Friday, 31 October 2014

Lifestyle // Cocktail Making Masterclass & Tour of citizenM London Bankside Hotel

I blimmin love a good cocktail! So you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to attend a Cocktail Making Masterclass at the citizenM London Bankside Hotel. I'd not heard of citizenM before but was really intrigued when I looked on their website and saw their modern twist on the classic hotel experience. I couldn't wait to get down to their perfectly located London Bankside Hotel and get exploring (whilst sipping on a refreshing cocktail or two!)

As it's name suggests, the citizenM London Bankside Hotel sits parallel to the Southbank. Ten minutes from London Bridge station and a stones throw from the Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge and The Globe, this is a great central place to stay in London. The first thing I noticed as I walked into the hotel was the cute doormat which complimented my shoes - my kind of doormat! The citizenM London Bankside  is full of quirky little touches like this, which show it is no ordinary hotel!

As my nicely complimented shoes and I continued into the lobby area we immediately noticed what a busy, exciting atmosphere there was - again not like a usual hotel where the lobby is so quiet you can hear a pin drop! (I'll stop referring to my shoes as people now FYI). To the left was an open deli style canteen area with a gorgeous selection of pastries, salads and hot dishes for guests to help themselves to (which you apparently scan straight onto your room bill automatically - fancy!) In the middle of the open plan lobby was the bar (more about this later) and to the right, a gorgeous seating area with bookshelves, huge squashy sofas, TV's and even a fire! It's basically a huge living room inside a hotel which is pretty awesome as often hotels can feel quite impersonal and as if you have to stay stuck upstairs in your room the whole time. This, it turns out, is the antithesis of the citizenM lifestyle, whereby guests are encouraged to spend time in the "living room"and "kitchen" areas, just as you would at home.

I headed for the bar and met my fellow bloggers who'd be mixing up a cocktail storm with me - the lovely Jazz from Jazzabelle's Diary and Rebecca from It's Cohen. We settled down and were met by Mark our cocktail making mastermind. Mark showed us a couple of tricks and how to mix the perfect fresh lemonade, complete with lots of shaker shaking and impressive twirling and then it was our turn! We were given complete run of the bar and told to mix whatever we liked to create our perfect cocktails! Woahh this could be dangerous! 

I'm a big gin fan so headed straight for the Hendricks. As it's infused with cucumber I decided to add some actual cucumber to my drink and muddled a few slices in the bottom of the shaker. I then decided to add a little squirt of Campari to give it a bitter twist and topped with cranberry juice and a swirl of strawberry syrup for a sweet finish. I gave it a good old shake like a pro... and then ruined the illusion by not being able to get the top of the shaker off the glass below! Doh! Mark showed us the correct position the shaker and glass need to be in to remove easily. I quickly adjusted it, gave it another good smack and.... nothing! I couldn't get it to budge at all! A good few smacks and a very red hand later, the shaker remained well and truly stuck and Mark had to do it for me! Tom Cruise's role in Cocktail is still safe then! I drained my (stubborn) shaker, poured over ice and finished with a garnish of cucumber and The Emsyginkle was born! I was pretty pleased with how my first cocktail turned out - it certainly looked pretty with a bright pink colour, and also tasted pretty good too! The cucumber made it taste nice and fresh and the Campari and Hendricks gave it a good kick! It was really fun tasting everyone else's cocktails too and seeing what ingredients they'd played around with, one even included beer which was surprisingly really nice!

With delicious drinks in hand, the hotel manager (also called Marc) took us upstairs to have a nosy around the key part of any hotel - the bedrooms!   As I've said, citizenM is a very modern and innovative hotel experience and this was never so apparent as in the bedrooms - they were like something out of the Jetsons - so space age! The room was very compact but without feeling cramped, with each station being designed to totally utilise the space. The bed was HUMONGOUS - literally the width of the room - and took up the far wall, laid out to double up as a sofa during the day (not that you need it when the lobby is filled with super squashy leather sofas and comfy arm chairs). The rain shower and toilet are housed inside a little capsule like pod and amazingly you can change the lights to whatever colour you like just to make bathroom time a bit more fun! How cool is that?! Each room also has a small desk and a sink console compactly tucked to the walls. The thing that really impressed me however was the fact that each room is controlled by a tablet which allows you to adjust the room's temperature, lighting, blinds and TV, as well as accessing free wifi and a series of free movies! Awesome! This is definitely the perfect room for a weekend away in London when you'll most likely be out and about exploring the city, but want to come back to a nice comfy bed and cuddle up watching a film, whilst uploading all your pics to Instagram. It's neat and functional and very very cool with mod cons and no fuss. Perfect!

