The Hand and Foot Spa, Selfridges Birmingham

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Last week I had the pleasure of trying out The Hand and Foot Spa at Selfridges, Birmingham. You're probably thinking, hold up, what about the acrylics?! Well yes, I've had back to back acrylics for around seven years now and I have a love/hate relationship with them. There's nothing like a fresh set and a polish that's everlasting, but what used to be a relaxing treat is now time consuming and boring. I don't like sitting at the salon for up to two hours at a time every three weeks and I'm constantly feeling more picky about just how many people those tools have been used on. When your hand is brushed with that giant kabuki and loads of debris and powder puffs out... yes, you know the one. Argh!

Now that you're thoroughly grossed out, it came at a fateful time that I met Donna Haar-Jørgensen, founder of the established London spa, just before Christmas. The Hand and Foot Spa had just launched at the Selfridges Birmingham Beauty Hall and the concept was so unique. First there is a snazzy iPad station with a Clueless-style app to show any nail polish colour on your nails just by snapping a photo of your hand!

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This completely takes out that connundrum of trying to choose a polish at the salon but hating it as soon as it's applied on a few nails, but it's too late to turn back! I've frequently chosen a pink that was to pearly, or a nude that turned out to channel a corpse vibe on my pale skin. It helped me go totally off piste and choose a super dark navy blue. I've never had a colour like this but the shade made the most of my little nails and didn't wash out my skin tone.

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I'd had my acrylics taken off that morning and it highlighted the best thing about The Hand and Foot Spa. A brand new nail kit is used for each customer, including every instrument from file to metal clippers. You even get to take the kit home with you, making your manicure stretch as far as your purse! What a genius idea and such a luxury.

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My sessions really flew by as my nails were primped and preened. Years of acrylics meant they were super thin and bendy, but they were rounded off, buffed and treated to a glorious hand massage with the spa's own natural hand cream. Then came a warm paraffin wax treatment inside these gloves that were pre-heated, giving the type of relaxation you can only achieve from a warm bubble bath.

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One SUPER shiny manicure later and my nails were showing no sign of the years of abuse from the electric drill! Smooth and glossy, with hands that were beyond hydrated, this truly is a manicure that goes to the next level. A week on and despite a few chips around my weak tips, they're still as shiny as ever.

You can book in yourself via The Beauty Workshop on 0121 600 6718. A visit would make a great Mother's Day gift too!


Ibiza in October Diaries #3 | San Antonio Beach & Cafe Mambo

I could SO jet off on a beach getaway right about now! These pictures are totally making me dream of summer. It's the third instalment of my Ibiza holiday and our second full day was sunny and warm. Around 25 degrees to be exact! Perfect. We were set for our first beach day, and I just had to go straight to the nearest shop and buy a huge blue lilo. Beach bags packed and hair bunned up, we set off to the sea!

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Our hotel was literally on San Antonio beach so we grabbed breakfast before walking along the sea to a slightly nicer stretch of sand. I imagine this beach is packed full in high season but it was very quiet while we settling onto the sand with a few Coronas. There was a sweet beachy vibe but no lairy groups or pumping music, which suited us fine! It's not the greatest beach in terms of clear water or an absence of litter, and I assume it could be hit and miss at busier times, but a splash in the sea was all we called for. We took some great self-timer shots but I won't share bikini photos of my friends here!

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I'm not even going to share a full-on bikini photo of myself as it felt a little TMI, but the new bikini I took was so lush! I spotted the brand Boho Rose on Instagram and the fluorescent coral hue of this set won my heart. All bikinis are hand made in a stretch, shirred-style fabric that is super comfortable and thick, yet the cut is seriously flattering. With a cool high-cut hip and at least ten different bra shapes to choose from, I'd so recommend this brand! I'd really like an acid yellow set for this summer, or the apple green.

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The day quickly ran away with us and we vowed to be ready for 6ish to catch the sunset at the Cafe Mambo closing party. I had looked at booking a table before the trip but there was a €100 deposit so we chanced it. I wore this PrettyLittleThing set I've had for a few years but never actually wore due to the tiny amount of material it is! It's a wash of minty pastels and so pretty.

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We made the sunset right on time and Cafe Mambo was much more laid back than I had anticipated. We walked straight in and spotted a free table as we queued for the bar. It was only after we ate dinner there too that we realised just how lucky it was to walk right in and get a table for food without a reservation, and apparently we had walked past a huge queue and just strolled right in! I just thought the crowds outside were milling around but it turns out there was some sort of door check and we'd been none the wiser.

