Sunday, 26 November 2017

Salon Success Jingle Mingle at Malmaison, Manchester


I recently had a wonderful time with the guys at Salon Success - a distribution company who represent some of the best names in haircare; I'm talking, Paul Mitchell, Olaplex and Hair Angel.

We met up at the fabulous Malmaison, in a private dining room in the Chez Mal Brasserie. Food, good company and great hair products - what could be better?!

This event really kicked off my festive feelings. The room was beautifully decorated and the meal, complete with cute mini crackers, was wonderfully warming on a cold November day.

We were served a hearty celeriac veloute which is not something I'd ever choose myself from a menu but my god, it was good!

This was followed by a delicious pork belly, served with creamy mashed potato and seasonal vegetables.

Finished off with a decadent chocolate brownie with cream and a rich sauce, the meal was the perfect base for chatting about hair, Christmas and everything in between!

I'm already a big fan of Paul Mitchell products and that was a big draw in attending. I've dipped in and out of using their products for years and it's great to see that after all this time, they've maintained their brand ethos of high quality product and formulas, minimal branding and ethical values.

We got a firsthand look at PM's Christmas gift sets, which all have a 'love is...' theme. I got to take away a 'love is sleek' set containing a shampoo, conditioner and a serum.

As well as old favourite, Paul Mitchell, I was introduced to some new (to me) and exciting brands too.

First up is Kenra - which has been around for decades in the USA but is new to the UK thanks to Salon Success! The Artformation hairspray had actually been recently recommended to me by a stylist so I was over the moon to receive a can to try for myself! It's everything I hoped and more and has become my go-to. I'll definitely be purchasing this one.

I also received the brand's Revive shampoo and conditioner for repair and strengthening, plus a heat protection spray which is something I'm hugely guilty of neglecting during my styling routine.

Next up, an essential styling tool - the classic hairbrush. The Classic Dressing Brush we received by Marula Oil is created with boar-like dual-level vegan bristles and a beechwood handle. This is the most gorgeous hairbrush I've owned and feels completely luxurious to use.

Lastly and perhaps my favourite haircare discovery was a brand called Celeb Luxury. Experts in colour, I loved hearing about their innovative products - especially the one we were given to take away, 'Gem Lites'.

The Gem Lites 'Colorwash' series are shampoo-like formulas with 'Colorposit' - a technology to add tones of colour whilst shampooing! These come in various shades and can be used each hair wash to build up colour or used alternately to maintain your tone. The colour chosen for me was perfect - Tahitian Pearl; a deep tone to maintain brown hair and counteract brassy tones.

My hair is naturally dark but has quite a lot of warmth to it (which wasn't fun to discover when I went through younger phases of trying to bleach sections of my hair to a cool platinum and coming out with brassy yellow). I prefer my hair to be a cooler brown and had it coloured my perfect tone before my wedding in July and while the regrowth isn't really visible, the warmth is definitely coming back through. I've been using this shampoo intermittently and it's really made a difference - hello deeper, richer, ashy brown hair!

Are some of these brands new discoveries for you too? Let me know!


Sunday, 5 November 2017

CityMoves with Nokia: Health Challenge for the North of England


Today I'm looking at something which combines two big interests of mine - health and digital technology.

Being from Yorkshire and living in Manchester, I often hear the stats on how the North of England is reportedly 'less healthy' than the South. Apparently us northerners are more likely to be fatter and die younger; the recent studies of late make for some shocking reading!

I was really interested to hear about a new project from the University of Manchester, Connected Health Cities and Nokia, designed to encourage and challenge people across the North to live a healthier lifestyle.

'CityMoves' is an eight-week step challenge, running until the 21st December, focused on the positives in using data and technology to promote healthy living.

I'm already a big advocate of using technology to make life easier when it comes to health. Being pretty much always glued to my smartphone, I already use and love apps like My Fitness Pal and Nike Running - plus I've got my Pure Gym app to book and manage classes, as well as an app I've found absolutely invaluable since realising that I have a complex series of food intolerances - the  FODMAP guide (developed by the MONASH University).

To aid those taking part in the CityMoves challenge (which you can sign up for yourself, here), Nokia are providing motivation in the form of their technology solutions.

