Tuesday, 27 June 2017

SUMMER FEMININE HYGIENE



In the last few weeks my vagina has been a focus of a lot of my attention. No I've not been seeking solo pleasure in protest as Simon swanned off to LA to devour lots of scrummy vegan food and be a lad. No, I've been taking good care of it in terms of hygiene. I know, not quite the juicy blog post you were hoping for, this isn't going to be an erotic lookback at summer sexual escapades. Instead this is going to be a  a little chat about keeping your bits as fresh and healthy as possible in the sweatier months (and all year round). Afterall If you can put effort into making sure the food you buy and store is  looked after and kept fresh, you should probably be mindful of the conditions you keep your part in too. 

As I write this I realise I don't really know how I want to refer to my vagina in this post. Should we stick with the basical medical term or should I make it a bit more fun and throw in some slang ? I think I'll mix it up


We've all heard phrases and jokes referring to the state of one's lady part according to the conditions it's found itself in. They are referred to when people are questioning whether it was ready/pleasant enough for sex in terms of it's odour. There's pub p***y, club c****, Gig G*sh, and so on. When you think of the anatony of that area, the fact it's often sat on, shrouded in fabric, hidden by skin, it's unsuprising that it's not always/ever smelling of roses...unless you've foolishly used a rose scented shower gel, which will eventually screw up your PH level and wreak all sorts of havoc.


Throw in a heatwave, one so ferocious is causes you to sweat from areas you didn't know had glands, then you find yourself even more conscious of it's aroma and cleanliness. 

In the last month I've struggled with a kidney infection. It has been horrendous. When it started out I presumed what I was experiencing was just Cystitus, as I'd had it once before on holiday as a teen in Vegas, and remember having to go into every hotel in the strip to attempt to wee, even though there was no wee to come out. This started off with this exact same feeling or urgency, so presumed it would be cleared up by one of those sachets courses you can get from Boots. Two courses on and there was no change and I had severe pain in my lower back. Cut a story short - after 5 days of leaving it, I was running a high fever and my pulse was so scarily high the nurse thought I should go to A and E as there was a fear that Sepsis might have occured - which is the danger when the infection goes up into the system and enters the rest of the body. 

A few weeks on now and I think I'm pretty much better, but it's definitely left me feeling a little paranoid about my that area and how I treat it, and also in a position of wanting to be particularly attentive to the needs of my special area. 


When the nurse was giving me advice about what I should do while I recover she advised the usual, drink only cranberry juice or water, avoid citrus fruits, don't use any showergels or anything else down there, wear loose clothing, pee straight after sex etc. 

So I wore floaty dresses, only bathed in water (no bath salts or oils), and drank more water than I probably have in my whole life prior to getting ill. 

I think a lot of us don't feel satisfied just washing with water though, we want to feel like it's been probably cleaned, and I feel like many of us don't feel that been acheived without the use of a soap like product. So moving forward I wanted to find something that was specifically for that area, that woudln't put me at risk or irritation or any other problems with regaular use. 

Luckily I rememberd that I had a sample on route that would hopefully be the solution. 
 I would be about to receive some products from Yum, who promise to tackle the symptoms of ailments like acne, athletes foot and vaginal infections quickly and effectively  

:“Our products work in two ways: On the one hand, we add friendly bacteria to problem areas of the skin. On the other hand, we provide lasting protection for the microbiome, our skin’s most important protective layer.”



The science info...

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, YUN Probiotherapy has launched a range of revolutionary skin care products based on friendly bacteria. The Belgian biotech start-up is the first in the world to successfully incorporate live probiotics in commercially available skincare products. YUN Probiotherapy constitutes a whole new category of skin care products, offering an important scientific break-through in the fight against overuse of antibiotics. 

Tom Verlinden, Managing Director at YUN Probiotherapy, explains: “As a former pharmacist, I have often wondered why we kill good bacteria trying to fight off bad ones. With YUN, we started from a simple, yet radical idea: What if we just add the right kind of friendly bacteria? That way, we wouldn’t just be treating the symptoms; we’d also be strengthening the skin’s protective layer over time. This is exactly what we have managed to do today!”

Sarah Lebeer, Professor in Microbiology at the University of Antwerp, adds: “The microbiome is our first line of defense against new and recurring skin conditions.  Most harsh soaps and personal care products do not only destroy the harmful bacteria causing these issues, they also kill the good bacteria that live on our skin. A strong microbiome is essential in keeping skin concerns at bay, and it needs good bacteria to do so.”

YUN skin care products add nothing but natural ingredients to the skin. Friendly bacteria, so-called probiotics, reinforce the skin’s protective layer and restore the skin’s natural balance in the long term, while keeping the good bacteria already on the skin alive. Since they don’t contain any harmful preservatives, these personal care products are 100% safe to use on your skin.

