Celebrating #July4thwithThree

I’m not American but ever since I first watched the movie Clueless I wanted to attend an American High School and go to an American University College. Neither of these things ever happened but I was super excited when I was invited along to Three’s Fourth of July Party.

Jen and I headed to The Pickle Factory after our latest afternoon tea outing which was a slight mistake. We were greeted with a table laden with American food from fried pickles to mac n cheese and my favourite; Nachos!

We grabbed a drink and took a few silly photos using the photo booth props that were around before venturing out into the sunshine where some other lovely bloggers were engaged in a game of beer pong.

Having only seen beer pong played in movies I was shocked to discover that there are a TON of rules to the game. Sadly I can’t drink beer so I didn’t play myself but it was so fun to watch the concentration on everyone’s faces especially during the Bloggers vs Plus Ones game.

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As if the little nibbles that had been provided weren’t enough there was a full-blown Fourth of July BBQ to be had with burgers, corn on the cob, green beans, slaw and hotdogs fighting for room in my stomach. I caved and had a burger which was OMG good (don’t believe me check out Katy’s vlog for her opinion around 3:43)

Then it was time for more games with an epic game of flip cup, something I’d never even heard of. If you haven’t either, here’s the low down: you split into two teams at opposite sides of a long table, each person gets a red cups and fills them with beer, the person at the top of the table downs their drink and when finished has to balance the cup upside down on the edge of the table and flip it until it lands correct way up. Once they manage it’s the turn of the next person to go and so on and so forth until you reach the end of the table. First team to all successfully flip their cup wins! It was tense and hilarious.

To round out of evening we were given apple pie as well as milk & cookies for dessert (I’m sorry but how cute are these?!)

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Before being let loose to play with some sparklers! A great way to finish up a fabulous event I’m sure you’ll agree. Finally there was a prize for the best photo uploaded during the day which I’m pleased to say Jen won and now I’m trying to convince her that she should use her new tablet to start blogging!

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Some lucky bloggers were also given Samsung Galaxy S6’s to play around with at the event and while I didn’t get to try it myself you could clearly see how great the camera was for taking photos on the go.

Thanks so much to Three for having us!

*Disclaimer: I attended this event for free in exchange for blogging about the event.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

July 2015 NET Worth

Credit

Cash – £4.29
Santander 123 C/A – £163.39
Halifax C/A – £1,170.29
Credit total – £1,337.97

Debts
Capital One C/C – £23.29
MBNA C/C – £3,614.03
Santander C/C – £2,931.85
Virgin Atlantic C/C – £810.63
Debt total – (£7,379.80)

Net worth
£1,337.97 – £7,379.80 = –£6,041.83

The Weekend #44

Last weekend started out a mixed bag, I went on a fabulous tour of Wapping with some of my favourite bloggers but at the same time my body decided to rebel against me. Having Crohn’s disease is extremely frustrating to me because of its unpredictability I could really need the loo, go and be absolutely fine or I could really need the loo, go and then need to go back again two minutes later over and over again. Sometimes it’s easier just not to leave the bathroom but when you’re out and about that isn’t so easy. I pushed through for the sake of the tour and while I’m glad that I did (I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much or so hard) I really should have just listened to my body and stayed at home.

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I still wasn’t 100% by the time I had to meet Jen for out latest afternoon tea outing at Number Twelve which I blogged about yesterday but I was feeling a lot better after a full nights sleep (yep, I slept right through that crazy ass storm we had!) to be honest this may have added to my indifference to the tea but Jen also didn’t think it was as good as ones we’ve enjoyed previously so I don’t believe that to be the case.

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Afterwards we headed to a 4th of July Party which was being hosted by Three UK. I’ll tell you all about that in its own post soon but we ate even more food, had some refreshing drinks and watched hilarious games of beer pong and flip cup. My bowels then decided that actually I wasn’t allowed to be having all of this fun and started to make me feel poorly again. I made it home and spent the rest of the night in the bathroom before dragging myself to bed.

