Friday, 16 August 2013

Meet Boudicca (My Beautiful Pashley Princess Sovereign)

Since moving to London, one of the things I've missed the most has been cycling. When I lived in York, I cycled to and from work most days, and would often take long weekend cycles along country paths. However, the fear of London roads and a consistently lengthy commute means I ended up selling my bike not long after I moved to London, throwing £100 or so at TFL each month for the joy of using their "services".

I feel it's important to introduce you to my old bike first - she was my 2nd bike, my 1st being a battered 60s shopper from York Bike Rescue. The 2nd bike was a Raleigh Caprice, also from the York Bike Rescue project and she did me a good few years. I sold her to a friend, who's recently sold her to another friend. It's good to know that she's still loved and used and enjoying life on the roads. I always feel a bit bad that I never gave her a name.

But now, there's a beautiful new girl in my life. My new job has a shorter commute and cycling is a viable option. It should also save me plenty of money and give me a wee bit of a fitness boost. I spent a lot of time researching which bike to go for, but in the end my heart guided me and I went with a Pashley Princess Sovereign (which I'll be paying for for the next few years thanks to the Pay4Later option at Urban Cyclery). 

Pashley Princess Sovereign

I went with the Pashley Princess Sovereign because she had everything I wanted - a strong and sturdy steel loop frame, ding dong bell, lugged frame, dress guards so that my long autumn skirts don't get stuck, hub brakes, 5 hub gears, a full chain case to stop me from being covered in mud when it rains, a beautiful wicker basket, dynamo lights, a pannier rack and a snazzy integrated rear wheel lock for an additional element of safety. It's love, for sure.

Pashleys are by no means cheap, but they're beautiful and incredibly well made (and still made in Stratford Upon Avon). And why Boudicca? Partly because Boudicca is somewhat of a hero of mine, but also because despite the fact that this is very clearly a femmey bike, she's also pretty strong, hardworking and sturdy. I wanted a bike that I'd feel safe on, and she's definitely that. 

I'm looking forward to regaling you with tales of my adventures as a cyclist in London. I'm already a bit bike obsessed, so there's be details of rides, bike accessory reviews (I'm looking forward to sharing my helmet choice with you!) and various bits of chit chat about my new found love on the blog too.

Do you cycle? What's your bike of choice?
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Monday, 5 August 2013

Budget Eats: Meal Plan 1


Radio silence is taking a wee break as I'm finally through the stress of job hunting (which means I have a new job - hurrah!). I don't know about you, but summer seems to have kicked my wallet a wee bit. I think it's because I'm more inclined to go out and about and meet people for drinks. Which is lovely, but it means that I'm already looking at my bank account with a mild amount of fret and worry (although part of that is due to buying myself a new bike but *shush* more about her another day).

Anyway, on Twitter yesterday I mentioned that I'd managed to plan meals for a week for 2 for around £15 (lunch & dinner - breakfast is always gluten free cereal & almond milk) and a few people seemed interested so I thought I'd share. Lunches will be leftovers, either from the day before or from the 2 big batch meals (soup & rice salad) at the start of the week. I say around £15 because I'm aware I'm not taking the cost of stock, herbs & spices into account, but I'd say at the very, very most this would be £20.

I shop locally, and I'm lucky enough to have a lovely, friendly greengrocers nearby. The veg for this came to £9.28 (including 3 fresh chillis, garlic, fresh ginger, fresh parsley and a cheeky blood orange). I understand that if you have to use your local supermarket, it might not come in quite as cheap. I really do recommend trying to find a good local greengrocers if you can, because they're often cheaper and allow more flexibility in terms of how much you buy of each ingredient.

