Generally a weekday lunch time consists of chowing down on a limp salad, dry sandwich or some form of unappetizing leftovers that lay undiscovered at the back of the freezer for goodness knows how long. Given that we’re hurtling towards the festive season and it’s a time for giving I decided to give myself a treat and break the mid-week trend by venturing to PizzaExpress for my weekday food fest.
Pizza + Polenta Chips = Perfection on a Plate
I’d been salivating over the new PizzaExpress lunch menu all morning so when I took up my pew of my 1.15pm booking I already knew exactly what I was going to hincluding one scrummy looking newbie on the block in the form of the Panino, a sandwich made with pizza dough instead of bread, truly brilliant! However, I couldn’t resist sticking to the pizza side of things and opted for the Padana, a goats cheese feast, whilst my friend opted for the American Hot, an oldie but a goodie!
We couldn’t resist indulging in a few of the sides too so went for a couple of classics in the form of dough balls and the Rucola salad (Rocket, Gran Moravia cheese, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic syrup) but, something I hadn’t tried before and am now addicted to are the Polenta Chips; oh my days, simply heavenly! All of these yummy options all come in at a super reasonable price; the pizzas range from £4.95 – £5.95 and all the sides are start at £1.75 so you can treat yourself without breaking the bank – even better!
The pizzas were absolutely to die for; a smaller version of their big brothers that feature on the regular menu and complete with a super crisp, thin base, the lunch menu pizzas are just enough to fill you for the afternoon without inducing a food based coma resulting in an afternoon nap behind your computer screen!
All of this washed down with a bottle of Italians finest, aka Peroni, was quite frankly, an awesome way to spend what can generally be a rather drab lunch hour.
So, in a pizza-shaped nutshell, the PizzaExpress lunch time menu is an absolute must. Yummy, inexpensive and knocks the socks off your general lunch time leftovers.
I tried the PizzaExpress menu at my local restaurant in Harrogate:
2 Albert St, Harrogate,
So this week I have been introduced to Polyvore…its awesome, quite simply. Polyvore is a fab, visual based, social media platform that enables users to collate collages of their favourite, must have items and share them with other uses on Polyvore. Ok, so that’s a very top level summary of what they do but if you’re into blogging, into fashion, trends and all things awesome then Polyvore is the way forward – be warned though, it’s addictive!!
Here’s one I made earlier:
In case you hadn’t noticed, here at Shrinking Violet I’m big into promoting local businesses and this week is no exception. This week it’s all about local tradesman Piers Domleo, owner and founder of Harrogate Bathroom & tiling comapny PRD Ceramics
Finding Local Tradesmen You Can Trust
It’s not always easy finding decent tradesmen that you can trust which is why when you do find one you need to spread the word! I first got introduced to Piers by my other half who had asked Piers to help renovate and tile my Mums bathroom. Piers is a great guy, very approachable and friendly and most importantly, does a great job!
I’ve seen Piers’s attention to detail first hand which is why I wanted to push the message out there that he definitley falls into the “local trademen you can trust” categorary
PRD Ceramics Is More Than Just Tiling
As well as being an expert tiler Piers has a wealth of experience in bathroom design and fitting. You only have to look through the gallery on his website to see the high standards of his work from tiling bathrooms right through to using mosaic tiles to tile swimming pools! Piers comes from a family of tradesmen and back in 2008 Piers decided to branch off himself and hence PRD Ceramics was born. Since then PRD has grown and grown but at the same time has maintained the high standards and the attention to detail that has helped Piers gain a great reputation for being a top tradesmen.
Seriously though, if you do live in Harrogate and your bathroom is looking in a bit of a sorry state then Piers can definitely help you out.
Ginnys final thought: Piers is a top guy and does a top job – simples.
*You can contact Piers on the following numbers: 01423 326526 or 07807 324212*
If you are a local Harrogate business and would like me to help promote your products or services then please do just contact me and I’ll do what I can to spread your Harrogate word
When my blogging friend over at Remies Luxury Blog said did I want to relieve her of two VIP tickets to Ascot as she could no longer go I stepped up to the plate and did her the almighty favour of attending on her behalf (it was a tough decision to make but it was the right decision) . Three words…Hot To Trot.