Although the idea of adding friendly bacteria, rather than killing all bacteria, may seem simple, its execution was not. YUN Probiotherapy is nothing less than a scientific break-through in natural skin care, based on more than 10 years of research, under the guidance of renowned scientists from the University of Antwerp. So far, no other company has managed to successfully incorporate the right living probiotics in commercial skin care products.

Dr Ingmar Claes, one of the scientists involved with YUN, says: “We’ve seen excellent results in our lab, and the preliminary results of our clinical trials only seem to confirm what we already expected: probiotherapy helps restore the skin’s natural balance and makes the symptoms of common ailments disappear within four weeks, and often much quicker. We have not only managed to determine which probiotics are right for our skin, we have also developed unique microcapsules that allow us to incorporate these probiotics in skin care products. Probiotherapy offers an important breakthrough in reducing the use of antibiotics to treat skin conditions.”

 
 Without being a scientist the theory behind the products makes complete sense to me given my medical history. As someone who has been diagnoses with a Candida overgrowth in my gut, and who has relied heavily on antibiotics over the years, I know the importance of probiotics in terms of getting your bacteria and PH levels back to their rightful state. 

However just because the concept sounds right on, it doesn't mean you are going to enjoy using the product, so how did I find it?  

It's instantly become a part of my showering/bathing routine. It feels extremely effective at cleaning the area and making you feel fresh.There's no tingling or stinging, and feels gentle yet proficient. 

What the biggest revelation is that it maintains a feeling of freshness for far longer than days when I haven't used it. It has actually prevented what has been referred to as 'Tube Twat'. A condition that is far more noticeable when the underground is digustingly moist as it has been the last week or so.

The best thing it's given me is peace of mind though. Knowing that I'm looking after my delicate region with the care it needs and deserves ,and not putting myself at risk by using harsh or acidic products intended for use elsewhere on the body. 

On a superficical level, I like the design of the bottles too and I don't mind keeping it out on display in my bathroom. Out of principle I want to keep it visible to others that frequent my bathroom but we shouldn't be embarrassed about looking after ALL areas of our body in a wise manner. This post shouldn't be embarrassing or taboo. This type of product should be seen just as normal as a body or face wash, and if I can reccommend a good product to other girl's who might have struggled in this area I'm very happy to do it. 

So here's to a carefree summer season, where our vagina is hopefully one less thing to cause uneeded worry or insecurity.
I will be reviewing more of their products very soon, so watch this space.

YUN’s Biotherapy products are available at yun-probiotherapy.com/buy and through selected retailers and pharmacists. 

P.S They company have just received a massive new grant, so expect them them to deliver even more exciting products to add to their revolutionary range. 
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Monday, 19 June 2017

Money Can't Buy You Happiness, But.....



This is another subject many people have said I should avoid talking about publicly. This tells me that people still view money issues as something you should feel shame or embarrassment about and ONE thing I said I would always do with my blog is to talk about those ‘unmentionable’ topics. So here goes…..

I’m not in the position where I’m getting intimidating knocks on the door from debt collectors, or bills stamped in angry red letters through the letterbox, in fact U don’t allow myself to use a credit card,  but I’m definitely in a poor financial position compared to that of the majority of my friends, and that difference can lead to lots of tense or frustrating scenarios that I want to touch upon today.

I’m very lucky that I have support of my family, so that I know I’d never be left in a position of danger or malnourishment, but not being able to look after yourself and being so reliant on others feels like a precarious position.

Tensions

In the last few years I’ve realised how a lack of money can impact a relationship. Neither Si or I are superficial, or feel the need to  be drowning in designer goods and five star holidays. We’ve never been rich nor feel a huge desire to be, but we’d both love to be simply comfortable. The soul destroying realisation that even after the hardest of working weeks you only just about cover your direct debits, and you don’t have anything left over just to have some frivolous fun, inevitably effects the mood. We are in the situation where both of us struggle, so we can’t act as a buffer for each other and compensate for our other-half’s lack of comfort in the financial department. If one of us suggests that we might treat ourselves it can create tension because it feels like such a guilt- ridden or foolish thing to do. The fact that are financial situation means that we have to live with my parents, which in turn means a lack of privacy or independence only compounds this friction too.

Regression

Being forced to live with you parents at age you’d imagined you’d be living a full adult life can undoubtedly stunt your personal evolution.When they’re asking you if you’ve got any washing, questioning what time you’re going to get home, and even criticise your outfit choices, it feels like your a frustrated teenager again. The whole living with parents thing will be covered in a blog post soon….



