Jewellery brand of the month: Black Heart Creatives

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Happy February! I’m back in the UK with this month’s jewellery brand:

BLACK HEART CREATIVES

Black Heart Creatives is run by Charlotte in the Cotswolds. It specialises in bespoke and unique statement pieces. They make a lot of products that are completely different to those I’ve seen anywhere else.

I’m certainly not a Valentine’s Day person, but I couldn’t resist this Valentine’s Heart Chocolate Box Necklace.

Valentine's Heart Chocolate Box Necklace

This Prince Purple Rain Necklace is pretty cool.

Prince Purple Rain Necklace

This Eames Chair Necklace is available both with and without cat. Naturally I’ve chosen to picture the cat option.

Eames Chair Necklace with Cat

The Atomic Starbust Brooch is strikingly retro.

Atomic Starburst Brooch

Plenty of custom options are available too, including these dramatic Heart Word Earrings that can say anything you want to say.

Custom Heart Earrings

Check out Black Heart Creatives via the following links:

Website: blackheartcreatives.com

Etsy: etsy.com/uk/shop/BlackHeartCreatives

Instagram: instagram.com/blackheartcreatives

Facebook: facebook.com/BlackHeartCreatives

Twitter: twitter.com/BHCreatives

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Royal Academy of Music Museum

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Museum entrance

Museum entrance

Getting back into museum visiting mode, I paid a visit this weekend to a place I’ve been meaning to go for a long time: the Royal Academy of Music Museum. I’ve attended a few concerts at the Royal Academy of Music and often walked past the free museum, but I’ve never had the chance to go as it’s only open during the day. I headed down on Saturday afternoon, turning left out of Baker Street station and passing the queue of expectant tourists waiting to go into Madam Tussaud’s.

The museum is located in the RAM’s premises on Marylebone Road. It has an entrance area with a gift shop (not to mention a well-stocked selection of music books) and displays on three floors.

Stradivari violin

Stradivari violin

The ground floor covers the history of the RAM, which was founded in 1822 by a group of aristocrats. The Academy’s first premises were on Tenterden Street; the first pupils were youngsters aged 10-15 and the President was former child prodigy William Crotch. Eventually the Academy attracted royal patronage, with George IV signing the Royal Charter in 1830.

Early piano

Early piano

The rest of the ground floor is given over to special exhibitions; the current exhibition focuses on the Spencer Collection, which came to the Academy from the estate of Robert ‘Bob’ Spencer, professor of Early English Song at the Academy for many years. Spencer was a former librarian, and loved tracking down and collecting the rare manuscripts and instruments that form the backbone of his fascinating collection, which was instrumental (pun intended) in igniting the study of early music in England.

Steinway piano

Steinway piano

The first floor is the home of the Strings Gallery, which has some fine examples of harps, violins, violas, a cello and a double bass. One violin is a Stradivari. The Piano Gallery is located on the second floor, with a number of fine examples of instruments from several centuries, including Georgian square pianos, early nineteenth century Broadwood instruments (one of these was gifted to Beethoven) and a Steinway grand.

The gallery is a very pleasant place to visit for anyone with an interest in music and instruments; it’s full of fascinating historical information.

FACTS

Address: 1–5 York Gate, Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5HT

Website: ram.ac.uk/museum

Opening Hours: 11.30am–5.30pm Monday to Friday, 12pm–4pm Saturday

Price: Free

My veganuary experience; or, confessions of an ice cream fiend

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In January, for some unknown reason, I decided to give Veganuary a go. I’m already pescatarian, but eat a vegetarian diet most of the time, so I decided to try giving up all dairy and all other animal-derived products. Here’s my verdict:

The Good

I enjoyed making interesting vegan meals. I used Cooking on a Bootstrap pretty much as a Bible and in particular grew addicted to the black bean and peanut stew. Lots of the meals I ate as a vegetarian were suitable for vegans too. Price-wise, I didn’t find my vegan diet any more expensive than my veggie one, and in some ways it was cheaper as I wasn’t buying cheese.