Bloggers Rule OK
Remie happens to be one of, if not, the luckiest person I know. Every time we have been to the races together she has come out on top which is why I wasn’t surprised to hear that she’d managed to scoop 2 VIP tickets to Ascot. However, not only did Remie win 2 VIP tickets to Ascot she also snapped up a B-E-A-Utiful Longines watch that accompanied the tickets as Longines were the official sponsors of Ascot this year. The competition that Remie was was hosted by the AWESOME fashion blog, Fashion Foie Gras. Founded in 2009, Fashion Foie Gras is an established blog documenting all things fashion, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Hats, Champers, Port & More Hats…
Being residents of the Northern half of Blighty, getting to Ascot is a fair trek for us but my oh my was it worth it. When I called David to check if we could go he concurred that we HAD to make this happen. After some serious hotel scouring I managed to find a hotel a mile away from the race course that had some free rooms so I booked it there and then. Our alarm went off at 5am and we were on the road by 6.
Four hours later we approached Ascot and we knew were on the right track as ladies adhorned in magnificent outfits and gents in morning dress lined the streets. We arrived at our hotel, checked in and got changed at lightning speed as we had to be at Ascot for 12pm in time for our Pimms & Champagne reception (my favourite kind of reception!). We hopped in a cab that dropped us at Ascot train station and we walked from there. As soon as we got to the station I knew we were in for an amazing day. I’d not seen crowds like it! We weaved our way through the tunnel, collected our tickets and headed through the turnstiles and instantly we were faced with the most incredible grandstand I have ever seen. Sorry, Donny, but you simply don’t have a patch on Ascot!
Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worst so I grabbed my hat and we sprinted towards the Sandringham restaurant, our base for the day. As soon as we entered the reception area we were whisked off to our table, Pimms in hand, and this is where we settled for the next 6 hours. We sat down and both caught our breath and started to absorb the atmosphere.
We were sat with 4 other sets of competition winners who were as equally excited as us. We sipped our Pimms and at the same time gladly accepted a glass of bubbles that a friendly waitress place in front of us. The Sandringham restaurant comes complete with it’s own private trackside balcony so we took up residency, bubbles in hand, by the track just in time for The Royal Procession which took place just as we finished our main course.
Mouther-wateringly Fab Food
You quite often find at large do’s that the food suffers because of the vast amount of people that need to be served however Ascot could not be more polar oppostite. The food was devine! As you can probably tell by the menu below, it’s safe to say we were more than full by the end of the day:
Mise en Bouche
Gouda and sesame straws
Hand carved pata negra and ham hock rillette
Summer herb salad and tomberry dressing
Tournedos of warm corn fed chicken with spiced apricot, sultana and cumin
Pomegranate, coriander and pistachio rice
Mango and onion seed crème fraîche
Boîte de fraises reine Elizabeth
Raspberry fool with orange curaçao
Sussex Charmer mature cheddar, Keltic Gold and Wensleydale Blue
Spiced fruit pickle, artisan fruit and hazelnut biscotti
Freshly brewed Fairtrade medium ground coffee or tea
Milk chocolate caramel bon bon
Selection of sandwiches
Smoked salmon, cream cheese and chive on brown bread
Free range egg and cress on tomato bread
Roast beef and hot horseradish on white bread
Lemon, vanilla and sultana scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve
Iced carrot cake
Selection of infused teas
The Home Straight..
As our dessert plates were cleared and the cheese descended the port began to flow. We spent the remainder of the afternoon floating between our table and the balcony placing bets that ultimately all lost but that didn’t matter. Our afternoon descended into fits of bubbles-and-port induced giggles whilst chatting to the lovely people we met on our table. Suddenly it was last orders and our taxi was awaiting. As we resided in our hotel bar we started to reminisce on the afternoon and both concluded that it was perhaps one of the best afternoons we had both had the pleasure to partake in.
