(Back)Pack it up!

Confession time: for a long time I resisted getting back pack. However in recent year the designs have evolved and you are not stuck with the “back to school”, “sporty” models. My Gaston Luga Clässy is the perfect example. And damn, they are handy!

Of course I am stuck inside but I can see how useful my Clässy will be: the sleeve in the back is a great size for my laptops (13′) and I am left with plenty of space for my other necessities: phone, purse, keys, headset, pen and notebook for work, a power bank and cables, some makeup and maybe a small makeup bag , comfortably. I am sold.

Also means weight is evenly distributed across my back, so healthier than lugging multiple shoulder bags around.

The straps are made of PU leather and adjustable to a good range and feel comfortable on the shoulders.

The body is made of durable canvas and it has a lovely branded lining, with a padded laptop sleeve (for 11′ – 13′ laptops) and a couple inner pockets (compact, perfect for phone, keys, lipstick) and their signature back pocket, big enough to fit a passport, a phone in a safe, but accessible place.

It has a PU leather tie through eyelets to close and a flap with a magnetic clasp to keep belongings secure! All hardware is golden.

I really like the details on this – the back pocket being the star, but then the little hook, the finishing is impeccable, and padding is really soft… even though the canvas is a tough material, the attention to details makes this a somewhat delicate backpack.

Gaston Luga is a Swedish company and they have a great range of accessories – all falling within the “fashion with function” category: clean lines, modern designs but with plenty of space (mine is 13l) and useful features. Gaston Luga is a carbon neutral company and use cotton canvas and vegan leather (which feels amazing, btw) on their bags and accessories (purses, travel bags, luggage tags, passport holders).

The lovely Clässy comes in three colours (mine, black, plus pink and black and navy and brown) and costs £89 with free delivery and returns – I was VERY impressed on how fast it arrived, even during the health crisis, lovingly packaged and in a dustbag.

You can explore the Gaston Luga collection on their site – use my discount code DANIDUTRA15 for a 15% off your purchase!

written by Dani

You know the drill, but I’ll say anyway: this post contains a PR samples as Gaston Luga kindly GIFTED me the Clässy backpack. Opinions are honest and my own.

Also, the pictures were taken IN MY BUILDING. I did not go outside, and the area they were taken at was EMPTY.

Clinging on to sanity

Weird, weird times. Before I start, I’d like to state how lucky I am in the current situation: I am healthy, employed (by a very decent employer), I can safely do my job from my house, I have a lovely home, some private outdoor space, wonderful boyfriend who temporarily moved into my house (and is still alive!).

That cleared, I must address the elephant in the room: how to cope with my crippling anxiety and OCD at this time of pandemic. Admittedly, it could’ve been or become much worse if not for the combination of blessings above. But it does not mean I am free from it.

We worry about the future, our loved ones. We long for the life we used to live. We miss close contact with family, friends, the places we used to go. The ones we were meant to go, the things we should be seeing and doing. How we took it all for granted.

We feel guilty we could/should be more productive. Maybe it is the time to be productive, or maybe we should just do whatever we can to cope and come out of this in one piece.

We worry about our image, our fitness, our habits. We keep being too hard on ourselves. What life will be like once this is over. Will this be over?

So what am I doing to (try to) cope?

For a lot of the time, I’m only just (and only just) holding it together. Anxiety and panic attacks sometimes take all of my energy and I can only crash after. I cry. Stress has re-triggered IBS my old friend and my already unhappy hormones are all over the place. My body, as well as my mind, as screaming for help.

When not doing that, I’m laughing. An awful lot. Sometimes until I snort. Trying to keep being myself – for bad or for worse. And the below.

Focus on what I love: I got myself a pull up bar and aerial hoop. Being an anxious scaredy cat means I am being extra safe when exercising indoors and outdoors.

Try to get out of the house: when your main anxiety is healthy anxiety, crossing the threshold in times of COVID-19 is torture. I can only manage a few times a week and the shops are a challenge. I haven’t been to one in four weeks, and lucky Dan has been doing that, but I try to do the most out of the time I am out.

Help someone: Anyone who needs. It’s good for them, but better for your heart. I got in touch with elderly neighbours and have regularly been delivering their little shopping list. Look for someone local. Among all the ugly, there is something wonderful happening in communities around you. Be part of it, a small of big, it counts.