I'm not giving full recipes, just a basic overview. (although if there's anything you'd really like me to go into detail with then let me know). There's a big stock of herbs & spices in my cupboard - again, I buy the cheapest bulk versions possible. So, without further ado, here's the meal plan for this week:

Sunday evening (4 portions for dinner + 3 portions left over): 
Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup: 6 medium carrots, 1 v large sweet potato, 1 medium onion, 5 cloves garlic, 1 red chilli, 1 inch fresh ginger, cumin, basil, oregano, thyme, za'tar, paprika, ground coriander, S&P, 1 litre gf chicken stock
(Roast carrots & sweet potato until softish. Fry off onion, garlic, chilli & ginger, add roast veg & herbs/spices, add stock. Simmer for 25+ minutes. Blend, adding more water if necessary)

Monday (and a good few lunches):
Massive Rice Salad: 400g rice (cooked & cooled), 400g tuna, 1 red pepper, 1 cucumber, 4 big tomatoes, bunch of spring onions, flat leaf parsley, 4 tbsp mayo, juice of 1 lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil, chilli flakes, S&P, za'tar
(Based on this recipe

Spinach and potato curry: 1 large bunch spinach (stalks removed), 500gish (I have no idea I don't weigh things) new potatoes, 1 medium red onion, 3 garlic cloves, 1 red chilli, 1 inch ginger, garam masala, ground coriander, cumin, S&P, tumeric, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 carton chopped tomatoes, 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
(Chop potatoes into quarters, par boil, drain. Chop spinach, cook in small saucepan with 2 tbsp water until wilted - drain & cool. Fry onion, garlic, chilli & ginger, add potatoes, add spinach, add tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with yoghurt)

Mediterranean Veg Stew & Rice: 1 aubergine, 1 courgette, 1 carton chopped tomatoes, 1 medium red onion, 3 cloves garlic, borlotti/butter beans, rice, paprika, oregano, basil, za'tar, smoked paprika, S&P, 2 tbsp olive oil
(Chop everything, Fry onion & garlic. Add other veg & beans. Add herbs. Add tomatoes. Simmer for 25 minutes. Cook rice. Serve)

Vegetable Chilli: 1 medium red onion, 10 mushrooms, 1 red pepper, 1 tin black/kidney/borlotti beans, 1 carton chopped toms, rice, 1 red chilli, 3 cloves garlic, paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, 2 squares basics dark chocolate, S&P, 1/2 tsp veg boullion, glug of red wine leftover from a party, possibly a bit of cheese if the budget will stretch, natural yoghurt if needed, squeeze of tomato puree
(Chop everything, Fry onion, chilli & garlic. Add other veg & beans. Add herbs & spices & chocolate. Add tomatoes. Simmer for 25 minutes. Cook rice. Serve.)

Leftovers & pasta: Whatever's left in the fridge, pasta.
(Roast whatever veg is left in the fridge. Mix it with pasta. Maybe add some cheese if I can stretch to it)

I don't really do things very exactly, hence why spices etc are just names without measures. Experiment. What works for me flavourwise might not work for you. Use these as a jumping point. This is not the world's most exciting or balanced diet I'm sure but it's cheap, relatively healthy, gluten free and filling.

Let me know if this is useful for you. I'm more than happy to share these every week if it helps!

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Adamina Day Spa Review


I've had this week off work and I decided I very much deserved a lovely treat to myself, so I figured a trip to a Spa would be lovely! Initially, I was planning on getting a Lush Synaethesia massage, but in the end I settled on the Tranquility Ritual from Adamina Day Spa in Kensington.
adamina day spa reception

As long as you don't walk the wrong way out of High Street Kensington tube station like I did, Adamina Spa is really easy to find. It's about a 5 minute walk from the Tube (turn left not right!) and is located on Kensington High Street.
adamina day spa kensington

The Spa uses [Comfort Zone] treatments and offers a wide range of beauty services including massage, mani/pedi, ipl and various wraps and rituals. From the minute you step inside, you feel removed from the business and rush of the high street and transported into a luxurious haven.
adamina day spa kensington
adamina day spa kensington

