13 quirky date ideas for the summer months

It’s getting hot, hot, hot and there’s nothing nicer than being able to enjoy some time in the sun with the people you love. Whether it’s a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, friends or family, here are some quirky ideas for things you can do in the sunshine with the people you love.

Have a gourmet BBQ – I love a fat, juicy burger as much as the next person. But, if like me, you get a bit sick of bog standard BBQ food every weekend, try spicing things up a little with some more interesting recipes. A BBQ tradition in my family is peaches wrapped in bacon, you would be forgiven for thinking that sounds disgusting, but it’s honestly delicious! Simply wrap tinned peach slices in streaky bacon and secure with a cocktail stick and pop them on the barbecue until they’re nice and crispy. Another favourite is lemon and parsley salmon, grab a couple of salmon fillets and wrap them in foil with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and chopped parsley and barbecue away, incredibly delicious. My boyfriend also made some incredible Indian spiced chicken skewers on the BBQ the other day, you can see a photo of them here.

My boyfriend, Josh, displaying his BBQ skills at our home

My boyfriend, Josh, displaying his BBQ skills at our home

Go for a pub lunch – This honestly can’t be beaten, a pint of cider or a large glass of cold white wine in a beautiful pub garden on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Depending on where you live you’ll have your favourite places already, but some of my favourites are The Phoenix Inn, Hartley Wintney, The Frog and Wicket, Eversley, and The Greyhound, Finchampstead.

Outdoor cinema – These are everywhere at the moment, and there are a huge range of films on offer, so if a Grease sing-a-long isn’t quite to your taste you’ll be able to find something that is. I took my parents to see Pretty Woman at Guildford Cathedral and it was so much fun – we took a couple of bottles of prosecco and some snacks with us and had a great time. If you’re wanting to take food and drink with you then check before hand, some places don’t allow this, and I’d also recommend bringing some blankets just incase the temperature drops!

Pretty Woman at Sunset Cinema, Guildford

Pretty Woman at Sunset Cinema, Guildford


Visit an outdoor spa –
Most spas have an outdoor pool with loungers, this way you can enjoy some relaxation time with the people you love, while topping up your tan. A new favourite of mine is the Champagne Pool at Harbour Hotel, Guildford – the pool has gentle jets in it and waiters bring you champagne to sip while you dip!

Take a drive – Sounds overly simplistic but my boyfriend and I went for a nice little cruise the other day, and he took me to a little place called Hannington. Long story short, I fell in love with the little square at the centre of the village and rang every estate agent in the area to see what property they had for sale. Even if you don’t have a destination in mind just hop in the front seats and go wherever you feel like, roll down the windows and make sure you’ve got a great playlist!

Village centre, Hannington

Village centre, Hannington

Concerts – There are loads of outdoor music events on at the moment, whether it’s large scale like British Summertime at Hyde Park, or a smaller event like Party in the Park at Woking, they’re great fun in the sun with a pint in hand!

Visit a rooftop bar – There are loads of these in London that are fantastic, my personal favourite is Vista Roof Bar Terrace at The Trafalgar Hotel, but if you want to stay more local, The Botanist in Farnham has a lovely rooftop terrace, and they do amazing cocktails.

Breakfast cocktails at The Botanist, Farnham

Breakfast cocktails at The Botanist, Farnham

Bike ride – This sounds corny but it’s great fun, I love Alice Holt near Farnham, you can hire bikes here as well so you don’t need to worry about lugging them there in a car! The grounds are beautiful and there are lots of different paths to take. The only downside is the parking is a little pricey, so be prepared for that.

Go for a walk – Another simple one, but it can be so lovely (especially if it’s followed by a trip to the pub), also perfect if you’ve got a doggy! I love a stroll around Virginia Water, the views are really pretty, there’s an ice-cream van half way round the lake and the waterfall section is an iconic Instagram ready photo opportunity.