Face masks: Yes. I’ve been abusing the wonderful selection of sheet and cream face masks in my beauty archives. Damn it feels good. But that applies to any pamper: a bath, a body scrub, foot massage

Read: I haven’t been to good at that lately but have just started again.

Establish a routine: I am fortunate to be working full-time and I used to work from home 2/3 times a week before the lockdown, so it’s the same but more rubbish, really.

I have my little desk and stick to working there. I wake up, brush my teeth and haitr, get changed (not full outside world outfit, but not PJs). I workout outdoors three times a week, early in the morning and away from people. I plan my meals, the limited food runs.

I make things: lockdown has produced one peacock hat, three disco balls purchased for sitting room decor (currently living on armchair), plans for a splashback in the kitchen are hatching.

Bring “normality” inside: we party. A fair bit. So we have been having DJing/dancing sessions on Saturdays. Dress up. Lights, smoke machine, drinks.

Live on insta, shared wit friends on Zoom/WhatsApp, etc. Keeps us close, helps build up the step count!

I went “out” for brunch. On the balcony. With prosecco.

Treat myself: not like crazy but liberally. Be it with food, buying something nice I’m lucky enough to be able to afford. To do something trivial but be a little bit extra.

I’m not counting my macros, but I’m not going too overboard. Trying to get a happy balance.

Support those who are less fortunate: friends or businesses might’ve lost their income. Support any way you can, if you can.

What I haven’t been round to do but want to:

Tidy up: don’t I always want to, but never, sort out clothes and create space? Although boy is a bit of an organiser and has already sorted a few kitchen cupboards. Here’s hoping he makes it to wardrobes.

Set a fitness goals: due to my injury I lost pretty much all of my flex. Would be nice to start getting back to it.

Meditate/find more headspace: a life long struggle for me, no blame on the old COVID-19.

Don’t be too hard on myself: kindness should be all round – to others and yourself. The latter a huge struggle of mine that has improved a lot, but still a lot of work to to. Sometimes, “enough” is just enough.

There is a lot out of our control. I am worried sick about my family who had to close their business. But there is nothing I can do, and they are ok for now.

I keep living my best “one day at a time” philosophy. It has never been more relevant.

But ultimately, STAY THE FUCK HOME. Don’t meet with people outside your household. Don’t take the piss with the tiny allowance of outside time we have. WASH YOUR HANDS. Be kind – to yourself, to others.

The more you stick to the guidelines, the quicker this will be over. And be safe!

written by Dani

A delicious way to say no to waste

Chocolate is good right? Yes. Can it be better? Yes! Montezuma’s has a little surprise in Covent Garden on the 13 and 14 March – the “Waste not, want not recyclable shop” where you can take your empty food containers for recycling and swap for a taste of one of their wonderful, exclusive chocolate creations – FREE!

The tailor-made treats look like our lunchtime favourites ad are made of their signature white chocolate and truffle filling.

There is also a 3D artwork which is fully edible, to highlight the not recycled waste that ends up in landfills, hopefully to inspire more sustainable choices.

All that to celebrate the launch of their new packaging which is 100% recyclable, biodegradable or compostable: a first for a British chocolate company.

The installation also tells the journey to get to sustainable packaging .

Montezuma has a fabulous and extensive range of chocolates, from milk to 100% dark, white, milk free and vegan too, and amazing concoctions; my faves being Salty Dog (lime, sea salt dark choc) and Black Forest (cherry in dark). Their truffles are fab too; try American Idol or Tiger Tiger. Yum.

Their commitment to sustainability goes beyond the packaging, of course: they use best ingredients and ethically sourced cocoa.

If you are around in London’s Covent Garden for a quick lunch, pop over with your empties and get to taste one of their creations. Waste not, want not is open from 10-6 on Saturday 14 March at 67 Neal Street.

A delicious pit stop, I assure you!

Check Montezuma’s out and discover their tasty range.

written by Dani

I was invited to the preview and stuffed my face with sample chocolate. And I liked it. That’s all.

All the fun and games

I partnered up with giffgaff to get some old fashioned offline times, which is getting harder and harder to get in this digital world of ours. To be honest, it is almost like a challenge nowadays.

