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5/27/2016

AperItalia at Veeno Liverpool | Just Add Ginger


Veeno Liverpool Interior

After we attended the launch of Veeno's new menu there was no doubt in our minds that we would soon return. However, we didn't realise it would be so soon, until an invite popped up on my Twitter feed for one of Veeno's AperItalia Guest Wine Tasting evenings. Well, of course, how could I refuse? With a quick check to see if Ryan wanted to join me, we were booked in on Wednesday 25th May and headed down with childish excitement.

Veeno Liverpool's Interior

Veeno Liverpool AperItalia

I must confess that I was a little nervous heading in to Veeno this time. When I was younger, I drank a lot of white wine. When I met up with one of my best friends it was always my drink of choice, and ever since those days, I often find myself finding myself incapable of having a glass. Even the smell is enough to repel me with certain bottles, and I didn't want to be in a position where the staff thought that it was the wine's fault, and be put in to a "it's not you it's me" situation. It's pretty clear when I don't like a certain taste (if you've seen the taste test videos on my channel you'll know what I mean). And if I pulled any faces whilst tasting the wines I would be mortified.

After settling in, and soaking up the atmosphere, we were introduced to the evening by one of the staff, and talked through the wines we would be sampling. This night, they were from Sardinia. One white and one red were placed before us, accompanied by a board of nibbles that complemented the wines. For the white it was bread with aubergines, and for the red, Pecorino Sardo. 

It was with initial hesitation that a sampled a sip of the white wine. At first, the taste seemed very sharp, and I think this was mainly because after so long, I just wasn't used to the taste. The after-taste of honey was very apparent, and really mellowed out the wine. After a few more sips, and a little bit of food, those initial harsh flavours went away, and I found myself really enjoying the wine. It is the best I have had in a long time, and I really hope it makes an appearance at Veeno again, because it really would make the perfect summer tipple. I can just picture myself sitting outside the wine bar, basking in the sun, people watching, and with a glass of this in my hand.

In between wine tasting, the manager of Veeno popped over to say hello, and engaged in conversation with us. It's something I like a lot about Veeno, and noticed last time. The staff really take time and effort to look after their customers, and you can tell that there is customer loyalty because of it. We all must have talked for about twenty minutes, and it was fabulous to have that interaction, because you could tell the manager was incredibly dedicated to his job, knew his wines, and wasn't there to lead you down the wrong - and very expensive - path by serving you a wine you wouldn't enjoy. He'd clearly picked up that we love our full-bodied, rich red wines from our last visit, and did warn us that the red on this occasion was very smoky and may not to be our taste. 

However, over the course of our conversation, I had let my red wine air. And I think this worked in my favour, because by the time I took my first sip, the wine tasted smooth, and rich, and lovely. It did smell very dense and smoky, but it went down very well, especially with the cheese. Ryan sampled his early on, and said that the difference in taste was clear.

Once we had finished our two glasses, the manager came to see if we wanted anything else. Ryan, being more in the know when it comes to wines he likes knew what he wanted to order. I left it in the hands of the manager and ordered 'Our Smoothest' - a less intense flavour compared to the first red, but absolutely beautifully tasting. Ryan also ordered a small bowl of olives to accompany his wine, which he said were a revelation. I was completely satisfied after our initial nibbles, so just sat back and let the wine go down.

Veeno Liverpool AperItalia

Veeno Liverpool AperItalia

I believe the AperItalia evening was just under £10 each. Which, for two glasses of wine and a board of nibbles I don't think is bad at all. It made a great little weekday date night, and would make the perfect event to go to as an after work treat. The temptation is there to order a few more glasses of wine, especially combined with the amazing interior and welcoming atmosphere, but if you're working to time restrictions or have an early wake up call the next day, the evening gives you everything you could want, tied up in a lovely rustic style bow. 

Will we be back? Oh yes! With AperItaia nights taking place the 2nd and 4th Wednesday there'll always be something new to try, and after this visit, it would be a shame to miss out! 

To find out more about Veeno and their events, click here.

5/25/2016

Choosing The Perfect Wedding Bra | Just Add Ginger

Choosing The Perfect Wedding Bra

One of the most difficult elements of wedding planning I cam across was finding just the right wedding bra. Without going in to too much detail, I don't have the biggest bust, and needed something that was going to lift, give me really good shape, and eliminate any risk of any over-exposing. A task, that when it came down to it, seemed almost impossible. After a few failed attempt of searching on the high street, I by chance took a look at the Boux Avenue website, where I found this little number. 

I have tried out long line bras before and I have to say that they are the style that suit me best. The longer length means that there is no chance that there is going to be any slipping, and I like the way the extra fabric helps to streamline my shape. With time running out - I had to buy my wedding lingerie before my first "proper" dress fitting - I popped in to the Liverpool One store, praying that they would have one in my size.

