• Review: The Manhattan Hotel Rotterdam

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  • Open Studio: Graham Clarke

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  • Review: Simple Illuminating Radiance Cream

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  • Review: Chiquitos at the 02

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Review: The Manhattan Hotel Rotterdam

On a recent business trip to Holland to visit a client I stayed in the 5 star Manhattan Hotel in Rotterdam having flown in from London’s City Airport. The Manhattan Hotel is 6 KM from the Rotterdam- The Hague airport where we landed and is about a 15-20 minute drive by taxi which makes it convenient for any visitors to the city.

The Hotel is also opposite the Rotterdam Central Station for arrivals by train, and the station offers an interesting view with it’s modern architecture. I later found out that the locals have nick named it the ‘potato sack’ as it looks like a bag which has fallen over onto its side. It is also only 5 minutes or so away from Rotterdam’s  shopping and entertainment streets.

On entering the The Manhattan Hotel Rotterdam I was impressed by the lobby area, particularly the lovely display of flowers and the sumptuous furniture. The staff were efficient and polite when I checked in and despite going round in circles to find my room I enjoyed the corridors which were a deep purple in colour – perfect for me as this is my favourite colour!

I opened my hotel room via my key-card and when I switched on the lights I was met with a clean, spacious and elegant looking room complete with desk, double bed, a modern and good sized bathroom alongside storage space and a selection of complimentary refreshments comprising of coffee and tea. Of course there was also a fully stocked mini-bar which looked great, but I did resist!

There was plenty of storage space for my luggage and although I didn’t have much to unpack as I was only staying for one night, there was lots of space for clothes should you be staying for longer. The bathroom was a great size and came with the complimentary items you’d expect, perfect as I hadn’t bothered to pack any myself, along side some lovely fluffy towels. I enjoyed a nice soak in a hot bath before getting ready for bed.

The bed was a generous sized double complete with a firm but comfortable mattress and many plump pillows. Opposite the bed was a good sized TV where I found some English news channels to keep me company as I readied for bed. How did I sleep? Very well! I woke refreshed and ready for my day of business in Holland. I made myself some coffee whilst I got ready for my day and found the coffee maker easy to use with good instructions and I found the coffee was of good quality which is what I would expect from a 5 star hotel. 

One of the most important features of a Hotel, along with the bed comfort level and the bathroom, is the breakfast! I was very happy to discover a full and comprehensive breakfast buffet offering a range of hot and cold items. I selected the traditional English breakfast (minus the meat) which was very tasty and perfect to set me up for my busy day. I enjoyed another cup of coffee which was served to me by a polite and cheerful member of staff.

How did I find my experience? Very pleasant. I think the Hotel offers a great level of accommodation. I was particularly impressed with the size of my room and the overall finish of the fixtures and fittings. The interior of the Hotel was beautiful and sophisticated and it had a lovely atmosphere helped along by the friendly and helpful staff.  I had a really great night’s sleep and a fantastic breakfast in the morning. Combined with the convenient location I think this is a really lovely place to stay and award The Manhattan Hotel Rotterdam 5 out of 5 stars.

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5stars

Open Studio: Graham Clarke

Last year I was lucky enough to attend an Open Studio event from artist, author, illustrator and humorist Graham Clarke – one of Britain’s most popular and best-selling printmakers. My Mother is a huge fan of his work and when she heard about the event and the possibility of meeting the artist himself we knew we had to check it out. I have been meaning to post about this for a long time, so I apologise that it’s a bit late!

Graham Clarke is known for his  500+ images of English rural and history and of the Englishman’s view of Europe. Responding to the comedy of everyday life, Graham applies his unique style of humour to his interpretation of past and present through the eyes of the common man.

Not only has this artist created an amazing array of prints and written books, but he designed the Millennium window in his local parish church of Boughton Monchelse in Kent. We were lucky enough to have seen the design when we attending the open studio day.