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Sunday morning was much of the same (last weekend was one of the worst I’ve had Crohn’s wise in a while) but I dragged myself out to take Michael for his very first afternoon tea experience! As he’s never been for afternoon tea before I wanted to give him a traditional experience but instead gave him something exactly the opposite! I won’t say anymore as this definitely deserves its own post but it was truly quite spectacular! Afterwards we met up with one of Michael’s friends for a milkshake before I headed home to get some more sleep. When my Crohn’s is flaring I feel like I can sleep all of the time and it doesn’t seem to matter how much shuteye I get I’m still exhausted.

I’ve been thinking about doing a post on my invisible illness and how it affects me but I feel like it doesn’t really belong on this blog – what do you think? Would you be interested in reading it?

Afternoon Tea Time: Number Twelve

Now I’m going to start this post with a wee disclaimer and say that when Jen and I went for this month’s afternoon tea it was blooming hot outside. Despite the fact that the temperature had finally dropped below 25 degrees we were just as hot and sticky as we had been all week when the temperatures hit a whopping 35° so it’s distinctly possible that this had something to do with the fact that I really wasn’t that keen on this afternoon tea at all and would rate it my least favourite so far.

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There is a small terrace out front of Number 12 but it was genuinely too hot to sit outside and wasn’t particularly shaded so we were pretty happy when we were seated inside. Our deal this time round was afternoon tea for two including a glass of pimms each but I was pleasantly surprised to be given the option between pimms and prosecco because to be honest I’m not a huge fan of pimms.

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Out afternoon tea platter arrived looking exactly as an afternoon tea platter should with a nice selection of cakes and scones, a separate plate of sandwiches and at least two of everything.

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The sandwiches were a little different with pickled cucumber sherry vinegar and black pepper and salt beef, English mustard and watercress among their number but they were all incredibly bland. Even the smoked salmon number which is usually my favourite.

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The scones were the best part although not warm. There was a choice of strawberry or raspberry jam and plenty of clotted cream to keep us both happy but this was flagging slightly in the heat of the day.

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Sadly the cakes weren’t explained to us by the staff so I’m not completely certain as to what was on offer but there was a mini fruit tart who’s filling was suffering from the same fate as the clotted cream, a slice of fruit cake (blergh), a madeleine and a square of cake that tasted pretty good but we’re still not entirely sure what it was! There honestly isn’t really anything positive I can think to say about these cakes, they were below average in quality and very disappointing.

BitBS Rating – ££

#TerraceChapters at the Royal Horseguards Hotel

Last week I and some other lovely bloggers were invited down to the Royal Horseguards Hotel to check out their delightful terrace area. You all know what a fan of luxury hotels I am and the Horseguards is one of the best in London but despite spending a fair amount of time perusing their website I’d never actually heard about the Terrace before.

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Newly refurbished the Terrace is the perfect relaxation location with sumptuous faux grass underfoot, lots of colourful blossoms and extremely comfortable wicker sofas for you to sink your bottom into. The best thing is that it’s not just for residents of the hotel, anyone is free to enjoy it. Whether you want to indulge in afternoon tea, a lazy Sunday lunch or just a few drinks it’s a really fantastic location. And you don’t even need to worry if the weather takes a turn as the Terrace is well prepared with large canopies to keep the rain off, outdoor heaters and soft fluffy blankets to snuggle in to.

Upon arrival we were greeted with Pimms and cocktails which is the perfect way to start any evening in my opinion and were shown around the Terrace by Deena who works for the hotel.

Along with the launch of the refurbished terrace the hotel also launched their Terrace Chapters; chapter one was chocolate, chapter two the summer picnic hamper, chapter three Tattinger champagne and chapter four (which we were there to indulge in) Wimbledon! Of course you’d have to be living under a rock not to realise that we’re mid-way through this year’s Wimbledon championship because everyone and their dog seems to have tennis fever at the moment.