Finding the perfect wedding bra is such an important factor in terms of your comfortability on the day, and is something that I think you should really take in to account. Not only is it important to find something you're going to be comfy in all day, but different style and shape dresses may require different underwear, as well as bust shape. I've had incidences in the past where bras have not fitted properly and have slipped, or the back has been ill-fitting and dug in to my skin, leaving those angry looking marks. I couldn't let anything like that happen on the Big Day. The last thing I wanted was to be bouncing around like a fool because my bra was driving me insane. Everything had to be just right, because once I had had my first dress fitting, there was no turning back.

Choosing The Perfect Wedding Bra

Choosing The Perfect Wedding Bra

At first, I couldn't see my size. Crossing all my fingers and trying not to lose hope, I caught the eye of one of the sales assistants, and asked her if there was a chance there would be any in my size in the stock room. I was so happy when she emerged clutching some in her hands. In addition to my normal size, she had brought out one with a small back to try. I grabbed my normal size, and headed in to the fitting rooms (on a side note - have you seen the fitting rooms in Boux Avenue? Gorgeous!) 

In my eyes you can't truly test out whether a bra fits unless you dance around pretending you are Beyoncé's back up dancer, throwing out shapes to Single Ladies. So that's exactly what I did. Even though the bra felt really comfortable, the fit wasn't 100% perfect. It would have done, because Berketex Bride were going to put something in the dress the bra could be attached to, but if I'd have gone for that size I wouldn't have felt entirely at ease. But I loved the design. From the fine lace detail on the cups, to the trim on the sides it was just beautiful and elegant, and definitely a piece of lingerie that I could wear with dresses after the wedding and really get bank for my buck. Even though the size I tried wasn't perfect, and I was just a bit too jiggly, I knew this was the bra style I wanted to go for. 

Calling back the sales assistant, I tried on the slightly smaller size. Naturally the band of the bra was much more fitted, and took a little force to pull round (I punched myself in the face trying to do this.) However, once I'd got 'dressed' properly, the fit was a lot better. Bringing out the back up dancer moves, there was no chance that there were going to be any slips in this size, and when the sales assistant returned, she agreed with me. I paid and left the store with my Boux Avenue bag in hand, with one extra thing ticked off the bridal wear list. 

On the Big Day, I was so comfortable. I wore the bra strapless, but if it had started to annoy me, MG had the straps on hand to do a quick change in the bathroom. And having that back up plan really helped to put my mind at ease. Obviously if your wedding dress is strapless, your lingerie choices are more limited, but if your dress has either opaque or sheer sleeves, I'd definitely recommend getting a multi-way bra, or a bra that you can attach clear straps to

Finding a bra that you can wear after your wedding day too is also a plus, and I think that goes hand and hand with comfort levels. I spent a little bit more on my wedding bra because it took so long to find the right one and I wanted to make sure the quality was there. And I know that if I didn't wear that piece of lingerie again, it would be a little disappointing. By taking in to consideration my personal taste, as well as the colour I needed, I now have a bra that I can wear over and over again, that I know will always fit well (unless my cup/back size changes of course).

But the main piece of advice I think I can give is leave it in the hands of the professionals and go to a shop that offers bra fitting services - places like M&S and of course Boux Avenue are perfect. Explain what you are looking for in your bra, styles you prefer, and listen to the recommendations you are given. I might take you a while to find your perfect match, but having that advice and guidance in place might make the search a little easier.

5/23/2016

Why Is Your Arm Like That? | Just Add Ginger

I Am More Than My Disability Just Add Ginger

Writing a post like this is something that I have toyed around with pretty much from the start of my life as a blogger, but I have always been really unsure how to go about it. Right from the get-go - and particularly when I started YouTube - questions have been asked: 

Why Is Your Arm Like That? Why don't you show your left arm in videos? 

It's not something that's shocked me. Pretty much all of my life I've had the same questions. It is human nature to be curious, and I really don't mind talking about things. Being candid and extremely open about things is one of my quirks, so when it comes to addressing these questions, I'm not afraid to divulge, but looking back, I don't think I've ever done it on any of my creative or social platforms. And it's for the pure and simple reason that I don't want to be defined by something that I have never had any control over. 

It would probably help if I went into detail wouldn't it? Well, in a nutshell, when I was born, there were difficulties, resulting in me succumbing to the affects of hemi-paresis. I don't know all the ins and outs, but basically it means that I have limited movements in my left arm, and my left leg is slightly shorter than the other, and I walk a little bit differently as a consequence. Movement in my foot is slighted affected too, and, I don't know whether this is related or not, but that foot has no arch. 

