RJ Hair, Rayleigh

Fashion, Features, Health & Beauty, Out & About, Quick Reads

RJ Hair, Rayleigh

Hair Cut Rayleigh

It’s no secret that I hate having my haircut. There isn’t a particular reason, a hairdresser has not ever chopped my head off or anything, but I just find it boring. So when I found RJ Hair in Rayleigh, the first thing I thought was “wow, that looks like a nice place to spend a couple of hours” and I was sold.

Getting a haircut in Rayleigh

RJ Hair in Rayleigh is situated on the high street right opposite The Roebuck. So if you have ever been to Pink Toothbrush and had a few drinks first then you will know EXACTLY where it is. Parking is located more or less behind the salon so it’s easily accessible from public transport or car.

I booked in for a trim as I haven’t had one since before Cyprus which is preposterous, and my Mum booked in for a cut and colour. Everyone at the salon is really welcoming and the inside is lovely. They even have a colour bar complete with iPads you can use while waiting for your colour.

The staff are really talented and my wash cut and blow dry was amazing, I popped up to the chemist afterwards feeling like a pure 10/10 (I’m about a 4/10 on a good day). My Mum stole my thunder though as her hair came out lovely.

Having your hair coloured in Rayleigh

Mum wanted a full on change. She had hated her hair for ages and even asked me to trim the ends for her (I said no, last person who should be trusted with scissors).  She had a lot but off and a full head of highlights and it looked AMAZING. I can’’t believe how natural the highlights look and the cut is perfect. The team there are so good, I’d really recommend them and I’m thrilled that I’ve finally found my forever hairdresser. Everyone obviously feels the same as me as EVERY SINGLE Facebook review on their page is 5*. 

Hairdressers Rayleigh

Get in touch with RJ Hair, Rayleigh

01268 947030

Website: https://www.rjhair.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RJHair.x/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rjhair.x/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rjhair_x

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The Dukes Head, Little Burstead

Features, Food, Out & About

There’s a lot of horrific food knocking about in Basildon. Not content with having one of the poorest hospitals in the country, a giant mock “Hollywood” sign and the most unhelpful train station in the world, Basildon has a knack for taking crap chain restaurants and bunching them all together for the convenience of the inexperienced palette. If you have never heard of “Bas Vegas” or the Festival Leisure Park as it is actually called, then I am completely jealous of you. Sometime in the 90s, a board of people sat together and thought “let’s make things easy for the people of Basildon and bunch together as many cheap restaurants as possible in a car park with a cinema and a gym”.

Where to eat in Basildon?

So if you have a celebration or a special occasion in Basildon you are pretty much limited to one of the three, yes THREE Nando’s we have here, Frankie and effing Benny’s or Coast to Coast, which has changed names more time than P Diddy. If you are a bit of a foodie, like me, the outlook is pretty grim. Luckily, quite some time ago, I had an interview at a wonderful little pub called The Dukes Head in Little Burstead. A few months later while choosing somewhere to eat I remembered the charm of this place and we booked up.

The Dukes Head, Billericay

I’ve reviewed it a few times before as I love it here, and this has now become the “go to” place for nice meals out and celebrations. For anyone in Basildon, The Dukes Head is ten minutes up the road and well worth the petrol. As my Mum and I volunteer together on Christmas Day, we tend to go out for a nice meal on Boxing Day so we can actually eat together and chat, so this was the obvious choice. The hearty Christmas Menu from The Dukes Head was everything you would expect from the festive season.

When it comes to starters I am the most boring, un-adventurous person in the world. Tomato soup is always a winner for me. People may look down their nose at that but I think there is a lot to be said for a bowl of really fresh, well-made tomato soup. Consistency is key. There is nothing worse than looking forward to a bowl of thick, creamy tomato soup and being delivered a watery monstrosity that mirrors the cup-a-soups you get on a Ryanair flight for about £5. The Dukes Head served up a simple, yet elegant tomato that was thick enough without being sludgy. Sludgy soup is also a no from me. They were also kind enough to serve up some oil and balsamic vinegar to accompany the ciabatta. A welcome surprise for bread enthusiasts like myself.

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No Christmas menu would be complete without a Christmas dinner with all of the trimmings. One of the things that keep me coming back to The Dukes Head is the fact that they put so much effort into the smaller details. The clementine stuffing balls for example. A slight twist on a classic that makes all the difference taste-wise. The mouth watering gravy. Lord only knows what they put in it but I need to find their secret. The other secret to their success is the cooking in general. If you are looking to fill yourself up with overcooked or undercooked mass-produced swill then maybe you are better off going to Bas Vegas. If you want to eat something that has been cooked specifically for you by expert hand then come here.

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Following on from dinner was the great dessert debate I engage in at every dinner. As someone who has such an intense interest in all things cheese – I’ll usually go for the cheeseboard at the end of a meal. But there was one word on the menu that caught my eye: gingerbread. Yes, ladies and gentleman of the company-owning world if you want to catch a bloggers eye, just add gingerbread. Gingerbread lattes, gingerbread creme brûlée, gingerbread toilet roll, whatever. It works. So in a break from my cheese tradition, I ordered the gingerbread creme brûlée with a nice, strong Americano just so I’d have the energy to walk to the car.

Anyone who indulges in pimple popper videos will probably, also enjoy the sheer, unadulterated pleasure of cracking the top of a creme brûlée and having the creamy underneath mixture pop through like a volcano. Not a proper volcano though, a less angry volcano. Miffed or mildly annoyed if not raging. The brûlée was served with a tiny gingerbread man and in all honesty, despite my constant battle to try and get the UK population to eat like they were raised by humans and not wolves, I did pick him up with my fingers and dip him in. It was what he was there for, and were I to eat him separate from the brûlée I would have felt that I was diminishing his entire life purpose.

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Is it nice at The Dukes Head, Billericay?