Having a little weird family away from my family is wonderful, but the fact we mainly socialise (maybe a little bit too much) by going out means we sometimes we can lack in real connection in down time.

So I had no excuses, giffgaff kitted me out with online tools – their awesome sim cards were used (and abused) to organise our night in, map journeys from work, order some food and cabs home; a power bank to make sure we managed to do that; camera to capture the moment (even though my friends were, surprisingly camera shy that day) and some super fun offline gift: board games.

One evening after work we chose, in between courses, glasses of wine and chats about our upcoming nights out, to play Weird Things Humans Search For and Bucket of Doom, which was the most fun – the stories started shy but quickly escalated.

We picked the phone less. We laughed more (only marginally, we are usually hilarious anyway), we were present.

After a evening of good food, friends and crying-with-laughter fun, I went to bed with my belly and heart full, thinking how lucky I am to have these weirdos around me.

Resolution: do this at least once a month. And get that missing one in the group to come next time!

I also very surprised to find out how much flexibility giffgaff gives when choosing how to use your mobile.

They offer free sim (yes, FREE) where you can either get a “goodie bag” with some great value minutes and data – or just the sim to pay as you go and SIM only monthly plans from £6!

Flexibility to suit you is key – so you can change or cancel at any time!

written by Dani

You know the drill, but I’ll say anyway: this post contains PR samples as products were GIFTED, in partnership with giffgaff.

When in Covent Garden…

Covent Garden is a place close to my heart – one of my first jobs in London was walking distance from it, so many a lunch times were spent there.

And while is has all the tradition, it also has modern and luxurious options. Visiting London? A Covent Garden hotel is the perfect base to explore the area and the capital.

Theatres? It’s got it. Walking distance to many city landmarks? Check. Many restaurants, catering for all tastes and budgets? You bet!

What about cocktails? Covent Garden is a lovely place to go for drinks and some foods after work. Many places have great happy offers on drinks!

We picked the new SushiSamba, there for just a year, with a beautiful decor to match their flamboyant cuisine.

It is located at the top of the old market, with views that allow you to take in the historical surrounds of the market.

Because you are in the heart of theatreland, most restaurants will offer a fixed price menu at a pre-show time, usually until 6:30. And that was the case there too, for my surprise.

For £28 per person you get 3 courses to taste their menu – it’s great for an express lunch too, which gives you the chance to sample their Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian fusion cuisine.

I had ceviche, salmon sushi and a delightful banana cake for desert. Move to the bar after dinner, for some cocktails amongst their lush rainforest decor.

In lovely surroundings, taste cocktails, nibble on some great food and let the conversation flow. And that’s not just at this place – options are aplenty!

The atmosphere in Covent Garden is fantastic, and there are so many bars, clubs, restaurants, performances and shops to keep you amused for days, to suit all tastes and budgets.

Sip some tea with delicious macaroons at Ladurèe; grab a pint at the famous Punch & Judy pub; have some martinis at Dirty Martini, head off for some dinner at The Ivy, soak up the atmosphere of the piazza watching the street performances.

The possibilities are endless. Lucky you of you’re staying in the area.

And you can shop to your hearts content – from well know brands to small independent retailers and market stalls, you’re sure to find gifts for everyone you need to buy.

Worth noting that the festive season around Covent harden is magical. At the moment they have an autumnal display but the Christmas decor is already making its way into the pavilion – Apple Market already has the beautiful giant baubles, mistletoes and disco balls being set!

Covent Garden has so much to offer – even after 17 years in London, at every visit, I discover a new corner.

This post was created in collaboration with Hotels.com. The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

It’s wedding season!

Calm down, I am not settling (down)! Now to the real reason behind the title…

If you are a bride, there are lots of big ticket items you will definitely have ticked off your list, but we know the devil is in the detail and one of the little touches that makes a big difference is giving your bridesmaids and wedding party a thoughtful gift. 

They supported you through the blissful, the stressful and even maybe the bridezilla and it’s lovely to say thank you for having them in your life. 

How, you ask? Pandora has a lovely bridesmaid collection, geared towards this type of gifting, but also options aplenty on the site, and with options for various budgets – be it to keep as a token of gratitude and friendship or to wear on the day. 

