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What’s on: London

By January 24, 2020 INSPIRATION, Travel
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London is arguably one of the most activity filled cities in the world. There are numerous things to do all year round and February is no exception. If you want to shake off the last days of winter or you have kids who need entertaining for the half term school break, then here are a few ideas for things to do around the city.

 

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Imagine Children’s Festival, South Bank Centre, 12th-21st February

If you have kids  needing entertaining over the half term, then head on down to the South Bank Centre for their Imagine Children’s Festival. There are so many activities on offer ranging from interactive games, visiting authors and workshops, puppet shows, music and more. It really will be a feast for the senses and an opportunity for kids to really express their creativity and let their imaginations run wild. Book tickets ahead so you don’t miss out!

 

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Cirque du Soleil- Luzia Until 1st March

The world renowned circus is back for a dazzling Mexican themed show at the Royal Albert Hall until March 1, 2020. The tickets may be expensive but they are worth it to see this bright homage to Mexico’s flora and fauna, transporting you to a different realm through brilliant costumes, contortionists and acrobatics that will leave you feeling giddy and breathless.

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Heralding Spring, The Chelsea Psychic Garden’s, 25th January- 2nd February

To commemorate the opening of the gardens after its winter slumber, the beautiful Chelsea Physic Garden will reopen just in time for the blooming of their snow drops, one of the first signs of warmer weather to come. Walk their snowdrop trail with over 120 varieties of snowdrops which make for a beautiful, serene way to pass the afternoon. There are also workshops, talks and lots of other plant life to admire in the gardens so you may want to make it a whole day affair!

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Chinese New Year, Chinatown and all around London

Not strictly a February activity as this starts at the end of January,  the start of Chinese New Year 2020 (The year of the rat) from January 25th will bring a host of festivities marking the occasion all around the city but the most iconic place to take in the celebrations will be London’s China town. There you can take in the decorations and catch some lion dancing and also nip into a restaurant to enjoy some steaming dim sum. Catch the action on the 25th and 26th January, Gerard Street, Chinatown and Trafalgar Square and enjoy a host of food and activities over the month of February such as at the Museum of London Docklands, Chinese New Year Family Festival.

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BrewLdn, Brick Lane, 27th-29th February

The Old Truman Brewery will host the much anticipated independent Beer Festival, BrewLdn this February. Held over three days, you can sip on some of your favourite beers and find new lagers, ciders and craft beers. There will also be live music and street vendors with delicious food and with over 200 exhibitors this is an event that shouldn’t be missed.

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Winter Walks

By January 16, 2020 INSPIRATION, Travel, Uncategorized
15th JAN Winter Walks Blogpost 2

A winter walk at this time of year can be just the thing to invigorate you after a few months hibernating. On a crisp, bright day in the UK, there is nothing quite like the feeling of being bundled up warm while enjoying the beautiful natural landscape. If you’re not sure where to go for a walk, we’ve put together a few options ranging from a short stroll to a more challenging walk in the countryside to suit a range of walkers.

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Richmond Park, Richmond

If you are after a short walk without having to leave London, then Richmond Park is the perfect place for a relaxing walk with lots to see and land to roam. There are many routes to walk, taking in the vast oak and chestnut trees along the way and you will be sure to catch a glimpse of parakeet birds whizzing through the air in a flash of green. Best of all, when you need a rest, relax with a flask of hot cocoa while watching the numerous deer which graze freely around the park.

 

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Holkham Beach, Norfolk

With three miles of sandy beach, this is a special walk to take along a beautiful stretch of coastline. Enjoy the sound of the waves and feel the Atlantic wind dust the cobwebs away. If the tide is out you can walk out to the sea, enjoying the dunes and admire the ocean or if it is high tide, visit the lagoon that forms in a natural basin along the beach. You can chose to walk back along the beach or walk back through the route that cuts through the pinewoods.

 

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Hever Castle, Kent

If a walk with other attractions available is more to your taste, then a walk around the grounds of Hever Castle is ideal! Located in Edenbridge the beautifully manicured gardens are stunning at all times of the year, but a visit in the wintertime with the dramatic backdrop of the castle makes for impressive viewing. A visit to the Topiary walk and a birdwatching stroll around the lake is highly worth the walk! You can also pay a entrance fee to visit the Castle if you want a break from the cold!

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The New Forest National Park

A visit to the New Forest is a real treat, especially if you have family in tow. There are miles of car-free walking available and you are bound to run into the famous New Forest ponies at some point along your walk. There are numerous trails that can be followed which are signposted around the park. We recommend the Tall Tree trail which will take you through lovely alpine trees and give the best chance to spot deer between the trees!

