Broke in the Big Smoke

Life in London on a Budget

Rockalily Cuts, Hackney

When someone posts on a Facebook group that you’re a member of offering free blowdry’s because the salon is quiet you don’t say no. When that salon is Rockalily Cuts in Hoxton you do a little squee and a fist pump which is exactly what happened this past weekend.

Hopefully you’re following my new YouTube channel Not a Beauty Expert but if not you won’t have seen this video that went live at the weekend where I talk about my haircare plans for this year and just happen to mention that I want to treat myself to professional blowdries more often. Seems like fate was listening huh?

Rockalily Cuts Exterior
Rockalily’s is a small hair salon on Kingsland Road in Hackney that is quite unassuming from the outside but inside is vintage heaven with its mismatched old dressers and old-fashioned barber chairs.
Rockalily Cuts Interior

The service they offer is a little different from your regular hairdresser. When I arrived I was offered tea, coffee or a beer! Sadly I can’t drink the stuff so I stuck to a good ol’ cuppa which came in a cup as equally quirky as the decor.

Rockalily’s specialise in vintage and rockabilly hair styles although their main aim is simply to make you fall in love with your hair again. They certainly achieved this with me as you’re about to see!

Rockalily Cuts Before

In my bid to only wash my hair twice a week I hadn’t washed mine since the Friday morning and I figured since it was about to get washed I could get away with skipping the dry shampoo if I threw it up in a ponytail.

As I’m sure I’ve complained about many times before I have very fine hair which basically doesn’t hold any kind of style so when the lovely Kelsie asked how I wanted my hair blow dried (I can’t be the only person who gets stumped by this question can I?) I asked for as much volume as she could possibly get. Here are the results:

Amazing right? (I think this is my most liked picture on Instagram EVER, follow me if you wanna here) I had NO idea that my hair could look so damn good and it’s reinforced the fact that they’re really good value for money as they last longer than a home blow dry. In fact, I only just washed my hair again this evening and it was still looking alright if I say so myself. I would have probably gotten away with just using some dry shampoo tomorrow too if I hadn’t been going out to the theatre tomorrow! A blow dry at Rockalily’s costs £25 which is about average for London and worth every penny.

*Disclaimer: While my blow dry at Rockalily’s was free
I was under no obligation to post about my experience.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

#BloggersBelowZero at Ice Bar London

Last week I had the pleasure of doing something I’ve wanted to do since I very first moved to London but never seemed to get round to. Thanks to the lovely ladies at LDN Meetup I was able to visit London’s IceBar on Heddon Street and let me tell you, it was super cool. Pun totally intended.
Bloggers Below Zero Ice Bar London Bar
We started our evening in the bar downstairs which was very cosy and chalet-like drinking extremely delicious prosecco based cocktails which went down far too easily. Once everyone had arrived we were given a welcome speech by Tom, head of marketing for the ice bar. It was clear from how passionate he was speaking to us that he both loves his job and realises how working with bloggers. He’d also invited along Molly, his editor from Phoenix magazine who was also very keen to get some input from us all.
Bloggers Below Zero Ice Bar London Cocktails
Upon arrival everyone had been given a colour coded wristband which determined which time we would enter the actual ice bar room. The room is quite small but really well laid out and you can also only stay for a maximum of 45 minutes due to the fact that it’s -5 degrees in there! Don’t worry though, you’re given a cosy cape and gloves before you enter to keep you warm.
Bloggers Below Zero London Ice Bar Cape
Every year the IceBar closes for a week for a revamp when several tonnes of Swedish ice is flown in and carved by an expert team. This year’s theme is IceBar rocks.
Bloggers Below Zero Ice Bar London Icebar Rocks
The first thing that caught my eye was the giant skulls adorning the room.
Bloggers Below Zero Ice Bar London Skull
Bloggers below zero Ice Bar London with Emma
But every wall was carved with some of the most intricate of designs my favourite being the tattooed rock chick whose sleeve housed many famous rock stars within it.
Bloggers Below Zero Ice Bar London Carving 3
Bloggers Below Zero Ice Bar London Carving 3
I overheard Tom laugh as he said it was the first time he had entered the IceBar with a group who had all started taking pictures and videos as soon as they entered rather than heading straight to the bar!

Speaking of which the bar was one of my favourite things about the whole experience. Not just the fact that they sold epic cocktails (you all know my soft spot for cocktails and the list is quite impressive here, it took me a while to decide) but the fact that all of the drinks are sold in glasses made from actual ice. Your first cocktail is even included in the cost of your ticket which makes the cost (standard tickets start from £13.50 per person) great value given the novelty value and central location in my opinion.

*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.

