17 July 2017

A Little Luxury in your Kitchen

Give your kitchen a luxurious feel

When you’re designing a new kitchen, it’s only natural that you’ll want to add a touch of luxury. There are several luxury appliances that you can add to your kitchen to achieve this luxurious feel, as well as making your life easier in the kitchen. Depending on your individual preferences and needs, your luxury essentials might vary.

For your caffeine fix, think coffee machines

For many of us, getting a caffeine fix from a hot cup of coffee on a morning is essential – you just can’t function without it. If that’s the case but you’re not a fan of clutter on the worktops then a built-in coffee machine might be a worthwhile addition to your list. Although they might seem pricey at first, many aren’t much more expensive than top-of-the range countertop models and think of all that money you’ll save not buying a coffee on your way to work every day. 

If you’re planning an appliance bank in your kitchen then it’s worth noting that most manufacturers are designing coffee machines to match their ovens and as a result a combination of three ovens and a coffee machine are becoming a popular configuration. Price points vary, from the very affordable semi-automatic models from Hotpoint to the pricier all-singing, all-dancing bean-to-cup coffee machine from AEG. If you can’t bear the thought of messy beans or grinds, then a Nespresso pod machine by Miele is a good option. 

For the wine lovers, think wine coolers

Whether you drink white, rose or red wine, you’ll know the importance of your wine being stored at optimum drinking temperature. Kitchens with zones for cooking, eating and entertaining are the perfect place for one of the latest luxury appliances – the wine cooler. While there might not be space for a wine cellar, the latest wine coolers are very sophisticated machines that will ensure all wines – both red and white are kept in the optimum conditions. 

Undercounter models from companies such as Liebherr, Caple and CDA vary in size from space-saving single columns to those with room enough for up to 48 bottles and featuring several temperature zones for keeping reds and whites at exactly the right temperature. Perfect placed on the dining side of an island so that guests can help themselves while you cook, look for coolers that also include UV protection and anti-vibration – to keep harmful light and stop the disturbance of sediments – as they’re important features to keep your wine at its best for longer. Larger models look great in a bank of appliances and many, such as those from Miele have elegant wooden shelving, three temperature zones and even a sommelier unit for sampling your best vintages.

For the master chef, think domino hobs

If you’re quite the dab hand in the kitchen, you’ll be aware of the importance of using the correct cooking technique for certain ingredients and dishes for the best outcome. With that in mind, if you’ve been seduced by the undeniable benefits of induction but can’t prize yourself away from the brilliance of gas for preparing stir-fried food, then incorporating domino hobs into your kitchen design might be the answer. 

These two-zone cooktops – usually measuring around 30 x 60cm come in a variety of different types. As well as gas and induction models, you can also buy charcoal-style grills for all-year-round barbecuing, steel tepanyaki plates for Japanese style griddle cooking and even fryers for perfect southern-style chicken. Whichever you choose it’s best to buy from the same manufacturer to keep the materials, design and size consistent. If you’d prefer to keep costs down with just one worktop cut, then AEG, Caple and CDA all have single glass topped hobs that include both a powerful gas burner and induction plates, proving that in some things, you really can have it all! 

For convenience, think hot water taps

Quite a new addition to the list of luxury household kitchen appliances, the hot water tap was introduced to the market following commercial models from companies such as Quooker. They began to show up in hi-end domestic kitchens for the main benefits of having boiling water at the drop of a lever. As a result, tap manufacturers began to develop their ranges, first with standalone taps and now the easier to include tri-flow monobloc with hot, cold and boiling water all in one, neat unit. 

Not just for making tea and coffee in a flash, combined with a super-fast induction hob, a boiling water tap can help you to prepare pasta and rice dishes in a flash as well as speedily steaming veg and fish. Most models heat the water to 98° but some, like those from Quooker reach 100°. Try also Grohe, InSinkErator, Franke and Zip for three-in-one monobloc models and Insinkerator and Blanco for standalone taps that are useful for prep sinks. Tanks vary in size but some are compact enough to incorporate into a small kitchen design and all designs feature child-locks to prevent accidental scalding. 

*Collaborative piece

13 July 2017

Getting The Confidence To Enjoy Being On Your Own

I have the week off from work this week.  My mum is away on holiday and my little puppa is in the kennels.  I was fretting that he would not take to it, but having rung the kennels up this morning; I hear that he is ruling the roost and all the staff have fallen in love with him.  No surprises there.

