bta

Recently, I’ve been a busy little bee. Not only have I been growing a person, working full time, blogging and doing a bit of freelance writing (because one job isn’t enough, ha!) but I’ve been lending a hand with a really awesome project. This is an awards ceremony to celebrate one of my favourite things in life, TAKEAWAY FOOD! I’m sure by the amount of food reviews on my blog/Instagram you’ll know how much of a foodie I am, so when I was asked to be the South East Regional Ambassador for the British Takeaway Awards (in association with JustEat.co.uk), I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to get involved and represent my area.

As Brits, we LOVE a takeaway, I certainly do. So the awards are to celebrate our £9 billion industry and the thousands of takeaways across the country and give a little love back. With the British Takeaway Awards ceremony only a few days away – the public have voted for their favourite eateries and soon we will find out the winners of the 14 awards up for grabs. The event will be a star studded affair – the awards are hosted by Rob Brydon with Ainsley Harriott and Sarah Willingham as star judges. I was super excited to see that we had a Brighton based Takeaway within the list of the the finalists too! HUGE, HUGE congratulations to the Takeaways who have made it this far, it’s a huge achievement as there were so many eateries nominated!

The South East Region (which covers Kent, Surrey and Sussex) has five takeaways in the finals of the 2016 British Takeaway awards, here is the rundown of our local finalists – wish them luck!

MEXIGO

Website  | Address: 113 Week Street, Maidstone, ME14 1RB | Tel: 01622 756 283

bta-mexigo

Tez Indian Takeaway

Website | Address: 179 High Street, Tonbridge, TN9 1BX | Tel: 0333 370 9000

tez

The Raj Tandoori

Website | Address:8 Broadfield Barton, Crawley, RH11 9BA | Tel: 01293 561 003

raj-tandoori

Italian Pizza

Website | Address:71 Gatwick Road, Crawley, RH10 9RD | Tel: 01293 550 470

italian-pizza

Smoque Grill

Website | Address: 76 Islingword Road, Brighton, BN2 9SL  | Tel: 01273 684681

smoquegrill-01202

 

GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF MY SOUTH-EAST FINALISTS!!!

You can follow our finalists progress and the Award ceremony over on The British Takeaway Awards over on Twitter & Instagram or by using #theBTAs.

I absolutely love winter clothes – chunky knits, thick tights and warm wooly scarves, however this year looking at the maternity ranges of clothes I have felt so disappointed as there is such a limited selection, especially when it comes to coats! It seems with maternity clothes, you have to shell out a huge amount of money to get anything half decent, and as I’m only going to be pregnant for a couple more months it just seems a bit pointless. So, this weekend I snapped up a cheap second hand maternity coat on eBay and thought I’d jazz it up and create my own style by adding some winter accessories I can come back to and wear next year too.

So, this year I’m loving navy, purples and golds – especially with a little bit of a sparkle, like the jewelled hat below as the last thing I want to feel in my plain maternity clothes is frumpy or dull! Here is my ultimate winter accessories wishlist:

winter-wishlist

 

Pom Pom Keyring | Cashmere Cashmink Scarves | Jewelled PomPom Hat |Dreamy Digital Galaxy SuperSlim Umbrella  Cute Blue Watches | Wool Glove with Bow Stripey Printed Wellies  | Fairisle Bootie

 

What accessories have you got your eye on this winter? 

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Review: Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse Coffee Machine by De’Longhi

One thing I am addicted to is coffee. I know people moan about not being about to drink alcohol whilst pregnant, but for me coffee has been the hardest thing to give up. When I was going through IVF and in the first trimester of pregnancy I gave up coffee completely and it was so difficult! I realised how addicted I was! Now I’m nearly in the third trimester (eek!) I’ve been a bit more relaxed with things and allowed myself one cup a day  so I can enjoy my favourite drink again and a caffeine fix and oh my god, I enjoy them more than ever now!

So, when I was recently asked to try and review the a brand new Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse Automatic Pod Coffee Machine by De’Longhi, the most space-age coffee machine I’ve ever seen (which is also endorsed by WILL.I.AM) I couldn’t wait to give it go! Although, in the back of my mind I did wonder if it would compare to my trusty Nespresso – so, this snazzy new machine had a lot to live up to!

THE DESIGN

Firstly, and the most obvious point of this machine – let’s talk abut the design. The new Dolce Gusto Eclipse is a super funky and modern design, with an ultra chic platinum silver circular design. It really is unique to anything I’ve seen on the market and definitely is an eye-catching statement piece for any kitchen. The size of the machine when open and in use is quite large, but if you are looking to space-save in a small kitchen, once the main circular body is clicked back together the machine is actually pretty compact.

The style is also practical, with the body of the machine smoothly opening at the touch of a button with a drip tray that can be fixed at three different heights, even with an XL cup function, so you can make coffee in a variety of different sizes, using any mug, cup or glass you desire.

To use the machine all the controls are touch screen, adding to the super space-age appearance.

Review: Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse Coffee Machine by De’Longhi

Review: Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse Coffee Machine by De’Longhi

USING THE MACHINE

I found the machine tricky to get to grips with at first, only because it’s quite different to anything I’ve used before, but a quick flick over the instruction manual I soon got the hang of the controls, which are quick and intuitive to use.

