A spring clean with Fantastic Services - car

One-off deep clean with fantastic services

You know the drill, you’re busy at work, the cold weather has well and truly set in and you are well overdue a spring clean.

However, when do you find the time? Fantastic Services offer a variety of cleaning services for the home across the UK, as well as gardening, landscaping, tradesmen, removals and storage, waste removal, inventory services, pest control and appliance repair.

A spring clean with Fantastic Services - hallway interior

What cleaning services do they offer?

Their domestic cleaning services in the UK include:

  • Regular cleaning
  • One-off cleaning
  • Carpet cleaning
  • End of tenancy cleaning
  • Holiday rental cleaning
  • Upholstery cleaning
  • Window cleaning
  • Conservatory cleaning
  • Oven and BBQ cleaning
  • Curtains and blinds cleaning
  • After builders cleaning
  • Gutter cleaning
  • Home organising

A spring clean with Fantastic Services - bathroom interiorA spring clean with Fantastic Services - sink cleaningA spring clean with Fantastic Services - bath tap cleaning

One-off deep clean review

We opted for a one-off deep clean as we are in the process of putting our flat up for sale. The service included three cleaners coming into our one bedroom flat for two hours at an arranged time to suit us.

Before they began, they asked me which areas they should focus on, focusing on a customised cleaning check list. Taking a room each in turn they blitzed our place.

They made the bathroom gleam, polishing up all ceramic and metal surfaces. Honestly, it looked like a show bathroom once it was done, I don’t think it was this clean when we bought the place.

In the combined kitchen and living room, our kitchen area garnered the most attention. Surfaces were cleaned and polished, the oven was bombed and blitzed, as well as the microwave. Our upholstery was also given the once over, with the sofa cleaned

Throughout the property, interiors of windows were made to shine alongside their sills and skirting boards were cleaned. They finished by hoovering the place, adding a perfumed spray across all carpets.

A spring clean with Fantastic Services - room interior

So, what did I think of Fantastic Services? 

Afterwards, the cleaners asked me to inspect the property. It’s safe to say, I walked back in and found myself in awe. Everything sparkled and smelt sensational.

I found the Fantastic Services cleaners to be thorough, professional and oh so polite. I will definitely be using them again in the future.

If you would like to take advantage of Fantastic Services and their incredible cleaners, you can use the code LDNGAL to receive £10 off your first service.

Are you overdue a spring clean? Have you used Fantastic Services before?

Stephanie xox

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This Fantastic Services one-off deep clean was exchanged for an honest review

How to deal with being an anxious mess | The LDN Gal

How to deal with anxiety

There is nothing like a bit of brutal honesty at times. Aside from all the ‘new year, new me’ rubbish, anxiety is a demon many have to live with around-the-clock. Here’s how to deal with anxiety.

Many people would not see a person as anxious. In fact, most may even believe they are confident and outgoing – a shock to the system when this is further from the truth.

In the last few months, I have had to challenge my anxiety head on. I’ve had to do this for my own mental health and personal development.

See, anxiety is a nasty beast. It leaves you isolated, disconnected and quite frankly exhausted. So, I made it my mission to change my relationship with my mental health.

How to boost your mental health and mindfulness

Here’s how to centre yourself and deal with anxiety:

  • It is okay to not be in control 24/7– so what if you are late or say something ridiculous?
  • You can trust people – let people know how you feel and most will be considerate.
  • Talk more – it helps to talk about how you feel and to get a wider perspective on your concerns.
  • Take better care of you– put the dry shampoo down, wash your hair – you’ll feel better for it.
  • Dress up and get out– socialising always does you good, it’s only scary at first – step outside the front door.
  • Make time for you– find something you enjoy and do it often. Mindfulness is key.
  • Enjoy nature– take a walk and reconnect with your thoughts.
  • Structure your day – structure your day but allow for changes when needed.
  • Record your worries – If it helps, keep a diary and include your happy moments too!
  • Challenge yourself – Tackle anxieties slowly but surely and challenge your negative thoughts.
  • Sleep – if you over think too much, go to bed earlier. Also, listen to this (a lifesaver).
  • Be healthy – eat well and work out when possible. As a result, you will feel a lot better in your mind and body.
  • Breathing exercises – take deep breaths in and out for 7 seconds till you feel calmer.
  • Relaxation training – tense each part of your body for 4 seconds head-to-toe.
  • Seek support if needed – there is no shame in speaking to a medical professional. If you need support, contact your GP or local mental health support service asap.
  • Realise it is okay to have bad days! – Give yourself a break and start again tomorrow.

