Sunday, 31 May 2015

Blossoming Gifts flower delivery

There are people who think a nice bunch of flowers is a silly present as they only last a week or so. I am not one of those people.

A gorgeous bunch of flowers - whether a huge snazzy bouquet or merely some tulips picked from the garden - has the power to transform a room and everyone's moods with it.

So when the new British flower delivery company Blossoming Gifts got in touch to ask if I'd like to pick one of their summer bouquets to review, I was thrilled. I love supporting little companies, and as Blossoming Gifts specialise in beautiful floristic design at low cost, I was hopeful they'd be a company you guys would be interested in too.

The website has a fab selection of online flowers (including a selection of cheap flower bouquets under £20), and I chose the Avalanche Rose and Peony bouquet.

When the delivery man gave them to me he asked, "Is it someone's birthday?" I replied, "Um, nope. They're just for me." But do you know what? We should treat ourselves to flowers more, even if just a tiny posy.

My bouquet arrived in a pretty box, and they were well packaged up so that it was easy to get the flowers out without damaging them. Jolly exciting it was too! 

The flowers were beautifully wrapped up in simple white wrapping and tied in a bow. 

They so preeeeeeetty!

Some were a teensy bit crinkly round the edge but I guess that’s inevitable. And they were at that perfect stage where they were open enough to look beautiful, but they still had plenty of opening up to do.

Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know that I am absolutely obsessed with pink roses - I'm incapable of walking past them without taking a picture - so although the roses aren't pink, the combo of cream roses and pink peonies is so me.

Naturally I snapchatted all my friends trying to convince them I had a secret admirer. They didn't believe me. Rude.

The flowers arrived along with easy-to-follow instructions, flower food, Belgian chocolates (mmm) and a lovely jug to put them in. The flowers, that is. Not the chocolate. Although the jug was an extra on the order.

I was a little confused at first because the instructions said not to use a metal vase for your flowers as the metal neutralises the effect of the flower food. So thanks for sending me a metal jug, GAAAAAD.

But then I realised something jolly clever: the inside of the jug is lined with plastic. Pretty genius. It's the perfect size too.

The flowers smell absolutely divine and have opened beautifully as the days have passed – I’ve had them for a week and they still look stunning. 

They've been sitting on my desk cheering up my boring revision days and bringing a smile to my face.

AND GUESS WHAT, GUYS!? You can get 33% off Blossoming Gifts' beautiful bouquets using the discount code BGIFT33, although it does exclude the flowers by post range.

My bouquet costs £29.99 without the discount, and although Blossoming Gifts kindly sent it to me as a gift to review, all my opinions are totally honest.

What do you think? Why not treat yourself or a loved one? Day brightening = guaranteed.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

31 things I’m looking forward to doing once exams are over.

I’ll be honest with you, life is not at its most fun ever right now. I don’t like to complain as in the scheme of things, life could be a hell of a lot worse, but my existence is currently highly boring.

Life = revision.

Revision = boring.

Sometimes I take a break from boring revision with a boring gym sesh. Woo.

When you first start revising it’s not too bad. It’s an excuse to treat yourself to new coloured biros and sparkly gel pens, maybe even a selection of highlighters if you’re feeling fancy.

But that novelty wears off. And it wears off fast.

For some reason unbeknown to me, Bristol Uni finishes way later than everyone else. So my facebook newsfeed and snapchat has been full of happy friends celebrating finishing their degrees for a couple of weeks now.

I can’t wait to be them.

Eight days to go. Just eight days to go.

I keep trying to tell myself that the harder I work now the sweeter the post-exams freedom will taste.

It’s the very prospect of ALL the fun that’s going to occur once I’m finished that is seeing me through the final push.

"It's high time to drink Prosecco and dance on the tables"
And boy oh boy, is fun going to occur. In a big way. Said fun will almost definitely commence with a pop, fizz and a clink, because you only finish four years of undergraduate study once, am I right?

The week after finishing finals is essentially going to be like Freshers’ Week all over again. Except this time I’ll be with my best friends, in a city I know (and love) and with a real reason to celebrate.

Here are 31 things I’m super looking forward to doing when I’m finally free:

1. Reading books that aren’t for essays. Books I actually want to read. Books that may just entertain as well as interest me. Books that I won’t have to analyse. (I’ve just purchased Polly Vernon’s ‘Hot Feminist’ which I can’t wait to start!)

