Thursday, 14 February 2019

HOME & LIFESTYLE | GETTING YOUR GARDEN SUMMER-READY

The weather might not be too inspiring right now, but it won’t be too long before the sweet scents of spring are back, and we all begin looking forward to summer. Remember summer? It’s the time of afternoons with friends, conversations, and all-around enjoying life. Now, I'm not saying you can’t enjoy summer without a garden to relax in, because you most definitely can, but everything’s easier when you have your own space to unwind in. I know my garden isn't perfect at all so I really need to practice what I'm preaching in this case because my back yard does need some TLC before the summer!

Clear the Space

Most people’s gardens aren’t actually in bad shape -- it’s just that you can end up accumulating things you don't need or things that should be tucked away in a shed or storage locker. You only need some grass to enjoy your garden, but if you’ve left your garden untouched for too long, then even that might be asking too much. Begin by getting into the garden and clearing away anything that doesn’t need to be there. If nothing else, you’ll have a good idea of what’s involved to bring your yard up to scratch. I really need to invest in a shed to be able to clear my space but if you can't quite fit one in or they're out of your price range at the moment you could always try one of those lockable storage boxes.

Work with the Experts

You can get your garden into tip-top condition on your own, but if you’re inexperienced, it’ll be an uphill battle. And if you’re working full-time, you’ll likely find that you’d rather spend your free time doing other things. If this is the case, then take a look at working with a company that offers grounds maintenance. They’ll be able to get your garden looking healthier and more beautiful than ever, and can also offer tips on how you can maintain the health of the garden into the future. By the time summer comes, you could have an enviable outdoor space!

Invest in some basics

A healthy lawn and flowers will be a good start, but to enjoy summer to the max, you’re going to need a little more. Buy a variety of outdoor furnishings for your garden -- that includes a table for eating, chairs, and reclining seats for when you want to sit back and soak up the sun. And don’t forget that tried and tested summer favourite: the BBQ. With that in your garden, you’ll be able to enjoy your tea in the sunshine every night if you really wanted to.

Decoration

It’s also a good idea to add some decorations to your newly transformed garden. Little touches here and there can make a big difference to the character of your outdoor space. When you’re on your travels, keep an eye on anything that would look good -- and pay particular attention to items that seem to effortlessly blend in with the natural feel of the garden. (Places like The Range and Home Bargains often have some fab stuff in as you will have seen from my Instagram



Make it Private

Finally, make sure it’s private, and not a public garden. You won’t be able to enjoy your space as much if you’re forever feeling like you’re on display! Adding a fence, canopy, and positioning your furniture in an area that’s not easily overlooked by prying neighbours should do the trick. I invested in a 6ft fence last year and it does make relaxing in the garden much more enjoyable - not that I think my neighbours are particularly interested in what I'm doing but it just makes it feel more comfortable I think. 

Do you have any other tips for getting your garden summer ready?

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Saturday, 9 February 2019

LIFESTYLE | LUSH VALENTINE'S BATH BOMBS

To be fair, Lush often get it exactly right when it comes to seasonal offerings but I couldn't not mention their Valentine's bath bomb selection because I do think they've surpassed all expectations with the stuff they've come up with. To be honest you'd have to have been living under a rock (or totally not excited by bath bombs) to not know about their Valentine's products but I'm going to tell you them anyway because there might just be someone out there stuck for a Valentine's gift idea...



Probably their most talked about products are the Aubergine (£3.95) and Peachy (£3.95) bath bombs which are cleverly modelled on the emoji symbols we tend to use for certain parts of our anatomy. How totally genius was that idea?! A massive pat on the back to their product development/marketing team for that because I was so impressed with it! So far I've tried the aubergine and it didn't disappoint - it was the most perfect sparkly purple bath you've ever seen even if it did slightly resemble a glittery turd as it was fizzing away (haha!).

I've only just managed to get hold of the Peachy one today because it's been sold out (testament to its popularity!) but I've heard it's another amazing creation.