I've never known life any differently, and have made it my mission to ensure that I can claim as much independence as possible. My One Handed Ways series on my channel is an extension of that mission. Society can be so quick to pigeon-hole us all because of our capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, background, race, gender or sexuality, when really we are all just as amazing creatures as each other, and have the ability to achieve anything we dream of. And I want more than anything to reach out and help and inspire those who may have life experiences similar to mine, and show that where there is a will, there always is a way. Having a disability has never ever stopped me from doing anything. With practice, I have learnt to drive, cook, paint my nails, tie my shoelaces, do trickier household chores, style my hair...you name it. If there's something that needs doing, you can bet your bottom dollar I'm going to go out there, give it a shot, and find a way to do it in my own fabulous way. 

Sure, it can be difficult sometimes. Occasionally it can be really frustrating when I have to ask for help with something, or I catch people staring. It can be a real knock to my confidence. But that's what happens when you want to tear down those barriers, scribble over those labels, get out there, and bat away all those things that society would have you believe are impossible for you to do. But for one thing I can't quite do yet, there are a million others I can, and I am fiercely proud of everything I have taught myself over the years, and I have no intentions of stopping learning any time soon. My disability does not define me. I know that within me there is a power to do anything I put my mind to. 

My disability is my drive. I empower myself through making sure I start every day with a positive mind, and the belief that I can get out there and kick ass in everything I do. And it's a message I want to spread. Nothing should ever hold you back in the dreams that you want to chase and the places you want to go. No goal is too big, and every pebble in your path you stumble on is only going to make you stronger. In my mind, there are no such words as 'Can't' 'Never' or 'No.' I refuse to sit back and let the world go by without making my mark in it. People have stared at me all my life, and this is my chance to give them something to bloody stare at. 

Growing up, I used to be so self-conscious of my disability because I felt it made me stand out, but now, I strut around with a smile on my face and am proud of who I am. I've overcome stumbling blocks, climbed heights, and travelled along this road all my life, and every hurdle along the way has made me stronger, stand taller and laugh louder, spurring me on to face demons, battle dragons, and show everyone that there is just no stopping me. 

It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. With a fire in your belly, and a hunger in your heart, anything is possible. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. You are capable of more than you know. You are unstoppable. Never let anything hold you back.

If you can dream it, you can do it. - Walt Disney

5/21/2016

Frock And Frill SS16 Favourites | Just Add Ginger

Frock & Frill SS16 Collection
Photo Credit: Frock and Frill
A few months ago I was invited in to Manchester by Frock and Frill to take a look at their upcoming SS16 collection. Unfortunately, with it being so close to the wedding, which resulted in some last minute emergencies, I was unable to attend. And I was a little bit gutted. A complete magpie by nature, I am drawn to all things shiny, chic, and sophisticated, and am always desperate for a reason to get dressed up and feel a million dollars, and I had the feeling that Frock and Frill's latest collection was going to be right up my street. 

And I haven't been wrong. Scrolling through the website, everything looks absolutely gorgeous. Showcasing a variety of colours, from pretty pastels, chic and sleek blues and blacks, to flirty and feminine bolds and brights, there was very little that I look at and think 'Oh no, that's not for me.'  This time of year is always a time where there are a plethora of social occasions, events, weddings and parties taking place, and with that in mind, I have picked out some of my favourite pieces from the collection that I think are not only perfect for this time of year, but would also be wardrobe staples that would come to my fashion rescue again and again. 

Frock And Frill Dress
Photo Credit: Frock and Frill
Thalia Embellished Maxi Dress £165.00

This is one of my absolute favourites. For me, this dress combines a mix of femininity, elegance, and fun that fits in perfectly with my fashion taste. Being one who generally has to keep covered up in the summer, this dress covers all bases with the sheer, flared sleeves that add that extra element of sun protection, but aren't too heavy. I also really like the silhouette. I used to hate wearing cuts that emphasised my curves, but this year they are all I want to wear, and this dress still has that floaty aspect, whilst still giving you the chance to flaunt your figure in a really flattering way. The embellishments are pretty without being busy or over-the-top. And that plunging neckline adds a little bit of sex appeal without losing sophistication, 

Frock and Frill dress
Photo Credit: Frock and Frill
Valerie Embroided Maxi Dress £120.00

Everything about this dress just screams 'Jackie.' From the Bohemian feel of the embroidery, to the sheer overlay to the 3/4 length sleeves, this dress really epitomises everything my summer style is about. Whereas it may not be as dressy as 'Thalia,' it would be perfect for a BBQ, garden party, date night, or even to take as festival-wear (provided there was no mud about.) Again, I just love how feminine this dress is, and could really see this as being the kind of dress I would wear somewhere where I could frolic around in the fields and just spend ages and ages twirling round, feeling like a Bohemian Princess. 

