Monday, 9 July 2018

The Cow Hollow Hotel, Manchester

There are few things I enjoy more than a good hotel, and discovering new places to stay is one of my favourite pastimes.
My Mum and I were in Manchester a couple of weeks ago for a girly night away, and while there we stayed at the newly-opened Cow Hollow Hotel; and boy is this place the dream!
This boutique hotel is nestled in the Northern Quarter, only a stones throw from Piccadilly Station and is a converted warehouse; which is evident from the high ceilings and exposed redbrick walls. 
It's a really unusual hotel in that the concept is simplicity; the rooms (there are only 16 so it feels quite cosy) are highly equipped with pretty much everything you can think of including Netflix, hairdryer and straighteners (so handy as you don't have to bring your own) and even earplugs by the bed to drown out the traffic noise outside. 
The attention to detail is fantastic with visually stunning decor and an eclectic, hip vibe. The owners are well travelled and have taken inspiration from a variety of different cultures which has resulted in a mishmash of styles that blend together really well; from the Moroccan-style lanterns to the French-Chateau flowers and up-cycled furniture and fashionable copper drinks menus.
The bar was well stocked with a huge array of cocktails, wines, craft beers and spirits and friendly, knowledgeable staff available to answer any questions or WhatsApp (yep thats right, you don't even need to get out of bed in this place to phone Reception!) 
The bedrooms are small but as everything you could need is provided there really isn't much need for them to be any bigger. The comfortable bed, modern rainfall shower, high-end REN toiletries and continental breakfast (in bed) consisting of granola, yoghurt, fresh fruit, coffee and juice are all simple but highly effective touches that made the stay feel even more relaxed and easy.
To top it all, the hotel offers free prosecco and nibbles in the evening to encourage the guests to mingle. They also leave milk and cookies in reception for guests to help themselves to before bed (we missed out on this as we were out for the evening though)
The hotel has recently been voted #1 in a survey of new places to stay in Manchester and it's a hidden gem that definitely won't stay hidden for long!

Have you stayed in the Cow Hollow?


Sunday, 17 June 2018

Hallelujah Hair Oil

I truly do have a love/hate relationship with my hair. 
As a general rule of thumb, no matter what I do with it it tends to look a bit like a birds nest. Over the years I've tried countless products that have promised to give me the hair of my dreams with no avail, as try as I might, it always looks as flat as a pancake.
So being ever the hair optimist, when Forest & Shore* contacted me to ask if I would be interested in trying their Hallelujah Hair Oil I jumped at the chance. 
Not only are Forest & Shore 100% natural and organic, their products are completely free of any pesky synthetic ingredients AND they don't test on animals - all of which is good in my book. 
The Hallelujah Hair Oil promises to repair dry, damaged locks (which if you're anything like me, years of bleaching and colouring has left my hair on the brittle side) while smoothing the follicles to leave your hair feeling silky and conditioned. 
It contains oils such as coconut, lavender (two of my favourites), rosemary, olive, sesame and arnica so it smells like an absolute dream as well as being packed full of goodness.
It can be used either post -wash before blow drying, or left on overnight for a more intensive condition. I've tried it both ways and found that my hair feels smooth and shiny without feeling weighed down like some oils do.
From an aesthetic point of view, the bottle certainly looks pleasing to the eye and the packaging gives you the feeling the product is far more expensive than its £14 price tag. Being glass it's also much more environmentally friendly and I think it's great that more and more companies are moving away from plastic. A little goes a long way and for fine hair like mine, one or two pipettes full is ample and barely makes a dent in the bottle!
Have you tried any Forest & Shore products?

This item was kindly gifted to me for review but all opinions and views are my own.


Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Summer Holiday Plans: Choosing The Right Swimwear

It's hard to imagine it now, as I sit typing this dressed in a onesie and thick fluffy socks while the rain hammers down on the window, but it's actually coming up to summer holiday season.

As soon as it gets to this time of year, my mind starts wandering to thoughts of sun, beaches, light evenings, sunsets and cocktails - and I'm SO ready for summer now!

This year I'm hoping to do a couple of city breaks as opposed to a week-long holiday, and I've already been thinking about my holiday wardrobe. One thing I've been in dire need of is some new swimwear, and I firmly believe that one good investment piece can cover all different ranges of holidays. 
These days I'm definitely more of a one-piece girl (as much as I love a good bikini) and I tend to favour something simple but flattering. I also wanted something versatile enough to look good in a resort, poolside, on a beach or even in a hot tub or spa/pool when I'm not travelling.

With all these things in mind, I found what I needed on UK Swimwear*  as they have a huge range of items to suit all tastes, sizes and price ranges. I  ended up going for the Gottex Profile Stargazer High Neck Swimsuit as it ticked all my boxes; simple, flattering (with added tummy control for indulging in tasty local foods) and comfortable, but with the low cut front and detailed racerback helping it not to be too sensible.
Because no-one wants to be too sensible on holiday after all.

Do you have any summer travel plans?
What do you look for in a swimsuit?

I was very kindly gifted my swimsuit from UK Swimwear but all views and opinions are my own. 

Saturday, 3 March 2018

The Hardest Thing About Being Single In Your 30s

The irony isn't lost on me that I'm writing this on a Saturday night, while home alone.

I've been mostly single now for around 18 months, of course I've dated in that time but I haven't been in a serious committed relationship since the tail end of 2016 now (and even thats debatable..) and it definitely has both its upsides and downsides, as with anything else. 
The dating game seems to change on an almost monthly basis and for most of us, it's pretty exhausting, not least because men seem to hold all the cards these days. 
But the dating do's and don'ts are a whole different ball game, and that isn't really what this post is about. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be single in your 30's, and the one thing I keep coming back to is this: it's pretty rubbish not having friends. 
I do of course have friends, and I'm very lucky to have several very good friends, but these friendships are now totally different to how they were when I was in my 20's. 

