Anniversary Night Out

So last Thursday was our 5th wedding anniversary and we decided to make a night of it.  And what a night it was!  London has so many amazing things on offer–places to eat, things to do and shows to see.

For dinner, which was N’s choice, we went Spanish and headed for Brindisa in Soho.  N is part Spanish and I love Spanish food so it was a great fit.  If you’ve ever ventured to Borough Market you’ll know that Brindisa have a cafe nearby and also have a stall on the fringes of the market where they make the best chorizo rolls in London.  (I’m not biased, check out The London Review of Sandwiches if you don’t believe me!)  I’ve never eaten in one of their cafes or restaurants before but I knew I was in for a treat.

We arrived slightly early and were shown to a table right away.  The jug of sangria we ordered was nice enough but nothing overly amazing.  But the food… ahhhhh the food.  That’s a whole different story.  As it’s mainly tapas (sharing plates), we ordered several different dishes to share.  Our choices were:

Patatas Bravas
Fried potatoes with a traditional spicy catalan sauce

Gambas al Ajillo
chili garlic prawns

Croquetas de Jamon
ham croquetas

Crispy Pork Belly
with butternut squash chutney

Bacalao
fried fish with pureed black rice

Calamares 
squid with peas

Everything was absolutely delicious and brought out fairly quick–they’re only small dishes after all!  A particular favourite of mine were the chilli prawns (with the oil still bubbling when served!) and the patatas bravas.  ¡Delicioso!

And because I know a few of your are food porn addicts, check out a few photos, courtesy of N’s iPhone… of course.

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croquetas and patatas bravas

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prawns and chilli garlic

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crispy pork belly…. mmmmmmm…

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bacalao and squid

Stunning, no?

Dimly lit and fairly quiet with great food to boot, Brindisa in Soho was the perfect way to start our anniversary evening–with a bit of celeb spotting too!

After dinner we wizzed over to my home away from home in Soho–The Montague Pyke pub.  Bestie Becca and I frequented this joint before she moved to South Africa and I find myself here whenever I have time to kill in town.  The pub is massive with an extensive drinks list so it’s a great place to chill out before moving on to something else.

To cap off the evening, I’d booked us second row seats to Ghost Stories, purported to be the scariest theatre experience.  They weren’t lying, and the fact that they have a Scare Cam capturing people’s shrieks says it all.  From the moment you step in the front door of the theatre, you’re greeted with a creepy soundtrack of drips and scratching noises that sets the scene even before you enter the small theatre.  I have never been so scared and yet entertained.

I absolutely refuse to divulge even a smidge of the plot… not knowing what you’re getting into is part of the fun.  We both had a blast and enjoyed the thrilling, mind bending trip that was Ghost Stories.  You just have to experience it!

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If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

spa London Review

Every now and again I get a hankerin’ for a pamper day–a day to just be on my own, relax and get a nice massage or facial or some sort of nice little treat.  Late last year I discovered spa London‘s South Wimbledon location which is conveniently just down the road from me.  Affordable and with a wide assortment of treatment options, spa London in South Wimbledon has become my go to for a cheeky spa day at prices that don’t make my bank account (or husband) scream.

images_image300x200_Revised_spa_LONDON_logospa London have a variety of locations throughout London including Swiss Cottage, Old Street and Oxford Circus.  With their South Wimbledon location only having opened in September 2013 in the Wimbledon Leisure Centre, the spa still has that fresh and new feeling to it.  The ambiance is particularly nice–light, airy and yet very low key and relaxed.  They have calming music piped through all areas, making it easy to ‘bliss out.’  Most importantly, spa London is immaculately clean.  I didn’t have any yucky moments where I questioned the state of the towels or any of the sauna areas.

The Thermal Spa Experience is a central feature of spa London and is on par with their treatments.  Consisting of several ‘stations,’ the thermal spa allows guests the opportunity to unwind, relax and just be at rest all while enjoying traditional hot and cold therapies.  For a measly £18 (a week’s worth of Starbucks, people) you get three hours of:

Hammam
A heated seating area, the Hammam is the perfect introduction to the heat sequence and can be used to relax between experiences.

Aroma Steam-Rooms
A ceramic-tiled room offering ‘wet’ heat, generating temperatures of 65-70 °C, the climate has a very high humidity and the steam is enriched with essence. Designed to soften the skin, cleanse the pores, calm the nervous system and relieve tension.  (A personal favourite!)