The Goddess is one I also grabbed because the store assistant told me it was the most glittery bath bomb they've ever done which has me sold, straight away. This one is a little more pricey at £5.95 and it does pain me to use that in one bath but we all deserve a treat sometimes, right?! Although it is part of the Valentine's collection, this one isn't a limited edition so if this is something that tickles your fancy you could treat yourself a little later on. I decided to save this until actual Valentine's so I haven't tried it yet but I will definitely be showing it on my Instagram (@girl_upnorth) if you fancy following me on there to see that. 


The Love Boat (£4.50) is the last of their Valentine's bath bomb collection and I saw this in action when the sales assistant offered to show us. This is what I would call a 'slow burner'. Obviously because it has to stay afloat and look like a boat it does fizz quite slowly but the sweet citrus smell is absolutely unreal and it turns the water a gorgeous pinky purple colour and it'd still be fizzing away long after you got into the bath. 

There are other product types in the Valentine's collection but I thought I'd focus on bath bombs because they're what I know most about; if massage bars, soaps and bubble bars are your thing then they also have some limited edition products that are worth having a look at!

What do you think to the Lush Valentine's collection?

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Friday, 8 February 2019

LIFESTYLE | DOES BENENOX WORK?

Disclosure: This bottle of Benenox was sent to me free of charge - a review was not required in return but I wanted to let you know my thoughts

I think at some point we all struggle with sleep; whether it's getting to sleep, staying asleep or just getting good quality rest in general. I've found that, naturally, the more stressful my job has got, the less sleep I seem to get and that's even at weekends. I found myself waking up at 5/6am regardless of what time I'd gone to sleep on a night and I'd often really struggle to drift back off which would leave me feeling like I'd not slept at all.

I personally try and stay away from sleep aids; the only sleep aid I use is on a return to UK long-haul flight just to basically knock me out but even a short term solution I'd be worried about beginning to rely on them. 


When I saw Benenox advertised on Instagram I realised that although it promises 'good quality sleep' it's not actually a sleep aid in the traditional sense in that it doesn't send you off to sleep. What Benenox actually is, is a food supplement taken just before bed that helps to 'supplement your body's stored energy levels to support good quality sleep' so basically it should help you to stay asleep once you've nodded off and help you to wake up feeling refreshed and recharged. 

Benenox contains Vitamin B6, honey and Sustamine which have been shown to help reduce tiredness and fatigue, support normal psychological function and help energy production. It was this 'Sustamine' ingredient that intrigued me most; after a bit of research I found that it was used a lot by athletes and assists with rehydration and sustain energy levels. This blend of ingredients in Benenox helps to replenish the glycogen used by your body overnight for essential repairs that happen when you're sleeping which should help to make you feel refreshed when you wake up rather than groggy. 

So do I think Benenox really works?

I took Benenox over a period of 9 days and I have mixed feelings about it really. I do think that I felt more refreshed and ready for the day on the majority of days when I woke up and I do feel as if I had more energy on the days when I took it. However, out of the 9 days there was only one day when I didn't wake up at all during the night. 

So in essence, Benenox delivered on the 'feeling recharged' part of their promise but it didn't help with my disrupted sleep but to be honest I don't think a lot would unless I a) reduced the stress in my daily life or b) took actual sleeping tablets. But do I think it made enough of a difference to my life to buy another bottle? No I don't, and I personally think it's expensive at £9.99 per bottle given that you do only get 9 days worth. 

If you do want to try Benenox for yourself it is available from Boots or you can find out more information about it on the Benenox website.

Is it something you think could work for you?

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Monday, 28 January 2019

FOOD | PRINCE OF WALES, SHEFFIELD REVIEW

Disclosure: This meal and drinks were kindly given free of charge in return for an honest review of the Prince of Wales. This does not affect my judgement in any way.

Last week I was kindly invited to visit the Prince of Wales on Ecclesall Road, Sheffield to sample their new menu and be one of the first to see their brand new refurbished interior. Kev and I usually have a nice meal out once a month so this was perfect timing for our January outing and it went a little way to making this stupidly long month semi-bearable. Having never been to the Prince of Wales before, I had no idea what to expect; I could only go on what I'd read online but first of all I was pleased to read that there was ample parking space because I know what a nightmare areas like Ecclesall road can be for decent parking arrangements to that put my mind at ease before we set off. 