Frock and Frill dress
Photo Credit: Frock and Frill
Zandi Embellished Flapper Pink Dress £135.00

In my earlier 20s, one of my favourite dresses to wear out when I was meeting up with my friends for dinner was a mint green 1920s inspired Flapper-style dress. I was in love with it, and actually writing this post reminds me that I must check to see if MG has it in my wardrobe at my parents' house. I loved that dress, and the 'Zandi' from Frock and Frill's collection really reminds me of it. It's just so girly and fun, and would make such an amazing party dress, especially with that incredible fringing. If pink isn't quite your colour, this dress is also available in Stone, which is a little more understated a colour, but looks just as beautiful. This would be the perfect number to twirl the night away in at a wedding reception, and would definitely make a statement! 

Frock and Frill dress
Photo Credit: Frock and Frill
 Zara Floral Embellished Shift Dress (Pre Order) £135.00 

As I've become a little older, I have found myself being drawn more towards classic tones when it comes to picking pieces for my wardrobe. Which is why I was surprised when I was completely drawn in by this shift dress. I don't know what it is about it, but there is something about it that calls to me. I think the detailing on the dress is just exquisite, and whereas sometimes I think a lot of embellishment or embroidery just looks too busy, and confusing for the eye, ever part of this piece works together so seamlessly for an overall look that is just breathtakingly beautiful. It won't be for everybody, but if you want a knock-em-dead dress that will instantly turn heads and get you noticed, I think this would be the one. The dress is marked as Pre-Order on the website, with estimated stock arrival being 10th May,  so if you do fancy checking out this dress, it's definitely worth checking to see if it is now available with Frock and Frill themselves. 

It is a little more expensive than high street prices, but I think everything on the Frock and Frill website at the moment is just beautiful. I could have highlighted more of my favourites, and there are probably still some pieces to arrive that are just as beautiful, but I wanted to show just a few that I think would be perfect to wear out to a number of different places this season. I'm all about making fashion investments where needed, and evening and occasion wear is something I am always on the lookout for. Pieces that surpass the seasons and would become staples in my wardrobe, and just taking a peek at the Frock and Frill website, I think they tick all the boxes. Should a formal or important event be on the horizon, I won't hesitate to head to their website and have a look. 

What dresses from the SS16 Frock and Frill collection have caught your eye?
Thank you to Frock and Frill, who have given me permission to use their photos in my blog post. (All collages were edited and created with PicMonkey.)

5/19/2016

White Chocolate Rocky Road | Just Add Ginger

White Chocolate Rocky Road

As much as I love to bake, I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm just not all that good at it. Which is why, when I suddenly decided to get in touch with my inner GBBO contestant, and whip up some rocky road. After sampling several shop-bought versions, and looking online to get a general idea for the method (I followed the Nigella recipe for ingredients and method,) it seemed so fool-proof that even I felt confident to give it a go. It is such an easy sweet-treat to make that it's suitable for anybody to try. And the best part is that it's absolutely delicious, and perfect for sharing (if you can bring yourself to part with it.) 

Just to be a little bit more adventurous, I decided to use white chocolate instead of the suggested dark chocolate in Nigella's recipe. And for a hit of extra sweetness and colour, chopped up about 70g of jelly beans and threw them in too alongside the marshmallows. This is probably the most creative I have been in the kitchen, and the results even shocked me. Aside from the bright yellow colour the chocolate mixture had once all the ingredients intended for melting were combined, and the thicker consistency of said combined ingredients, each step was pretty much the same. The chocolate, once cooled, faded to a more muted shade, and set perfectly. Had I been able to find freeze-dried strawberries in my local supermarket, I would have added about 50g these in too, but that's one to try for next time.

White Chocolate Rocky Road

If I'm feeing brave next time, I might add less butter and more chocolate to see how the consistency changes, as once the chocolate for the top layer had been separated, it went a lot thicker and was more arduous to spread on top of the main rocky road mixture. But that's something to test out along the line. 

I may not be able to bake a good cake, but after the compliments I received after my rocky road making, I think I've found my perfect 'creative cooking' niche. 

5/18/2016

A Yorkshire Mini-Moon | Just Add Ginger


Clapham, Yorkshire

Clapham, Yorkshire

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Appleby Castle

It was pretty much a given that as soon as the wedding was over, we wanted to go away. After a year and a half of anticipation, animated excitement, and planning, we needed something to prolong our giddiness after the Big Day. 

So a few months prior to tying the knot, I booked us in for a little mini-moon in Yorkshire, heading back to the village we discovered and fell in love with, Clapham. There was so much we didn't get time to do the first time around, that going back for five days would give us perfect opportunity for a bit of an explore. And we knew that by using Brookhouse as a base, we would be well looked after when we returned after a long day out in the fresh air. 

The week was spent taking in the scenery, exploring the local town of Settle, and even an spontaneous trip to Appleby (the intention was to go to Carlisle for the day, but I'm very glad we ended up here instead). Evenings were beer and fine food-filled, cosying up next to fires, and floating on the post-wedding cloud that we were really not ready to come down from. So much so in fact, that it got to Tuesday, and we decided that we didn't want to go home on Friday, so booked ourselves on a weekend in York to round off the trip. 