If you incorporate the above, your anxiety should ease up. Learn to centre yourself when you get anxious and utilise breathing and relaxation exercises when needed.

What do you do to challenge your anxiety? Have you tried any of the above?

Stephanie xox

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I am not a medical professional, this is advice based purely on personal experience

The best things to do in Kensington, London - Kensington Palace Queen Victoria Statue | The LDN Gal

A guide to The best things to do in Kensington, London

Kensington is a bustling district in west London. Renowned as an upmarket area, it hosts London’s most famed museums, two magnificent Royal Parks and diverse shopping. Read on to discover the best things to do in Kensington, London. 

Of course, there are lots of fantastic sights and an abundance of hotels near Kensington, allowing visitors to easily access this cultural and glamorous area. 

The first stop for many in Kensington is three of London’s largest museums. These include the Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and Science Museum. All of which offer free entry alongside a wealth of exciting exhibitions.

The best things to do in Kensington, London - Natural History Museum Hope the Whale | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Natural History Museum Exterior | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Natural History Museum T Rex | The LDN Gal

The best museums in Kensington, London

Renowned as one of the most precious collections of natural history specimens, the Natural History Museum is not to be missed. On entrance, be sure to say hello to Hope the blue whale skeleton who looms over the foyer.

The museum is famed for its dinosaur collections, as well as other natural environment exhibitions. These include botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology. In winter, the Natural History Museum also hosts an ice-rink and fairground rides.

Next door, discover the Victoria & Albert Museum, celebrated as one of the world’s greatest art and design museums. Inside, discover 5,000 years of creative genius with an abundance of ancient and contemporary collections.

These include eclectic collections of architecture, art, ceramics, design, fashion, furniture, paintings, performance, photographs, sculpture, textiles and jewellery. It’s certainly easy to spend a day getting lost within its astounding and varied exhibitions.

The best things to do in Kensington, London - Science Museum Interior The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Science Museum Exterior | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London -The Last Tsar Blood and Revolution | The LDN Gal

Adjacent, you will find the Science Museum. Here, you are welcome to learn more about the world around you with countless exhibitions and hands-on displays.

Quite often, the Science Museum will also host a collection of special temporary exhibitions. Currently on, The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution provides an interesting insight into the Russian royal family and their secretive medical history.

The interactive Fly 360° flight simulator ride also proves a popular paid attraction for adults and children alike.

What to do in Hyde Park Gardens, London

Have no fear though, museums aside, there is more fun to be had. Kensington is lucky to feature not one, but two Royal Parks. Discover the connected Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

These parks offer plenty of open green space to explore, be it for a summertime picnic or brisk winter walk. 

Firstly, take a stroll in Hyde Park, one of the world’s greatest city parks. Here you will stumble upon 350 acres of nature at its finest. Appreciate its beauty among trees, flowers and meadows, as well as an array of monuments.

The best things to do in Kensington, London - Hyde Park Italian Gardens | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Hyde Park Bear Fountain | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Hyde Park Italian Gardens Fountain | The LDN Gal

Stop for a moment by one of its lakeside refreshment points and enjoy views of The Serpentine. In summer, you may even opt to take a boat or pedalo out.

From November onward, you can also visit Winter Wonderland. Here you can enjoy traditional German wooden huts, fairground rides and an outdoor ice rink to boot.