 

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Loch Muick, Scotland

The natural beauty of Scotland is truly stunning and a walk alongside the waters of Loch Muick will demonstrate this clearly. There is a circular walk around Loch Muick which takes in the Glas Allt Shiel waterfall and allows the chance to see wild red deer, red squirrels and the snow-covered peaks of Lochnagar. You might also see some salmon in the loch so keep your eyes open! If you are feeling very cold after your walk, why not include a visit to nearby Royal Lochnagar Distillery afterwards to try their malt whisky range- it will be sure to warm you right up!

 

 

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Winter Reads

By January 10, 2020 INSPIRATION
9th JAN Winter Reads 2

During cold, dark January days, an enduring pastime is to snuggle under a blanket with a warm drink and a good book. Luckily there are so many to choose from! If you are looking for some inspiration for what to read that befits this chilly winter, we’re here to help. We did a poll among our staff and here are a selection of our favourites to read perfect for this time of year!

 

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1. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

An epic story that opens on a dark and stormy night when Walter Moody comes to town to find his fortune in New Zealand’s South Island. He comes upon a secret meeting and from there we weave through a series of inexplicable stories including, a wealthy man vanishing and a prostitute attempting suicide. Through these stories, we get a fascinating look into the lives of 19th century folk. Catton’s storytelling transports you into the Gold Rush era with such ease, it could be a storytelling from present day. A long one but worth every page!

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2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

You may well have heard of The Goldfinch by this same author, which received the Pulitizer Prize for Fiction in 2014, but in this post we want to shine a light on her other piece of work, The Secret History. The novel centres around a group of college friends who hold a dark secret about a murder. Told in the vain of a Greek tragedy, Tartt magnificently navigates themes of morality and tragedy with ease and elegance and makes this a rich and wholly absorbing read.

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3. A Little Life by Hana Yanagihira

We are absolutely obsessed with Hanya Yanagihara’s emotional, heart-wrenching novel. No other book sparked more discussion than this one did. The story focuses around the lives of four college friends and travels with them over the years in New York. Through all their careers, loves, trials and heartache, their story pivots around love and loyalty to Jude, their mysterious and deeply hurting friend. The characters are written with such depth that it is impossible to not come to care for them and we all felt a sense of sadness when that last page was turned.

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4. Welcome to the Goddamn Ice cube by Blair Braverman

Here’s a book to read that will leave you feeling grateful that winter will soon be over! Braverman chronicles her time as a dog-sledding tour guide in the Arctic in a brutal environment of snow and ice. As hard as her days were working within such an extreme environment, her descriptions of the landscape and the people ultimately read as a much treasured experience. The physical and mental fortitude of a young woman described in this novel  truly inspires you to go out and chase dreams and challenge yourself! Perfect for the armchair traveller!

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5. In the Midnight Room by Laura McBride

A beautiful novel about the interconnected lives of four women, each of whom experiences a life-changing moment at a classic Las Vegas casino nightclub.  The storytelling is profound and moving and is testament to those serendipitous events that lead us down unexpected paths. By the end of the novel, the women feel more like people you know than characters on a page- they get into your head and stay there long after you have closed the book. 

 

 

 

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How to keep your New Year’s resolutions

By January 3, 2020 INSPIRATION
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A new year and a new decade has begun and with it comes new hopes and aspirations for the year ahead! It is a traditional point of reflection and an opportunity to contemplate all that you have held on to and also what you may no longer need. New year’s resolutions are infamous for being short lived and this can often lead to a feeling of disappointment and distress at a lack of progress. This year we encourage you to take a simpler and kinder approach to your new year’s resolutions with some easy tips to help you achieve success! 

Keep your resolutions list short and simple

By far one of the best ways to keep resolutions is to keep them simple and to not have too many of them. One meaningful resolution can make a much stronger impact than making 10 resolutions that will be harder to stick to. Also when your resolutions are straightforward they are much easier to implement vs a complicated resolution with multiple parts and interpretations. 

Make achievable resolutions

There is no point in making goals and resolutions that are completely unrealistic. If you have struggled to keep up with your resolutions, perhaps this year is the time to reflect on making ones which are achievable and in a timeframe that is manageable. For example, perhaps one of your resolutions is to lose 60 pounds by March and to go from not exercising at all to exercising 7 days a week. This resolution is possible but it is quite an extreme change in lifestyle which means there is more chance that you won’t keep up with this resolution. Making unachievable resolutions, sets you up to fail and will leave you feeling disheartened and more likely to give up. Instead create achievable resolutions which are realistic and take into account your status now. These will lead to more chances of success and motivate you to keep going with your aim through the year.  

Tell others about your resolutions and goals

Once you have shared your resolutions with others, there is an added element of accountability and responsibility to keep going with a resolution for the year. Ask your friends and family to follow up with your progress throughout the year and don’t be afraid to reach out to them when you need some encouragement. Sharing both the good and the bad parts of your resolution journey can be an incredibly motivating factor in keeping resolutions. 

