sophie didn't do anything at all.

Monday, 30 September 2013

| food | Marshmallows

This was definitely a recipe I didn't expect to work.

A picture of vanilla marshmallows

Inspired by my dad's request to be left with all manner of sweet treats before I headed to uni, I set about baking and cooking enough food to last until I next headed home.

Ingredients required to make marshmallows

Ingredients

3 packets of unflavoured gelatin (I believe that's 3x7g)
350ml water
600g granulated sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Icing sugar and cornflour for dusting

Now what?

Do not attempt this if you are clumsy and likely to spill hot ingredients - the sugar reaches 240 degrees.

Line a baking tin with a mixture of icing sugar and cornflour. Make sure it is well coated on the bottom as this will stop the marshmallow from sticking.

Put your gelatin in half the water and allow to sit.

Put the rest of the water with the granulated sugar in a good sized pan. Heat covered on a hot heat for 4 minutes - the sugar will have dissolved, before removing the lid and allowing to bubble for another 5 minutes. Make sure you do not stir the liquid as this causes crystallisation. If you own a thermometer then wait for it to reach 240 degrees.

Otherwise, you need to check it has reached the 'soft ball' stage.

Sugar ready for making marshmallows

Before I started this process I was blissfully unaware of the sugar stages. There are too many to list, but for this particular recipe we need to really focus on one of the more temperamental ones.

The softball stage. 
To see if the sugar is 'ready', you need to test its consistency. Grab yourself a glass of very cold water, and into it drop a blob of your syrup. You then need to try and pick it up (if you can't even grab it then your sugar isn't ready). If it holds its shape vaguely and can be made into a ball then you're ready. If it stays in strands, leave the syrup to bubble for a few more minutes. 

Once the sugar is ready add it to the gelatin and begin whisking.


Oh, and keep going.


Whisk for a minimum of 12 minutes, until the mixture is firm and no longer increases in volume. If you are going to add flavourings or colour - this is the moment to do that, but if remaining minimalist ensure you whack vanilla in. You'll thank me later.

I made mine pink and peppermint-y.

Pour it out into the baking tray, and let it set in the fridge.


Once it is solidified you can tip it out and cut into pieces. This is messy.

Cover the whole lot in icing sugar and cornflour so they don't stick together.

This will make an amazing christmas treat - easier than I ever imagined and so satisfying.

The kitchen will be in a horrifically messy state. Not my fault...

x

wow. that was one amazing hot chocolate. don't just take my word for it...


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Friday, 27 September 2013

/ review / houseplant


Last month, The Joy of plants (part of the Flower Council) sent me some lovely African Violets. This unusual not-for-profit organisation promote flowers and plants whilst insisting they can change your life for the better. They wanted to know if having house plants made any difference to my mood, and if I would continue with my plant 'journey'.

clearly they weren't too happy at being transported - however since taking this photo the plants have all perked up!




I was actually more concerned with whether I would keep this plant alive for longer than a week - I'm no natural green finger. I feel my dad was more excited by the prospect of three new plants to play with and he quickly took them under his wing, giving the trio pride of place in our kitchen. So that was their wellbeing taken care of.


I think I worked it out. I don't believe the plants had a direct effect on my happiness, but their presence was that final touch to completing the ambiance of the room. They just quietly get on with drinking water and sunlight, and don't complain if I was singing too loudly whilst cooking or cover them in bubbles. (sorryy). I feel like the plants are a stepping stone to something more demanding, like a dog, or a child...

Well there you go.

I also bought myself some herb plants.... I don't know.

x

p.s. If you fancy winning yourself your very own plants to hopefully help grow and prosper - enter the Dr Plant competition on their Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/thejoyofplants.







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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

/ beauty / review / Rimmel / Foundation + eye shadow

Two products!

Foundation - Match perfection - classic ivory


The claims (Boots and Rimmel)

'A match so perfect, it's undetectable in any light! Light perfecting radiance foundation. Traceless coverage and perfectly flawless skin under any light'
Lasts all day
SPF 18
Conceals imperfections with no foundation line and your natural colour will never change.