As well as the delightful food, the nice atmosphere, and the friendly service, there is another thing I absolutely love about The Dukes Head. Rolling to the car absolutely full to the brim.

The Dukes Head Boxing day menu was £25.95 for three courses.

Three Days In Iceland

Features, Health & Beauty, Lifestyle, Out & About, Travel

Is Iceland worth the money?

Northern Lights

I’m going to start this article with an admission that is going to make me sound incredibly uncool. I LOVE the Eurovision song contest. I’ve watched it my whole life and it is very rare I will miss it unless I’m working abroad.

So, what has that got to do with Iceland?

Well ever since I started watching it, the little VT’s before each country have evoked the explorer in me. I’ve wanted to go to Iceland ever since I can remember, so this year, when my friend asked me to go for her 30th I thought “why not” and we made it happen. We did everything. People who tell you a long weekend is not enough are lying. If you are actually going to get up off of your bottom and go out and do things and worry about the tiredness after you will be able to fit in absolutely everything exciting that Iceland has to offer.

Day 1 – Reykjavik Cathedral, The Northern Lights, and a Scary Air BnB

I’ve never used Air BnB in my life, but when it turned out our flights were cheaper to go the day before we thought we’d give an Air BnB a go for the first night instead of booking an extra room in the Radisson which was quite expensive. The theory was “how bad could it be?”. Tasked with organising everything so that we didn’t need to rely on busses or taxi’s I found an Air BnB in central Reykjavik. The “how bad could it be?” theory didn’t really serve us very well.

A short, easy walk form the bus station – the location was everything they promised. Unfortunately so was the cleanliness. Although the Air BnB had described itself as “not immaculately clean”, to me, that just meant that they probably didn’t keep up hotel standards and were worried about appearing badly in a review. As it would happen this estimation was wrong. I won’t name and shame someone’s livelihood on an article the whole world can see, but all I will say is make careful choices if you are going to use an Air BnB.  It was so bad, my friend named it “the crack den”. Luckily, we were at the Northern Lights all night on the night we stayed, so once we crawled into bed after we didn’t really mind that it was filthy.

We left immediately to walk into Reykjavik and go up to the top of the Cathedral. Don’t worry, there’s a lift, so you don’t have to walk it. It was a beautiful view and it also gave us the advantage of now having seen where everything was in conjunction with each other and knowing where to walk For 900 ISK it really is worth it.

The Northern Lights were amazing. We booked through Isango and I would really recommend them. The coach picked us up from the hotel we were staying in for the next two nights so we walked up and found our way. On the way to the first stop, the tour guide informed us that we had a 0% chance of seeing the lights. She did say that we would see some cool stars and have some snacks so we weren’t really that worried. When we got to the stop, the chance of seeing the lights had increased to 1%. Wow. We found the stars amazing. While we were on the stop, we saw four shooting stars and the normal stars were so low it looked like you could pick them out of the sky.

How To See The Northern Lights

Luckily for us, we did, in fact, see the lights. They were amazing. You can’t really describe what it’s like to be standing there looking at something that occurs naturally that is so beautiful. We understood how lucky we were, and also we managed to see them on another stop and get a picture with them.

Day 2 – Checking into the Radisson and a Night Out in Reykjavik

My friend woke me up promptly around 9am and said “Wakey wake Kelly, it’s time to leave the crack den now”. We left promptly and tried to leave the room as clean as possible but my friend did admit when we were halfway down the road that she had stolen the picture of Bjork above our room. Sorry guys!

 

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We went for breakfast at Le Bistro which was wonderful as by this point I was craving a decent cup of coffee. Le Bistro is a lovely place for breakfast and I should imagine that the French food they serve for dinner is just as nice. After breakfast we just decided to take our chances and walk up to the Radisson Blu Saga and see if they would look after our cases for the day while we did other stuff.  This is one of the best, most helpful hotels I have ever had the pleasure of staying in. Because our room was ready they let us check in, and after the crack den it was VERY welcome. My friend went off to do some horse riding and I enjoyed the big comfy, clean bed with the view of the mountains, followed by a long bath in the lovely bathroom. The hotel even lent me and my friend some plug adaptors because we are both pretty stupid and forgot them.

Now armed with the use of 2 lovely big mirrors, we got ready for a night out in Reykjavik. The other convenient thing about the Radisson is that you can easily walk to Reykjavik town in about 10 minutes. We hadn’t booked or chosen anywhere for dinner so we ended up just going to the first place that looked busy and did food we both liked – Caruso. It turned out to be a pretty good decision. Shown upstairs to the rustic little room we were going to dine in complete with ski’s and exposed wooden beams, we realised we had made a great choice. The food matched the atmosphere and was just great, home cooked, filling winter warmers that were very welcome after a chilly walk into town. The wine was also good, according to my friend, and the guy playing the guitar completed the perfect, cute, Icelandic evening.

We went on to a bar in Reykjavik and it can’t have made a great impression on me because I forget what it was called. I can’t say it was particularly lively and I must admit even though I do not drink I am far from boring, so we moved on looking for somewhere with a bit more of a party atmosphere. This was also the evening we decided to celebrate my friends 30th as it was the next day but we were going to be out all day.

When we came across The American Bar we didn’t really want to go in, not because it didn’t look good just because we are the kinda gals that like exploring and doing different things, rather than going to American/English places while abroad. As soon as we heard the live singers we were draw straight in and it was great! The music was amazing, the drinks were not too expensive and the atmosphere was great – aside from one couple who looked like they were forced to be there at gunpoint. If you are out and about in Reykjavik on a Friday or Saturday night it’s definitely worth a visit.