With a quick stop to check out the meeting rooms which can be hired out (which again are really jazzy with some pretty funky accessories) and a look at the living room side of the reception area, we headed back down to the bar area ready to mix our second cocktail. Mark told us that this time he'd be watching us mixing and be taste testing each of our drinks and the person with the best cocktail concoction would win two nights in the citizenM hotel of their choice. Wowza! With hotels in Paris, Amsterdam and New York this was definitely a competition I wanted to win!

I decided to make another gin based drink, this time opting for classic Bombay Sapphire, a squeeze of lime juice, a few dashes of Angostura bitters and then topped up with ginger beer and garnished with a lime. I have to say, I was pretty pleased with how it came out, it was just the right balance of sweet and sour and really refreshing - I would totally buy this in a bar! Excitingly Mark agreed and I WON THE COMPETITION WAHOO! I still can't quite believe it! 

After a celebratory shot and a bit more of an explore of the trendy lobby (which also included finding a giant picture of Robbie Williams holding a glittery union jack thong - ooh I say!) it was time to skip home and tell my boyfriend that we would soon be staying in one of the coolest and most unique hotels I've ever had the pleasure of visiting! (I haven't planned which citizenM hotel I'll be staying in yet but I'll keep you posted!) 

I had such a great time making cocktails and exploring the citizenM London Bankside Hotel - thanks guys! I can't wait to try out citizenM first hand and give you an insider's view of what it's like to actually stay in one, as well as provide lots more photos of the actual bedroom area (and of course fill you in on what I get up to in the city I stay in!) **Squuuueeee all the excitement!!!!**

Have you stayed in a hotel like the citizenM London Bankside before? 

What would you mix in your perfect cocktail?  

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Lifestyle // Book Review - Dead Romantic by Ruth Saberton

If you're anything like me, you'll spend October swinging between being ridiculously excited for Halloween but also wanting it all to be over so you can officially get excited for Christmas! I basically just love having something to celebrate! So I literally hit the jackpot when the lovely Ruth Saberton sent me a copy of her latest novel Dead Romantic* which brings together the spooky mystery of Halloween and festive promise and excitement of Christmas. Perfect!

Dead Romantic tells the tale of Egyptologist Cleo Rose Carpenter who has no time for a social life, family life or any kind of life outside of the office as she buries her head so deeply in her work to avoid dealing with the grief of losing her mother on Christmas Eve 10 years ago. 

Cleo also has no time for a love life, but dwells on the kiss she had on the platform of her local train station with a stranger who comforted her the same night her mum passed away. Whilst she never got the name of the handsome guy with a guitar on his back, she did give him her number but never heard from him again. In the trauma of her mums death, Cleo instantly packed up her bags and spent several years in Cairo continuing her mother's and grandmother's research into a young Pharaoh boy named Aamon. Focused on her academia, Cleo had no time for Christmases of the future and totally missed the smash hit One Christmas Kiss released by brooding brother duo Thorne, which tells of Rafe Thorne's kiss with a stranger on a train platform one long ago Christmas Eve. Poor Rafe felt he'd met the love of his life, only to lose her number to the cold wind and snow straight after their encounter and never stopped dreaming he'd finally meet her again. His brother Alex promised he'd never stop helping him look for her.

Fast forward 10 years to one wet and windy London night, and Cleo has a narrow escape - falling over and luckily coming away with no more than a nasty bump on the head... a nasty bump on the head and the sudden ability to see ghosts! Cynical Cleo of course puts the appearance of ghost Alex Thorne (who died in an accident following an argument with brother Rafe) by her side down to being a hallucination as a side effect of her injury, however he slowly but surely manages to persuade her that she must reconnect with grieving Rafe who blames himself for Alex's death. 

Cleo struggles to balance her new found "gift", spotting spirits wherever she goes, with trying to beat off an arrogant academic in a fight for a promotion, as well as starting to deal with facing her own feelings, all whilst trying to save Rafe from himself. Her new ghostly gang helps her several times along the way. Could it be that the bump on the head is actually the best thing to ever happen to Cleo?