I have been looking forward to this week off for so long now.  I have been desperate to have some time on my own and relax.  I wanted a week to clear my head with no distractions, no commitments and time to clear my head.

The only thing that I booked this week was a day at the local spa for the thermal experience.  I am a member and usually go 4-5 times a year.  Usually with the girls, but sometimes, like this week, alone.

Having the confidence to do things on your own can be, and is, intimidating.  It takes confidence and the ability to not look around and wonder what people are thinking about you and concentrate on enjoying yourself.

As I have said in a previous post, next year, I would really like to go on holiday on my own or even travel a little.  This means building up my confidence to do things on my own and not worry about others.

I have been to the spa a couple of times on my own and each time, I felt self conscious and spent more time wondering if people were looking at me, judging me for being on my own and feeling sorry for me than I spent actually enjoying myself.

When you are fat you are more visible.  When you have large breasts that no swimsuit will properly cover so you end up with a massive cleavage you are visible.  When you are alone and all of these things, you are more visible.

Yesterday though, I decided that it would be different.  I would think about nobody other than myself.  I wanted to lose myself in my own thoughts and enjoy myself.  That is exactly what I did and it was wonderful.

I cleared my pores (and my head!) in the salt steam room.  I went in the outdoor jacuzzi and let the bubbles and the sunshine wash over me.  I swam in the swimming pool.  I floated in the relaxation pool with stars on the ceiling and soft music playing.

Half way through my day I decided that a cocktail was in order.  On my way to the terrace bar I bumped into an old work colleague.  This would have been my worst nightmare before.  Bumping into someone gorgeous and confident, surrounded by her friends and me, alone.

I didn't feel embarrassed for being on my own.  She asked if I was on my own and I was not ashamed to say yes.  I said that I was enjoying some me time and she replied, saying that she wished that she was confident enough to that too.  It was a genuine statement and it made me remember that we all struggle with confidence sometimes.

I enjoyed my cocktail in the sunshine on a comfortable settee and headed back to the relaxation room.  There are loungers surrounding the relaxation pool that I always see people reading on or having a snooze.  I always wanted to do the same on my own, but before, I would have worried too much to do it on my own.  This time, I had a 45 minute nap and then headed back out to the swimming pool, before getting ready for home.

I left feeling more confident, happier and clearer in my head than I had done in a long time.  I am getting there with enjoying myself on my own.  We should all be able to enjoy ourselves alone without thinking about others.  I think I have taken a giant leap in that direction.

How do you feel doing things on your own?

Put A Ring On It

When you’ve been living with a guy for two to three years, sometimes he can get stuck in his ways and used to the fact that you’re around all of the time. You’re ready and waiting for him to pop the question, but it seems like he hasn’t even thought of it — so why not drop a few hints to your man so that he knows that you’re truly ready to become engaged?

Together with Angelic Diamonds, retailers of bespoke engagement rings, we can advise on how to point your husband-to-be in the direction of a big proposal.

Keep your friends close, but your married friends closer

If you know that your boyfriend is slightly worried or anxious about getting engaged, make sure he hangs around with your married friends and family members who have children. This will make him realise that you’re comfortable with him being around others in more serious relationships.

Married friends will help show your other half that marriage has its ups and downs, but this commitment shown through other people will help him envision this with you. Although men who have parents that are divorced sometimes struggle to trust this commitment, replacing negative feelings with positive ones in this type of environment may help to bring him around to your way of thinking.

Remember you are his friend, as well as his partner

Sometimes when you’re in a relationship, you can fall into assigned roles and forget that you are not just partners, but friends as well.  If you’re constantly being left behind for the guys to do all the things he considers fun, then this is going to put a strain on his ability to propose and take you seriously.

Get him involved in your hobbies and take more interest in his.  Acknowledge that you both need time for your friends, but that you both started out as friends too.  Do things together.  Have fun and remember what interests you have in common.  If you can be part of his whole life, rather than just someone he spends time with, then he’ll feel like you’re indispensable. Once you get to this point in your relationship, then he’ll feel like proposing, as he can’t spend his time without you!

Don't let things go stale

It is easy to get complacent in a relationship and start taking each other for granted.  Although many don’t like to do this, sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind. If you don’t see your relationship heading in the right direction, and things are flatlining, try and find his pulse again by telling him you may move out.