I loved exploring the range of plant milks. Almond milk is yummy on cereal. Coconut milk is handy for curries and other meals. In general, plant milks and non-dairy spreads last longer than dairy ones, and in the case of spreads are often cheaper. I discovered that many of the foods I love are acidentally vegan – Hobnobs, Oreos, and Tesco Value garlic bread, among others.

I have a sweet tooth and was very happy to discover this brand of Tesco dark chocolate – which I often heated up with coconut milk to make an amazing hot chocolate.

Tesco Ivory Coast 74% Cocoa Plain Chocolate

I also found Alpro chocolate and hazelnut desserts, which are amazing.

Alpro Chocolate & Hazelnut Desserts

Tesco has recently brought out a range of vegan cheeses, which are reasonably priced and taste good – I really liked the one with jalapeños.

Tesco Free From Jalapeño and Chilli Cheddar

The Bad

I seriously missed regular cheese. And ice cream. I stalked Tesco daily to see if they had any dairy-free Ben and Jerry’s, but it was never in stock. Milk chocolate was out, too. In fact, sweet snack foods were notoriously difficult to find (savoury snack foods were easier, owing to the huge variety of crisps that happen to be vegan).

Constantly checking labels for hidden dairy ingredients became a bore. I know that this becomes less of an issue as you learn to know which foods are suitable and which not, but I grew very grumpy thinking about all the foods I could no longer eat. I felt cross and deprived, and that’s not a good thing.

The Indifferent

Health-wise, I felt no different on a vegan diet. I did feel a bit fatigued at first, but after upping my quota of beans and pulses, I felt fine. I’m convinced that a vegan diet can be just as healthy as a vegetarian or omnivorous one, for the average person anyway.

I had heard that a vegan diet can help clear up eczema, which can be triggered by dairy – this happened to one of my friends. Sadly it didn’t happen to me.

To conclude…

After January was over, I went out and bought a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, and I ate the entire thing.

I believe that a vegan diet can be healthy, cheap, exciting and practical. I also believe that it’s not for me. I’m afraid that I love ice cream, cheese, and chocolate way too much. Having said that, I’m happy to incorporate more dairy alternatives into my life – plant milks, for example. So the month hasn’t been completely wasted.

Jewellery brand of the month: Lali Blue

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Welcome to the first ‘jewellery brand of the month’ post for 2018! This month I’d like to share with you the Spanish brand:

LALI BLUE

Lali Blue is run by two independent designers in Castellón, Spain. Pieces are inspired by vintage style, fairytales and stories and made with wood, resin, metal and acrylic.

Top of my wishlist is this beautiful The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Necklace, incredibly detailed.

Lion, Witch, Wardrobe necklace

This 1920s-inspired To the Light of the Moon Brooch is also stunning.

To the Light of the Moon Brooch

Last year’s Halloween collection featured this gorgeous Witch Brooch (which is also available as a necklace).

Witch Brooch

I love this dainty Four Leaf Clover Necklace.

Four Leaf Clover Necklace

This Mandarin Ducks Brooch is adorable.

Mandarin Ducks Brooch

Check out Lali Blue via the following links:

Website: laliblue.es

Etsy: etsy.com/uk/shop/LaliblueShop

Instagram: instagram.com/laliblueshop

Facebook: facebook.com/laliblueShop

Ramin Karimloo Back from Broadway

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Another year, another Ramin Karimloo gig – something I’ve been looking forward to for months. After spending time on Broadway performing in the musical Anastasia, he has come back to the UK for a bit. His last Royal Festival Hall gig was back in 2012 – I don’t know where the time’s gone since then!

I can’t find a setlist, but Ramin sang songs from the musicals he is known for, like Phantom and Les Miserables – Music of the Night, Till I Hear You Sing, Bring Him Home – and tunes from other musicals like Oklahoma!The Greatest Showman and Finding Neverland – Oh What A Beautiful Morning, From Now On and Neverland. He also included songs he has written himself and released previously, as well as a number of new songs. One of the reasons I love seeing Ramin live is that I am always being introduced to new types and genres of music.

It was such a good night and I only hope I don’t have to wait for another year to see Ramin live again.