I really enjoyed Dead Romantic. It's unlike any other book I've read before, bringing in elements of the supernatural with the classic chick lit formula. As always, Ruth Saberton creates some amazing characters - all believable, likeable and identifiable.

Cleo was great fun to follow and I really empathised with her pain and anger dealing (or rather not dealing) with her mother's death. Like all Saberton's female leads, Cleo had me giggling at her witty one liners and also identifying with many of her character traits and observations. Following Cleo's journey and watching her grow and deal with her past was an absolute pleasure to read and really made me connect with her. I also loved the supporting female characters - outgoing flat mate Susie and nice but dim Primarni Queen work colleague Dawn, who both added even more laughs and fun to the novel.

Ruth also writes amazing men (remember Jonty in Escape for the Summer?!) Love interest Rafe Thorne is the classic dark, dangerous and devilishly sexy rock god who you can't really help but fancy! However it is his brother Alex who is really likeable (even though he's dead!) We get to meet Alex a lot earlier in the book than Rafe, and his cute sense of humour and desperation to make both his brother and Cleo happy is so endearing. On the other end of the scale is smarmy Simon Welsh, Cleo's dreamy but dastardly colleague, who just makes you just want to punch him on the nose and will have you screaming at Cleo not to trust him!

I really enjoyed the storyline and loved that it is set largely inside a London museum - it's like having a behind the scenes peek at the British Museum - very cool - and the perfect setting for some ghostly goings on! Ruth also makes Cleo's home town Taply-on-Thames sound like an absolutely picture perfect haven and I was quite upset to find that it's not a real village I could go and visit! 

Ruth Saberton has fast become one of my favourite authors and I would definitely recommend having a read of Dead Romantic. A few months ago I read Ruth's new summer read Escape for the Summer which I absolutely loved (read more about that here) and I've been looking forward to reading the Christmas sequel which will be out very very soon (I can't wait!) So it was really exciting to hear that Ruth had amazingly managed to fit another book in between the two! And as I said above, Dead Romantic is the perfect book to read for this time of year - it gets you nicely in the mood for Christmas whilst still  touching upon the ghostly goings on of Halloween. Spooktacular!

Dead Romantic is available to buy at Amazon now - go go go! 

Have you read any novels which are perfect for the Halloween season before?

*Many thanks to Ruth Saberton for sending me an ARC of Dead Romantic. All thoughts are honest and my own, for more information please see my Disclaimer Page.

Here's the official blurb:

What do you do if you come face to face with a ghost?

Put it down to a bump on the head and work stress if you’re a respected academic like Cleo Carpenter. With Christmas approaching, professional rivalry afoot and a best friend determined to interfere in her love life the strain is clearly starting to get to her.

Guilt-stricken and deceased, Alex Thorne is desperate to make amends with his brother, Rafe, a tortured musician trapped in a spiral of destruction. When an encounter with Cleo forges a link between them she becomes his only hope. So what if the only person who can see him is a sceptic?

As Cleo starts to doubt her sanity, the safe world she takes for granted crumbles around her. Setting out to regain control and prove once and for all ghosts don’t exist, she embarks on a journey of self discovery and surprise, learning that love really does defy science, logic and maybe even death itself…

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Midweek Manicure // Halloween / Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Nail Art

Happy (almost) Halloween Pickles!
Ooh I love this time of year - mostly as it means I get the chance to play around with lots of new nail art designs! Last year I put together lots of spooky looks for Halloween manis (check them out here) and this year decided to try out a new one with the help of some very jazzy (and utterly spooktacular) nail decals. As well as Halloween, the 31st October also marks the start of Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, when people honour the dead with elaborately decorated sugar skulls. I spotted these nail decals on eBay and thought they'd make a gorgeous manicure and give a super cute whilst still pretty spooky finger finish.

I absolutely love how they turned out! I started by painting two coats of my favourite white nail polish - Models Own Hyper Gel White Light and then carefully applied the nail decals over the top.

The final look is so pretty and so decorative, and a really cool look for Halloween / Day of the Dead celebrations. The white nail colour is the perfect base coat to set off the colourful lines of the skull.