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A few more cocktails and the music really got started, but it wasn't quite our style. No matter how long I could spend in Ibiza, house music is just not my jam! We stayed until late and walked back through the West End, popping into a few bars that promised to be absolutely heaving after midnight. A week or so before and the nightlife may have been still alive, but most places were shut by mid October. We were soon back at the hotel of pensioners, getting a few hours sleep before another beach day tomorrow.


New Square Mother's Day Challenge

Last week I took part in a rather a unique challenge with my mom! Yes, we say mom here in the Midlands, ha! New Square West Bromwich invited us to shop it up a storm and style each other in a spring outfit. My mom has so much personal style and mixes Topshop or Urban Outfitters with vintage threads. I knew the challenge would be easy peasy though as there's every essential store at New Square; Outfit and River Island for a new season statement, and even Primark and H&M for a fast fashion treat. The challenge was in aid of Mother's Day as we're all hunting for a gift the she really wants that isn't a tea towel or bath salts at the moment!

We had a budget of £150 to gather an entire outfit including shoes and accessories in two hours, but first we fueled up at the new Turquoise Kitchen restaurant. It's a huge space with gorgeous authentic Turkish chandeliers and plenty of mezze and grills to choose from on huge platters. We had a mixture of hummus, seafood and salad dishes for lunch, and dove in with a huge lavas bread fresh from the oven. It was authentically moreish and so tasty; if it wasn't lunch time we could have kept dipping and snacking with endless bread! Every sauce and dip was delicious.

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Satisfied and ready to go, we hit the shops in a flurry. There are so many new spring trends to choose, from fun applique and gingham frills, to oversized striped shirts and shredded denim. We hit just about every store, from Claire's to Pandora, and it was fun to pull items we didn't first gravitate towards for each other. Once we had the skeleton set of the outfit, we hunted statement heels and fist fulls of embellished accessories.

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My outfit began with a gorgeous embroidered Topshop shirt with scalloped detailing and this season's famed bell sleeves. If you buy anything this season, make it a detailed sleeve! It's such an easy spring upgrade. My mom brightened this up with this bright River Island mini skirt with a scalloped edge in a very subtle faux suede texture - she's all about vintage-style materials. I wouldn't have gone for a metallic bag but this River Island satchel acted as another hue to keep the outfit from being too formal. I love this Claire's headband embellished with pearls, crystals and gold. It's so Gossip Girl! And the Primark choker and cuffs enhanced the shirt by again keeping it more casual.

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These River Island jewelled sandals weren't my first choice but they are so pretty on and inspire me to be a little more fun with my shoes. They're my least favourite thing to buy as I find it hard to choose pairs that suit all of my outfits, but actually these bling beauties go with more than you'd think!

For my mom I chose a pair of River Island grey high waisted trousers as her usual uniform is skirts and dresses. She said these were super comfy and perfect for work and dressing up so they were a win! Instead of a blouse, this Miss Selfridge denim top has the cold shoulder detailing that makes it so SS17 but can be teamed with so many other prints and fabrics too. A few long strand Claire's necklaces added a touch of her boho vibes, and these bright orange Dorothy Perkins sandals were the perfect heel to add a pop of colour and a punch to the whole outfit.

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It was such a fun afternoon, I so miss shopping with your mom when you were 13 in Tammy Girl. These outfits were photographed below for the Express and Star newspaper so keep your eyes peeled for that. You can also win a £100 voucher for your mom to spend on a shopping spree this Mother's Day here

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Follow New Square here on Twitter and Facebook here for more competitions, news and ideas for Mother's Day.


Ibiza Out of Season Diaries #2 | Dinner at Eivissa Castle

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It's that time of the year when winter festivities are firmly packed away and you're realising one can never own too many bikinis. Here is the next instalment of my Ibiza trip last year after a breezy flight and first night adventures, and it was our first full day! After leaving the land that was closing down for winter, it felt like we had a second chance at summer as we awoke to blue skies, warm air and the promise of that Ibiza magic. First agenda: breakfast! With only one night down, we passed upon the breakfast at our Hotel Arenal as it was clear it was an over 50s affair. A programme of show dancers and a magician in the evening, plus various OAPs in hotel towels sitting back on plastic chairs, revealed that either the party season had long ended, or we were certainly in ancient accommodation!

