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Pretty City London Book Review: The Chiswick Guide

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Pretty City London Book Review: The Chiswick Guide

foster books




We all know about London's little gems. The colourful mewses in Notting Hill. Leafy walks beside deer in Richmond. Trendy coffee spots in Shoreditch. Pubs and restaurants dressed up in flowers in Marylebone. We all know where to find popular Instagramable locations in London. But thanks to Siobhan Ferguson aka @prettycitylondon we are always inspired to find postcard-worthy sceneries.

You must have heard about @prettycitylondon by now. It's one of those accounts that make you feel better about living in an overly priced capital city. The account has been sharing and reposting glorious London photos for a few years now. And finally, there's a book to go with it.

I was lucky to grab a hold of Pretty City London: Discovering London's Beautiful Places. But as a born-and-bred Londoner I thought I'd be turning the pages muttering "been there, done that". 

There are a few occasions I can accept being wrong and I'm glad I was in this case. I read this book as a tourist. I bookmarked places that I've never been to before. I thought I knew everything about my city. What Ferguson does so exceptionally is to capture undiscovered and hidden locations.

As the popular saying of Samuel Johnson goes, "when a man is tired with London, he is tired with life". This book is a representation of this quote. There is so much more to see than what you think you know. Yes, London would be boring if we stayed in the grey and cosmopolitan central. We would be tired of seeing commuters and office workers everyday. The Pretty City London book encourages us to stir away from the hustle and bustle.

Ferguson brilliantly described London as a cluster of little villages. There was a particular 'village', that is only a few miles away from me, where I haven't explored yet. This book made me realise how vast London is. Some areas such as Chelsea and Soho are so popular but there are quieter places that exhume just as much beauty. So I decided to use this book, as a travel guide and take an outing to Chiswick.

I made a note of Ferguson's Chiswick Insta-worthy recommendations. My friend, Mairead, and I started off our day at No.197 Chiswick Fire Station. A hotspot for their gorgeous interior and equally as gorgeous food. The staff were so lovely. They didn't mind us overstaying and pretending it was our dining room. The restaurant was bright and airy with comfortable seating, it had a Scandinavian homely feel to it. 

Next on the list was to snap Foster Books shopfront, which was a few doors down. This Instagrammable bookshop is quaint and archaic. It is a family run business that displays an extensive list of literature. They even had books going for £1. 

Back towards the direction of Turnham Green tube station, we popped into an eco-friendly shop. They sold everything from steel straws to non-harmful washing powder to bamboo toothbrushes. I will 100% be returning there as I am trying to up my game on zero waste products. It was like an adult pick 'n' mix. Get hold of a paper bag and you can gather up your own granola or make a collection of different types of herbs and salts. No plastic packaging would be found here. 

Cassius & Coco, which Ferguson said it was a 'must-go'. It's a small shop crowded with quirky items as well as trendy plants. Ah, the plants. Mairead said the shop could have been mistaken for my room. I bought a piece of wrapping paper that I think is too nice to give away. I want to frame it when I re-decorate my room. 

Turnham Green Terrace is filled with charity shops. I used to be a fan of second-hand shopping, back when I was experimental and more creative with my style. I had to pop my head into a few shops because, as you know, the best charity shops are found in affluent areas. I bought a cute cream and knitted cardigan with a green hem. Sounds very Grandma like, but I can imagine a Scandi blogger pulling it off. 

Strolling around in Chiswick had to be one of my favourite afternoons of this month so far. It's not busy or hectic like Notting Hill or Covent Garden. It's so leafy and picturesque. 

The Pretty City London book did not fail at showing London's hidden gems. I don't why bloggers are shooting in the same location all the time. There are more beautiful areas!

A message I learnt from the book is that; beauty exists everywhere.


pretty city london

no 197 chiswick fire station

no 197 chiswick fire station

no 197 chiswick fire station

no 197 chiswick fire station

cassius and coco

cassius and coco

the old cinema chiswick

the old cinema chiswick

the old cinema chiswick

st peter's square chiswick

kara chelsie

st peter's square


chiswick

pretty city london

chiswick






*I was kindly gifted this book, however, all the views and opinions are my own.