Sauna
A ‘dry’ heat treatment in a wood-lined room with a temperature reaching 90 C, designed to induce perspiration in order to cleanse the body of impurities.

Monsoon Showers
Several jets release scented water, creating contrasting shower experiences. These jets range from a warm tropical downpour to cool water, releasing a fine Scotch mist.

Ice Fountain
The Ice Fountain produces ice flakes to be rubbed on the body which stimulates circulation and facilitates the cooling of the body.

Hydrotherapy Pool
Multiple jets working on different muscle groups to pummel away any stress and fatigue from the body.

Relaxation area
An oasis of calm. This quiet sanctuary is a designated area for pure relaxation while taking delight in complimentary infused water and fresh fruit.  (In other words… beds.  With pillows.  Can we say nap time??)

Aside from visiting the thermal spa a few times now, I’ve also had three very different treatments with spa London and they were all brilliant.

The first treatment I had was the La Sultane de Saba Deep Cleanse Rassoul, booked through Wahanda right before Christmas.  At an astounding £45 (with the three hour thermal spa experience thrown in as a package deal) I was amazed at the level of care I received from both the staff at the spa as well as my therapist.  I might as well have been in Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden (though spa London was infinitely better)!  The thermal spa was so relaxing and coupled with the treatment I came out feeling brand new and completely rested.

The La Sultane de Saba Deep Cleanse Rassoul treatment includes:
A cleansing ritual prepares the skin before a customised recipe, blended to suit your needs, envelops the body, using pure Moroccan lava clay, Honey and Shea Butter. This vitamin and mineral rich treatment draws out the toxins, conditions and restructures the skin’s tissue too noticeable improve texture, appearance and firmness. Finishing with a shea butter massage.

The second visit to spa London was back in March after a particularly stressful period.  I was craving a massage and facial so the Elemis Face & Body Sensation seemed like a perfect option.  My therapist was brilliant and at the end suggested a few products for my sensitive, combination skin on my face.  I did splurge for the Elemis Papaya Enzyme Peel which has done amazing things for my complexion.

The Elemis Face & Body Sensation (55mins, £59) consisted of:
A duo treatment consisting of the perfect combination to treat both face and body. A hot stone deep heat massage warms the belly of the muscles releasing pressure and reliving back tension, to aid complete relaxation. The treatment sensation completes with a booster facial to restore youthful radiance.

Finally, my most recent treatment was just this past Friday as a little Bank Holiday treat to myself!  This time I had the Elemis Exotic Coconut Wrap and Milk Ritual, paired again with the Thermal Spa Experience.  This treatment left me feeling not only relaxed but absolutely glowing and gorgeous, which I really needed!

The Elemis Exotic Coconut Wrap and Milk Ritual (50mins, £59) includes:
Warmed Elemis Skin Nourishing Milk Bath is poured all over the body before a comforting foil wrap cocoons the body. Combined with a pressure point facial massage and scalp treatment this opulent exotic therapy is excellent for skin smoothing and softening.

I’ll most definitely continue to use spa London in the future and have already recommended it to a few friends who live locally.  It’s affordable, it’s super close to where I live and the staff are brilliant.  What more can you ask for?  I would like to try out some of the other locations as treatments are slightly different, as is the thermal spa area.

Have you tried any of the spa London locations?  Let me know what you think!

(spa London have not solicited this review or offered any free treatments/products in exchange… though I wouldn’t say no if they did!)

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If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

TILT – 17 April 2014

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This week’s TILT belongs solely to my fantastic husband.  Today is our wedding anniversary and we’ve been ‘hitched’ for five years now.  Five years… wow.  This is coming from the same girl who was never going to get married… when you meet the right one, everything changes and becomes a possibility.

Like most other wives, I’m incredibly thankful to be married–in fact, I love being married.  I still get a bit of a giddy thrill when post comes to us addressed as Mr. and Mrs.  Even the bills!

