the stomach.

These days I'm taking real steps forward with battling my anxiety and panic attacks which I'm feeling very excited about but for this post I wanted to address what dietary changes I've made recently. With regards to my physical discomfort I am feeling so much better now, finally!

After doing lots of research, some of it was a little overwhelming as there's a lot of contradictory information out there, I settled on cutting out all gluten, diary and foods with high acid levels. I also try not to drink alcohol, refined sugars and caffeine as they are all stimulants that are pretty terrible for you if you have anxiety. Something else that I wanted to address was my hormonal balance, I wanted to make sure that my hormones and body were as in sync and happy as they could be. If you're thinking of trying out a dietary change yourself you must do what is right for you and do your research.

I marked the beginning of my new way of eating with a week long detox. Don't be put off by the word detox as it was basically a week of eating clean healthy food. The week went like this:

Breakfast - Green smoothie for four days, then the last three days I had homemade guacamole on gluten free bread. 

Lunch - Steamed or grilled fish with various leafy green salads like kale or spinach, tahini dressing. 

Dinner - Veggie soups. I had a mix of three bean minestrone (no pasta) and vegetable broth. I made huge batches that lasted the whole week. 

Snacks - Plain nuts (no more than a handful) and fruit.

Drinks - Green juice and smoothies, water and fresh mint tea. 

After that week I felt blooming amazing, in fact after the first day I felt amazing. I got used to feeling hungry as I realised that I wasn't really hungry just craving food which is totally different. After a week of eating like this a plate of gluten free pasta with puttanesca tasted like the most indulgent thing imaginable and I was so excited about all the new foods I could try out.

These days I mainly eat vegetable based meals with some naturally gluten and wheat free grains on the side. For example this week I've had two veggie curries, creamy avocado and pine-nut pasta and an amazing Budda bowl made by my lovely friend Sarah. I occasionally eat meat (avoiding red meat) and if I really want dairy I'll have some goats cheese. The one thing I miss is coffee but whenever I have it I go a little mental!

I'm rarely hungry, if I want a snack I reach for nuts, fruit or Nakd bars. This weekend I made some 100% cacao brownies that were amazing but still definitely a treat! Don't trick yourself into thinking that because something is gluten, dairy and refined sugar free that its really healthy. Sweet treats still contain natural sugar so be careful with the sweet stuff!

My stomach is so much flatter, in the past after eating and in the morning I would look six months pregnant due to all the nasty acid reflux and gas going on in my stomach. Over share sorry! I feel so much more confident now my stomach looks flat (ish). My general comfort levels have massively improved too, no more pains hurrah! My energy levels seem to be normal now, I don't have heaps of boundless energy but I have the right amount for me and I'm sleeping very well. I feel a lot "cleaner" and more healthy, which in general makes me feel proud of myself. My body seems to be working really efficiently and doing exactly what it needs to do which I think is because I'm eating natural foods that are easy to process.

Here are some websites I found super useful:

Hormonal dietary advice -

My favourite veggie food blog -

My favourite low acid / alkaline food blog -

My favourite healthy food on a budget blog -

My Pinterest recipe board -

I hope that you found this post interesting / useful /  inspiring and best of luck with your new eating choices! Let me know in the comments what you think about anything I've written as I am so interested to hear what you think.

The amazing gif at the top is by Lan Truong.

The Twinkle Diaries

Vote for me in the #IBA15 Awards

Hello how are you today? Last week an email landed in my inbox to tell me that I have been nominated for the Amara Interior Blog Awards! I'm up for winning the Best Newcomer Blog. Wooo!

Only the top 5 most voted for bloggers for each category will make the shortlist and get an invite to the awards - so please if you like my blog and want to support me make sure you vote and share my link far and wide so others can vote too! 

Thank you so much! 

The Best Ways to Unwind

Recently I met with the lovely ladies over at Yawn for a cup of tea and a chat about their wonderful pyjamas. Yawn was born when founder and busy mum of three Alice Whiteley went shopping for PJs. In need of some TLC, Alice saw something was missing and set about creating the ultimate pyjama.

As a print designer the first thing that drew me to Yawn are the adorable pattern designs that are featured on their products, it turns out that they are also very well made and super comfortable. Luckily Alice and I share similar values such as sustainability, eco friendly practices and great design so when I was very kindly sent a set of Cat Nap pyjamas I couldn't wait to share them with you. In collaboration with the lovely folk at Yawn here are my favorite ways to unwind...