Simple Ways to Reduce Your Waste and Save Money

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Simple Ways to Reduce Your Waste and Save Money
reduce plastic waste




You may have been hearing a lot about our obsession with unnecessary plastic use lately. Maybe you've even searched how to live a zero waste lifestyle. But lifestyle changes cannot happen so quickly and easily. Adapting small differences to more environmentally friendly choices are more achievable. In this post I highlight some zero waste swaps and also how to save money by doing so. For me, when I know that I'm spending less, habits really do change. It's a double win outcome.



Use Reusable Water Bottles

  
This one is probably the easiest and most effective household changes. If we are recommended to drink 2L a day, that's a heck of a lot of plastic water bottles to get through each year. Recycling bottles aren't as helpful as you think. Yes, it's better than chucking them in the rubbish or littering. But if there's a healthier and cheaper way to drink water, wouldn't you choose that instead?

I say healthier because the major water brands are deceiving us. Just have a look at this video and the ones in the side column. You'll be pretty disgusted. It turns out that some well-known branded water is worse than tap water. A simple water filter is the safest way to drink water.

Additionally, (sorry to be the bearer of bad news) nasty chemicals from plastic bottles leak into the water you're drinking. Even more of a reason to ditch this habit.

The best way to reduce your waste and also save money is to grab hold of a reusable water bottle like this one.  Ion8 Ultimate Leak Proof Sports Water Bottle has been my new best friend. I carry it around with me everywhere. I haven't bought a single water bottle since. It carries so much, 600ml, and it isn't too heavy to lug around. The secure top ensures me there will be no more double checking to see if the screw cap is tight enough.

I have used reusable containers most of my life. My mum went through a phase of reusable collecting bottles and coffee cups. My previous ones had an issue of becoming a bit smelly after a while. But as this bottle is BPA free, phthalate, non-toxic Tritan this means it reduces those unwanted odours that appear later on.


Use soaps  

It seems as if our habits to reduce waste should be inspired by the lifestyle 50 years ago. OK, so the soap pictured above is covered in plastic, yes - I'm guilty. However, I want to mention how this beauty habit is a game changer! Soap is waaay cheaper than plastic bottle shower gels and cleansers. They last much longer, and you can see when it's coming to an end. Does anyone else hate when bottled gels have an opaque cover so you can't see how much is left? And you know there's a smiggle left but it's no way near the opening!!

Lush do gorgeous soaps and they have real oils and herbs mixed in it. Natural soaps have a wonderful smell. It may just be me, I find there's something special about rubbing soap on my skin. It's like a small massage!

Using soaps can be a fun zero waste swap as you can play around with different scents.

Take more packed lunches  

Now we're taking back to the school days. This low impact lifestyle change can truly save you money. Your pocket will be happy, and the Earth would want to say thank you too. But this means no cling film though. That's another small but dangerous plastic enemy. Try using food wraps like these. They even keep your food fresher than cling film. 

There are countless amounts of food prep and lunch pack ideas on YouTube and Pinterest. Get searching and you'll find affordable healthier meals.




Do less online shopping  

The other day I realised how much unnecessary plastic bags, and also tissue paper, come in a delivery. I know that you can write messages to some brands asking to use less packaging, but if they have a shop, take some time and pay a visit. And how can visiting a store instead of doing online shopping save you money? Those online deals make you spend more money than you initially wanted to spend. When you see 20% you feel obliged to spend a little more because it feels like you're still saving. Go shopping, like the good old days, and don't forget to bring your own shopping bag! Your excuse to go shopping for the afternoon is now accepted because you're reducing plastic waste. At least you can try before you buy! Saves the hassle of going to the post office to return your items too.


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These small changes can make a big difference. Soon you'll be a zero waste warrior!

What ways do you try to make a low impact and eco-friendly lifestyle?


Trends of 2018: Polka Dots

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Trends of 2018: Polka Dots



You guys will start believing that I follow trends now. Honestly, this is probably the first season that I've followed. Maybe because I'm starting to blog more and I'm looking out for trends. But I'm generally agreeing with what's being considered as the must-haves. 

I love it when new trends come up that I haven't experimented with in years. It makes fashion exciting again. 

Polka dots. You've never seen your Instagram feed looking so spotty! I remember they were in fashion around 2007. I bought a white dress with pink dots in a 50s style from H&M. I still have it just in case I go to a Grease themed party. But ever since then, I haven't seen it in stores. Polka dot occasion dresses, yes. Polka dot blouses, yes. But you wouldn't be seeing dots for your casual wardrobe. Those patterns are usually saved for weddings or office wear. 
So. If you think you can't jump on the polka dots trend of 2018 because it is too girly or too posh. Think again. I've got two different ways how to style to suit your taste. 