In summary, if you ever have the opportunity to go to Ascot you simply have to go. Royal Ascot is a combination of British tradition and modern day glamour mixed with a champagne twist all served up with a dose of elegance. I can not recommend it enough and can not thank the team at Longines, Remie and Fashion Foie Gras for giving myself and David the opportunity to partake in such a fabulous piece of British tradition.
Ginnys Final Thought: I Heart Ascot. Simples.
If you’re anything like me and have a bit of a fetish for super shiny, awesome trainers then Nike ID is an absolute most. I am addicted. Simply.
Customised kicks are no longer for the Snoop Doggs or David Beckhams of the world. Through the genius that is Nike iD us mere mortals can get a bit of the action too. I discovered Nike iD after pestering one of the uber cool gym goers at my local Nuffield health club and it turns out he actually used to work for Nike (hence him being adorned in all the latest gym-goers must haves). He pointed me in the direction of Nike iD, a product by Nike that allows you to go on the website and customise your very own pair of Nikes.
Whether you want fashion trainers, running shoes or even football boots the possibilities are endless!
I’m more of a heel wearing girl by day so I opted for the customised running shoes and my oh my…they are simply divine! The days of feeling like a dowdy gym goer are no more. With the sparkly new health club membership comes a sparkly new gym wardrobe and these customised Nikes are a must have item. Teamed with my Zagorra Capris and my new Nike Air Force running top I’m ready to conquer the iron pumping world.
If you want to give your gym wardrobe a bit of a face lift make sure you get your customised Nikes today. You can get them online and they take up to 4 weeks to be delivered but trust me, the wait is more than worth it!
Ginnys Final Thought: Nike iD…beware: the addiction is ruthless. Hours will be lost honing and toning your ultimate new pair of kicks but in the words of the Nike Gods themselves – Just Do It!
Here’s a something a little bit different but something I’m going to be doing more often and that’s blogging about blogs & SEO! It’s still early days for Shrinking Violet, and as someone who works in SEO & digital marketing by day, I know the beginning days of setting up a website or blog are the hardest so if you’re starting to feel like you’re not getting anywhere then maybe this post will convince you stick at it as it will come good in the end, and believe it or not, the parodies between starting out in the digital world and the health and fitness world are extremely similar.
Pushing water up a hill epitomizes what it feels like when you first set up a blog or website and I know this better than most as Shrinking Violet is my third attempt at blogging. Similarly, this recent health and fitness campaign I’m on is my latest of many!
Rand Speaks Sense
Anyone who is anyone in SEO will know of SEO Moz, or Moz as they’ve recently re-branded themselves up to be, and will know their founder Rand Fishkin. Rand is a fountain of all things SEO knowledge wise and runs a great spot on the Moz blog called Whiteboard Friday. For any beginner SEO out there or just anyone who wants to know more about SEO then Moz is the place to go and Whiteboard Friday is a great starting out point. Whiteboard Friday consists of a video that Rand publishes on the Moz blog every Friday (funnily enough) which covers all the up to date news as well as tips and tricks on how to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your SEO strategy.
The most recent post on Whiteboard inspired me to write this one as I know exactly the feeling he is talking about as I am currently feeling it with Shrinking as I am sure a million other SEO’ers, bloggers and website owners the world around are feeling it to – pure frustration.
Effort In = Rewards Out
Starting a website or blog is very much like getting on the health & fitness bandwagon. You start out, all guns a blazing, raring to go, you get great satisfaction with the early results. Getting indexed is like losing your first few pounds. Getting your first batch of Domain Authority is like shedding your first half a stone and getting your first link is like running your first 10k. Then, 6 weeks in, everything plateaus. It’s at this point that you need to take a step back, reassess and step it up a gear. If you’re in the gym you may increase, you weights, up your reps, try a new class. As part of your SEO efforts you may invest in some blogger outreach software like Buzz Stream to help make your outreach efforts more sophisticated, you might revisit the blogs or pages on your site already and look at how you can freshen them up and as an extra boost and to show the digital world you’re serious about what you’re doing, you get your Google + account up and running and start building your author profile.