Accept that failure happens

There will be occasions when you go off track. It is inevitable that things will come up in life that may lead to you not keeping your resolutions. Awareness of this is a tool to accept that these things happen and to keep going. Be kind to yourself and try to see these setbacks as a part of the process and carry on. 

Reward yourself

Things going well? Reward yourself. It is important to celebrate small milestones as you progress with your resolutions to keep feeling motivated and as a reminder of how far your have come. The rewards can be as small or large as you like, from simply reflecting on doing well with a friend to buying yourself that much sought after bottle of perfume. Remember that resolutions involve looking at the good days just as much as looking at the ones needing improvement!

Imagine your future self

It may help to spend a little time each month to imagine what life would look like when you have achieved your resolutions.  This is a fantastic way to stay motivated and keep a firm grip on why you started with a particular resolution to begin with. While imagining yourself meeting all your resolutions, take some time to add the details of what you would be doing, how you feel once the resolutions in your life are completed and also significantly, what new paths and opportunities would open up if all your resolutions were achieved? 

We hope these tips are helpful for sticking with your resolutions this year. Remember to strive for a balance between discipline and self-compassion. No endeavour worth attempting is ever a straight and simple line so embrace the ups and downs as part of the experience.

We hope 2020 will be a wonderful year for you!

 

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Easy Gift Wrapping ideas

By December 12, 2019 EVENTS, IN THE MEDIA, INSPIRATION
12 DEC Wrapping 35

Today’s post is brought to you by our graphic designer, Alicia, also known as the Queen of DIY. If you love buying Christmas presents but hate having to wrap them, her tips on gift wrapping will be just what you need to create gifts that are so beautiful they won’t want to open them!

 

Alicia

Hi Everyone,

If I had to give one piece of advice when wrapping presents it would be to not get too worried about it. I would say the majority of people are just glad to be receiving a gift and won’t be too critical of your wrapping. Having said that, it is very nice to receive a beautifully presented gift, so I’ve tried to focus on a few ways to approach gift wrapping that will hopefully have a little something for everyone’s tastes and needs.

General tips on gift wrapping

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Choose quality wrapping paper to avoid rips and tears to the paper. Thicker paper tends to be more durable.

I recommend using your imagination and go one step further than just wrapping paper. An extra touch like ribbon, twine, string, feathers, or tiny ornaments can add lots of texture and interest to your wrapped gift. The possibilities are endless but adding these items can elevate your gift from an ordinary looking gift to something quite special.

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Image from: Half Baked Harvest

If you’re using tape, let it only be clear adhesive tape. Nothing is worse than a gift wrapped with brown tape!

Use natural elements

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One of my favourite things to do when gift wrapping is to incorporate natural elements into the wrapping. I find this to be a very pretty, inexpensive way to prepare gifts. Dried leaves, acorns or sprigs of fir and holly give such a beautiful touch to a present. If using these items I tend to stick with simple, plain wrapping paper so that the natural elements really stand out. To make it extra Christmasy, I often include dried fruit and spices such as dried oranges and cinnamon as they give off such a warming, cosy scent.

Do the world some good and recycle

As lovely and festive as Christmas is, it is also a time of huge waste and consumerism. An good way to tackle this is to be creative and recognise that there are lots of ways to reuse items in your home to create beautiful wrapping for your gifts.

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• Newspaper is one of the best examples of this. Collect old newspapers you have lying around the house and use this to replace traditional wrapping paper. If you want to spruce it up a bit, you can paint shapes on to the newspapers in traditional red or gold colours and wrap it with ribbon.

Box-Wrap

• Fabric scraps are another excellent and novel gift wrapping idea. Old cushion cover fabric or printed scarves can make the most beautiful wrapping. Wrap up your gift in the fabric and tie with ribbon or why not delve further into the world of craft and try out the Japanese art of fabric wrapping called Furoshiki.

 

Dealing with awkward shapes

Sometimes your presents don’t come in the most wrapping conducive shapes, for example a sports equipment or a teddybear. One of the easiest ways to deal with those oddly shaped presents is to use a box. Any box will do, ones with lids tend to be nicer, but even a cardboard box would work because you can decorate the outside. Some ideas for decorating a plain box could be, wrapping the entire box with wrapping paper orwrapping  it with a huge ribbon which will make such a statement under a Christmas tree.

 

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If you’re determined to that wrap that present with wrapping paper, there are lots of tutorials on the web showing step by step instructions to some of the most common, awkward shapes. I found this website helpful in the past.

Well, I hope that these ideas have been helpful and given you some new ideas to add to your gift wrapping skills for Christmas and beyond.  Giving gifts is an act of love and care for people in your life and it is so nice to create a moment of pleasure and enjoyment for another when they receive a beautifully wrapped gift. Good luck with the wrapping!