January Reading

As I mentioned in my last reading roundup post I’ve taken on a new reading challenge for 2016 and if you’ve watched my New Year’s Resolutions video you’ll already know what that is. (If not, it’s here *plug plug*) I’m partaking in the PopSugar Reading Challenge which involves reading books that fit different categories and hopefully broadening your personal reading choices.

So here’s the thing. I am 90% certain that I read three books this month as I was a bit annoyed that I didn’t manage four (I want to try and read at least one a week this year) but I can’t for the life of me remember what the third book was! I was home for a weekend in mid-January so may be that it was a physical book that I took with me and left it behind but I guess if I can’t remember what it was, it couldn’t have been that good anyway!

That said I only have two book reviews for you this month. The first was an audible book that I got ages ago as part of a BOGOF deal they were running and is the first of a series. Off to Be the Wizard (Magic 2.0) the first book in the Magic 2.0 series by Scott Meyer was one of the audible recommendations I received after I’d picked Ernest Cline’s novels as my first two audible books. Basically Martin Banks is just an ordinary guy until he discovers that the world is actually just a computer program and that by manipulating the files he can go almost anywhere in the world and do almost anything he likes except go to the future. Of course things go horribly wrong and Martin has to flee to Medieval England in order to escape from the authorities. Here he discovers others who have also found out this secret and becomes a wizard in training to prove that he is worthy of this knowledge.

This book is really light hearted and fun which had me giggling several times. Some of the portrayals are very stereotypical so not one to read if you’re easily offended and can’t laugh at your own nerdiness. Oh and the best part, the guy who narrates this Luke Daniels sounds a LOT like Nathan Fillion. Be still my fangirl heart! I am so happy I have the other two books that are currently available also already downloaded and ready to go.

The second book I read is one that people have been telling me to read for basically forever. It was written back in 2013 so I’m not exactly sure why it took me so long to get around to reading it. Fangirl is about Cath and her twin sister Wren who go off to college together but instantly start to grow apart. Wren gets in to the college swing of things by drinking and going to parties while Cath likes to remain in her dorm room writing fanfiction and generally pretending that the outside world doesn’t exist.

Like other YA novels it’s a coming of age story and beautifully written. When Cath starts to develop feelings for a boy it’s so raw and real I was close to tears. It also handles the subject of fandom quite well as this can be quite a difficult subject given how rabid some of them can be. I think one of the reasons that this novel struck home was that I know some of Cath’s exact feelings as someone who loves to write but also struggles with it.

You can keep up with my reading challenge on this page here to see how I’m getting on too. I’m also thinking of filming my book reviews every other month over on YouTube rather than written posts – what do you guys think?

BOOKS READ THIS MONTH: 2
BOOKS READ SO FAR THIS YEAR: 2
BOOKS READ FOR POPSUGAR READING CHALLENGE: 2

*Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links.
If you buy the books through the links on this page,
I’ll earn a tiny commission to put towards even more books in the future!

January 2016 NET Worth

Credit

Cash – £46.55
Santander – £1,213.01
Halifax C/A – £1,149.60
TSB- £1,092.83
Tesco – £202.00
PayPal – £48.10
Credit total – £3,752.09

Debts
Capital One C/C – £55.16
MBNA C/C – £3,402.57
Virgin Atlantic C/C – £740.27
Halifax C/C – £2,800.00
Loan from Mum – £4,000.00
Loan from Dad – £2,000.00
Debt total – (£12,998.00)

Net worth
£3,752.09 – £12,998.00 = –£9,245.91

Pasta Remoli, Finsbury Park

Earlier this week I popped to Finsbury Park for the first time with my friend Jen to check out the newest Pasta Remoli branch. To be honest I thought it was a bit far for me to go but actually it only ended up taking me 20 minutes on the tube from Covent Garden. I didn’t know that Finsbury Park is also a mainline station as well as a bus hub either so there are LOTS of transport options. Who knew North London was so accessible? Not me, but perhaps I’ll be venturing there more in the future!Pasta Remoli Finsbury Park Sign

The restaurant is steps away from the station so it’s a great option if you’re waiting to get a train or need to meet someone in an easy to find place. Seriously, if you come out of the correct exit (I think it’s signed as the bus station exit) you can literally see the restaurant right in front of you as you leave.

Pasta remoli finsbury park - interior
Inside it’s very casual, colourful and oozing a relaxed environment. Just what you want on an evening after work! The artwork on the walls reminded me a lot of Udderlicious in Islington and I wonder if they share the same artist. We were shown to a very comfortable table at the back of the restaurant which was great for watching the place as it filled up – which it did very quickly indeed.

We hadn’t planned on having starters but when we heard that they have an onsite bakery we figured we should definitely give the bread a try and oh go on then, I’ve always wanted to try burrata!