Lack of Confidence

Even if you don’t put a huge emphasis on money and things, money is still a symbol of acknowledgment of hard work and effort. So if you’re busting a gut and not getting any money it’s pretty demoralising. Feeling unappreciated and unrewarded can really affect your confidence and you can help but to start to wonder what you’ve done to deserve it, or wonder why you aren’t able to bring in the cash and provide yourself with a stable life. I’ve also noticed that the males in my life have also felt emasculated because they haven’t been able to fulfil that stereotype of ‘the provider’ too, which is an added pressure on top of worrying about merely looking after yourself. Then of course your inability to keep up with your contemporaries in terms of the things they can afford to buy (whether it be clothes, a car, a haircut, or a holiday) can knock your confidence, or make you worry about certain conversations arising. Ive often tried to avert a looming conversation topic to avoid having to admit to not having something.

Shattering the Illusion

You success in the age of social media can be impacted greatly by your social media persona. Although relatable content definitely has a vital place today, being aspirational definitely encourages a following. People love to live out a luxury life through others. Maybe they hope by watching them they may gain the tools to get there themselves and get to live that life for themselves. If I’m honest about my lack of funds I’m not exactly going to be a role model for others, they’re not going to want to emulate my career/life are they?!

Positives Attract

You’ll notice a lot of the successful bloggers/YouTubers will post regularly about their achievements. Whether that be that they’re going on another press trip, won an award, got sent some freebies, got to meet a celeb, simply doing well in one way or another. While some just enjoy patting themselves on the back, for some it’s an integral part of the game.

Bloggers that have reached a certain level of success are very savvy. It’s almost unnerving at times. They’ll know what to do tweet to make them attractive to the watching brands. If brands or PR’s see that they are doing well and getting opportunities with other brands, they are going to see them as an attractive commodity that they will also want to utilise. Seeing that they frequently tweet about the opportunities makes them feel a collaboration with them will be beneficial too.

My point here is that in tweeting or blogging about my lack of money I instantly become a less attractive potential influencer to work with. By saying I’m struggling money wise, it rightly or wrongly gives off the impression that I’m not doing well career wise and therefore their sponsorship money would be better used elsewhere. The reality is that even when things are going quite well, the nature of freelance life is that you are constantly chasing payments, I still have hundreds of pounds owed from six months ago and more. Then there’s the fact I live in the most expensive place in the UK, so earnings don’t last as long as they would elsewhere. Then there’s the lost earnings due to ill health.

It’s an age thing

Right now I’m in that stage of life where weekends are consumed by weddings, baby showers and hen do’s. The gifting element alone is expensive, factor in travel costs, contributions to group kitties, drink funds and more, and before you know it the total costs have eaten away all of your earnings.

Ahead of a baby shower or hen do there will invariably be a group chat where shared gifts, surprises and itineraries will be discussed. Eventually there will be a discussion of how much we should all donate to the overall fund. What if the majority agree on a number that isn’t affordable(or sensible) for your personal cashflow? Should you be honest and say it’s too much, in turn revealing that you aren’t as flush as them? Should you just agree to it and find a way to earn some extra money (or make extra cut backs), just to avoid awkwardness?

The big problem these days is that everything is more elaborate, because we are in a social media age where you feel you have to show everyone what you are doing, and everything you do has to be as impressive as possible. You feel a pressure to not only keep up with the Jones’ you want to completely trump them. Presents are meant to be instagrammable, events should be aspirational, and you should be sourcing incredible details from pinterest to ensure it’s talked about and envied.

Thanks to bloggers and celebrities we follow, excess has been normalised. It's common place to expect people to get on a plane for a hen do/wedding and get involved in more purse draining activities once you’ve reached the destination.

What if you have a lot of dear friends that would expect you to attend their event? Do you sacrifice your quality of life so you don’t let any of them down? Do you limit yourself to a certain number per year? Do you decide which ones to do according to how your finances are that month or do you choose the people you consider better friends?

Some people are very understanding and would never hold a grudge if you truly felt you were unable to take part in the festivities due to financial reasons. Others will take it extremely personal, they won’t see the bigger picture and won’t understand why you can’t find a way to make it work, you know, for them.

So in summary once you reach late twenties/early thirties if you’re not raking it in your constantly making decisions about whether to overstretch yourself, or risk upsetting people you love. It’s tricky.


Resentment

On the whole I don’t resent people for enjoying their riches. Of course there are pangs of jealousy but if I like the person and they work hard I think well done you, and even find their lush lifestyle  motivational. What I find harder is those that aren’t sympathetic to other people’s situations.In my opinion you should never make anyone feel less than, and that applies to people who may have less money than you. Some people seem completely oblivious to other people’s situations . My current peeve is the tweeters that complain that they’re not on holiday, even though they’ve been away numerous times thus year already.

