Posted in Food, Lifestyle, London, Travel, Uncategorized

A spa day at The Montcalm Hotel – Marble Arch

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As a London and Travel blogger, my friends and family know that I like nothing more than to get out and experience new things (when I’m not lying in bed reading a good book) so when it comes to buying me presents they usually opt for the physical type, a meal out, a trip away or an experience voucher… just don’t make it skydiving because I would never do it!

On mothers day I received a Virgin voucher for a trip to a spa with a champagne meal for two…oooh. It took me a while to get round to booking it but the process was quite easy and one thing I liked about it was that it gave you the option of swapping your experience for something different if that particular activity didn’t take your fancy, for instance if I received a skydive I would have swapped it for an afternoon tea perhaps! I knew my eldest daughter would also appreciate a spa day so she accompanied me to The Montcalm.

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The Montcalm is a short walk from Marble arch and has a five star rating. It seems quite small from the outside but as you enter you are met with a light, spacious lobby area that is filled with little seating nooks with mismatched furniture in neutral warm tones.

We were shown down to the spa in the basement which was divided into different spaces and were given a pair of slippers and a towel each. I didn’t particularly want to use the gym but wanted to try out everything that was on offer so we brought our gym clothes for a quick workout. There were a couple of people in there when we arrived but they were just finishing up their session and we soon had the place to ourselves. I tried out all the machines but left well away from the contraption that was full of weights, it was supposed to be a relaxing morning after all!

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After the workout we had a quick change into our swimming costumes to visit the spa room. It consisted of a sauna and steam room that had a shower in between. Next to that was the Jacuzzi that had the option of the bubble machine, this switched itself off every so often and you had to wait a while for it to be reactivated. The small pool was also similar to the Jacuzzi, the water was warm and although it had buttons to get the same jet stream effect as the Jacuzzi, these did not work. To be honest the pool was nice just to relax in but wasn’t big enough to actually make use of if you wanted to have a proper swim and as we found out a few minutes after entering the space can quickly feel crowded.

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While we were in the pool there were two guys in the Jacuzzi, it would have felt a bit awkward to get in there with them so we went to try out the sauna instead. As we both suffer from panic attacks and there was a big red panic button on the wall it kind of made us a bit apprehensive so we just tried it out with the doors open… I know you would think this defeats the purpose but it was still really hot in there!

As we left the sauna, the two guys had moved over to the pool so we went into the Jacuzzi but then another two ladies came in and it felt even more awkward, I mean there are lots of chairs around and a snug little area with magazines but nobody wants to go to the spa to sit around on chairs do they? After a while it was approaching our lunch time and we felt very hot and sweaty so we departed to cool off in the showers and get changed.

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The changing rooms were clean with lots of space to keep your stuff but only had two showers and two toilets so luckily we were the only ones in there, especially as the showers are not very private with see through glass doors!

Before our visit to the spa we tried to check out what food would be served with the virgin voucher but couldn’t find any information other than the fact that it was a one course meal. I mean I don’t know how much the voucher costs because I don’t like to check these things as it was a present but I thought a one course meal was a bit miserly and if they want to make it a special day they should at least add a dessert, even if they charge a few pounds extra.

The restaurant, which is just beyond the lobby, was a lovely big room with skylights to provide extra light. I liked that the artwork on the wall matched the furniture.

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We were a bit confused as to why they gave us a menu with all three courses on it if we were only to choose one meal and although I assume we could have purchased more had we wanted to, we were not offered their normal menu with the prices of anything on. There were only three main meals on offer unless we wanted to pay a supplement and if you are a vegetarian then you better be a fan of eggplant as that is all your getting! This did just remind me of Hard rock café all over again and I think that when Virgin make these deals with restaurants that they should be more upfront with what they are offering!

We both went for the Corn-fed chicken supreme with thyme and truffle although it didn’t mention any sides and we were left wondering if it would just be a bit of chicken on a plate. Luckily it was accompanied with a creamy mash, vegetables and half a roasted garlic and it was absolutely delicious, I ate everything including the garlic which surprisingly didn’t taste very garlicky. We also enjoyed a nice glass of prosecco (for some reason the small print states that you only get champagne if you attend the other hotel outside of London) which I had to finish for Jasmin as she didn’t particularly like the taste.

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Overall we had a really lovely morning, although it would be nice if the vouchers from Virgin experience were more transparent so you know exactly what to expect.

Have you ever visited a hotel spa or used a Virgin voucher, what was your experience like?

If you have visited anywhere in London then feel free to join in with my new linky #thelondonlink to add any of your blog posts, old or new!

 

 

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Mother’s day brunch with Gradz bakery

As I was sent a lovely package of fine artisan breads from Gradz bakery right before mother’s day I thought it would be perfect for having our own celebratory brunch rather than going out and spending lots of money at a restaurant.