Pasta Remoli Finsbury Park Starters - bread burrata and parma ham

Everything tasted so good we finished off every mouthful. I’ve always been a mozzarella fan so was intrigued to see how the burrata fared against it and oh my god I think I have a new favourite cheese! It was so creamy and delicious and practically melted in my mouth. I’m salivating just thinking about it. The parma ham that it came with was also very good and the two flavours worked well together. The bread was also really good especially the focaccia which was salty but in a very good way.

Pasta Remoli - filled pasta Jen

The way Pasta Remoli works is that you pick your pasta, either plain or filled, top it with a sauce of your choice then add some cheese too if you’re feeling naughty! Everything sounds amazing but I couldn’t resist the lure of the spinach and ricotta ravioli and neither could Jen – cardinal blogger sin ordering the same thing for a main course I know but who cares when it’s this good? We did pick different sauces with me going for the basil pesto and Jen opting for the butter and sage sauce as well as a sprinkling of salted ricotta.

Pasta Remoli Finsbury Park - Filled Pasta

When our plates arrived I thought the portion actually looked quite small but after the first mouthful I knew that I was going to be stuffed to bursting and I was right. I ate every single bit of that gooey filled parcels of pasta! Pasta to me is the ultimate comfort food and this was perfect.

Pasta Remoli finsbury Park - clear plate

The best thing is the price, even the most expensive pasta & sauce combination only comes to £11.40 (any of their plain pastas with a seafood sauce) and they also have a really excellent pre-theatre menu which includes a glass of wine or prosecco, a pasta dish AND a dessert for just £15 per person, an absolute steal!

Talking of dessert, the staff at Pasta Remoli practically wouldn’t let us leave without having something. In fact, the staff were quite simply superb throughout our entire visit. Quite a few of the options were sold out (a shame but you know that they’re obviously good if that’s the case) including Jen’s first choice of mint & lime sorbetto with prosecco so instead she opted for the affogato al caffe with vanilla gelato as she wanted to keep it light.

Pasta Remoli Finsbury Park - Affogato al caffe

I on the other hand ordered the fresh ricotta and chocolate cake thinking that it would be a light mousse type thing. Instead I was presented with this:

Pasta Remoli Finsbury Park - Ricotta and chocolate cake

Basically heaven on a plate but a bit too heavy after the meal I’d just eaten. I did my best (for the blog of course) and managed about two thirds before giving up. It was incredibly rich and creamy and if it hadn’t had the biscuity base I think I could have managed it. We topped off our meal with a shot of limoncello digestif – well Jen did, I’m not a fan of the stuff but I hear it’s great for digestion.

Pasta Remoli Finsbury Park - Limoncello shot

Pasta Remoli is not just a restaurant either, you can get a small discount by ordering food to take away and even get the pasta to cook at home. Oh and if you’re feeling EXTRA lazy, they’re also on Deliveroo!

As well as Finsbury Park they also have a small branch in Westfield shopping centre in Stratford which as an East London girl makes me very happy indeed! I checked their twitter feed today and one of their specials is lobster linguine – I just gotta have me some of that ASAP!

BitBS Rating – £

Pasta Remoli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*Disclaimer: Our meal at Pasta Remoli was complimentary
in exchange for a review.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

Lumiere London

Lumiere London Brothers & Sisters
Lumiere London Aquarium
Lumiere London 1.8 London
Lumiere London Les Voyageurs (The Travellers)
Lumiere London I haven't changed my mind in a thousand years
Lumiere London Gardens of Light 2
Lumiere London Gardens of Light 1
Lumiere London Dresses

The 52 Week Money Saving Challenge

January is always one of the hardest months of the year financially because so many of us overstretch ourselves at Christmas! The Money Advice Service has some great information about how to get in to the habit of saving for the future and since posting my resolutions video a few of you have asked for more details on the 52 week saving challenge I’m doing so I’ve thrown together a spreadsheet with how I plan on achieving this. I’m aware that there are lots of different ways to do this across the internet but these are just the amounts and dates I plan on making transfers into my savings account.

For this challenge I’ve opened up a separate bank account which is the Tesco Bank Current Account. Savings account rates in the UK are shockingly poor at the moment and you can generally get a better interest rate by sticking with current accounts. The reason I chose the one from Tesco bank is that it gives 3% interest on balances of up to £3,000 as well as not requiring a minimum monthly pay in like many other current accounts do. I’m going to do a separate post on what accounts I have and with who soon.

2016 52 Week Saving Challenge

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that there is also another Friday at the end of the year, the 30th December, where I could also be saving money. I usually get some money from my parents for my Christmas so if I do I’ll transfer this across then and hopefully bring the total amount saved this year up to £1500.