It was very exciting to be able to see behind the scenes at this artist’s studio which is in the small village in Kent. His studio is out in his garden in a lovely wooden structure which houses his work area as well as a gallery of his works which we browsed and yes – we did come away with one print, The Year of the Tiger (the year in which I was born).

The best part of the day was being able to meet not only Graham Clarke’s wife who was very happy to talk to us about her husbands life and works, but the man himself who popped in briefly which, for someone who has grown up around a Graham Clarke super-fan (my mother), was very exciting.

We really enjoyed getting the behind the scenes look at the studio, the works and getting to meet the artist and his wife. If you are looking for something to brighten up your home be sure to check out Graham Clarke’s prints which are truly unique and will entertain you and your friends for hours on end. You can learn more at his website.

 

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I found the above in the toilet!

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Review: Simple Illuminating Radiance Cream

Sometimes you just want your skin to look brighter, particularly in the winter, am I right? Despite using exfoliators and moisturisers sometimes your skin just needs a bit of a boost which is where the Simple Illuminating Radiance Cream* comes in – luckily I was recently gifted some to try for myself.

The Simple Illuminating Radiance Cream is described as a product which adds an instant boost with light reflecting minerals, producing a radiant complexion whilst being infused with skin loving multi-vitamins to nourish and protect skin with UVA/UVB SPF 15.

I really like this product, which contains sweet almond and sunflower seed oils which lock in moisture whilst the ginger root extract and bisabolol which is derived from chamomile and acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps to soothe and calm skin. It has a nice creamy thick texture which I like, it makes the product pleasant to apply, but doesn’t feel greasy or clog up pores and cause outbreaks.

It claims to be a moisturiser, however, I would never use it on it’s own for this purpose as my skin is very thirsty and needs a layer of additional moisturiser in order to be happy.

I use the radiance cream in the morning in conjunction with my BB cream to add a bit of extra sparkle, speaking of sparkle this product actually does add a touch of glitter to the skin which might put off some people but I actually like the shimmer from the light reflecting minerals which give this effect. I apply the cream all over my face and neck with my fingertips using upward and outward movements as suggested.

I really like the pump action dispenser which makes this product really easy to use, with one pump offering the right amount of product. Sometimes rather than using across my whole face I will simply just apply a little of the cream to my cheekbones and it offers a similar effect to a highlighter.

I award the Simple Illuminating Radiance Cream 4 out of 5 stars for giving my skin a boost when it needs it most, and making me feel that little bit more confident.

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Can you spot the glitzy shimmer?

4stars

Review: Chiquitos at the 02

When my sister recently suggested that we meet up to have a catch up (and a good time) I suggested the 02, which had been one of our regular haunts in 2014, but for some reason this year we hadn’t yet visited. Stuffed full of restaurants it’s great for anyone who wants to grab a bite to eat with friends with the possibility of catching a movie or taking in one of the Arenas many shows and exhibitions.

The 02 can be a busy place, especially when there is a special event happening and it just so happened that my sister and I arrived on  the day of the Country To Country Festival. Big mistake. Well, actually it wasn’t so bad, we amused ourselves by watching the crowds of stetson and cowboy boot wearing country music fans which had taken over North Greenwich for the day.

Having had a coffee outside in the unforgiving wind (Costa’s was overrun by cowboys and there were no seats left), we decided it was time for lunch and discovered that Mexican restaurant Chiquitos had yet to be completely overwhelmed by stetsons and could easily find a table upstairs.

We started by ordering drinks, two frozen margaritas to be exact, one strawberry and one passion fruit which looked great, tasted delicious and just what we needed having been corralled about the 02. We settled upon the classic starter of nachos – tortilla chips covered in Texan style cheese sauce, jalapeño peppers, melted cheese and sour cream accompanied by the vegetarian friendly option of homemade salsa & guacamole.The nachos were really tasty, with the chips still retaining some crunch and the different sauces having great flavour. We did discover quite a lot of chilli towards the bottom of the dish, but this wasn’t unpleasant, just hot!

