For review

Today Begins with Tea (Tasting) - Proper Tea Rooms Manchester*

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I was recently given the opportunity to take part in an exercise to gather information on great places around Manchester for a project on the Millennium Guide to Manchester you'll be able to find the guide once it's been produced. The aim is to  to gather all the amazing places in Manchester and have the details all in once place.

I love tea and I'm gradually working my way round all the tea rooms and cafes in Manchester, when Joe Bloggs contacted me to see if I wanted to take part I didn't hesitate and said I wanted to try and include Proper Tea Rooms. I've been meaning to go since they opened and never had the chance.

I was booked on to the Proper Tea Developer Part One which part of a series of tea tasting workshop they offer.

The workshop started at 11am last Sunday morning and you're asked to arrive around 15 minuets early I was asked to wait at a table. I love the flowers and sign on the tables. It brought a smile to my face. 

There were 12 of us all together, previous worshops have been 8 people but they have been more popular than they expected and are looking to run the workshops on a monthly basis. I already know of two people who are looking to book on. 

We were given a brief introduction and a hand out. Hand outs make me happy as it gave us a chance to scribble notes and extra information that we could read at our leisure.  

There was a real mix of people on the workshop, a few had been bought the voucher for Christmas, another person was a cafe owner and wanted to get more information about tea and then there was me. I didn't feel out of place going alone and everyone was really nice and friendly. 

We tried 12 different teas 3 white tea, 5 green, and the rest black. We were given information about how the tea's are created and what to look out for when buying and storing tea.

Like with most things tea is a personal preference and what one person likes another one will hate. Tea will taste different to everyone and depending on what else you've eaten or drunk. 

Some of the tea's had very little flavours and some people thought they were just hot water but often these tea's were quite rare and there for more expensive. They are ones you would buy and drink if you were very into tea and not have as an every day brew. 

The hand out also had a space were we could record details of the tea's we'd had and space for notes on what temperature the water should be and how long to brew them for. White and green teas need to be brewed at a lower temperature than black tea as they are closer to the natural state of the leaves and are easy to burn. 

We did have a couple of brew's that were burnt (the water too hot) and then they were re-brewed and the taste was very different. It's worth knowing what temperature is right for your brew. Especially if you're buying decent loose leaf tea.  

I love the tea leaves in their raw form I could't stop taking pictures of them and I've take out a vast number of pictures from this post. 

It was really interesting listening to Kalpa who is the tea expert at Proper Tea rooms listening to how she got into tea and the differences between the different types of tea.

As you can see from the pictures I've shown the tea gets gradually darker as we work out way from white to black tea.

The tea was made by checking the temperature of the water it was brewed in a glass teapot then decanted into a glass jug before being poured into the cups.

We were also given some biscuits and cakes which were really lovely. I'm planning on going back with my mum. I was perusing the menu at work the other day with a colleague trying to decide what I'd have. I think it will be the soup, sandwich, breakfast tea and scone deal for £11.  

We were shown what to look out for when buying tea and did a bit of a comparison between the three black teas.

My photo's didn't upload in the order I took them but I think this one was my favourite one.It's Imperial Earl Grey It comes from Sri Lanka and should be brewed at 95 degrees. They spray the leaves with Bergamot Orange as it grows to be scented rather than flavoured. I was showing the notes to someone at work who is thinking of booking a place and he pointed out I'd written "Amazing" in the comments box. 

The Beijing Breakfast tea was the most fascinating to look at, the leaves look to have been twisted before they are dried and beautiful to look at. 

We had plenty of time to chat through the different teas and ask questions. We talked about having tea for comfort with milk and having loose leaf teas, decaf teas and a brief mention of tea infusions. 

The workshop costs £30pp and lasts for two hours. My first though was this was a little expensive but with everything we covered and the number of tea's we tasted it is a fair price and I think it would make a great gift for the tea lover in your life.  I have a list of tea's I want to try and I want to get away from my tea bag teas. There is nothing wrong with these but my eyes have been opened to loose leaf tea and I now know I've been making my green tea with water that is far too hot and I prefer white tea to green. This from the girl who was always a builders brew kind of girl is a bit of a revelation.