Or, if you don’t want to be as dramatic, why not try changing careers without letting him know, or spending more time with the girls unannounced? Although he knows that you’re always there for him, this will make him feel that he isn’t being as included as he should be, and he’ll start to wonder why. Keeping him on his toes in this way will make him realise that he needs to put the effort in (by proposing!) so that he can get your undivided effort and attention in the future.

Honesty is the best policy

Although there are many hints and tricks you could use to get your other half to propose, sometimes communication really is key to the success of a relationship. If you want to get engaged, then why not talk to him about why it’s important to you.

If you can tell him why you want to marry him, then the likelihood is he’ll know how much he means to you. Sometimes people have the same fears and doubts within a relationship, but they are just too afraid to address them with each other. By talking about your future together, he’ll know that you want to be a part of it. By giving him that gentle nudge in the right direction, you may just be engaged before you know it. 

4 July 2017

Not Good Enough

The title is a little depressing isn't it?  Sorry about that.  But I have a million thoughts in my head right now and my blog is the vehicle is take them out and do something with them.  That is what it was created for, so here I am.

Be warned, this is a very honest post and a probably a trigger warning for anyone reading who is feeling and does feel the same as I; not good enough.

I watched a film tonight that I had recorded the other day.  Not my usual genre at all. The Vow.  This is the one with Channing Tatum (ok maybe why I chose to watch it) and Rachel McAdam.  The one where they have a crash and she loses all her memories, including those of him, her husband.

The main focus of the film is him trying to get her to fall back in love with him.  Whilst watching the film a thought entered my head that, I will be honest, has broken me a little ever since.  I thought that in reverse, a man would never fall in love with me twice.

I have struggled with feeling not good enough all of my life.  At first, for many years, I thought that I felt like this because of my body shape, but that isn't it.  I am confident in my body as it is, and wear clothes that do not make me invisible.

Which makes it worse really, because what I do not feel good enough about is myself.  I feel a lot like the picture below.  Stranded on an island with nothing surrounding me, nothing that can reach me.

An island is probably the most accurate description of how I have always felt.  I have been single for the majority of the time since I was 18.  I don't know why.  That is just how it is.  At 38, I think a lot now that maybe this is the way that I will always be.  I have amazing friends, a lovely but small family; maybe this is how it is going to be.

I have tried online dating.  I got a lot of responses, mainly from people who wanted to make me a fetish, others that copy and pasted their messages en masse to any woman they saw and of course, the most recent encounter with a potentially dangerous man.

I have been in love (really totally in love) once in my life.  With someone who was 95% right for me but someone who I knew deep down would never love me.  But damn, I loved him.  I used to say that he broke my heart but in reality, I broke my own on someone who I knew loved me as a friend, but nothing else.  Drunken kisses and "other things" didn't help matters.  He loved me, but not my body and that was my fault.  I couldn't accept that.

Every time I meet someone I seem to strive to change myself into what I think that they want me to be.  I change who am I, and then lose myself.  I cannot get over the overriding thought that I am not good enough as I am.

Jesus this is honest isn't it?  I don't like being this honest but if I am not, my mind will shove those feelings back into the box in my brain and not think about it again for a while; which is not healthy.  Publishing this means my words, and thoughts are real and not taken back and denied in the "I am fine, honestly!" kind of way.

So where do I go from here?  I don't know.  All I know right now is that I never feel good enough and that I unconsciously run from anyone who I think may like me, for fear of rejection.  I don't want to feel like this anymore because I AM good enough.

My head knows that. I just need my heart to remember that.

Signing off now.  Thanks for listening.

Rainy Days & Mondays

I have always had a love/hate relationship with rain.  99% of the time rain is an irritating and frustrating thing if you are caught out in it.  It comes down when you want sunshine, it gets you soaked on your way to work, it makes you have to change your complete outfit at the last minute; too much of it causes floods…  The list is infinite.

But then, there is the 1% that I love.

Last night the air was warm and my senses were tingling in that way when you know that it is about to absolutely pour down with rain. The kind that you could almost take a shower in.  I watched out of my window, waiting for it to happen.  Everything seemed to be on a pause, the wind was still and everything was waiting for the first drop to fall.  Then suddenly, it starts and it’s raining so heavily it’s like someone is pouring a bucket of water over the world.

