Wednesday 30 July 2014

Review: Viva Urban Spa (Warrington)

If there's one thing that I excel at, it's being stressed and feeling run-down, and I often crave a moment away from reality to realign my chakras. I could have hugged Tanya through my laptop screen when she emailed me inviting me along to experience a spa day at the Village Urban Resort not far from where I live. After scouring their online price list I decided that I could do with a back, neck and shoulder massage, a manicure and also an eyebrow shaping, because let's face it, I'm lazy. I was also allowed to bring a friend to enjoy the experience with me (the perks of knowing Frances, eh?) and so I grabbed my good friend and gym buddy, Kayla, and we headed down to the hotel for a spot of pampering.

We were greeted by very friendly staff and handed a pair of fluffy white robes before being shown to the gym and pool area which we were free to use as we had arrived a little early. Admittedly, we spent so much time in the changing rooms trying to perfect our robe selfie that we only had time for a quick dip in the pool, but they also offer a fitness suite, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna.
When it was time for our treatments, Kayla and I were shown to the relaxation area where we were given a glass of water before being introduced to our therapists and taken to our separate treatment rooms, which were dimly lit with a calming-yet-modern purple colour scheme, cosily heated and smelled amazing with the scent of ESPA's essential oil-infused candles. My lovely therapist, Victoria, talked me through the treatments; first I was to enjoy an ESPA personalised upper body massage, followed by an ESPA facial and eyebrow shaping, and finishing off with a manicure and pedicure. Spoilt rotten!

I hopped up on to the massage table and lay face down whilst Victoria dimmed the lights and turned on some relaxing music and suddenly I was away in some heavenly place for the next fifty minutes. My treatment consisted of a 25 minute back, neck and shoulder massage which eliminated the tension in my neck and spine, immediately followed by me flipping over and lying on my back for a twenty minute facial and scalp massage, during which Victoria treated my skin to a hydrating cleanse, a refining skin polish, an essential cleaning mask and a 24-hour replenishing moisturiser. I could have fallen asleep at this point, but my relaxation was soon slightly tarnished by having hot wax applied to and ripped from my eyebrows- the things us girls have to go through!

After this, Victoria led me out to select a shade from their huge collection of Jessica nail polishes whilst she set up a foot bath for my pedicure. I must say I feel sorry for spa therapists sometimes- as somebody who hates her feet, I usually avoid subjecting other people to them as I find them really gross, but Victoria seemed unfazed and told me they weren't bad at all as she massaged them with lotions and hacked away at them with a foot file. Barf. Once all twenty of my nails were perfectly filed, buffed and painted, I was led out again to meet Kayla in the relaxation area, admire her nail shade of choice and sip on another glass of water with no hurry to leave at all.

Our spa treatment was part of a package which meant we were also treated to a meal and a hotel room for the night. After our treatment, we checked in and went up to our room to find that the lovely ladies from the spa had spoiled us with a glass of champagne each (even though we were advised not to consume alcohol after our treatment- naughty!) and a little goodie bag filled with mini ESPA products and a Jessica nail polish!

With the hotel being a less than ten minute walk from Warrington town centre, Kayla and I wandered out for a while and shopped ourselves to exhaustion before heading back absolutely ravenous for our three-course-meal in the hotel's Verve Bar & Grill. We both ordered the same dishes; soup of the day to start, roast fillet of pollock for our main, and although we were both absolutely stuffed after the first two courses, we still managed to squeeze in a slice of Irish Cream & Chocolate Cheesecake- I mean, come on... when have I ever turned down cake?!

I would absolutely recommend a stay at a Village Urban Resort if you're looking for a relaxing night or two away with a friend or your other half. Over the Summer, Viva Urban Spas are also offering "speedy simultaneous treatments", which means you can get your facial and your manicure done at the same time, meaning you can still relax and have a bit of "me time" even if you're on a tight schedule. To find out if your nearest Village Urban Resort has a Viva Urban Spa, you can check the list here, and book a much-needed indulgent spa break package or individual treatments if you're just after a bit of after-work pampering!

Happy relaxing!
Have you ever visited a Viva Urban Spa?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: A huge thank you to Wildcard PR and Village Urban Resort Warrington, who provided me with this experience free of charge in return for a 100% honest review.
Saturday 26 July 2014

Outfit: I Was Born A Unicorn.