Heading back to Yorkshire was perfect. It's a part of the country that I don't think I'll ever tire from visiting. Just looking out over the rolling countryside, and stark, scenery is enough to tug at my Romantic heartstrings. 

Clapham, Yorkshire

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The Traddock

From chocolate-box villages, to towns filled with character, picturesque surroundings, and pubs and cafes that you could spend all day in relaxing, Yorkshire really ticked all the boxes when it came to a mini-moon destination, and really gave us that bit of time to sit back, let out a contented sigh, and take in everything that had happened on our wedding day - reminiscing, catching up, and just spending time together as newly-weds. Ryan really wanted to go somewhere where I had no choice but to stop and relax, and Yorkshire definitely did that. It's like a home away from home for us now, and I can't wait to make more and more memories there each time we go back.

5/13/2016

Veeno's New Menu Launch | Just Add Ginger


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About a week or so ago, Veeno reached out on Twitter and asked if I wanted to join the guestlist for their new menu launch at their Liverpool wine cafe on 10th May. Having walked passed Veeno several times whilst in the city centre, but never having had the chance to go inside, I was really excited to check it out. After a quick text to Ryan to see if he wanted to join me, I added our names to the gueslist and eagerly awaited Tuesday evening to arrive.

Just Add Ginger blog

Just Add Ginger blog

We arrived slightly before our reservation, but because it was so rainy out, we decided to chance it and see if there was a table ready for us. Even though our booking was not until 7.30, the bar was already nearly full, with only a few tables for free. With everybody talking, smiling, and catching up, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. The bar itself was decorated beautifully, with both modern and rustic elements that made it feel both contemporary and intimate at the same time. With an extensive selection of wines on display at the back of the bar, it felt at though you could have almost been sitting sipping your glass of red in somebody's wine cellar. It was a fabulous ambience, and really helped set the tone for the evening ahead. 

The first thing that was so impressive was the quality of the wine. Offered a glass of either the house red, white or rosé on arrival, two rather large reds were brought over to us not long after we sat down. Decanted in to beautiful glasses, we let the wine air for a few minutes before giving it a try. And it was just lovely. Being someone whose palette is very sensetive to strong, sharp flavours, I can easily tell if I'm not going to appreciate a wine, but this was smooth, velvety, went down like a charm, and was the perfect accompaniment to the Sputini (appetisers) which was soon to follow. 

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Veeno have added several new items to their menu, and, not really knowing what we were going to be sampling, I was keen to see if the food quality matched that of the wine. The first dish that we got to try was a board of herb-cured pancetta accompanied by breadsticks. Having recently adopted a flexitarien diet (cutting down on meat,) it was such a treat to have some meat. The cut we've made has meant that whenever we have meat as part of our daily diet, I really, really appreciate it. 

The pancetta was beautiful - wafer thin, but jam-packed full of flavour, and unlike any other pancetta I had ever tried. The herby flavours really came through in the meat, but was not too heavy, and worked really well paired with the crispy crunch of the breadsticks. It was the perfect amount for the two of us, and if we weren't that hungry before we sat down, this sure kick-started our appetite and got our bellies growling for more. 

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With a gap in between dishes that gave us enough time to clear our palettes and have a moment to ourselves, we couldn't wait to see what was in store for us with the second dish. And even now, thinking about this one, it still intrigues me. Rugged cubes of parmesan sat on a bed of rocket and with a small bowl of chilli jam dip on the side greeted us next. Personally, when food gets my senses going, and I keep going back for more, it's a really good sign, but for this one, I couldn't pinpoint just what it was that captivated me so. The jam was bursting with flavour, with a punchy spiciness that hit you from the get-go. There wasn't too much power to the point of it being inedible, but you could definitely tell it was there. The parmesan was mellow, and melt-in-the-mouth, with the rocket providing that pepperiness that made a happy medium. Put all three elements together and it was a match made in heaven, with a blend of ingredients that worked really well. Separately, they might not have worked as well, but it was testament to the dish that there was not a scrap of food left in sight. We even cleared out all the chilli jam from the bowl. I think that in itself says a lot

It was at this point that we both found ourselves with empty wine glasses. And we couldn't have that whilst sitting in a wine bar - oh no! Leaving the ordering in Ryan's hands, he decided it was time for an extra special treat, and ordered a bottle of red wine that Veeno titles "The Richest." 

I can honestly tell you it was one of the nicest bottles of wine I've ever had. The waiter had sold it for me already when he said "it tastes like Christmas," but after having just a sip, I was already overwhelmed. The blend of currants, prunes, herbs and cocoa did this little dance around my mouth, and created such a rich, smooth, beautiful taste that there are no better words to describe it than "Wow." If you are a red wine fan, I highly recommend you check that one out. I think it was just under £30 for the bottle, but the price tag - in my opinion - was completely justifiable.

