Pasta.  What in the world is more wonderful than pasta?  If I had a size 2 body and the metabolism of a golden retriever I’d have a carberrific creation morning, noon and night.  Alas, I don’t and my intake of Italian dishes isn’t what I’d like it to be so imagine what a treat it was being invited to Vapiano to celebrate World Pasta Day (25th October).

Taking a break from our ever-growing pile of a client work, I took my mum along as my plus one to have a chilled afternoon in one of Manchester Corn Exchange’s most popular restaurants.  Sat amongst some of the city’s most loved eating establishments – Tampopo and Mowgli to name a couple – Vapiano has a more casual, relaxed feel that invites its guests in from the October cold to stuff their faces with fresh, delicious dishes.

I’d been to Vapiano a couple of times before – it’s the sort of place you can dive into for a nice lunch after a hard morning of retail therapy – but had only ever had pizza off the menu.  Vapiano’s charm, and USP as it were, is that you go up to the kitchen to order your meal on a swipe card and can completely customise the dish before watching it being cooked right in front of you by your own dedicated chef.  The pizzas, quite honestly, are insanely good – the homemade bases are cooked to perfection – so I was really excited to see what they had to offer in terms of pasta.

Despite loving it, I generally avoid pasta when I eat out.  Quite often I am disappointed and find the dishes are usually a microwave job, despite being in a restaurant, or are just not quite cooked how I like them.  I was a little unsure how well Vapiano’s dish would go down with me, especially as I’m trying to eat a majority plant-based diet at the moment so I’m avoiding cheese – I was worried the dish would be a little bland.

After choosing a seat on the balcony overlooking the centre of the Corn Exchange, we went up to order our dishes.  We both decided on the arrabbiata (tomato sauce, chilli, garlics and onions) and, as you can choose which pasta you want, I had taglietelle and my mum had fuselli.  As I mentioned before, you can completely customise your dish, so if you wanted to throw in some extras (chicken, king prawns, fillet beef, mozzarella or salmon) now is the time to do it and you can even choose how spicy you want the dish, for which a chose a safe mild/medium.

The pasta was, honestly, delicious.  I’m a massive lover of anything with a tomato sauce so I was happy but my mum who, on the contrary, usually hates anything with a tomato sauce really enjoyed hers too.  I feel I’d chosen the perfect level of spice and despite it not having any of my beloved cheese on, it was really full of flavour and enjoyable.

Quite why I’d bothered to stick to my new vegan lifestyle with the pasta though, I don’t know, because it all went out of the window with dessert.  What can I say, I’m WEAK and when presented with the dessert menu, I caved.  I challenge anyone to resist the temptation of  their Cioccolata Bianca when the menu boasts that it’s ‘a blend of white chocolate and cream on a biscuit base, topped with salted caramel sauce and honeycomb’.  Let me tell you, it’s impossible to.  The dessert absolutely did not disappoint – it’s everything a white chocolate lover/miserable new vegan dreams of and was worth every second of the inevitable guilt I felt afterwards.

Vapiano really is a fantastic place to have a really chilled bite to eat whilst you’re out and about in Manchester.  The staff are all incredibly friendly and it’s a really relaxing environment where you can sit and eat at your own pace without being rushed.  When you’re finished you simply pop down stairs to the till and clear the balance on your swipe card.  The whole restaurant is really clean and spacious and I love that the kitchen is so open and you can watch your food being cooked.  It really reassures you that everything is fresh that day and it allows you to curate a dish you definitely will enjoy.

Have you been to Vapiano?  How do you customise your dishes?  I’d love to know – tweet me or comment on my Instagram @jacintadawn.

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How many times have you looked down at your nails when you’re at home or in the office only to wish you had your own in-house manicurist?  Whilst unpainted nails are, I admit,  #firstworldproblems, it can sometimes be hard to schedule in nail appointments when you are juggling the stresses and struggles of everyday life and work commitments.  “If only I could use an app to have a manicurist come to me at a time and place that’s totally convenient” I hear you say.  WELL WHAT DO YOU KNOW…there is.  Step forward, Blow Ltd.

Hailed as Uber for beauty – by no one except me, probably – it’s a one-stop app for nails, blow drys, makeup, massages, lashes and even yoga.  Hop onto the app and you can select your service and then choose a time, date and location that suits you.  It’s super easy to do and because there are so many beauty professionals working for them, there’s always loads of times available – and they work from 7 am to late too.