Dress: C/O Sugarhill Boutique* | Shoes: C/O Mocks* | Hat and Rings: C/O Rare London* | Watch: Tommy Hilfiger C/O Shade Station

The cutesy bicycle, lovebird and gramophone prints that Sugarhill are so well known for have always got me lusting over their pieces, but this new design had me feeling things I've never felt before. Put white unicorns on a dusky blue chiffon dress in a flattering skater style and there isn't much more I could ask for in an every day dress; needless to say, I have lived in this for the past couple of weeks.
I also need to take a moment to express my adoration for these shoes. Admittedly, when I was introduced to these for the first time I recoiled a little at the idea of water proof, plastic shoes- Glorified Crocs, anybody?! But whilst Crocs are something that I will never be okay with, these I have become quite accustomed to- They're sleek, lightweight and the leather trim gives them a more stylish look than their chunky, clog-shaped distant relatives. And I must admit, the fact that they can be easily washed clean is pretty convenient. Mocks, I approve! <3

Do you love Sugarhill's Unicorn print?
What do you think of Mocks?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: Starred items are PR samples.
Friday 25 July 2014

Health/ Food: Fruit-Infused Water.

With the UK finally being blessed with a bit of scorching hot sunshine, it's important to stay hydrated- However, it's easy to reach for fizzy drinks and sugary ice lollies to keep us cool instead of water, which, let's face it; it may be super good for us but a cold can of Sprite tastes so much better! That's why lately I have been experimenting with fruit-infused water; not only does it add a little bit of flavour to your water but it looks pretty AND you get all the benefits of drinking water plus a little detox from the fruit, too! 

Kilner Handled Glass Jars: £2.49 each from The Range
Striped Paper Straws: £2 from Tesco

To make these is simple but takes a little preparation... In a pitcher, place a few cubes of ice and then cover with any sliced fruit or herbs of your choice. Fill the jug with water, cover with cling film and then let the mixture sit in your fridge for at least six hours (I like to make mine in the evening and leave it overnight) to let the flavours infuse in to the water. When it comes to drinking, add more ice, give the mixture a good stir and then pour in to serving glasses and enjoy! Drinking jars and paper straws are optional, but I they look really cute and will impress your friends ;) Here are a few of the flavour combinations that I have been enjoying!

Strawberry, cucumber and mint.

This is like a spa treatment in beverage-form and is great for detoxing and staying refreshed on a hot, muggy day. For this I used a handful of strawberries (about ten), half a sliced cucumber and a couple of sprigs of fresh mint. If you want a more powerful flavour, muddle the strawberries and mint before adding the water. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice for an extra cleanse.

Peach, orange and raspberry.

This is perfect for people with a slightly sweeter tooth who really want to add a fruity kick to their water. To a pitcher of ice, I added the segments of a whole peeled orange, one sliced peach and a handful of raspberries. Again, muddle the fruits before adding water if you would like a stronger flavour.

Watermelon, coconut and lime.

This is my personal favourite and one that I am sipping on as I type this blog post! It is cheating a little bit as it uses coconut water; however, did you know that pure coconut water is dubbed as "nature's sports drink" and is used by athletes as a much healthier way to replace electrolytes and water that are lost through sweat during exercise, as it contains all the electrolytes that your body needs (A quick science lesson: correctly balanced electrolytes are what maintain adequate function of the nervous, cardiac, digestive and muscular systems and are better known as sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc.) without all the nasty additives and refined sugars that are found in drinks such as Lucozade and Gatorade? This makes this the perfect drink for people who enjoy their exercise, as the natural sugars will give you a burst of energy whilst the coconut water, as well as the water found in the watermelon, will keep you hydrated.

To make a pitcher, I used one whole small watermelon. I simply cut the flesh in to cubes and pureed it in a blender, before pouring the juice over ice (I prefer to discard the pulp at this point using a strainer, but feel free to throw that in there too!). Then, I topped up the pitcher with coconut water (I used Vita Coco) and squeezed in the juice of one lime. This one can be enjoyed right away!

The possibilities for fruit-infused water are endless! Here are a few other combinations that I am yet to try:
- Citrus: Orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime.
- Summer fruits: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries/blackberries and apple
- Mango, orange and raspberry
-Watermelon and rosemary
- Honeydew melon and lime

Have you tried fruit-infused water? What is your favourite combination?