I love tea, I love tea so so much. This fresh mint and ginger tea is amazing first thing in the morning to perk you up or after a meal to help with digestion. All you need to do it cut a few thin slices of ginger (I use three as I like my tea to be quite warming) and a few sprigs of fresh mint and add to your favorite mug. Pour over some water that has boiled and then cooled down slightly into the mug and enjoy! If you like things to be a little sweeter add some honey which is also fantastic if you're feeling a little under the weather thanks to its antibacterial properties.

Curl up in a comfy spot with a good book and relax. At the moment I'm reading The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham which was recommended to me by my friend Emma. The book is Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s and focusses on the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. I'm really enjoying it, it's a perfect book for a bit of escapism and I'm planning on watching the film adaptation too.

Something that I love to do to relax and de-stress is to craft and make things. If you don't consider yourself very creative you may surprise yourself if you try your hand at simple craft projects. Its a shame to let those fun filled creative childhood pastimes stay in your childhood so do something creative today and see how you feel! There's no pressure just try and have fun, why not start with this super easy keyring...

Simply paint some wooden beads with nail varnish and string them onto two strips of leather, you don't even need paint for this project! I bought my beads from Etsy but craft and hobby stores will also sell them. Paint a few coats of contrasting nail varnish onto a few beads and cut two thin strips out of some scrap leather. Tie a knot at the ends of the leather and thread the beads on. Tie a knot at the top and one more further up to create a loop and the top of the keyring. Attach your keys and you're done!

If you feel like you need some extra help with relaxing your mind and body why not download some mindfulness apps? My favourites are Headspace and Calm. I love to meditate for about 10-15 minutes if I'm feeling extra stressed as it really does help clear your mind. If you give it a try you will notice a huge difference and your whole body will feel so much more relaxed.

Happy relaxing! And thanks so much to Alice and Tamara from Yawn for gifting me these beautiful PJs.

Home Etc

DIY / Peanut Butter and Caramel Oreo Ice Creams

Its August so what better month to try your hand at making your own chocolate covered ice creams? Even though the weather in London hasn't really been resembling Summer recently (what's new?) perhaps it's scorching where you are, look no further than these Peanut Butter and Caramel Oreo Ice Creams to cool you down.

The people at Oreo were kind enough to send me two of their brand new flavours to try out, Peanut Butter and Golden. This post is an entry to the Foodies100 Wonderfilled recipe challenge sponsored by Oreo, which marks the launch of the two exciting new flavours. The delicious new flavours are available in all major supermarkets at an rrp of £1.08. To find out more their facebook page here.

This is a very simple recipe to try out and it includes a method of making no churn ice cream so I hope you'll give it a go.

What you'll need:

White and milk chocolate
Peanut butter
Floral petals for decorating
Golden and Peanut Butter Oreos
Wooden Sticks
Ice lolly moulds (I used these silicone ones as I liked the classic shape)

For the ice cream

½ of a 397g can sweetened condensed milk
600ml pot double cream
1 vanilla pod


To make the no churn ice cream put the condensed milk and cream into a large bowl. Crumble the Oreos by blending them until smooth crumbs form, you can bash them with a rolling pin if you don't have a blender. Cut open the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds with the edge of the knife and add these and the Oreo crumbs to the other ingredients. Beat with an electric whisk until thick and quite stiff so the texture is a little like clotted cream. Fill your ice lolly moulds with the ice cream mix and pop them in the freezer until they are solid.

I made two batches of ice cream, one with the Peanut Butter Oreos and one with the Golden but you could mix them together if you'd like. 

Over a bain marie or in a microwave melt the white and milk chocolate slowly, keep you eye on them so they don't burn and turn gritty. I used the white chocolate for the Golden Oreo icecream and the milk for the Peanut Butter icecream. Leave the chocolate to cool slightly, but not so much that it turns solid, use a spoon to coat the icecreams in chocolate. Quickly put the ice creams back into the freezer on a plate until they are set. 

For the white chocolate covered ice creams add some small petals by dampening them slightly with water and laying them flat on the chocolate, this way they will stick down. For the milk chocolate ice creams I added a layer of peanut butter to the top and dipped them into the left over Peanut Butter Oreo crumbs. Place all the icecreams back into the freezer for around 15 mins so everything is set. 

Don't they look delicious? I really love how the pink petals look on top of the white chocolate! 