The collection is very stylish and carries very intricate and symbolic designs, ranging from classic to trendy, certain to meet all varied tastes and age groups.

The selection of their famous charms for the occasion is very cute, some carrying meaningful messages. You can build a bracelet for £129.

On top of that, a necklace is always a good choice, and Pandora’s selection is second to none – the one I was gifted, Shimmering Wish, costs £70 and it’s sterling silver with cubic zirconia in the shape of a wishbone.

It can be made into a set with earring and a lovely bangle with the same design.

Apart from being beautiful and well crafted, Pandora really helps take a tiny bit of stress from having to go to many places to gift your wedding party – to be honest, most of their jewellery is more than suitable for the occasion.

We were presented with the new collection at the Ivy Tower Bridge, over a fun night for food and drinks, where we had a calligraphy workshop  – which is also handy to get those gifts an extra special touch! 

I am pretty sure that thanking your bridesmaids with a Pandora gift would have them, unintentionally, thanking YOU for a thoughtful gift to be kept for a long time.

written by Dani

You know the drill, but I’ll say anyway: I was invited to see the collection and was gifted the necklace. This piece, however, is based on my honest opinion.

Summer is calling!

Somerset House is a special place in London – not just for me, I am sure. The art, the fashion, the fountains. There’s nothing not to be in awe of.

I used to work around the corner and the terrace comes alive in the warmer seasons and this year, San Miguel is (beautifully) owning the space, putting a gorgeous Spanish laid back twist to it. 

Obviously San Miguel beer is widely available, but not only as we know it: they have a selection of 10 different beers, which include special edition varieties, with varying strengths and using hops from around the world, as well as gluten and alcohol free versions.

Brave enough for a Dorchester? Its ABV is 9.1%!

Food is a ace, as in any Spanish affair: tapas such as albondigas, tortillas and padron peppers, as well as sharing platters and delicious wood fired flatbreads to be washed down with the beer selection, or the very interesting beer cocktails.

Sceptical as I am, I was somewhat besotted with Piscolinho (£10.25), which contains pisco, cointreau, agave syrup, lime and San Miguel Especial. 

And the decor? Well… think Spanish veranda: white washed, pink flowers in abundance, a swing (very insta worthy!). 

The Somerset House x San Miguel terrace is open throughout the spring and summer until September.

Well worth a visit, as well as the place it sits in, when strolling through the capital.

You can check all the details on the Somerset House website (and make group bookings). I recommend you check their menu – you won’t be able to resist!

A beautiful setting with fantastic food and drinks – what a way to spend a (hopefully) balmy summer evening or a scorching afternoon!

written by Dani

You know the drill, but I’ll say anyway: I was invited to the terrace opening, so it was a PR experience. This review, however, is based on my honest opinion.

New in the London nightlife

Just hanging: Near & Far with the lovely Kat (and a few cocktails)

Camden is a place I don’t venture that often, but I was glad I made it for the opening of Near & Far. 

If you’re thinking the name is familiar, you are right: there’s another one in Peckham Levels and they belong to the same group behind the Magic Roundabout. 

The bar is pretty, let’s agree beforehand. Pinks, palm trees, flamingoes, in a Palm Springs style: it’s an insta-dream.

It has a terrace, perfect for the coming months, and hiding at the lower level is a gorgeous sitting room like area, with the most gorgeous hanging chairs and neon art. 

Being one who does not pass on a cocktail, I am happy to see Peckham classics and new additions such as the The Benedict Cucumberbatch (gin, elderflower and cucumber) and the Emergency Brexit (play on a classic Negroni), both £7.50 – very affordable!

The menu, by Elote, is fabulous – a Mexican fare of snacks, tacos and tostadas, with options for everyone – all gluten free. I loved the pulled pork tostada, and the chickpea fries are definitely worth a try!

You can check their food and drink menus out, and head to their website to make bookings – apart from being a cocktail and food place, they also host ArtNight events and cocktail masterclasses. You can also do private bookings and have the place to yourself!

written by Dani

You know the drill, but I’ll say anyway: this is an AD as I was invited to the opening night to sample the drinks and food. This review, however, is based on my experience and reflects my honest opinion.