Walkies on The Yorkshire Moors

Walkies on The Yorkshire Moors

A classic picnic – This is out of the question for me because my boyfriend has a bizarre aversion to eating outside (I think it’s bug related), but I think this is such a simple, sweet and fun idea. Adult-it-up with a nice bottle of champagne, and go all out, Waitrose and M&S have an amazing selection of picnic bits and bobs, it’s all bloody delicious.

Hire a rowing boat or go punting – If you live in Cambridge or Oxford, this one is perfect for you! I loved punting along the River Cam, I enjoyed it more and more as the consumption of prosecco increased, at the right times of year I believe you can buy jugs of pimms too, yum. If there are no punting options near you, there’ll be a boat house nearby that will let you hire a rowing boat, I challenge you to take one of these out and not row yourself in a circle, it’s great fun, and you’re guaranteed to collapse in a fit of giggles, so cute.

Punting along the River Cam with prosecco in hand

Punting along the River Cam with prosecco in hand

Head down to your nearest beach – Take a walk along the pier, have a dip in the sea or munch on some fish and chips, beaches have so much to offer, and they’re a really fun day out in the sun.

Play tennis – This is one for the active couples out there! Don a tennis hat and some rackets and just have some fun, it doesn’t have to be competitive – but I can’t guarantee it won’t get that way! My friend Gini and I used to love playing tennis, we’re both absolutely rubbish, but it was great exercise and we always had a giggle.

Tennis fun at Cove Tennis Courts, Farnborough

Tennis fun at Cove Tennis Courts, Farnborough

Have you got any date night suggestions? I’d love to hear them! Drop me an email at megan.l.charles@outlook.com

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Beauty favourites – July ’17

I’m not planning on making this a regular posting, but these are a handful of beauty(ish) products that I’ve been absolutely loving lately!

Yes to – Cucumber Micellar Cleansing Water

I absolutely love this cleanser, it’s really gentle so is fantastic for sensitive skin and has a really handy pump system that makes it really hygienic. This gently removes makeup, cleanses and refreshes skin without needing to rinse afterwards (which can be a huge pain). A big thumbs up to this from me!

Yes to calming cucumber micellar cleansing water

Darphin – Masque hydratant au kiwi

I live by this, honestly, my skin misses it if I don’t use it for a couple of days. My sister-in-law to-be bought this for me and I haven’t looked back since! This is a mask without the nuisance of having to peel it off, or spend 20 minutes scrubbing at your face with a flannel. Simply apply on your face and neck onto dry skin, relax for three to five minutes and remove any excess with a tissue. I tend to use this three or four times a week but it’s completely up to you, the bottle simply says ‘use as required’. This is slightly more pricey than your regular face mask, but it’s worth the extra pennies.

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Sanctuary – Signature Sanctuary diffuser

This is Sanctuary’s signature scent, and it is an absolute classic. I also have it in three different sized candles so my whole house smells of this beautiful, mellow, warm scent.

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Maybelline – Master Strobing Liquid

This is a new addition to my make-up bag, but one that I love, it’s highlighter to the absolute extreme, currently at an introductory price of £8.99 at Boots and other drug stores. In my opinion it’s a bit much for a regular day at work or school, but perfect for a night out or big occasion.

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Bastiste – Natural and light, bare, dry shampoo

You’ll all have a dry shampoo that you trust and probably use on a regular basis, but this definitely deserves a try if you find your regular dry shampoo is too heavy, and leaves a white residue. This still does the trick, but eradicates that claggy, heavy feeling of the regular versions and isn’t half as visible.

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Benefit – Hoola

I think half the female population own this bronzer, but they do for a reason. It’s warm without an over-the top shine and blends like an absolute dream. For those who are painfully pale like myself, Benefit have just brought out ‘Hoola Lite’ in a lighter shade – I’m yet to try it so let me know what you have if you’ve popped it in your basket!