Who said we can only wear polka dot dresses? Have you tried trousers, tops or jumpsuits? Usually we associate this pattern with fancy and floaty items. Styling it with more comfortable garments makes it easy to incorporate into your wardrobe. Pairing it with a cropped and straight legged jumpsuit, with a tee underneath makes this outfit more tomboy. 







I love this tee. You'll be seeing it everywhere. A subtle but powerful statement is why I love ASOS designs. I have been lusting over graphic tees that have a slogan or symbol around the neckline. Especially for larger cup sized girls like me, having words written across your breastests can be an excuse for peoples' eyes to wonder. 











I was going to style this jumpsuit with a coloured top underneath, but I realised that could make it a bit girly. Keep it simple with a white tee so it dulls down the excessive amount of dots. 









Second style. Who said polka dots have to be black with white dots? Have you tried reversing it? *REVERSE REVERSE* (Cha-cha slide voice).

White with black dots is the indirect way to style this pattern. OK, I have chosen a floaty polka dot item. But this is gorge. It's floaty but it's quirky. This could be paired with endless types of outfits. It's a simple way to jazz up an all-black assemble. 











At first I didn't really like this long length shirt. It reminded me of something Victorian and archaic, which isn't my style at all. When I style it with a contemporary and lavish item, the Louis Vuitton bumbag, I fell in love with it. Pairing dots with slogans or symbols is a fun way to clash patterns. I'm obbbbsessed with designer bumbags. They have altered tacky into extravagant! I recommend these bags for all kinds of outfits. So, you'll be seeing this again!












Talking more on clashing patterns. Polka dots and stripes are offbeat and a distinct way to style your outfit. It turns the old fashioned dots to be modern and mismatched. That'll probably be the next garment attempt I'll try next.











I hope you've enjoyed this guide on how to wear polka dots! Which outfit is your favourite? Have you bought anything dotty and spotty recently?







Photos by Stacey 

Skiing in Bulgaria: Bansko Travel Guide

Skiing in Bulgaria: Bansko Travel Guide

Sorry, everyone. Yes - I'm one of those Instagrammers who gloated about their recent winter break. Apres ski, snowy mountainous landscape and going to a country that can actually handle snow. Yeah, Britain - I'm talking about you.

I spent the first week of March swish swishing away on the slopes of Bansko, Bulgaria. A really popular destination for those who love to ski but hate paying the high price to do so.

Some of the slopes were quite narrow but the views were so impressive. You could see the whole of Bansko city centre from just half way up the mountain. But when you're at the top - wow - you're surrounded by stunning and breath-taking views up there.

Bansko town is fairly small. But a heck load of apartments and restaurants to choose from. It didn't feel like I was in Bulgaria. The amount of British tourists there makes it feel like you're closer to home.

As the town is mainly focused on skiing, drinking and eating you may get a bit bored if you stayed longer than a week. There aren't as many slopes as other popular destinations (but I'm a newbie to skiing so what do I know). To be frank, when I wasn't skiing I was so knackered that I couldn't do anything else apart from drinking and eating. And that's my excuse for being gluttonous!


Saying that, there's one other activity that is really popular in Bansko. And that's relaxing in a spa. The complete opposite of strenuous skiing. The spas are cheap and they have a range of massages and treatments (don't worry I'm going to do a price costing below to give you a rough idea how much the trip costs). Your thighs, arms, back... basically every limb and muscle will be sore after non-stop stop skiing. The most painful part will be your legs because they do all the work. It's normal and acceptable to treat yourself to a massage on this trip. A sauna for your muscles is hugely suggested.


The food in Bulgaria is dominantly meat-based. As you would expect from an Eastern European country. I actually gave up meat for Lent. Sinfully, I had to delve into it because the vegetarian and fish options were sparse. I pictured Bulgarian food to be hearty but tasteless. The plates I imagined were slaps of unseasoned meat and boiled potatoes. I wasn't going there as a food blogger. I thought I wouldn't have much to say about the food.

Oh oh oh. Snobby Kara was so wrong!

The food was yummy, flavoursome, calorific and comforting, cheap in price but not in flavour. I didn't have a bad meal.  Let me say that again. I didn't have one bad meal. Most holidays I'd really appreciate having three or four good meals and I don't mind the rest being poor. I was pleasantly shocked how good Bulgarian cuisine was. Even their beers are great!