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Our delivery, which was lovingly gift wrapped, contained the six varieties of bread that are currently stocked in Ocado. You can also find the bread in independent delis, health food stores and health conscious cafes and restaurants.

  • Spirulina & Pumpkin Seed Bread
  • Handcrafted Amaranth Bread 
  • Oats and Flax Sourdough 
  • Rye 100% with Honey
  • Gluten Free Dark with Seeds
  • Gluten Free Dark with Sunflower Seeds

As a family of six we manage to eat our way through a lot of bread so rarely treat ourselves to anything fancy, it was nice to try different flavours and I didn’t feel so guilty about adding that extra slice to my plate knowing how healthy the bread is compared to the normal white loaf.

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The packaging is full of information and the first thing I noticed was how soft and bouncy the bread felt when I picked it up.

Here is a statement about how the Gradz bakery was founded:

The Gradz Story
Master bakers Agnes Gabriel and Romuald Damaz have always been passionate about making healthy, delicious bread. When they discovered a treasure of family recipes hand-written by Agne’s Grandfather, they were inspired to establish the Gradz (Gabriel Romuald Agnes Damaz) bakery and share their tradition of continental-style baking with Britain.
Each numbered recipe in her Grandfather’s book brought cherished memories and baking ideas to Agnes and Romuald. By adding their knowledge, skill and expertise, the Gradz master bakers have developed traditional bread with today’s tastes and health benefits.

For our Mother’s day brunch we had a selection of toppings to go with the bread, including cheeses, pate, salad and the quintessential dish on any brunch menu; avocado and poached eggs!

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The bread was really delicious and considering my kids had a bit of a moan that they don’t like seeds in their bread they seemed to consume a fair amount of it! It is no surprise that Gradz have been winners at the world bakery awards!

Considering all the normal motherly duties didn’t disappear on Mother’s day I still had a lovely time and received lots of thoughtful gifts. How did you spend Mothering Sunday?

If you want to find out more about this artisan bread maker then checkout their website!

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Uncategorized

Boogie bounce with My PFF app

Last weekend I was invited with a group of other bloggers to the Haymarket Hotel to take part in a boogie bounce session. The reason for this get together was to highlight the update of the Lights by Tena, My PFF app.

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You may be aware of the Tena brand and the Lights by Tena are just a branch of the brand that are aimed at light bladder weakness which often occurs in women of all ages.

We started the event with a presentation that included some interesting facts about light bladder weakness, did you know?

62% of women in the UK experience light bladder weakness

Light bladder weakness is more common than hayfever

35% of women still see light bladder weakness as a taboo subject

69% of new mums experience light bladder weakness

1 in 10 mums admit that bladder weakness has stopped them doing activities in their normal routine

As well as provide super absorbent pads (we know because we had fun testing them out) Tena want to encourage women to look after their pelvic floor and avoid the onset of these Oooops moments as much as possible.

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The My PFF app is free and available on Apple and android. It is suitable for all ages and provides daily reminders to help you schedule your pelvic floor exercises into your routine and lifestyle, it also tracks your progress to monitor your improvement.

If like me you only remember to do those pelvic floor exercises when you hear the words ‘pelvic floor exercise’ then this app could be for you! The pelvic floor is a muscle and just because we cant see it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be taking care of it. The new year is the perfect time to start incorporating new routines into your life and pelvic floor exercises should become part of this So look up the app now!

With 24% of people experiencing light bladder weakness during exercise it was time to put our own pelvic floor to the test…

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For me the trampoline is something that you put in the garden in the summer for the kids to play on, I didn’t realise it was a way to keep fit! We split into two groups to take turns having a boogie. We started with a warm up before the aerobic section, had a strenuous bum workout and finished with some stretches, it was such a great workout that I may have since ordered myself a mini exercise trampoline so I can continue to exercise in a fun but efficient way.

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After freshening up in one of the swanky hotel rooms we were treated to a delicious buffet to get our strength back up.

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I had loads of fun at the event and have since been making the most of the app by doing my little squeezes each day. Do you have a particular way to remind you to do pelvic floor exercises or are you one of 1/4 of women that have never practised them?

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, London, Uncategorized

Wagamama and beauty treatments

Last month myself and Jasmin had a long overdue visit to a beauty clinic to use some vouchers that she had bought for my birthday in May. We decided to make an afternoon of it and eat some Japanese food for lunch after our treatments.

Nestled away on a little back street around the corner from St Pauls cathedral is Primas Beauty clinic. The entrance of the clinic takes you straight into the reception/seating area which is very inviting with a relaxed atmosphere. We had booked in advance for a facial and pedicure and were told that we would each have a treatment and then swap over for the opposite treatment which made sense but then meant we wouldn’t have the experience together which was a shame.