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Anyway the clever clogs at the Horseguards are offering a very special Wimbledon Picnic Hamper which is basically a build your own affair. You get to choose nine items from a very long list to go with the half bottle of Tattinger also included to create your perfect picnic. Luckily we were absolutely spoiled and didn’t have to choose as they brought out platter upon platter of amazing treats that they offer.

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My mouth is just watering thinking about it now. We were also treated to champagne tasting with Tattinger who offer not only a regular Brut Reserve but a sweeter Nocturne Sec champagne as well as my favourite Rosé! These were paired with small canapés and complimented each other beautifully.

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As if that wasn’t enough there was also the chance to win a Wimbledon hamper of our own by being the fastest person in the Eton Mess competition!

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Before…

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...after (oops!)

…after (oops!)

Sadly my 24 seconds didn’t make the cut with the fastest coming in at 10.4! How’s that for speed?! All too soon it was time to head home goodie bag in hand. After being treated like royalty during our short visit I can only imagine the lengths they go to for their residents to ensure their stay is absolutely perfect.

Why not pop down for some royal treatment of your own? The Terrace is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner and is a really great place to escape the hustle and bustle of London.

*Disclaimer: I attended this event for free in exchange for blogging about the event.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

The Weekend #43

Woo I actually spent last weekend in London, how ace is that ;) I also spent an entire day in my pyjamas which was even better. (And sorely needed.)

Saturday was of course Taylor Swift Take Two day which was exciting but before that I headed to Fitzrovia for the latest Google Local Guide event. We met at the first ever Google Shop within the Currys PC World store on Tottenham Court Road (there are three total now) which sells the company’s range of Android phones and tablets, Chromebook laptops, and Chromecast TV services. As well as hosting tutorials on how to use the devices and demonstrations showing off key Google apps. Google+ tutorial please guys, I still don’t understand it!

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From there we were split into teams of four and sent off to explore four different local locations within a two hour timeframe. Unlike the last Google event where we were separated and only got to discover one local business this time we round we got to experience all four and what fab locations they chose! First up we headed to Pollock’s Toy Museum, two old townhouses merged into one which house both a museum and small toy shop. Winding your way up and down rickety stairs while exclaiming as you notice something that you had as a child tucked away in some cabinet or other is great.

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Next up was The Attendant which weirdly enough I’d just been reading about on Immy’s blog the day before. It’s an old urinal that’s been refurbished into a small cafe and sells the most divine cakes and brownies I have ever tasted. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that salted caramel brownie was responsible for ensuring that I made it to the end of the Taylor Swift gig later that day. Ironically though the place doesn’t have any toilets!

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Heading back towards the Google shop we swept in past the Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery to see the latest interactive exhibition Please Touch by Pablo Bruera, which if you hadn’t guessed yet we were invited to play around with. This is such a wonderful little space in particular the cosy little book nook on the top floor and the utterly divine balcony that I can only just imagine is simply wonderful for brunch on sunny days.

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The saying saving the best for last was totally right when it came to Ben’s House. Everything in Ben’s little store-cum-cafe comes from a London postcode (well except the magazines which were just always part of the dream he envisioned) and Ben couldn’t be prouder of this fact. In fact Ben has something that is created in almost every area of London so we played a short game of what in this shop’s from my ‘hood? He was so welcoming and thoughtful greeting us all with a big smile, cups of hot coffee and gin! Yes, barely lunchtime and it was gin o’clock at Ben’s House! I didn’t want to leave but alas we had to. One things for sure I will definitely be returning!

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I really love the new format of the Google Local Guide events They’re really harnessing their power for the good of the local business and this, to me, is what Local Guides should be about. Once back at the Google Shop there was just time for a quick group selfie and a go at creating my own London Pride inspired Google Doodle before heading off to Marble Arch to meet some fellow Swifties for a quick bite to eat before the gig. If you are interested in finding out more about Google Local Guides then head over to their Google+ Page to find out what it’s all about.