This was my first time skiing as an adult. I went when I was about 13 or 14 or 15 (as you can see my memory is terrible). I didn't know much about skiing back then, hence why I wasn't frightened. No one in my family had done it before so I was more than excited than scared. But now, at 23, I had a lot of anxiety about the trip. All the horror stories you hear about so-and-so breaking their leg from skiing. So-and-so knows someone who knows someone who died from skiing. I also think it was because I thought I would remember how to ski, but when everyone started warning me about what not to do and how dangerous it is - I panicked. I shouldn't have been. But when you do something new to in your 20s your mind is like "woooahhh whatsss thisss I'm scaarreed!"

I had a few meltdowns on the snow. Plenty of "I can't do this I'll just take the lift back down". I still was nervous throughout my trip. But it will take more practice to get the hang out of it.

Doing something out of my comfort zone was challenging. But on my flight back, I was ready to take on more challenging things. I can tell why people become obsessed with extreme sports. It makes you have a bit more faith in yourself.

I recommend skiing it to everyone. I think schools need to encourage it more. Possibly promote discounted fares to low-income families. People from different backgrounds, not just white and middle-class, need to realise how fun skiing is.

Skiing is predominately a white and middle-class hobby. People outside of that culture may feel hesitant to try it because it seems as an exclusive thing.

I try not to count how many other non-white people I see when I go travelling. Sometimes I would, and go back to my family stating 'so-and-so was touristy and diverse!' In which makes them consider said country to be 'alright for us'.

If a country has a history of racism or a lack of diversity, it stops ethnic minorities from ever visiting there, thus halts all opportunities and experiences that could have arisen.

I didn't 'count' when I went to Bulgaria as I know skiing isn't considered a past-time for ethnic minorities. Why's that? I can't say there's a definite answer.

One, and it's a prominent one, could be, if you don't see people that look like you doing it, then you won't do it. That's a subconscious thing, right? In the back of your mind you think "if they don't do it, then why should I?"

Two could be, the cost of skiing puts people off. Flights, hotel, food, ski wear, hiring skis, ski pass and lessons. It's not a cheap vacay. Especially as the majority of ethnic minorities have a lower income salary compared to whites, would they risk spending their savings on something they may not enjoy?

Three could be, they would rather spend money on visiting family in their native country.

Four could be, well, I don't want to sound stereotypical but ask your grandparent if they would like to go skiing. They would shiver and say it'll be too cold. If our parents, or parents' parents didn't do it. The chances are, you won't. Unless a opportunity with a school or university invites you to.

But there are so many reasons why we are not taking part in a great holiday. When I know I'm the first person in my family to do something, it doesn't put me off. It makes me want to do it, even more, and then to show off to them what they are missing out.

It's 2018 - there isn't anything anymore stopping us from exploring locations and ventures.

It was the first holiday I came back home lighter in weight and gained a life skill. Shouldn't we be spending more of our free time doing activities that benefit us?

I think this is a whole different blog post to talk about being non-white and travelling. I'll save it for the future.

Bacccck to my trip!

I can't say I'm a good skier. I certainly need more lessons. And I won't make people I know try and teach me again! That was more frustrating than actual skiing. I will save up and book to go with a ski school, practice with people at the same ability as me.

I really think Bansko ski resort should be up there in the popular skiing destinations. It's more value for money and it's practical. It's not rough or dirty as people picture it. You'll be surprised how many tourists are there. Everyone is keeping it as a secret hotspot!

Rough prices of the trip:

Flight (return) from London Stanstead - Bulgaria Sofia: £140
Car Hire (Bankso is 2 hour drive from Sofia): £70
Ski Rental (boots, skis, sticks and helmet)*: £60
Bansko Daily Ski Pass (for one day): £20
Apartment (one night): £40
Lessons (2 hour session): £55
Spa (sauna, steam room, pools): £15
Back and neck massage (30mins): £15

Average Price for Meals in Bansko:
Starter: £3-6
Main Meal: £4-8
Beer: £1-3
Glass of wine:£1-3


- The fondue meal was more pricey.


*Go to Ski Rental under Sport Hotel. They are so close to the ski lifts so you don't have to walk far carrying them. Also, if you need lessons, ask for Nina! She was amazing and so nice!