Sunday, 16 October 2011

I'm a Wannabe Hack!

The Intern-it's meeee!
Soo I do kind of have an excuse for not regularly updating my blog, I've been blogging over at Wannabe Hacks, the popular journalism advice and comment website. This happened in September, when I decided on a pure whim to apply for one of the five Wannabe Hacks positions.

They received over sixty applications for the (unpaid but exclusive) blogging positions. I was thrilled and surprised to find that was shortlisted to the last twenty, even more so when I found out I made the final five! I obtain the position of The Intern, after undertaking work experience at various publications, More! Closer and Heat magazine to name but a few I represent the Interning route into journalism. Whilst the other four are the Entreprenuer; Jonathan Frost an English student at York, Natalie Clarkson, The Undergrad who is studying journalism at Staffordshire, Hannah Bass, The Post Grad who is undertaking an MA at City and finally last but not least, Jon Offredo, our international hack who after studying an MA at Newcastle University is applying for jobs, here, there and everywhere.

So from September onwards I have been giving fellow aspiring journo's advice from what I have learnt from my various work expeience placements, tips about how to get invloved with your student media and how essential networking really is for journalists. Plus providing heated discussions of whether journalists today really need short hand anymore.

So if you're an aspiring journalist or blogger, be sure to check out my posts (and of the course the others ;) ) http://wannabehacks.co.uk/emily/ And do get involved in the discussions by tweeting @WannabeHacks- don't be shy we won't bite!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Review: Jewel Bar, Picadilly.





Last Wednesday, I was invited to a fun networking event at the Piccadilly branch of Jewel. Having previously been to the Convent Garden venue I knew I was in for a treat.

Jewel bar is a hidden treasure situated in the heart of Central London. Just a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Circus station it’s perfect for some impromptu drinks after work. An easy central location to get to, you can be on the tube and on your way back home in a blink of an eye.

Arriving at Jewel, I was struck by the sheer luxury of the bar’s décor. All chandeliers and decadent deep velvet drapes you feel you have been transported to the times of Moulin Rouge. Dim lighting and candles ensure that whether it is six o clock, or twelve thirty late at night you feel you are ready for a glam evening out.

Jewel Piccadilly spans over three floors, each with its own luxurious theme. The lower floors include the grand Jewel bar and the chic bar Blanca, whilst upstairs is the Moroccan inspired Ruby room, Sapphire bar and the luxurious Velvet rooms.

We spent our evening in the Blanca bar. All in white the décor has a chic and cool feel, reminiscent of a Spanish bar. White drapes swoop from above, while ornate mosaics sparkle in the light of dimly lit tea lights to create a relaxed, yet stylish atmosphere.

As we knew there would quite a few of us attending the evening we booked a seating area so we could ensure we would have some much needed space. An intimate bar booth suited us perfectly; plush white sofas and small stools for us to gather round and natter- plus being so conveniently near the bar was an added bonus!

While most of us drank white wine, I did see some luscious looking cocktails. My friend had the “bramble”, beautifully presented in a long tall glass with fresh fruit, it looked and tasted (I had a sneaky try) delicious.

The pricing is quite expensive (£8 for a cocktail) but if you go after work like we did there is a 5-8 club where there is a discount of 50% for wines and £4.50 for cocktails- perfect for a few (or in our case rather a lot) after work drinks.

The bar staff were friendly and helpful and were happy to advise what drinks would work out cheaper- a bottle shared is cheaper than a glass? Sounds good to us! The table service could have been better as they seemed confused when we asked for more glasses for our table, but overall the staff were efficient and helpful.

All this drinking left us feeling pretty famished and in need of some food. We opted for the rustic package of finger food consisting of tasty potato wedges, toasted pitta breads with houmous, tzatziki and taramasalta dips as well as herb-marinated olives. I personally loved the baby-back ribs; covered in a smokey glaze they were extremely tasty- if a little messy!

I would recommend Jewel Bar to any fellow Londoners in search of stylish drinks out on the town. With its glam interior and central location it’s perfect for after work drinks. Alternatively a party or large event would work well at Jewel, as you can easily book a table, food and pre-arrange table service for a fab evening out.

I would definitely like to return to Jewel, perhaps next time at the weekend to get my groove on at the club and to explore Jewel’s sparkle further.

My review for This Little Lady went to London, check out her site:

X

Lucy in Disguise set to close?

An article I wrote whilst at Closer magazine, posted on closeronline on 18th July 2011.