I was sent the the Nokia Steel Activity Tracker Watch and the Nokia Body Cardio Smart Scales to try out for myself*. I've been testing these out for just over a week so read on to see how I got on!

The Nokia Steel: Activity Tracker Watch

I've never had a fitness tracking watch and my main knowledge of these, like most I'd imagine, comes from the Fitbit.

Now, even with my limited exposure to fitness trackers - surely you have to admit that this is a good looking watch!

Health & Fitness Tracking Watch by Nokia
Health & Fitness Tracking Watch by Nokia
Health & Fitness Tracking Watch by Nokia
Healthy Lifestyle Tacking Steps

I've really enjoyed using the watch. It's definitely highlighted that I don't do anywhere near enough steps most days. Working in an office and driving to work means I'm at odds with achieving a good level of base activity. 

The watch face is very minimal, with the focal point (other than the time of course) being the gauge in the bottom right, which displays in real time how close you are to reaching your step goal.

Your goal is completely defined by you, which is done within Nokia's Health Mate app, syncing with your watch via Bluetooth.

Nokia Healthy Lifestyle App
Nokia health app with watch

The watch tracks all your details and you don't even have to be near your phone - it simply syncs when the two are reunited; so you can walk, run or even swim without it.

My favourite part of wearing the watch hasn't actually been the overview of my daily steps - it's been the sleep function.

The watch measures your pattern of movement as well as heart rate so it can provide an accurate picture of your night's sleep including when you fell asleep and how quickly, how many times in the night you woke up and how much light vs. deep sleep you achieved. I was pleased to find out that what I'm lacking in under-average steps, I'm making up for in over-average levels of deep sleep! Another of my favourite features is the ability to set a window for the watch to wake you up, not with a shrill ringing but with a gentle vibration on your wrist - and the technology calculates the exact point within your window that will be, depending on the optimum moment within your sleep cycle!

Nokia Body Cardio Smart Scales

The amount of data I have about my health right now is unreal - and the scales have really raised the bar!

Nokia Smart Scales

Now these scales are so gorgeous and shiny that I struggled to get a decent picture of them as they were just reflecting everything! At under an inch thick with a solid aluminium base and slick surface, they truly are a thing to behold.

And they don't just look good, oh no. They go so much further than measuring weight alone, providing readings and insights like your BMI, body fat and water percentage, muscle and bone mass, heart rate and pulse wave velocity (that indicates your overall cardiovascular health) - plus it even gives you the weather forecast so you can plan what to wear for the day!

Using WiFi, the scales connect to your Health Mate app, hugely enhancing the health data provided by the fitness tracker.

I would genuinely recommend either of these products to someone looking for insights into their health and the motivation to improve their lifestyle. The fact that Nokia Health Mate, teamed with the technology products, also pairs with popular apps including My Fitness Pal is a huge plus too.

Don't forget to sign up to the CityMoves challenge - throughout its course, Connected Health Cities and Nokia will be providing motivational content and seasonal tips, plus giveaways of hundreds of fitness trackers like the one I tried out; the data collected from the programme will also benefit The University of Manchester who are partnered in the study.

Let's get moving!


Thursday, 26 October 2017

Our Yorkshire Dales Wedding | Ruth Atkinson Photography


This post has been in my drafts for so long! My wedding was a whole three months ago and I thought it was high time that I shared some of my favourite photographs from the day, by our super talented photographer, Ruth Atkinson (and her husband/second shooter, Tom!).

I hope you enjoy looking through my little selection and apologies for the picture-heavy post - it's so hard to narrow them down when there's so many beautiful shots!

I'm so pleased with the images. As someone who doesn't like photos of themselves (great trait to have as a blogger - NOT!), I was surprised at how in love with the pictures I've become - even more so seeing them each time.

It didn't turn out to be the sunny July day I'd anticipated but given that we originally wanted to get married around my birthday in October (I'd always imagined an autumn wedding but the limitations of our ceremony venue meant we had to bring it forward), the grey day ended up looking superbly autumnal! I'd thought about my colours with autumn in mind and then couldn't bear to change what I'd dreamt up despite the change of season, so the tones we chose ended up matching the moody weather perfectly.