From their website they have a number of dates for the Proper Tea Developer Part One

Sunday 22nd March, 11am
Sunday 19th April, 11am
Sunday 17th May, 11am
Sunday 14th June, 11am

There is a Proper Tea Developer Part Two which they don't recommend going on until you've done part one and this looks at ancient and fermented teas. I am quite interested in trying this workshop in the future. 

I think this would make a great gift for the tea drinker in your life, it's also a great option when you've run out of material things to buy someone. 

There was a great atmosphere in the tea room, at times it was quite hard to hear as there was the noise of customers but they are learning and taking feed back from each course to get the set up perfected. It didn't detract from the course it just meant we had to have things repeated a couple of times.

I've also had an email in the past day or two saying they are looking at putting on other workshops and may do dome evening workshops so it will be worth keeping an eye on their website. 

I was gifted the voucher to attend this workshop but all views and opinions are my own. A big thank you to Joe Blogs for organising this opportunity.


Empties - February 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Another month has rolled round and my empties box has filled up nicely. It's amazing to see how much stuff I get through each month and I really enjoy reading these kinds of posts.

Hair Products

Herbal Essences Breakage Defender - It really wouldn't be an empties post without one of these Herbal Essence pots in there. I am loving this but getting a little bored of it. We're half way through another pot of this then I'm having a change to a different brand. I get this from Pound World and it's the only place I've found it. I will buy more if I see it but it's time for a change

CoLab Dry Shampoo New York - I think I might have got this in the You Beauty Discovery Box before Christmas but I have bought a few of these CoLab Dry Shampoo's from Superdrug. I really liked this one. It's lightweight and smells amazing. I think this is my favourite fragrance out of the ones I've tried. It works well in my hair and I've bought a full size version if this one.

CoLab Dry Shampoo Extreme Volume Rio - I bought this on a whim, excited by the packaging  but I wasn't keen. It does give volume but it game my hair a plastic feeling and I'm not keen on the smell. It would be good for styling hair in up do's but I don't think I'd buy it again. I'm quite sad to be disappointed with this one.

Vidal Sasson Salonist Hair Dye 4/4.5 Dark Intense Red  - I really regret buying this product. I had really high hopes but right from opening the pack and seeing how many components there were really put me off. I have to sat the colour looked good when it was first done but despite trying not to wash my hair as much it's really faded. It was a total hassle to apply and my hair feels in such bad condition. I'm having to use hair masks with every wash, which isn't helping the colour. If I forget to use the hair mask I can't get a brush through it even with the aid of a detangling spray.

Vidal Sasson is a brand of my childhood, my dad used to buy the shampoo if was ever on offer and I always felt fancy is I used a "Designer" brand, so when I saw this new dye come out I wanted to try it.

It says it's easy to apply yourself, I don't see how this would be easy to do yourself at all. My mum did mine and she really struggled. I know it's not just her as I did her hair with the same product in another colour and it was a pain to apply. In Theory the brush is good for the roots but it was really hard to section the hair and make sure you save a quarter of the pack to do the lengths. There also isn't any instructions for first time application. It assumes you need to do the roots. It did say to check out the website for different techniques. I've looked and I can't see anything .

The dye seeped through the gloves so our finger tips were stained for a few days afterwards. The product also has a very strong chemical smell which was really off putting. The past few hair colours I've used have been orderless or had a nice none chemical smell so this was a really turn off.

Washing it out was a nightmare. I've never had an experience like it. It took almost 20 mins for the water to run clear (clearish) then you have to apply shampoo. At this point my hair went into one giant knot. I thought at  I was going to have to cut the knot ou

t, it was very painful and at one point I was crying. Once I'd washed the shampoo and I had to use a full tube of the conditioner and spend an age detangling it with my Denman shower brush. I am hair sore normally but never has a dye done this to me. It's been a couple of weeks since I dyed my hair and my scalp is still sore and sensitive. My hair feel awful which is not something I'm used to after dying my hair it normally feels in good condition. I'm also now having to use a hair mask with every wash and detangling spray which isn't like me at all.

I love the result of the colour, My mum's hairdresser commented on how nice the colour was and seemed supervised it was a box dye but overall the effort and the pain was not worth it. I'm sure other people will have different opinions and experiences but this is mine.  It was also quite a bit more expensive than hair dyes I normally buy and feel really disappointed by it.