You will also stumble upon a variety of monuments and memorials, such as the Achilles statue and the Joy of Life Fountain, to name a fewYou may admire flora in the Rose Garden, take a moment at the Diana Memorial Fountain or listen to the voiced opinions of many each Sunday at Speakers Corner.

Hyde Park has something for everyone, and offers year-round attractions and sporting fun. Connected, you will discover Kensington Gardens via the glorious Serpentine Bridge.

The best things to do in Kensington, London - Kensington Palace Sunken Garden | The LDN Gal

What to do in Kensington Gardens, London

The gorgeous and graceful Kensington Gardens offers 265 acres of green space to wander. It is home to the celebrated Kensington Palace, the Albert Memorial, Serpentine Galleries, The Italian Gardens, The Allotment Garden, Peter Pan Statue, Elfin Oak and the treasured Diana Memorial Playground.

Kensington Palace is a particularly popular pastime for tourists and local residents alike. This lovely stately home is embellished with period furnishings, landscaped by gorgeous surrounding gardens.

The best things to do in Kensington, London - Kensington Palace Queen Victoria Statue | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Kensington Palace The Queen's State Apartments Bedroom | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Kensington Palace Diana Her Fashion Story Coats | The LDN Gal

Inside, discover the State Apartments, Queen Victoria’s former living quarters and a special Diana exhibition, dedicated to the fashion and charitable work of the late Princess of Wales.

It is currently the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton). Afterwards, enjoy traditional afternoon tea in the Orangery before taking a stroll through the Sunken Garden, much loved by Diana.

The best things to do in Kensington, London - Whole Foods Market entrance | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Whole Foods Market lunch | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Whole Foods Market bakery | The LDN Gal

What to do in High Street Kensington

Culture and outdoor ventures aside, Kensington offers a spectacular selection of outlets for leisure and shopping.

South Kensington is home to High Street Kensington, renowned for its impressive variety of independent shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries, as well as many a high street favourite. For antique finds, you will want to visit Kensington Church Street.

You could certainly spend hours hunting around Kensington’s variety of fabulous shops. My personal favourites include Whole Foods Market, Urban Outfitters and Japan House London.

Be sure to stop for a quick lunch at Whole Foods Market, this gigantic organic food market is famed in the area.

The best things to do in Kensington, London - Japan House London Biology of Metal Exhibition | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Japan House London Metalwork Exhibition | The LDN GalThe best things to do in Kensington, London - Japan House London Metalwork Exhibition tools | The LDN Gal

Next stop, the recently opened Japan House London. Surprisingly, contained within a three-floor art deco building, it features Japanese artwork, retail shopping and fine dining at the authentic Akira restaurant.

A fantastic experience for all, head downstairs to enjoy a fascinating biology of metal exhibition and become immersed in this cultural hot spot.

Finally, the Royal Albert Hall offers a night to remember. This concert hall is home to many a classical offering. Surprisingly, this grand venue also hosts a diverse selection of gigs, dance, opera and sporting events on occasion.

The Kensington area is especially accessible, served by the Central line at Queensway station and the Piccadilly, Circle and District line at South Kensington, as well as numerous buses.  

If you are looking to spend a weekend in London, Kensington is an area not to be missed!

Have you ever explored Kensington in London? Where would you go first?

Stephanie xox

The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own

Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

What to do for a weekend in Manchester 

Manchester is a thriving city, brimming with things to do and places to see. However, getting around the UK can be a bit of a nightmare at the best of times, trains may be slightly quicker but prices are extortionate. So, I opted for a cheaper – and in my opinion – far more comfortable alternative. If you are wondering what to do for a weekend in Manchester, read on…

Departing Oxford just after 8am, I boarded my National Express coach to Manchester. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised, all National Express coaches come with leather seats, air conditioning, power sockets and toilets as standard. They ever offer a downloadable entertainment system VUER for free, which offers films, TV programmes and magazines.