Unleashing creativity

Gorgeous gift!

I do love doing something different and Viking really nailed it recently with their Tudor times creative evening.

With some background live lute music, we were treated to a little food feast, plenty prosecco and fabulous workshops to unleash our creativity, Tudor way, to celebrate Shakespeare Week.

My best attempt

First, the calligraphy workshop ran by the talented Mathilda from Quill London. I have been to one or two workshops with those guys and they are a great intro to the art of calligraphy.

Putting pen to paper. Photo by Eloisa (https://www.elouisageorgiou.co.uk/)

And the kit we left the event with will fuel my like to it.

Calligraphy is a great way to create head space, and sometimes I just write on old magazines images, to ease my constant battle with anxiety.

The biggest surprise of the night was, doubtless the sonnet writing workshop, which was, in the very short time available, a whistlestop class on the art of poem writing.

The lovely Jacqueline Sapphra expertly explained what a sonnet is (fourteen line poem, usually written in iambic pentameter and rhymed, you all) and we got to write sonnets, but one line each, complementing others’ writing.

And we were introduced to the sass of Edna St Vincent Millay.

It reminded me of classroom play, when we created to most amazing stories by passing a notebook around and I enjoyed way more than I though I ever would.

Of course, Viking has stationery solutions for all your writing needs so I’ll be able to keep putting creativity to paper!

You can check their website out – but careful, once you go in, it’s hard to get out!

written by Dani

You know the drill, but I’ll say anyway: this is an AD (GIFTED), as post contains PR samples. This review, however, is based on my experience reflects my honest opinion.

Art and wings in the heart of Hoxton

If you don’t, I’m an east London girl. Well, adopted, that is. 

Many years ago I left SW crying on the front seat of a moving van, clutching a box containing my most precious shoes towards east London. I never looked back and now I can say E is definitely home.

Amongst the (maybe many) bars I go to, the Hoxton Square Bar does hold some find memories of my ex (yes, very fond) so I was delighted to be invited back as they have seen quite a few changes since I last visited.

Currently, the bar is dressed in the beautiful Chanovsky “RGB Universe” exhibition, on until 29th June 2019. The artist presents on the wall three different artworks, that can be seen when the light changes to red, green and blue (get it?), so it makes for great surroundings.

Now, I had the cheeky Don’t go to Dalston cocktail, which is so fresh with raspberries and lime, made with my favourite tipple, vodka, and topped with prosecco.

So good I stuck to it, but there’s a whole menu of cocktails priced £9 and £9.50, as well as the usual bar fare – beers from and wine from £4.70 (bottle) and £4.80 (pint) and wine from £4.90 a glass and £20 a bottle.

To eat, Orange Buffalo serves up a filling selection of food. You can of course, have their speciality, chicken wings, with 7 sauces to choose from. Legend has it a person fainted after having it, so proceed with caution.

Being the wimp I am, I went for the Sgt. Slawter burger (£8.50) – succulent breadcrumbed chicken thigh on a potato bun, with cheese and, well, a mild sauce.

It was so filling and I couldn’t stop eating even though I should’ve! And of course, on the side, their home curly fries (£3.50), which I may say, are deliciously crunchy and extremely flavoursome.

Service was great and fast – although they don’t do table service, ordering and receiving the order was very smooth. And you can book tables.

My friend had the vegan option, the cauliflower “wings” (£8) – battered cauliflower served with hot sauce, coriander, sesame seeds and slaw and she approved!

There’s also a gorgeous veggie burger on offer and if mine is anything to go by, I think it’s a winner!

Oh, and they have a photobooth – £3 for 2 prints and you can email the image over – and it has a wind machine!

Adjacent to the back of the bar, there’s a live music area, where they hold at least one live gig a week and during the weekend it turns into a club! 

Hoxton Square Bar also has a private events room, the Green Room, with a bar and DJ booth, which holds around 100 people.

I hear they are going through a bit refurb in the summer, so doubtless will be even better!

Get yourself down for a basket of wings and to check the exhibition before the end of June. You can check out what’s on on their website.

written by Dani

You know the drill, but I’ll say anyway: this is an AD as the experience on the evening was GIFTED. This review, however, is based on my experience and reflects my honest opinion.