The Twinkle Diaries

DIY / How to Build a Desk

A few month ago I started a new part time job. When I began working for print and homeware design studio Place in Print myself and the owner moved into another space so we could have a nice area to work in away from the workshop. The problem was that lots of the old furniture from the workshop space didn't really work in the new studio, so we decided to build our own desk inspired by this one from the blog My Attic.

A bit of a daunting task but it ended up being so fun! Granted, I didn't really do any of the hardcore DIY (I mainly varnished and painted) but we ended up with a pretty cool and totally bespoke desk. It has some pretty clever features too which I'll go into into in the tutorial. If you're willing to spend some time getting covered in paint and sawdust it is totally worth building your own furniture - and so much cheaper! Check out the tutorial below...

You will need to measure your space so you can plan out how big you'd like your desk to be. Ours had to comfortably sit two of us with our large computers. Two more people, maybe six at a push could work around our desk, it is very big. Make sure yours fits your needs and keep in mind you may need more space later on if you need to add people or equipment.

What You'll Need:

Two OSB panels
Four 2x4 lengths of timber or wooden floor boards
A box of 2" screws
Power saw
Power drill
Varnish (we used Yacht varnish so the desk could be used outdoors)
White emulsion paint
Paint brushes
Trestle legs

We had our 2x4s cut down to the size that we needed in B&Q where we bought all the supplies. It takes some maths figuring out the measurements but for a rectangular table you'll need two 2x4s cut to the length of the finished desk and two shorter ones that run from the edge of the desk to the centre channel created by the two longer 2x4s. We wanted an open channel to run down the centre of the desk so our computer cables could be kept tidy and invisible. You can make the cubby holes whatever size you'd like to, ours are rectangular to keep books and papers in.

Lay one of the OSB boards down and drill the 2x4s into place on top of the OSB. The 2x4s should form a hashtag like shape on the OSB board. Not only will the 2x4s make up your cubby holes to keep cables and notebooks hidden but they will also add more stability to your table. We cut a small rectangle out of the middle of the second OSB board so we could feed our wires through it to plug into an extension cable that sits in the channel. We cut the hole at an angle so that we could have a lid for it. Add the second layer of the OSB table body and screw into the 2x4 boards. This will create a kind of sandwich over the 2x4s.

The desk top will be very heavy now so make sure you have a few helpers to lift it up. For the legs we bought these trestle legs from Ikea. They take the weight of the desk and our stuff very well so don't worry about them buckling.

The last stage is to sand down the edges of the table so you can paint and varnish it. I painted on a few coats of thick varnish following the instructions on the can and then added a border of white paint along the exposed edges to give it a clean and modern finish. This last step is optional and I think any paint colour would look great. It turns out that OSB makes a really cool background for photos too!

Here's an instagram shot of the finished desk before we moved the other furniture in. You can see from the photo that our lidded hole in the middle of the desk for the computer cables is pretty much invisible.

Best of luck building your own desk and please let me know what you think of this tutorial!

Home Etc

Self Portrait

I haven't written about a fashion brand in a little while but I keep seeing the beautiful clothes that Self Portrait make and I had to share. Next time I have a wedding to go to I will definitely be purchasing one of their dresses, I'm trying to figure out if my 27th birthday is a good enough excuse? They have a wonderful selection so it was really hard to pick my favorites, I think that red dress is top of my list though.

My Top Six Candles

Burning a candle always feels so luxurious to me, it the ritual creates a calming effect and delicately scented ones that compliment your home and your personality can add a lot to your space. These are my top six, I definitely have specific taste when it comes to scent so you might want to buy a different fragrance. Personally, depending on what mood I'm in I love smokey amber or light florals. The good thing is that these candles are unified by great quality. A few of them are also very inexpensive too.

The Yorkshire Dales and The Lake District 2015

Around Easter time this year Simon and I headed off to my mum’s cottage in between the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District as we do every year. This wild and picturesque part of the UK always delights us. every time we go we are treated to wonderful walks, lambs and plenty of pints of beer and cider. (We've actually just come back from the cottage again as we fancied a mini trip, it looks so different in the Summer so worth a visit any time of year.)