Adamina Spa have gone for a slightly vintagey feel with soft lighting, antique dressers and pictures of old movie stars dotted around. The receptionist took me down to the changing room, where my wardrobe was waiting for me with a (very short!) robe, slippers and towels. I was invited to use the steam room if I wanted (free of charge for anyone having a treatment) or to use the relaxation room, where comfy seats, Pukka teas and lemon water awaited me. I took a quick nip into the steam room, which is a bit like a dark stony cave. It is unisex, although when I was there it was super quiet and there were no men booked in that day. I then headed to the relaxation room to enjoy a cup of Love tea (my favourite Pukka tea!) and to flick indulgently through glossy magazines whilst I waited for Vicki, my therapist. Now, one thing to note is that whilst I was in the waiting room, I started to hear a few building work noises... they weren't too loud, so I wasn't too worried. More on that later.
adamina day spa kensington

Vicki was absolutely fantastic. She came down to meet me in the relaxation room and we chatted a little about my treatment (I went for the Tranquility Ritual - a 90 minute massage, body mask & facial) and also about my seizures (I think I may have terrified her a little bit but she hid it well!). Vicki wanted to know what I wanted to get out of the treatment itself and also checked how much pressure I liked in my massage (AS HARD AS YOU CAN GO was my reply). This was a nice touch - often if you go for something like a Tranquility Ritual, you don't get a say in how hard or soft your massage is. You just get the "set" package. She also allowed herself time to work more on my back than anywhere else because it's so tight.

This is where the review has to take a bit of a fork in the road part. I'll start with the good. Vicki was incredible. She made me feel so safe and relaxed (I was a little anxious because it's a long time since I've had anything nice and spa like). The bed was heated and adjusted to fit my body and I was covered by a lovely warm duvet/blanket for the whole treatment. It was like being in a cosy bed more than on a spa table. She only uncovered the bits of me she needed at that exact moment. Perfect. Also, I don't know if this is the case for all Adamina Spa treatments or just mine, but there was lovely classical music (and the odd bit of Opera) playing instead of Whale noises. The ritual itself consisted of a facial first and then having my body massaged with a thick lotion/mask (think Origins Drink Up for the body). Vicki is an fantastic beauty therapist - I really can't praise her highly enough. She had a perfect, seemingly intuitive touch.

However, remember those building noises? Turns out my treatment room was right next to where the building works were being done. Now, Adamina have absolutely no control over them. It isn't their building works and poor Vicki was so incredibly apologetic and did still provide a wonderful treatment despite this, however the Tranquility part of my Tranquility Ritual was sadly lacking. There were parts where I had to put my fingers in my ears because it was so loud (and because certain pitches or types of noise can affect my seizures - thankfully I was ok). From what I understand, these building works have been going on for a while. From my wandering around, I think I was definitely in the worst treatment room for this. There were some downstairs that didn't seem as loud. As I say, Vicki was exceptionally apologetic and lovely about this.

After my treatment, I was lead back down to the relaxation room where I could stay for as long as I wanted. Instead I decided to just get dressed and head out for lunch. There's a wonderful monsoon shower that you can take advantage of should you need to as well!
adamina day spa kensington

One thing that did soften the blow of the building works was that all New Customers (Monday-Friday) receive 50% off off their treatments (Although I actually think that the receptionist over charged me by £2.50.. by the time I'd realised though I was already eating lunch and I didn't want to go back to query a couple of pounds). You also get 50% off if you mentioned I've recommended you - just mentioned Emily Birkinshaw when you book.

I really would recommend Adamina Spa though, despite all the building works. The treatments are beautiful and the Spa itself is a wonderful haven from the busy rush of the High Street. It's just a shame that the building works detracted from all of this. If you, like me, are bothered by noise, it might be worth asking if you could have your treatment downstairs. It's also worth noting that the building works are intermittent  and I had a good 30 minutes where there was just a gentle hum, so there's a high chance that they won't affect you at all. And as I said, despite all of this Adamina Spa was still a lovely place to visit.

