Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com title

If you’re planning a visit to London and want to stay somewhere a bit more edgy than the regular tourist traps, I’d recommend taking a look at hotels near Shoreditch. Colourful street art adorns the walls, trendy eateries like The Breakfast Club, Bike Shed Motorcycle Club and CookDaily all lie within easy walking distance of Old Street tube station and if you like shopping there’s plenty of independent goods on offer at Old Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane and the BoxPark popups.

Then, of course, for something a bit more boozy and a LOT more silly, there’s Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson* which is where Oliver and I ended up on Saturday!

In case you haven’t heard of it, here’s what is involved:

  • Unlimited pizza
  • Unlimited prosecco
  • Neon lights and pumping party music
  • An adult ball pit (!)

So how did we find it?

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com title

Well, first off, going in the ball pit was hilarious! I’m five foot tall and so I was just about able to stand up and see, but actually moving about was another matter. One minute I’d be fine and the next sinking uncontrollably into a sea of rolling balls, laughing my socks off at how ridiculous I must look as I struggled to right myself!

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

Although we were there at peak time on a Saturday afternoon at no point did we feel overcrowded in the ball pit and we were free to lark about as much as we wanted. However the one thing I’d mention is that there is only one ball pit, so in all honestly 20 minutes in there was plenty and after that the novelty wore off.

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

…after that, it was all about the bottomless brunch!

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

Periodically during our time there the staff would come out with fresh pizza on boards and leave them around the venue. That meant that near the beginning of the event it was a bit of a mission to get a slice of pizza as the trays were mostly laid out in front of large groups (there were several hen parties there) and these were snapped up very quickly. As the time went on though more and more pizza arrived until Oliver ended up with a whole board to himself.

Being vegan meant that I couldn’t just grab any slice of what was being freely laid out. However I’d notified Ballie Ballerson of my dietary requirements ahead of time and they were happy to cater for me too. When I arrived I was given a numbered paddle to hold so that they could spot me in the crowd and deliver my pizza directly to me.

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com

The prosecco was free flowing and plentiful the whole time. Bottles were left out across the venue so that we could help oursevles to refills whenever we wanted. I have a feeling that this was why the ball pit was never all that busy – everyone was too full and tipsy!

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com Shoreditch

Saturday afternoon is peak time and a 2hr afternoon slot costs £40 for an unseated ticket or £45 for one of the VIP tables upstairs if you book well enough in advance. This is a fair price if you’re a fan of bubbly and a fast drinker, but it’s worth mentioning that if you want a soft drink or anything other than prosecco then you have to pay extra. If you are willing to risk the Monday morning hangover, Sundays are cheaper!

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson with hotels.com

Bottomless Brunch at Ballie Ballerson

Location: 97 – 113 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3BS

Nearest tube: Old Street

Tickets: From £20 to £45, available here

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: This post is made in collaboration with Hotels.com who kindly gifted us our tickets to Ballie Ballerson so that we could try out something new during our visit to Shoreditch.

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5 small changes to help you get a better night's sleep

As well as running this blog I also co host a podcast called The Prosecco Sessions which explores some of the common issues and dilemnas that we face as we navigate through modern life. We’ve found ourselves talking about sleep several times on the show as a factor effecting everything from our health to our productivity and even our relationships.

I feel grumpy and sluggish when I don’t get enough sleep which makes me much less productive and I’m also much more likely to respond to things negatively. It’s a vicious circle because I then worry that I’m not sleeping enough, which keeps me up at night!

A recent sleep study conducted by Nytol revealed that this is a common problem. 50% of adults admitted that they weren’t getting enough sleep with people suffering from a bad night’s rest three times a week on average. 38% of people confessed to lying awake at night fretting about their worries, something I can definitely identify with.

How to get a good nights sleep with Nytol

Nytol* kindly sent me a sleep pack containing some useful sleep aids as well as advice on how to break the cycle of poor sleep and re-establish a good routine. For the past two months I’ve been slowly changing my nightly habits and I’m pleased to report that it’s been having a positive effect. I’m going to sleep up to an hour earlier each night, my sleep is less restless and in the main I wake up feeling more refreshed and energised as a result.

Here are 5 small changes that have helped me get a better night’s sleep:

1. Make preparations before bedtime

How to get a good nights sleep with Nytol 6

‘Old me’ often procrastinated at bedtime because I knew that once I’d done everything to get ready for bed I was likely to feel wide awake again. Thus it seemed far easier to continue lying on the sofa!