We all watched Lily's foray into the world of retail with her sister, Sarah Owen last year, in the documentary "Rags to Riches".

On the documentary retail expert Mary Portas always thought their concept of renting out designer clothing is flawed.

Perhaps she has now been proved right, as now just ten months after the glamourous star- studded opening, the Covent Garden store is set to close.

They have apparently signed a lease for another permanent store, but no opening date has been fixed.

Instead the pair have opened a temporary pop up shop near Carnaby street, which has been described as a "last ditch attempt to save things".

Lily is adamantly denying the closure of the store, but with no set opening it all seems abit of a mystery. She later tweeted that stories of Lucy in Disguise clothing have been "deliberately misleading" and that the store has NOT closed, but just moved to a temporary store while they are waiting for their permanent premises.

Has Lily let things slip with the store? What with her recent wedding to Sam Cooper and her pregnancy she may want to concentrate on being healthy and chilled, unlike the tears and tantrums of last year. What will happen next? Guess we will have to wait and see....




Katie Price has had enough of quickies, apparently.



Jordan- known for her chaotic love life has shockingly vowed never to have a quickie marraige again.


Despite declaring her love for Argentine lover Leonardo Penna and stating her "perfect" she is determined not to repeat the mistakes of her previous relationships.


Katie Price has had many passionate and fiery relationships- from cage fighter and cross dresser Alex Reid, to loyal hunk Peter Andre and the seemingly innocent Gareth Gates- she sure has had her fair share of men.

Alex Reid.

Her last romance was on the rebound, when she drunkenly hooked up with Alex Reid just eight weeks after her relationship with Peter.

It was a whirlwind romance, within weeks of meeting Reid had moved into Katie's home and they were already declaring their love for each other.

Followed by a quickie Vegas wedding, she now admits that she rushed into marriage too quickly and is determined to make the same mistake again. "You can never predict the future, but I guarantee there will not be another Vegas wedding".  




Peter Andre.

Her perhaps most documented love affair was with the hunky, Peter Andre, whom she met on the reality show "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!" We all watched as they fell in love in before our eyes and soon enough they soon moved in together and had two children, Junior and Princess Taamii.

Plus who could forget their big fat gypsy style wedding with Katie in a gigantic frothy dress and Pete wearing a white suit adorned with crystals- TOWIE eat your heart out.

However sadly it was not to be, when they called it quits after three and a  half years in 2009.



Gareth Gates.


Another "quickie" (so to speak) was the notorious Gareth Gates saga- when Jordan allegedly popped the innocent pop star's cherry. 


Jordan now looks back and regrets the fling, " it's terrible- I was still young, I was pregnant, I didn't have the dad around and just wanted to be loved. "



Dwight Yorke.


Dwight Yorke- the father of son Harvey was yet another turbulent relationship for the glamour girl. A rocky on/off relationship from the start, Jordan describes it as more like "drunken shags" than a "proper" relationship. 

When son Harvey was found to be blind, the couple got briefly back together again, only to spilt for good with Jordan raising Harvey as a single mum. 


Dane Bowers.

When Katie met Dane in a London nightclub back in 1998, she was sure she had found her soul mate in life. She claims, " within weeks of meeting him I was thinking at last I had found the man of my dreams, the man I wanted to marry". 

However, jealously  after two years eventually tore them apart. With Price suspecting her of cheating on him and Dane asking her to give up topless modelling- it was a romance not to last. Things turned nasty when Price fell pregnant with Bower's child and she had an abortion- resulting in her overdosing in painkillers


So can a leopard change its spots? How will the next chaper of Jordan's love life turn out? This time, at least, she is determined not to fall into the same trap, stating that there will be no quickie weddings for her. Even if her new boyfriend is perfect, she knows no- one can be that perfect, she says of Leandro-

" He's perfect at the moment but no-ones that perfect. There must be a vice, but I haven't found it".

So will Jordan resist her quickie habit- or will she succumb to her hot hunk's Leandro's charms? Only time can tell...


My article for Heatworld posted on 20th April, 2011. Enjoy :)

X






Monday, 15 August 2011

Tips and Tricks on how to stand out on your work experience...

Having completed shall we say a few *cough a lot* work experience placements you could consider me quite the serial intern! So I thought I would pass on my magazine knowledge to my fellow blogging and aspiring journo friends. Hope this helps and enjoy :)

Be Confident.