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Having seen the 1989 tour the week previously in Amsterdam I was curious to see how it was going to be adapted for an outdoor event. Surely there wouldn’t be wristbands given that it was gloriously sunny and wouldn’t get dark til late? Would the stage be a different setup? And how many of her besties are going to be there? Will we see them on stage? Now when tickets originally went on sale I was massively disappointed that the only London date was Hyde Park. I’m not a festival fan, I’m too old to be standing for hours crammed into a muddy field with thousands of other people all vying for that perfect spot so I knew that this wasn’t going to be the experience I wanted and promptly decided screw it let’s go see her in Amsterdam as well. I considered selling my London ticket, I really did but there were a bunch of other people going that I wanted to hang out with and I figured it would be worth it.

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Unfortunately while I of course enjoyed the music and the fact that I was there, I was disappointed by the event as a whole. We were given wristbands and as predicted they were pretty much useless for most of the concert. The show was exactly the same – literally word for word. She didn’t even make reference to the momentous SCOTUS ruling or the fact that it was London Pride even when the crowd went absolutely wild over the lines “and you can want who you want, boys and boys and girls and girls”. But the worst part for me was the fact that despite winding our way pretty close to the front of the cheap tickets section I wasn’t able to see a bloody thing! That crowd was full of young girls much shorter than I am who were there to see their idol and apart from a quick glance of her on one of the screens they weren’t able to which just breaks my heart. Mixed feelings.

It was late by the time we got back and all I wanted to do was sleep and so I did. And then I vegged on the sofa for the entirety of Sunday only leaving the house to nip to the corner shop and buy food and drink to nibble on while I caught up on reading the lovely blogs that grace my Feedly!

How was your weekend? Any exciting plans for this one?

June Reading

Another month gone already, where is the time going?! I only read two books this month but I loved both of them which was brilliant.

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I’ve been a huge fan of JK Rowling for a long time but am sad to say that despite several attempts I’ve never been able to get in to her first “adult” novel The Casual Vacancy. I’m sure I’ll return to it eventually but it’s just never grabbed me on the occasions I’ve tried to read it (it probably doesn’t help that I have it in big chunky hardback!) so when she was outed as Robert Galbraith, writer of crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling, I felt like I couldn’t read this until I’d made my way through TCV. Absolutely ridiculous really and I’m glad to say that this month I threw that belief to the wind and finally read the first novel in the Cormoran Strike series.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a crime novel before (not sure the Castle tie in novels really count) but I think this is a genre I will definitely be delving into more often as I absolutely adored this book. It was well paced with just enough hints and clues throughout without giving the game away and I enjoyed the characterisation of both Strike and Robin and how their relationship progressed throughout the novel. I really didn’t want this book to end but happily the conclusion was more than satisfactory and I’m really looking forward to reading the second book in the series, hopefully before the third comes out in October!

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Luckily I had another excellent novel to move on to in All My Secrets* by Sophie McKenzie which I was recently sent to review. I’ve never read anything by McKenzie before but she has an impressive number of novels under her belt as well as various award nominations and wins. All My Secrets is a YA mystery novel; at 15 Evie discovers that she is due to inherit £10million from her ‘real’ mum, a woman she never knew existed, on her 16th birthday which leads her on a quest to discover the truth about her history.

The book is full of twists and turns some predictable and others not so much. I found the start of the novel extremely fast paced which didn’t leave enough time for character building and made certain choices Evie makes seem a bit odd without knowing more about her. As the book progressed however I found myself racing towards the finish desperate to know what on earth was going on and how it was going to end! If this novel is representative of Sophie’s other works I’ll definitely be adding them to my ever-expanding Amazon wish list.

If you’re a fan of YA literature yourself be sure to keep an eye on my twitter account @brokeinthesmoke where I’ll be giving away a copy of All My Secrets to one lucky follower!