I wrote quite a comprehensive guide last year that focussed on the more touristy “things you must do” with lots of the best attractions and walks so please read that post too. This year we had a slightly more relaxed go with the flow trip as we had both had a pretty crappy and tiring few weeks before we left. The focus this time was to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Here’s what we got up to…

When we arrived at the cottage at around four we decided to explore the fells behind the house, bear in mind these are totally barren and open with no paths or trails! Very brave I know. Needless to say we got lost in the wilds of the moors as it was getting dark. We thankfully found our way back by spotting one of our favourite local landmarks the Smardale Viaduct.

The next day we headed to Sizergh Castle, which isn’t technically a castle in the Medieval sense but still a nice place to visit for a quick walk around the grounds as the garden was lovely. 

As we were leaving I noticed that we we quite near the coast. Having never been to a beach in the North West of England we decided to go for a drive to take a look. One of the lovely volunteers as Sizergh Castle suggested that we also pay a visit to a Buddist Temple that was on the site of Conishead priory very near Morcombe Bay. After driving for about twenty minutes we suddenly came to the temple and priory through a clearing in the trees.

The Priory’s history is fascinating, it was founded in the 12th century. You really should have a read all about it here its got quite a story!

The next day we drove to Ambleside for one of the more strenuous walks the area has to offer. We climbed up past Stockghyll force ( the nordic word for waterfall) and began the rather difficult climb up Wansfell and then continued down through a lovely village called Troutbeck. We found the walk in this book in case you want to try it out too.  Here's Simon at the top of the Fell.

The next day we went on our annual walk from Keld to Muker. We always stop off at the pub for a half pint and the tea room for lunch and a cream tea (the best in the world I think!) and one of us usually buys a hand knitted jumper from the knitwear shop. I talk about this particular walk in more detail here if you'd like to read.

Oh Hello pixie cut, its taken me so long to get this post up my hair has totally grown out now. The photo below this one is of a selection on the un-dyed wool you can buy at Muker, I wish I could knit!

We spent the rest of the trip relaxing in the pub, eating at home and lamb spotting. Since these photos were taken we've been back to the cottage to have a long weekend up there with my family in July, it looked totally different in the Summer. You can take a look at my Instagram to see how much the landscape had changed.

I hope you enjoyed this post and make sure to visit The Yorkshire Dales and The Lake District if you can in the future!

Oh and one last photo, once we were back in the North East (where I grew up) and before we headed home to London we took a drive to Bamburgh. The prettiest beach in the Uk as far as I'm concerned!

The Twinkle Diaries

My Workspace

I was invited by WeWork to share my working environment so today I am doing just that. WeWork build beautiful, shared office spaces. They promote collaboration, community and participation, something that I admire.

Although I work alone in my small flat I definitely enjoy the creative community in London. Lots of my friends are designers too and that combined with social networking sites means I have really enjoyed meeting and working with many people. Without twitter I would have never been lucky enough to be invited to have a pop up shop in West Elm for example. If you're a creative and you're finding that you're feeling a bit secluded try to network online and arrange creative meet-ups, its so important to share stories and collaborate with other self employed folk.

However you like working I hope you enjoy this little insight into my small desk space and if you're interested in a co-working space check WeWork out, they have spaces all over the globe! 

My work area is in a corner of our living room, I live in a small flat so I had to squeeze myself in! I have a large Mid-Century cabinet which holds all my craft supplies for my DIY magazine articles (I also work as a freelance lifestyle writer just in case you didn't know) it also holds some of my sewing supplies and camera equipment. I love Midcentury furniture as it can hide so much stuff! My desk is a 1950's formica kitchen table that sits right next to the cabinet. I really need to upgrade my desk and chair but for now they'll do. I have a cupboard next to my desk, the only one in the flat - modern flats are rubbish for built in storage! I keep my rolled up paper and some of my homeware stock in there. The side of the cupboard makes for a great place to stick up inspirational postcards and my quote banner that I made.

Some items that I would love to have for my little office space would be some Kate Spade accessories like this very glam gold stapler and journal. Like most of us I really admire Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co and her new bags are a must have to keep organised. As a Scandiophile I adore Hay and these set squares would be so useful for my craft projects and when I need to cut fabric for my homeware brand. Good pens are mandatory, I have lots but these inexpensive ones from Livework are my favourites. And of course you should keep those hard working hands cared for, my top skincare brand is Kiehl's.

I hope you enjoyed a look at my work area. Oh and in case you didn't see I am currently holding a giveaway where you can win a collection of my products worth over £65. See my pervious post to enter or click here.  The Giveaway is now closed.

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