Frances x

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Outfit: When I Met You In the Summer.

Skirt: C/O Inlovewithfashion* | Top: Karma Clothing | Sunglasses: C/O Firmoo* | Shoes: New Look via Blog sale | Rings: Rare London

How glorious has the weather been?! I say that but the truth of the matter is I haven't stopped complaining about it for the past week. Let's face it, as much as we hate the rain and cold weather that we're so used to, we're just not made for dealing with hot climates here in the UK.

However, that doesn't stop us from trying and when I am given the opportunity to swap my leather jacket and leggings for crop tops and bright floral prints, I am going to take it. I wish I had received this beautiful chiffon number before my trip to Singapore back in April as I think it's a stunning holiday piece for cocktails and a walk down the beach. I am all over maxi skirts this Summer (they're a wardrobe staple if you're like me and don't feel comfortable baring your legs!), but I love the unique front split detail and underlay shorts that add a subtle hint of sexiness. Unfortunately, this skirt appears to be out of stock on the Inlovewithfashion website, but they do have a similar number here which is perfect for those bohemian festival vibes!

How have you been enjoying the sunny weather?

Frances x

DISCLAIMER: Starred items are PR samples.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Outfit: The cape.

Dress: C/O Darccy* | Shoes: C/O Annabella-Rose* | Belt: Unknown | Sunglasses: C/O Firmoo*

Long time, no outfit post! I'm going to save us some time and skip the excuses today, but I will promise that there are lots more outfit posts to come over the next few weeks (the huge rail of unphotographed clothes in my bedroom is telling me that there will be a lot of blogging on the agenda now that I have finished my internship).

Anyway, with big names such as Lupito Nyong'o, Katy Perry and Amy Adams rocking the look at star-studded events this year, it seems that the cape trend is trying to make its way on to the high street in a more subtle, less red-carpet kind of way. Enter this vintage-inspired number by Darccy, which gives a subtle nod to the 1940s whilst remaining stylish yet classy enough for a Summer wedding or formal garden party (neither of which have I been invited to this year, booo). Yellow is a colour that doesn't appear enough in my wardrobe at the moment, probably because I tend to lean more towards mustard hues for Autumn/Winter, but this pastel shade is gorgeous for this season without being too in-your-face. However, if you prefer, this dress is also available and is equally as pretty in pastel pink.

Have you seen the cape trend about? What do you think? :)

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: Starred items are PR samples.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Event: My First Tandem Skydive With Chicago Town.

If you'd have told me on the first day of June that by the end of the month I would have jumped from a plane at 14,000 feet I wouldn't have believed you. Skydiving is something that has always been on my bucket list, however it has always had a comfortable spot towards the bottom, as my fear of falling from heights at fast speeds over-rode my desire to jump from a perfectly good plane with a stranger strapped to my back.

Fast forward just over two weeks and I was hesitantly replying to an email from Jessica from Brazen PR, who had just offered me a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the extreme sport on behalf of Chicago Town. In a brief moment of madness, Frances- the girl who once would have never set foot on a fairground ride- had signed up for her first tandem skydive*.

It was a fairly cloudy morning on the day of my dive and I spent the one-and-a-half-hour car journey from Warrington to Grange-over-Sands looking up at the sky and intermittently asking my grandad, "Do you think the weather will hold up?". To be honest, I'm not sure what I was hoping for- A part of me knew that I was now fated to jump out of a plane some time in the near future so I might as well get it over with as soon as possible, but the other half of me wanted another week or two to mentally prepare myself for it.

We were greeted by extremely friendly and humorous staff when we arrived at Skydive Northwest and after thirty minutes of training where we were briefed on how strong the harnesses were, how we were carrying not one but two parachutes and that our trendy leather caps were there to protect our tandem instructors, not us (no helmet is going to save you from a 120mph fall, silly!), we were placed in groups of three and it was time to meet our instructors and get kitted up.