Day 3 – The Blue Lagoon and the Golden Circle

No trip to Iceland is complete without going to the Blue Lagoon. It is every bit as amazing as everyone makes it out to be. We got a basic admission package included with our Isango booking. All anyone else who paid more got was a towel, robe and flip flops but we took our own towels and flip flops so I can’t say we really missed out. The mud masks looked good but you can pay for them there so if we really wanted one we could have had one. When you arrive, you get a wristband and you are able to purchase extra’s including treatments, drinks outside, or drinks inside. If you are going, do what we did and go early. Watching the sun come up over the mountains while actually being in the water was an incredible experience. The main thing we were worried about was freezing to death getting in, but getting in is actually indoors and then you walk outside while in the water. There is also a sauna and a steam room that is included in the admission price, so if you do get a bit chilly it’s fine. The water is every bit as warm as people say, but it is a rather weird experience having your face get that cold.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

The changing rooms are really modern with all the amenities you need to get ready to carry on your day and most of all they are warm. If you are going to book the tour that includes the Golden Circle as well then leaving yourself about an hour to get ready will give you a good chance to get dry and warm because trust me, it’s freezing at the Golden Circle.

Visit Iceland

We went into Reykjavik to pick up the next coach and start our afternoon touring the Golden Circle. Our tour guide was a jolly, knowledgable guy who’s name escapes me because my friend insisted on calling him Boris. The first stop was Þingvellir National Park where excitingly you can walk between two continents. Unfortunately the childishness of both of us came out when we found out we would be hiking down a crevice, but it was really interesting.

The next stop was the Selfoss Gesyir. By this point it was really snowing. It isn’t that I don’t like nature, it’s just that I don’t like it when it is cold and in my face. The geyser goes off a few times every hour, and we were lucky enough to see it. It was something that was definitely worth seeing, but I am glad it was part of a tour and not just the main thing we were doing as it wasn’t exactly overwhelming.

Before the next stop the Gulfoss waterfall, we had kind of agreed we were going to look at whatever it was we needed to look at and get back indoors sharpish. I can’t really remember what I was expecting, but it wasn’t much. The Gulfoss waterfall is amazing. Standing there looking at something that incredible really is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Gulfoss waterfall also has the added benefit that the amenities in that particular part of the National Park are really good and include a cafe where you can defrost.

Getting around Iceland

We flew with Norwegian Air on the way there and I was expecting great things after so many recommendations, but they were rubbish! The plane was freezing and the service was terrible. To get out and about while we were there, we booked most of our travel with Reykjavik Excursions and they were perfect! 100% book with them if you are going. On the way back we flew with Iceland Air to Heathrow. On the day we were due to fly there was a strike so we were delayed by a couple of hours. I have to admit, after being up at 2.30am and being told by them to go to the airport anyway when they KNEW the mechanics were going to be on strike we were a bit annoyed and there were a few exchanges on Twitter. They had known about the strike for months and it was really poor form not to be more prepared. Saying that, we were just being moaners. Some poor people got literally stranded there. We also got boarded a bit too soon and ended up being on the aircraft for over an hour, but Iceland Air’s aircraft to Heathrow from Keflavik are lovely. Because it is the first or second leg on some long haul flights, it is like flying long haul. Leather seats, loads of legroom, free tea and coffee and soft drinks and setback screens. Even though the trip is only 3 hours long it was like being on an Emrites flight and I loved the service and the plane itself. I would actually fly with them again despite the inconvenience of the strike, I would just hope that they have learned their lesson from the situation.

Is it as expensive as everyone says?

Short answer: yes. It is expensive, but it is just one of those things you are going to have to deal with if you are going to go. There probably are ways to do it on a budget if you don’t want to see much, but some of the trips and excursions are absolutely once in a lifetime things, so if you are going to go save up and do it properly. One thing I was surprised at was the Blue Lagoon, as the food and drink wasn’t anywhere near as rice as I thought it would be. The other thing I was surprised at was the food in general, as there really are not many cheap options for eating out.

Top travel tips for Iceland 

  • Book through Iceland Air to and from Heathrow. Because they are connecting flights you will most likely get the benefits of a lovely long haul plane. We booked through CheapOair.com and got a great deal.
  • Take flip flops, your own towel and a robe to the Blue Lagoon. Then you can just book the basic package. It’s also worth taking a spare hat you don’t mind getting wet as your face and head get really cold.
  • Book up to stay somewhere you can walk into town from. Taxi’s and busses can be hit and miss so the less you have to use them the better.
  • Check out the local swimming pools and geothermal spa’s. There are a couple dotted around Reykjavik that are a fraction of the price of the Blue Lagoon if that is too pricey for you.
  • Go up to the top of Reykjavik Cathedral on the first day. It’s really practical because you can find your way around, and it is also beautiful.
  • Eat seafood. It is REALLY fresh in Iceland as one would expect, and if you are going to try seafood anywhere it may as well be somewhere where the turnaround from catch to plate is about 24 hours.
  • Take snow boots, thermals and a proper coat, hat and gloves. When it snows, it really snows. Iceland isn’t messing about, especially when you start mooching around the Golden Circle.
  • Pay out that little extra to stay somewhere luxurious like the Radisson. It really does make all the difference when you have been walking around in the freezing cold all day.
  • Use a company like OneTravel to get a super cheap deal on a holiday to Iceland, then just convert to pounds. For some reason travel companies based abroad seem to have better deals than your native country.

 

 

8 Things You’ll Hate If You Commute

Features, Lifestyle, Out & About, Quick Reads, Travel

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For most people, working in London is the dream. Why else would so many people put up with three hours each day of being squished onto the central line with someones Evening Standard up their nostril? As wonderful as working in London is, there really are a few things on the commute that I think I can speak for all of us when I say we could do without.

Loud Eaters

Just to clarify – crunching is involuntary. Crunching is not annoying. If someone is eating a bag of crisps on the tube most of the time the noise of the train will cancel it out. Hey, you have been there yourself when you are dashing between meetings and a bag of Hula Hoops is all that stands between you and stomach rumbling that sounds like the huge rolling stone that chased Indiana Jones.