2. Listening to British radio. As opposed to the French and German news radio which is all I’ve listened to for the past four years. Is it any wonder I never know any current music? (1D aside, natch.)


4. Shopping. Oh my days, I am so desperate to shop. It’s been too long. And I want new stuff.

5. Going out for lunch and not feeling like I need to rush back to work. Because there will be no work, HUZZAH!

6. Being able to enjoy doing things other than work because there’s no guilt. The guilt I feel as I write this blog is horrendous.

7. Baking. I’ll let you know if I make anything awesome. Get excited.

8. Blogging. Hopefully you might get marginally excited about this too.

9. Doing a million and one blog improvements I’ve been wanting to do for months. Ohhh yes, keep your eyes peeled, friends.

10. Improving my coding skills. So keen for this.

11. Ticking off all the restaurants and cafés on my Bristol bucket list. I’ve got to make the most of this fabulous city before I leave, right?

12. Binge-watching all the addictive box-sets I’ve been recommended so many times but have avoided starting for fear of not being able to stopGame of Thrones, anyone?

13. Going to ALLLL the exercise/dance classes. I usually never go to things like yoga ‘cause ain’t nobody got time for that – I need to work up a sweat and get my heart pumping in my limited exercise time. But after exams I'll have time to do that AND find my inner yogi.

14. Going out out, having a bloody good night and not caring about it getting late because you can sleep all morning if you so desire.

15. Lying in the sun, watching the clouds and making daisy chains. I'm such a cliché.

16. Pampering myself.

17. Reading magazines.

18. Reading the paper. And I mean properly reading it, not just flicking through over breakfast.

19. Cooking elaborate dishes.

20. Making a scrapbook of the year. It's gonna get emosh.

21. Cleaning my room. Srsly. Cannot wait to do this.

22. Spending far too long taking pictures of my breakfast to be instagrammed.

23. Reading blogs. And catching up on weeks’ worth of posts.

24. Curling my hair. Because it’s not like I’ll have anything better to do, am I right?

25. Lying in.

26. Walking anywhere slowly. (I say this, but even post-exams I’m not going to want to waste time walking slowly.)

27. Planning my travels! Yeah, I still need to work out if my dream travel itinerary is actually feasible. And by feasible I mean within the constraints of my savings.

28. Having long phone calls with my faraway friends.

29. Visiting some of them too.

30. Being able to go to some of the cool blog events I’m invited to (funds permitting). Having to decline a press trip to Germany because you’ll be doing German exams at the time is a bit of a bummer.


The excitement is real. Any other students out there share any of these? Or perhaps you have something else to add to the list? Let me know!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Confessions of a tea addict.

I'm super excited to announce that I'm one of Clipper Tea's new healthy living bloggers! This is a version of my first post for them, which you can find on their website here. It's part of a fabulous section full of all sorts of interesting articles to help you become healthier and happier. Hope you like it!

I was hooked. My family knew it, most of my twitter followers knew it, and even I myself knew it.

Hi, I'm Rachel, and I have a drinking problem. My tipple of choice? A milky builder’s brew.

Like many heavy drinkers, my addiction grew gradually without my even realising.

It's strange to think now, but I actually had to force myself to get into tea. I know. I only did so to limit my hot chocolate intake over the chilly winter months, and initially I added spoonfuls of sugar (which I'm sure we all agree is tea sacrilege) just to make it bearable.

As I weaned myself of the sweet stuff, my tea consumption increased. On an average day I'd drink at least six cups of milky breakfast tea, and no day felt right without it.

Flatmates learnt not to talk to me before I'd had my first cup of the day, and friends learnt that offering me a cuppa was a stupid question: the answer was always yes.

Whilst living in Germany, I despaired at the lack of fresh milk and the weakness of the generic "black tea." I would declare that the fruity brews drunk by my German flatmates were not "proper tea", and insisted on having my own tea stocks replenished with deliveries from home. *insert sassy girl emoji here*

My Belgian and French housemates told me my tea looked like chocolate milk. I don't even know what to say about that.

Some drink ludicrous quantities of beer, others plump for tea
I never felt like tea really gave me energy as one would expect from a caffeinated beverage, it was just comforting, warming and delicious.