For our mains I ordered the Halloumi Crunch Burger, made up of baked halloumi, fresh salsa and crunchy nachos with chipotle mayo. My sister went for the BBQ Texan Chicken Melt which was comprised of grilled marinated chicken breast topped with a chorizo & sweetcorn medley with melted cheese which was served with skin-on-fries, corn on the cob, onion rings, homemade slaw and BBQ sauce.

I was very happy with my halloumi burger (you honestly can’t beat a halloumi vegetarian option!), although the halloumi itself was a little tough it was still tasty and the accompanying coleslaw and chips were really nice. I did leave half of the burger bun, but I felt satisfied with the portion size overall.

My sister was a little disappointed with her meal, having splurged on a dish which cost more than £14 she had expected a more generous portion. Although she enjoyed the chips she found the rest of her dish to be mediocre which was a bit of a shame.

To commiserate we treated ourselves to another pair of frozen margaritas, this time peach and mango which were delicious.

In general the experience wasn’t bad, the restaurant had a great atmosphere and the staff were pleasant. Although I was happy with my meal my sister did not have the same experience and so we award Chiquitos at the 02 3 out of 5 stars.

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3stars

Review: Vanilla Links Silver Pendant from Nikki Galloway

I love learning about new artists and designers so when Nikki Galloway from Nude Jewellery got in touch asking if I would like to review of the pieces from her Vanilla Links collection I was happy to agree.

The Vanilla Links Silver Pendant* features two loops of different sizes ( 17mm and 14mm) which have been lightly hammered to create texture and  creates a pleasant light reflecting effect which is almost otherworldly. The loops sit on a silver snake chain which is 16 inches in length.

The Vanilla Link jewellery collection, handmade in Mayfair by award-winning designer jeweller Nikki Galloway, is exclusive to Nude Jewellery’s London Jewellery Boutique. 

Nude Jewellery stocks a wide range of contemporary jewellery collections including modern style, unusual designs and statement jewellery. Nude Jewellery showcases new and established jewellery designers who create exquisite unusual jewellery including silver, fine handmade diamond and gemstone pieces. Every collection has it’s own diversity and chosen based on the choice of materials, craftsmanship and unique style.

I really like the unique look of the Vanilla Links silver pendant, with the hammered texture really giving it something special rather than just a plain silver which is more common. Despite the ‘rough and ready’ look, this piece is elegant and I would happily wear it to an evening event or Wedding.

I also really liked the packaging which you can see below – the jewellery box coming en-robed in a lovely silky fabric with a tie closing which adds to the special feel of this piece.

Overall I am awarding the Vanilla Links Silver Pendant from Nikki Galloway 4 out of 5 stars for offering me a sophisticated look without conforming to the norm, and adding a bit of contemporary rebellion to my jewellery box.

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4stars

Product Launch & Review: Simple Micellar Cleansing Water

I was lucky enough to have been invited to attend the Launch event for the Simple Micellar Cleansing Water* recently, held at the elegant Spa at the Mondrian Hotel in London. As you know by now 2015 for me is the year of skincare and I have been trying out lots of new products in my skincare mission, so I was keen to learn more about this new product from Simple.

Now I have to admit, I had no idea what micellar waters were before being introduced to the Simple product. I have since learned that the trend for micellar waters started in Paris, where skin-conscious inhabitants wanted to avoid using the city’s hard water on their skin.

Micellar water is designed to be used with a cotton pad and does not need to be rinsed away, saving the skin from being potentially damaged by the quality of the tap water. The water uses tiny micelle particles to pick up and remove make-up, sebum and other impurities (like pollution), from the skin. Micellar waters are particularly skin pleasing because they are soap and alcohol-free and offer an alternative to face wipes which can sometimes be harsh on the skin.

I am no stranger to cleansers, I have used and reviewed a number of them, but a cleansing water was a new concept for me. The Simple Micellar Cleansing Water is described as their most advanced cleanser which is tough on dirt but gentle on skin – something which is important when you have sensitive skin and wear make up on a daily basis.