To create your perfect beverage, you simply insert a pod, select how much water is needed via a touch-controlled slider and finally decide whether you’d like this hot or cold. I really loved the fact you have control over the size of your drink as I tend to prefer longer drinks and other machines tend to focus a lot on espresso and short cup size. With a super fast heat-up time of less than 30 seconds, means your drink is ready in less than 1 minute. The machine has a maximum 15 bar pump pressure, which I have to say I don’t totally understand but this is rival to coffee shop quality, and thats something I can relate to.

After making your coffee, the machine has a full rinsing tool so you can cleanse the machine after use and it also has a descaling alert for regular maintenance too.

COFFEE PODS

Dolce Gusto has a wide range of coffee pods – to get you started the machine comes with a little selection pack with a few favourites so you can enjoy a coffee as soon as you open the box and get to grips with your new machine.

After that you can then order more pods, with coffee types ranging from Espresso to Latte’s, then onto the more exciting blends such as Caramel Latte Macchiato (my favourite so far!) One thing that sets this machine apart from any I’ve tried is that the machine will elegantly craft these drinks for you at the touch of a button, there is no need to add the milk yourself. The smooth espresso sinks from the top of the glass to the bottom but remains unstirred, creating a stunning layered effect that I’d never have expected from a coffee machine at home.

The Dulce Gusto coffee pod range has offer over 30 coffee combinations to try, including hot/cold chocolate and iced teas too so there is bound to be something to cater for every taste and style.

Review: Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse Coffee Machine by De’Longhi

Review: Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse Coffee Machine by De’Longhi

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Overall, I’ve been so impressed with the Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse Automatic pod coffee machine by De’Longhi. I absolutely love the chic, space-age design, that gives it a real wow-factor and adds to the coffee making experience. It’s a great machine for a busy household as coffee can be created within less than 1 minute, with a wide range of styles and choices to suit all the families tastes. I found the overall size of the machine quite large, but we have a small kitchen so space is at a premium for us, and this is a minor detail as the style and shape outweighs any annoyance of the size for me! Since I received the machine a few weeks ago, I’ve been enjoying a coffee every morning and have been experimenting with different pods to find my favourite tastes and styles. I can’t wait to continue to use my machine, I think I’m going to need it with baby on the way!

You can order the Nescafé Dolce Gusto Eclipse Automatic pod coffee machine by De’Longhi for £169.99 and pods are around £3.99 for 8 cups.

M&S Christmas Wrapping - How to wrap unusual shapes!

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited by the team at Marks and Spencer for a festive evening in the heart of London, where myself and a group of other bloggers were asked to creatively wrap over 150 gifts for children and parents staying Great Ormond Street Hospital over the Christmas period – sounded like the perfect festive evening for the run up to Christmas, plus it was for a great cause too – I couldn’t wait to go.

So, on the night of the event I took the train up to London and made my way across the big city – I arrived at the most beautiful house in Soho and it was like walking into a Winter Wonderland. With Christmas tunes, twinkly lights, decorations and the scent of spice in the air, it felt like Christmas Day from the moment I walked through the door. Before the Christmas workshop began, I had the chance to get to know the other bloggers over fizz, Christmas nibbles, as well as a bowl of festive percy pigs – of course!

M&S Christmas Wrapping - How to wrap unusual shapes!

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at wrapping presents. If the gift is a square or rectangle, I can get by. However when the gift is of an unusual shape, my wrapping may have been done by a six year old – think a sticky mess of sellotape and gaps in the paper, that’ll be about right.

Our wrapping workshop begun with a talk from Great Ormond Street Hospital on what the presents mean to them and then moved onto some wrapping tips by the pro’s – we also had a sneak peek at the new Marks & Spencer’s gift wrapping collection for this year – the designs are just beautiful!

The three main techniques we learned on the night were:

  • DIY Gift Wrap Giftbag
  • Gift Wrapping with pleats
  • Gift Wrapping with handy card slot

So, we got going and turned the beautiful house into gift wrapping carnage! It was like Santa’s workshop, with bloggers busily wrapping on every table, chair and even spreading across the floor. Soon, the piles of toys and gifts for the children of Great Ormond Street Hospital had turned into a piles of shiny presents in their beautiful wrapping paper, all ready to go and make someones day.

M&S Christmas Wrapping - How to wrap unusual shapes!

After the event, the team at Marks and Spencer challenged us to try our hand at wrapping our presents, using some of the tips we learned on the day. So I got on the M&S website and started my christmas shopping, buying this sweet Darth Vader Bath Foam for Vee (she’ll love this!) and an Orange and Ginger Bath and Body Set for a family friend. Both quite tricky shapes that would usually have thrown me, but armed with my new techniques, I was ready! 🙂

M&S Christmas Wrapping - How to wrap unusual shapes!

This year I’ve chosen to wrap all my presents using the Marks and Spencer’s Hollywood Rose Gold gift wrap, with matching tags and ribbons. So, my first step was to get everything ready to wrap – this includes a large flat space, pair of scissors, sellotape – plus, the essentials for wrapping – a mince pie and Christmas tunes.