The nail decals were so easy to apply and with a slick of clear top coat also last pretty well too. I love experimenting with nail art stickers and transfers as it's such a cheap, cost and time effective way of having some really intricate nail art. Can you believe these only cost me £1.50?!

What are your favourite nail art designs for Halloween?

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Friday, 24 October 2014

Beauty // Kim Kardashian Gold Perfume

Last year I reviewed Kim Kardashian's perfume Glam, which I had bought half price in Superdrug and was pretty impressed with. So when I saw another of her fragrances - Gold - on sale at half price, I thought I'd treat myself again!

If there's one thing the Kimye wedding showed us it's that Kim is one of the glitziest, most glamorous celebs around, and you can definitely see that from the packaging of the bottle! The same shape and style as Glam, Gold has (as you might have guessed) an exuberant gold finish which is kept (relatively) classy with black accents. Whilst the box and bottle were a nightmare to photograph (noooo reflection of me and my camera you are not wanted!) they do look quite pretty amongst the others in my perfume collection.

The back of the box says: 
Throughout the centuries gold has held a fascination that comes not only from it's undeniable beauty but it's immense value. Luxurious, sensual and rare. Kim Kardashian Gold is iconic, a true precious luxury captured in a new fragrance. Transcend ordinary with Kim Kardashian Gold.

Oohh I say!

So on to the smell...

I have to say, I really like it! It's quite strong when first sprayed but soon mellows out to a very pretty and quite sexy musky scent. It still has lots of floral undertones as you would expect for a Kimmie K offering (or any of the standard celeb perfumes really) but has a lot more depth than Glam and is perfect for a night out. It actually really reminds me of Vera Wang Princess Night (which I ADORE!) and at only £20 for a large 100ml bottle, is a snip of the price. Of course I did get this half price, and I'm not sure I would pay the full £40 for it (I'd rather go for the Vera Wang which has a much longer staying power). It is a great alternative though and I've taken to keeping it in my desk drawer for a quick spritz when heading out straight after work.

Have you tried any of the Kim Kardashian perfumes? 

What's your favourite celebrity scent?

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**WIN a Fabyouless beauty discount card**

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Midweek Manicure // Models Own Disco Pants

Is it just me or have Models Own been absolutely smashing it recently?! I swear every other week they announce a new collection launch and I am LOVING IT! Their latest looks are the Disco Pants range which went on sale in the Bottleshops on Saturday, and I managed to get my mitts on the sparkling sapphire blue Sound Factory and shimmering emerald green Paradise Garage.

The Disco Pants range is obviously inspired by the shimmery satiny tube leggings of the same name and they definitely have the same finish! The collection is made up of three metallic finishes - gold Copacobana (which would look incredible for the Christmas party season), pink Studio 54 and green Paradise Garage. The other two shades, blue Sound Factory and true purple Roxy are more glittery. I decided to try one colour from each side of the family and go for metallic sheen green and sparkling blingy blue.

First up let's look at Sound Factory. It's a really lovely blue shade, a bit lighter than it looks in the bottle, and has lots of small blue and silver glitter particles inside. A lot of my particles seemed to have sunk to the bottom but after a good roll of the bottle they re-disbursed a bit. The shimmers have a really pretty look on the nail (though are more subtle than I expected) and will look lovely for the upcoming party season.

Now on to my favourite of the two - Paradise Garage swoon! Just look at how shiny!!!! I have to say, metallic silk is not usually my favourite finish but this beaut is totally turning that opinion on it's head! It's a really gorgeous emerald green colour and the molten sheen is so eye catching. It really does look like disco pants! Emerald green is a key colour for AW14 and this is such a glitzy, glamorous way of wearing it.

My only major criticism of these two polishes is that they're a nightmare to remove! I was worried the glitter particles might make them quite pesky polishes but these bits whipped off really easily. The trouble came with major zombie fingers! (You know, where you just can't shift the blue or green tinge which stains the nail and entire skin surround and makes you look like an extra from The Walking Dead?!) be prepared to get through a lot of cotton pads getting your fingers completely free of these polishes!

What do you think of the new Disco Pants collection? Which of these two is your favourite?