Lee Stafford Hair Growth Shampoo, Conditioner and Hair Treatment - I love this stuff and I mentioned it in my growing my hair post recently. I don't know if it does help with growth or not, but I've been using various  Lee Stafford products for a few years and have bought this a number of times. I like the smell and how clean my hair feels. I'm not in a rush to buy it again but it's on the tip of my shopping list and I'm determined to hold off buying it for a couple of months.

Bath Products

Bomb Cosmetics Bath Mallows -  these bags represent approximately 2 Bomb Cosmetics bath mallows per bag. I'm obsessed with these things. I got loads in the sale after Christmas and was trying to not use them but I've used one in almost every bath I've had this month. I like them all, some more than others and I've only got 4 left from my haul.

Misc Bathroom Products 

Johnson's Cotton Buds - Another empties post staple. I've used lots of different brands of cotton buds but for me it's worth paying the extra for the Johnson and Johnson ones. I get mine from pound shops or home bargains so I don't way a lot for them at all. 

BIC Soleil Scent - I love these razors. OK love might be a bit strong but they are my preferred ones. They are pretty cheap and I rarely nic myself when I use them. They have scented handles. Errr ok I've never noticed. I only know this as I read the packaging when I was going through them empties. The packet smells a ok but I sniffed one of the handles and I didn't really get a smell. It's not why I buy them but thought I'd mention it. I have got another pack of these ready to go. 

Face Products

Primark Argan Facial Cleaning Wipes - For £1 for 2 packs these are a bargain. They are for Dry skin. My skin is combination and I haven't noticed any extra greasiness. I tend to use these to wipe off my make up before washing my face which I think helps.

Neutrogena Visibly Clear Pink Grapefruit Daily Scrub - This wasn't for me. Why carry on using it? One I don't like waste, Two I kept thinking it would get better. It didn't! The grit wasn't gritty enough for my liking and the stuff it's suspended in too thick. It foamed up and seemed to lose the grit. I used it on my arms and chest as well as my face. I also hated the smell after a few uses. I'm really smell sensitive and I should know better than to buy something with a strong fragrance. I've also got the Neutrogena face wash and I don't like that either. I have half a bottle left and I'm thinking about binning it. I don't feel like it suits my skin and I won't be repurchasing it.

Nivea Rich Moisturising Cream for Dry Skin - I really love the Nivea moisturiser and I like that this has SPF in it. I tend to mix and match the different ones as my skin is weird and combination is the word for it but it's dry where you'd expect it to be greasy and vice versa.

Nivea Light Day cream for Oily and Combination Skin - Same as above really. This has SPF in as well and While I still think the Green one (Combination Skin) is my favourite I really like this.

Make Up

Essence All about Matt Foundation 02 Beige - This was a PR sample from the Essence UK Launch event last year along with the powder I'm going to mention. I've loved Essence products for years. This has to be the first foundation I've ever used up completely. I get bored or my skin changes colour with the seasons or I don't like it enough to use up. This is pretty light coverage and lasts well on my skin. I'm not one for topping up my make up during the day and after I apply it I rarely look in a mirror again. The mirrors in the loo's at work are smoked glass and you don't get a true reflection of how you look so I've got used to not bothering!

Essence Matt Powder - The name has worn off this and I was almost down to pan but on Friday 13th it feel out of my makeup bag on the bus and smashed. I wanted to mention it as I really liked how this felt on my skin and I will repurchase it again.

Essence Lip Liner 13 Transparent -  I bought this after seeing someone talk about a high end lip liner. Lip Liner is one of the last products I reach for, but when Roise from a Rose Like This mentioned to me the Revlon Lip Butters in Candy Apple worked much better with using a lip liner I decided to dig this out and it really does work amazingly with this lip liner. This is in my empties as ever time I sharpen it I'm getting a sharp point on the pencil. I've tried all sorts and I though for the cost just bin it and buy another one. Which I have. I've also used this with my Illamasqua Minx lipstick and it works well.   

And that concludes this months empties. 
Have you used any of these products? What did you think?