The reality
Right, so as I said in the video review - this foundation is a bit of good and a bit of bad. I find 'high street' brands harder to differentiate, because they don't really improve your skin or give it nourishment to soak up. Quite often they dry my skin out as well, so I end up all blotchy by the afternoon.


I wear this in conjunction with powder and another foundation (whichever is in my make-up bag) as I don't like to completely coat my face in a thick base. I will admit the whole 'adapting to my skin tone' thing seems to be working - the whole second skin look. Staying power gets a thumbs up, it only needs reapplying if I'm seeing people again in the evening (so if not I just remove it!).

It's really buildable and has a slightly 'dewy' finish - be careful if you have oily skin as I reckon that would become a downside! I did try one day without using powder to set it and noticed a definite fall in performance, then again, I rarely don't use powder so that's not a problem for me!


As foundations go, I think I like it. At £6.99 it sure does perfectly match my pale skin. I'm so pale. I don't think I'd ever ditch my more luxurious brands but it has definitely made good headway into converting me!

Eye shadow - traffic eyes - over the limit


The claims (Boots and Rimmel)
A baked eyeshadow for maximum colour impact.
Three shade pallet of luminous, super longlasting intense colour.
10 hour wear.


The reality
Oh my god I just love this eye shadow. Honestly, this is currently my go to (I've bought two in reserve just in case) and find myself veering towards it for my everyday look. At £6.49 it's not too bad given you're getting three highly pigmented colours - but in all seriousness the packaging should come with a warning, if you aren't careful you'll ruin your nails. Speaking from experience.

Wet or dry application works - obviously when wet it lasts a lot longer but I find it a bit too dark for everyday wear. The three colours are just right for me - I just the highlighter all over, the darker colour for eyebrows and accentuation and the bronze one for across the eye.


I haven't truly started looking anywhere aside from highstreet brands for eyeshadow - one pay day I'll push the boat out but until then...

I want to get the green pigmented one next (speeding) - have you tried it?

x

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Friday, 20 September 2013

/ Monk

Okay, I’ll admit I have one guilty pleasure in life. That would be Monk. Nope. It’s not a religious thing, it’s the exasperatingly lovable detective; Adrian [Monk].
look at that face
look at that face
He has all forms of OCD, and some he made up. But, by being so meticulously perfect, Mr Adrian has an unbeatable ability to solve crime – and gets in some beautifully awkward situations through doing so.
Since a young age I have had a deep seated appreciation for the chap. He’s fictional, he’s scripted, but he is without a doubt an absolute babe. Love him.
Guys, you’ll thank me later. (and you’ll get that later).
But seriously. Watch monk, give him a go. It’s the only police detective show that doesn’t scare the crap out of me on a regular basis. It’s also the only thing I can watch back to back without my undeniably short attention span getting the better of me.
Sometimes, yes, it’s a tad gruesome (series 8 episode 9 anyone?) or a little unbelievable (he’s goes up against aliens), but that’s exactly why we love it.
For you imdb slaves we hit a almost impressive 7.8. good job team.
x
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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

/ autumnal reminiscing

Technically autumn begins on 22nd September this year. That's supposedly when things suddenly change into orange hues, oxblood lips and everyone sits sipping steaming mugs of tea whilst staring out their windows..

Currently, I'm feeling very autumnal (I love that word - don't you?). It's my favourite season, the jumpers and fresh morning air, so you'll probably see me constantly smiling for the next few months.

This tag is from makeup-pixi3 and you have to check our her blog.

 1. Favourite thing about it? Wow. I don't really have a singular favourite aspect of this season, I just enjoy the cosy evenings with candles and filling food, how snuggled everyone looks in their winter coats and the long park walks in boots. 

2. Favourite drink? Hot chocolate. White, dark or milk I just love that stuff. It's not exactly good for the waistline - but with all that early morning shivering it's definitely deserved. 

3. Favourite scent/candle? If you read my 'house smells and things' post you'll know I love all scents and candles, however this winter I'm leaning towards the horrifically simple but elegant vanilla range of smells. I know it's not particularly 'autumn' themed, but the Yankee Candle Vanilla Cupcake is just yummy!