The best thing was the proximity to San Antonio beach and we strolled along the pretty much empty sands to a nearby classic greasy spoon with a sea view, right next to a KFC. It's clear San Antonio has every fast food joint you could wish for when you're abroad with the lads, lads, lads, and that was cool with us. As I mentioned in my last post, we really chose Ibiza on a whim and I was so ready for an easy, breezy ride. One of our only planned activity days was to visit Ibiza town so we hopped on a nearby bus and was soon at the capital. 

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A definite upgrade from San Antonio's startling booze cruise advertisements and 2-for-1 fish bowls, the town has a rustic, Mediterranean vibe with pretty pastel apartments and a port untouched by under age tourists. We couldn't help stopping by Pull & Bear and Berksha, and I observed what seemed to be the island 'locals'; those with deep tans, threaded hair braids and tie dyed clothes.

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The first goal was to climb Eivissa Castle for the sunset; the beautiful highlight Ibiza is known for. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this holiday was packing a small case exclusively of bright, summery clothes! Wearing these Missguided flares in Ibiza was the perfect place, and all of my festival floral crowns came in perfectly handy. My legs look freakishly long here due to my lens! 

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It's a surprisingly quick stroll along the cobbles to reach the 360 degree views from the top of the castle. We took in the views during dusk and could truly appreciate we were on such a small drop of an island in the gorgeous Balearic sea. I loved the beauty of a relaxed vibe and not having a 'holiday' in a rushed city with an overwhelming itinerary. 

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We wandered back down towards the centre, where the edges of castle are bursting with charming, open fronted restaurants with chalked menus on wooden plaques leaning against white walls. We chose La Oliva and a few glasses of Spanish wine perfectly complimented the fresh fish on offer. I love quaint restaurants that have beautiful, delicate dishes in a rustic, casual setting.

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I had the sea bass followed by a crème brûlée, which is fast becoming my go-to dessert. Despite the pudding, it was an extremely light and fresh dinner, made even more atmospheric by the falling daylight into a balmy evening of eating and drinking outdoors on the cobbled streets as passersby lazily strolled on. On a city break it's often hard to sift the best restaurants from the tourist-calling, laminated menu offerings that you always tend to plump for. This was such a treat to dine leisurely with friends and enjoy a relaxed evening meal!

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We headed back towards the bus stops, stopping off for one drink along the way as the town had such a perfect vibe. Once returned to the hotel, I experienced another pro of beach holidays. It literally took a shower, quick smoky eye and highlight, a party dress and soon we were ready to head out again and felt great. I wore a Boohoo dress that can only be reserved for a place that you spend most of the time wearing a tiny bikini anyway, as it's literally pants with a few strips of material here and there, and off we went off to the West End! I explained in my previous post but this is essentially the strip of San Antonio, Ibiza's party town. Our hotel was a quick stroll there in the warm evening air, so we arrived to the criss-crossing streets lined with bars raring to go. 

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Unfortunately the bars themselves were not... as in they were all closed. We wandered around, looking right and left for some signs of life or sounds of a bass, until we turned a corner and saw Soho's, the bar we had visited last night! It was their summer closing party (not quite in an epic proportion though) and all drinks were 1€. ALL DRINKS. Despite it being a crowd inside of around 40, the place was filled quite nicely and again we had the mercy of the DJ. A million requests later, the DJ had his hands in the air as Faithless blasted out to our modestly sized adoring crow, and we made friends with just about everyone. Sadly my floor length dress was not the item to wear in a bar that was attempting to drain every liquid in the place as by the end of the night, the hem was literally sodden by about a metre in whatever was on that floor. Nice. I literally left it to soak for about a week before washing it 20 times once I had brought it back home in it's own shameful bag. Never the less, a hilarious night!

And if you can't wait for all of the gossip from the other nights, my vlog is live! Would you consider an Ibiza visit?


Browns | Bullring, Birmingham

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My friends and I are realising the joy of midweek evenings. Of course we still see the weekend as the unmissable chance to see each other and let the working week slip away with the help of a cocktail and a dance floor, but now that is not enough. Five days is simply too long to trudge home after work, still holding the jumble of deadlines and delegations in your mind, while pondering if that dented tin of soup is still at the back of the cupboard. No, we need a pick-me-up in the middle of our working week to save hump day from being an excuse to dig out the takeaway menus. We need a real catch up to talk through the highs and tolls that life brings with each Monday, and we also need that Friday night of good food and chat before heading off to loud, distracting bars.
 