Eating Out

I try and accept invites to dinner when I can because if life is stressful it’s important to have these windows of joy - they help you to keep trooping on and punctuates what sometimes feels like relentless misery, with some light. That said I’ll make some purposeful decisions if I know it’s a time when I shouldn’t really be spending money on going out. Maybe I’ll have less courses, find the cheapest dish, or ask for tap water (which the waiters usually greet with an inner eye-roll). In the meantime your dinner mates might be getting through bottles of wine and salivating over their fillet Steaks. You’ve carefully calculated how much your meal has costs and start counting out the money utilising the shrapnel at the bottom of your handbag (which are covered in crumbs and melted chocolate in my case). Then someone suggests that it would be easier to split the bill. When this happens I desperately try to hide the fact that I've gone into full on panic mode and just prey to god that someone empathetic soul with speak up and point out that ‘Soph hasn’t had any alcohol though.’ The last few times that has happened (thank you to those angels) but I’d much rather it didn’t get the point where someone had to draw attention to my inability to be carefree about the situation.

But what do you do when no one speaks up, even worse if someone points out that it’s ‘insert name’ birthday and we should pay for her/him too?

Judgement

Sometimes you’ll decline an invitation citing lack of money for the decision. From that point onwards people will think they have a right to an opinion on how you spend your money. I’ve heard numerous friends slag off other friends because they’ve noticed they’ve bought a new pair of shoes  (for example) after backing out of their social arrangement. What I wish people kept in mind is the things they don’t know about the way that person’s managing their budget. Perhaps they sensibly divide their incomings allocating a certain figures to bills, going out, food shopping etc and therefore perhaps in this case reached the allocation for ‘going out’ for that month. Perhaps they were able to get those shoes because they’d be putting money aside for them each month, had a voucher, or found a really good deal. Maybe they needed to have that impulse purchase and in turn that temporary high, to get them through a really tough day….and that’s important.

Inappropriate questioning.

Some days I feel quite prepared to talk about the ups and downs of my career and the resulting financial lackings, but on a bad day when it’s a struggle to stop of my chin from wobbling it’s enough to tip me over the edge.

I was brought up not to ask about earnings and how much people money have, but some of my friends/family members clearly were not. They’d don’t even give it a thought when they probe how much I got paid for a certain job, or how much money I make a year. When my reaction let’s them know that I’m uncomfortable talking about it or that they shouldn’t ask it then creates an uncomfortable vibe, which I hate.

Like I said most days, and with my close friends I’m happy to divulge the frankly embarrassing figures, but with people that fall under the acquaintance bracket I’d really rather not share. That said I’m an inherent people pleaser and try to avoid awkward moments where possible so the likelihood is that I’d still tell the nosey parkers the information they’d like to know, sacrificing my happiness in the process. Let’s face it, sharing something that makes you feel crap about yourself with someone who doesn't understand you well enough to fully understand the reasons why your in that position, is hardly mood booster. You feel like you’ve been forced to admit failure.


 
So that’s just a few ways a lack of money effects my life. Can any of you relate to any of these things, please leave me a comment below!
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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Real Self Care


I’ve created similar posts like this on my blog before. My recent ‘How I relax’ post comes from a similar pursuit of peace and chill. However, a tweet thread I saw today compelled me to give this further thought, and approach the topic from a slightly different angle.

The thread which was brought to attention by a fabulous girl called Poppy Field, a fellow blogger who also deals with chronic illness. She pointed out that all too often our online self care posts include things like ‘pet a fuzzy cute animal’ or ‘watch Disney movies.’ While I’m not saying they’re not helpful, they definitely fall under ‘cliche’ and ‘tumblr’ in their tone.

Another couple of quotes she tweeted also struck a chord with me -‘One of the most empowering types of self care is responsibility, but Tumblr just want to sit in a closet strung with fairy lights….’ and ‘Cute’ selfceare for ‘cute’ mental issues. That’s not reality. '

It made me think. Are the things we think are great self care activities genuinely so, or have I just seen them repeated so frequently online that I just believe that to be the case. They sound logical and like they’d deliver some positive feelings or comfort, so they must be the definition of efficient self-care right?

Tonight, as I lay comfortably on an L-shaped sofa feel quite content watching a Brad Pitt movie and nibbling on chocolate fingers, I realise I have temporarily been distracted from my current and rather hefty woes. I start to ponder what other activities help me to feel a bit more human, feel like I have the ability to cope (and even feel happy). So here’s just a few things I’ve done, or do, that didn’t occur to me to be a form of self care till now. 