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The 10 things you need to know before moving in with your boyfriend

1. Not living with your parents is super expensive

Rent is just the start, you also need to consider council tax, food, wifi, TV, water, gas and electric etc. It’s expensive, plan carefully before jumping into any contracts, and make sure you can afford it – having to ask mum and dad to bail you out isn’t particularly fun.

2. You literally see this person every single day

When you wake up, when you get out of the shower, when you’re making breakfast, as you leave the house, as you come back to the house, while you’re going for a wee – they’re always there. If you’re not right for each other, you’re gonna figure it out pretty damn quickly. Make sure you can handle seeing this much of one person, and also make sure you take enough time for yourself. Just work isn’t enough! Make sure you’ve got interests of your own; I go rowing twice a week, cheer once a week, and love brunch-esque catch ups with friends.

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My second date with Josh, V&A Museum Swarovski ice rink

 

3. Renting is wasted money

A practical note here, when you pay your landlord that money is literally gone. Yes, you get a roof over your head, but that’s it. When you pay money into a mortgage you’re earning equity in the house – when you sell the house, you get this back – everyone’s a winner. Big catch of course is that for a regular mortgage you need a minimum 10% deposit (unless you’re on a help-to-buy scheme) AKA a lot of money. The mortgage conversation is one you need to have with your partner when you make the decision to live together – saving that amount of money takes a long time, starting early is key.

4. Men take forever in the bathroom

You may think it’s women who take their time when it comes to getting ready, but men take SO LONG on the loo – I don’t know what takes so bloody long, baffling. Also, if your boyfriend, like mine, is heavily bearded, they take ages to shave, especially if they’re adamant they’ll use an open blade like Josh. Also add on the time it takes to clean the bathroom afterwards (which I guarantee they won’t do thoroughly!).

5. If neither of you can cook, you’re buggered

Luckily Josh and I can both cook. However, if this isn’t the case, you’ll need to get used to either take-aways, microwave meals or food poisoning. Keep an eye out on my blog for perfect recipes for two people like the photo below.

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Indian spice and crème fraîche marinated chicken skewers with Jamaican rice and ‘peas’

6. You’ll love playing hostess

Having friends over for dinner, being able to say “you can crash at ours”, and planning big summer BBQ’s is just really fun. What you won’t love, is the tidying up that follows.

7. All of your furniture is going to be from IKEA

It’s a rite of passage. You have to buy lots of flatpack furniture from the mesmerising Swedish shop – let’s be honest, he’s only there for the meatballs. You, however, love the soft furnishings section. Building all the furniture starts off as fun, romantic and reminiscent of a scene from The Notebook. However, once you’re 80 minutes into building your oak effect wardrobe you become sweaty and you start to hate your partner. It’s not fun, anyone who says it is is lying! Or they’ve worked in IKEA and are masterminds in allen keys and MDF boards.

8. Things don’t tidy themselves

You’re used to leaving belongings here there and everywhere and then going to bed. You wake up and the house is magically tidy. Not when your parents aren’t about. Get ready to clean and tidy and argue about said cleaning and tidying.

9. They’ll see you at your worst 
 
And I mean worst. Mental breakdowns, they’re there. Super sick, they’re there (I recently had to clear a bathtub full of sick, ew). Embarrassing ailments that require a trip to A&E, they’re there. In sickness and in health they say, most definitely.

10. Other people will tell you you’re not ready

This is entirely your decision to make – no one else can know if you’re ready to move in with your significant other or not. Who knows, you may have made the right decision, you may have made the wrong decision – we live to learn.

Let me know your cohabiting success/horror stories!
Here are some photos of our humble abode for you nosey buggers (I’d so wanna see)

Apprenticeships, the ins and outs

Insight | Apprentice Megan & Parent Gina discuss Apprenticeships as a career route from LWBLA on Vimeo.