No my issue, ladies and gentlemen, is with those who just cannot keep their mouth shut. You see, unless you were raised by wolves the chances are at some point someone would have explained to you that you shut your mouth while you eat. The other commuters in your presence do not want to see your food rolling around like vomit in a tumble dryer, and we also do not want to hear you smacking your lips while you eat. In the last week, I have had to move TWICE because of people who think it is ok to eat like this. Grown adults as well.

We are in the midst of an epidemic.

People Who Can’t Use Escalators

I have quite a good memory and I can’t remember ever being taught how to use an escalator in school. Further to this, I also don’t remember any sort of guide being handed out when I first started having to use them. As far as I am aware I pretty much picked up the basics myself. You get on, it moves up or down, and you get off. This has always seemed like a pretty simple process to me until I started working in London and realised 99% of the population cannot use escalators. People just LOVE to stop at the bottom and keep everyone behind at a death defying stand still while they work out what to do next.

Here’s a hint hun – you get off. 

Men Who Shove Women For Seats

OK so this one may seem weird as I do class myself as a slight feminist. The deal is lads, I don’t actually WANT your seat. I am a serial seat giver upper and in the last week I have done two olds, a preggers and one girl who just looked exhausted. If you are a male and you approach me for my seat and tell me you are exhausted, have a long way, and just really need to sit down I’ll hand my arse holder over to you without fuss. To me this is just basic politeness. What I do not find acceptable of so many men on the commute is the way they will actively shove women out of the way to run for seats.

Granted, the violinist at Tottenham Court Road CAN make it seem like it – but you really aren’t fighting for lifeboats on the Titanic guys.

Personal Space Invaders

I very rarely show affection to my family or friends and to be honest it freaks me right out if someone sits next to me when there are other free seats. As you can imagine this attitude does not fare me well on the commute. The packed tube is one thing. Personal space is out of the window. I’m going to have an armpit in my face until Holborn, this is the trade off for working somewhere pretty.

But off of the tube or the train there really is no need for you to be standing so close to me you are sharing my body heat.

People Who Simply MUST Read Their Paper

It still amazes me that in a city as expensive as London you get something free. I love a free Evening Standard or Metro. In fact, I challenge anyone to deny looking at the rush hour crush section in the Metro to see if they have been mentioned. The London free papers offer a similar quality of journalism to what we know as tabloids, so I struggle to believe that there is anything important enough in them for you to have to paper cut someones eyeball on the Picadilly Line. We ALL find the commute boring and I’m sure all of us are looking for something to take our mind off of the fact we are sweating because we have seven layers on and we can’t locate one of our feet.

However, if there isn’t space for you to read, there isn’t space. We are all in the same boat mate.

The Ones Who Won’t Give Up Their Seat

Sitting down is one of the things I enjoy in life probably just as much as laying down. Who doesn’t love a good sit? Getting a seat on the commute is like getting a free coffee from Pret or winning the lottery. Sometimes you have to give your seat up. As much as you love sitting the old lady or pregnant lady standing up for the whole journey would probably love it more. Nothing annoys me more than people who just stand blissfully unaware of a “Baby On Board” badge. Over the course of the last month or so I have had to offer seats to people fairly far away from me because those sitting around them just put their heads in their phones and pretend not to see someone who is quite clearly struggling.

No one wants to give up their nice comfy seat on a packed journey but it’s something you just have to like or lump like recycling or Piers Morgan on GMB.

People Who Get On Despite Their Being No Space

As much as basic knowledge of escalators seems to evade even the most experiences commuters – so do the basic laws of physics. You see the simple mantra “if there is no space, you can’t get on” seems to be ignored by even the most intelligent looking of to and from work travellers. Pop on the Jubilee line from West Ham around 810am every morning and you will be able to view this species in their natural habitat. They are ABSOLUTELY going to get on whether there is space or not. Never mind the people at the back are getting intimate with the window because they have been pushed so far against it. If you really want to get on and there doesn’t appear to be space just do what everyone else does and get on anyway.

I mean, humans are quite malleable aren’t they? Surely someone can shrink a bit or bend a bit to make an inch or two where needed? Never mind comfort, we simply do not have the ten minutes to spare.

Commuters Who Push From Behind When The People In Front Aren’t Moving

Another law of physics that seems to be absolutely lost on anyone trying to get around in London. I always thought that it was a pretty basic principle. If the people in front of me are not moving, I cannot move. Somewhere along the lines I am sure there is an ACTUAL law of physics the supports this notion that can be explained by a complicated math equation. Regardless of the obviousness of the situation – people will continue to push you if the others in front are not moving anywhere. Because in England somehow we have managed to raise a generation of people who believe pushing and shoving is the best way to get somewhere faster.

Politely asking what the hold up is or god forbid waiting patiently like everyone else, simply isn’t an option.

We Heart Mondays Christmas Food Festival

Features, Food, Out & About

Because the We Heart Mondays launch event was so good – I really didn’t need much convincing to go to their Christmas food festival. After trying all of the yummy treats on offer at the launch event, there was no way I was going to miss out on a event they were holding that was specifically about food! Based in Hackney, the We Love Monday’s HQ really isn’t that hard for me to get too and I found myself with enough time to sample everything on offer to ensure I could write an in depth review. Yep, that’s the reason I’m giving for making myself so full I felt sick and I’m sticking with it.