I have decided to use the ‘DIY Gift Bag’ technique, which involves creating a cute pouch for your item, meaning there are no awkward shapes to wrap around – instead you end up with a gift bag that can fit anything. It’s a real pro trick as it looks fabulous too. Here is how I got on…

M&S Christmas Wrapping - How to wrap unusual shapes!

Darth Vader helps hold down the paper whilst I make the bottom of the gift bag

M&S Christmas Wrapping - How to wrap unusual shapes!

Finishing touches: Adding a ribbon to the top gives a professional feel to the gift bag

M&S Christmas Wrapping - How to wrap unusual shapes!

Next up, the Christmas Tree shaped tin!

Ta Da! Here are my finished presents! I found this technique super easy to do and this look makes all the presents look so neat under the tree too. If you’d like to give the wrapping techniques a go, Marks and Spencer’s have put together a full gift-wrapping guide, using some of our tips and tricks from the event, so give that a read to take some of the stress out of wrapping this year! I’ll be using this technique for years to come, as it really works with any gift of any size. I can’t wait to give the other techniques a go in the run up to Christmas too.

M&S Christmas Wrapping - How to wrap unusual shapes!

 

A big THANK YOU to Marks and Spencer for the lovely evening gift wrapping in your beautiful Winter Wonderland house and also for donating so many gifts to an amazing cause too! 

Pin for later: M&S Christmas Wrapping - A guide to wrapping unusual shaped gifts!

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Pregnancy and Sleep - My Advice

Even before I was pregnant, I have always been the Princess and the Pea – the smallest thing will wake me up and totally ruin a whole nights sleep. I got used to the fact that, if I want to get a good nights sleep, everything has to be perfect – a comfy bed, the right lighting and temperature, plus its not just about my surroundings, mentally I need to be totally relaxed too. When I got pregnant and I immediately heard tales uncomfortable, sleepless nights and I knew I was in for a loooonng nine months if I didn’t get my sleep time sorted. So, for the sake of my sanity – I’ve had to work out a sleep routine that works for me, which is even more important with baby on board. It’s been a time of trial and error, and this doesn’t always work, but on the whole I’ve managed to get my sleeping patterns down to a fine art so I thought I’d share my top tips:

 

Keeping Hydrated

 This is a tricky balance – on one hand you need to keep hydrated but at the same time, don’t drink too much before bed or you’ll be up running to the loo all night. I usually drink half a glass of water before bed, then leave the rest of the glass by the bed to drink during the night. I also find if I don’t let myself get dehydrated during the day and I avoid salty foods in the evening – this goes a long way at night too.

 

Essential Oils

 Every day I pop a couple of drops of essential oils on my pillow. My current favourite is Melissa from Neal’s Yard, this calming scent is used for anxiety, stress and tension so works perfectly when drifting off to sleep. I also burn scented candles on my bedside table (before I go to sleep only!) which helps to create a calm ambience. My favourite scented candle at the moment is The Body Shop Hawaiian Kukui, which smells SO delicious.

 

Sleeping Position

When you are pregnant, sleeping position is everything. After 16 weeks it’s not recommended to sleep on your back anymore, so the only choice is on your side (although I keep waking up on my back even at 27 weeks and the midwife has told me this is ok, but to get back on my side when I wake!) So using a good pregnancy pillow is essential to keep you on your side and to support your hips and bump. I love my Theraline Pillow (which I mentioned before in this post), although my dream would be to have an adjustable bed one day. Along those lines, I also wish I had a riser recliner chair as I can bearly get myself up these days!

 

Carpal Tunnel

 My main issue with sleeping has been the fact that I have started to suffer with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This is where your hands and wrists go completely numb and is really common during pregnancy. I usually wake up with painful pins and needles multiple times in the night. This is a tricky one as there is no cure until pregnancy is over, but you can lessen the symptoms by using wrist splints or by laying your wrists and hands flat, without tucking them under yourself/the covers.

 

Heartburn and Acid Reflux

 These are both really common in pregnancy and can keep you awake all night if left untreated. Luckily, Rennie and Gaviscon are both amazing for treating heartburn and acid reflux (my lifesaver at the moment!) – both can be bought over the counter at your local pharmacy. It’s also worth trying to eat less in the evenings, giving your body plenty of time for digestion –  especially spicy, fatty or rich foods.

 

Turn off Devices

This is something I realised before I was pregnant and as soon as we stopped using our devices at night both V and I noticed a difference in our sleep patterns. Believe me, that nightly scroll of social media in bed  is actually quite damaging to your sleep routine! My goal is to turn all devices off by around 8-9pm to avoid blue light and stimulation of the mind, both are a nightmare for sleep. We tend to read before bed, this has worked a treat in sending us both off  just recently, plus I’m finally working my way through my never-ending ‘to read’ list.

Give these tips a go and stick with it, they work I promise. 🙂 If you have any sleep tips – let me know, I’d love to hear your suggestions! 

Pregnancy and Sleep - My Advice

Post includes collaborative link, words and opinions are my own