For any of you that don’t know, I’m an advanced level 3 editorial apprentice at The Daily Telegraph, and study 1 day a week at Lambeth College for my NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists). Recently I’ve attended a couple of events in aid of promoting apprenticeships to young people, school leaders, employers and parents.

There is an undeniable stigmatism around the word ‘apprenticeship’. Recent figures revealed that “22% of parents still say that they would not – or are unsure – if they’d encourage their children to undertake an apprenticeship. With 30% citing ‘low pay’ as the reason”. The figures also revealed that “41% of teens said they have never been told about ‘white collar’ apprenticeships in professions such as accountancy and law”. The stigmatism surrounding apprenticeships simply has to stop, the opportunities that these courses present to young people are simply invaluable, and this message needs to be relayed to employers, young people and parents.

I believe I speak for apprentices as a whole when I say that we aren’t a group of people who didn’t get into university – I can vouch for this, as I got acceptances and declined them all – we chose this path because we wanted to earn while we learn, rather than being £27,000 in debt.

Interview – The Telegraph Apprentice Megan Charles from LWBLA on Vimeo.

It must be said that if you want to be a doctor or neuroscientist then yes, you need a degree – but there are roughly 250 different apprenticeships in different career avenues that can be considered.

The 2015 apprenticeship rich list revealed statistics surrounding apprenticeships, namely the richest former apprentices and their net worths: Lord Bamford, Chairman of JCB, former apprentice at Massey Ferguson who is valued at £3.15 billion. Laurence Graff, Founder of Graff Diamonds and Former apprentice jeweller, valued at £3 billion. Amongst the names appear a few familiar faces: John Frieda; former apprentice hairdresser, David Beckham; Former Youth Training Scheme and Jamie Oliver; a former catering apprentice.

I’m not saying I’m the next David Beckham, and my cooking skills are relatively far off the abilities of Jamie Oliver, but we apprentices are enthusiastic, malleable and more than anything, incredibly keen to learn – what else could a company want in an employee.

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101 things in 1001 days

I live a pretty busy life, working in London, but living in South West England means that I spend more than 3 hours a day on the train; once I get home I don’t have a great deal of time to do anything other than eat and sleep. I saw this idea on Design Darling, the amazing blog my Mackenzie Horan, and I’m hoping that having things written down, with a time limit, will mean that I actually get things done! The list gives me 2.75 years to complete the 101 things below, fingers crossed I’ll complete all of them – if you’re inspired to do the same, let me know and I’ll link through to your version.

(Bolded when completed)