We didn't hang around for too long outside because true to British weather, it's been absolutely freezing but I did notice their outside seating areas which look absolutely perfect for summertime so it'd be somewhere I'd return to in summer, if not before!

The new refurbished interior is absolutely stunning; it has the warm and cosy feel of a traditional British pub with the colour choices and open fires but with a contemporary twist in the choice of furniture and bar set up. The Prince of Wales describe themselves as:

 "a contemporary and welcoming bar, restaurant and pub that provides a fantastic setting to socialise, dine, and relax with your nearest and dearest.
Step inside and you’ll find roaring log fires, a unique dining space, and modern interiors. There’s even a lovely garden patio that provides a wonderful setting to dine and relax on a sunny day."



The new bar top is absolutely beautiful; in fact it was the first thing that caught my eye and I made a point of commenting on it; it's like a marble finish with gold flecks; it's stunning.




The seating arrangements are perfect; there are more relaxed areas arm chairs in front of log fires and round tables with plenty of bench and chaired seating around as well as more formal dining areas with more traditional set ups. As you can see the furniture choices are absolutely on-point with floral and studded details to give the Prince of Wales that perfect balance between fine dining restaurant and traditional British pub. As you will see on the photos, the lighting in the restaurant areas is quite dim which makes photography just that little bit more difficult and would probably make seeing the menu difficult for some but I actually love that kind of lighting because it just makes for a relaxed and cosy ambiance.



Now onto arguably the most important part; the food.

We were greeted with a choice of drinks; I chose one of the gins from their selection and was pointed in the direction of the gin bar which had various additions that I could make to my gin; I went for the Chase Oak Aged Sloe and Mulberry G&T served in a balloon glass (if it's not in a balloon glass, are you even drinking gin?!) which was a really, really good choice and I added raspberry and strawberry which made it perfect. See the full drinks menu here.

We were then treated to a selection of bits to try off the menu to give us a taste of what was to come and at this point it was a little bit make or break because if this wasn't any good then it didn't set a very good precedent for what was to come - luckily everything was really tasty; we had samples of Lobster and King Prawn Pot, Chargrilled Lamb Kofte, Pork Belly and a selection of other items from the menu. Each one was delicious - so much so that my main meal choice came from one of the sample bits!

We were then seated to our table to order our 3 course meal; I already had my eye on the camembert from looking at the menu before arriving and Kev's favourite starter is Calamari (squid) so naturally we both chose accordingly to begin with...


Salt & Szechuan Pepper Squid with Aioli



Box-Baked Camembert topped with omega seed sprinkle, cherry and thyme dip and warm breadsticks

I've been wanting to try a baked camembert starter for a long while because I can never get it quite right at home - it never seems to melt properly but this was baked to perfection; the cheese was amazingly gooey and the seeds/dip combo broke up the texture which I would imagine would get a bit tedious after a few mouthfuls. Even the breadsticks were the perfect accompaniment; I honestly thought they were going to be like those hard breadsticks you have with dips but they were in fact beautifully soft - my only criticism was that there weren't enough breadsticks and I ended up using my fork to eat the remaining melted cheese (wasting cheese that good, in my mind, is sacrilege) 

The squid wasn't as good as I imagined it was going to be; the salt and szechuan pepper didn't really come through for me and the batter was a little thick for the squid in my opinion - it was by no means horrible but it wasn't what I expected. I think the thickness of the batter was what stopped them from being as crispy as they could have been. Nevertheless, there was plenty of it and the aioli was the perfect dipping sauce. 


