February 2015 Book Wrap Up

Well February was a bit of a bum month for me with reading… only three books this time around.  I have to admit, Brick Lane was a bit of a slog for me.  That one came under the ‘book you started but never finished’ category for me and, as I’ve tried to read this book three times, I felt I really should just power through and finish.  I’m not sure what it was for me, loads of people rave about Brick Lane, but it just wasn’t doing it for me.  Ah, never mind.

Feb 2015 books

Books Read:  3

Currently Reading:

And because I’m all about the visuals, here’s an update on the Reading Challenge list:

January Challenge

What did you guys read this month?  Do you have any suggestions on what I should read in March?

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

Can you spot the signs of stroke?

As family and some friends will know, The Stroke Association is a charity close to my heart.  In 1997, my granddad suffered a stroke and it changed all of our lives.  Thankfully he survived but the effects have stayed with him since. In the past I’ve done events to raise money for The Stroke Association, but today, I want to raise a bit of awareness and help out TSA’s FAST Forward campaign.

Let’s start with the basics.

What’s a stroke?
Put simply, a stroke is a ‘brain attack.’

It happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off. It can be caused by a blockage in one of the blood vessels leading to the brain or a bleed in the brain.

Blood carries essential nutrients and oxygen to your brain. Without blood your brain cells can be damaged or destroyed.

Strokes affect people in different ways, depending on the part of the brain that is affected, how widespread the damage is and how healthy the person was before the stroke. A stroke can affect the way your body functions as well as your thought processes and how you feel and communicate. (source)

 

Can you spot the signs of stroke?
Just remember, FAST:FAST_infographics_Jan%202015_FINALBeing able to identify someone’s ‘funny turn’ as a stroke may not only save their life but help aid them in recovering quicker.  Getting a stroke victim the proper medical attention they need as fast as possible is absolutely crucial.

 
Did you know…
…that there’s such a thing as a mini-stroke?  Also known as TIA (transient ischaemic attack), mini-strokes have the same signs and symptoms as above–only they last for a shorter amount of time.  This does not make them any less dangerous and mini-strokes can be signs of a larger stroke to come.  1 in 12 people who have had a mini-stroke have had another stroke within a week.  TIA strokes are also known as ‘warning strokes.’

Other symptoms of a mini-stroke include:

  • sudden loss of vision or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • sudden weakness or numbness on one side of your body (including in your leg)
  • sudden memory loss or confusion
  • sudden dizziness, unsteadiness or a sudden fall, especially with any of the other symptoms.

For more information on mini-strokes, be sure to check out TSA’s fact sheet here.

Finally, I think this video says it all:

If you’re interested in learning more about strokes or how you can help, check out The Stroke Association online.  Their website offers valuable, life-saving information as well as support for those who have had a stroke as well as for carers and family members.  For those of you based in the US, you’ll want to check out the American Stroke Association.

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

Guest Post: Top 4 Swimming Pools in London

Swimming is one of the best kinds of exercise because it uses many muscle groups, rarely results in injury and provides an excuse to find out what your crush looks like in a swimming costume.

Seriously though, swimming strengthens the respiratory system and kicks your metabolism in to gear, helping you break down that winter puppy fat. One of the many great things about living in London is that there are so many swimming pools to choose from. Indoor or outdoor, luxury or plain old pond, there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes.

Here are the top 4 swimming pools in London:

LondonFieldsLido1. London Fields Lido
If you want to swim outside all year round, but you don’t want nipples with the carbon density of diamonds, then this might be the place for you. This heated Olympic sized outdoor pool is even open in the winter months.

But it’s even better in the summer, particularly if you live in Hackney. You can spend a lazy day in Victoria Park, followed by a brisk swim and a visit to some of the trendy hipster pubs in the immediate vicinity of the Lido.