Work experience placements, especially at magazines, can be short most only lasting a week. To ensure you stand out, try to be confident. A friendly yet professional manner can work wonders, perhaps involve yourself in small talk with your colleagues whilst completing the task in hand. Try to have confident telephone manner as you may be expected to talk to PR's to request samples, images and general info about a product, speak clearly, confidently and listen carefully as PR's can speak quite quickly or without emphasis. If you're not sure if you got the correct email, just ask politely again and they may spell with the phonetic alphabet to help you out!

Be Organised.

Always arrive on time, if not earlier, as several interns I worked with arrived early to make a good impression. Whatever you do, try not to be late when you can help it as although you may not be being paid, you are there to make an impression and you don't want them to remember you as the "late unorganised intern".  

I'd advise to take a notepad and pen to make a list of tasks colleagues ask you to complete. Sometimes, a magazine office can get hectic and you may have many tasks on the go so it's always good to make a to do list so you don't end up forgetting something. Also try to listen carefully when your colleagues are giving you instructions as they won't want to repeat it and sometimes do speak quite quickly as they are can be pretty busy!

Be Polite

Always offer to make tea or refreshments. Also, if you are going out for lunch ask if any of the staff would like anything bought back.

Make contacts

I've happened to experience a few networking events and again it helps to be confident and friendly. What I wished I had in the beginnging was businness cards, great for when you meet someone and quickly want to exchange contact deets. I got mine relatively cheaply at www.moo.com, but there are plently of others on the net available for a small charge. So much easier than various scraps of paper that can easily get lost, they diffuse the awkard scramble for paper and pens. Also they look super professional making you look like you really mean businness!

Use your intitative

If you find yourself with nothing to do, use your own intitative to complete some tasks. Perhaps the editorial assistant has given you a list of possible tasks and you could help tidy the magazine files, for instance. Showing you're keen and want to work will look better than sitting there bored, so try to think of possible tasks that need doing. If not, always ask the ed assist or other members of staff as chances are they need help with something or other, just didn't know you were free! If you are interested in doing some writing and are free from other duties, try asking the online team if you could write any stories- great for your portfolio plus fab writing practice! I think this saying particuarly rings true for internships, "if you don't ask- you won't get!" So if you want to write, push yourself and perhaps show whilst you are prepared to knuckle down and do the nitty gritty, you have the potential to write/compile amazing stories too!

Don't expect too much

Whilst magazines are known to be glamourous the work sometimes is not. Be prepared to muck in and show you are keen to help out whatever the task. Do NOT think anything is beneath you as whilst one task may be boring, you may be given more interesting tasks later on in the week. From my experience once colleagues see you are capable and confident you will be given more responsbility- just don't expect to be writing a news story in a national mag on day one as you will be bitterly disappointed!

Look great!

This may sound superficial, but wherever you do your work experience make sure you at least look smart & presentable, as after all you do want a job and are not going to achieve that by looking like a scruffbag in the morning! (With the exceptions of rock mags, Kerrang, Q etc where the scruffy look is the norm!) Each magazine tends to have their own dress code, some are relatively casual whilst others like to dress up; wearing heels, dresses etc. If you're unsure  I'd advise to  meet them halfway and go relatively smart on your first day. Go for smart staples that you have in your wardrobe that you feel comfortable and confident in, like a blazer for instance and you can always dress down accordingly the following days.

The Perks!  After all it's not all hard work... 

Freebies!

You usually find you will be given a goodie bag at the end of your stint for all your hard work. My room is, unsuprisingly considering the amount of work experience i've done, full of goodies consisting of make up, fake tan, moisturizer and various creams so you'll be in for a treat! I now have an obsession with red lipsticks- much to my boyfriend's dislike, my current fave being red mac lipstick!

Passing celebs

You may see the odd celeb, I happened to bump into Stuart Baggs at Heat- took me a while to realise why I recongised him whilst muching away at  my tuna sandwich!

Working for your favourite magazine/publication

The main reason why you're doing this: working alongside those who produce your favourite magazine and are doing the job you would love to do.  I loved compiling fashion pages for Heat and I think that's the most important part, you must enjoy it. Work experience is a great way to realise, hang on I don't actually think this is for me, as whilst you may have always thought you wanted to be a high-flying magazine journalist- actually working there may give you a different picture than what you imagined.

Seeing your name in print is an added bonus, so remember to keep hold of your work so you can build a portfolio of your cuttings. That's currently where I'm up to, waiting for a cash injection so I can invest in a smart black folder to create a super smart portfolio.

 I'm still on the road to success, but as many people have said to me- don't give up, its a long and hard road but if you want it enough you'll get there.