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P.S - you can see some of my Halloween nail art looks here :D

Monday, 20 October 2014

Lifestyle // Mission Deli Wraps Our Super Soft Mission Challenge

I love sharing my weekly InstaLIFE round up posts with you all as I think it's really fun to have a good snoop into other people's worlds! Hey, what can I say, I'm nosy a lifestyle blogger! Those big softies at Mission Deli Wraps* have challenged me to join in their Our Super Soft Mission Challenge and share the special moments which made me go aaaah! So here's a little looksie into the recent events (w/c 6th October) which have made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside! Get ready, it's going to be totes emosh...

On the Monday it was my dad's birthday and it was so nice to get together with my family and celebrate! My dad is my absolute hero so I love having an excuse to make a fuss of him! I baked him a huge quadruple chocolate and espresso mousse layer cake and also bought him The Honorable Woman on DVD as he loves a good thriller series. We all all went out for an amazing Turkish meal near my parents house and I was laughing literally non stop at the hilarious stories we all seem to sprout when we're together! One of my favourite things to do when at my parents house is dig out old photos and I love this one of Curly and I - check out those power foreheads!!!

It was my friend at work's birthday this week too so we had a mini celebration during our team meeting with some adorable animal themed cupcakes. I went for the bumblebee one and look how cute it is! I'm very lucky to work in an office with people I can genuinely call my friends and not just colleagues and it's lovely we can get together and have little celebrations together. Aww it's getting soppy isn't it! 

On the Tuesday I was invited to a press evening at brand new pop up Swingers bar which is the amazing concept of a bar with a mini golf course inside! How cool is that?! I took my boyfriend Tony along as we've never played mini golf together before and after nearly 6 years together it becomes increasingly hard to find new experiences to share together! We had so much fun checking out the venue, drinking cocktails, eating delicious food and of course playing mini golf. I really loved having Tony at an event I'd been invited to because of my blog as it was great to bring two of my favourite things together. 

I was super excited to discover I'd reached 700 followers on Bloglovin squeeee! This might not be your typical super soft fluffy moment but certainly made me feel all emotional - particularly excited and grateful! I really love writing this little blog of mine and it makes me so happy and humbled to know other people read and enjoy it too! Thanks guys :D 

Other exciting blog news for me was becoming a Bloggers Love permanent VIB (Very Important Blogger) wahoo! I had the pleasure of being a VIB at Bloggers Fashion Week last month and I had so much fun. I have proudly uploaded my VIB badge onto my blog sidebar and it struck me how not only am I really excited and proud to be a VIB, but also how thrilled I am that writing my blog has taught me so many new skills, including some basic HTML coding and website building techniques. I love that my favourite hobby not only gives me some fab opportunities but also teaches me plenty of practical skills I can transfer to my actual day job. Oh all the soft feels for my blog! 

On the Friday night my boyfriend and I went to the Royal Albert Hall to see the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra present the music of John Williams. Oh em actual gee!!!!! John Williams is an absolute mastermind of music and has written some of the most wonderful movie soundtracks of all time. He's even been nominated for 49 Oscars! Everyone who knows me knows that Jurassic Park is my all time favourite film and I used to watch it every single day when growing up. One of my lifelong dreams has been to hear the theme tune played live and I finally got my wish. I had floods of (happy) tears streaming down my cheeks and a smile wider than a T-Rex's waterlogged footprint and I'm not sure I've ever clapped so hard in my life! It was so incredible to hear those famous notes played live and lots of my special childhood memories come flooding back.  Oh it's more emotional than when Dr Satler looks after the sick Triceratops! 

It wouldn't be a Super Soft Moments post without me going all gooey for London life. As you may be able to tell from reading my blog, I adore London and am always struck by how ridiculously beautiful it is. I loved how pretty the Natural History Museum looked all lit up in red with white fairy lights in the trees. It also made me think of Christmas which always makes me feel so excited to spend quality time with my friends and family and having an excuse to plan some fun and show the ones I love most how much they mean to me...only 9 weeks to go WAHOOO!

I hope you've enjoyed having a look at some of my Super Soft Moments! I really enjoyed taking part in the Mission Deli Wraps Our Super Soft Mission Challenge - it's always nice to take a step back and think about which special things make you go warm and fuzzy, and my family and friends always do it for me! 

What are your Super Soft Moments?

*Thank you so much to Mission Deli Wraps for inviting me to take part in the Our Super Soft Moments Challenge, and for sending me some Super Soft Original Wraps to help me celebrate the things that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

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