Friday, 29 May 2015

Health: Reusing Plastic Water Bottles? Why I Switched to Glass...

One of the health mantras hailed as the cure of all ailments is drinking plenty of water. We hear this advice over and over from health experts to celebrities bestowing their tips for glowing skin. Personally, I have always been someone who drinks a lot of water and while I try to be conscious of waste I have to admit that I often buy bottles of water while I am on the go. I know that these are bad for the environment so I do try to reuse them whenever I can and often keep them on my desk at work and refill a few times a day. However, after 2 rounds of stomach flu followed by a cold all within one month I was determined to do a little overhaul of my habits, as something was definitely not right!

As my husband is a doctor he is usually very dismissive of my (albeit non life threatening) ailments, but even he agreed that being ill so often given the fact I eat well, exercise and generally try to look after myself was not normal. As I read science at university we often discuss new articles at home so when he mentioned some studies on plastic water bottles it prompted me to think that I had really been trying to drink even more water to flush all the toxins out after being sick for most of the month. So I decided to have a quick look to see if any of this could be contributing…

First off I have to mention that there have been a number of hoax stories floating around the internet about water bottles giving you cancer, but these have no scientific basis – as summarised on the Cancer ResearchUK website.

There has been some concern regarding Bisphenol A (BPA) in bottles made of polycarbonate as it has been linked to numerous health problems. There is disagreement regarding BPA’s safety as some studies have shown correlation of higher levels of BPA and miscarriages, but this does not necessarily show causation. If you've noticed the little arrows stamped on plastic items with numbers inside, the number to look for here is 7. Although not all plastics labelled "7" contain BPA, it's still a good identifier, as are the letters "PC." Either way, I would prefer not to take the chance, especially as it’s easy to make the switch to naturally BPA free glass!

Other than the plastic itself I found out that bacteria multiply super fast in plastic water bottles, especially as their shapes (narrow spouts) make them hard to clean effectively. This isn’t necessarily because of the plastic, but as most water bottles are designed for single use their shape tends to make them perfect for bacteria to grow quickly.

I have therefore decided to switch to glass water bottles and have recently purchased an Apana glass bottle with a silicone mesh (from Tk Maxx ) that works perfectly! It looks great, is super easy to clean and holds a lot of water so I can stay safely hydrated. Let’s hope it helps!

What are your thoughts on plastics? Are you conscious of reusing plastic water bottles? I would love to hear you thoughts on this topic!!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Review: No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum

7 years after its first launch No7’s Protect & Perfect Serum has been reformulated to make it even more effective! Targeted at the first signs of ageing (20-35 age range) it promises to give you younger looking, more radiant skin in just 2 weeks. As you all know I always take my time testing out products and therefore don’t post as quickly following launch (or as often as other blogs) because I really want to use each product thoroughly before giving you my opinion!
I was sent the new No7 Protect & Perfect Serum as I was impressed by all the positive reviews on the website and wanted to see how this serum would work on my (late 20-something) skin. As well as targeting fine lines with Matrixyl 3000 Plus and peptides I was interested to see how it would function in helping to repair and protect my skin with its antioxidant complex, while keeping away blemishes using salicylic acid.

After two weeks of use I have to say that I haven’t noticed a huge amount of difference in my skin yet, but I can see that it looks smoother and more even toned. I also think that it has done a good job of keeping my skin clear as I had a few breakouts when I started using it and these have cleared up a little faster than usual! I have enjoyed using the serum as it has a light, gel like texture that feels comfortable on the skin. I like the fact it’s so light as my skin does tend to get oily throughout the day and this serum doesn’t leave any oily residue behind. I will definitely continue using it and will be sure to let you know if I see any dramatic changes!

The No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum can be purchased for £24.95 on the Boots website here (and they are currently running a 3 for 2 promotion across their skincare and bodycare range too)!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Wedding: Designing Your Cake (and eating it too)!