Said as much to myself as to my fellow blogging friends, hope this little guide helps!  Would love to hear your comments on your internships/experiences. Any other tips for fellow aspiring journo's? Hit me back, please.

Emily X

 *Realised the "hit me back" sounded quite gangstaa so added the please to be polite!*

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Spring Fling.

Spring has been rearing it's head this March, with countless sunny days I was starting to get a little worried. Worried, you say? Yes, picture me in Brighton melting in black and my big camel winter coat whilst others are sunning it up in more appropriate attire of chic ray ban sunnies and floral tops. 

Spring, whilst it is something to rejoice- helloo crisp sunny mornings and balmy pub garden evenings, strikes a wardrobe dilemma as the weather can never decide if it wants to be sunny summer, or like this week, dark grizzly winter. 

It is the annoying in-between like weather, where you wonder: coat or no coat, to bare leg or not. With our inconsistent weather, it is no surprise that we often get it wrong. (When I say we, I naturally mean me- cue me determined this week to sport my new spring wardrobe and ending up shivering at the cold, wet train station). 

Anywhoo, whether the weather can make up it's mind or not the shops sure have. Here's the trends I'm loving this season and what I cheekily bought on my recent shopping haul....


Chinos.


£38 Miss Selfridge
Stone Chino's £38- Miss Selfridge
                                        
The trend that encapsulates the look this season. A perfect in-betweener for this not quite short weather, but a signifcant departure of winter's heavy jeans. I tentatively plucked for Miss Selfridge's camel peg leg trousers (petites) as they fitted my short little legs and  come with a fab expensive looking belt! At first, it did feel strange not to have skinny jeans tugging at my legs, but the sheer comfortability took over -whoever said fashion was no pain, no gain, obviously had never worn chinos. 

Fashion has taken a major shift away from tight, skinny jeans- to wide legged, pleated, flared- you name it, anything BUT skinny is in. From madly printed palazzo pants to peachy slouched trousers and even coulottes- yes, culottes the trousers reminscent of your brownie days-  prove that the seventies vibe is well and truly swinging this summer. 




 multi  palazzo pants £17- Dorothy Perkins
Paperbag twill trouser £22.99- New Look
















Rose pleated culottes £38- Topshop.

THE silk blouse.
I feel "the silk blouse" needs a capital "the" to epitomise its sheer importance this season. Sheer, silk blouses are everywhere this spring; find them in peachy tones (the colour to be wearing this season it seems!), icy pinks and contrast creams and black. I opted for the £10 (bargain!) burnt orange blouse from Primark. But here are others I would buy if I had more money! 
Buttermilk cut out back shirt £38- Topshop.


Peach grandad shirt £36- Topshop



















Contrast placket shirt £36- Topshop.
 High wedges 

With loose fitting bottoms like the palazzo pants and wide- legged  trousers, give your silouette a lift with high- sky wedges. Stores have become inundated with various different styles, but go for semi- wedges that are perfectly suited to our unpredictable weather.   

Canvas fabric wedge £19.99 New Look

Orange semi- wedge shoes River Island £59.99

 Walk away orange suede Office £60

What will you be wearing this Spring? Send me your comments- love to hear from you fellow fashionista's :) 

Emily x


                                             












Friday, 4 March 2011

Warburtons Gluten Free Launch.

On January 21st I attended, or rather snuck in on,  the Warburton’s Gluten free event at the Covent Garden Hotel. Situated just over the road from Bauer headquarters, it would be rude not to have popped in! 

Another scrummy breakfast was on the cards, this time it was a selection of the much anticipated Warburton’s gluten free breads, teacakes and crumpets- including Phil Vickery's own bacon- which for the record was delicious!

The lovely Phil at the launch
Phil Vickery- I hear you call. What the devil was he doing there? 

Well, the celebrity chef has teamed up with Warburton’s to create the first mainstream gluten- free breads for people who suffer from Coeliac disease. 

Working closely both with Phil and Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with Coeliac disease, they have developed a range of breads, teacakes and crumpets all completely gluten and wheat free- so celiac’s  no longer have to miss out on what perhaps you and I take for granted. 

It has been recorded that one in 100 people in the UK are thought to suffer from Coeliac disease, however according to NICE (national institute of health and clinical excellence) only 10-15% are currently diagnosed. 

It’s a disease that we Britons know little about, even though there is over half a million people in the UK suffering from it. 