VUER, National Express to Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

If you have ever been on a long coach journey before without a charger and toilet – and I have – it is not a fun time. The coaches are modern and comfortable, with adjustable leg rests, spacious seats and supported head rests – just perfect for a little mid-journey snooze. With a brief stopover to switch coaches in Birmingham, we were off again and before you know it, we were in Manchester, ready to explore the sights.

We arrived in Manchester city centre at around 1pm and were ready to kick start our weekend of cafes, culture and cocktails galore. Here are my top 10 things to do for a weekend in Manchester:

Top 10 things to do for a weekend in Manchester

Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester | The LDN Gal

Manchester Art Gallery, Manchester

We needed an infusion of culture so headed to the Manchester Art Gallery. The gallery is spectacular, housing an assortment of classic and contemporary pieces. A particularly interesting exhibition space was dedicated to the relationship between art and mindfulness. And Breathe… allowed guests to stop and pause for a moment, appreciating the connection between the two.

Afflecks, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Afflecks, Manchester

You could spend an entire day in and around the Northern Quarter, soaking up the area before strolling through Afflecks indoor market and many a quirky shop. There is lots of retro, nostalgic and vintage treasures to be found and bought in Afflecks. It’s a lot of fun to rummage around the many shops and I have to admit, it reminded me of Camden Market on a much smaller scale.

John Rylands Library, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

John Rylands Library, Manchester

The John Rylands Library was founded by Enriqueta Rylands in memory of her husband, and is housed in an impressive Neo-Gothic building. Step inside, and you will discover its grand history and architecture, alongside its vast collection of treasured books and manuscripts. We were lucky to stop by as the Women Who Shaped Manchester exhibition was on. It detailed the journeys of incredible women, past and present. Women who used their wits and determination to overcome many a societal challenge.

National Football Museum, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

National Football Museum, Manchester

I am not a fan of the great game but the National Football Museum is impressive. My other half was delighted, heading around the various exhibitions and it was a highlight of his trip. Inside, discover a diverse range of worldwide memorabilia and interactive skills-based challenges. The penalty shoot game ever featured the old Wembley goal!

Starters, eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester | The LDN Gal

eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, Manchester

The eXchange Food and Drink Lounge is a rustic restaurant that does not fail to impress. Within, discover a restaurant area, bar, sports screens and even a kids area. Perfect for all the family, the eXchange Food and Drink Lounge offers incredible dining, spectacular cocktails and an evening of chatter and memories. Read my review of my experience here.

The Liars Club, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

The Liars Club, Manchester

While in Manchester, we proved to be frequent patrons of The Liars Club. It is a tropical tiki bar with an enviable selection of global rum and a vibrant and funky interior. The cocktails were incredible and good-value for money. You could lose hours sipping away listening to Reggae tunes aplenty. They even offer a two drinks for £10 happy hour on weekdays!

Sunset by Australasia, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Sunset by Australasia, Manchester

Sunset by Australasia is an Instagram dream. It offers a  stunning pastel pink and gold interior, alongside an outside terrace embellished with vibrant flower wall and plush seating and cushions. Sunset by Australasia is gorgeous – but the cocktails are even better. So, grab a frozen Prosecco sorbet blend and let the world go by for a few hours.

Sugar Junction interior, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Sugar Junction, Manchester

Sugar Junction is a coffee, cake and cocktail lovers dream. This vintage venue in the Northern Quarter offers lots wholesome and homemade produce. I had a cake (gluten free, which was a nice touch) alongside pink lemonade – which was beautifully decorated. My other half opted for a rather filling and well presented sandwich, which was accompanied by chips. You can enjoy breakfast, brunch throughout the day and afternoon tea – or a cocktail or two, if you feel inclined. 

Home Sweet Home. Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Home Sweet Home, Manchester

Looking for the best pancakes in town? Home Sweet Home offers an American breakfast and brunch in a cosy and quirky location. The pancake stacks are huge, doused with fresh fruit, cream and sauces – there are some savoury options too, don’t fret. Do be wary though, if you get there at the weekend and are looking to quash your  comfort food cravings, there may be a bit of a wait.