#OMCZ 2015 The Return

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

You may remember there used to be a fortnightly feature on my blog called #OMCZ It was a challenge for Plus Size Bloggers  and the aim was to get Outside My Comfort Zone.

The challenge was originally started by Rachel and when she took a step back from blogging I took over the co-ordination of it.

We've had a few different bloggers participate over the 2 years it was running and then in the middle of last year I lost my blogging mojo and just stopped the challenge. I've been thinking about re-starting it for a while but the time never felt right.

And I will be emailing out the first theme very soon. I'm also thinking of putting a link on the bottom of my posts so people can add the direct link to their posts.

The challenge will now be once a month and we'll post the last Wednesday of the month.

Keep your eyes peeled this time next month for our first post of 2015.

What things are Outside Your Comfort Zone?


Growing my Hair in 2015 - It's a long road

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I spent almost all of 2014 growing my hair and 2015 is going to continue in much the same vein. My hair is now long enough to tie up. I still need grips and this side fringe was a bad idea but it's getting there. As I sit here and type I've got it in a small plait but a plait none the less.

In fact I rarely wear my hair down and it's in far too much of a state to take a picture of it but I just want to leave this picture here of my hair in 2014 so I can see how far I've come.

My last hair cut left me a bit devastated as she cut it back to the length that it'd been cut too on the hair cut before that which set me back 6 months.

I'm itching for another haircut. I used a new type of hairdye and it's really dried out my hair. I'm having to use a hair mask every hair wash. My hair has that just surf texture without the aide of Bumble and Bumble but none of the styling power.

I do need to take a picture of all sides of my hair,  even if it is just as a record for myself.

Here is a recent selfie and it does my me realise my efforts are paying off, I just wish it was a bit quicker. 

I've been using the Lee Stafford Hair Growth Products again. I really don't know if they work or not but I really like them whether they are aiding the growth or now. In the month I've been using them a few people have commented my hair has grown and I don't think they know I'm using those products. 

This popped up on my Time Hop on 9th February and while I don't actually like my hair in this picture I really want my hair this length or longer.

The good thing about this picture is that it' making me want to look after my hair and making me want to keep using the hair masks.

If you have any tips for growing my hair or recommendations please let me know.

I know it's something I go on about a lot but I regret cutting my hair so much. I loved it short and I'm sure when it's long I'll never be happy and probably cut it short again.

24/02/15 I finally took some Pictures of my hair as it is now


Learning to fold my clothes

Monday, February 23, 2015

One of my Facebook friends mentioned Marie Kondo and shared a picture of her own bedroom drawers.

Intrigued by the neatness I took to Pinterest where I was confronted by  image after image of neatly folded clothes stood on end rather than stacked one on top of the other. Socks folded rather than rolled into a ball and it struck a cord with me.

Marie has lots of ideas and I've not read much past how to fold but there is a lot of not hanging on to things. I got rid of so many things when I was having my wardrobes fitted and I have a suitcase full of things for the next clothes swap. I'm not ready to part with anything else just yet.

I am getting better at throwing things out. uncomfy knickers and Bra's, Leggins which are now too thin to wear with longish dresses. I'm managing to throw them out after wearing rather than washing them and then trying to remember to chuck them out. It's a step in the right direction.

I have three drawers in my room and I just stuff things in there and never look in them as they are so messy and disorganised as a rule. Every now and again I'll have a sort out and hang items up but then never look in the drawers again for months. 

 My folding skills leave a lot to be desired but I can more or less see everything. I have another drawer to sort and which has jumpers in. I'm hoping to rearrange my summer stuff to bring down more tshirts and box up my jumpers.

It makes a lot of sense having things stood up on end. I've even added one of those tshirt folding boards to my amazon basket! I've also looked on Youtube about making my own! I'm quite into this idea now.

Maybe I'll do a recap once i've got my folding technique mastered. I might even have a go at making a DIY folding contraption.

How organised are you?

50 Books in 2015

50 Books in 2015 - Books 6 - 11

Saturday, February 21, 2015

After a cracking start with books 1- 5 I seemed to slow down. But saying that I've read 11 books so far. 

I worked out I need to read about 4 books a month so I'm ahead of target. 

Book 6 The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

For book 6 I decided to go for a thin book but The Great Gatsby took me an age to read. Longer than a 400 page book. 