When Warburtons quizzed 3,000 people nationwide many Brits were unsure what the disease actually entailed, with 8% of people thinking a person with coeliac disease couldn’t eat salt, 6% thought it was a term for a first- time mother and 3% even thought it was the name of a religious cult! Hmm, not so great awareness then. 

Phil Vickery, celebrity chef and gluten- free food expert explains “There are more coeliacs in Britain than the population of Coventry and Hull combined- yet there remains much confusion about this disease”. 

However the good news is that research has shown Brits are willing to learn how to cook for people with coeliac disease.  

As Phil enthusiastically states, “the good news is that Brits are willing to learn about gluten- free and wheat – free dietary requirements of others and there is an increasing range of great- tasting food available to these people so they don’t have to miss out!” 

Not only are people willing to learn, but many are considering a wheat- free diet for themselves. With 18% of the population choosing to buy gluten/wheat free foods for themselves or their family, it is becoming a popular lifestyle choice. Mostly the young crowd, (25-34) year olds, are  likely to take up a gluten free and wheat free diet, whilst quite contradictorily it is the older generation (55+) who are the most aware of what coeliac disease is!  

So whilst gluten- free diets are becoming fashionable, I think the most important thing is that coeliacs can have greater access to gluten- free breads and can actually enjoy a piece of toast for breakfast or a tasty sandwich for lunch. 

The fact that Warburtons have launched a gluten and wheat free range across supermarkets means that there is a greater accessibility for coeliacs to taste good quality gluten free breads. 

Sarah Sleet, CEO of coeliac UK states that “Warburtons is the first major mainstream UK baker to launch a gluten- free and wheat free range and we’re delighted to see greater food choices becoming increasingly available to people with coeliac disease”. 

Do you suffer from Coeliac disease? Is it hard for you to find gluten- free products? Or perhaps much like me, had you not really heard of Coeliac disease before and didn't know the slightest what it was all about? 

I really did learn alot from the Gluten- free event, from chatting to the various guests, food editors and coealiac experts galore. Including Mr. Phil Vickery himself who was extremely enthusatic about the new venture, not to mention graciously welcoming- he even held my glass for me so I could eat my bacon sarnie!

 So let's hope this article has helped to demystify the stigma of gluten- free diets and if you want find out more check out the lovely Sarah's gluten-inspired blog @ 

http://glutenfreemee.wordpress.com/ for tasty recipes and know- how on living a gluten- free life, or perhaps try reading Phil Vickery's new recipe book Seriously good gluten free baking- which I received free in my goodie bag!



The full Warburtons range- available at a supermarket near you!

Monday, 31 January 2011

Climbing the rocky road of journalism.


Soo, now I have finished my stint at Top Sante, I am thinking what next? What is next around the corner? 

The good, but kinda sad, thing is that now I am getting more experienced in the field I am being offered internships frequently more. The only downer is I simply cannot afford to several internships after one another. Consquently meaning I have to turn down at least one placement. 

Ahh and this is where the gap lies, between upaid work placements-and the paid. As a graduate, I have plenty of free time- yet little money. A paid internship would solve all my troubles and believe me they do exist. However, they are few and far between, the competition I imagine enormous, gigantic. Soo for now, my dear blogger friends I will be climbing the ladder the hard way. Living the student life a little longer, evading Top Shop a little longer-  however enjoying some extra curricular perks along the way :)

These being, freebies, networking events, plus having the experience that you simply would not get if you stayed in your hometown. 

For instance, whilst at Top Sante I got to attend not one, but two networking events. First off, was the first Glow! Awards which Top Sante hosted at The Century Club, Shaftesbury avenue. 

A plush venue, a gorgeous (and of course healthy) breakfast of Museli, fruit, crossiants, fresh organge juice, champagne (daarling) and a room full of beauty & lifestyle PR's- what more could an aspiring journo ask for? 

It was a great way to meet and greet others in the field, even though they were based in  a different field that I ideally want to go into, it is still really good to make contacts and get yourself out there. A lovely young woman gave me her business card, which is, note to self, the next thing on my list to tick off. (*Must get business cards*). 

After the awards, a lovely colleague of mine gave me one of the goodie bags from the event, as a thank- you for helping out. (Packing sixty odd of those bags and carrying huuge boxes has it's rewards ;)

Needless to say, the Liz Earle cleanser pack  soon was snapped up by my label- loving grandma and the healthy food treats quickly snuffled from sight. 

As well as the freebies, you get to go cool places like the glamourous covent garden hotel, where I attended the Warburtons press event. (more offical info on that later).  Networking with other journalists, PRs and editors I really think that meeting people in the flesh is the way forward. 