One of the most enjoyable parts of planning my wedding was undoubtedly designing our cake! There are three kinds of people in this world - those who don’t really get excited about cake, those who don’t even like cake (and may instead choose a ‘wedding cake’ made up of different types of cheese or pork pies *gasp*), or those (like me) who get giddy at the mere mention of cake, butter cream, frosting.. mmm!
As most of our wedding was pretty classic the cake was something that I wanted to get really creative with and make a unique feature. My idea was that cutting the cake would symbolise the end of the formal/ traditional part of the day and the beginning of the party! With all the speeches done everyone could relax and really have fun!! 
I consulted with a number of different cake designers to hear their ideas, taste the cakes (of course!) and get quotes for what I had envisaged. I think it is really important if you want an individual cake (rather than choosing a set cake from a portfolio) to meet with the designers and see their style. I was looking for someone who could create a showstopper, but in a sophisticated way that would be in keeping with the rest of our wedding. As well as making the cake itself I also wanted someone to design and put together a whole sweet table with cupcakes, cookies and other treats to make it a feature of the evening. 
The designers I met with were all fantastic in their own ways. There are so many amazing wedding bakeries in London that I thought it would be helpful to put together a mini-guide based on my experience:

Peggy Porschen – world famous, golden standard of wedding cakes! Stunning, classic cake designs, but definitely on the high end of the budget. Lots of designs to choose from, but customisation is expensive. Their sugar flowers are the best I have ever seen! 

Cakes by Krishanthi – lovely range of designs with lots of creative techniques used. Mid range and flexible with pricing, especially for cakes with less detail. 

Rosalind Miller – beautiful, unique designs to fit different themes. Mid to high end pricing depending on the level of customisation.

Little Venice Cake Company – breathtaking, grand designs, huge variety and experience. If your budget allows they can do anything! They also do great chocolate cakes!

Maisie Fantaisie – absolutely lovely! Cakes are on the more classic side, but all details are beautiful and intricate. Pricing at mid-level and lots of customisation available. 
While many of these designers had great ideas when I met Ceri of Olofson Design I immediately knew that I wanted her to make the cake for our wedding! Apart from being incredibly lovely Ceri is so creative, talented, hardworking and an absolute perfectionist. She understood exactly what I was asking for and described it to me a thousand times better than I could have ever put it myself. She designs every cake bespoke by working closely with the bride and groom to create something individual and completely unique. I remember when we first met she said she would feel bad ever copying a cake (or creating a catalogue of designs for brides to pick from in the way many other brands do) as it would feel like giving away a part of that couple. We had so much fun during the design process and Ceri was such a pleasure to work with as she is so genuinely passionate about cakes. Rather than giving me a precise quote she asked what my budget was and what I wanted and designed the cake and all the little extras to fit within it, which was a huge relief. After I had shown Ceri a heap of photos that had inspired me with accents of Rococo, Marie Antoinette, Faberge, English rose gardens and colour schemes she put together a special pinterest board with her ideas for the cake. 

I was so excited to see that many common themes were emerging and Ceri had used the multitude of images I had collected in such a clever way. She had even picked out details from our venue that would be mirrored in the cake such as the filigree from one of the rooms in Syon House (above). We added to this with a monogram that I had designed for use in our stationary and photobooth picture motifs. The last piece of the puzzle was to use a Faberge egg on a nest of fresh flowers instead of a traditional cake topper. She even made the egg as a mini replica of the Faberge eggs we gave to our guests as favours! Adorable!
Before seeing the first design of the cake I was so nervous as I had such high hopes, but the second Ceri gave me her beautiful watercolour drawing I was absolutely astounded at how well everything had come together and how she had incorporated so many aspects of our wedding into such a beautiful design. 
While Ceri is very much design orientated I can't forget to mention that she is an incredible baker and her flavour combinations are phenomenal. We had such a hard time choosing from all the delectable options on offer, but finally decided on:

- Madagascan vanilla cake with berry preserve and vanilla buttercream
- Vanilla chocolate marble with caramel buttercream and chocolate ganache
- Rose with raspberry buttercream and lemon curd
- Traditional fruit cake

We also had red velvet and white chocolate and raspberry cupcakes.