I was really lucky to be offered the chance to try out a complimentary gel manicure, thanks to my friends at Carousel PR.  I wanted to get my nails done the day before I flew to Ibiza but because I had lots on that day I was really limited with time I had available.  Luckily, because Blow Ltd’s beauty experts start work so early, I was able to snag a 7.30 am spot which was perfect for me as I get up really early to go to the gym anyway.

As expected, the girl that arrived at my front door was so lovely and professional.  She works in a salon full time, so she takes the early morning and evening slots and is more than skilled in her area of expertise because this is what she does day in, day out.  The only thing Blow need to do yours nail at home and work is a single socket to plug the lamp into so you really can have them done wherever is convenient for you.  I plumped for the kitchen, and after my professional had set up, she got to work preparing my nails.

Blow Ltd Manicure | Jacinta Dawn

Just like in a salon, Blow Ltd have tons of nail colours with them for you to choose from.  Even though it was September and summer was technically over, I wanted something bright for Ibiza so chose an amazing neon coral colour – after two coats it was super bright and would really show off my holiday tan.

I was really impressed with the professionalism and the speed of Blow Ltd.  In no time at all, my gel nails were finished and the appointment had flown by so quickly thanks to the chatty and friendly manicurist.

What about the nails?  Well, I was really impressed with them too.  They lasted me through Ibiza and then some without any chips or peeling and I finally removed them a few weeks later.  Thanks so much Blow Ltd.

NOW FOR THE EXCITING BIT…

Blow Ltd have been lovely enough to give me my own discount code to pass onto you!  Enter code DAWN15 at the checkout for 15% off ANY Blow Ltd app.  Don’t forget to tag me in photos after if you use it – @jacintadawn.

Download the Blow Ltd app on the App Store or Play Store.

Disclaimer: this service was complimentary and gifted to me by Blow Ltd via Carousel PR.  My review has, in no way, been influenced and reflects my honest opinions.

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So, you’re lucky enough to work from home, but do you have the right environment to work in? Here are our top tips on how to create your own home office.

Working from home is becoming more and more popular and currently over 1.5million people in the UK are enjoying the benefits of flexible working. Advances in technology mean mobile working is easier and more efficient than ever before and this is only set to increase. There are so many benefits to working from home, but it’s easy to forget that it can be distracting and difficult to be productive in your home environment.

Finding a space

The first step to creating your own home office is to find a suitable space or room. Ideally you should have a separate room for your office so you can really switch off from distractions and clearly define your work space and living space.

When you work full time from home, it’s worth investing in your office space, even if it means sacrificing part of your house to gain a dedicated area.

If you have a guest room, consider turning this into an office and adding a sofa bed, so you have a place to sit comfortably but it can easily be turned back into a bedroom should you need it.

For a more permanent solution, think about installing a garden office. Today’s garden studios are light, bright and modern extensions of your home.  As they can be fully equipped with power, lights and heating – not to mention phone lines and internet connection – you will never have to leave. Just add a kettle and you’re set for the day!        

An office fit for Pinterest

Now for the fun stuff – planning the décor – check out Pinterest for office ideas and inspiration whatever your style. You might be chained to your desk at times so aim for a light and airy feel, ideally with natural light. The décor should suit your style but also be calming and inspiring – making it an area you can comfortably bury your head in emails.

Don’t forget to add some personality; art on the walls, soft furnishings and bright colours will instantly make the space feel warmer. Another top tip is to add some greenery. Not only does it look good and make the room feel more alive, but plants have been shown to reduce stress and purify the air.

Let’s get down to business

Putting aside the décor, it’s important to remember your office is a place of business – some of the more practical items you should think about include:

  • Storage – The more organised you can be the less clutter you’ll accumulate. Out of control paperwork can quickly throw your office into chaos.
  • Ergonomics – you wouldn’t settle for a sub-standard set up in a real office so don’t at home. Invest in a good chair and check your computer and desk are the right height.
  • Technology – make sure your tech is up to speed, literally! Fast and reliable internet is a must for a home office, alongside a decent printer.

It might take some time and effort to create the right home office, but it will be worth it in the end!

Disclaimer: this post is not sponsored.  Content provided by Green Studios.

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I’m a little bit obsessed with my new embroidered jacket from Look Of The Day.  I went to their launch party at Rosso a couple of weeks ago and instantly fell in love with their clothes so was delighted when they sent me a package of some pieces from their initial collection.  This jacket is oversized so it’s perfect for throwing on over pretty much anything and flower embroidery is really on trend at the moment.