Afia’s Samosa Shop

Afias Samosa Shop

Occasionally, I’ll find a product or service through m blog that absolutely blows me away so much that I know I’ll end up being a customer for life. Afia’s Samosa Shop is one of those companies. Afia’s is a small company based in Birmingham that sells delicious Indian food online that is free of wheat and gluten. This is an amazing accomplishment because not only are Afia’s Samosas wheat and gluten free, they are also egg and dairy free. This means if you are a vegan or cannot have dairy (like me) you can still enjoy them. One of the things that struck me was how light and thin the pastry was. Anyone who has ever picked up one of those greasy samosa monstrosities from a garage will appreciate what I mean. Without making the pastry too thick – you can enjoy the flavour of the filling (either meat or vegetarian). I eat Indian food all the time and this is the nicest I have ever had. We also kindly got some Parathas and Onion Bhaji’s to take home which were easy to cook and delicious. I really wanted to film myself cooking them for my Youtube but unfortunately I couldn’t navigate my exceptionally rubbish phone while cooking them, so I will leave you with Afia’s video to show you how easy it is.

Biskgetz

Biskgetz

Not only were the ladies at the Biskgetz stand super fun – they were offering mocktails and vegan biscuits. Due to the dairy situation, I gravitate towards a lot of vegan food. Despite enjoying a digestive now and again, being as dairy free as possible means my days of coming home on a Friday and doing a whole packet of ginger nuts to myself are well and truly over. Not only are Biskgets vegan, delicious, and GMO free but they are available in a super handy pot so you can take them to work for your desk for a Friday treat.

Burley Fudge

Burley Fudge

Nestled in the small village of Burley in the New Forest, Burley Fudge are on a mission to take back control of mouth watering fudge treats that are packaged perfectly from all of the big brands muscling in on the market and getting it wrong. Their fudge literally melts in your mouth and if you know a fudge lover that is also keen on not eating animals they have a vegan offering which is just as tasty and packaged just as lovingly as the other offerings. They also have a “Fudge of the Month” club, which if I am being honest, sounds like a club I want to be in. They have an online shop, so you don’t need to hot foot down to the New Forest just to get your fudge fill, although I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to as it looks beautiful.

Karaway Bakery

Karaway Bread

The thing about bread is, everyone loves it. I don’t eat it too much but when I do I really enjoy it. We’ve had it drummed into us by various ‘health experts’ and fad diets that bread is the absolute devil when you want to try and be healthy but that really isn’t so. Rye bread is actually a lot more healthy than refined whitebread, and I am here to tell you that the Karaway Bakery make the most delicious rye bread you will ever put in your mouth. One of my favourites was the dark rye with nuts and raisins. The ladies were kind enough to give us some loaves to take home and I have been eating it all week. You can find them on Bourough Market, and although I haven’t had a chance yet I’ll be popping down before Christmas to stock up.

Nazani Tea

Nazani tea

If you read my blog on a regular basis you’ll know I’m an avid tea fan. So much so that I spent my last Friday night in Mei Leaf with a pot of Jade Star. Nazani Tea are cornering the tea market with the original idea of luxury herbal tea’. One of the main draws is that they put a lot of work into sourcing their tea and they can track the journey of it start to finish. Anything that passes your lips has been sourced and nurtured by Nazani directly. They grow tea in some really interesting places like Scotland and Greece and some of the brews are ones that you wouldn’t naturally appoint to herbal tea. One of the ones I liked the most was the Barley tea as it was a mild taste and really refreshing. Excited to see what they do in the future.

Pollen + Grace

Pollen + Grace.jpg

Is there anyone else out there with a food allergy and stomach condition that struggles to find stuff you can eat, remain a healthy weight and not have to eat stuff that tastes like wallpaper paste? Because, SAME. I honestly end up eating food I know for a fact that I shouldn’t for the pure fact that I just can’t find dairy free alternatives that are up to my taste test. Pollen + Grace do convenient, pre-packaged vegan food pots that will do you for breakfast, lunch and dinner without too much effort. I tried the Dahl which was absolutely amazing and then I had the Chia pot to take home with me. I really struggle to find nice things for breakfast so it was a welcome treat and certainly good for me. The great thing is they are stocked in Whole Foods, ad considering Whole Foods are popping up everywhere but the Venezuelan Amazon you are never too far away from a quick and easy vegan meal.

Seamore Food

Seamore food

The first few months I was a vegetarian I couldn’t have cared less about eating meat and it didn’t even enter my head. I’d watch my friends devouring burgers and have absolutely no feeling about it what so ever. Six months down the line – I’m struggling. Seeing as there really isn’t a way to eat meat without killing animals (believe me, I’ve looked into it), Seamore’s seaweed bacon was a completely welcome idea. The best bit? It actually does taste like bacon. They also do seaweed tagliatelle for those who want a healthier option to pasta.

Coconut Collaborative

Coconut Collaborative

Another reason I love We Heart Monday’s is that they are all about finding brands that can be enjoyed by everybody. There is always so much dairy free food on offer at the events and they are one of the only places that hold events where I don’t feel like I have to miss out. Coconut Collaborative make delicious coconut milk yoghurts and desserts, and they also have other treats available on their online store. If you want a top tip, stirring in the chocolate dessert to the vanilla yoghurt is the nicest treat you will ever give yourself for breakfast.

Gosnells

Gosnells

Gosnells mead is quite an innovative idea that stemmed from a genuine interest in mead and how it could be brewed in a way to give a different taste to products that are currently on the market. Fermented from honey, mead gives a light, crisp taste that is something more refreshing than similar products on the market. As I don’t drink I didn’t try it, but my Mum did and she thought it was awesome, which is a great testament to them as she is the fussiest woman on earth!

Why Essex ‘ProseccoFest’ was a HUGE Rip Off

Features, Food, Lifestyle, Out & About, Travel

Having made my peace with the fact that I do not drink alcohol, and my friends do, I was under no illusions that going to a prosecco festival for my friends 30th birthday would grant me the same experience as everyone in the group who was drinking would have. That being said I am absolutely shocked that the event itself was so bad. I’ve always heard great things about Best Parties Ever and I’ve always loved Barleylands so I am obviously surprised either company would allow themselves to be associated with something that is quite clearly a scam.