What am I planning on doing with the money in 2017? Well a lot can happen in a year so who knows but right now I’m thinking that’s a great travel fund for a trip to Florida to finally check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios!

Are you planning on taking the 52 week saving challenge? Or do you have any other savings goals for the year? What would you do with £1378 if you had it?

*Disclaimer: This post written in collaboration with The Money Advice Service.
The above opinions are still my own and not influenced by this in any way.

5th Anniversary of London Super Comic Con

As you guys know by now I’m a massive geek and this year marks the 5th Anniversary of my favourite convention of the year, London Super Comic Con or LSCC for short.

While my own cosplay plans are currently a secret (who am I kidding? I never decide until like the night before what I’m doing) you can bet you’ll find a huge number of superheroes, villains and anime characters over the weekend which takes place on the 20th and 21st February this year at London’s Excel Centre.

LSCC Logo

If comics are your thing it’s basically heaven with some of the biggest and best comic book artists and writers in attendance this year including special guests Frank Cho (Mighty Avengers), Humberto Ramos (Amazing Spider-Man), Marv Wolfman (Blade) and Mike Zeck (Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars). There are of course dozens of other guests in attendance who will be signing over the course of the weekend and some of them will even be offering exclusive commissions!

For me though LSCC is home to the biggest and best costume competition which one of my friends will be helping judge after managing to win last year! The Grand Prize this year is a trip for two to the amazing New York Comic Con and it always brings out the biggest and the best in the cosplay world. I’m always left feeling so inspired and in awe by the creativity of my fellow cosplayers.

LSCC

Seriously, this event is super chill and perfect for people who haven’t been to conventions before. The staff are amazing, it isn’t overcrowded and it’s worth it just to see some of the cosplay first hand. So why not check it out for yourself?

You can buy tickets here and be sure to keep an eye on my cosplay page on Facebook or of course Twitter (where I basically live) to see what I’ll be wearing on each day. I hope to see some of you there and if you spot me please say hi! I LOVE meeting new people.

The ~not quite~ shopping ban

Back when I lived in Aberdeen I met a girl called Holly who, at the time, had embarked on a yearlong shopping ban. Reading her blog is what spurred me on to start my own and also keep a better eye on my finances. I haven’t really spent enough time focused on that side of my life on this blog for a while.

Last year my friend Cait completed a one-year shopping ban and felt that it improved her life so much that she decided to extend it for two years! Can you imagine not shopping for two years? No me neither.

I have however been inspired by these lovely ladies to start my own ~not quite~ shopping ban. You see I’m not brave enough to say I won’t buy anything except food and toiletries for the next year so I decided to try something with a bit of a twist. This year I want to up my side hustle so I intend to only spend the money that I make on top of my regular monthly salary each month.

Blonde on a Budget Planne

I’m already in a good position to start this as I receive £650 in rent from the flat I lease out back home which should cover the basics. Of course this wouldn’t even be enough to cover my rent, utilities and transport in London so I’m going to have to make some exceptions.

Here are the rules:

  • Anything that I pay towards the upkeep of the flat in Aberdeen isn’t included
  • Neither are my rent and bills while living in London
  • I’m also making an exception for traveling – I love travelling too much to give it up for a year and I’m planning a trip to Vegas in August which will cost a pretty penny
  • Everything else needs to be paid for using money I have earned on top of my regular salary!

To do this of course it means that I have to keep track of my spending more closely than I did towards the end of last year but luckily for me Cait launched her own financial planner for 2016 and I was the incredibly grateful recipient of my very own copy which I’ll be using to track my income and outgoings this year!

It’s going to be tough but I’m actually really excited about it. I see so many people giving up their day jobs to do the things that they love and I think why can’t I do that? Maybe if I try I’ll be able to, it’s worth a shot right?

How to make your own bunting

As you know being more creative is a goal on my 30 by 30 list. I’ve also started filming more YouTube videos and would quite like to create a more exciting backdrop for these rather than the boring beige walls in my flat. In fact, I kinda desperately need a bit more colour in my life in general so I thought I’d try my hand at creating some of my own bunting using some fabric samples I received when I attended a Hillary’s event aaaaaaages ago.

Bunting finished

What you’ll need

  • Squares of fabric in your chosen colours
  • Scissors
  • Twine
  • Ruler
  • Needle & matching thread

Bunting Materials
Start by measuring your fabric so that you have triangles of equal size
Bunting cut
Cut these triangles out as neatly as possible
Cut Bunting
Measure your twine out and pin the triangles to is in even spaces
Bunting pin
Neatly sew the fabric on to the twine et voila
Bunting Sew
Super easy, super fun and gives my room so much more colour!

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