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The last of our sputini was a board of salami and cheese (which unfortunately I didn't catch the name of.) This combination is always a winner for me, and I tucked in enthusiastically. The cheese was mellow and creamy - almost a hybrid of Emmental and Leerdammer (without the holes of course,) - and created a contrast in flavour with the salami that was really more-ish. To be honest I think I devoured most of this dish myself I like it that much. It was the perfect way to round off the evening, and had the board been twice as big, I think I would have been in utter heaven. 

I had the most amazing time at Veeno's new menu launch, and I can't for the life of me understand why I've never ventured inside before. It's the perfect place for meet-ups, after work drinks, and date nights, and with it's central location and small outside seating area, I can see it being somewhere we go back to as we approach Summer. One of their wine tasting experiences is already on my list of things I need to try, and I can't wait to go back. 

To find out more about Veeno, or to find your nearest, click here
Read this far? What's your favourite wine or drink of choice

5/11/2016

Keyhole Studios - Our Wedding Photographer | Just Add Ginger


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Image: Keyhole Studios
As soon as we started to think about wedding planning, I had a pretty clear-set idea of the style of the photographer I wanted. Never having ever been a fan of hundreds of staged shots, I wanted somebody who was going to capture the true essence of the day. The natural reactions, smiles, tears that might have otherwise been missed. A photographer who would take photographs that showcased the true emotions of the day. After months and months of collecting my thoughts on a Pinterest board, when it came to booking a photographer, I knew I was going to be rather picky. 

It was Ryan who first mentioned Keyhole Studios, already being familiar with the company. It didn't take much convincing for me to know that they were a very strong contender. Soon after, and having seen some of Keyhole's work showcased at wedding fayres, I knew I didn't want to look anywhere else. Aside from fitting in with our budget (a photographer was something we'd set aside more for,) Keyhole Studios seemed to have a style that I was really drawn too. Just looking through the galleries on their website, there was the perfect blend of both staged and candid shots that I was looking for. Plus, having worked at our venue before, I was reassured that they would also have an understanding of it, and could set up shots that sung the praises of the décor, as well as fitting in with our vintage shabby chic theme. 

Throughout the lead up to the wedding, Keyhole were on hand to answer questions and concerns, and we felt well and truly looked after as customers. It's been something I found with a number of our vendors, that even though individually they must have worked with hundreds (if not thousands) of brides and grooms to be, they never made us feel like a number. And Keyhole was no exception. And this was especially noticeable when we had our pre-wedding meeting. 

Knowing I was going to be incredibly specific when it came to shots and angles I wanted on the wedding day, I needed to make sure I'd gotten all my concerns off my chest - namely addressing the issue of my left arm. I'm incredibly vain, and love being the centre of attention, and whereas ordinarily, I couldn't give two hoots about people snapping away, cameras all on me, I wanted angles that were going to be as flattering as possible so that there was no possibility that when the photos came back, I would just pick them apart. And Keyhole really listened to that, taking note, and reassuring me that on the day, it would be my right side and not my left that was photographed, and that my left arm was always at a flattering angle. 

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Image: Keyhole Studios
And on the day, everything that was talked over was treated with respect, and held in confidence. I didn't have to mention my arm or angles, because instantly these were taken in to account, and shots arranged in a way that both Ryan and I felt comfortable. Both Eugene and Danielle who were capturing the day, worked in seamless partnership, and made us feel totally at ease, ensuring we were happy, comfortable, rallying guests, and listening to us when it was clear we needed a break. 

There is one moment that I recall so clearly, and that I was so grateful for. I'd been so calm getting ready, but as we got closer and closer to leaving for the wedding venue, the nerves started to really kick in. MG had started to stress and sensing me being close to tears, Eugene came over and asked me if I was okay. It was a gesture that was so small, but meant so much, and really made me feel taken care of, and it was this positive, caring attitude that Keyhole carried with them as they worked for the rest of the day. Nothing was a problem for them, and they did not leave without asking if they had captured all the shots we wanted. It really was amazing service.

Image: Keyhole Studios
And now comes the difficult part. Keyhole Studios captured incredible shots of our day. We love all thousand-odd they took on the day, and I really don't know how we are going to choose a selection for our wedding album. And if that doesn't sing the praises of Keyhole in itself, I don't know what will. We could not have asked for a more professional, creative, and caring company to photograph our day. They have taken a snapshot of a moment in time in such a bespoke way, that even just thinking about the photographs now is making me all choked up.


On their blog, Keyhole have imparted details of their experience, as well as information about their photography style , and dedication to achieving the perfect shot - just from reading their posts it is clear how dedicated and passionate they are about what they do.