My instructor, Peter Connor, led me over to the hangar where he handed me the sexy black ensemble that was going to keep me warm, and to some extent, safe during my skydive. I couldn't have asked for a nicer guy to trust with my life despite having only just met him- Peter kept making sure I was feeling okay, asked about my blog and what I had studied at uni and offered me some of his crisps, to which I politely declined (I mean, how was this guy even eating right now? I turned down pizza for this!)- If it wasn't for the fact that he was tightening a harness around me during all of this, I could have forgotten why I was there!
Afterwards, we waddled with the other divers and camera men towards the rather angry looking plane and posed for a few pictures before climbing in to the aircraft which ended up being quite cosy with ten of us crammed in between each others legs.

I can honestly say I felt no fear at this point. All of the experienced divers joked around and kept us "students" feeling relaxed as we sped down the runway and in to the air, and Peter quickly recapped with me what I had learned during the briefing. At this point I turned and asked him the much-anticipated question, "So, how long have you been doing this?", "Eighteen years, but I like to tell people that this is my third weekend", Peter laughed, "But no, I'm nearing 4,200 jumps now". I'll take that.

It took between ten and fifteen minutes for us to get up to 14,000ft, at which point Peter pulled me up on to his lap and attached me to his harness at four points on the hips and shoulders (really, is that it?). The door of the plane opened letting in a roar of wind and all of a sudden it all felt real. I was to be second out of the plane and as Peter edged us both forward I had my eyes glued to Jessica and her instructor as they positioned themselves at the door in front of me. I was almost shocked at how calm I felt as I witnessed them launch themselves in to the sky and fall in to the clouds below us in a matter of seconds. Peter grabbed my hand and gave it a last squeeze, "Just relax and enjoy the ride". Next thing I knew, I was dangling out of the plane, doing my best to smile towards my camera man, Duncan (who was casually clinging to the outside of the plane thinking he was Spiderman), whilst trying to remember my instructions; head back, hands on my harness and feet crossed underneath the plane.

The next minute or so was a blur. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a "holy crap, what am I doing?!" moment as my body entered sensory overload just as we left the plane; all I remember is feeling Peter rock us back and forth a couple of times for momentum, and then watching the plane shoot past us before seeing white, then blue and then white again as gravity did its job and we tumbled back down towards the ground. Within about five seconds we had stabilised and Peter tapped me on the shoulder to assume free fall position. It's crazy to think that at this point we were falling at around 120mph because it didn't feel like I was falling at all. Everything looked the same up there and the strong air flow rushing up past me made it feel like I was just suspended in midair. It was the most exhilarating feeling, ever.

[Photos: Credit to Duncan Haynes]

Free fall lasted for around forty seconds before I saw Peter wave his arms in front of us to tell Duncan that he was about to deploy the parachute and I braced myself for the transition from 120mph to 20mph in about five seconds. This was probably the worst part of the entire dive for me- We jerked back and my legs swung down as I watched Duncan disappear below us and my stomach felt like it was going to come out of my mouth, making me glad that I had turned down the pizza and crisps earlier. At this point we emerged from the clouds and then we had the most breathtaking view of the Lake District, Lake Windermere and Morecambe Bay. The UK certainly looks nicer from 4,000ft. Peter handed me the cables and let me control the parachute whilst he loosened my harness and pointed out the sights. We glided around in the calming silence for about five minutes before we descended towards the airfield and Peter told me to lift my legs out in front of me as he slowed us down for a feather-light landing where we slid across the floor.

The high I felt from the experience is one I've never felt before. I had just jumped out of a freaking plane. Right to this very moment I still can't quite believe it, which is why I opted to get my skydive filmed and photographed (I might share the video with you all one day, but for now just enjoy the photos ;)). I thanked Peter for being so great and for getting us both down to the ground in one piece, returned my equipment to the hangar and then indulged in a few slices of Chicago Town pizza (which, might I add was very good, but more about that another day).

A huge thank you to Chicago Town, Brazen PR, all the staff at Skydive Northwest (Facebook), Peter Connor and Duncan Haynes for granting me/being a part of this amazing opportunity, and also to my grandad, who doesn't get enough recognition for driving me to all these events ;)

If anybody is hesitant about giving skydiving a go, I absolutely urge you to go for it. The feeling of detaching yourself from life for a couple of minutes and free falling through the sky is one that no blog post can explain. Take word from a girl who never thought she would do it. Would I do it again?

Yes I would (sorry, grandma).

Have you experienced a skydive?

Frances x

*DISCLOSURE: This amazing opportunity was very kindly sponsored by Chicago Town/ Brazen PR. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.