I felt that inexplicable pull to go outside and stand there in the rain.  The thought in my head sounded ridiculous.  Why would I want to go outside and get soaked?  But I did.  I wanted to.  So before I knew it, I was opening the front door and stepping out into the pouring rain.   

I wandered out onto the path, moving away from the cover of trees right out into the open.  The neighbours probably thought I had gone insane.  In my head I knew I was being stupid, standing out there, purposely getting wet.  But somehow I was loving it and dancing around it in.  I felt so unbelievably alive, happy and completely at peace.     

I’m not an at one with nature person or especially into the environment.  I’m not someone who has raptures over scenery and I don’t see the point in walking up hills and dales for a view.  You only have to walk back down again.  

Why I suddenly had the urge to go outside in the rain last night I don’t know.  But it made me inexplicably happy and that is really all that counts.

Does the rain ever lure you in?

4 Tips To Have A Challenging Conversation With Your Partner

There will always be conversations that are hard to initiate. Those topics that couples usually don't talk about just to avoid being in a heated argument. Or perhaps, you are afraid to talk how you feel to your partner because it might make things worse. You feel stuck, and you do not know how to do it.

No matter how worse things might get, it is still better that you and your partner get to have a proper conversation. This way, both of you does not have to carry a burden in your hearts, and also to resolve any issues.

If you are having a hard time to do this, here are 4 tips to having a challenging conversation with your partner.

1. Choose the right time to talk.

This is the most important thing to consider if you want to engage in a challenging conversation with your partner. Try to choose a time where it both suits you. Do not just open a topic the moment they walk into the room after an exhausting day at work. Choose a moment where both of you are at your best. Try to ask them if it is the right time for the both of you to have a conversation. It is extremely important that both of you have the willingness to engage in a challenging conversation. Otherwise, find a better time.

2. Listen if your partner is talking.

A great conversation happens when the two people respect each other. And with that, it means that you give your partner a chance to talk. Be open and listen to your partner has to say in order to have a better conversation. Resist yourself from interrupting. Let them finish what they have to say, and do not stop them at mid-sentence.

3. Make your partner understand how important it is to have this specific conversation.

A lot of couples tend to forget on making their partners understand why they have to have to talk about some things. It is important that you let them know that talking things out can help both of you feel better emotionally and even physically. For instance, you may be worried about your sexual health, and you want you and your partner to get tested for STD or STI. Asking your partner to get tested can be extremely difficult because it is a touchy matter. This can be a very challenging topic to acknowledge, but if you can let them know how important it is, you will have a greater chance at having this conversation. However, it is important that you find out more about this certain topic before you open up to your partner.

4. Do not accuse.

Accusations can definitely kill a conversation. Try to keep the problem at hand by focusing on the main issue, and avoid accusing. This means that you also need to avoid bringing up ancient issues even it is related to your issue now. Stay on track and be level-headed. Do not do the blame game.

* Collaborative Piece

29 June 2017

The App Map

I was twenty when I got my first mobile phone.  (Whispers) eighteen years ago now.  I remember that it was a Nokia 3210 and I thought that it was the best thing since sliced bread.  Back then, you had calls, texts and the now famous Snake game.

Over the years phones got smaller and smaller, then larger and larger.  The technology improved until we have reached the point now that there is more technology on our phones than what was used to send us to the moon. 

These days, our phones are our worlds, holding everything in them that we hold dear.

We have reached the point where you can do anything on your phone. You can run your business from it, you can blog from it, you use it to capture all the moments of your life and share your thoughts with the world.

When it comes to the apps that we use, there are some that are staple needs like your email and a good camera app whilst others are tailored specifically to your needs.  Here are my go tos, with my beautiful Simba as a backdrop.  

I have my social apps like Twitter and Facebook, my email apps and my banking apps in top place.  Pixabay for my blogging is an essential as well as my music and the clock which wakes me in the morning with Pretty Vacant by the Sex Pistols.

Carphone Warehouse recently did a study of what apps people used on their phones across Britain, looking at ages, genders, incomes and where you live in the country.  

It is quite interesting to note as the statistics for the tops five apps for women do not include anything that I have on my phone.  For men, the top apps include Wifi Analyzer and Steam which is a gaming app.