Happy holidays to you all!

Alicia xx

 

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Winter Recipes

By November 15, 2019 Editor's Picks, INSPIRATION
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When the darkness settles in for much of the cold weather months, food can be a soothing and revitalising source of comfort. It can also be an excellent way to keep the body in tip top shape to fend off the winter bugs that make us all miserable with colds and flus. Below are a few of our favourite recipes to see us through the winter months. We’ve chosen a mixture of recipes that are known for their warming qualities but are also great for nutrition and diet. If you try out any of the recipes, do let us know in the comments section below.

 

 

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1. Heart warming lentil and sweet potato soup

There is nothing quite like a warming soup to have on a cold, winter’s evening. The sweet potato and lentil pairing makes for a filling meal while the spices and chilli will definitely bring the heat into your mid winter’s night.

  • 1 cup sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 ½ cups green or brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 ½ teaspoon coriander
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsps curry powder
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (leave out if preferred)
  • ½ teaspoon paprika,
  • 1 tsp tumeric turmeric
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  •  2 ½ cups baby spinach, roughly chopped

Add the sweet potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, bell pepper, garlic, lentils, spices, and 6 cups of broth into a large pot. Bring the pot to a boil then put on the lid and cook  for 1 1/2 hours on a low heat setting.  Ensure the lentils are thoroughly cooked. To thicken the soup, spoon out half the contents and place in a blender. Allow to cool and then blend till smooth. Add the pureed contents back into the pot and stir until well combined and thoroughly heated. Add the chopped spinach and serve piping hot for a  soup that feels real good for the soul! You can add a dollop of greek yoghurt to cut some of the spices and serve with a piece of chunky bread.

 

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2. Beef and Guiness Stew with Dumplings

The ultimate in comfort food, this stew brings all the elements of the countryside to your home. The dumplings are soft and delicious and complement the beef perfectly.

  • 1kg beef, cut into 1.5 inch chunks
  • 200g onions chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, chopped into 1 inch chunks
  • 3 tbsp plain flour
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 500ml Guinness
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 125gm self-raising flour
  • 60g beef suet
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 100 gm cheddar cheese grated
  • 1/4 cup parsley roughly chopped

To make the dumplings, mix together the flour, cheese and suet making sure they are well combined. Create a well in the middle of your mixture, adding the egg yolk, parsley, and a pinch of pepper. Add in 2 tbsp of water, and mix all ingredients together gently into a dough. The dough needs to be firm yet can still be moulded easily into eight dumplings. Add a little more water if needed. When you have your dumplings, cover and place in the fridge to cool.

Heat your oven to 160C. Pour some oil into a pan and lightly brown the meat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and stir well. Stir flour and seasoning into the mixture then follow with adding the stock and Guinness. When the liquid has started to gently bubble, pour everything into a casserole dish, cover and place in the oven for 2 and 1/2 hrs or until the meat is tender. The dumplings should be placed on top of your stew about 25 minutes before the casserole should come out. Leave the lid off for the last 10 minutes so the dumplings brown nicely.  Serve this dish piping hot!

 

 

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3. Lamb Tagine

Succulent lamb paired with the sweetness of apricots and dates will leave your mouth watering for more.

  • 2½lb lamb shoulder, in 2 inch cubes
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves  crushed garlic
  • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 100gm dried apricots roughly chopped
  • 50gm raisins
  • 50gm dates roughly chopped
  • 85gm of chopped almonds
  • 3 cups lamb stock
  • 2 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped
  • black pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp tumeric
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Heat some oil in a casserole dish and brown the lamb cubes well then set aside. In a frying pan, lightly sauté garlic, onion and carrots until golden brown.  Stir in the spices and tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Pour these ingredients back into the casserole dish together with the lamb adding the dates, apricots and raisins. Pour over the stock, stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Place a lid over the dish and cook in the oven for 1 hr or until the lamb falls apart with a fork. Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and almonds on top. If desired, this dish goes well with a serving of couscous.

 

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Glogg

A delicious, sweet and aromatic drink which will warm your insides and bring peace and comfort as the aroma of spices wafts through your house.

  • 1 sweet orange
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 200g  sugar
  • 17 cardamom pods
  • cloves
  • 5 star aniseed
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3 slices peeled ginger
  • 150ml vodka
  • 50g  sultanas & 50g flaked almonds for garnish

In a large pot, pour in your bottle of red wine and add the zest of an orange along with the sugar, ginger and spices. Allow to simmer on a low heat, being careful to not let the liquid come to the boil. After 10 minutes, stir in the vodka and juice of the orange. Serve warm in a mug with flakes almonds and sultanas as garnish if desired.

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