Hampstead Heath, Pond Number 3 (The Mixed Bathing Pond) - geograph.org.uk - 17184342. Hampstead Heath Ponds
OK, so these are literally just some ponds in a park, but they are something special and uniquely London. The ponds are open all year round for swimming, but there have been medical warnings given to the “polar bear clubs” which swim in sub zero temperatures. Make sure you have a strong heart before you try anything like that!

In the summer, it’s a truly delightful place to cool off. You can choose from a unisex pool frequented by fun loving young people or male only and women only pools around the corner, the latter sheltered from prying eyes by surrounding foliage.
Natural swimming is coming back in fashion and this is the most urban place to give it a try.

York Hall, Old Ford Road, E2 - geograph.org.uk - 3948833. York Hall in Bethnal Green
The pool in this historic building has been there since it opened in 1929. It was reopened in 2005 after York Hall underwent a major multi-million pound refurbishment in a joint project between Tower Hamlets council and Greenwich Leisure.

Many of the building’s historical features were also lovingly restored making it a truly exceptional place for a swim. Don’t be surprised if you see some rough looking old blokes going in and out the hall though, this is also one of Britain’s best known and oldest boxing venues.

4. Golden Lane Leisure Centre
Close to the ominous towers of the Brutalist beast that is the Barbican, you can find this attractive, light filled roof top swimming pool. It may be only 20 metres long, but it’s quite cheap for the area at £8 a swim, especially if you live or work close by. This small pool is a good for beginners as there are a variety of swimming lessons taught throughout the week.

If you want to get a beach body in time for summer, then now’s the time to put some work in. Strap your goggles on and step into your Speedos, the water’s lovely!

tom rowsell profileTom Rowsell is a writer and film maker living in London. Keen on health and fitness, he ran the Rome marathon in 2013 and writes for several sporting blogs. His background in language and history led to him becoming manager of the Empowerlingua translation blog http://www.empowerlinguatranslation.com/

 

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch or writing a guest post for The London Diaries, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!  I love getting emails and am always open to new ideas and post pitches.

Pact Coffee – Review and Offer Code

This past Friday morning was an absolute tragedy… I ran out of coffee.  I know.  And I was on an early shift as well.

Normally I’m really good with my coffee rations–I know just by looking at the jar I keep it in when it’s time to grab a bag on the way home.  Somehow, this time, my low stock didn’t register and I woke up Friday morning to find myself scraping the jar for any remaining grounds.  I thought I had enough to make a solitary cup… not so.  The result was so weak I couldn’t even drink it.

Needless to say, Friday was renamed ‘Grumpday.’

But now, running out of coffee is a thing of the past thanks to Pact.

N had shown me their website a few days before my no-coffee morning and I’d kept meaning to have a look but just never got around to it.  After running out, I thought there would be no better time to give Pact a try.

Pact is a coffee subscription service that sends you bags of freshly ground coffee every week (or other week, depending on your settings).  They cater for all types of brewing methods, so whether you’re a filter girl like me or an Aeropress aficionado, Pact have you covered.  Decaf, you say?  No way, I say.  But unlike me, Pact don’t discriminate–they do decaf too.

What really struck me about Pact was the variety of coffee on offer and how they described the taste of each.  Dulce de leche?  Oh yes please.  Chocolate toffee?  Alright then!  Mind you, these aren’t flavoured coffees–these are just the flavour notes in each.  All coffee beans are sourced ethically and the company has a great relationship with their farmers.  If you’re interested in learning more about Pact‘s coffee sourcing, check out their blog article here.

Ok, but what about ordering?  Is it easy?

Yep.  Even with my de-caffinated brain, setting up an account and placing your first order is super easy.  I’d actually found a voucher code online which gave my my first bag of coffee for just a measly pound.  £1 people… for a bag of quality coffee.  Amazing.  Back to that in a minute.