I started with the pedicure, unfortunately it was a dry treatment so I didn’t get to soak my tired feet but the beautician was really lovely and very conscientious. The treatment was supposed to be for 30 minutes but she took nearly an hour, maybe I just needed a lot of work done!

I was really looking forward to the facial but it wasn’t quite the experience I was hoping for! It started off very relaxing, I had my face cleansed and then the lady put a face mask on which was fine, she then covered my eyes and explained that she would leave it for 15 minutes to dry, she covered me with a blanket and went off. That’s when I started to feel really uncomfortable. I was laying flat on my back which I’m not used to as I always lay on my side and because my eyes were covered I started feeling paranoid that someone was watching me, all of a sudden my heart started racing and I felt like I couldn’t breathe and realised I was having some sort of panic attack. I sat up and took the pads off my eyes and took a few minutes to calm myself. I’m glad the lady had left the room otherwise I would have looked a bit weird and probably felt worse. When she returned and took the mask off I felt fine but a bit stupid, I mean probably one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve had and I start having a panic attack over it? Even though it was a horrible experience it in no way reflected the service at the beauty clinic and I wasn’t going to let it ruin my birthday treat so we continued our plans for lunch.

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Just a short walk past the cathedral and we came across a Wagamama restaurant. I have eaten takeaway from Wagamama before but this was the first time I had eaten inside. It was mostly made up of long tables but we had a booth. I love how minimalistic and spacious their restaurants our compared to others that try to fill every available space with tables.

My go to dish whenever I eat Japanese is Chicken Katsu curry, I love it! But I thought I would be a bit adventurous and choose something I had never tried before so I went for the Yaki Udon.

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The dish is made with udon noodles cooked in curry oil with chicken, prawns, chikuwa, egg, beansprouts, leeks, mushrooms and peppers. garnished with fried shallots, pickled ginger and sesame seeds. Now it looked really tasty and had some great flavours which I enjoyed but the actual noodles freaked me out a bit. I felt like I was eating worms because they were so thick but this also made them really filling which meant I didn’t have to eat too much before I was full. It wasn’t entirely bad but I did spend the whole time wondering why I didn’t order Katsu curry!

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I also thought I would have a change of drink and chose a peach iced tea instead of the usual coke and this was a great decision, I would actually go back to Wagamama just for this drink as it was so nice.

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Jasmin chose the Pad Thai which was similar flavours to my dish but a lot lighter to eat and she polished it all off! We decided not to order dessert but I have since heard that they have really nice sweet treats on offer including Banana Katsu so I think another trip is in order.

So the day wasn’t entirely flawless but it was still lovely to spend some quality time with my big girl and visit some new places. We ended our day with a walk across the millennium footbridge and down the Southbank before heading home.

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, Travel, Uncategorized

Fruit picking with Fruit Shoot @ Home cottage farm

With the stress of back to school looming we were invited by Fruit Shoot to take part in some fruit picking at Home cottage farm which made a lovely final summers day out.

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Home cottage farm is a small family run ‘pick your own’ farm on the outskirts of Uxbridge. We travelled to the farm on the busy tube network which accompanied by four nosebleeds from Kieron made for an eventful journey. It was worth it to enjoy the tranquillity of the country surroundings, wading through raspberry bushes and apple trees. We were accompanied by other bloggers and unfortunately we arrived slightly late so the raspberries were sparse by the time we reached them with our basket, but it made it fun having to search for the perfect berries to pick.

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We had the option of picking blackberries, raspberries, apples and plums but didn’t want to carry too much as we had a long journey back via rush hour mayhem so we just stuck with the raspberries and apples.

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Although it was pouring down with rain on our journey the sun made an appearance later in the afternoon and we were treated to a lovely picnic on the grass with lots of healthy goodies to indulge in. We were accompanied by author and master baker Holly Bell who was a finalist in The Great British Bake Off and made us some delicious treats that were free from refined sugar and instead filled with the natural sweetness of fruit.

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We had a selection of savoury treats followed by loaf cake, muffins and my favourite, this succulent and sweet flapjack that I never would have guessed contains no sugar! This was all washed down with refreshing Fruit Shoots in a range of flavours. We were given the recipes and a children’s baking set so we could make them at home or come up with our own delights. As this recipe is really simple (and I’m no Holly Bell) I will definitely be trying this out!

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The message of the day is that you can enjoy sweet treats without having to compromise on your health and that real fruit is a great alternative to other artificial sweeteners and refined sugar.

Did you know that Fruit Shoot is made with real fruit?

There is real fruit in every drop of Fruit Shoot and each and every one is filled with multi-vitamins. Better still, there isn’t any added sugar, artificial colours or flavourings at all.

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As somebody that eats far too many unhealthy snacks this was a great opportunity to find alternatives and I am going to attempt to give up refined sugars and enjoy more natural substitutes instead.