I particularly love how the flowers turned out. I chose quite a mix of colours - mostly because I really wanted the minky purple/dusky lavender colour of my bridesmaids' dresses but then as old hall we had as our reception venue had a lot of red in it, I mixed in lots of deep red roses. I knew that I definitely wanted a flower crown on the day and after initially being a little overwhelmed by the size of it, I didn't feel like a proper bride until I put it on then totally owned it all day!

Of course my beautiful Sarah Seven lace dress was something else I love looking back at in the photos - I wish I could wear it again!

The style of Ruth's photography was exactly what we wanted; documentary style and completely unintrusive so that we were free to enjoy our day comfortably. A wedding is so personal and for me, starting the day off at my family home and being in my hometown made it the more special and to have a photographer that you're happy to let in and feel comfortable with is just so important. As a couple, we felt that Ruth and Tom really 'got' us and we're so pleased that we chose them to capture our day.

If you're a bride to be and think you might benefit from any advice, please feel free to get in touch. Definitely as give my previous post on pre-wedding build up a read too!

Here's a list of my North West suppliers who I wouldn't hesitate to recommend!

Wedding Dress - Love Bridal, Altrincham | Flowers and Ceremony Venue - Taitlands, Settle | Vintage Bus Guest Transport - Red Bus Days | Photography - Ruth Atkinson | Make-up - Pretty Pinkies, Kirkby Lonsdale | Hair - Hair Design by Jess | Wedding Breakfast Catering - Party Animals, Settle | Evening Food Catering - All Fired Up Pizzas | Band - The Amy Wilson Band | Wedding Night Accomodation - Dugdales Barn, Settle


Sunday, 10 September 2017

Restaurant Review: The Alchemist, New York Street, Manchester


Another restaurant review today - and not somewhere I'd expect to be visiting with food as the focus.

I've been to both of The Alchemist's Manchester city centre sites plenty of times for drinks but a meal has never been on the agenda.

After a £180,000 investment to rejuvenate the New York Street venue in line with The Alchemist's new openings, I was excited to be invited down to the bar/restaurant* to try the menu and take in the recently revamped surroundings.

Inside, things have gotten decidedly darker and more decadent; with moodier lighting, rich wood, gold accents and tattoo-inspired artwork adorning the walls and menus.

The two-week transformation has seriously succeeding in creating a more indulgent atmosphere.


If you know anything at all about The Alchemist, you'll probably be well-aware that the chain is renowned for its drinks - specifically, the innovative and well-executed cocktails.

I'm a self-confessed cocktail snob (through working in a cocktail bar myself during my bar-tending years) so I really do appreciate a good cocktail.

We tried a couple each from the extensive menu. I was a little too busy admiring the room and hurriedly chose a Peaches and Cream from the top left of the massive selection; a tasty concoction of peach liqueur, pink grapefruit and lemon with a side of prosecco. I don't usually like my cocktails too sweet but the lemon and pink grapefruit gave it just enough sharpness.

Chris went for a classic Smokey Old Fashioned - with Woodford Reserve bourbon, maple syrup, bitters and lots of real smoke contained in a conical flask.


We both ended up choosing fairly similar starters. I opted for the Crab Bon Bons served with Lobster Mayo, while Chris chose a Pulled Pork version with a Chipotle dip.

I had fewer bon bons but a much larger pot of dip with my dish which was a little baffling but both versions tasted amazing and good portion sizes nonetheless. 

It was difficult to choose from the long list of 'Tapatisers' and on my next visit, I'd definitely like to try ordering a number of these rather than a main instead.

Main Course

Even though much of the menu is of an Asian persuasion, I was tempted by a simple steak - a 9oz Rib Eye served with garlic butter and fries - I added peppercorn sauce too.

The steak was cooked beautifully and I felt that it was great value.

Chris went for the Special Fried Chicken in a Basket which was definitely eye-catching in its large chicken-shaped wire basket. Many of the cocktails are presented in theatrical vessels but Chris had to admit that his main was a little difficult to eat in its wire prison! Other than the interesting presentation method, the chicken was juicy and plentiful.


We couldn't resist sharing a dessert (being too full to manage one each) and settled on the Belgian Waffles - served with cinnamon sugar, syrup and ice cream. 

A perfect end to a delicious meal!

Have you eaten at The Alchemist before or visited since the refurb?

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