Full disclosure, when I placed my first order the website was buggy and a bit glitchy.  I wasn’t sure if my order had been placed but a quick email to the customer care team put me at ease.  They emailed back straightaway and reassured me that my order had gone through and they’d apologised for the website being a bit funky.  I’ve logged on this morning and all seems ok!  Just one of those things.

One of the best things about Pact?  I ordered my first bag Friday morning.  It came through my letterbox Saturday morning, just in time for breakfast.  How’s that for service?  And you can pause deliveries anytime through your account page.  I have a feeling I’ll have to pause every couple of weeks to get through the coffee… I generally do a cup on weekday mornings and two on Saturdays and Sundays.  But that’s ok!

Anyway, what was in the package?

Pact Coffee1

Other than the coffee, my shipment came with a little mini magazine and info card about the farmers.  Great stuff.  As you can see, I opted for the dulce de leche coffee, Sitio São Fernandes.  This is their limited edition coffee for this month and it’s normally £8.95 for the bag (normal coffees are priced around the £6.95 mark).  I got it for £1.00.  Yes, £8.95 is more than I would normally pay for a bag of coffee however, I can absolutely vouch for the taste and can’t wait to try out the others on offer.

This is hands down one of the best coffees I’ve ever had at home.  I say that without reservation.  I’m normally a milk and sugar kind of gal but the Sitio São Fernandes is so good, I had it black with just a bit of sugar.

Pact Coffee 2

Right.  If you’ve stuck around through my raving this long, you should be rewarded.  I’ve got a voucher code for you that will let you order your first bag for £1.  Sadly, because their coffee is super fresh, Pact don’t ship internationally, so this one’s for my UK people only.

Just enter in STEPHANIE-IK_A3W when placing your first order.  It’s that simple.

Enjoy!

(NB: This review is not in exchange for payment and I have not been sent a free sample.  I just really like Pact‘s service and coffee.  That being said, if Pact would like to send me some other flavours for review, I wouldn’t say no!)

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

Ok Go – KOKO, London

I just had the best night of my life.

I’ve been a fan of Ok Go since high school (oh god, over 10 years now) and have always wanted to see them live.  Every single time they would tour, I was in the wrong part of the world.  When they went to Louisville?  I was in London.  The last time they came to London?  I was home for two weeks in Louisville.

Heartbreaking stuff.

Last night, I finally got to see these guys play at KOKO and it was, without a doubt, the best gig I’ve been to with some of the best fans.  Because the show was sold out we got to Mornington Crescent obscenely early to case the joint and see if there was anyone waiting in line already.  Not a soul.  Luckily, we’d scoped out what was around online ahead of time and went for lunch at the Lyttelton Arms’s branch of Ruby Jean’s, an American-style diner.  After a gluttonous lunch and lots of beer (it was raining, there was still no queue, it was justified), we headed over to KOKO around 5 as a few people had turned up.  We spent the two hours wait chatting with two couples who were very lovely.  We combined umbrella forces and everyone managed to stay at least half dry.

Once inside, KOKO is massive and it’s ridiculously easy to get lost.  I’d done my research and knew that for a short chick like me, the first level balcony would be the way to go.  I’d see everything, I wouldn’t get jostled around and it would be an all around more enjoyable experience.  We could have been front row on the floor though… kind of regretting that now.  We were right next to the VIP/Reserved area which was fine.  There were a few times where it was hard for me to see but truthfully I was dancing so much I wasn’t too bothered.  One guy in the VIP area was totally cool and kept bringing us free drinks–not a bad thing!  See what I mean by great fans?  Sometimes you go to concerts and the fans are horrible (Hanson fans, I’m looking at you) so it was a nice surprise!

Let me tell you, I have never been to a concert where I knew all the words to every single song and sang them at the top of my lungs.  I danced so hard at this show that N was shocked and I’m sore a day later.

Particular highlights for me were This Too Shall PassNeeding/GettingTurn Up the Radio and Get Over It.  Every song was flawless, energetic and so much damn fun to listen to.  I’m not afraid to admit that when lead singer Damian Kulash came out into the crowd and sang Last Leaf I teared up a bit.  After every few songs Ok Go would answer audience questions (hilarious) and just generally chat to people.  Very fun!