When I think about my life as it is now it doesn't feel empty. 
I have a career I've worked hard for, I've travelled, I have social plans at least every week, I have a loving family and I've finally achieved the goal I've been aiming for for the best part of a decade - I'm a homeowner. And I've done it all on my own. 

However: at seminal parts throughout my life the one thing that's always been consistent is having a strong network of female friends around me. 
Friends who have been there to pick me up after a break-up, to cheer me on when I've accomplished something, to offer positive and constructive advice, to tell me I'm ace when its the last thing I feel, to sit around binge-watching Hollyoaks with on a Sunday morning after a night of getting dressed up, dancing and drinking cocktails. 
Friends who are always free to meet for a coffee, friends who are always available to join you on a weekend away. Just friends.

Throughout my 20's I was part of a close-knit gang of 6. Not all of those friendships have lasted, both down to circumstance and down to the fact that ultimately one or two were downright destructive so I'm not attempting to look at them through rose-tinted glasses - but in essence what I miss is that feeling of being a team, that feeling of female solidarity.
I'm still lucky enough to be surrounded by some fantastically strong and loyal friends, but our lives are now so profoundly different that try as they might they simply can't relate to the obscene hornet's nest that modern dating is. I don't have any single friends who want to go out on a Saturday night, and I can't say I blame them.

For me those female friendships have provided me with something that no relationship has ever done. I think I want marriage and kids (or at least the wedding) but the intricacies of day to day married life holds less appeal than my own single lifestyle does in lots of ways. I've also occasionally struggled with my maternal instincts and wondered deep down if I'm really cut out for it.

I like my life, I do. I love that my flat is done to my own taste, I love that I can lie in on weekends. I love that I have the freedom to go wherever I want, whenever I want. 
None of these things are negatives. 
But do I miss those times? Absolutely.


Monday, 1 January 2018

Reflecting Back On 2017

Happy New Year!

Now that 2017 is behind us and we welcome in 2018, I seem to find myself once again in a philosophical mood. 
Looking back over the year, and seeing how far I've come in 12 months has made me reflect on many things, including how the whole year seems to have flown by in the blink of an eye!
As with any year, there have been highlights and low points, but all in all I think it's been a pretty good year for me and I definitely welcome in the year feeling wiser, more experienced and more accomplished than I did back in January. 

Here's a little retrospective photo diary down memory lane:

2017 was a pretty good year travel-wise for me, I managed to go on 3 trips abroad, including a couple of UK staycations as well as several day trips. 
The feeling of wanderlust seems to be deeply imbedded in me, and I never feel quite myself unless I've managed to go on holiday and discover somewhere new; after all, adventure is good for the soul.
In July I went to Porto, which had been on my wishlist for quite some time. I absolutely loved the laid-back atmosphere, the fact the sleek tiles contrasted so well with the crumbling aged mismatched buildings, the hidden alleyways, the buskers, the smell of freshly caught seafood in the air and the bustling city centre. It's an amazing city and one I'd highly recommend.
Next, in September came Lisbon (to carry on with my Portuguese theme). Again - it was filled with interesting architecture, including the strange little fairytale castle town of Sintra, which was my personal highlight. If I'm honest Lisbon itself held less appeal, but the neighbouring villages of Cascais, Estoril and the aforementioned Sintra were definitely worth visiting.
Finally - I jetted off to my second home of Nice in October. Nice has always held a special place in my heart, and always makes me feel like I'm perfectly at home the minute the plane wheels hit the tarmac. This short break was to celebrate my birthday when I felt like I needed a few days away to relax and organise my thoughts, and as ever the beautiful city did the trick.

The last 6 months seems to have spun by in a whirlwind of days out, festivals, local exploring, making new friends and weekends away. I celebrated my best friend's wedding with her as her Maid of Honour which was an incredibly beautiful and emotional day. She also moved away to start a new job in Yorkshire, so I had a couple of trips up to see her and got to finally try the legendary champagne afternoon tea in Betty's. I also met loads of new people, ticked Festival No.6 off my bucket list and last but not least - became a homeowner!
I also grew in confidence, fought my corner in work and won, dipped my toe back in the dating pool and dyed my hair pink.

Seeing live music has always been a passion of mine, and I've been lucky enough this year to experience plenty of that. In May I saw KT Tunstall who was possibly one of the best - and most inventive - live acts I've ever had the opportunity to see. In June my Mum fulfilled one of her bucket list moments by seeing Robbie Williams as I bought her tickets for her birthday. He put on an incredible show and in the aftermath of the shocking Manchester Arena terror attack, the positive attitude of solidarity in Manchester was quite sobering. In July I saw Bryan Adams who rocked my socks off (wasn't expecting that but my god the man still has it!) before going to Festival No.6 in September and seeing Rag n Bone Man, The Bootleg Beatles with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Arab Strap and The Flaming Lips in the beautiful surroundings of Portmeirion.
In November I FINALLY got to see The Killers which has been a massive goal of mine for the last decade (they were AMAZING!) as well as seeing a childhood favourite - Steps and The Vengaboys, which was one of the campest and most fabulous shows I've ever been to!

Christmas was quiet and family-filled, and last night I saw in the New Year with good friends, and the remnants of a nasty virus that's been plaguing me since Boxing Day.
I'm now more than ready to move onto 2018 and see what new challenges and experiences are in store for me, which is a pretty wonderful feelings.

Bring on 2018!

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