Thursday, 29 December 2016

Review: Hair Makeover at RCNQ Manchester

Hey,

Today I'm reviewing* a new salon - not new to Manchester, as this creative space has been occupying the Northern Quarter for three years BUT even though I'm a bit of a hairdresser-hopper, I was yet to try RCNQ.

RCNQ is a small, friendly and innovative salon on Hilton Street in the heart of Manchester's Northern Quarter.

I booked in for a cut and colour and it couldn't come soon enough. I haven't had my hair professionally coloured for well over a year; in which time I've DIY'ed green dip dye, box dye brown, box dye purple, home bleach lightening and box dye red! The result? A patchy, brassy, faded mess! See below...


I discussed my options with the lovely, Helena - RCNQ's resident Colour Director, so I felt in safe hands!

After all the experimentation, I decided that I should go back to basics. I knew that by July next year (when I get married!), I just want to have a natural shade so I decided to opt for a nice all-over brown base colour. With Helena's help, I chose a gorgeous cool dark chocolate shade.



The lovely staff at RCNQ kept me refreshed with endless cups of tea whilst my dye developed.

Another thing I loved about the salon was the products used (which is really important to me). RCNQ use Bumble and Bumble hair products which I was really pleased about. I'm already a fan of the Thickening Spray so I was excited to try some of their other products.

Cut-wise, I decided to go a little shorter. I went for a bob with my usual side parting, sloping into a slightly longer shape at the front.

Are you ready for the before and after?



I'm so pleased with it! I can't believe how even the colour is, considering the mess that exists underneath. It came out very dark initially, but after a couple of washes, it's mellowed out to the perfect dark ashy brown above.

Rob (owner) and his team should be very proud of this salon, it's actually unlike any I've visited in Manchester. It's not a faceless chain, everything feels carefully curated - right down to all the people who work there, who all have individual style and seem to get on more than just coincidental colleagues. There's no boring small talk about the weather and holidays here either, just genuine and interesting conversation from people who care.

If you're looking for a new salon in Manchester, I'd highly recommend RCNQ and better still, they run a 25% off discount for all first visits!

Have you been to RCNQ before?

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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Cryolipolysis (Fat-Freezing) in Manchester at Skinhealth Spa

Hey,

So, Cryolipolyis - what is that? I didn't know either but when Skinhealth Spa (i.e. my most trusted skincare/cosmetics salon in Manchester!) asked if I'd like to try it out* I thought, why not!

What is Cryolipolysis, Anyway?



Cryolipolysis is a 'fat freezing' treatment which promises to rid you of pesky fat cells in the treated area; permanently. The idea is that your chosen area is frozen, which kills said cells - never to return. It all sounds fairly drastic however the treatment, which is a relatively new technology, is dubbed the 'safe and pain-free alternative to lipo' - you know, that invasive treatment that celebs seem to get as a 'last resort' or ticket to a 'new body' if the Daily Mail is your info text du jour.

So why did I want to try it I hear you cry? 

You may be aware that I'm getting married next year and I admit, the pressure to get in shape is pretty high. I thought I'd lose a few pounds on my own accord and that would be that but I never anticipated the kind of comments you get from those around you - some even strangers! - giving their advice and expectation that you need to lose half your body weight and do everything humanly possible to 'look your best'.

I'm as sensitive as the next person and comments like that do get to you, though I'm determined to do what's right for me and in my own time too.

That said, my arms have always bothered me. I've never been happy with the tops of my arms, even when I've been much slimmer, they'd always stood out as being 'big' to me, so the thought of being able to get them looking a bit leaner for my wedding was appealing - so in I booked!



The Process


The lovely, Dominique was performing the treatment for me and told me that she was something of an expert 'fat freezer'. She totally put me at ease prior to and during the procedure.

Firstly we discussed the area I wanted to freeze and she measured the most 'flabby' parts of each arm to make sure the optimum area would be captured. I found it interesting that one arm had half an inch more fat! Though I suppose that the arm you use most is likely to be more toned.

After defining the area, she explained how the machine worked. We decided it would be best for me to lie on my front, with my arms propped up on my elbows. It's important to get as comfy as possible as the machine stays on for a whole hour for the treatment.

Once comfortable, Dominique proceeded to apply the machine to my left arm first. A gel is applied, along with a thin layer of material which prevents the cold temperature from damaging your skin tissue.

The cup is then placed onto the arm which has a strong suction, which pulls your flesh into the machine, where it's cooled to -8°C. The process is repeated on the other side, then you just need to sit tight for the hour!


Dominique left me to relax but periodically came to check on me and even brought me some magazines and some water - to be honest, it was nice just to lie down and relax for an hour, I wasn't bored at all!

Once the hour was up and the cups taken off, the frozen cells needed to be broken up. For the final stage, the Aesthetician massages the frozen area.

Verdict


On initial impressions, the whole procedure felt very easy. It's obvious that Skinhealth Spa are total pros at this! I felt at ease the whole time and Dominique was able to tell me a great deal about the treatment, process and results I could expect.