I now get into my pyjamas at least an hour before I plan to go to sleep and brush my teeth and take off my makeup at the same time. It means that when I am feeling drowsy enough to enter the land of nod I know that all I’ve got to do is have a quick loo break and then turn out the light, which helps to keep me relaxed and stops my mind wandering too much.

2. Swop your blue light devices for a book an hour before sleep

How to get a good nights sleep with Nytol 6

A good proportion of my evenings over the past few years has been spent browsing through social media or saying yes to one more episode of a box set on Netflix.

The problem is that although these are enjoyable pastimes that we might consider relaxing, the constant barrage of information can have a counterproductive effect and instead encourages your brain to remain alert. Did you know that your devices emit something called blue light? This is different to normal daylight and research has found that it suppresses the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which is what the body uses to signal that it is time for rest. It’s little wonder that when I spend an hour scrolling through Instagram and Twitter late at night that I don’t feel much like sleep afterwards.

I’ve made a pledge to make the last hour before lights out a device free zone. Instead I’ve gone back to a pastime I used to really enjoy: reading in bed.

How to get a good nights sleep with Nytol

I used to love the escapism of a good yarn but in recent years I have complained that I don’t have enough hours in the day to read a book. It turns out that all I needed to do was MAKE time by reading instead of spending hours on my phone mindlessly scrolling through social media. Although I give myself an hour, I often find that after 20 or 30 minutes of reading I’m already relaxed enough to turn off the light and begin my descent into dreamland.

3. Swopping my phone for an alarm clock

How to get a good nights sleep with Nytol

Another solution that I’ve found to help to avoid over exposure to blue light late at night is to get a proper alarm clock. Now when I get into bed I turn my phone face down so that I can’t see any notifications flash up and do my best to ignore it until morning. (Admittedly I’m more successful at this some nights than others – but I’m definitely getting better!)

It’s such a simple change but placing a ban on checking my phone late at night has cut down on distractions and stopped me from getting into an endless cycle of scrolling.

4. Regulating my temperature

If it’s too cold I can’t relax, if it’s too warm I’m equally restless.

If I’m feeling chilly I have a microwaveable friend who gives me a warming hug – meet Hooty!

How to get a good nights sleep with Nytol

For warmer nights the experts suggest taking a 5 minute hot shower or having a soak in the tub. This might sound like the last thing to help, but heating the periphery of our body actually helps to cool it down. I also take a nice icy cold glass of water to bed with me to sip on as I’m reading. This helps cool me down and ensures that I don’t get dehydrated when it’s especially muggy.

5. Nytol Remedies

I wouldn’t recommend any kind of reliance on sleeping aids, but sometimes your body needs an extra helping hand to get it into a better routine to start with. On rare occassions when I have a lot on my mind and a few days of using my usual methods listed above haven’t helped, I will take a herbal remedy.

How to get a good nights sleep with Nytol

The one I tend to use now is Nytol Herbal Simply Sleep One-A-Night tablets. It uses the natural ingredient valerian which helps to induce sleep and promotes calmness. You simply take it with water 30 minutes before bed time. I find that it can help me fall into a deep sleep and help me catch up, which then helps to kickstart my body into a better sleep cycle.

How to get a good nights sleep with Nytol

Nytol also sent me some of their anti-snoring sleep remedy. Luckily I haven’t had cause to use it but having previously lived with a prolific snorer I know how disruptive it can be and wish I’d had a bottle of this to try out at the time!

LovedByLaura

*Disclaimer: Nytol kindly sent me a complimentary sleep pack to help me improve my night’s sleep and a guide containing lots of hints and tips which you can read in full here. This post is my personal view of what worked for me, as well as some of my own tips thrown in for good measure! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Losing my direction the changing face of blogging title

I’ve had some lovely messages hit my inbox over the past month or so asking if I’m okay and whether I’m going to start posting on my blog and Instagram again. The answer is a resounding yes, but I thought I’d explain why I’ve been so quiet and where my thoughts are on it all right now.

The truth is that I’ve had a real crisis of confidence over the direction of my blog content and social media channels this year.

The Changing Face of Blogging

At the beginning of 2017 I had to take some time out for personal reasons and by the time I was ready to return to my blog I felt like instead of things just standing still, instead I’d taken a huge step backwards. A plethora of new bloggers had exploded onto the scene whilst I had been away and it seemed that with this, the motivations and directions of blogs and accompanying social media had started to shift.