A few photos… excuse the iPhone camera quality.  I wasn’t concerned with taking too many photos–I wanted to enjoy myself without worrying about getting the perfect shot.

IMG_0886

IMG_0896

 

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If get the chance to see Ok Go live, don’t question it.  Just do it.  I know I won’t be waiting another 10 years to see them again.

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

Product Review – Pukka Herbal Teas

Right–I’m going to hold my hand over my heart and admit something very serious… I am a tea addict, particularly of the herbal variety.  I’ve tried a range of brands but my favorite, by far, is Pukka Herbs.  They’ve got a massive variety of teas from your typical black teas to the most amazing herbal combinations that blow my mind.

Which ones are currently warming my cockles?

Pukka full

LoveA heart-warming touch of organic rose, chamomile and lavender - This was my first ever foray into Pukka teas.  The idea of drinking flowers intrigued me and the smell of the box (yes, you really can smell Pukka teas through their boxes!) was simply heaven.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Love is super calming but, at the same time, very warming.  The best way to describe this tea is that it’s like putting on your favorite, worn out jumper and curling up with a good book.

Night TimeA dreamy bed of organic oat flower, lavender and limeflower – This was my second Pukka tea and, I’m not going to lie, I need this one almost on a daily basis.  I go through bouts of really bad nights where I can’t drift off, my brain goes into overdrive, I wake up every 45 minutes and finally wind up getting out of bed at 5AM because I’ve got nothing better to do.  Night Time takes that edge off.  I try and have a mug every night (summer or winter) because it does calm my overactive mind down and the routine of sitting down with a cup of tea signals bedtime for me, making it easier to fall asleep.  Thank goodness for that!

RevitaliseA burst of warming organic cinnamon, cardamom and ginger - I’m a sucker for anything cinnamon and Revitalise happily delivers on that front.  The notes of citrus, the heat of the ginger and the otherworldliness of the cardamom make this drink perfect when you want to warm up and get ready for a long day. I’ve actually just started cold brewing this one and it makes my drinking water really nice with a hint of spice!  Highly recommend!

Three CinnamonA sweet embrace of organic Indian, Indonesian & Vietnamese cinnamon – Can you see the cinnamon theme here?  I’ve only ever managed to have one mug of this sexy little minx of a tea and part of me wonders if I’m waxing lyrical, but I highly doubt it.  A sample of this one came in one of my Birchboxes last year and I LOVED it.  But I never seem to be able to find it anywhere… and when I do find it, it’s sold out.  Probably for good reason.  If you see a box, send it my way, please.

Serene Jasmine GreenA sensual haven of organic green jasmine tea, chamomile & lavender - This is one of Pukka’s newest teas and, quite possibly, a strong contender for knocking Love out of the top spot in my cupboard.  I bought this one on a whim as I’d never seen it before and I’m so glad I did.  I’ve had four mugs of it today just on it’s own and it’s wonderful.  No caffeine, very zen and it smells (and tastes) ah-maze-ing!

Anyone else out there addicted to Pukka’s teas?  Are there any I should try?

(NB: This review is not in exchange for payment and I have not been sent a free sample.  I just really like Pukka’s products.  That being said, if Pukka would like to send me some tea for review, I wouldn’t say no!)

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

January 2015 Book Wrap Up

Well that’s the first month of this year done and dusted… whew!  Hard to believe we’re already a month into 2015.  Looks like I’ve got my reading mojo back at the minute–great news!

Jan Books

Books Read: 8 

Currently Reading:

The Drowning of Arthur Braxton – Caroline Smailes

And because I have an obsession with crossing things off lists, here’s a visual update on my Reading Challenge progress:

January Challenge

That’s 7 read off the list with 43 to go!

steph2

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