I've wanted to read this ever since I saw the film but feel disappointed in it. Maybe the film spoilt me and I think it's a book I will read again as I feel like I skipped part and did end up watching the film half way through the book to figure out what was going on. Which is never good!

Book 6 The Great Gatsby
3 out of 5 

Book 7 The Understudy David Nicholls

Another disappointing book. I've read  couple of other books by this author and the first couple of chapters were ok even good but I feel like it never got going. I felt no connection, empathy or sympathy to any of the people in the book. I'm glad this wasn't the first of his books that I'd read or I doubt I'd have read any more. I didn't laugh out loud once. I might have chuckled a couple of times but it wasn't the best book.

Book 7 The Understudy

3 out of 5 
Book 8 Heaven Sent - Christina Jones

This wasn't anything special and it really irritated me with the amount of alliteration used. It was cheesy and almost childlike. I really don't find it charming or endearing in any way. The actual story was quite fun and if you exclude all the mentions of other people who live in the village (there are books about most of them) and the alliteration its readable. It's centred round Clemmy who loves making fireworks in her spare time and can't hold down a job. When she lands her dream job it leads to her spending time with someone she's found attractive for a long time and thinks is heaven sent. The best part -  The pet ferret which isn't a ferret but something similar and the architecture Steve.

It hasn't made me want to go out and read the other books my the same author.

Book 8 Heaven Sent
3 out of 5 

Book 9 The Princess Bride William Goldman

This book is without a doubt my all time favourite book, I can read it over and over again. I can also open it up at any chapter and just read that. It also has my all time favourite quote in any book or movie. It's strange, funny, has a little bit of everything and if you can get hold of it I'd urge you to read it.

Book 9 The Princess Bride 
1,700 out of 5

Book 10 In the Summer Time - Judy Astley

I didn't like this one very much. It was without sugaring the pill boring. The story never really got going it kept touch back on past history in the same town but never really getting any where. It could have had so much potential but I didn't get a connection with any character. The teenagers had strange names Bo and Silva I don't know if I was missing something be every time I had to read something about them I cringed. If you know me you will know I hate most names, my own included. But as with everything in life some are worse than other and in my opinion these are awful. This book is a follow up to a book set (possibly published) 20 years ago when the adults in this book were teenagers themselves. I haven't read that one and maybe if I had I'd have liked this one better but safe to say I didn't like it. The best part is a pink and purple crocodile. There is also a number of elements of body shaming and it felt unnecessary. 

Book 10 In the Summer Time 
2 out of 5 

Book 11 Nine Dragons - Michael Connelly

I go through phases where I read a few Michael Connelly books back to back and feel a bit over saturated and annoyed by his leading man Harry Bosch. The last few books have been very meh and I felt bored and annoyed. 

I've already finished one Michael Connelly book this year which I hadn't enjoyed so I was a bit dubious about reading another one so soon. 

I really enjoyed it and while some bits were predictable and the ending wasn't as well rounded as I'd expected. 

When a case involving the Hong Kong Mafia becomes personal, Harry has to travel half way across the world to get a resolution. 

I think this book was much better than some of his other books, I also liked that there was no romantic liaisons for  Mr Bosch. 

I would recommend reading this if you've enjoyed his other books. 

4 out of 5 

What books have you been reading this month?


Face of the Day - Girls on Film

Friday, February 20, 2015

As I own so much make up I've decided to start wearing it for work. I had been using my Beauty UK Posh Palette 1 as it has a strip of mirror in it but  as I do my make up on the bus I was finding it too small. While I was browsing round Superdrug  I remembered Makeup Revolution has a large mirror in their Palettes. 

I already have two of these, one I received in a goodie bag and I don't actually know what colours are in it (I should really have a look at that) and I have the Halloweeny one which isn't great for day time but perfect for some dramatic looks. 

I was looking for a fairly neutral colour selection and I couldn't decide between this one and another, I think I might have got the other one for my mum for Christmas.   

I've been using this pretty much every morning and I find the colours really wearable. Some of them are a little odd and I'm not sure I'd have chosen them as singles but they look really nice on. 