Losing my direction in the changing face of blogging

Hobby Blogger Or Entrepreneur?

The new breed of blogger is ambitious, creative and savvy. Many of them have backgrounds in PR, marketing and media, some kind of education relating to social media, or have decided early on to pursue a full time career out of their blog. Personally, I think it’s absolutely brilliant that so many people are finding ways to make good money doing so, but slowly but surely it is changing the blogging experience and leaves me wondering how I fit into this new world.

I am what you’d call a ‘hobby blogger’. I started this website at a time when I was feeling incredibly lonely and it was a lovely way to connect with people who shared similar interests to me. After about a year or so I started to be contacted by PR companies and brands asking if I’d like to try out some of their products or attend events. I juggled this around a busy day job, selecting the most fun adventures and meeting lots of lovely people along the way. I joked that it was like my second full time job… except I willingly did it for free!

Losing my direction in the changing face of blogging

Returning to my blog after my break, I found that most people that I’d started out with were moving away from this relaxed approach. Many were turning it into full time careers or to launch other creative endeavours. Blogs and social media were awash with reminders that us creatives needed to know our worth, not to undercharge for posts and that we should never devalue the worth of other creatives by producing content in exchange for gifts or exposure alone!

Suddenly, my blog wasn’t just a site that I created on my sofa in a flight of fancy to fill my spare time, it was an untapped commodity; a wasted potential earner because I wasn’t tending to it properly. I felt under pressure to make more effort to monetise it, but as absurd as this may sound to people, I didn’t really want to go down this route.

There’s so much to consider and take care of when you accept payment for your content. From negotiating a price and creating an invoice, to the potential awkwardness of not getting paid on time, and the absolute terror of getting feedback that your post isn’t good enough for payment.

Oh and then there’s self employed tax returns. *shudder*

Losing my direction in the changing face of blogging

Whenever I’ve done a sponsored post I feel like I need to write an essay at the end justifying its existence to my readers, as I feel so worried that they’ll think I’m selling out and not being honest. Then I fret that they won’t believe me, like the Love Islander who cried ‘loyal’ one too many times.

Follower Counts and Engagement

Losing my direction in the changing face of blogging

Another way that the blogging industry has changed is in terms of follower counts and engagement. I used to have small goals that I wanted to reach, as did we all, such as getting to 100 Bloglovin followers, but mainly these were for our own satisfaction.

Nowadays if you don’t have 10k followers on Instagram you can’t post links, on Youtube you have to have a certain number of followers to choose your own thumbnail, and a blogger opportunity site that I used to get the odd opportunity through now tells me that I don’t fit the bill for any of their upcoming campaigns because my audience numbers don’t meet the criteria.

How do you get those crucial followers though? Well, you need engagement engagement engagement. The Instagram algorithm shows the most popular content first which means you need to have the most popular content. But I don’t have popular content because so few people get to see it, so I don’t get the engagement.

AARGH.

That’s okay, say the help guides, engage with others to increase your own visibility and keep yourself in people’s minds. Great. So now rather than just enjoy people’s content and press ‘like’, I have to type out a comment every single time? But then it feels like work, not fun.

AARGH.

Losing My Direction

Losing my direction in the changing face of blogging

Then, of course, there’s me. I’ve changed so much in the past year and a half. When I started this blog I thought vegans were a crazy minority who really needed some cheese in their life, now I’m one of them! I really want to talk about my experiences in case it helps others, but it’s such a touchy subject that I’m scared of opening myself up to judgement or alienating my readers. However without talking about it, a big chunk of my lifestyle content is gone!

Moreover, I worry that my blog doesn’t have any meaning or purpose. Is it just another carbon copy of every other lifestyle blog out there? Am I a positive influence? Or by talking about things I’ve bought and places I’ve been, am I just encouraging others to spend money or live a certain way that maybe isn’t real or attainable to them? Do I need to use it as a force for change instead?

Blimey, it’s a confusing time to be a blogger!

So What Now?

Usually, I like to wrap up a post like this with a positive spin on what I’ve decided, but the truth is that I’m still trying to work it all out. So apologies if my posts are a little sporadic at the moment…

It’s not you, it’s me!

(Photos by the super talented Sian’s Photography on a day when it actually rained. Remember them?!)

LovedByLaura

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Introducing The Prosecco Sessions Podcast

It been pretty quiet on lovedbylaura.com for a while now so I’m very excited to tell you all about the project that’s kept me so busy for the past few months.