I had the Tranquility Ritual at Adamina Spa, which I paid for myself. 
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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Wednesday Wishlist: Skincare

antipodes mask cleanser lush synaesthesia origins ginzing caudalie beauty elixir

If there's one this that can be said for blogging, it's that it's one of the worst enablers I've known. A mere 10 minutes of blog browsing can lead to me writing a list of skin care wishes that's longer than my arm. I've had a thing for buttery cleansers since I tried the Emma Hardie Cleansing Balm, and the Antipodes Grapeseed Cleansing Butter has been catching my eye every time I go into Whole Foods. It smells really wonderful and has a thick and creamy texture. I also was given a teeny tiny sample of the Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate when I was out shopping the other day. I've been using it for the last couple of nights (over the REN AHA Resurfacing Concentrate - a review of that coming soon) and my skin feels divine. It's so soft and clear and I'm not entirely certain what I'm going to do when my sample runs out!

I saw the Origins Ginzing Energy Boosting Moisturiser on Anna's blog the other day, and knowing how good the Ginzing eye cream is, I get the feeling this will be high on my list of wants too. At the moment, I'm using the Origins Mega Bright range - it's taken my skin from a dire mess to silky smooth in under a week, so expect a rave review of that sometime in the near future. Lush's Synaethesia Spa Treatment has been high on my wishlist for years now. I very almost ended up having one, but sadly I was too busy being ill with seizures and I had to cancel my appointment. Hopefully one day I'll get round to it. It's a completely tailored multi-sensory spa experience and sounds divinely magical.

Another thing I gave a try when I was out browsing the beauty halls of London the other day was the Caudalie Beauty Elixir. Obviously, every blogger seems to have tried this at some point or other and falls in love. I noticed a definite difference to my skin when I spritzed it on and loved the refreshingly minty smell! And last but not least, it's another product from Antipodes, this time the Aura Manuka Honey Mask. This smells incredible - it's sweet but not sickly or cloying. Manuka honey is jam packed with antioxidents and good things and I'm really looking forward to treating myself to this at some point.

What are you lusting after at the moment?
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Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Blog following options and a Facebook giveaway


So since my disappearance and come back, Google reader apparently disappeared from the blogging world. Now, I never used Google Reader anyway, but I know a lot of people did, so I wanted to introduce you to some other ways you can stay up to date with Sparkle and Shade! Read below to find out how to follow me on Facebook, Bloglovin, She Said Beauty, Google+ and GFC.

Facebook Page

Sparkle and Shade Facebook

At the moment, my Facebook page is all shiny and new! It's pretty quiet over there at the moment, but things will be getting much more exciting, with chat and competitions and all sorts of things.

Also, to celebrate the launch of the page, I'm going to be hosting a giveaway! There'll be 3 tiers of prize:
50 Followers - winner will receive a small selection of high end skin care samples and an extra surprise treat!
100 Followers - winner follower will receive a £10 Feel Unique voucher and a little bag of samples & treats
200 Followers - winner follower will receive a £20 Feel Unique voucher and a little bag of samples & treats.

To enter the giveaway, simply head over to Facebook and "like" Sparkle and Shade. The winners will be selected by a random draw as each tier is reached and will be announced on the Facebook page. Good luck.


I've been using Bloglovin' for ages - it's one of my favourite readers. I think it's clear, simple and easy to navigate. One of my favourite things about Bloglovin' is that you can sort blogs into different folders or categories! This is perfect for me as I follow a lot of healthy living, cooking and weight lifting blogs as well as beauty, so it's nice to be able to section everything out. A definite thumbs up from me, so head over there and follow!

She Said Beauty
She Said Beauty is a relatively new one to me, but seems like a lot of fun! You can build your own beauty shelf and create lovely lists of things you love and own, as well as staying up to date with all your favourite blogs. It seems like a really fun and friendly community, and I've been enjoying playing around with it so far. Head on over to follow me

Google +
You can also follow by Google+. I remain unconvinced by Google+, but I know some people absolutely love it, so I thought I'd give you the option to follow me over there!

Google Friend Connect
Now, the internet is rife with rumours about whether this is staying or going. For now, it seems to be staying put. Super simple - just click the link on the side bar! This is probably easier if you already use Blogger, as these blogs will come up in your reading list.

So there you have it - lots of options for following Sparkle and Shade, so now there's no excuse to not stay up to date!

What's your favourite way to follow your most loved blogs?
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