A friendly face, a pleasant conversation may stand out against the bog- standard "work experience" email editorial assisants receive every day. The importance of "it's who you know, not what you know" is really starting to play true. Whilst I think a university education is important for aspiring journo's, journalism is a very sociable career where connections matter and employing a face that you remember as reliable and enthusiatic is easier than employing an unknown one. 

The debate between education and experience is a biggun. But I must say, I am leaning towards the side of experience. I have learnt so much from my internships, from the way magazines work day- to day to even how to make a good coffee (I hope!) It is more pratical know- how, experiencing the daily routine of a magazine environment, the fast pace, the stress of impending deadlines, the laughs, the freebies and most of all the people you meet- that a course simply cannot teach. 

Granted, I don't have the skills of short- hand, media law and snubbing. And maybe this will hinder me in the future, but for now i'm going with the internships. I have thought about post- grad courses, but for the time being this isn't an option, (money issue again). A short NTCJ course to give me these skills, a fashion MA in journalism at LCF to specialise in my interests, a general masters in magazine journalism...are all options. 

A comment that has been recently made is that Journalism is now only a career choice of the middle classes and the rich. I am certainly fortunate that my parents can afford to support me at home, whilst I jump to one unpaid internship after another. For others, this would simply not be an option. The Press Gazette, among many others have featured interesting articles and advice on the subject. 

The editor Dominic Ponsford notes that in the past this was not (as much) of an issue but due to the rise of the un-paid internship and the fact that people will work unpaid for months on end, means that employers are less likely to want pay someone for their time, if they can get someone to do the same job for virtually nothing. 

"The really sad thing for me is that the ability to work for free for months on end seems to have become a prerequisite to getting a foot on the ladder at many national newspapers and high profile glossy magazines.

Interestingly enough, he comments that the academic malarky of journalism MA's are hardly used in the newsroom, whereas the practical skills of journalism taught by short courses NTCJ are not only more cost- effective (courses can cost as little as £900, in comparsion to whopper MA charges of up to £7,000!) but are essentially more useful in your career. 

"Many prospective journalists seem to think they need to take an expensive post-graduate academic qualification....But practical journalism is not an academic skill – and much of the stuff MA students will learn will be useless in the newsroom

Soo there you have it, my little comments on the journey to becoming a journo. Would love to hear your thoughts, are you currently studying for an MA in journalism? Or perhaps a degree? What do you think of the unpaid internship, exploitation or a necessary route to success? Let me know. Also have a gander at the Press Gazette's article on why they think  journalism is becoming a middle class profession here:   





Devil Wears Prada- the internship you would dread, but secretly love at the same time.

















Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tried and Tested: Relax day at Champneys, Forest Mere.

Venue

Surrounded by luscious forests and nestled in open grounds, if you want to get away, Champneys, Forest Mere is the place to escape to. Hidden in the heart of Hampshire, just off the busy Hindhead motorway in Liphook, visitors are transported to a peaceful idyll, where no traffic or signs of the hectic outside world can be heard!

The Day

No stranger to celebrities, the Champneys resort is impressive to say the least. Boasting a twenty five metre pool, the latest spa and gym facilities (not to mention luxurious treatment rooms), Forest Mere is a secluded hidden hideaway- perfect for some much needed peace and quiet. 

We were greeted by friendly staff, who promptly gave us individual packs containing schedules of the day and offered us a tour of the facilities- handy so we knew where we were going! 

To start, we went for a splash in the pool and then tried a spell in the whirl pool, sauna and steam rooms. After the first hour at Forest Mere, I already felt myself beginning to unwind and could easily get used to the luxury! 

Unfortunately, although treatments were available, they incurred an extra charge. However, various fitness classes were included in our package and so once we’d dried off, we went to our first class of the day: chi ball yoga. 

This was one of our favourite classes; it was a great relaxing exercise to ease us into the strenuous activities that were to follow. A mix of tai chi, Pilates and yoga, chi ball yoga is a holistic approach to exercise that incorporates ancient elements of Chinese medicine, the ying and yang movements of tai chi and colour therapy. 

At the beginning of the session, we were asked to pick out a coloured, scented ball that we felt most attracted to. It was later revealed that our choices represented our personalities, and as I was immediately drawn to the purple ball, I am apparently a soft, sensitive person with paranormal abilities (creepy, but true). My mum (who chose a red ball), was told that her personality is passionate with high energy and my sister (who went with green) is said to be a lover of the earth and home-maker- both fairly strong matches!