  1. Read 30 books (1. Versions of Us; 2. Behind Closed Doors; 3. Missing Presumed)
  2. Do some charity work
  3. See 5 concerts/shows/plays (1. Miss Saigon; 2. Cirque du Soleil; 3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time; 4. Billy Elliot, 5. Blood Brothers, 6. Billy Elliot (again!), 7.Wicked (again))
  4. Get into right legged splits
  5. Achieve the perfect flat stomach!
  6. Unplug for 24 hours (no internet, TV, phones etc.)
  7. Invest in matching luggage set
  8. Attend a yoga/pilates/tai chi class
  9. Clear out personal email inbox – (I got a new email address, that’s good enough right?)
  10. Unsubscribe from unwanted email lists
  11. Clear out iPhone photos
  12. Invest in a disc drive for my macbook
  13. Redesign blog
  14. Go for brunch – some amazing London brunches on Telegraph Travel (Christopher’s, Covent Garden)
  15. Have a pre-work run 5 days in-a-row
  16. Write one blog post a day for 5 consecutive days
  17. Put together a recipes collection – some lovely books in paperchase
  18. Try 10 new restaurants/eateries (Christopher’s, Covent Garden; Gordon’s Wine Bar, Embankment; Megan’s Café, Chelsea; Windsor Castle, Victoria; haven’t kept up to date on this – but have definitely completed!)
  19. Design and order business cards
  20. Travel to Budapest
  21. Buy a compact but good quality camera
  22. Make amends with certain people
  23. Pass a shorthand exam (60 WPM, 22/04/16)
  24. Take a night class
  25. Apply for a job miles above my levels of expertise (Got it!)
  26. Invest in contact lenses
  27. Try a 3-day juice diet
  28. Take mum on a spa day (Syon Park, Kallima Spa; Meon Valley, Southampton)
  29. Perfect my recipe for white chocolate and raspberry muffins
  30. Buy a lemon tree
  31. Travel to a new country
  32. Travel to a new continent
  33. Go skiing again
  34. Hire a villa/castle with loads of friends for a long weekend
  35. Go on a trip with my sister, Georgie (Ancient Cities of the Med cruise w/ Saga)
  36. Try a cookery class
  37. Try pottery making
  38. Go to a cheerleading competition (BCA Summer Showdown 2017)
  39. Join a level 3+ cheer team (Starting at Legacy in April)
  40. Make a beef wellington
  41. Watch my cheerleading team perform (Farnborough Sixth Form College cheer showcase 26/04/16)
  42. Clear out wardrobe and drawers
  43. Have my teeth whitened
  44. Attend a black tie event (Two charity events – one being The Butterfly Ball)
  45. Go to Dublin
  46. Buy a polaroid instax camera (Got one for my 19th birthday, thanks mum and dad!)
  47. Go on a Press Trip for Telegraph (Ancient Cities of the Med cruise w/ Saga)
  48. Put £100 into savings each month for 6 consecutive months
  49. Go ice skating (Swarovski rink at V&A museum with Josh)
  50. Have a dinner party with friends
  51. Watch a ballet
  52. Take the plunge and ditch “.wordpress.com”
  53. Make 10 pinterest recipes
  54. Go vegetarian for a week
  55. Drink only water for 3 days
  56. Take part in a ‘Tough-mudder’ type event
  57. Climb Mount Snowdon
  58. Invest in Louboutins
  59. Watch 5 TED talks
  60. Perfect a home-made pornstar martini recipe
  61. Invest in the ‘Friends’ boxset
  62. Buy a Mulberry bag
  63. Complete first 5 weeks of Tom Daley’s ab routines
  64. Use my yoga ball every night for a month
  65. Update my CV
  66. Achieve 5 chin-ups
  67. Achieve 10 chin-ups
  68. Make ravioli
  69. Go back to ballet
  70. Try rowing – (Guildford Rowing Club member, rowing at least twice a week)
  71. See the Northern Lights
  72. Visit Dubrovnik
  73. Finish this 101 list
  74. Put £5 into savings for every goal achieved

Dirty Martini, review

Dirty Martini is now becoming a well known chain of cocktail bars around London and personally, they’ve never failed to impress. They are averagely priced for a cocktail in the city ranging from £8-£12, so nothing out of the norm there. However, catch them at happy hour – which thankfully is far more than an hour, but differs at each location – and you can grab yourself a very well made martini for £4.50. My recommendation (in any cocktail bar) will always be the Pornstar (passion fruit) Martini, their Blueberry Shrub Martini is also a personal favourite, as well as the Bramble, Silent Pool Gin shaken with fresh lemon juice, Crème de Mure liqeuer and fresh blackberries – beautiful, but not inclusive of happy hour.

All of their bars have great atmosphere, and would be great for a drink out with friends. They can however be very, very loud on weekend evenings, so if you’re looking for a chilled out drink and a chat then this really isn’t the place. Furthermore, on my last visit despite having table service the waitress wanted payment after every round of drinks arrived – I found this a bit bizarre, I don’t think my friend and I look suspicious, but who knows, heels and a skirt may be the new balaclava.

4/5 stars – would definitely recommend.

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Food for thought

i want to apologize to all the women
i have called pretty
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is the most you have to be proud of when your
spirit has crushed mountains
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re pretty
but because you are so much more than that

– Rupi Kaur