Why You Should Visit Borough Market, London

Borough Market made the headlines in June 2017 as one of the places in London hit by deadly, unpredicted terrorist attack. The attack targeted people on a Saturday evening enjoying themselves in nearby bars and restaurants at Borough Market, killing eight people. Since the events only eight weeks ago, the market has been steadily rebuilding itself and restoring normality. Borough Market has always been one place I wanted to visit in London and now, more than ever it seemed more poignant for me to go pay my respects and visit the traders whose livelihoods have been temporarily destroyed.

When I visited Borough Market last week, it was a hive of busy tourists and locals soaking in the market atmosphere , feasting on all of what Borough Market has to offer and enjoying their Saturday. It was a place bursting with energy, from the enthusiastic market traders selling their products to the hoards of tourists making the most of every photo opportunity. From the moment I entered the building, I fell in love. It was full to the parameters of foodie favourites from all around the world, as well as catering for so many different dietary requests. The fruit looked colourful and fresh and the scents that filled the air gave me hunger pangs. It was a market place determined to move on from recent events and live life to the full.

I decided to write this post on why you should visit Borough market because there's so much to see and do. Whether you're stocking up for a picnic on a day trip to London or fancy a meal with friends, Borough Market needs to be on your London bucket list.

As Borough market is a quintessential English market place, there's plenty of hog roasts, burgers and meat stands on offer, but one thing that really captured my attention was the plethora of vegan food available. From these juicy mock burgers to hummus stands and vegan curries, there's just so much to choose from which is great for those with dietary requirements and it makes Borough Market the perfect place to visit with friends all of whom have different foodie needs.

Another item that Borough Market has in abundance is freshly squeezed fruit juices. You can get almost any fruit juices from Borough Market from watermelon to your typical orange, pineapple and apple juices. They are great for anyone looking for a morning pickup, lunch time refresher or an evening pre-drinking quencher.

As previously mentioned, the fruit in Borough market is as fresh as it gets and there's vast quantities of it over in the fruit and vegetable market. I was really impressed with the prices of this fruit - my friends and I managed to get two punnets of strawberries for a £1 whereas supermarkets sell just one of them for around the £2 mark. If you live locally London, it is worth visiting the market to stock up on fresh fruit and veggies.

If you're gluten free, dairy free or wheat free, I also stumbled across a lovely bakery in Borough market selling vegan creamed buns in a variety of flavours, as well as gluten free ginger men, to name but a few products. Unfortunately I didn't get the time to sample these, but they are definitely on my radar for my next visit, which I'm planning before the end of this year.

Once we had browsed the market, my friends and I set off to Jubilee Gardens for a picnic, where we sat down and ate some of our foodie findings - pepper Focaccia bread,  strawberries, freshly made samosas and a few sneaky buys from M&S.

My visit to Borough market was brief, but very exciting and I was glad that I got the opportunity to visit the hustle and bustle of the Saturday market. It reminded me that life is short and that Saturday's are the best days to go spend quality time with the ones you love and what brings people together? Food, of course.

Have you been to Borough Market before?

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Seven Days of Summer at Victoria Leeds

Leeds has always been a city that I have been proud to call my second home because of its diversity, the culture, the foodie scene and of course the eclectic mix of places to shop. In the last decade,  the city has gone from being a little bit tired and run down, to being voted the UK's 'best place to live for culture' and making it in to the top 10 of Lonely Planet's 'Best Places in Europe.' One of the places that makes Leeds so special in my opinion is Victoria Leeds, merging the old - the Victoria Quarter Shopping Arcade and the new - Victoria Gate, to make one superior shopping district full to the brim of luxury and high end stores with superb architecture exhibited in both buildings.

Recently I was asked to take part in the 'Seven Days of Summer' campaign by Victoria Leeds, showcasing some of my favourite places to shop in both Victoria Gate and Victoria Quarter. As I spend a lot of my time there already, it was a great excuse to do some shopping.

The first store on my hit list was Anthropologie. Anthropologie is part of the newly opened Victoria gate and is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing stores you will ever visit. They sell a variety of home ware, clothing and accessories from both established and upcoming designers and the store is laid out in a bohemian, yet luxury style - full of bold prints and character. I fell in love with this gorgeous Ikebana Floral Maxi dress when I was trying on clothes - it has such a vibrant design and is perfect for summer.