We then used the soft Swiss-like balls to stretch out our fingertips, spreading them across the squishy surface. This improved our balance and also helped us practise ying (soft, female) and yang (strong, masculine) movements. The class mostly consisted of slow movements, but you could feel your body being tested, as most movements were stretching or balancing actions designed to increase flexibility. 

At one point, we were told to lie on yoga mats with the ball resting beneath our backs and to quickly roll from side to side, like a child rolling down a hill. It may sound a bit strange, but the movement actually acted as a tension-releasing massage for our spines!

At the end of the session, we did a little meditation- my favourite part of yoga. The instructor told us to close our eyes and to pay attention to the colours we saw in the darkness. She even put blankets over us so we didn’t get cold, which can sometimes happen during meditation. Completely relaxed, I could have happily dozed off right there and then.

Relaxing and invigorating, chi ball yoga focuses on the individual’s sense of well being. The blend of deep relaxation mixed with flexibility and balance-testing yoga is a winning combination that strives to develop your natural state of contentment and happiness, whilst the exercise element helps you to keep fit too! I would definitely do this again.

Next up was the slightly more strenuous fitness class Ballet Workout. A hit across gyms nationwide, the class featured moves from the popular New York Ballet workout. A word of warning to newcomers; this is not for the fainthearted! 

As a former ballerina (yes, I got up to grade 1; no, I did not subject myself to the pain of pointes), I thought I would really enjoy this class. However, rather than the emphasis being on routines and the dance aspect of ballet, it focused on the strength and flexibility that ballet requires- after all, it is called a workout! 

We did a lot of stretching before we began to make sure our bodies were fully limbered up for the class, and then moved onto plies and demi plies from first position. Still pointing our toes, we then moved over to the barre to practise lifts with our arms in third position (overhead) or on the barre for support. As well as balancing, we practised elevated pull-ups in a sequence.
Balancing is a key part of ballet, and the instructor encouraged us to lift our legs high as we could during many moves. Whilst the movements may not have been fast, we found out that it is holding the position (and yourself upright) that wears you out! 

Next up was the harsh New York City Ballet floor move, which embarrassingly I could not do, having got cramp in my foot! The instructor did say it was a tricky one...but perhaps it was because I was pining for my lunch!

All in all, we progressed through some great cardiovascular exercises that worked to strengthen the backs of our legs and firm our behinds. In the end, I found that I did enjoy the ballet elements of the class (even if they were hard work)!

I needed sustenance, so after the class finished, we trotted (in our luxurious white gowns and slippers) to the spa restaurant. What welcomed us was an array of healthy choices (no crisps and choccie to be found here), including salad, cold meats, fresh bread and fresh pasta served in front of your eyes and customized to your taste. When it came to dessert, the options were yogurt or fresh, juicy fruit (completing a perfect, healthy meal of the highest standard!)

Whilst water is available throughout the day, if you get peckish later on (which we did) snacks are not included in the package. We caved in, but a lovely hot chocolate and a cheeky chocolate cake was the perfect way to round off the day. 

Before we gave in to chocolate indulgence, we were back on the fitness wagon right after lunch and headed to the dance studio for another favourite of the day: dance class.
Both my sister and I love to dance, and so does my mum (even if she isn’t doing the right moves half the time). The brilliant teacher, Rebecca, put us through our paces and there was no need to worry if you weren’t the best dancer, as Rebecca did not focus on ability, but dancing with energy and most of all, having fun! 

We practised a high energy routine to the cheesy Michael Jackson tune, P.Y.T and were soon spinning and strutting around the studio, leaving the whole class exhausted and in stitches!
After all that jumping around, we were in desperate need of freshening up, so we popped back to the pool. I was up for a lounge in the whirl pool, maybe a followed by a hot soak in the sauna...but it was not to be.

There was an aqua class about to start, so we (now a family of fitness freaks) joined in. It was a water-based class with a difference and was dubbed Aqua Circuit. A high-powered circuit of activities in the water, it pushed us to our limits and involved “cycling” with floats, ‘jumping’ jacks, punching through the water and sprinting the width of the pool- it was pretty hard going! 

We had tons of fun and experienced a fairly exhausting workout at the same time. It was a great end to our action-packed day at Champneys.

Results
Overall, it was a brilliant experience, and to quote my mum: “One of the best days of her life”. It was a fabulous day of luxury and fitness galore- we could have quite happily stayed the night and kept those gowns and slippers on a little while longer! 