I’m excited to share my other pieces on my blog and Instagram.  If you like the jacket, it’s currently got 50% off it on the website, so you can grab yours for only £27.50!

Check out their fab site here: www.lotd.com and don’t forget to use #MyLOTD for a chance to be feature on their Insta!

(Featured jewellery: Ring finger rings Pandora and Azendi, pink stone ring Anthony Blakeney, bracelets Nomination, Pandora, Jacy & Jools, Links of London)

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Last week I was thrilled to be invited by Ledigo PR to a blogger’s brunch hosted by local Wilmslow company, Simply Argan. Held at the beautiful Victor’s in Hale, the event was an opportunity to learn more at the company, what they do and how their products can be used.

I tootled along to it with my friend Ellie, of Eleanor Graceful, and we were seated with Emmi and Emma. Other blogger guests included my friend Janet from SoHale, who I’ve worked with over at Made in Cheshire for around a year now, and the fabulous Missy Thorley from Contour Allure.

Whilst we sipped on our yummy ‘Good Morning Sunshine’ smoothies, the lovely ladies from Simply Argan talked us through their products. I only recently got onto the whole argan oil vibe – my friend Natalie bought me some beauty products a few months ago and I really liked them – so it was really interesting to listen to how and where they source their oil and how it can be incorporated into your daily beauty regime. We were lucky enough to have been gifted some amazing – and very generous amount of – products in our goody bags and they talked with such passion about the benefits of their high quality oil.

Victor’s is one of my favourite places to visit anyway because of their gorgeous wisteria-covered room and beautiful interior and their delicious chocolate covered pancakes only served to cement them in my mind as a local brunch hotspot.  After a week of healthy eating they were definitely deserved and were so good Ellie even felt she had to dip in and steal some from my plate 🙂

It was a really lovely morning and I couldn’t wait to use my products.  I’d initially been scared about using argan oil shampoo – although my hair wouldn’t be described as greasy, it definitely doesn’t lack moisture and I was worried anything oil based would be too heavy.  Nevertheless I gave them a go and I was really pleasantly surprised by them.  First thing to note is the shampoo and conditioner smell insane – when I read the ‘smell’ was argan and violet I didn’t expect it to smell like actual Parma Violet sweets but it does and it’s amaaazing.  The second thing to note is they literally leave your hair feeling silky smooth.  Seriously – I was ready to be signed up as a hair model as I walked down the street.  I’d say, on the whole, I was more impressed by the conditioner than the shampoo as I felt the shampoo didn’t lather as much as I like, although, I do suspect that was down to the ingredients being a lot more natural than other brands so perhaps it’s a case of swings and roundabouts.  Either way, I’m sold and would definitely repurchase both again.

For similar reasons to my hair, I was a bit dubious about how well my skin would react with the night oil.  I generally don’t use any oil-based products on my skin for fear of getting a shiny face but curiosity, coupled with having been sleeping really badly recently, prompted me to try it.  I mention my sleeping because the night oil contains lavender to aid you getting to sleep and generally just relaxing you.  I can honestly say, hand on heart, my skin didn’t feel greasy at all the next morning, it just felt really soft, so I’m definitely happy with the outcome.  I would say though, not to put it on if your hair is clean – ultimately you’re going to end up with it touching your face at some point in the night so it’s probably best to do it on a night when it needs a wash.

The two other products we were gifted were the pure argan oil and the coconut and vanilla coffee scrub.  The pure argan oil is, like the rest of their products, 100% organic and in this product hasn’t been diluted or mixed with anything that would impair the effectiveness of it.  It’s great for using on your body and hair and apparently has really good results for things like stretch marks and scars.  I have a pretty big scar on my calf that was a result of an ice skating injury so I’m keen to start using this to see if it improves the look of it at all.  I’m SO excited to use the coffee scrub because I’ve heard such amazing things about it.  Even through the sealed packet it smells incredible and I have a feeling it’ll be a great exfoliator pre fake tanning so I’ll report back on how that goes when I give it a whirl.

It was fantastic to meet the lovely ladies behind the brand and it was such a fab event.  If you’ve not tried Simply Argan before I urge you to give them a go – they’re natural, fair trade, organic and not tested on animals so you really don’t need any more excuses.

Have you tried Simply Argan?  Let me know in the comments or tweet me @jacintadawn.

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