After trying on clothes at Anthropologie, I then headed to my second favourite store, Neom Organics, again in Victoria Gate. I've written a fair bit about Neom on my blog - I love the staff, the story behind the brand and the fact that they are incredibly passionate about wellbeing. One of the services they provide is a 'Scent Discovery' test where you blindly smell a few scents and the one that appeals to you the most, is the one thing your body is craving the most. The last time I did this I got stress - showing that my body needed something to relax me and this time I got energy, which demonstrates that my body is craving an uplift. Neom sells a variety of organic candles and body products all of which can enhance your wellbeing from your desired scent.

Once I had talked to the staff at Neom Organics about my wellbeing, I then popped across the road at the Victoria Quarter to Kurt Geiger. Kurt Geiger are the only high heels I can wear and I love shopping at my local Leeds store. They have an incredibly variety of shoes and the store is very elegant with mirrored glass that makes everything look shimmering. My favourite pair of shoes currently in stock are these Guide Carvela heels with floral fabric and a wonderful floral gemstone piece at the front of the shoe.

One of my favourite places to eat in Victoria Gate is Le Pain Quotidien and somewhere I regularly pop for brunch. LPQ is an organic bakery, specialising in Belgian cuisine using seasonal produce. I usually order their tartines, which is a Belgian open top sandwich and my favourite is the avocado and feta. They also do all day brunches for those who love having breakfast in the middle of the day.

Although I don't spend that much time gambling, you cannot mention Victoria Gate without mentioning the stunning £10 million casino. The casino sits over three floors which covers an almighty 4,645 square feet and has two bars and a restaurant. One of my favourite places in the casino is the curve bar, which has a beautiful glass wall, lit from behind, displaying alcohol bottles - it is truly spectacular.

Another major part of Victoria Gate is the John Lewis. The John Lewis is a much-welcomed addition to the retail scene in Leeds and covers five floors of the Victoria Gate shopping centre. I love shopping in John Lewis as it has pretty much everything you could ever need under one roof from clothes to shoes, beauty to homeware. I picked up these beautiful flowers when I was visiting to help with my photography, they almost look real.

Last, but definitely not least is another one of my favourite stores, & Other Stories. & Other Stories is a clothing, accessories and  beauty store with designs derived from three key styling destinations - Paris, Stockholm and Los Angeles. Their store has such a beautiful, contemporary design and their wonderfully curated collection is everything that a professional, working woman would want for her wardrobe. It is simple, yet elegant with a twist of fun.

There are many stores at Victoria Leeds that I could shout about and many that I spend my wages in each month - hopefully these will give you a little taster of what the shopping centre has to offer. Victoria Gate and Quarter are both magnificent shopping destinations and I'm so fortunate to have them on my doorstep.

Have you shopped at Victoria Gate or Victoria Quarter before?
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A Night in the Lake District and Yewfield Guest House

The Lake District has always been one of my favourite places to visit - it is quintessentially British with beautiful old Tudor and slate buildings, has the most wonderful views of rolling hills and lakesides and every little village or town that you visit just oozes character, no wonder it was recently given a UNESCO World Heritage status. Windemere, one of the most popular areas to visit in the Lake District is England's biggest lake and Scafell Pike, which attracts thousands of tourists each year is England's highest mountain. The Lake District was also once home to (in my opinion) one of the best children's authors that ever lived, Beatrix Potter. There's so much to do and see in the Lake District, making it the perfect place to visit.

Last week, my husband and I had a week off work and decided to head up to the Lake District for a few peaceful days in the countryside. We visited Ambleside, Windermere and Hawkshead and stayed in the beautiful Yewfield Guest House which was kindly organised by the team at Go Lakes, the Cumbrian Tourist board. We were truly blessed with the weather - it was sunny and warm and the perfect weather for rambling, taking boat rides and eating copious amounts of ice-cream.  We arrived at Bowness on Windermere at lunchtime and after browsing a few of the shops, we headed to the lake to catch a boat ride to Ambleside with Windermere Lake Cruises. The boat we caught was one of the older steam yachts, the M.V Tern which was built in 1891. The Tern still exhibits some of the original Victorian features, but now has a modern engine to deal with the vast amount of tourists that catch this boat every half an hour, 364 days a year.  Our trip to Ambleside took around 35 minutes and through the duration of the journey, we had a guided tour who told us all about the history of lakes and nearby points of interest.