Bees in the City at Manchester Cathedral, Manchester - What to do for a weekend in Manchester - The LDN Gal

Manchester Cathedral, Manchester

We spent some time in Manchester Cathedral, appreciating the many Bee in the City bee’s dotted around its interior. Although Manchester Cathedral is rather small, it was as expected, beautiful. It is the perfect place to take a few moments away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre.

So, if you are looking for a fabulous UK city break, look no further! There is plenty of things to do for a weekend in Manchester.

You can book your next journey to Manchester (or the rest of the UK) with National Express here or give them a call on 0871 7818181.

National Express travels to over 900 destinations nationwide and offer thousands of tickets for £5 or less (plus a booking fee). The best bit? Travelling by coach proves to be the most environmentally friendly form of public transport!

Where would be your first stop in Manchester? Have you traveled via National Express before?

Stephanie xox

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This post is in collaboration with National Express

Why I'm over the blogger follow/unfollow game | The LDN Gal

The follow to unfollow saga: the ugly side of blogging

If you blog often, you will know exactly what I am talking about here. The follow to unfollow game is a tedious affair to say the least. So, here is why I’m over the blogger follow to unfollow game.

So many bloggers work so hard to organically increase their following and engagement, interacting with others in their niche and producing killer content time and time again.

The follow to unfollow saga is simple. Select bloggers will follow on mass, await for you to follow them back and then remove you by unfollowing within 24 hours. Most go unnoticed and almost cheat others out of a follow.

Follow to unfollow on social media? You are part of the problem…

If you have experienced this, it leaves you feeling a bit rubbish. Blogging is as much about content as it is community. If you love someone’s content, you follow them to read, embrace and even share it from time to time. However, the follow to unfollow saga diminishes the blogging community and this mutual respect, tarnishing organic growth.

Of course, you don’t have to follow others back that don’t speak or relate to your interests, that is absolutely fine. But for those who follow just to unfollow again – it’s really not cool.

Instagram tends to be the social media platform that falls victim to the follow to unfollow game the most. Leaving many a blogger keeping an eye on their social following each week through third party tools that track unfollowers. It isn’t a numbers game but it’s never nice to see your counts dip up and down relentlessly.

If you love your community and fellow bloggers, share your fabulous content, engage with others and follow with intention. It’s really not all about the numbers and quality should always trump quantity.

#rantover

What do you think of the follow to unfollow saga? Have you fallen victim to it?

Stephanie xox

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Spellbound exhibition witch, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford - The LDN Gal

Spellbound exhibition, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The Spellbound exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, features a quirky and eccentric collection of oddities, thwrawt in superstition. The exhibition illustrates over eight centuries of magic, ritual and witchcraft.

As a country, we have always been wary of magic and Spellbound illustrates this fear, showcasing many a mystical and fascinting object and artwork to entice discussion and reflection.

It looks at our ongoing and emotional relationship with magic, superstition and ritual – ever avoided stepping under a ladder or putting new shoes on the table? 

Within Spellbound, discover a collection of “spellbinding stories, fascinating objects… from crystal balls and magic mirrors to witch bottles and curse poppets.”

Spellbound: Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft exhibition

Exhibition highlights include a witch in a bottle, a heart in lead and silver casing and a copy of The Discovery of Witches by Matthew Hopkins, 1647.

You will explore the history of magic, ritual and witchcraft over 800 years. The objects and artwork on display highlight people’s superstition, witches practice and the tools used to eventually condemn them.

Magic and the unknown has always historically caused people to be fearful, and when married with religious views, it was linked closely to devil worship and ultimate despair.

Once inside, you will discover Medieval texts, binding jewellery and crystal balls, as well as magical objects aplenty alongside contemporary art instillations. If you are a fan of magic, the supernatatural, the cosmos and the occult, this enchanting exhibition is for you.

To book tickets for the magical Spellbound exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, please take a look here. The exhibition runs until the January 6, 2019.

Are you fascinated by magic? Which exhibition highlight would you be most intrigued by?

Stephanie xox

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