Wagyu Burger with smoked Irish cheddar, crispy onions, tomato relish, sweet potato fries and aioli



Roasted Pork Belly & Seared Scallops with potato dauphinoise, butternut squash puree, green beans, toasted almonds, crackling and red wine jus

Onto the main event; Kev picked the Wagyu burger because time and time again we've heard that this 'Wagyu' steak is supposed to be the best you can get so it this was the obvious choice from the menu because in my opinion if a pub/restaurant can cook a decent burger you know it's a goer. The burger itself looked very impressive on arrival - stacked high with cheese, salad, pickles and relish with a generous side of sweet potato fries and onion rings. The fact that this comes with sweet potato fries as standard is a huge bonus for Kev - he would usually go for them but more often than not there's an extra charge for them. The fries and onion rings were cooked perfectly - crisp but not fried within an inch of their lives and the burger was cooked well - although possibly a little too well done for me. If I'm having a steak burger I expect it to be cooked medium. However, my opinion aside - Kev said he really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it.

I went for pork belly which was obviously what I'd tasted a little bit of on the initial sampling plate. I have to admit that I am a little bit funny about pork belly and wouldn't normally go for it because if it's too fatty it puts me off (I know pork belly, by nature, is fatty but there is a fine line). But I'm soo glad I did because everything was absolutely delicious and although the portion size doesn't look huge it was definitely filling and I really did enjoy every mouthful; even down to the green beans - cooked el dente with a gorgeous buttery taste. The pork itself was cooked to perfection with a stick of crackling to go with it (which was also perfect crunchy crackling!). Kev was particularly impressed with the potato dauphinoise - it was a great alternative to the potatoes you usually get with a meal and I would 100% recommend this main meal because I can't tell you how nice it was. My only concern really was that I didn't finish off the potatoes purely because I wanted to leave room to enjoy a pudding!


Between main course and pudding I opted for an aperitif cocktail (that makes it sound like I knew exactly what I was doing when I ordered it - I didn't, I just liked the sound of a cocktail that incorporated candyfloss). The Candyfloss Martini contains Sailor Jerry spiced rum with ginger and lime served over a fluff of candyfloss. I'm all for a bit of cocktail theatrics so the fact that this was served in a separate little milk-style bottle for me to pour myself pleased me no end. This was a strong cocktail and absolutely not for anyone who prefers fruity numbers but I'm convinced that it did aid my digestion ready for dessert (it probably didn't, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it...).



Kev and I are creatures of habit in a lot of senses and we definitely are when it comes to puddings; we will always order a sharer if available or we order one each and just put them in the middle of the table. The Prince of Wales have a House Sharer which was the obvious choice for us and it came with chocolate brownie, baked vanilla cheesecake, mango and berry meringue mess and a bourbon vanilla ice cream cookie sandwich. What I love about sharers is that you generally get a mixture of fruity and chocolatey desserts so this one didn't disappoint in that sense and the portion size was also very impressive because usually sharing desserts have relatively tiny little bits of a few desserts but this was a full slice of cheesecake along with good sized portions of all the other desserts.

This ended up working really well for us because rather than fighting over the same favourite we ended up preferring different parts (although having said that, I feel that Kev had more than his fair share of the mango and berry meringue mess, but I don't like to say anything because obviously I'm a very polite girlfriend...): Kev's favourite was the baked cheesecake which was a little bit plain for my liking but the texture was perfect; my favourite was the brownie which Kev thought was more like a sponge cake than a fudgey brownie but it was chocolate so it won my vote nonetheless. We both agreed that the ice cream cookie sandwich was a winner for both of us as it was everything we wanted in a cookie - crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

We both finished our meals feeling very full but also very impressed with the service and quality of food we had received. The staff we came across were very attentive and friendly and we would both wholeheartedly recommend the Prince of Wales for a special meal. It can seem quite pricey but for the standard of food you're getting I can definitely say that it is value for money. You can view all the menus online including their lunch menudinner menu and Sunday menu as well as their all new vegan menu which should excite those of you who are vegan and often struggle for somewhere nice to eat that has a variety of menu choices.

Valentines day is coming up so if you're in the Sheffield area looking for somewhere nice to take your other half and they have a set menu from £26 per person; click here to view the Valentines Menu and book your table.

You'll definitely see me at the Prince of Wales again; does it sound like your cup of tea?

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