4. Best lipstick? Gah. I hate this question. I wear all my lipsticks all the time so I'll go with a colour instead. I'm still living in past trends and really enjoy wearing oxblood colours on my lips. I'm going to be taking a look at Topshop's colours in the next few weeks so will hopefully find something appropriate!

5. Go to moisturiser? My skin gets a little dry during the colder weather, so I've been sticking with Nivea and Vaseline moisturisers with shea butter and aloe. For my face Simple light hydrating moisturiser is doing the trick!

6. Go to colours for the eyes? Hmmm, I've recently toned down my colour palette - I'm loving neutrals and navy. I like creamy blendable ones!

7. Favourite music or band/singer to listen to? This is another unfair question. If you've seen my iPod you'll know why, I simply don't have a favourite. Currently though, I have been tending to listen to Passenger and Childish Gambino in a playlist I made. Yeah. I like it.

8. Favourite outfit to wear (i.e. boots and scarf combo)? I love my thick tights, patterned scarves and skirts. You'll never see me in trousers.

9. Autumn treat? Grabbing a coffee with my boyf! We use the colder weather as an excuse to make copious mugs of tea and coffee to drink whilst watching TV in bed. I know it's naughty and we should be studying but it's just too cold!

10. Favourite place to be? Home! I miss my 'home-home' more in the colder weather, but that's only because we have really comfy sofas and blankets (nothing to do with the central heating, huge bath, vast array of food...). I get round this at uni by knocking around in my onesie collection... (I have more than one) and cooking up comfort food. Goodbye figure.

If you're reading this I tag you!

x


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Monday, 16 September 2013

/ wordplay

to play with words.

A poor mans wit and a wise mans weapon.
Fork handles.
Present since the beginning of language, word play has been the cornerstone of many literary works. It’s a wonderful skill to possess. I like that in a person. Make funny with your words. But don’t throw sarcasm in there.
Please.
Sarcasm is not clever, nor is it funny. It’s just people who like to be difficult. I don’t like difficult people.
You’re probably difficult.
And habitually sarcastic.

But then again, as am I. 

x
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Sunday, 15 September 2013

/ review / house smells and things

So as I mentioned, I wanted to re-fragrance our house. This adventure took me into both Ikea and Bodyshop.



My candles



Oh god am I a sucker for candles. Unfortunately, more often than not they just end up in my room, unlit and dusty in a corner. When I was in Ikea the other day, my mum and I spent a good half an hour smelling almost every candle in their range, and I settled on two of their 95p Tindra ones in vanilla and apple. They're what I classify as 'simple' smells, nothing on more expensive scents, but still really nice on the nose.

So for their price I'm going to give them a high mark, and will probably go back for the chocolate and caramel candles. They smelt good enough to eat.

Someone send me some candles....


Bodyshop home fragrance



The oil burner was a previous acquisition from Bodyshop, it only seemed fair to put it to its proper use. When I walked into the store quite a lot of the smells were 'missing' - apparently they were waiting on a delivery so I only had four to choose from. It only seemed appropriate to buy them all. 

Lavender - speaks for itself
Vanilla and tonka bean - a 'sophisticated aroma' which will help soothe the mind
Exotic - a 'sweet tropical scent'
Pomegranate and raspberry - 'fruity aroma' to help uplift the senses

At £4 each they're quite a decent price for the size and quality of the smell. I've been burning them each in different rooms (dedicated I know) but with the weather turning autumnal I'm loving a nice bubble bath with the lavender scent. And a hot chocolate. I honestly haven't got a favourite, if pushed thought, the Vanilla and Tonka bean is just delicious!

Having a room full of a fresh fragrance is such a mood booster - especially as the nights grow longer.Treat yourself!

I really want to get hold of this candle - you will too!

x
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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

book / review / The Fault in our Stars - John Green

Spoiler alert. 

Well not really, I'm going to do my best not to give too much away.

As promised in my video - found here - I have written my review of the book. See I told you!

I was nervous when starting this book. It had been so hyped by so many people that it had a lot to live up to. Oh and I hate crying over books.