1.Cutting my hair. I’ve spoken frequently about the tiresome realities of having long hair. How time consuming it is to maintain. How it gets stuck in my handbag strap and turns into matted mess of cartoon scribble.How daunting the prospect washing and drying it is. How it puts me off even attempting it to be hygienic. How my boyfriend will find bits of my dinner in it, or smell the aroma of yesterdays. How it will get stuck under his arms when we attempt bed snuggles and he’ll end up nearly balding me when he attempts to move away (which he will because of the greasy smell). Although of course I wanted to feel more attractive and confident with my new cut and colour, the root of this decision didn’t lie in vanity. This is probably the most significant move I’ve made in terms of self care. My weak arms are so grateful for the reduced times with the hairdryer.

2. Life admin. This isn’t about enjoyment of the tasks included under the bracket of life admin. NOT AT ALL. This is about knowing that having loads of things outstanding, like bills, emails, thank you letters, ignored Whatsapps, post office trips etc, makes me feel restless and under pressure. I hate the feeling of not being on top of stuff, or being overwhelmed to the point of not coping. Or worrying that people think I’m ignoring them (therefore rude or unprofessional). So if theres any opportunity to allocate a day to getting up to date then I know it is in my interest to do it and if I’m focused I’ll feel a great sense of relief and achievement at the end of the day.

3.Clearing my bedside table. My makeshift bedside table which is constructed from an old puff with an attractive silk pashmina put over the top, is meant to be a useful spot for my glass of water, my phone, my morning pills, a candle etc. It's meant to be a practical chill station. Unfortunately it often becomes an unstable terrain on the verge of spilling, breaking and dropping all that rests on it, which are all those annoying objects that just don’t seem to have a proper place. In the end there’s no space for that glass of water, and my pills get lost in the receipts that are stuck together by old sweets and chewing gum etc.

4.Going to the Doctors about those things that are worrying me. I never want to be a burden and I never want to feel like I am bothering people. This means that I don’t speak up or act on things I probably should. This means they remain contained within my mind and add to the chaos of stress and worry that permanently consumes me. This week I left things too long and ended up with a Kidney Infection, so it's been a valuable wake up call about my neglect of the health focused side of self-care. From this point onwards I will try and stay on top of things rather than let them linger for the sake of my mental AND physical health. 

5.Sorting out any unease I have within my relationships (work or personal). Today I felt my shoulders relax when I got a message through from someone I'd worried I had annoyed. As per usual my paranoid self has assumed wrong, and there was absolutely no issue, but the relief I felt when I got evidence of this lack of rift made me realise how important it is to sort out any relationships issues you have (if at all possible).

6. Taking stuff off my bed and changing the sheets. My bed has been my workplace for the last few years. It’s often littered with tech paraphernalia, art equipment, as well as evidence of regular snacking. It would not be uncommon for me to fall asleep with all of the aforementioned objects still on the bed, for lack of energy to remove them. We all know how an environment can affect how you feel, and it’s undeniable that having a messy bed could not have been beneficial to my consistently messy brain.



7. Saying No. I’ve started to reduce the amount of times I put myself in anxiety inducing situations. I used to worry about missing out on opportunities, but these days I know that feeling of fomo is much better for my health (and bank balance). I think the feeling of control I get from feeling strong enough to say no to people makes me feel better about myself too, or at least like I have progressed.

8. Comfortable Clothes. I’ve not worn skinny jeans in months now and it’s been a revelation.Truly. Not only is my vagina liberated ,and the back of my knees unchaffed, culottes have made walking a dreamy experience. They hair whooshing up between the fabric somehow makes me feel lighter. What more can I say it’s joyous not to feel restricted, tightened, lifted or bunched up.

9. Sleeping in the other room. Doing what I can to improve my ability to sleep is probably one of the most important efforts of self care. We all know how lack of sleep can lead to all sorts of bizarre behaviour and an inability to cope with things we would normally be able to handle. I date a very loud snorer who moves around a lot in this sleep. Combine this factor with the life-long sleep battles and it’s an almost hopeless situation. It’s not ideal and it’s probably not great for a relationship but I choose to spend regular nights in another bedroom just to ensure I get a few nights a week which are a bit more restorative. I also find it easier to fall asleep to the TV, which is something I can do if I’m on my own.

10. Having a cry. I can’t pretend to have a handle on my emotions and be able to govern when and where the tears fall. And sometimes I don’t feel like they deliver any sort of tonic or remedy to what’s caused the upset, but on occasion embracing a cry can release something for me. I definitely feel a tightness ease, it just sort of takes the edge of whatever sadness or pressure I’m feeling. I think it allows me to keep going a bit longer through whatever that difficult thing is, but I can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not.