Introducing The Prosecco Sessions Podcast!

I’ve started a podcast, The Prosecco Sessions, with two of my friends and fellow bloggers Kat and Pippa!

It all came about when Kat had an idea to produce a new Youtube series for her channel where she’d invite different guests on each time to chat through a topic over a glass of fizz or two. Pippa and I were her first guests and we filmed a really fun but brutally honest look at our own experiences of internet dating.

Since then Kat has continued with her Youtube series but the three of us decided that we really wanted to carry on working together too. This proved to be logistically challenging since we all live different parts of the country but with a shared love of podcasts we decided that the perfect solution was to produce our own. The Prosecco Sessions Podcast was born!

A Steep Learning Curve

Our first podcast was the audio from the Youtube video we’d filmed, but since then we’ve been recording our podcast remotely, so all three of us dial into a call from our seperate locations.

This has proven to be quite challenging – it turns out that there’s a lot more to producing a podcast than just sitting down for a recorded chat on Skype with your friends!

Introducing The Prosecco Sessions Podcast

There are lots of things that we’ve had to learn fast such as what microphones do and don’t work well for audio recordings, what software is needed to record calls remotely and how the heck we can fit everything that we want to say into a very condensed half hour chat each time!

We’ve now released 7 episodes of our planned 10 episode first season so currently each week is a mad flurry of activity. Our episodes are published weekly on a Sunday morning at 10am, so do watch out for the new ones we have coming up.

I absolutely cannot wait for you to listen to episode 8… it’s a topic that we have been dying to talk about but we wanted to wait until our podcast was established and that we’d ironed out any audio issues before getting into it!

Why We Think You Should Listen!

So many good things have come from our recording sessions. It’s actually helped us to open up more to each other in real life and we’re closer friends as a result of it. We’re now much more likely to reach out and admit when things aren’t going so well, which has helped each of us to navigate some tricky dilemnas that we might have just kept to ourselves and struggled along with in silence beforehand.

Some of the more serious topics that we’ve discussed such as our episodes on Body Image and Burn Out were inspired by these off air conversations about things we were going through. By talking about our experiences honestly and openly on the podcast we hope that you, our listeners, will be able to find some useful advice on how to deal with these issues yourselves or at least give you some new perspectives to consider.

It’s not all serious though! We have covered some light hearted topics too and there’s lots of content that we think you’ll find useful if you are a content creator yourself. Our latest topic Instagram vs Reality explores the struggle to produce consistent, high quality content whilst also staying authentic and we really hope that you can identify with our thoughts on it, whilst also being able to chuckle at some of our Intagram faux pas of the past!

Introducing The Prosecco Sessions Podcast

How To Support The Prosecco Sessions Podcast

Our podcast audience is small but growing steadily week by week and we’ve been blown away by the support, encouragement and honest feedback that we’ve received so far. It’s been nothing short of amazing and has spurred us on to keep going and make each episode bigger and better, so thank you if you’ve already subscribed to our channel, taken the time to leave us a review on Soundcloud or iTunes and/or shared the podcast on to your family, friends and followers.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about the podcast, we’d be massively grateful if you could head on over to Soundcloud or iTunes and give it a listen, then subscribe and leave a review as this really does make a big difference in helping our podcast to grow.

Listen on Soundcloud here: soundcloud.com/theproseccosessions

Listen on iTunes here: itunes.apple.com/the-prosecco-sessions

You can also follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/ProseccoSesspod where we will posting regular updates on new episodes, sourcing for future topic ideas and, if all goes well, inviting on some special guests occasionally!

And if you’d like to see how it all started, here’s the original Youtube video we filmed!

Finally, for those of you curious as to what goes into making a podcast, look out for my next post as I’ll be sharing a guide to the production of The Prosecco Sessions podcast!

LovedByLaura

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Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

I was recently contacted by Bill’s Restaurant in Cambridge asking if I’d like to visit and review their vegan menu.

Damn right I would – I love that place!

I’ve been a normal paying customer at Bill’s Restaurants both in Cambridge and Peterborough for many years so it was an absolute privelege to be invited there in a blogging capacity. It was also the first time I’d visited since becoming vegan so I was keen to see how the experience would compare.