Past page 229 I was a bit emotional - but not the bawling wreck I had expected to be. Choked up yes, especially in those last few pages and that one line that really hurts midway through (challenge you to find it!) but it was nowhere near the level I reached after reading Before I die (Jenny Downham) - which coincidentally is another cancer book.

The story is told from the perspective of Hazel, who has stage 4 thyroid cancer and discusses her dying as one would talk about lunch. John Green disposes of eloquent language and the beauty of the book is in its simplicity. He feeds you just enough information to let your imagination take over and the character journey is thoroughly convincing, if not frustratingly short. 

So, Hazel falls in love with a boy whose resilience against their hardship is endearing, and they encourage living in the moment and being yourself. Top bits of advice for the general population. 

I think after finishing the book, I'm actually harder hit than I was whilst reading it, probably because I sat for five hours in the car listening to Adele and thinking...


Okay. I have to voice my slight reservation about the story, and I hate doing that to books. If you're one of those individuals who hates cancers books, this is no exception. Despite being described as 'just a book about people who happen to have cancer', in all seriousness it is about cancer. Unavoidably. That actually goes without saying as the whole shabang begins at a support group meeting. And I have a feeling they wouldn't have been there without the whole dying situation going on, and by proxy the journey they went on just wouldn't have happened. And that's actually kind of sad. So I guess that it being a cancer book isn't a bad thing, but

I'm going to describe this as an easy read - purely because I completed it in under a day despite being over 300 pages long. That doesn't make it emotionally easy. It's powerful and leaves you a little bit like it ended in the middle of

Oh I did.

Now you have to read it.

x





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Monday, 9 September 2013

/ food / salted chocolate truffles

Fancy a sneaky treat?

My sister is a pro at making this stuff - it's an old recipe and really easy - but if you want a slightly different version head on over to The Londoner!



Ingredients
300g dark chocolate (70% or more, make sure it's nice)
300ml double cream
55g unsalted butter
300g milk chocolate (again make sure it's a nice one)
Rock salt
A couple of bowls
A baking tray lined with either tin foil or greaseproof paper
Tooth picks

Now what?
Heat the butter and cream in a bain-marie, stirring until the butter is melted.

Break up your dark chocolate and place in a bowl. Once the cream and butter are warmed through, pour this mixture over the chocolate and stir until you have a smooth consistency.


Leave the mixture in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight if you fancy.

Once it's fairly solid, remove from the fridge and prepare the lined trays.

you can see my sister washing her hands in the background there - how cute.
Now comes the messy bit. 
Using a teaspoon, grab a 'ball' and carefully roll it in your hands until it's a good shape. Remember this is going to be the size of the truffle so not too big! Teamwork helps this step go faster!


Place this lot on the lined baking tray and allow to cool again in the fridge. Takes a while!

oopsie!
So these truffle balls need to go back in the fridge to set. This stage takes a little less time, and you can break up the milk chocolate bars whilst you wait!

Once the balls are solid, set up your bain-marie and melt the milk chocolate.

I almost ran off with the bowl and just ate it.
Right, the next stage is the trickiest. As demonstrated by my little sister, using a cocktail stick dip each individual truffle in the melted chocolate and place on the lined trays. You'll need to wiggle them a little to remove the excess or else the chocolate just goes everywhere!




When you've finished, sprinkle a couple of flakes of the salt on each one.


Put them back in the fridge to chill, and voila!

Your very own salted chocolate truffles to eat in one sitting...

If you fancy mixing it up a bit, why not try chilli flakes or orange zest? Go wild!

x






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Sunday, 8 September 2013

/ august / haul / favourites / review

Here's my written summary because my video wasn't too concise.

I suddenly realised just how many products I went through in this video, so have/will be writing their separate reviews so you aren't too overwhelmed. My, aren't I nice. I will get there eventually!


Right. Nakd bars are a nutritious, healthy food that taste AMAZING. Made from entirely natural ingredients (like fruits and nuts!) which are blended together and shaped into a bar. Wheat, dairy and added sugar free this stuff is like liquid gold. 