We disembarked at Waterhead and made our way up to the village. It was a twenty minute scenic walk which passes by a lot of the local farm life and villages, as well as a beautiful Borrans Park, which is perfect for a picnic. Once we got to Ambleside, we had a coffee at one of the many coffee shops and had a quick look around the village, before heading back to the boat and getting back into the car to visit Yewfield.

Yewfield Guest House is a five star vegetarian bed and breakfast on Hawkshead Hill, which is fifteen minute either side of Coniston and Windermere. It is situated on 80 acres of private land which is available for guests to walk around and it is well and truly in the countryside, which is perfect for those looking for some R&R in the peace and quiet. The drive up to the hotel can be a little difficult at times - it is up a very steep, narrow hill, with lots of bends, but once you arrive there's ample parking space and the view from the B&B makes it all worthwhile. Yewfield is priced at £90 per night, which is really affordable compared to other places in the Lake District, so I was excited to see what it had to offer.

I've never stayed in a B&B before - I've always thought of bed and breakfast hotels as quite run down, with very cheap furniture and I always preferred the amenities that much larger hotels have to offer. However, Yewfield captured my heart from the get-go with it's charming building, the living area downstairs that makes you feel at home and the countryside decor of the bedrooms, which were stylish and spacious. I also loved the fact that it is a vegetarian guest house - there is no meat served at all on the premises, which disappointed my husband, but was a blessing for me who has been a vegetarian for thirteen years.

The bathroom was also very modern and had a really deep bath with great water temperature and these luxury, eco friendly Organic Damana bath products. They had the most refreshing citrus scent and after a long day of walking, they really helped freshen me up in time for dinner.

One of the downfalls about Yewfield guest house is the fact they don't have a restaurant or bar area, so if you're looking for food in the evening, you will have to travel for it. This didn't bother me too much - we read up on the area and discovered that Hawkshead was only a twenty minute walk away and we came prepared with a bottle of wine for when we got back. I could have easily driven back to Ambleside or down to Hawkshead which is only a short journey away, but we felt like exploring and as I was technically on holiday, I wanted a nice G&T in a country pub.  The walk to Hawkshead was a little adventure, walking by nearby farms and in the heart of the countryside with the only living creatures that we saw for miles being farm life. However, once we  found our bearings it was easy enough to find and because it was a nice, bright evening, it was quite a romantic walk down. 

When we arrived in Hawkshead, we stumbled across an old 17th Century guest house  called the Queen's Head and decided that this was place we would stay and have dinner. The menu was quite extensive with lots of options for vegetarians and was reasonably priced at around £12-16 for a main course. Each of the menu options had been designed to utilise local ingredients and there was everything from pizza to pasta to more a la carte options like rosemary and thyme polenta cake with butternut puree. I opted for the wild mushroom pappardelle made with incredibly fresh pasta and my husband ordered a pizza, which was huge. 

The next morning we woke up at around 8am for breakfast, after what had been one of the best nights sleep I have had in a hotel. Breakfast was served downstairs and consisted of a continental buffet, as well as a vegetarian cooked breakfast of your choice. To start I had the vegan smoothie was wonderfully refreshing and a bowl of soya yoghurt and fruit. I then ordered a cooked breakfast of vegetarian sausage and scrambled tofu. It was the perfect, healthy ending to our trip at the Lake District.

It was a short, but sweet visit to Yewfield and Windermere and I loved every moment of it. I've been to the Lake District several times now and each time I go, I discover even more wonderful places and come back with even better memories. Yewfield Guest House has really transformed my opinion of B&Bs and I would definitely stay there again. 

Have you been to Yewfield or the Lake District?

*My stay at Yewfield Guest House was complimentary, but views are my own.
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How to stay fresh on Impromptu Date Nights #challengebodyform

We've all been in the situation where we've been invited out straight after work, whether it's by our best friends, partners or colleagues and we haven't felt our usual, glamorous selves. After working nine to five and leaving work with smudged worn in makeup, frizzy hair from the humidity of the office atmosphere and having that sweaty icky feeling even when you've applied deodorant and perfume all day, who can blame us. If you commute quite far and don't work close to home, there's no opportunity to have a quick shower and say 'meet you later' either. It can sometimes be a difficult situation when you're not at your peak confidence level.