Breaking the stats down into my age range of 35-44, the most popular apps are Kodi and CBeebies, whilst looking at my income bracket, that changes again to Facebook and a mobile banking app which looks more like me.

What does this study tell us?  That we are a diverse nation that uses mobile phones to tailor our lives to the way that we want them.  Surprisingly, for the people earning over 100k, one of the most popular apps is Farmville which is something that they share with the lowest earners in the East of England.

Check out the study on the link above, it is really interesting to note.

*In collaboration with Carphone Warehouse

28 June 2017

5 Things To Do Every Day To Feel Empowered

The process of spotting fear and refusing to obey it, is the source of all true empowerment.

- Martha Beck

Feeling empowered is one of the greatest feelings in the world. As women, we should always feel strong and in control. But feeling empowered can be hard to master and sometimes we need a little help.

One of the (probably first) ways that I actively empowered myself was when I was invited to an overnight blogger event in London. I was terrified. A combination of my social anxiety and the worry about having to travel and traverse London on my own was daunting. Not to mention a social gathering with nobody that I knew.

What I did to combat this was to break everything down into sections, Meticulously planning the travel arrangements and times. I printed out the route from Manchester to London so I knew what stops I would go through. I had a map of how to get from the tube station to my hotel. My subway passes were purchased ahead of time. I contacted someone who said that they were going to the event to meet up outside of the event. I planned each step of the journey and event and made them into sections. After each section was completed, my confidence grew more and more.

Empowering yourself is a process and some of the things we do each day can contribute to that feeling. Here are some ideas that could help you to feel empowered:

Meditation will help you to relax, and feel more in charge of your mind. There are numerous benefits to meditation. Whether you want to learn to live more in the moment, become more creative, or feel more connected to the world around you, meditation can help. Try it for just 10 minutes a day, and you should notice a huge difference.

Do A Form Of Exercise You Like
Exercise can help you to de-stress, as well as feel stronger and happier. People look at exercise all wrong, and think that it’s for those who want to shed the pounds. Instead, look at it as a way to make you feel like your best self. I love to walk my dog Simba after work when I come home. It is just me, my little puppa and my thoughts. It invigorates my mind and is something I really enjoy.

Dress However You Like
Don’t listen to anybody who says you can’t wear what you want. Wake up in the morning and put something on that makes you happy, whether it’s a crop top that shows off your curves or a pair of ridiculous trousers that brighten up your day!

My sense of style breaks "the fat rules" in that I do not conform. I wear a busy, bright patterned dress every single day. It is part of who I am and gives me a sense of self.

When I know that I am going to have a particularly trying week at work or I have organised a night out that I am nervous about due to my social anxiety, I set up reminders on my phone to hit me just at the right moment.  Just simple phrases.  You can do this.  You are enjoying yourself, just take a moment.  You are enough.  You know that you can do this.  It may feel silly at first but it really does work.

Empowering yourself does not happen overnight, but step by step, section by section, you will one day feeling like the confident women you always knew you were.  

Take A Selfie
A selfie is a signal that we want to be seen, that we feel confident. Whether you’re taking a picture of your makeup masterpiece or the incredible outfit you’ve put together that day, just do it! Take that selfie, take a thousand of them.  Embrace that face that is uniquely yours and recognise the beauty within it.  For tips of how to take that perfect selfie, check out the selfie guide

Tips and Tricks: The Art of Creating Excellent Selfies

Credit to Mary at MyTrendyPhone.co.uk

25 June 2017

Do you DIY?

My mum and I have been living alone together for a couple of years.  Neither of us have ever been DIY minded and previously, my step dad used to take care of any jobs that needed doing.  My brother is an electrician and my brother in law is a joiner so we have always had someone at hand to do jobs around the house.

We try to be as self sufficient as possible when it comes to things that need doing now.  It is the typically British way of not wanting to put someone else out.

Funnily, I remember the exact moment that I became more DIY minded.  We had purchased a wrought iron table and chairs for our little balcony outside which needed assembling.  I remember my mum saying to me "We had better get a man in to fix this up for us".  Me, being the feminist, was incensed by this suggestion and spent the next few hours putting the pieces together myself.

I admit, there were quite a lot of swear words involved as I had never done anything like this before; particularly when I put a chair leg on backwards, three times.  But I got there in the end and we like to sit on our balcony now with a glass of wine in the sunshine.  (I confess very gingerly the first time just in case it all fell apart!)  On a clear day you can see for miles and miles over the tops of the houses beyond.