N has done so much for me and been there for me in so many more ways than anyone else.  I couldn’t comprehend my life without him; he is absolutely my best friend.  He knows me better than I do, and sometimes that’s insanely weird.  He knows when I have a headache without me having to tell him.  He knows when I just can’t bear the thought of dealing with dinner/dishes and orders chinese instead.  He knows when I just need a nap.  He knows how to make me feel ok again, even when I’m feeling my lowest.  Perhaps he’s magical.  I’m not sure, really–but he’s certainly all mine.

We’ve had our rough days/weeks/months, goodness knows.  But we got through them and we’re a million times better for those tought times.  Those times make or break a couple and they’ve certainly made us.

So this week, I’m entirely thankful for my marriage and the strength it gives me to get out of bed some mornings, to get through the day and to come home to bliss.

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If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

Meet my Fat Babe!

About a month or so ago, Leah posted over on her blog that she’d had a Fat Babe design done for herself.  I loved the idea so much that I went out and got in touch with Rachele and ordered my own!

Check out my babe-a-licious Fat Babe!

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Rachele did such a brilliant job capturing both what I look like and the essence of my blog with the flag duo in the background–I’m so impressed!

She’s also been totes amaze and has given me a lovely cupon code to share with you all.  Click the image below to go straight to her Etsy shop where you can get your very own Fat Babe made!

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Keep your eye out for my Fat Babe–she’ll be making a more regular appearance soon!

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If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

 

Do you need a mentor?

WoMen3Today marks the launch of the WoMentoring Project and their website.  Exciting times!  Not sure what it’s all about?  Keep reading for more information.

About?

The WoMentoring Project exists to offer free mentoring by professional literary women to up and coming female writers who would otherwise find it difficult to access similar opportunities.

The mission of The WoMentoring Project is simply to introduce successful literary women to other women writers at the beginning of their careers who would benefit from some insight, knowledge and support. The hope is that we’ll see new, talented and diverse female voices emerging as a result of time and guidance received from our mentors.

Each mentor selects their own mentee and it is at their discretion how little or much time they donate. We have no budget, it’s a completely free initiative and every aspect of the project – from the project management to the website design to the PR support – is being volunteered by a collective of female literary professionals. Quite simply this is about exceptional women supporting exceptional women. Welcome to The WoMentoring Project.

Why do we need it?

Like many great (and not so great) ideas The WoMentoring Project came about via a conversation on Twitter. While discussing the current lack of peer mentoring and the prohibitive expense for many of professional mentoring we asked our followers – largely writers, editors and agents – who would be willing to donate a few hours of their time to another woman just starting out. The response was overwhelming – within two hours we had over sixty volunteer mentors.

The WoMentoring Project is managed by novelist Kerry Hudson and all of our mentors are all professional writers, editors or literary agents. Many of us received unofficial or official mentoring ourselves which helped us get ahead and the emphasis is on ‘paying forward’ some of the support we’ve been given.

In an industry where male writers are still reviewed and paid more than their female counterparts in the UK, we wanted to balance the playing field. Likewise, we want to give female voices that would otherwise find it hard to be heard, a greater opportunity of reaching their true potential.

Applications

In an ideal world we would offer a mentor to every writer who needed and wanted one. Of course this isn’t possible so instead we’ve tried to ensure the application process is accessible while also ensuring that out mentors have enough information with which to make their selection.

Applicant mentees will submit a 1000 word writing sample and a 500 word statement about why they would benefit from free mentoring. All applications will be in application to a specific mentor and mentees can only apply for one mentor at a time.

Why our mentors are getting involvedWoMentoringIllo3Web

The reason I’m doing this is simple: mentoring can mean the difference between getting published and getting lost in the crowd. It can help a good writer become a brilliant one. But till now, opportunities for low-income writers to be mentored were few and far between. This initiative redresses the balance; I’m utterly delighted to be part of the project.

Shelley Harris, author of Jubilee

I have only achieved the success I have with the help of others, and now I am keen to pass on that help. I particularly want to reach out to those who don’t have the privileges of wealth, status or existing contacts, but who have so much to gain and to give.

Marie Phillips, author Gods Behaving Badly

I’m so pleased to be involved in the WoMentoring Project, and I can’t wait to meet my mentee. I know from my own authors how isolating an experience writing can often be, especially when you’re just starting out, and so I really wanted to be involved. I hope that knowing that there is someone on your side in those early days will give writers courage and confidence in their work.