The tickets for the event on the 18th of November set us back £19.70 each. You can get them online through Eventbrite, and as someone quite rightly pointed out – they do not profess to include anything in the ticket price. Fair enough. No one from our party was expecting anything free but the basics were not even supplied and the drinks in there were so grossly overpriced I’m not at all left wondering why no one was even remotely tipsy by the end. 

When we arrived, we were quite abruptly told that we would need to wait until 11am because we were ten minutes early. We actually ended up getting let in about 11.10am, so they can’t be that particular about timings. The venue itself was beautiful if not a bit empty. The tokens were 3 for £10 or 20 for £60 and that doesn’t sound too bad until you find out that ONE glass of prosecco is 2 tokens and a bottle is 10 to 14 tokens. If you can’t do that math that means a glass works out at £6.66 and a bottle works out to £33.30 on the lower scale.

For a non-drinker you would think that the day would be less expensive, but unfortunately a cup of flat coke from a bottle will set you back a token, and so will a water.

Staff were incredibly unhelpful on the day. We were turned away from a number of bars after asking for advertised drinks with staff either telling us to go to another bar or point blank that they did not know why they were advertised as they were not available. To be honest it’s lucky we spent so much of the day chasing things we couldn’t actually buy because there was sod all else to do.

One of the main problems only occurred to use after about an hour after we had all started to getting serious leg cramp. There was NO WHERE to sit down. Yes, customers are expected to stand for the full five hour session. We resorted to sitting on the floor. So for £20 we got a band for ten mins, some cheesy disco music and to sit on a cold hard floor in the middle of a farm. Great success.

After the event, I put across my views of the day (as did many others) on the Facebook page. Unfortunately, ProseccoFest have been snidely deleting anything negative from their page. This is an art form mastered by scammers – the reason they are doing this is because there is an event next week and they just want to scam the next lot of unsuspecting idiots out of £100s.

To make this article fair, I looked for some contact details to ask if a manager wanted to explain some of the reasons for the above complaints. There were none. You can only find their email address if you go right into their terms and conditions, and in true scammer style they have not answered me. Many people have been saying they are going to ask for a refund, but it is obvious they are just going to take everyones money and run.

Thankfully, a few people I know and who are active on the page have said they are not going now next week because of all of the negative reviews. Hopefully this will be the last time Best Parties Ever and Barleylands let themselves get associated with something that is quite clearly dodgy.

If you do not believe just my opinion, here are some of the Facebook comments I screenshotted before they get a chance to delete them. I’ve edited out names as I have not had time to contact everyone and ask if I am able to use their first name and last name in a post.

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*UPDATE*

ProseccoFest have now changed their prices and are still refusing to refund those of us that have paid full price already.

Fortunately, you CAN complain about the event. 

Had a reply from the council:
  

Ten Reasons To Love Winter

Features, Lifestyle, Out & About, Quick Reads

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           For me, the only things that compare to how awful getting out of my nice warm bed on a cold winter morning are taking the bins out and putting the hoover back in cupboard (seriously though why is putting the hoover away such a bigger task than actually doing it?). It’s safe to say winter is not my favourite season. This year though, I’ve decided to embrace winter and try and find things that I love about it.

Festive Menus

Is there anything better than the excitement of a festive menu? Although Costa now do a gingerbread latte all year around, it just really isn’t the same if it doesn’t come in the Christmas cup. As for food, don’t get me started on the McDonalds cheese melt dippers. You haven’t experienced sheer joy until you have driven through the McDonalds drive-thru and realised that these bad boys are on the menu.

Jumpers

I really think you would struggle to find anyone in this world who doesn’t think that jumpers are cute. Seriously, jumpers are amazing. They really don’t get enough credit. If you find one that is comfortable enough you’ll be able to spend the whole winter season cosy at your desk wrapped up like a little pig in a blanket. They are also a great way to hide any extra pounds from all the festive menus. Win win.

Snow

Hear me out on this one. I’m not exactly a snow loving kinda gal who would run out to freeze my tits off at the first sight of something white, but snow does have its benefits. Snow is the main, number one reason for being able to swing a day working from home. Let’s face it everyone who has to deal with a commute on a regular basis deserves a little treat in the form of working from bed watching old TOWIE episodes. I also think snow has the ability to make everything look cute, even Basildon town centre which is quite the task.

Winter Comfort Food

Winter is probably the only time of the year you can get away with eating huge portions of carbs without feeling guilty for it. After all, it’s cold and your body needs the extra fuel. I like to add winter to my long list of excuses for eating a serving of mashed potato that could have easily fed four people. Got to keep yourself going through the cold and all that.

Being Able To Regulate Your Own Body Temperature

As much as I love summer, I am always hot. Even in the winter I have to sleep with my windows open. The one thing I love about the winter is that when it’s cold you can either wrap up or turn the heating on, but when it’s summer there literally is nothing you can do but rely on a useless fan or some zircon that doesn’t really do the trick.

No Bugs

Yes, I am shallow enough to add this to my list of things I love about winter. There seriously is nothing worse than being nice and relaxed in a room and then realising there are two flies, a beetle and a giant tarantula invading your personal space. I don’t know where bugs get to in the winter and as a vegetarian I really don’t wish harm to them but my God am I glad they are not in my bedroom.

You Don’t Have To Do The Garden

As much as frost is a bit of a ball ache when you need to get it off of your car – it really is a garden God send during the winter. After spending the whole summer trying to figure out how my weeds can possibly still be alive after all of the poisonous chemicals I put on them, the frost killing them off naturally is amazing. I don’t even care if the plants I have actively paid for die – not as if I am going out there sunbathing is it?

Winter Candles

I love all of the different candle scents that come out in winter. They make the whole house smell cosy and Christmassy. Although Yankee will always be my go to for winter spiced candles, we recently had a Range open up near us and they do some amazing ones. My favourite December activity is lighting some winter candles, watching Love Actually and decorating my tree.