So when I decided to switch to an alkaline diet (eschewing dairy and caffeine amongst other pleasures in life... 80% of the time at least) come January 1st 2015, I knew I was in for a challenge. Me? Give up regular tea?! Surely not!

I told friends of my plans and they simply looked at me in shock, aghast and disbelieving.

And OK, I’ll be honest, I haven’t 100% given it up. But when you’re walking past Waitrose and a free cuppa is calling, what’s a girl to do? Plus, I've decided I really like normal tea with soya milk. Almond milk in tea is gross though. Take my word for it and save yourself the horror.

The headaches during my first few days off the milky stuff were not fun. A few months down the line however, and I only drink a regular cuppa a few times a week, I feel fab and my eyes have been opened to a whole new world of tea.

Whilst I’d only ever tried the free green teas in Wagamama previously (I realise a trend is emerging, but I’m a student, don’t judge!), it turns out there are tons of far yummier flavoured versions for the drinking. Pear and honey? Yes please. Ginseng? I don't know what ginseng is but it turns out I like it! Nettle? Who knew nettles were so nice?!

My uni coursemates and I have recently discovered a secret boiling water tap in uni, and I am not exaggerating when I say it has revolutionised my life. I never used to stay in uni to work due to the lack of tea. Now I simply make sure I've always got my flask and emergency tea bag stash with me and I'm all set for the day.

Until I decide I want to go home and change into my onesie and slippers, that is...

And yes, I still drink at least six cups a day. But hey, there are worse addictions to have.

Do you share my tea addiction? Let me know!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

4 of London's best themed afternoon teas and an 'Into The Woods' DVD giveaway!

My list of "things I love" is somewhat extensive, but two things that feature pretty high up are afternoon tea and musicals. One such musical the film adaptation of which I absolutely love is Into The Woods. Did you see it?

With Emily Blunt (my girl crush), James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, the cute boy who played Gavroche in Les Mis and a whole host of other talented stars?

Well it's precisely my type of film: romance, comedy, catchy songs, surprise twists, pretty dresses, handsome princes and a fairytale setting. (The song 'Agony' is particularly hilarious. I was singing it for weeks too.)

So when the wonderful PR people working with Sketch in London (remember Sketch? With the salted caramel macarons?) got in touch to tell me about their Into The Woods-themed afternoon tea, 'Tea in the Woods', to celebrate the release of the film on DVD I was super interested.

How awesome does this sound:
"With a menu consisting of assorted “sand-witches” with fillings ranging from quail egg and caviar to cucumber and ricotta, the menu is sure to please even the most scrutinizing prince or princesses.  Also included in the re-vamped tea is Little Red Riding Hood’s Choux, Jack’s Beanstalk Tart, all complemented by the Baker and his Wife’s selection of Sketch Pastries – all fit for a basket to take to grandma’s house!"
The tragic thing is that I'm not actually going to be able to make it to London in time to try the Into The Woods tea myself because of my finals (grrr), but if you do go, have an extra pastry for me and let me know how it is.

It's £39 per person (so probably a special treat for most of us) and runs from 18th May – 7th June 2015.

And if you can't make it either, fear not! You can still get a slice of the Into The Woods charm because I've got three copies of the DVD to give away, yay! This is the type of film you can happily watch over and over again, so a great one to add to your collection.

Why not watch the film with a slice of Vic Sponge and a mug of the finest builders' brew? It'll be just like being at Sketch. Ahem.

All you have to do is enter the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Luckily for me, Sketch often do amazing themed afternoon teas, so I'll have to go another time. And if that's the kinda thing you're into, I've been finding out about some of London's other themed afternoon teas to add to your list.

Behold, three more of London's finest themed afternoon teas:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea, The Lobby Bar in One Aldwych

We're talking decadent golden eggs, blueberry brioche, homemade candy floss and heritage tomato tarts - the menu is surprisingly varied and features less chocolate than you'd imagine. I'm loving the look of those chocolate milks with their stripey straws!

£34.50 per person for afternoon tea or £45 per person for afternoon tea with a glass of Lallier Grande Réserve Champagne or a smoking Cocktail Charlie and £37.50 for under 12s.

Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley

Probably one of the best-known afternoon teas in London, Prêt-à-Portea is inspired by the themes and colours of the fashion world, and the menu changes every six months. The pastry chefs create sweet treats taken from each season’s collections at London Fashion Week (how cool is that?), and everything is served on the finest bespoke Paul Smith china.