Do you have any tips for giving up sugar?

*written in collaboration with fruit shoot, all opinions are my own
Posted in Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Put fresh to the test – Win a years supply of flowers and a £200 Oasis voucher

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I’m sure by now you are familiar with the term Oooops moment. It is a phrase that is used often to describe all those embarrassing mishaps that us women have to endure, one of the ones that is less talked about are the little leaks! Lights by TENA are constantly working to raise awareness of bladder weakness and here are a few facts they found out

 

  • Bladder weakness can be caused by the smallest of things including: coughing, sneezing or exercising
  • Up to 69% of pregnant women and new mums will experience light bladder weakness making it surprisingly common!
  • Experiencing light bladder weakness is the biggest concern for over a quarter of pregnant women in the UK
  • 1 in 5 women would rather go a week with out make up than speak out about their bladder weakness problem and over half label it as a taboo subject!

 

The latest campaign running by Lights by TENA is ‘Put fresh to the test’ they want to know what you really think about their products and how fresh you feel while wearing them, all you have to do is visit the review hub and leave your feedback.

 

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There are many products to chose from and if you feel they could be helpful to you but haven’t yet tried them then just request a free sample.

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I was sent this lovely Lush giftset and my own sample of Lights by TENA and now my house is full of the floral fragrance. Yours could be the same all year round with a years supply of fresh flowers so head over and give your feedback!

 

Posted in Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Lloyds pharmacy showcase

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When faced with a new illness or symptoms that appear out of the blue, what is the first thing you do? If you’re anything like me you automatically turn to Dr Google and end up finding out that you have the worst possible disease known to man. Trying to see a real doctor can often be a task in itself, whether it is having to book weeks in advance, trying to get through at exactly 8am for a same day appointment along with 50 other patients or sitting for two hours in the waiting room during a walk in session. It is not just the waiting, sometimes you may have a niggling worry but feel like you don’t want to waste the doctors time but there are other options to reassure yourself.

Lloyds pharmacy recently held their first showcase press event to highlight all the services available in their stores nationwide and I found out that they specialise in specific areas from skincare to pain relief.

I was invited to the Lloyds pharmacy live event to find out about the range of services on offer to customers who can just pop into their local branch or book a visit in advance.

  • Type 2 diabetes check
  • Medicines check up
  • Asthma treatment and advice
  • Blood pressure testing
  • Pain management service
  • Sexual health service
  • Stop smoking service
  • Cholesterol and heart health service
  • Skin analysis testing
  • Travel vaccinations

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The event had loads of professionals from the pharmacy and brand reps to advise on products and services.

I have recently been suffering with wheezing and coughing in the morning it continues for around half an hour before it disappears. After a quick search on the internet I came to the conclusion that I must be getting asthma. I mentioned this to the Lloyds pharmacy respiration expert who suggested it could be hayfever, which would make sense considering I also get watery eyes and sneezing fits. He said I could try hayfever treatment and was still worried to have a breathing test done.

I also spoke to the skin specialist because I have really dry flaky skin on my face. I had a test using the skin analysis machine. This system uses both scientific and objective assessment of the skin to measure a number of factors including, hydration, PH levels, elasticity and sebum. The conclusion was that my elasticity was good but the other areas suggested my skin was really dry. Rather than suggest specific products I was given feedback on the ingredients I should look for in the products I choose to use.

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Lloyds pharmacy stock well known products from loads of different brands, a few of which include

  • Westlab
  • innovo
  • Bio-Kult
  • Enterosgel
  • QVS
  • Betovivo
  • Canesten
  • Nailner

Those in attendance were given a range of products to take away and try out. I am particularly interested in using the Berocca because, well a boost of energy can never be  bad thing and rather than sugar which energy drinks are full of, Berocca just contains a mix of vitamins.

My Perfect eyes is described as a non-surgical cosmetic miracle and claims to temporarily erase puffiness, dark circles, wrinkles and fine lines. I have given this a try, it feels really strange like a slight pulling and creates a web like structure under your eye. I can say I do have lines under my eyes with a slightly darker patch and I definitely noticed a difference with this product. I do not wear many cosmetic products and probably wouldn’t use this on a daily basis but I was very impressed and will use it if I am going out.

In an attempt to improve my skin I am in search of really good night cream (recommendations welcome) that I will use after the Nip and Fab exfoliation night pads.

I would probably only visit a pharmacy to pick up a prescription before but I feel much more confident about seeing a pharmacist regarding minor incidents or symptoms to seek advice, I mean they are probably just as qualified as a doctor and have a greater understanding about medications, plus they are available at anytime during opening hours and I don’t have to book an appointment to see them.

Do you ever take advantage of the services at your local Lloyds pharmacy?