Christmas Markets And January Sales

Christmas does dominate the winter period (for good reason) and in December there are so many cute Christmas markets. In the city my favourite one is the market on the South Bank. As if being underneath the London Eye wasn’t magical enough – they have proper wooden huts selling all sorts of things from mulled wine to handmade gifts. If you are not shopped out after doing all of your Christmas shopping, then the January sales are a great way to combat the post Christmas blues. With some of them starting in December and going through to early February you can literally see the rest of the winter after Christmas out by buying things. Awesome news.

Christmas

People that don’t like Christmas freak me out. Seriously. It’s CHRISTMAS. The Christmas period is the best thing about having to spend four months freezing to death with the sniffles. After Halloween what is seen as the ‘festive period’ starts and it just automatically makes everything more magical. During December everything becomes swathed in pretty lights, people are in better moods and it is acceptable to drink mulled wine at literally any time of the day. Even though it is just one day, the build up to it is amazing and Jesus did a right turnout being born when he did because Christmas really does take your mind off of the cold winter period.

How To Prepare For A First Date

Features, Lifestyle, Out & About

Chances are there has been some point in life that you have found yourself preparing for a first date. There are so many things to think about when you meet someone you have been speaking to online for the first time and no matter how well you get on it can always be a source of anxiety. Even if you are chatting on a specified adult dating website where things can be a little bit more forward – you still need to get to know each other face to face. Being well organised can help alleviate some of the tension, and there are quite a few things you can do to get on track.

The Dating Site

Having the perfect first date will depend heavily on how savvy you have been with your online dating. For example, if you are looking for older dating, even if you can navigate yourself round the apps younger people use and get a date – you probably won’t be a very good match.

The Location

Picking the location of your first date depends heavily on where you both actually live. To give an example, Strathclyde dating will be completely different to Essex dating. You need to start off with places that are actually available in your area and go from there. Although things like the cinema can be tempting – you won’t actually be able to talk so you won’t get to know each other very well. The same goes for busy nightclubs. Pick a nice country pub or a restaurant that isn’t too busy so that you actually get a chance to chat. If there really isn’t much to do where you live agree to go for a nice walk or travel somewhere further out – just make sure you tell someone where you are going.

What To Wear

Although it can be tempting to wear something brand new – it is actually a better idea to be comfortable. Wear something you are confident in and you have been complimented in before. Take into consideration where you are going and if you are going to spend any time outside. If you really are that worried and you haven’t been to that place before, look up the website to see what people wear there.

What To Talk About

If the conversation doesn’t just naturally flow, think of talking points beforehand. Think of questions that you can ask that are intelligent without being nosey. Even if you have to write them down on your phone you can probably take a peek without your date realising. Try to listen as much as possible without leaving any awkward silences. Remember, if things really are going that badly you are well within your right to leave – you are never going to see each other again.

Think Outside The Box

Jersey dating and Surrey dating are two great examples of how location can have an impact on dating life. If you live in Jersey then unless you want a long ferry ride you will be dating people from Jersey. This has benefits and drawbacks. You will have loads to talk about because you both live there but if you have been looking around a while you may feel the dating pool is a bit small. If you live somewhere like Surrey, with easy transport links to London you can easily date someone completely different to you. You may not have any common ground – but they do say opposites attract!

October Favourites

Features, Lifestyle, Out & About, Quick Reads

October has been a bit up and down for me, but every time things do tend to go a bit tits up I am reminded of how lucky I am to have the people I have around me. I have managed to get out and about quite a bit this month – but I’ve also managed to have some chill time which has been nice.

We Heart Monday’s – Shared Workspace

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A few weeks back I was invited to the opening of a shared workspace run by We Heart Monday’s, the female entrepreneur community. The space itself is nestled in a quiet park of Hackney next to Hackney Wick. The launch event was great – there were some really good brands there and I met some amazing bloggers. I went up yesterday to use the workspace for a bit and it’s a really nice set up. Everyone gets their own desk (complete with candle and flower) and there is a room for watching Netflix or shooting Youtube vids. I think the concept is a great idea and it’s always good to meet other people in the blogging world so I’d definitely recommend giving it a try.

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Weightloss and Fitness

Now that it’s been just over two months since I stopped drinking, I don’t even think about it. Whereas before I’d have a bottle of wine at home on a Friday night, I now have some tea from Mei Leaf. It has shocked me that I genuinely don’t even want to drink now. It’s just something you get into the habit of not doing, then don’t. Anyway I missed my weigh in with the gym because I’d been delayed coming back from holiday, so I weighed myself and I’ve lost nearly half a stone. I have been dieting and exercising as well as giving up drinking, but I’ve tried all that and it never worked on it’s own so I’d definitely put it down to that. Can I say I’ll never drink again? At the moment, probably not. I just don’t fancy it and the thought of a hangover terrifies me now.

Dynasty

My gym’s treadmills have Netflix, so once I had finished rewatching Gossip Girl for the millionth time I had to find something to pass away the hour. I watched Dynasty just on a whim – then I saw it was created by Josh Schwartz. In case you have lived under a rock for the past ten years he created The O.C and Gossip Girl. Dynasty is much the same. It is perfectly trashy and ruthless and Fallon Carrington is my absolute idol!

The City

I’m job hunting at the moment, and it really has cemented my love for the city. I live in quite a big town in Essex and no doubt there are plenty of jobs I could go for here on my doorstep – but I just don’t want to. I love the buzz of being in London and the world really is a bigger place outside of the fake tans and eyelashes of Essex. I also cannot believe for one second that my town still doesn’t have a Pret, so I literally HAVE to go into London if I want a coconut flat white.

Pink Parcel

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Pink Parcel were one of the brands that were at the launch of We Heart Monday’s – and they are amazing. A subscription box based around your monthlies – this really is a brilliant idea. I have to say due to my anxiety I pretty much have a breakdown around three days before my period, so something like this would really cheer me up. I am going to subscribe as soon as I have changed my bank account over. Not only do you get sanitary products, but make up and beauty products and some little sweet treats as well. When I went through all of the bits in mine I looked them up expecting the subscription to be really expensive – but it’s only £12.99 with free delivery! I’ve been looking for a replacement for my Birchbox for ages and I have finally found it.