£45 per person for afternoon tea or £52 per person for afternoon tea with a glass of Laurent-Perrier.

Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea, The Sanderson Hotel

Now this one does sound fun: Upon being seated, guests receive a menu hidden inside a vintage book and linen napkins wrapped with a riddle. Teapots adorned with kings and queens, sugar cubes in musical boxes, carousels and ticking clocks all complement the yummy, traditional afternoon tea treats.

£38 per person and £30 for under 11s.

Afternoon teas like these are such an occasion and a really special treat, in my opinion. I absolutely love them. But tell me, which one tempts you the most?

Sunday, 17 May 2015

RECIPE: Chocolate chunk nutty raw brownies (gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free).

Man, I looooove these!

And I know – FINALLY, a recipe post! Well I think the wait has been worth it, chums, as this recipe is an absolute dream, if I do say so myself.

These are just so very very tasty. 

It was one of those things that I didn’t mean to make. I was revising for my exams, I really was. Then this happened. I don’t even know how, but I’m jolly glad it did.

I was inspired by Deliciously Ella’s raw brownie recipe, but then I decided to take it up a notch or five. And I’m pretty darn pleased with my creation, it has to be said.

These brownies are super rich and chocolatey, with the most fabulous, squidgy, gorge texture thanks to the nuts and dates. And then when you get that little crunch of chocolate chunk - oof, that's the stuff.

I should probably point out that although I call them brownies, they’re not like traditional brownies. Traditional brownies are wonderful, I don’t deny that. But these babies are different. Equally wonderful, if not MORE wonderful thanks to their health benefits, but different.

They’re also gosh darn simple to make. I promise.

You can vary the Choc Shot you use (I went for coconut) as well as the nuts, which will result in slightly different flavours, but that’s all part of the fun, am I right? I used a mix of nuts that was predominantly cashews and peanuts which worked a treat, but I reckon almonds, hazelnuts and pecans would be just as good. Go wild!

And if you don’t have Sweet Freedom, substitute agave syrup or honey.

These brownies are vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar-free (depending on the chocolate you use). Yup, genuinely nourishing, full of natural goodness.

And oh my days, want to take these babies to another level? Spread them with chocolate-hazelnutty goodness! Because chocolate and nuts on top of chocolate and nuts has got to be a good thing, am I right? SO DELISH!

OK, they may be slightly less healthy as a result, but the texture combo here is insaaaanely good. Use Nutella if ya like. I went for Jimjam’s chocolate hazelnut spread which has no added sugar, don'tcha know. Beyond tasty.

Also: generously drizzling with peanut butter is a seriously good way to take these brownies from awesome to awesomer.

I made my brownies in my mini food-chopper (basically a mini food processor, and such a barg) which I absolutely adore, but a normal food processor would be fine, or you could try in a powerful blender.

Oh, and do use medjool dates rather than standard ones – the latter really are nothing like the former. Trust. And if you can't find raw cacao powder (I got mine at a local independent health food store), you can sub cocoa powder but the quantity won't be the same so I suggest adding 1 tbsp at a time and having a little taste.

These quantities make six lovely brownie squares, but you could easily scale up the recipe. My pictures show you what a ½ cup looks like, but don’t worry if you don’t have the right measuring cups – it doesn’t need to be too precise with this recipe.

Hope you love them as much as I do!


½ cup mixed nuts of you choice
½ cup medjool dates, pitted and halved (I used 5)
1 tbsp Choc Shot of your choice (I used coconut)
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tbsp Sweet Freedom/honey/agave
4 squares good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped


1. Line a small baking tin with foil.

2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they turn into a fine powder. 

3. Add the other ingredients except the chocolate one at a time and pulse after each one to combine until a very sticky dough forms.

4. Dollop the mixture into the tin and use your fingers to spread it out evenly, pressing down as you go – this gets a bit messy, but it’s the best way. Press the chocolate chunks on to the top of the brownies and pop the whole thing in the freezer for an hour to firm up.

Don't worry if you don't fill a whole tin - the mix won't spread.
5. Remove the tray from the freezer and lift out the brownies by the foil. Cut into squares and enjoy! (Oh, and keep them in the fridge to stay firm.)
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