And So The Ball Starts Rolling Again…
So your new exercise regime has rebooted your system and your shedding pounds like there’s tomorrow. Likewise, your more advanced SEO campaign is starting to deliver results. People are linking to your content naturally, you’re starting to get your first few rankings and your Twitter followers are going through the roof! Rand describes this as the flywheel; the hard part is to get it turning but once that wheel is turning there’s no stopping it! In exercise land, the turning wheel is the equivalent to a lifestyle change. You’ve shed the pounds and now it’s all about honing and toning. An ab here, an extra squat there is just like tweaking a title tag here or amending an outreach email template there.
Self Discipline Will Get You Everywhere
All in all, the messages are the same. SEO, just like health and fitness, is all about peaks and troughs, experimenting, tweaking and honing until you achieve your goal and then it’s all about maintenance whilst keeping your eye on the ball and continuing to improve yourself or your website via more advanced techniques. The key is to have the self discipline to keep sticking to your goals and pushing yourself, even through the tough times, to ensure that it all comes good in the end.
I hope I’ve inspired a few of you newb bloggers (just like me) or newb exercisers (again, just like me!) to keep going – you will get there, I promise
Ciao for now,
Just a really quick one this time but I’m now over on Tumblr too!!
It’s a bit more fitness and exercise orientated but still, love to see you over there!
I Heart Tumblr
So… 10 days of solid sun, sea, sand, booze and food is officially over. However, the end of my holiday marks the start of phase 2 in gym-land and as part of phase two I’m upping my game and treating myself to a sparkly new gym membership at what I believe to be the best gym in Harrogate – Nuffield!
It’s Getting Serious
Part one of what I now deem “phase 1″ of Violet Shrinking was all about getting back on the bandwagon and staying on it. This involved an initial gym program of simply just getting the basics back on track. The basics being getting back to running both outside and on the treadmill and some basic arm and ab exercises just to get my lethargic, anti-exercise self back into the mindset of someone who gives a damn about themselves!
Initially this worked and I’m happy with the fact that I’ve stayed “on it” for a good while now. However, now that I’ve had 10 days of luxury it’s time to get back to reality and get serious about phase 2 of Violet Shrinking…The Serious Phase!
Goodbye Old Faithful, Hello Sparkly New Gym
When I started phase one back in March I did it the sensible way and signed up to one of the least expensive gyms in Harrogate just to get myself back into the swing of things without forking out a small fortune. Ashville was my gym of choice and has absolutely done the trick. However, now is the time for me to make the switch to somewhere bigger and that has more on offer to help me achieve my fitness goals! I am a big fan of classes, especially spin and body pump both of which are not on offer at Ashville. I am by no means knocking Ashville as you get what you pay for and the access to the other facilities such as their pool and tennis courts is a massive selling point. However, I want to up my game big time which is where the sparkly new gym comes into play!
Nuffield Gym – The Key To My Fitness Success!
The week before I headed off to play in the desert I ventured down the Nuffield for the day with a friend for free. Anyone can get a free day pass by simply filling in your details on line, booking in your day and hey ho, you’re in! The first thing we noticed about Nuffield was the fact that we weren’t met with the “hard sell” when we arrived. The staff were really nice, gave us the initial tour and said if you need anything at all just shout, otherwise crack on. There’s nothing worse than being hit by a pushy sales person so it was refreshing to just be left alone.
More Classes Than You Can Shake A Yoga Mat At
I don’t know about you but I find that when I want to step up my gym efforts I always try and introduce a couple of classes, my favourites being spin and body pump, however it’s often difficult to find a gym that has enough classes pre or post work to make it worth your while signing on the membership dotted line. Nuffield is the polar opposite. They have enough classes 7 days a week to meet the needs of the busiest of people. You can see the Harrogate timetable here so you can see for yourself just how much is on offer.
Jacuzzi Down Time – Yes Please!