I try to help around the house with jobs that need doing as much as possible.  My mum, despite her earlier comment, is a very independent woman and will always try to do jobs that at her age, I would prefer that she did not do.

Safety has to be a priority with DIY and jobs around the house.   Making sure that your rooms are well ventilated when you paint (especially if you have animals).  Buying a sturdy step ladder that will not fall over if said animal decides to run into it when you are on the top step.  Thinking about things like asbestos in older buildings when you are renovating which can lead to mesothelioma which I have talk about previously. 

Slater and Gordon Personal Injury have commissioned a survey into the dos and don't of DIY and how you can be safer when carrying out your jobs.  Click on the expansion box on the image below to take a look.

*Collaborative piece

22 June 2017

We Are The New Media

I must start by saying that my thoughts are with those who have lost friends, family and loved ones in the horrific fire at Grenfell Towers.  The footage and words from those who witnessed it is nothing short of the stuff of nightmares.

We do not know as yet how many died in the fire.  At the present time 79 people are listed as missing and dead; although reports have suggested that this may raise to treble figures. 

As they always do (and do not receive enough recognition for), the firefighters of London risked their lives trying to save people trapped in the tower, many of whom who had heeded the advice to stay in their flats.  Our emergency services should be commended, not only for their actions at Grenfell, but also after the London and Manchester terrorist attacks.  It takes a special kind of brave to run into a life threatening situation which others are running from.

Last Friday night, my only plans were to have a glass of wine, watch The Last Leg and generally have a relaxed night, away from social media (for once).  But then I saw the protest at Kensington Council offices on mainstream media and wanted to know more.  The real story.

The thing is; the mainstream media is increasing unreliable in getting the true story out there.  You receive limited information, usually aligned to someone's agenda when in fact, there is a lot more to the story that is not shown.

With this in mind, I searched the #JusticeForGrenfell hashtag and came across a periscope showing footage of around one thousand people marching across London. 

I have been given permission to share the Periscope footage by the man taking the video, DJ S.K.T who is an international DJ and producer of house music.  He was on his way to Notting Hill when he came across the march and decided to join and record .  He has asked me to confirm that he is neither a protester nor an activist.  He wanted to film to show people what was happening in a non-partisan way, which I think you can tell from the footage below.

The people on the march were from all walks of life.  The old and the young.  People from many different ethnicities, race and religion.  Men, women and (the occasional) child.  It was a peaceful march with minimal police presence. 

As I am sharing the periscope with permission, I will leave my own political views aside on this post but I can confirm that the march was full with people who were marching for justice for Grenfell, people who were angry at Theresa May and pro Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

The footage starts when DJ S.K.T came across it at Oxford Street and continued through Marble Arch, Edgeware Road, Hyde Park, Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and ended up in Kensington for a vigil for Grenfell.  3.5 miles in all. 

There were no groups, no Antifa.  No agendas and no wish to do or cause harm.  It was people in unison, in peaceful protest.

Yet, despite the major TV networks watching and in some cases commenting on the periscope, the march was barely shared or even mentioned by anyone.  The angry protest at Kensington Council was played over and over again, yet no footage of the peaceful march which lasted around two hours was shown.

I woke up on Saturday fulling expecting there to be talk of the march in the news and the media.  Yet there was nothing.  I woke to find Saturday Kitchen trending on Twitter instead of the people who stood up and marched to make their voices heard.

People are no longer content to let the major TV networks and newspapers tell them what to think.  They no longer care to be shown only heavily edited and some in cases prejudiced information.  They want the real story, what really happened and this is why it is important that videos like this are shared.

I saw people from around the world commenting as the footage progressed.  The world is watching.  Maybe it is now time that the world saw us for what we really are.  Unedited. 

Because it is when things are at their worst that the people in this country come together.  When we are together, in unison, we are unstoppable.  That British spirit is in all of us. 

It is the spirit that arranged a clean up crew on Twitter after the London riots of 2011. 
It is that spirit that makes us come together and do everything we can after the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. 
It is that spirit that started the relief and help for the people of Grenfell Towers when the towers were still burning.
It is that spirit that made an elderly lady in a mobility scooter travel from Ilford to Finsbury Park to apologise to the people at the mosque and the Imam who stopped people from hurting the terrorist (alleged at this stage while police investigations are ongoing.