I used to feel horrifically guilty when grabbing a cereal bar on the go and spent a long time looking for a 'healthy' alternative that also suppressed any midday cravings (namely chocolate). I was perusing the shelves in my local tesco when 'chocolate orange' caught my eye, turns out this Nakd bar was made primarily of dates and cashews with a few raisins thrown in. The flavour comes from cocoa powder and natural flavourings - and it counts for one of your five a day.

Once I'd eaten one of them, I had to go back and try all the flavours. Gonna get me a small food baby.

The only downside is that they aren't super cheap - treat yourself! Or do as I did and attempt to make your own... [coming soon!].


Berocca [coming soon!]


Revlon - nail varnishes + lip balm stain + lip butter [coming soon!]

MaxFactor lipfinity lip stain [coming soon!]

Nivea lip butter [coming soon!]

No7 mascara






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Friday, 6 September 2013

/ beauty / review / Simple / Kind to skin / facial care

And here we have the replacements for my No7 products. I have always looked at Simple from afar- never quite willingly buying into their skincare brand which manages to not put too much in. They don't just sell the products, Simple push a way of life - encouraging a healthy straightforward lifestyle. I wasn't quite ready to commit to giving up sugar and eating more vegetables but I did spend a lot of time scouring their website, pretty informative I think you'll find. 

This is a very calm review.


My splurge was surprisingly low in cost:


The cleanser


I bought mine from Waitrose, but you can grab yours at Boots and stock up on your points! 

Simple state to use this cleanser both 'morning and night', and without artifical perfume, colour or harsh chemicals they promise it won't upset your skin. Made with a blend of multi-vitamins (including B5 and E), skin loving ingredients and gentle cleansers to cleanse drier skin keeping it smooth and softened. 


I liked this cleanser, it was very gentle, and although it doesn't have a perfume it smelt pretty 'nice'. I can't get ultra excited, because I feel the point of Simple is to remain mellow and calm. It worked, I felt cleansed and refreshed and it was nice. 

Simple goodness.

Toner


So Simple have given us a 100% alcohol free toner, using Pro-Vitamin B5, Pro-Vitamin B3, Chamomile, Witch Hazel and Allantoin to keep your skin looking clarified and refreshed.


Unlike a lot of toners this one didn't make my skin feel 'tight'. Now I don't know if that's a good thing, because I kind of like that you can feel it work, but this bad boy just went onto my skin like water. And I can honestly say - who knows if it worked (aside from the obvious soothing effect) because my skin was fairly clear before, and it stayed clear. Perhaps courtesy of the toner. Perhaps not. 

I like it though. 

The moisturiser


Supposed to provide moisture for 12 hours this moisturiser is a 'perfect blend of multi-vitamins and skin loving ingredients' to keep your skin pampered. Should leave your skin looking natural and healthy without the use of artificial perfume or colours


YES to this. I liked it. Strongest emotional response to a Simple product. Enjoyed, liked and will continue to use again. My skin definitely felt hydrated all day and there was no lingering weird smell or other issues. It absorbed super quickly and made my face feel yummy. 

It definitely exceeded my expectations, the product is actually wonderful. The lotion itself is quite thick so doesn't completely vanish, but I believe this is due to the mineral oil. Unfortunately that can play havoc with some peoples skin so be careful if you choose this!

Conclusion


Simple don't use any animal derived products and are keen to remind you to 'let your inner beauty shine' with the help of their gentle and loving creams and lotions. 

I kind of like this stuff, but it's just so gentle. If I had sensitive skin and couldn't tolerate anything stronger then this would be the product for me however my skin actually can. So as obvious as it sounds, despite being amazingly soothing I'm going to find something that gives me a bit more oomph.

What I mean is that when I'm not wearing make-up or gunk on my face these products are perfect. However, if I have had a long day outside and am covered in foundation I need a more robust set of cleansing products. I guess I am blessed to not have particularly sensitive skin - this is not taken for granted!


I will recommend the trickstery trio - purely because they had no negative affects on my skin.