The cleanser is made with a special triple-purified micellar water formulation and to give your skin a healthy boost it is enriched with multi-vitamins (including Vitamins B3 and Vitamin C which are important for their restorative properties) and other skin-loving ingredients designed to leave skin clean but feeling hydrated.  It actively works to attract and remove make-up and impurities whilst helping to unclog pores supporting skin to breathe.

How have I gotten on with the product? The Simple Micellar Cleansing Water was easy to use – I just squirted some onto a cotton pad and gently wiped around my face, taking care around my eyes, and it left my skin feeling zingy, clean and refreshed without leaving my face feeling dry and tight. I often find that cleansers can be hard on my sensitive skin, so finding one which isn’t so drying makes a big difference for me. So, overall I really like this product and award if 4 out of 5 stars.

Here are some photos from the launch evening.

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4stars

DIY Flower Pot Designs

I have really been getting into flowers and plants this year since joining a related project at work and having been exposed to the natural charm and beauty of these lovely living things.

I have always found flowers and plants to be a great element of any home or office (I have a cheerful bamboo plant on my desk which reminds me that it’s not all just bland desks and computers in the world), and I wanted to share this inspirational video from The Joy Of Plants who have come up with an innovative way to design and make your own flower pots at home.




To make a homemade linen jacket for your plant, you will need:

  • Linen fabric
  • An iron
  • White latex paint
  • Wood glue
  • Paint brush
  • Sewing machine & thread
  • Decorations

Method:

  1. Tear your linen fabric into squares
  2. Iron any creases out of your squares
  3. Make a mix of 50% white latex paint, 50% wood glue
  4. Paint all over your squares
  5. Leave them to dry
  6. Decorate your squares once dry, you can use a brush to make patterns or other add other items like buttons or sequins for your own unique look
  7. Sew the squares together
  8. Add any decorative last touches, like contrast stitching around the edges
  9. Slip your plant into your newly made decorative pot and position proudly in your home!

 

 

Review: Dinner at The Lion in Farningham, Kent

Despite living in London I do enjoy a jaunt to the countryside from time to time to take in some fresh air and see my family who live in Farningham – a small village in Kent just outside the M25.

Excitedly I will soon be upping sticks and moving out to Farningham on a permanent basis. At the moment a family property is undergoing renovations and once ready my husband and I will be moving. On a recent trip back to see how the renovations were going I was lucky enough to have been taken out to Dinner by my parents and we went to the Vintage Inn venue, The Lion Pub.

The Lion has had many reincarnations over the years, when I was a youngster living in the village it was a beloved Harvester which we visited to celebrate birthdays and good news like exam results. I had not been back since it was taken over by Vintage Inns, but having heard good things from my parents, I was excited to see The Lion’s newest offerings.

The Lion has always been a venue which oozes country charm and I was not disappointed on my return seeing that the decor, despite being modernised, still retains it’s bare wooden furniture and atmospheric lighting. I particularly liked the open fire places which both warmed the restaurant and projected a fabulous ambiance.

My parents and I were shown into a comfy corner and ordered drinks before browsing the menu. Fora starter I settled upon the baked cornish brie and onion marmalade brûlée which was served with with celery and crusty bread. In my opinion nothing beats molten cheese and onion marmalade especially on a fresh spring evening, and I was not disappointed.

I was a little concerned that the Lion may not have a good vegetarian offering for a main, but I was wrong, I selected the feta and broad bean burger served in a crusty cob with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The burger came with a with smoky tomato salsa and seasoned chips.

I am often weary of veggie burgers which are made mainly from vegetables as they tend to be dry and have an unpleasant texture but I was happy to discover that this burger was tasty and satisfying with the zingy salsa balancing out the otherwise heavy burger. The chips were also flavourful and I enjoyed the light spicing which gave them a bit of a kick.