The bottom 6 colours are Matt and rhe top 12 are all shimmery. I've been using the matt cream all over my lids and then mixing the two matt brown shades then adding a bit of the shimmer ones from the top row (2&3) 

I've also been using the dark grey / black matt shade as eye liner. I've really been liking using this palette and has inspired me to dig out the other makeup revolutions products I own. 

For work I've been wearing the Revlon Lip Butter in Candy Apple but last weekend I dug out my Illamasqua lipstick in the colour Minx. I adore this colour.

I also wanted to ask if anyone thinks it's too soon to do another What's in my Make up bag post? I only did one on 3rd Feb but I have a new make up bag and some of the product's I was using have run out and I've refined what I'm carrying round with me. Let me know in the comments if you'd like to see?


Second Cup Manchester

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I spotted someone on Facebook post they were in a new coffee shop at Manchester Arndale  called Second Cup.

I'd never heard of if before but the drink she posted looked good and I love good coffee.

After a bit of googling I've discovered they are a Canadian brand with franchises worldwide.

Manchester has the only UK store at the moment and one is set to open in Birmingham soon.

I met my mum at Marks and Spencers and Second Cup is on the outside of the arndale opposite M&S, Next to Pizza Hut on Cross Street we decided to try it. 

It seems small when we walked in but it has two floors. 

The downstairs has a mix of tables and comfy chairs and the upstairs is a large bight airy space with comfy couches as well as tables and chairs. (I mean upright chairs rather than comfy slouchy chairs) 

I love the lights and the over all look of the place. There were quite a few people in but it felt a lot calmer than some coffee shops and because we were away from the  coffee machines it was quieter. 

We had one eye on the couches and as soon as they were free we headed over. There is a wall of books and I could have happily spent all afternoon curled up with my coffee.

There was a huge choice of coffee's and some great looking cakes but we stuck to what we know. Flat White. What was unusual was the choice in size. In most coffee shops it's one of the only coffee's you don't get a choice on sizes. 

We went for the medium size one and it was really nice coffee. It was about £2.50 maybe a bit more but it's usually £2.40 in other coffee shops for the small size.

In some ways I don't want you all to know about this place and fill up those comfy couches but I really liked my experience in here so I wanted to share it with you.

I'm hoping to get a chance to go again maybe even before this post goes up. They have a loyalty card scheme and I'm already on my way to my first free drink. I think this will be out new go to coffee shop. The only down side was they have no outside seating. I know it's only february but I don't think they'd be able to have seat outside as the pavement isn't very wide round there and they are digging up cross street so it wouldn't be all that nice.


Essence Haul

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I really can't resist the lure of the essence counter. I went in search of black brown mascara. Ididn't find any but still came away with a few bits. 

The stand I go to is in Manchester Arndale and it's pretty huge, I can't help but be attracted to all the pretties. It's all reasonably priced and I keep seeing in my time hop from a couple of years ago showing Essence things I bought on Holiday wishing I could buy it here and now I can and I do.

Say No to Redness - I've been getting a few breakouts recently. My hormones are all over the place and this is sending my skin crazy. I've been using this under my foundations. I'm still having to use conceder as well but it does kill some of the redness but it does need something extra over it.
I don't think I'd buy it again after my first impression but I will carry on using this.

Lash Princess Mascara -  I was looking for black brown mascara but came away with another black one. This has a quirky shaped brush and came with a free eyeliner felt pen. I haven't tried it as yet but I have high hopes as I've really liked the other Essence Mascara's I've used.

Eye liner  - I've had this before and it's got a really nice thin nib and good staying power from what I remember. I've yet to try this one but as a freebie it's not bad.

 Blush Brush  - I bought this for my one the go makeup bag. It's lovely and soft and I think it's really cute. So far I've only used it for pressed powder. I might use it for bronzer as well.

Good Girl Bad Girl Nail Topper  - Essence often have a one off range. The current one is Good Girl Bad girl. They have some cute things in but one of the two things that caught my eye was this nail topper. it's gold and rose gold which I'm really loving at the moment. The other thing was a fragrance in the bad girl smell. I can't put my finger on what it reminded me of sadly they'd sold out and i've been back. I don't know if they'll be getting any more in. I can't decide if I should try and hunt some down or save my money?! Does anyone have it? Does the smell last and how does it wear throughout the day?