There’s no denying that the facitilies at Nuffield are second to none. Everything is clean and sparkly new and there is absolutely no air of being tired or run down which is so often the case with large health clubs. Seeing as our passes were day passes we wanted to make the post of everything so after our workout we hit the pool area. Nuffield is equipped with a pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna and we felt it rude not to try all four. As we reclined in the jacuzzi we felt we fully deserved our downtime after sweating it out and there and then decided that Nuffield was for us.
The Juice Bar Is The Icing On The (Low Cal) Cake
As our day at Nuffield came to an end we decided a juice in the newly refurbished juice bar come café was the way forward. As we sipped our drinks a member of staff talked us through our pricing options and showed us some great additional features that members of Nuffield receive. I particularly liked the health MOT side of things which entails you having a health check when you first sign up then another one 3 months later and if your health stats have improved overall then you receive a boat load of great prizes including a free months membership!
Tracking Your Progress Is Super Easy Too
Tracking your progress is not only a great way to see what a difference fitness makes to your life but for me it is also a really powerful motivator to make sure you stay on track. Nuffield make it really easy for you to do this with they new app. By logging your exercise activity both in and out of the gym they will then use that information to map the perfect workout to you. For instance, if you naturally do more cardio outside of the gym on dog walks etc then they will make your workout plan more strength orientated and vice versa to make sure you see the best results you can.
All in all, Nuffield is the way forward now for me. Ashville has been fantastic in helping me re-find focus but I need a bigger beast to get me to the finish line and that comes in the form of Nuffield.
*You can get a free day pass to Nuffield here…try it…I dare you but be warned, the jacuzzi down time makes it very difficult to say no*
We all know that staying on the fitness band wagon is way harder than simply getting on it however this time I think I may have cracked the code of how to maintain focus – new gym gear!!
My new latest loves that are helping me achieve my fitness goal are my beautiful new Zaggora Capri Hotpants One word – LUSH
“Beep beep beep”… and so my alarm goes again at 6 am, 6 weeks into operation Shrinking Violet and 9 pounds the lighter and the 9 millionth 6.15 am gym session is just around the corner. OK, so that may be a bit of an over exaggeration but that is how I felt on the morning where my “thinspiration” started to wane. Although I did manage to peel myself off the mattress that morning I knew something had to be done to ensure I stayed on track.
New Year – New Gear – New Me!
As soon as I got home after the-gym-session-that-nearly-didn’t-happen session I got straight on to all my fitness savvy pals for advice on any new awesome gym goodies they had come across that could help me maintain my momentum. Luckily for me one of my blogger friends had come across what I now call my fitness lifelines aka Zaggora.
Zaggora is a range of fitness clothing designed to help increase your metabolic rate whilst exercising to help you get your desired results faster. Having been rigorously tried and tested both in the UK and the US, is has been proved that just by wearing Zaggora clothing whilst working out you can increase your metabolic rate by up to 18%. Made from celu-lite Technology, Zaggoras are designed to harness your body’s natural heat therefore burning calories quicker and trust me, when it comes to upping the temperature whilst you’re working out these puppies do just that!
Turn Up The Heat
Psychologically my sparkly new Zaggoras completely did the trick as I couldn’t wait to try them on and get pounding the pavements and so I decided their maiden voyage should be a good 7k run outdoors. The first thing I noticed about my new capri’s was that despite them feeling quite like a wet suit they are actually really comfortable and flexible. As well as them being comfortable they also look great as they help create a flattering shape around your hips, bum and tum which is awesome because, if like me, you look like a Bridget Jones style sweaty mess when running, anything that helps you look even a smidge better is a bonus!
As I reached the finish line of my first Zaggora run I summarised the top three things that I loved about my new ‘garms:
• Super lightweight
• Totally flattering
• Amazingly comfortable, even on longer runs
The only downside to them is that once you’ve tried Zaggora nothing else will do!
So if you’re looking for some new gym kit to help get you back on track or stay on track then I would highly advise you look into the Zaggora range of workout gear. You can buy it online and with an awesome range on offer from shorts to capri’s and even jackets your spoilt for choice.
Ginnys final thought: Mi Amore My Zaggora, simple!