11.Being Alone. As I write this I am on my own and will be for the week, -aside from visits from lovely helpful people delivering things like loo roll and microwaves to help me survive. On this occasion I’m not on my own out of choice though. Si is in LA on holiday and some issues have meant that it would best for me to stay at a friends house (while they’re on holiday). So even though for a lot of the time I’ve been that sad and rather tragic type of alone, there are still some moments where I realise that I’m enjoying the lack of company. I like that I can walk around looking fairly disgusting with hair in a top knot showing my receeding hairline, with make up thats melted or completely absent. I’m enjoying that I can get the optimum spot on the L shaped sofa,completely hog the rug and watch whatever mush and trash I want on Netflix. Then there’s being able to eat a bowl of Spaghetti for breakfast with a side of chocolate buttons without anyone judging my choice. Can’t say I’m minding the fact I can let off some IBS steam (fart in other words) at will too, rather than doing my usual holding it in and causing severe trapped wind cramps. 



So that’s a few of those almost unnoticeable things I do which nurture, mend or soothe me in  small and big ways. They may not be Tumble-cute or grand in process, but they make a positive difference. Tell me what simple acts of self care contribute to a happier and more well looked after you.
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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Father's Day shopping at the Bentall Centre


Whenever an event or allocated day arrives that requires me to get a gift for my Dad there is always an element of panic, actually the reality is that I’m completely clueless.

 There are some Dad’s who have interests and hobbies that make gifting a piece of cake. Perhaps they're obsessed with a sports team so you can get some of the latest kit or some more obscure memorabilia that they are yet to collect - the sort of objects your mum will curse you for buying and refer to as pointless clutter. Some Dads are car fiends, so vehicle accessories, Top Gear box sets or a red letter day driving experience could make for the perfect present.
Some of my friends Dad are really into their male grooming, and would love an expensive designer scent or some fancy hair products (the ones that still have hair). There’s some that still take a keen interest in fashion, and although they may sometimes teeter on the edge of being Buck dressed as Lamb, like to stay up to date and wear some of the latest trends.

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Monday, 5 June 2017

Jackson and Rye Kingston: Review


It's been a very stressful and hectic few weeks, with very little time for relaxing and socialising - in fact I've often been so busy I've forgotten about meals. So when I received a message asking whether I wanted to experience an evening of eating and drinking courtesy of Jackson and Rye in Kingston it really perked up my week and gave me something to look forward to, while ensuring I made up for all the missed meals of late. Better yet they were kind enough to let me bring Si, who with his passion for cooking (and eating) would be a perfect contributor to this review.


I live in nearby Weybridge, and have done for my whole life (minus the three years at university). It's green and lush, littered with lovely riverside pubs, with speedy access to London and great historial landmarks just short drives away. It was even christened the Beverly Hills of the UK by a one of the tabloids. However, as lovely as it is, you can't help but feel a bit out of heady London loop. Luckily Kingston has always helped to bridge that gap and offer up destinations that make us feel a bit more cosmopolitan. 

When I was younger, it was the trendy shops that drew me to the town - the likes of Topshop and Tammy girl (yes I'm THAT old) and Natterjacks. Then as a sixth former it was the sweaty gig venues (The Peel and The Fighting Cocks) that lured me away from the straight-lace safety of Weybridge. Then as a student it was the clubs (Volts and Oceana) which were close enough to home to mean that we could just about afford to share taxi's home at 2am, covered in burger sauce and remnants of kebab. 
As a working adult in a relationship, it's the impressive row of riverside restaurants, the Rose Theatre and cinema complex within the Rotunda that encourages our regular visits to Kingston town. 



The Riverside has gone through dramatic transformation over the decades I have been visiting. It's now feels like a haven. Whenever I visit to this part of Kingston on a sunny day, I immediately get that wonderful feeling of escapism that you usually rely on a holiday to gift you. People and boat watching a-plenty, it's the perfect place for al-fresco dining, and has a restaurant to cater to every taste and craving.


I've visited most of the eating/drinking establishments by the River, so I was suprised that I hadn't been aware of Jackson and Rye's presence on the strip. Perhaps I haven't acknowledged it in the past because it wasn't a name I had been aware of, therefore didn't have any sort of loyalty or reputation to encourage me to pick it over some of the other nearby eateries I know, and frequently enjoy. I wonder whether it's position first from the bridge eentrance, slightly tucked in and set back from the others, means that it goes slightly unnoticed. The al fresco dining appears slightly smaller than the other restaurants too, so maybe that's why this trip was my first experience of the American chain.
The Decor 