The salon itself has a real boutique feel. It's small but perfectly formed; not clinical, just calming, clean, professional and friendly - which is why I love to go there for treatments. The expertise at Skinhealth, I feel, is unrivalled and it's all done with a smile and a friendly, chatty person at the helm.

The guys at Skinhealth explained that it takes 8 weeks to see the optimum results for the treatment, plus I've booked in for an extra treatment in January to boost my results. I'm therefore going to come back here and post before and after photos and extra updates. Look out for my progress updates which I'll put on Twitter!

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Sunday, 13 November 2016

Definitely Maybe (Baby): Supersonic & Oasis Exhbition, Manchester

Hey,

Being an enthusiastically adopted Mancunion, I was excited to get the chance to go to the Oasis: Chasing the Sun exhibition at Old Granada Studios where not only were rare and iconic photos and memorabilia from the early Oasis years (1993-1997) on display, but a full screening of the feature length documentary, Supersonic was held courtesy of Scotts Menswear.

Fedora Hat: Primark
'Maybe Baby' Jumper: Joanie
 Coat: vintage via charity shop
Jeans: New Look
Boots: Topshop

I'm wearing my new slogan jumper from Joanie Clothing which I'm loving for adding a pop of colour to my usually all-black outfits - it's so soft too!

The coat pictured above has had me pretty excited too. I found this in a charity shop for £14.99 and couldn't walk away. It's a beautiful bottle green with a black faux fur collar and is 100% wool (90% of which is lambswool). I'm so glad I didn't leave it on the rail.


I've been a fan of Oasis since I was young; they were, and still are, one of my mum's favourite bands. I have some great memories of uni, belting out entire Oasis albums with my northern housemates, drunk in the kitchen of our halls. I remember someone at the time saying that they thought Oasis lyrics must be innately embedded in the minds of northerners from birth - there's probably some truth to that!

The exhibition wasn't huge but there were some really cool pieces there. Tons of rare and unseen photographs mixed with other artifacts like various guitars that Noel played and the infamous white parka that Liam wore at Glastonbury in 1995. I was actually really taken aback to see Noel's hand-scrawled lyrics to iconic hits like Champagne Supernova and Wonderwall which were on display.

There was also a life-size replica set of Bonehead's West Didsbury living room with many of the original props so visitors could recreate the iconic cover of the album, Definitely Maybe. As you can imagine, that was a lot of fun...


Of course then there was the film. I'd wanted to see Supersonic but hadn't actually heard a great deal about it - other than that it was a documentary charting the band's success.

I didn't expect it to be SO good. With gig footage, unseen backstage antics and interviews and an obviously cracking soundtrack, it somehow managed to be authentic, heartwarming, extremely funny and sad in places all at once. 

For any fans who missed the exhibition at Old Granada Studios (which is now closed), I've heard that there's an Oasis photography exhibition from one of the band's longest-serving photographers being held at Manchester Central Library, which is also free and is running until January.

Did you visit the Chasing the Sun exhibition or have seen the documentary film? What did you think?

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Restaurant Review: Chaophraya, Manchester

Hey,

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of trying a new restaurant - new to me, but something of an established hidden gem in Manchester I've since realised: Thai restaurant, Chaophraya*.

We found Chaophraya (on Chapel Walks) a little tricky to locate and even from the outside, the restaurant looks fairly unassuming and easy to bypass. On the inside however, things get interesting. The place is huge, tastefully yet grandly decorated and feels unmistakably Thai, with staff traditionally dressed and all manner of authentic adornments lining the walls.

Once inside and greeted by the friendly hostesses, we were quickly shown to our seats and within a blink of an eye, were brought a welcomed basket full of spicy Thai crackers and had our drinks orders taken. Chris opted for a tried-and-tested Chang (Thai) beer while I decided to try one of the restaurant's signature cocktails.


The purpose of the evening was to try out Chaophraya's relaunched menu. The menu itself helpfully explains how the restaurant name is pronounced; not so surprisingly, we got it wrong. Thankfully our uneducated selves were schooled by an extremely knowledgeable fellow (whose name I can't quite remember. I think he was the group's Marketing Director!) who walked us through the menu.

He explained that in relaunching Chaophraya's menu with new and refined dishes, some of the top chefs from Manchester had been taken on a trip to Thailand to research the cuisine (which in itself is a really lovely opportunity as many were reunited with family still living there) and that the development of the new menu had been carefully thought out and taken many months to create.

Armed with our new-found information, we perused the menu. We found that we were spoilt for choice with the Starters listed, though finally settled on the Steamed Dumplings and Thai Chicken Tacos with a view to share.


The starters were truly nothing short of excellent. The prawn and pork steamed dumplings were light and fragrant, while packing authentic favour in abundance.

The modestly named Chicken Tacos were equally great. They were so delicate (we loved the extra touch of the edible flowers) but had a beautiful and complex flavour. They were amazing!