This is when we swoop upon the restaurants of Birmingham and have that initial conundrum of choosing our destination. I was offered an evening for two at Browns Brasserie and Bar, nestled warmly in Bullring's Spiceal Street; the central hub surrounded by the vibrant architecture of St. Martin's Church and the Selfridges silver domes. It was a case of knowing exactly where it was but never having had it pop into my mind as a destination to head to. 
 
With a thrilled pal in tow, we were welcomed into the sophisticated space, warmly lit with cosy corners and an open view onto the vast church. Stylish and contemporary, this is a perfect date place. A spacious table plan, flattering lighting and a soft ambience ticks all of my date night boxes!
I was pleasantly surprised by the extensive menu. Alongside a dedicated limited edition tender beef menu that my friend appreciated, the options across the starters and sharers made way for light mains, mains and grills. And many will be happy to note this includes gluten free options such as lobster and fries, and vegan options such as courgette, mint & lemon tagliatelle, to name but a few. I had earlier surrendered to the temptation of looking at the menu online before arriving as my new favourite thing is to choose our dish during the day so you can look forward to it! I was day dreaming of the whole baked Somerset Camembert but the variety of the Fisherman's platter trumped all other dishes. Severn & Wye smoked salmon, salt & pepper squid, Devon crab on toast, British mussels, and warm toasted bread. The bread was indeed warm, the salmon was indeed smoked, and the platter was certainly worthy of any fisherman's prize offering. I think with seafood you either love it or you steer clear, and this starter is for the seafood appreciation society. We accompanied this with the light feta salad, with the variety of tomatoes being a colourful twist.
 
 
Onto the mains. Oh what a revelation this lobster was! I'm now a lobster fan and I'm willing to share this with the internet. I had never tried lobster before! I feel the opportunity had never crossed my path and that is rather tragic! Despite the Browns signature cheesy fish pie and the sea bass generously accompanied by a stew of prawns, mussels and squid, I feel lobster is having it's moment right now and I had to get on board, mind the pun. It was a fresh, light, delicious treat and the perfect portion with perfectly crisp on the outside, soft on the inside chips and a mayonnaise with an avocado twist. I'm a lobster convert!
 
 
My friend opted for the steak and gave it beyond full marks. Browns have their own British farms to rear their own cattle so you can trust in the source of your steak.
 
Could we fit in any more food? There's always room for dessert! The menu was a struggle. Sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel profiteroles, caramelised lemon tart, or my current favourite, creme brulee? Decisions, decisions! But something called me to the banoffee pie with caramelised banana and chocolate popping candy. That certainly gave a subtle tingle to the rich caramel sauce and sugary white icing of the pie. It was like the best birthday cake with a gooey banana side and it completely disappeared from this plate! My friend opted for the chocolate brownie with the huge dollop of honeycomb ice cream and toffee sauce and was equally pleased.
 
Put Browns on your agenda and prepare for a perfectly satisfying evening. It's going to stay on my list for date options and also as a great option for family visits or group outings! Not forgetting to thank our super helpful waiter Domas for looking after us too!

TONY MOLY | Selfridges Beauty Hall

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There's a new brand on my makeup radar and it's super kitsch, super cute and super cult. TONY MOLY is a beauty hit hailing from South Korea but now we can get our paws on these adorable products at Selfridges. It's ALL about the super food ingredients in the best packing ever. Quality and cuteness!

I've been trialling the Egg Pore silky smooth balm, Panda's Dream hand cream and Mini Berry lip balm and it's been a fun ride. The lip balm and hand cream have taken pride of place on my work desk and have achieved endless compliments for their adorable aesthetics. I feel like the punchy designs contribute to my office feng sui of feeling inspired yet chic. I love to add a little fun into my routine. The hand cream is whipped with a light honey fragrance so it hydrates my hands and wrists rather than greasing them up so I'm unable to type for five minutes, and gives them a nice healthy glow. The cherry lip balm has a flushing coral tint for a pretty flash of colour. The formula is also thicker than your average lip pot. I can't stand slippery lip products and this is much more soothing and impactful on parched lips.

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I've been applying the Egg Pore primer to my nose area to blur out those dreaded pores that foundation just will not mask. It's more of a waxy balm than a stiff, drying silicone and allows foundation to smooth over rather than stick. The hydration is much appreciated during these months of switching up baking office heating with freezing air when I walk to and from work. Do I need a car yet? Still not sure!

Don't miss the fun beauty cubes in the Selfridges beauty hall; they house some sweet wonders that will perk up your makeup bag and make a welcome difference to your routine. Makeup bag or fruit bowl? Why not both!