Upon arrival we were given some of Bill’s cocktails to sample. I found them very easy drinking as each contained deliciously fruity flavours which helped to tone down the taste of the various alchols blended through. The English Country Garden, for example, contained Bill’s Elderflower Gin aperitif with a mix of wild Sussex elderflower cordial, lime juice and cloudy apple juice – absolutely perfect for a hot Summer’s day!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

After sampling the cocktails we switched to soft drinks. I went for Bill’s Pink Lemonade which is my idea of a perfect non alcoholic Summer pick me up. It’s made for them by a small French artisan company that’s been around for more than 100 years and the quality shows – it’s super sparkly and refreshing and served in the cutest bottle. Sian chose a Botanical Ginger Beer and I had a taste of it, so I can vouch for that being another good option!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

When it came time to order food I made my server aware of my dietary requirements and she was happy to offer some recommendations. The menu itself was really easy to follow as all vegan friendly dishes were clearly labelled VE. If you have another type of special dietary requirements or need to avoid a certain allergen there’s a more detailed menu that they can bring out to help so if in doubt, just ask. They clearly take it very seriously and are well prepared if you have questions.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge Vegan Food Menu

We decided to start off with some nibbles, so we ordered flatbread, hummus and nicoise olives to share. The flatbread was fresh and warm from the stove with just the right texture for tearing and dipping into the hummus. The hummus itself was incredibly moorish.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

The nicoise olives were another hit with us, they had a salty tang and happily were already pitted.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Being gluttons, we’d ordered proper starters too! I chose the Roasted Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad which was a feast for the eyes as well as my tummy. The lentils had a wonderful delicate flavour owing to their lemon dressing and every so often I’d get a little sweet pop from the pomegranate which worked surprisingly well with the squash.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Sian chose Crumbed Halloumi Sticks which came with a pot of garlic and lemon mayo. This is a vegetarian rather than vegan option so I couldn’t try it myself but Sian assures me that it was delicious!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Despite already having had squash for my starter, I chose the Rustic Butternut Squash Stew for my main and I’m not overstating things here to say that this dish is an absolute sensation!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

The flavour profile was like nothing else I’ve eaten this year. The freekeh grains were a perfect vehicle to soak up the rich sweet smoky sauce, the chargrilled red pepper and onions added depth, kale kept things fresh and the toasted pistachios provided a satisfying crunch. Honestly – go have this immediately even if you usually prefer a meaty or cheesy option – it’s perfection on a plate.

This look probably says it better than words can.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge Vegan Food Menu

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Sian chose a meaty option of Gnocchi Bolognese with Basil Pesto and Gran Moravia Cheese. Definitely not vegan!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

We were probably supposed to have completed our review by eating dessert too, but we were so full by this point that there was no way that either of us could have managed another morsel. This actually worked out fine for me because there was only one vegan option on the dessert menu and it contained coconut which I have an intense dislike for.

Thus if I could offer any suggestions to Bill’s on improvements to the vegan menu it would simply be to add a second dessert choice. The same is true for all other non vegan restaurants I’ve been to, the choice seems to stop once you get past the mains and sometimes there’s no option at all.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Before leaving the manager at Bill’s very kindly gave me a goodie bag from their own range of produce to take away and try at home. They are very proud of the items and rightly so – everything has been carefully sourced and developed with independant suppliers and artisans. I was very happy to find another bottle of Pink Lemonade in there which lasted approximately 2 hours at home (it didn’t even have time to chill properly!) as well as a big tin of Sevilla Green Gordal Olives, a delicious Raspberry Jam, Slow Baked Granola and a bar of White Chocolate Eton Mess. Sadly I had to give the last one away as it wasn’t suitable for me but that made me very popular at home so I’m not complaining!

I thought I’d leave you with a short video of our visit so that you can see what went into the making of this post – basically a lot of standing up in the middle of a restaurant to take photos and rearranging the table… no wonder we were there for about 3 hours!

Videography and the photos of me in this post are by the wickedly talented Sian’s Photography

Food photography is by me, as seen in the video!

Music by Eme Hache: http://freemusicarchive.org/…/EME…/Chasing_Time/Help_me_1484.

LovedByLaura

Disclaimer: I’d like to extend a big thanks to Bill’s Restaurants for providing some wonderful hospitality. As stated above my food and drink on this occassion was complimentary, but this just meant was that I got to try out a few more things than I would normally order on a trip there to give a more comprehensive review of what’s on offer there. The friendly service and the quality of the food lived up to my past trips as a paying customer and I’d thoroughly recommend a trip to Bill’s in Cambridge if you’re in the area, or your nearest local branch if not!

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