What next! You'll just have to wait and see...

x
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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

/ fitness / Spartan Race

You may have noticed that for the past few months I've been making vague references to an endurance race,  training and having man arms. This was all in preparation for a Spartan Sprint Race - a 5km+ course with 20 obstacles and a lot of mud. I managed to drag 4 of my closest friends to join me in this silliness, and they were less than impressed.


My fitness
So, I didn't go into the race completely untrained. Once I knew I was entered into the race the boy and I decided to undertake the Insanity workout to get all over strength and resilience. We then started jogging regularly (I was 5 times a week) with press ups and squats in between.  When I went to Nice on holiday we took training to a new level (interval training up and down hills, with mountain walking to wind down). I hit some tremendous PB's after coming home from that!

Running has never been my forte, I'm just not built for it, but the boys dragged me on some ridiculously long runs to prove I was fit enough. Thanks chaps. But remember, I'm not a fitness buff, just an ordinary 21 year old!

The day itself.
I was up at 6. Nerves had gotten the better of me so I went downstairs to watch Cupcake Wars. As you do. Mike and Alec (my tallest friends) arrived after I had spent two hours faffing and forced our little convoy to get underway. My breakfast bacon sandwich was one of the hardest things to eat - bleurgh.


An hour and a half later we arrived at race location (near Saffron Walden) and parked up. From the registration tent we could see the final few obstacles. Don't they just look fun?

the fire was helping offset the chill
With 15 minutes to go before kick off, competitors started to assemble in front of the start line. We decided to attempt a halfway start, not to be stuck completely at the back of the group but far enough from the front to avoid the crush.

top stretching technique


lead spartan and Head Coach. The speech fired up the masses. Truly. 
Following kicking my fellow racer in the face (we had to do some practice burpees) the race was underway. First few obstacles were hay bales, followed by a steep climb, a brief run and then a mud pit. Mud already. The thick muck took out a couple of our number, one man lost his shoe and another woman killed her knee. The next bit of the course was through woodland, a thin trail over very rough terrain. I went over on my ankle twice but kept going courtesy of taking copious amounts of painkillers prior to the start (trooper). This section was quite long and brought us out onto a grassy field. I can't really remember the order but there was some jumping and crawling, more ditches to jump over and other various carrying activities before we headed back to the starting area. A small group of us had started running together. That kind of camaraderie only comes about when you're doing something utterly ridiculous. The next few obstacles were to be completed in front of friends and family so we all got our game faces on...

see what I was saying about making friends?
we women got to lift pink blocks. apparently they were lighter...
 I managed to kick a lot of people in the face over the course of the race. They didn't seem to mind (too much). Two fell foul to my out of control feet when climbing over the frame. Sorry!


After this point there was a long way to go, but thankfully there had been a water stop to replenish our dehydrated bodies.

The 'stone area' was interesting. Tyre dragging was just exhausting, carrying sandbags and rocks took away what energy I had left, and that was before the ice pit. We had to climb under barbed wire and dive into a mud pit filled with freezing water. Oh, and then climb out of it, before sliding into another one. And then another. It just didn't stop. We were ruined.

Just in front of the finish line we had to cross some monkey bars (which by that point I couldn't hold on to - 30 forfeit burpees for me!) and jump fire. I think I took the fire a bit too seriously.


Once you had cleared the fire, it was one more rope climb and some spartan gladiators to push past. Unfortunately the whole climbing thing wasn't my strongest point.


I made it to the top in one go. But the whole getting down was the issue.


The lovely volunteers didn't leave me 'hanging' for long.


But I made the mistake of sliding down the rope.

That's the face you get from rope burn. 
 I took the smart tactic of engaging the 'gladiators' with sticks in conversation to distract them long enough so I could sneak past without them knocking me down.

he was having none of it
I had finished the course in a time of 1hr 25. That's a long time.

AROO
 I am so proud of myself. I know that my time is probably not going to ever win anyone any awards, but I made it around the entire course without walking and only 'failed' three of the obstacles (the ones I was expecting to!). If you want a race which is a challenge but not impossible, this is the one for you!

Our little team has already committed to it next year - and some others in between!!

i apologise for the wandering eyes. This is all you're gonna get.
Will I see you there?

x

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