While it was good value for money, we only wished the ‘relax day’ had a mini facial or manicure thrown in, as it would have been nice to be treated without having to pay extra. There are even some fitness classes you still have to pay for, so do watch out for those hidden extras on the day. 

Despite this, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I would recommend Champneys to anyone who’s got who’s got a birthday coming up and fancies a touch of pampering. 




Check out Champneys resort spas near you on Wahanda and remember you can use Wahanda vouchers at selected locations. So what are you waiting for? It’s time for some “you” time!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Skipping breakfast leads to heart disease, study shows.

To make sure you start the new year the right and healthy way, take Wahanda's advice and eat a little brekkie before you start the rush of the day. I know i've got my breakfast sorted for the week, porridge yum :)

How do you like your eggs in the morning? You don’t? We can all be guilty of skipping breakfast, even if we know it is the most important meal of the day, but new research has shown it’s even more vital than we realised.

Regularly skipping breakfast can increase the risk of heart disease, a new report has shown – backing up previous claims (and so many of those adverts) that a healthy breakfast leads to a healthy heart.

Research shows that leaving the house on an empty stomach can lead to obesity, larger fat stores around the stomach and higher cholesterol levels - which are all major risk factors for heart disease. It can also trigger higher insulin levels in the blood - a warning sign of diabetes.

The greatest risk is for those who didn’t have breakfast as children and carried on the habit to adulthood. As the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, by the time those adults who didn’t eat breakfast as children are in their twenties, they are already on the way to developing heart disease.

The theory goes that if you don’t eat breakfast, you are more likely to want to stock up on sugary snacks to get through the day. Plus, you’re even less likely to eat at typical mealtimes, as discovered by researchers at the University of Tasmania.

Snacking is not only bad for your health, but all those sugary snacks may mean you are missing out on the crucial intake of fibre, vitamins and minerals that a good morning brekkie can give you. Not eating first thing in the morning will leave you feeling tired, lacklustre and therefore less likely to want to exercise.

So if you’re rushing out of the house every morning without a bite to eat, it’s time to change your ways. Check out Wahanda’s nutritional advice for some healthy tips on what you really should be eating – and try to start your day the right way…



Like an advert out of Ikea, the perfect breakfast.













HoHoHo Merry (belated) xmas.

Hohoho Merry (belated) xmas to one and all!

Once again, I have been very busy (you must be getting bored of me saying this) but it's true.

In the world of retail, Christmas is prime time for sales. Hence I took the opportunity to work myself silly over the holidays (make money) and am pleased I have come out the other end still standing- just.

Working on fragrance, my presents mostly consisted of thus, Davidoff blue water gift set (£26 for aftershave and shower gel and aftershave balm i'll have you know), my dad received the classic CK one (on offer of course) and No.7 goodies for my Mum. Plus a spa trip to Champneys courtesy of the wonderful Wahanda. (Blog review of the trip to come!).


Sell out- No.7 gift set- (worth £90, got it for £45, plus free gift- bargaain).

I received bits and pieces, apart from a lovely carpet bag from River Island (my sister works there, discountt!) I mostly asked for money. I love clothes, so on bank holiday Monday after boxing day I found myself where else but Topshop. Rummaging in the sale I found, a gorge chunky knit cardie, super brown loafers (30 quid no joke) and a lovely gold necklace- (when asked if expensive, hmm best not to tell them it was only £6.50?!)

Followed by a pretty ballerina like skirt from Miss Selfridge I had my eye on for a while (nabbed it for £15- bargaain) and of course I took a trip to my homeland, Warehouse where I purchased a lovely camel jumper and matching vest, (not sale, just too lovely not to get) to look expensive for my first day at my NEW internship.


                                           My purchases- softly soft camel jumper, vintage loafers and gold rope necklace                


Yep, tomorrow I am off up *tawwn again, Shaftesbury Avenue to be exact. Today I have been researching train times etc and purchased my train ticket (gulp train fayre rise just isn't faair moans*) for my next adventure.

This time, another healthy excursion, but to a magazine named Top Sante. V. excited, slightly scared. Pondering what these next  three weeks will bring? Will I succeed- or flop profoundly, who knows only time will tell. (hoping for the latter...).


Health, beauty and wellness mag where i'll be tomorrow!

More Wahanda articles to follow, trip to Champneys et al and more on the internship!

Happy new year everyone- let's hear it to a fun and prosperous 2011 :) X