Stranger Things 2

Come on, it really wouldn’t be an October favourites blog without Stranger Things 2 would it? I binge watched the whole season on Friday night and ended up going to bed at 4am. I was a bit worried – usually things that are hyped that much can be disappointing but it really wasn’t. I won’t give away spoilers but it was better than I thought it would be.

We Heart Mondays Launch Event

Features, Food, Lifestyle, Out & About

image2-5.JPGRecently I was invited to the launch of an innovative new workspace in London that is available for female influencers to use, socialise and find out more about brands who have teamed up with the company running the space. Co-working spaces are a hugely popular idea at the moment, so I was interested to learn more about the set up and what the main idea was behind the way they were going to use the space.

The Premise

The premise of We Heart Monday’s is a group of female influencers from all different backgrounds who support each other and share ideas. In We Love Monday’s own words from their website:

“If you’re a blogger, social media influencer, freelancer, or you just love the idea of being your own boss, we are here to provide you with both virtual and physical spaces and community to help you be creative, work, grow, network, plan and accomplish your goals, collaborate, learn and provide you with the tools you need to love what you do so much, that you’ll no longer dread Mondays.”

The Workspace

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The shared workspace is a beautiful room in Hackney. The closest station is Hackney Wick and although the underground isn’t particularly close (about a 20 minute walk from Bow Road), there is a bus stop directly outside of the industrial estate that takes you to both the nearest underground and overground stations (I commute from Essex and you can get to West Ham to get the C2C).

For the launch event, the space was obviously set out so that people could make use of the tables and chairs but also still have a wander and look at all of the brands that were attending stalls. When it is a workspace there will obviously be more in the way of practical desk space, and there is also a cool room with a TV monitor that you can use to film Youtube videos.

The Launch

The launch was at the actual space in Hackney on a Monday which was perfect as I had spent the day in the city going to and from job interviews. When we arrived all of the various brands were setting up their stall’s and not only were there loads of food treats on offer but there were also opportunities to have your make up done and do a bit of blogger speed dating. I did a bit of blogger speed dating with the lovely Sammi from Always Rains Glitter and the questions were really hard! One of them was “would you rather give up showering for a month or social media?”. Seriously, how can you answer that?

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One of the things that struck me about the launch was how inclusive they made it by picking the right brands. I’m not meant to have dairy in large quantities but because some of the stuff was dairy free it meant I could enjoy a huge milkshake just like everyone else without worrying about being struck down by stomach pain on the way home. Another great thing was that all of the people on the stall representing the brands were super friendly and helpful and we were able to find out a lot about the products and how to use them.

I had my makeup done by the MLA Make Up academy and I could not be more gutted as my pictures didn’t come out too well. They did a luscious glittery nude eye though and I loved it. If you are in doubt about how good they are you only have to check out their Twitter to see how good they are. I was really thrilled that they listened to me and kept it subtle as I had to get a bus and a train home and was a bit worried about looking a bit hooker-y.

The Brands

The brands that the guys pulled together for the launch were great and from what I can gather they have ongoing relationships with them so there will be plenty more treats in store for anyone using the space.

Biotiful Dairy

Kefir is hot right now and Biotiful Dairy have loads of different products allowing you to get your fix.  Not only is it nutritionally good for you but there are loads of health benefits from drinking Kefir. They have a range of products but my favourite was definitely the Raspberry Kefir smoothie.

Bounce Foods

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You have probably seen Bounce Foods without even realising as they the makers of bounce balls. They sell these at my gym and I usually have the coconut one and I had absolutely no idea they did a peanut butter one. Packed with protein – this is one treat that actually gives you energy rather than a sugar rush and a mid-afternoon slump. I got to take a peanut butter one home and I think I’m going to harass my gym to stick these asap!

Coyo

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By far one of my favourites, Coyo create dairy free yoghurt and ice cream with coconut milk. Again, I can’t have cows milk so this immediately caught my eye. While chatting to the guy about the products he gave me a pot of the plain coconut flavour and told me it was really good in curry. this was great as although the coconut milk is fine I am usually unable to put yoghurt in my curry. Because this was a mixture of both products and dairy free, I made a korma with it a couple of days later and it was delicious!

Lucy’s Dressings

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Lucy’s Dressings had a stall where people could taste test – so I obviously went for the spicy one as that is seriously my thing. I don’t actually like mayonnaise or many of the traditional salad dressings – but I tried the Asian Dressing and it was amazing. They do cute little packets that are perfect for taking your salad dressing to work which is handy as I have had a tobacco smashing in the bag situation before and it was NOT pretty.

Pink Parcel

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The guys at Pink Parcel were another one of my favourites. This is an amazing idea – a subscription box for when you are having that time of the month. Not only does it include practical sanitary items that you can chose and personalise yourself – but it also contains treats like make up and chocolate. We got one to test and it had LOADS in it, so I looked up subscribing online and it is only £12.99 per month, which is amazing for what you get in it.

Cupcakes and Shhht

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Cupcakes and Shhht are an amazing, vegan, dairy free cupcake company that do loads of tasty treats including milkshakes. I had a freakshake with two cakes and some cream and it was amazing to me that it was fully vegan. It was so pretty and tasty! Their stand can be hired for events and special occasions like birthdays, and you know, Tuesdays.

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There were a few other brands who’s stalls I literally didn’t have a chance to get round – but they are all long term collaborators so I am sure I will at future events.

Bloggers I Met

Always Rains Glitter

Kanndiss Riley

Eat Sketch Love

Rasa Podertye (London College of Style)

All lovely ladies, give them a follow!