Another thing many women have to contend with after a long hard day is feminine hygiene. Along with periods, feminine hygiene is often a taboo subject - a problem that all of us women have to deal with from time to time, but something that is rarely discussed. After a long day of running around, things 'down there' don't feel as great as the moment we put on our fresh underwear on first thing in a morning, so at times all of us could do with a freshen up, like the way we spritz ourselves with perfume to make us smell fresh as a daisy and give our confidence a boost.  

To give us ladies one less thing to worry about when we're heading out, Bodyform have unveiled their new Bodyform Daily Fresh Liners (£1.65) with ProSkin formula that are breathable, like cotton underwear and are perfectly engineered to care for your intimate skin, whenever, wherever. These liners are for your everyday needs, not just your period and enable you always feel fresh on the go. Body form recently asked me if I wanted to challenge their new liners to see if I could feel the freshness and I decided to wear these on a spontaneous evening out with my friends. Unlike other liners, these are really thin and almost feel invisible when you wear them, like part of your underwear and they felt really comfortable. In terms of freshness, it was great to have that new underwear feeling when I was going out and didn't have time to get changed.

Fancy winning £250? Bodyform are asking people to take the Bodyform challenge and leave their reviews for the chance to win a £250 shopping voucher each month that will give you a fresh new wardrobe.  All you need to do is buy a pack and head over to Challenge Bodyform.

How do you freshen up before an impromptu night out?

*Collaborative post

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12 Months to Save for a Mortgage: The Halfway point

Image from Pixabay

If someone asked me a few months ago if I would be able to save for a house deposit in the space of twelve months, I probably would have laughed in their face. Saving money never used to be my priority, I would splurge on handbags, shoes and fancy meals and have no money left in my bank halfway through the month. I was oblivious to how much money I was throwing away and at that moment in time, I didn't really care - I lived for the moment, not the future.  In the period between Christmas and New Year last year, my landlord came over to our house to fix a fault with our shower and as he was leaving, he blurted out that he wanted to sell the house in twelve months time and asked us if we wanted to buy it.  At that point in time we had £10 in our savings and had never considered buying a house before, but the thought of having to move to a more expensive rental and lose the house that we had actually grown fond of over the years started to dawn on us.

After serious discussions between my husband, my parents and myself, we decided that we were going to try purchase the house, the only issue was that we had only twelve months to get a deposit. Early January we had a meeting with the bank and set up an Help to Buy ISA and an extra savings account and embarked on our journey of saving and now we're at the halfway point and so far, we've got half  way to our desired goal. It wasn't easy, we had to cut out a lot of things we loved doing, put a hold on our travelling and become anti social hermits, but so far so good and we're on track. Today I thought I'd put together a few things I've learnt during the last six months, which hopefully will inspire you to save, whatever you are planning on saving for.

Don't give up on everything you love

When you start saving it is tempting to cut everything out and live off the basics, but just like smoking and dieting, going cold turkey doesn't always work -it just makes you crave the things you love even more. Make a list of what you enjoy doing and rank them in order of ones that you could definitely not live without and the ones that you would be willing to sacrifice until you have reached your goal. After you've made your list, have a look and see if you can still do the things you love, but less of them. My husband and I used to go to restaurants nearly every week, but now we have our once a month date night instead.

Analyse your incomings and outgoings

Once you have made a list of things you would happily keep and get rid of, it is time to analyse your incomings and outgoings to see how much you are able to save per month. You need to be honest with yourself about how much you are spending and try to consider how much money will enable you to live comfortably while saving. After you have evaluated you spending, you can have a look at what you can cut back on such as making your own lunches instead of eating out or cutting down your weekly shopping bill.

Set monthly goals

Always try to set yourself a monthly goal - it doesn't matter if you cannot keep to it every month, but it is great to have something to work towards. Try to find out how much money you need for what you are saving for - such as a holiday or a house deposit and then divide it by how many months you will need to save up for it. Some months you will have more bills than others, so always take these into account. We try to save more in the months we have more money, then cut back in the months where all our quarterly bills come out.

Side hustle

I would have got nowhere near my saving goals if I didn't take on extra work. These days there are lots of ways you can make money from working at home, from filling out surveys to becoming a transcriber and selling things on eBay. Just remember to register with the taxman if you are earning additional money from home.

Be realistic

Finally, be realistic with your saving goal and don't be too harsh on yourself if you don't manage to make it in the time you have been given. I already know that there's a chance we might not be able to save the amount I need by Christmas, but at least I know that I will have plenty of savings to buy another house when the time is right if this doesn't happen.

Are you saving for anything special right now?

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