We are in the digital age now and it is time that we show people who we are.  Not just the bad, because there really is so much good.  If you wish to donate to the people and survivors of the fire at Grenfell Tower, you can do so here ArtistsForGrenfell

16 June 2017

Get The Most of Your Vacations

I realised last month after my best friend's anniversary that I had not been abroad for six years. The last time was her wedding in Cyprus. This has been due to a lack of planning as much as a lack of funds.

The thing about travel is that it can be pretty expensive, so it’s best to get as much as you can out of it as you can. In one of my previous posts I talked about wanting to go on a holiday alone next year. This has now progressed into possibly visiting a few different areas (or countries!) during a couple of weeks time period. This is something that I really, really want to go and as such, I have been doing a lot of research.

The thought of travelling alone is both terrifying and exhilarating to me and I want to ensure that I am have the best time possible. Here are some of the tips that I have been picking up to plan a travelling trip in the best way - ensuring that you get the most possible out of it.

Do your research

When people talk about doing research before travelling, they’re usually thinking of the sort of research you do when you’re building an itinerary. Going on Yelp to find local businesses, looking at Google Maps to find the routes you need, et cetera. But the sort of research that really helps you get to know a place on a deeper level can involve reading more about the history of the destination, or even reading fiction from its writers. Visit travel blogs that have odd anecdotes about vacations in the area are worth a read! These things help you get a feel for the culture before you arrive, which can increase your empathy and sensitivity once you’re at the destination.

Don’t build a hectic schedule

One of the most common mistakes with any sort of vacation is the building of a really busy itinerary. People think of all the attractions they’d possible want to see then create a day-by-day, even hour-by-hour schedule to make sure they can fit it all in. But not only are these itineraries pretty hard to stick to most of the time, but it also puts you in a bit of a rush when you’re there. This, of course, is a mistake. To get to know a place much more, you should really slow things down. Less is more when it comes to itineraries; spend more time at your chosen destinations, and allow for some leeway so that you don't see just the touristy things, but nothing about the area or its people.

Interact with the locals more

If you really want to get to know a place as much as possible, then is there really a better way of doing it than by spending more time with the locals. If you’re visiting a foreign country, then this may mean that you have to learn a bit of the local language. (Don’t just assume they’re going to know how to speak English, even if you’re going somewhere like Germany or France!) If you have the time, then see if they’re willing to share interesting stories about their lives in this place. At the very least, you should be able to get recommendations for places to visit that the guidebook doesn’t even mention. Speaking of which…

Don’t rely on the net for all your info

One of the reasons why speaking to the locals is such a good practice is that you’ll get more suggestions of places to visit, or a better feel of where the locals like to eat and drink. A lot of people rely too heavily on the Internet for this sort of information. That five-star review on Yelp tells you a lot less about a given place than you might think - and the same goes for a one-star review! Another reason that the Internet can be a little unreliable is that most people end up going directly to a business’s website to find out more about it. This doesn’t always give you the most balanced and fair view of the place.

Personally I never rely on sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp because every single person has different wants, needs and preferences. Someone's version of a perfect place might be another's version of hell!

Get yourself a guide

A lot of people are put off of the idea of getting a guide, or going on tours, because it seems to impose some sort of strict schedule on them. But if you’re going somewhere fairly exotic or adventurous, or even if you’re simply going to a city where you don’t know the language all that well, then hiring a guide might help you see much more of your destination. Don’t assume that guides all work on commission for nearby tourist spots - many of them will be multilingual locals who are pretty much willing to aid you in whatever you fancy doing. There are a lot of other reasons to hire a guide on vacation, but the potential to learn much more about your destination is definitely one of the most important.

For myself, I think that this would be better if there are a few of you travelling together. On a solo holiday you might feel like you had hired a friend for the day!

Go solo

I am told (and I hope) that people really do underestimate how good solo travelling can be. Whether it’s because of a lack of independence, fear of safety, or even financial constrictions, most people simply don’t consider the idea of going to a new destination without a trusted friend or family member.

But a solo adventure actually forces you to come out of your shell and interact more with the place around you. This is what I want. It helps you feel a lot more familiar with the location much faster, because you’re simulating the experience of simply wandering around just like you might do at home.