I include photos of my parents dishes also – my Mother ordered the Vintage Hunter’s Chicken – chargrilled chicken breast in BBQ sauce, topped with sweetcure bacon and smoked Cheddar, served with confit tomato, beer battered onion rings and mushrooms, seasoned chips and peas. My father went for the steak with confit tomato, beer battered onion rings, a roasted flat mushroom and seasoned chips. Both were satisfied with their mains.

For desert I went for a traditional British dish, which is a favourite of mine, the sticky toffee pudding which was served with a dainty jug of custard and a delightful layer of bramley apple slices on top. Despite usually preferring my sticky toffee pudding fruit free I really enjoyed this version, reminding me of a toffee apple!

My parents chose the raspberry crème brûlée rich set vanilla custard with fresh raspberries, topped with caramelised sugar and the ultimate chocolate brownie tower double brownie layered with caramel and cookie dough, served with chocolate fudge sauce and vanilla ice cream. The brownie tower was a little disappointing in it’s presentation as it had somewhat toppled over, but both my mother and father seemed to enjoy their dishes.

So, what how was the overall experience? We had a really lovely evening at a local restaurant enjoying good food in a lovely atmosphere. I am happy to award The Lion pub 5 out of 5 stars and look forward to restarting the tradition of visiting for celebrations once I have moved back to Kent.

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5stars

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DIY: Recycled umbrella flower arrangement

Spring might signal the start of the sunny season but it’s also nearly the time for April showers – so don’t ditch your umbrella just yet. In fact, if you have a spare or broken brolly lurking in the back of the cupboard, we have just the thing to transform it into a beautiful spring flower arrangement to hang on the back of your door.

umbrella

What you need:

  • An umbrella (in a pretty pastel shade, if possible)
  • A length of coloured ribbon
  • Oasis cone
  • A bouquet of your favourite blooms

What to do:

1. Partially open out your umbrella and push your down to the bottom of the umbrella use more than one cone if you have a large umbrella and plenty of flowers).
2. Tie a ribbon around the outside of the umbrella to secure your oasis in place.
3. Arrange your flowers by pushing the stems into the oasis.
4. Hang it on a hook on your door!

If you want to make the arrangement themed, say for Easter, you can add some cute chicks or even decorated eggs to make it a seasonal treat.

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Review: Simple Perfecting BB Cream

BB creams were one of those big trends that sort of passed me by. I’ve always been a foundation girl, despite the fact that (in general) my skin is pretty well behaved so I don’t usually have much to cover up.

I have always loved the all-over coverage that a foundation offers which can correct pigmentation across the face and make a smooth base layer on which to build make up. However, I have discovered that a normal foundation can aggravate my dry/sensitive skin.

I hadn’t thought of trying a BB cream until I was given a Simple Perfecting BB Cream* at a recent Simple Skincare event and I have been using it ever since.

The Simple Perfecting BB Cream comes in a  universal shade which blends into my skin tone really well. At first I was worried because it was a bit darker and more orange that I would have liked when it came straight out of the tube, but when I applied it the BB cream blended in nicely with no problems with the colour.

The BB cream has Simple’s unique blend of multi-vitamins and ingredients designed to give a flawless, natural coverage look which contains sun protection in the form of UVA/ UVB SPF15 which is a great additional feature.

The Simple Perfecting BB Cream has a really lovely texture, akin to that of a mousse product which feels really great when applying it to my face whereas a foundation feels a bit powdery even when in liquid format. I really like the texture of this product.

In terms of coverage of the BB cream vs a foundation, the BB cream doesn’t give the same all over thick coverage that a foundation does. I have used additional concealer on the odd blemish, however, I have been very happy with the BB cream which easily copes with evening out pigmentation.

As an additional benefit for my dry skin is that the BB cream can be applied over my moisturiser in the morning for longer lasting hydration benefits.

As I said before, I have been using this product for some time now and have been impressed with it’s texture, coverage and blending properties. I award the Simple Perfecting BB Cream 5 out of 5 stars and will continue to use it as part of my daily make up routine.

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5stars

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