So if you are a bride or groom to be, and you haven't chosen your photographer yet, please go and check out Keyhole Studios website. For photography that is both beautiful and timeless, I couldn't think of anyone better.

5/10/2016

Britannia Hotel Manchester | Just Add Ginger


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Image: c/o Britannia Hotels
You can be guaranteed that if ever someone suggests meeting up for drinks. or something to eat, I am going to be there. A social butterfly and lover of a good chin-wag, I just love any excuse to catch up with my friends, and people that generally make me smile and feel good. 

But when I was invited to go for a little bit of a night out in Manchester recently, I was just a little bit apprehensive. The last possible train I would have been able to get was just so early, but I didn't want to be travelling back home alone. I needed to find somewhere to stay. And fast. 

Not holding out any hope, I typed a search in to the internet the night before, and Britannia Hotels popped up. Intrigued, I clicked the link. I used to pass the Britannia Hotel Manchester all the time. With it's grand exterior, and central location, I always thought it was really expensive. So imagine my delight when I caught a glimpse of a room available with a rate of just under £50 for the night! I was elated. It meant that Ryan (who also was going out) and I could stay over in the city and not have to adhere to a curfew in line with the trains. Okay, so the room was quite basic-sounding, but for a place that's just to rest your head, in the city centre, and close to the train station, what more do you need? 

Jumping off the tram at Piccadilly Gardens, the hotel was clearly visible, and just a hop, skip and jump away. Checking in was as easy as pie, and the staff were incredibly friendly. When the lovely staff member who served me gave me the news I had been upgraded to a better room, I was so happy. With the room we booked being interior (no window,) and the weather outside being uncharacteristically warm, I relished the thought of having some fresh air circulating.

Just Add Ginger blog
Image: c/o Britannia Hotels

Just Add Ginger blog
Image: c/o Britannia Hotels
The hotel interior itself was amazing. Beautifully decorated walls and twinkling chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and the most phenomenal staircase I think I've ever seen. It was quirky, utterly beautiful, and really appealed to my taste. 

I'm not going to lie. It did take me a while to figure out how to use the key-card to our room (in the end I had to ask a fellow guest to help - turned out I'd had the card upside down,) but once I stepped in to the room my jaw dropped.

Just Add Ginger blog
Image: c/o Britannia Hotels

Just Add Ginger blog


It was amazing. A big four-poster bed was the centrepiece, covered in crisp white sheets, and with two complementary robes and sets of slippers waiting for us to use. The wardrobes were so spacious, with a massive mirror exterior, which I commandeered for at least fifteen minutes whilst taking selfies, and to the farthest end of the room, a small set of steps leading up to a higher level with two chairs, tea and coffee making facilities, and a television. The bathroom was a fabulous size, with a big sink area, bath and shower combo, and a bidet! 

It was so lovely coming back from our nights out and sleeping in our room. The room was incredibly comfortable, and it was such a bonus having the window because it was really quite warm that evening. In the morning, we had a cup of tea, and got ready at our leisure. Check out was at 11am, and both being early-risers, we had all the time in the world to pack up. We could have had breakfast at the hotel, but we wanted to head out and enjoy the sunshine before finding something to eat. 

It was with a slightly sad faces that we left our room to check-out. Walking through the carpeted corridors, it was another chance to appreciate the décor of the hotel, which really is so grand, and very much in keeping with the period qualities of the building. 

Leaving our luggage at the hotel, Ryan and I gave each other a look, and reassured ourselves we would be back. We were so impressed with the Britannia, and true to our word, have already booked another overnight stay for the summer. 

Whether it's for a weekend away, business trip, or just because, I'd definitely recommend taking a look at the Britannia Hotel Manchester. With quirk, charm, and really great customer service, I can see our stays being a recurrence for the foreseeable future.  

For more information, and further details about Britannia Hotels, click here. 

5/06/2016

Rosie For Autograph | Just Add Ginger


Just Add Ginger blog

I had seen bits and pieces floating around the blogosphere about the Rosie For Autograph make up collection at Marks and Spencer before deciding that was one bandwagon I had to jump on. The eternal magpie, it was the packaging that drew me in first. Sleek, chic and rose gold. What more could you ask for? It looked gorgeous. 

Wanting to be selective, and honing in on the things I actually needed, I put in my order for the Eyeshadow Palette in I Feel Like A Million Dollars, the Insta Lash mascara in Black, and Highlighter Powder in Rose Bud. I could totally have gone overboard, but I didn't want to pick up too many things just in case we didn't get along.

