Valentine’s Day Shopping at Brent Cross

brent cross blogger
Earlier in the week I took a few hours out of an especially hectic day for a pre-Valentine’s Day shopping spree at Brent Cross. Though I am not all that inclined towards the romantic side of the holiday, I love using it as an excuse to spoil friends and – in turn – facilitate them to spoil themselves.

A few thousand Lush bath bombs, Yankee candles, and Victoria’s Secret sport bras later (girl power!), I met up with a friend to self-indulge at Leon. With practically the whole menu. Their protein shake and Moroccan meatball hot box is a dream healthy lunch epitomised.

For a creature of online shopping habit, I felt truly nostalgic for the shopping centre afternoons I racked up as a teenager. Nothing beats tangible gift-giving.

What I Wore:
Julian Hakes Mojito heels (soleless shoes!)
White shirt from rag & bone
Vintage grey striped dress (similar here)
Dusty pink Kenneth Cole handbag (similar here)

brent cross blogger
brent cross blogger
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#SmallChanges with Optiwell!

Last month, I was delighted to attend an adorable event hosted by new healthy yogurt drink brand, Optiwell. Having just launched in the UK (you may have come across their Holly Willoughby-fronted campaigns already), the brand invited a small group of health-conscious bloggers to participate in an evening of Optiwell-doused fun.

After learning more about the products’ highlights (no added sugar and 64 calorie servings were a huge selling point for me!), we took time out for smoothie making, Cowshed massages, and manicures (sat in front of a wall of Sex & The City-screening retro televisions).

As part of their #SmallChanges campaign (visit their website for your chance to win a trip to New York!), we also sat down with dietician and sports nutritionist Laura Clarke to discuss the personal changes we could adopt to contribute to a healthy 2016.

Want to know what changes I’ll be making? Watch the video below!

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In Review: Chinese New Year at Hakkasan Mayfair, London

hakkasan chinese new year london
Brace yourselves, my previous foodie followers. We have a near-ideal tasting menu to discuss today.

As we are in the festive midst of Chinese New Year celebrations, I decided to spend a mammoth evening in the belly of Hakkasan Mayfair in celebratory anticipation of 2016’s luck, joy and prosperity.

Worldwide, Hakkasan’s esteemed international outposts are honouring the Chinese wishing tree tradition (inspired by the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees in Hong Kong) and inviting guests to share their hopes for the coming year by writing wishes on ribbons, hanging them in the restaurants, and feasting on some truly inspired dishes.

As my dinner date and I toasted our wishes over two 9 Hóus (El Dorado 3 Year Old rum, Amontillado sherry, banana, guava, lime, agave syrup and walnut), the sheer size of the set menu that lay ahead started to sink in.

To begin, we enjoyed golden-cupped Japanese Wagyu beef with pine nuts and a faultless dim sum platter (har gau, scallop shu mai, Chinese chive dumplings, and duck & yam bean dumplings), before spooning through an unnecessary but flavourful double-boiled fresh ginseng and chicken soup (with bamboo pith and wolfberry).

Yes. Just to begin.

The real show-stoppers arrived shortly thereafter; wok-fried lobster in spicy truffle sauce (cooked to perfection) and a plate of grilled Chilean sea bass in honey that was so unbelievably perfect it verged on sexual.

That’s not to say the Pipa duck, dried scallop & crab rice, or stir-fried Hericium mushrooms (with lotus root, asparagus, and lily bulb in black pepper) weren’t wonders of their own merit. I would simply be less inclined to eat them every day for the rest of my life as I would the aforementioned duo.

Ending with their ‘Golden Halo‘ (a beautiful sequence of soy caramel, banana delice, chocolate, and peanut) as we watched the last few wishes of the evening get tied into the walls around us, I couldn’t help but feel like 2016 was already off to an enchanted start.

(Hakkasan’s Signature Chinese New Year menu will run from now until February 22nd and costs £88.88 per person.)

hakkasan chinese new year london
hakkasan chinese new year london
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5 Easy Winter Sun Holidays for Londoners

morocco rabat
A combination of less-than-stellar weather and interminable wanderlust has given this Londoner the worst case of cabin fever – or city fever – plausible. I’ve never been all too bothered about the idea of ‘Winter Sun’ but my last five trips have served up a steady slew of cold and rain that has sent me collecting new destinations goals from Expedia’s blog like there’s no tomorrow.

Feeling all too similar? You’re in luck. I’ve comprised a lovely little list of destinations that won’t take too long to get to (perfect for long weekend breaks) or too much out of your wallet but will feed all your sunshine-y needs…

1. Mallorca
Though the trip I took to Mallorca took place at the height of Summer, I had a real desire to return in the Winter months. Out of tourist season, Mallorca still offers sunshine-scattered opportunities to explore mountains, sea, and the year-round charm of towns like Pollensa.

2. Morocco
In my opinion, Morocco is as good as it gets for easy-access Winter holidays. From Rabat to Marrakech, the North African country offers a unique selection of both modern and traditional quasi-Mediterranean experiences. With souks, medinas, world-renowned food, and a distinctive literary influence, there is something for absolutely everyone.

3. Barcelona
If there is one place to take advantage of in Winter, it is Barcelona. Unlike the tourist-packed Summer months and torrential rainfall of its bumper seasons, Barcelona has near-perfect weather in Winter months. Though the streets are clear of tourism, the local culture tends to come alive over Winter, with many of the city’s best exhibitions of the year.

4. Crete
As well as being a notoriously stunning island, Crete is considered to be the home of the earliest recorded civilizations in Europe. The South Coast is not only lined with beaches but packed with points of historic interest, like The Palace of Knossos and the centuries-old Agios Titos Church.

5. Canary Islands
A stones throw away and sunbathe-weather ready, the Canary Islands of Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote offer the ultimate short break experience for Winter-worn beach bunnies. Don’t let your bikini go to waste, babe.

From Blonde to Ginger at the House of Rush

ginger hair
Though I have been more than happy to spend most of 2015 as a grey-blonde, the inevitable Restless Hair Syndrome kicked in last month. Showing no signs of easing up, I decided to appease my curiosity, book an appointment, and ask you all whether I should stay blonde or go red.

With Twitter (blonde!) and Facebook (red!) divided equally, I made my way to the House of RUSH Piccadilly still relatively undecided. With natural auburn hair, I knew red wouldn’t look bad but wasn’t sure I wanted to add such a notoriously strong pigment on top of hair I had bleached to infinity to get so light.

Thanks to Chloe’s colour consultation and expertise, we chose to dye my hair with a customised ginger toner of top of the bleach. Though this means the colour isn’t permanent, it will still last for eight weeks and give me the option to return to grey (or any other pastel tone) without having to bleach or strip my hair again.

The result? A healthy and beautiful head of red that looks everything from strawberry-blonde to rich ginger, depending on the light (a natural, multi-tonal effect that I love).

To wrap up, Chloe took me downstairs to The Hair Gallery and taught me how to curl my hair with straighteners – a skill I have failed to master for almost ten years – before letting me bounce away into the streets of London.

ginger hair

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