Alison Hennessy, Senior Editor at Harvill Secker

The WoMentoring project is the kind of opportunity I would have relished when writing my first novel. It’s founded in the spirit of paying it forward, and I’ll take real pride in sharing whatever experience I’ve gained with a mentee. I’ve benefited from the advice and encouragement of some truly inspirational writers, the right voice cheering you on can make all the difference when you’re in your solitary writing bubble. The formality of the mentoring arrangement also gives a sense of responsibility and focus – something that’s invaluable when you’re lost in the sprawl of a work-in-progress – and it’s beneficial to mentors too.

Amylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers

My career as an editor has been immeasurably enriched by working with inspiring women writers, yet the world of publishing would have been inaccessible to me without the time and support I was given when first starting out. The WoMentoring Project is a wonderful, necessary thing and I’m very proud to be taking part in it.

Francesca Main, Editorial Director, Picador

I wanted to get involved with this project because I’d like to help authors feel that whoever they are, and wherever they come from, they have a right to be heard.

Jo Unwin of the Jo Unwin Literary Agency

Why female writers feel they need this opportunity

I’m interested in being mentored because although I think you have to make mistakes to learn, having someone who’s been there help you work out the ones with no value can be really useful. Most of all I’d like to have someone to push and challenge me on what makes me and my writing tick.

The idea of women sharing their skills and experience in a dynamic, nurturing way is a really important one given the lower profile given to female writers. Even though the mentoring is one to one a collective voice and resilience is still being built up – I think it’s a great idea that, for writers like me, will help get rid of some of the layers of doubt and creative loneliness that come with being a beginner.

Clare Archibald

I’m on my third novel; I’ve had good notices from Faber, HoZ etc. but still not quite there. What I need is that final push. I especially need guidance on pacing, keeping the action pulsing along. I feel a mentor could be hugely beneficial in this process.

Suzy Norman

Check out WoMentoring on their website or give them a shout on Twitter.  They’d love to hear from you!

steph2

If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

TILT 3 April 2014

It’s been a mix of a week… some good stuff, some bad.  I guess that makes it a normal week?  Or not.  I dunno.  Either way, this week I’m loving:

  • I had a very important meeting earlier this week which I can’t disclose but it took me to an office that had lots of lovely books that I was allowed to choose from to take home with me.  I could have taken a few but I decided I didn’t want to look greedy (and I would have needed a van) so I just selected one.  And by one I mean The One.  I’m 99.9999% sure this book is going to be my favourite book of the year.  The Book of You by Claire Kendal is out next week and it’s going to be a hit–I can say that with the utmost certainty.  I flicked through the first few pages after my meeting and had to find somewhere to sit and dive in… it was that good.  I whipped thought the 300+ page book in a matter of hours, unstoppable in my page turning.  It’s miles better and more exciting than Gone Girl and Before I go to Sleep combined.  I seriously LOVED this book. It’s out next week from HarperCollins–check out my review on Judging Covers!

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  • This week’s brilliant twitter meme #BeyonceBooks.  Buzzfeed have kindly done a roundup of some of the best including my personal favourites Put a Lord of the Ring on It and Run the World in 80 Days.  Check out Buzzfeed’s list here and let the laughs commence.
  • YOU.  Yes you, you crazy, weird and wonderful people.  You with your weird search terms… a few weeks ago it was “trees that smell like tacos.”  Yesterday I had TWO in one day!  Not only did I get “sensual massages in fairdale and louisville ky” but also “why are there so many fat people in oxford street.”  I mean… who the heck is googling this stuff?  But even more importantly, what have I been writing about on my blog??????

Tell me in the comments what you’re all about this week!

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If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.

 

March 2014 Book Wrap Up

It’s hard to believe we’re just about to go into the month of April. Sometimes it honestly makes my head spin just how fast time goes. Soon it’ll be summer and then Christmas all over again. Mental.

Anyhow, this month’s book list is a smidge shorter—there were a few longer books on the cards for March.

 March books

Books Read: 5

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton – Elizabeth L. Silver
A Single Breath – Lucy Clarke (review here)
Apple Tree Yard – Louise Doughty (recommended by Sugar!)
The Troop – Nick Cutter
I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes  (review here)

 

Currently ReadingThe Storyteller – Jodi Picoult

What are you folks reading?

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If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or @londondiaries1. Alternatively you can email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com.