As soon as I saw my little stash in person I couldn't help but swoon over the packaging. It looks so luxurious and glamorous that I just couldn't wait to open everything up and get experimenting. Call me silly, but having this type of make up in my collection really makes me feel like a grown up. It looks so much more high-end than it is, and just looking at it makes me get a warm fuzzy inside. With Rosie's signature delicately embossed on each of the pieces, the packaging doesn't look cheesy or tacky. It's the kind of make up I'd display with pride of place on my beauty shelf. In short, I loved it.

But you can't always judge a book by it's cover. As pretty as the packaging was, was I going to be just as impressed with the quality of the products themselves? Or was it going to be the type of make up you don't really like, rarely use, but keep because it looks lovely? Not being able to contain myself, I cracked open all three products and decided to test them out all together, starting out with the eyeshadow palette.

Smooth, creamy, finely milled, and full of pigment, each eyeshadow glided on to my lids with ease, and were incredibly easy to blend, with both day and night time looks easily achievable. A creature of habit, I love my neutral and earthy browns and taupe colours, and this palette definitely did not disappoint. All the shades completely complement each other, and work really well with my skin tone. It's such a cute little quad that it would be the perfect travel companion. With this in your travel beauty bag, you wouldn't really need much else. Since first using it, it's now really the only palette I've been turning to of late, and I can see that being the case for quite a while.

The highlighter powder I was a little apprehensive of at first, for the simple fact that I usually make a totally mess out of loose powders. So you can imagine my delight when, upon twisting open the top of the container, I discovered there was a little mesh insert by which I could control how much of the product I could dispense by tapping it in to the lid. Something that, if you're like me, I totally recommend! The highlighter itself was beautiful, with a cool-toned frostiness that again really worked with my skin tone, adding a subtle, yet buildable glow that looked incredibly natural. It is a little tricky to blend, but I find that by using a denser brush, you can get that subtle finish instead of a stripe of highlight across your cheekbone.

Out of all three of my purchases, it has been Inst Lash that has taken the most getting used to. When I first applied it, I found it to be quite a wet formulation, and as someone who is terrible at applying mascara, it went al over my upper lids. However, I will say that after using the mascara for a few weeks, the application process has got better. I'm not sure if it's because the product has dried out a touch, or if I'm just getting better at this stage in my make up routine, but now we're getting on famously. It's one of those mascaras that helps to create really voluminous lashes without that spidery effect, and I love the overall look it creates. Perfect for wearing during the day, but something that can be really amped up for the evening. An all round winner in my book.

I have been really impressed with everything I picked up so far. They have quickly become staples in my make up routine, and I wouldn't hesitate in picking up more of the range. (I've already got my eye on the lipsticks and cream eyeshadow sticks!)

If you want to see how I've been wearing all the Rosie For Autograph products I picked up together, I preview a look in my Spring GRWM.


To take a peek at the full Rosie For Autograph make up collection, click here, and let me know which products are catching your eye!

5/04/2016

Post-Wedding Q&A | Just Add Ginger


Just Add Ginger - Keyhole Studios
Image: Keyhole Studios
When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew
- William Shakespeare.

Just before the wedding, Ryan and I decided to do a Pre-Wedding Q&A. Not only did we think this might be insightful for anyone who is going through the wedding planning process too, but in years to come, we can look back on our answers and remember just how we were thinking on the lead up to the Big Day. 

Now that we have been married for just over a month, we wanted to do a Post-Wedding Q&A to take some time and reflect on our thoughts about the wedding day, how it went, and if there is anything we would change.

What were you most nervous about before the ceremony?

J: Saying my vows. Ryan really wanted us to write our own and I was terrified. I was so scared that I was just going to burst in to tears, start blubbering, nobody was going to hear me, and that I'd look a total mess! 

R: I didn't think I was nervous until it came to putting the rings on and my hand was shaking like a sh*tting dog. After that it was only just my speech. I felt really nervous as both the MOB's (Mother of the Bride) and MOH's (Maid of Honour) speeches were excellent and I hadn't even written one! 

What was the best part of the day? 

J: The ceremony was fantastic. Marrying Ryan was such an amazing feeling. Throughout the day it was really emotive catching each other's eye and knowing that this was going to be such a beautiful adventure. 

R: Marrying Jackie of course. 

Did any hiccups happen? 

J: If they did I didn't know about them. 

R: I forgot to write my speech, but luckily enough I am good at ad-libbing. Also some of the tables didn't have the right number of settings but I was there early enough to get them sorted. 

Was there anything you would change? 

J: Not a thing. Everything was so beautiful, and just so magical. 

R: Maybe spending less time doing the more posed photos and more time enjoying the party. All our photos are fantastic but the best ones are the more candid. 

What's one piece of advice you would give to a couple on their Big Day? 

J: Enjoy every minute. The day goes so quickly that no sooner are you in the ceremony, the day is coming to an end. And don't sweat the small stuff. It really isn't worth the stress when there is so much excitement in the air. 

R: Enjoy the day and make sure you take time to make special memories with just you and your partner.