BOOKS READ THIS MONTH: 2
BOOKS READ SO FAR THIS YEAR: 12
BOOKS READ FOR 30 BY 30: 28

*Disclaimer: I was sent a copy by the publisher in exchange for a review.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

#girlpower National Women in Engineering Day with British Gas

I decided to study Computing at university because it was the subject that I most excelled in at school. It wasn’t until I turned up for that first week of lectures though that I realised that this career path I’d chosen was incredibly male dominated. Less than 10% of my classmates were female and by my final year I was the only girl left. In a lot of the jobs I’ve had since entering the big bad world I’ve been the only female in the team with perhaps the exception of the IT administrator who always tended to be another woman but never had any technical skills. It’s not easy working in a male dominated field so when I was invited to celebrate National Women in Engineering Day with British Gas I couldn’t turn the opportunity down.

So last Tuesday after work I trundled down to the exclusive Beaufort House on King’s Road in the heat and climbed eleventy billion stairs to get to the penthouse where I was greeted with a glass of white wine and nibbles in exchange for my efforts. After some mingling with fellow attendees we were then led to a different room where there was to be a panel discussion with some wonderful women from the industry.

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The panel was chaired by Dickon Ross, editor of Engineering and Technology Magazine, with four panelists: Claire Miles, managing director of British Gas Homecare; Dawn Bonfield, president of the Women’s Engineering Society, Dr Arti Agrawal, a lecturer at City University specialising in optical fibres, and Nadia Abbas, a British Gas engineer.

The panel was a fascinating discussion mainly aimed around ways of getting young girls interested in science and engineering disciplines as well as providing examples of women who have had a huge impact on the industry but don’t really get the recognition that they deserve. For example you may have heard of Ada Lovelace who was instrumental in the invention of the first computer but did you know that 1940’s film star Hedy Lamarr was co-creator of technology that we use every time we pick up a smart phone?

Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid. – Hedy Lamarr

At the moment only 6% of engineering positions are filled by women and there is still a long way to go until we can bridge this gap. Parents have a huge impact on their children probably bigger than they realise and they can help influence their young children to consider these disciplines from a young age with visits to the Science Museum and provision of relevant toys such as microscopes and chemistry kits. (I’m pleased to say I had both of these when I was younger!)

There is also an issue with male managers not realising the potential of their female subordinates and often passing them over for promotions or training opportunities – something I can definitely relate with in my current field. Luckily Claire Miles is doing her best to ensure that this is not the case at British Gas and that talent is being nurtured regardless of gender.

The future of engineering is changing along with the technology that facilitates it which means that a whole new set of skills will be required. This is particularly exciting for girls who may be drawn to careers that can benefit society. Artificial intelligence, sustainable energy and robotics can all do this and will do this as long as we can get the right kind of people to take on these roles.

There is still a long way to go before women will be seen as equal in male dominated fields. Heck we’ve still got a way to go before women are seen as equal in day-to-day life but it’s great to see women who take on these type of roles being celebrated for it. #NWED was trending 5th in the world on the day itself and if that doesn’t tell you things are changing in the world then there’s not much I can say!

*Disclaimer: I attended this event for free in exchange for blogging about the event.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

The Weekend #42

Last weekend was spent in Amsterdam which I’ll be writing about over on my travel blog Eat, Love, Wanderlust pretty soon so I’m just going to leave you with some pictures to whet your appetite!

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How was your weekend? Any exciting plans for this one?

June 2015 NET Worth

Credit

Cash – £4.46
Santander 123 C/A – £35.13
Halifax C/A – £238.86
Credit total – £278.45

Debts
Capital One C/C – £374.84
MBNA C/C – £3,650.53
Santander C/C – £2,716.19
Virgin Atlantic C/C – £103.48
Debt total – (£6,845.04)

Net worth
£278.45 – £6,845.04 = –£6,566.59