We ordered some more drinks between courses. Our waiter explained that the 'Theatre' cocktails were the most impressive and a 'must-try'. On his recommendation, I went for the Mockingbird; a creation made with gin, Maraschino liquor, pink grapefruit juice, cherry and soda - oh, and served in a massive botanical birdcage!

Having found my first cocktail okay, I did worry that this would just be a more dressed up version of mediocre but I was pleasantly surprised to find this one to be genuinely pretty good, even if the cage was a little OTT!

We were waiting rather a long time for our mains and having seen the restaurant filled up considerably, it was easy to see why the service was slowing. We were kindly offered a tour including a behind the scenes look at the kitchen while we waited which we jumped at the chance at!


I was actually pleased about the long wait and resulting opportunity to go up to the kitchen, as we got to see much more of the restaurant and its interesting decor. Getting to see the food being prepared and cooked first-hand was also a great experience. It was easy to see that the chefs were highly skilled and passionate about creating authentic Thai cuisine.

No sooner had we sat back in our seats, our main courses arrived. We both had wanted the Massaman Lamb Curry, which I surrendered to Chris and he accompanied with Sticky Rice. I chose the Palm Sugar and Chilli Glazed Chicken which was teamed with Coconut Rice.



The mains were authentic and tasty but it has to said, not quite as spectacular as the starters. In all fairness to Chaophraya, the things that let them down here are easily attributed to having a much busier than usual restaurant, so I'll let them off the hook.

Chris' Massaman Curry was flavourful but it was clear it had been cooking too long as the lamb was a little tough, which is a real shame as the sauce was really tasty. His rice was actually very poor and stuck together in a big lump! Had we been here under usual circumstances, we would have sent the rice back.

Having read back over the menu, I'm not actually sure I received the correct main course. The chicken should have been spatchcock style so I think I may have got the Chicken with Plum Sauce. Nonetheless, it was delicious and really tender - which is no mean feat for a crumbed, fried chicken. In contrast to Chris' rice, mine was beautiful and I loved that it came wrapped in banana leaf.

Full to the brim but still unable to pass up the offer of dessert, we chose the Chocolate Bombe and Sticky Toffee Pudding.


Chaophraya certainly pulled things back with the puddings. It's not often that Asian restaurants put a great deal of emphasis on desserts but these were genuinely fantastic. Chris' 'Bombe' was quite the spectre; the waiter poured molten caramel sauce over it at the table, melting it's chocolate shell and revealing its centre of Thai whiskey ice cream, honey and toasted sesame popcorn. Though I'm not so keen on whiskey (Irish, as presumably this was, or otherwise!), I tried it and agreed it was brilliant!

My Thai take on a sticky toffee pudding was also pretty bloody good too. The pudding had a wicked dose of ginger which gave it a little heat - a fabulous twist on a British classic.

All in all, we had a wonderful evening in beautiful surroundings with absolutely fantastic staff. This busier than usual menu launch evening saw things go a bit south with the mains which unfortunately hit at quite obviously their busiest point in the evening. I would love to go back wholeheartedly another time on a typical day of service.

The dedication and creatively put into all aspects of the new menu is evident - well done, Chaophraya!

Have you visited Chaophraya before?

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Sunday, 9 October 2016

Autumn = Knitwear

Hey,

So this time of year is my absolute favourite. The mornings are cooler, the leaves fall, the sun shines brightly but there's a nip in the air - oh, and it's also my birthday!

I've just had the most wonderful birthday weekend; basically just eating and drinking a lot with excellent people.

I've generally felt super happy these past couple of weeks, everything is going fantastically (work, wedding planning), I've had a brilliant birthday and the change in seasons has really perked me up (I was so done with 'summer').

We've been so lucky with the weather here. It's been blissful, perfect and definitively autumnal. I felt like as soon as the 1st of October hit, the temperature significantly dropped too - which has got me all excited for adding to my autumn wardrobe.

The first piece of knitwear I acquired this season is this Stripe Colour Block Jumper from Matalan* - who have a great range of classic styles at the moment and have even put together a handy Knitwear Guide on their site.

Jumper - Matalan*
Choker - ASOS
Jeans - ASOS
Boots - Kat Maconie


It has a real 90s feel to it. I think it's the tonal grey and black in the wide block stripes. It actually reminds me a lot of a jumper my mum used to wear a lot when I was younger!

I live in chunky knit jumpers at this time of year so I'm sure I'll get lots of wear out of this piece.


I decided to dress up the jumper and new slim 'mom' jeans (ASOS' 'Farleigh' fit) with some red lippy and spangly red shoe boots from Kat Maconie. KM is brand I've only recently come across but when I happened upon her site I was in LOVE!

I'd say KM's prices are a stop gap between high street and designer - the new collections are more than I'd probably pay for shoes but there are some amazing bargains to be had in the Sale and Outlet sections (like these boots!).

I was so excited to find the brand, I thought twice about sharing it! JK. In all seriousness, KM's shoes are totally my bag - quirky, edgy and affordable. I can't wait to add more to my collection.


What are you wearing this Autumn?

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