Most of the outside area was being used so we decided to sit inside, we also thought that safer with the unpredictability of the UK summer. However, we did miss the fantastic views of the river, which is obviously one of the main selling points of these particular dining destinations.
The interior harks back to 1920's American, with pannelled leather seating, dark wood, low lighting, art deco mirros, and classic alcoholic drinks displayed in glass cabinets. We could appreciate the retro styling it was aiming for, but the overall effect was a tad oppressive. The restaurant was suprisingly empty for a Friday, which we felt drew attention to the lack of pizzaz when it came to the decoration. 
It feels like they're confused about what they want to be. Do they want to be sophisiticated and slightly more luxury than the rest of the chain restaurants situated nearby? Do they want to be fun and themed?
I personally feel the space could benefit from some attention to detail. There's too much of the same at the moment, rows of the identical mirrors hang on the wall, and dark wood and brown leather on  repeat. Other era-befitting furnishings could make it feel more polished - perhaps there could be more artwork on the walls, or furnishings (like the lamps) that could really scream the 1920's.

As a blogger I should let other bloggers know that the lighting was not very Instagram-friendly. It was extremely dim and yellow making it quite hard to capture good imagery in the evening without a flash (and I didn't want to annoy other diners). I do like low warm lighting as it can help to create a romantic or sulty vibe, but in a space that's fairly empty it can make it feel a bit depressing.


 Drinks
Jimmy did a fantastic job at guiding us when it came to which drink to pick off the cocktail menu. When I expressed that I don't usually drink he immediately offered a virgin version of the Mojito I had inquired about, even though it wasn't on the menu. Nothing was too much trouble. Si finally settled on one of his favourites, an Old Fashioned, which felt apt for the setting. He said it was one of the best Old Fashioned's he'd ever tasted, which allowed him to temporarily transform into a Don Draper type character as he sipped away. They regaulrly checked in with us to see if we wanted another drink and we never had to flag anyone down to get their attention.


Perhaps because I don't really drink (apart from the odd Shandy) I found this Mojito fairly strong. I'm used to ones that are more on the sugary/minty side. I guess a proper drinker would be pleased to know they got their money's worth though. Despite it not quite hitting my spot, I have no doubt that if I'd asked for more sugar or mint they would have obliged very swiftly.


 Appetizers

Knowing that I'd have a delicious but dauntingly large feast in front of me, I decided against getting any appetizers. Si on the other hand likes to live in the 'now' (and worry about inevitable pain later), so he decided to get some Mixed Olives with fennel seed and orange zest. He really enjoyed the citrus element and said the Olives had a lovely flavour.


 Starters


Truffled Mac and Cheese Light truffle and Parmesan sauce with Crispy Kale Topping.  
Mac and Cheese is one of our all time favourite comfort dishes. Not only is it a regular choice when dining out, we often come up with delicious new spins on the classic dish while experimentingin the kitchen at home. I'm not a huge fan of the strong flavour of Parmeson, so I was slightly apprehensive about that particular element, but thankfully the chef delivered a perfectly subtle flavour. The sauce was rich, creamy and indulgent, and caused more than a few happy noises to sound from both of us. The Kale was perfectly crispy and served as the ideal contrast to the thick but smooth sauce. We generally like our Mac and Cheese to have a crust on the top, but the addition of Kale meant that we didn't feel too bereft in it's absence.


Buffalo Chicken Wings - smoked wings with three homemade sauces - BBQ, peri peri, Blue Cheese

Chicken wings are another thing Si would have every right in stating he was an expert in. While on his many tours in American with his band Young Guns, they would sample chicken wings at every stop, even taking part in numerous gut-damaging hot-wing challenges. 
The batter ticked all of the required boxes. It made a crunch that made a sound so satisfying it was as if we had a oscar winning foley artist sitting next to us. Sadly for the accompanying trio of sauces they wings were seasoned so well that they were redundant. Simon was so impressed with the flavour of the wings he felt it would be a travesty to mask it with the taste of the sauces, so he opted to devour the majority completely naked (the chicken, not him - just to clarify). I'm all about sauces though, I'm known for always wanting to add an element of wetness to all of my meals, so I was more than happy to get dipping and have the tasty sauces to myself. 

 The Service


I always try to be completely honest in my reviews, which invarably means there will be some negatives - usually small and hopefully always constructive. However. I really want the overriding feature of this review to be in praise of the service we received while we were there. As soon as we arrived we were greeted with the widest of smiles. and asked where we would like to sit. Within moments we were asked if we'd like water on the table, something which is something American restaurants have always done , but UK ones are just starting to get better at doing.
Jimmy was able to strike to perfect balance of binge chatty and jovial, sharing stories and laughs, but without encroaching on our alone time too much or interrupting the flow of dinner. He's such a naturally warm host, I'm sure he'd make everyone feel relaxed and welcome at Jackson and Rye. 
Jasmin(e) was also extremely patient with us as we struggled to make our minds up and offered up great menu advice when needed.