For the Anges de Sucre macarons we chose: Pistache Vera, Damask Rose, Raspberry Ripple, Cheeky Cazzamella and Fruit of the Orchid.
It took us almost a year to put everything together, but we had so much fun doing it! From my constant surfing on ebay for the perfect candy jars, bespoke sweetie bags and cupcake stands to the delicate Anges de Sucre macarons and gold dipped apples, which we had made as a compliment to the cake. Seeing the cake and full dessert table on the wedding day was definitely one of the highlights for me and undoubtedly worth all the effort.
Despite being 5 tiers high I can honestly say our guests loved how amazing the cake tasted (as well as how it looked). In fact, it had all disappeared in half an hour so I sadly only got to try one piece. After cutting the cake I went to get changed and twenty minutes later the cake (and the cupcakes etc.) was all but gone! I am so glad we saved the top tier and am very much looking forward to enjoying it on our anniversary in just over a month!!

If you are looking to have a showstopper of a cake at your wedding, or are simply bored of traditional cakes and want something quirky and unique I really recommend that you check out Ceri’s website. She is honestly the loveliest person and so immensely talented. She is always enthusiastic and happy to give her advice. Even when I couldn’t decide on the napkins (and emailed her far too much) she never once lost patience and always replied quickly with her expert opinion.

Ceri’s designs range from the super girly (like our cake) to really innovative art deco and gritty urban designs. She has so many techniques and styles at her disposal that I really do dare you to imagine something she can’t create!


Friday, 22 May 2015

Review: Ojon Rare Blend Tamer Wand

With the constantly unpredictable weather we have been having good hair days have been few and far between. Whether due to static, wind or humidity my hair has definitely been a challenge! I normally like to use as little product as I can on my hair, but having recently discovered the Ojon Rare Blend Tamer Wand I have been so impressed that it has immediately become a handbag essential.
This handy little frizz fix is perfect for on the go to smooth flyaways, baby hairs and split ends. With it's spooly it distributes just the right amount of product to secure the hair without leaving it feeling oily or too stiff. I also love the fact that it applies so quickly and effortlessly with the applicator, keeping your hand clean, so you don't have to fuss about with oils, serums or sprays.
The Ojon Rare Blend Tamer Wand can be purchased for £12.50 here.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Travel: Venice

I had dreamed of visiting Venice for such a long time so after a stressful few months I decided that we deserved a little treat and booked a long bank holiday weekend as an early birthday present for the hubby! As we had a BA companion voucher that we hadn't had a chance to use (and my weekly Friday 7pm conference call prevented us from flying in the evening) we ended up taking the earliest Saturday morning flight from City airport so we could have 2 full days in Venice before returning on Monday afternoon.
(The bridge of Sighs.. looks nothing like the bridge I walked over every day in Cambridge!)
I found a lovely apartment on airbnb that was owned by a local architect (you can check it out here).
It was really quirky and modern with innovative use of space; just perfect for our needs. I would definitely recommend this option as it is much more affordable than local hotels and gave us more privacy. We took full advantage of all the amenities in the kitchen... as well as the pull up bar after all those carbs!
There is so much to see in Venice so we spent our first day walking around Piazza San Marco, exploring the Basilica, Doge's Palace, the Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge, while finding lots of hidden gems!
 Inside St Mark's
 We had the best time exploring through all the lovely little streets. There is something to see around every corner!
On the second day we took a boat around a couple of the nearby islands. We explored Murano and learned all about the traditional glass making techniques. 
In the evening I had booked us a lovely table at Alle Corone, a wonderful restaurant near the Grand Canal. The food was amazing and the service made it even more special! We decided to take a boat back to our apartment. There is definitely nothing more romantic than seeing Venice at night!
 Rialto Bridge
 The Casino
We had such a wonderful time and I would love to return and explore some more soon! 

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