There are businesses like Just You - Solo Travel that provide packages and plans for those who don’t quite know how to go about it and need a little help. In general, solo adventuring is one of the best ways to get the most out of your vacation - so don’t dismiss it!

Keep the camera in your pocket

Don’t see most of your vacation through a camera lens, or through the screen of your smartphone. I’m not saying don’t take pictures - because you absolutely should - but your first instinct when you see something astonishing shouldn’t be to reach into your pocket. This actually alienates you from the experience somewhat; it forces you out of that immediacy and turns you into a different type of observer. Really take the time to look at things with your naked eyes; this is where the priceless moments of any vacation are found.

As an example of this, last year I saw someone say that they had missed the experience of their child seeing Disneyland for the first time, because she was so concentrated on getting the right photograph to capture the image. In doing that, she missed the moment.

Look first, take photograph later!

*Collaborative piece

15 June 2017

Create The Illusion of a Bigger Bathroom

Oh to have a bathroom like that. Ours is ultra tiny and we are always trying out new ways to make the space look bigger and create more room. If you have an ensuite bathroom, then you're very lucky. There is something so elegant and suave about having your very own bathroom.

Like with a regular family bathroom. if it's a little smaller than what you wanted though, don't splash the cash on expanding it right away, as there are many different tricks that you can do in order to make it appear a lot bigger than it actually is.

Here are a few things that we have tried out.

Use the same floor and walls
Whether you prefer a tiled finish with marble, or maybe wood is more your style - whatever it may be, if you use the exact same material on your floors and your walls, it will create the illusion of a bigger bathroom because there is no dead end as there usually would be.

We now have a pale grey sparkly floor and a grey matching door. This has definately made it look like we have more floor space that we actually do.

Furnish wisely
If you try and fit in large pieces of furniture into a small bathroom - it's obviously just going to look even smaller. So stick to the things that you really need and try not going overboard. That doesn't mean you can't add your quirkiness; you just need to prioritize. Remember that vanity units are great for storage, so the more you can get in there - the more space you will have on the outside.

The only thing using the floor space in our bathroom now, apart from the necessities is a corner washing basket that fits in perfect between the shower and the sink.

Add accessories
Accessories are a great way to add more to your bathroom without having to spend much. It can really improve a dull, compact space, by brightening it up and adding some personality. Even just going as far as adding a little plant in the corner, or on the windowsill will make a difference. A mini bonsai plant would be perfect.

The mirror trick
Many interior designers use this trick all the time because it really does work. Mirrors reflect light, which creates the impression of space. So when strategically placed, your room could actually end up looking double the size. If you have a window letting in natural light, put the mirror facing it so more light will be able to bounce off.

We have mirror in our vanity cabinet and also a huge one on the opposing wall, which really creates the illusion of more space.

Fit a sunken bath
We have a walk in shower only instead of a bath, but if you prefer a bathtub instead of a shower, think about how much space you could save if you install a sunken bath, let alone how fancy it would be. The same kind of thing goes for sinks too; you can find a variety of undermount sinks at Tap Warehouse that fit in with your cabinet or countertop, so you have a lot more room.

Think within the box
If you have a lot of products that you can't throw out, but very minimal space to use in the bathroom (and your budget is a very restricted one,) then go basic. Buy a box, and put everything in it. There are plenty of nice looking boxes out there on the market that are made out of wicker or wood, that look really pretty. So it's not as brutal as it sounds - but it's efficient enough for now.

Stack it up
If you're thinking of adding an open cabinet, instead of going wide - go high instead. This will save you a lot of floor space to move around in. As long as you can reach what you need, this is a great option, not only for your bathroom but for any area within your home.

Befriend the shelves
Shelves are a brilliant way to save space and also add to the atmosphere. If you want to be a little ‘out there’, then don't go for a neutral colour, choose a bright blue or orange instead. Invisible shelves do just what the name implies; they look as if they're floating on the wall, so this, paired with a pop of colour will look pretty damn cool.

Don't clutter it up
We all know that there is nothing pretty about clutter. It makes a room look messy and disorganised, and if you have a relatively small space to deal with - it's not going to help the situation. So don't leave out your makeup brushes, nail varnish or hair spray on top of the countertop - find a proper home for it all. Not only will this look a lot neater, but you will also avoid losing your favorite beauty blender.

*Collaborative Post