Before any of you sceptics think it, we did watch the service delivered at other tables, and it was consistently attentive and cheery.

The Mains

Baby Back ribs - Full rack of 6 hour smoked pork ribs, BBQ sauce, green slaw and fries. 

A lot of the restaurants I have gone to for ribs completely drown them in BBQ sauce. Yes, BBQ sauce is a gift from god, but why put in the effort of smoking the pork for 6 hours if that is just going to be smothered with an overpowering flavour that will completely hide that hard work. 
Jackson Rye have come up with the perfect solution. They deliver the impressive rack of ribs on a wooden chopping board, which also houses the fries and slaw, as well as a pot of BBQ sauce with a brush so you can decide how you wish you to enjoy it. I always think little details like this make a dining experience a bit more novel and fun. We enjoyed the fact that I was given a bib style apron to wear too - it's as if they knew me and my inability to get food from plate to mouth without a mishap. 
The sweet potato fries were exemplary, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.


Si ordered the New York Striploin with a side smokey rye sauce, with gem lettuce wedges, ranch dressing, bacon crumb and blue cheese, and a baked Sweet potato, with creme fraiche and bacon crumbs. I think he was a bit alarmed when the steak came, not realising tat 400g was 16oz in our era's language. One thing you can rely on with Si is that he will finish his meal, however daunting, and he managed to clear the plate, a task made more manageable thanks to the tender (and delicious) nature of the meat.


Si said that his succulent steak was cooked perfectly and the choice of the gem lettuce was a wise one as it contributed a much needed fresh element to the dish.


Baked Sweet potato, creme Fraiche and Bacon crumbs.


This chioce of side supplied a natural sweetness to the savoury dish, and the potato was wonderfully soft inside.

 The face of a man that know's he's eaten too much.

Dessert

Despite feeling horrifically full to the point we were groaning and Simon feeling compelled to tell Jimmy that he felt like he was about to give birth, we decided to get a pudding. We rationalised our foolish and frankly irresponsible desicion by recognizing that we wouldn't be doing a thorough review of the restaurant if we didn't sample the Dessert menu.


If we had been less grotesque and gluttonous when it came to our savoury courses, we may have had room to go for one of the amazingly indulgent sounding Sundaies or the Pecan Pie, but to avoid having to actually roll Simon home we decided to opt for the Peanut Butter Fudge S'mores (£4.95). Visually the dessert was extremely appealling, covered in icing sugar with an aroma of hot salty chocolate flowing out of it. I loved the crunchy peanut buttery Graham cracker base, and the warm sauce was to die for . The only problem with the pudding was the popcorn on the top. The idea was good and would have added an enhancing texture to the dessert, but unfortunately the popcorn was a bit stale and chewy. Minus that slight negative, it was delicious. If we are striving for perfection though, in terms of personal preference I would have loved the marshmallow to be a bit warmer and slightly more gooey and melted.


A few other things worth mentioning that we both felt during out evening at Jackson and Rye.

As an American restaurant we thought it was odd to hear numerous tracks by British and Australian bands soundtracking our meal. We both agreed that we'd rather they opted for 1920's American Jazz  (to fit with the aesthetic), than a random mixture of 80 and 90's songs that you may normally find on a compilation album. If they don't want to alienate people with Jazz - which can be quite a polorizing genre of music - then just a mixture of well known American music would work well too, and successfully enhance the brand ideals. That said with the success of La La Land and The Great Gatsby, Jazz and the 1920's has definitely seen a resurgence and may go down well even with the younger generation.

There also felt like a bit of a disparity between the bar area and the eating areas. The bar looked far more contemporary and fresh, lit well, and decorated with lots of beautiful plants. There were some plants punctuating the interior of the dining area, but as a whole where we dined didn't have the visual impact of the bar.


We WILL be returning to Jackson and Rye, the service we recieved from Jimmy, Jasmin(e), and the rest of his team, guaranteed that pretty quickly.  I really do hope at some point some further attention will be given to the design/interior or this restaurant, because it's a shame that the slightly dingy feel of the environment lets the staff, the chefs, and the people-pleasing menu down. This could be a great restaurant, at the moment it's just the service and the food that has earned that description.That said in summer, if you can get a seat outside with a view of the river  I don't think you'll be able to find anything negative to say about your experience.


Riverside Walk
Kingston Upon Thames
KT1 1QN

Opening Times
Mon - Fri: 8am - 11pm
Sat: 9am - 11pm
Sun: 9am - 10:30pm 
Many Thanks to Jimmy and his team at Jackson and Rye to treating us to this review meal.
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