Shopping in Shanghai


Before I’d been to China the visions I had were somewhat different to the reality. Perhaps I have been blind to it and somewhat ignorant to the beauty. The people I know that have been go there on business and are usually tired or don’t get to fully experience its glory so I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I was given the chance to travel there with work. I instantly fell in love with Shanghai, the reality is the buildings are works of art and the city is somewhat futuristic so you feel like you’re on the set of a sci-fi film. The fashion is the next thing that amazes me, the style is just so quirky and they take my love for ath-leisure and monochrome to a whole new level in Shanghai.


Hitting das bund  – although I know it’s far from being German I can’t help but hear ‘the bund’ and think of it in a German accent as ‘das bund’ so this is how it became known on our trip. The Bund is a waterfront/ boardwalk area in Shanghai where Chinese and international tourists alike gather to amongst other things people watch the fashionable Shanghainese. If you get chance you should get a boat along the river it’s meant to be really nice, we didn’t have time so we did the next big thing and took the cable car along the tunnel under the water. It’s more expensive than getting a taxi but it’s like a mild techno rave with lots of flashing lights so I felt it was worth it for the experience! There are also a lot of nice bars and restaurants overlooking the river which are really nice.


Futuristic buildings aka works of art. Staying in the Eton Hotel and being upgraded to a suite with a huge bath was obviously in itself pretty good but then I was instantly in awe of the view over Shanghai. The buildings are unreal and the time and effort put into these works of art is somewhat inspiring and to be admired. Obviously the grey smog is not as appealing as the blue sky and fluffy clouds we often see in England, if you weren’t aware this is due to the pollution and mass population. When some of our suppliers visited England they couldn’t believe how clear the sky was which is so sad to think some people never experience the beauty of things we take for granted. For 3 months this year before the G20 summit factories in certain areas are ordered to close to reduce pollution and help clear the smog. Hopefully that will help the environment…even if only for a short while!


Shanghai brewery and amazing burgers

As much as I like Chinese food and trying new things it’s also nice to have some good old reliable food like a classic hearty burger! If you get the address up beforehand on your phone in Chinese to show the taxi driver it’s much easier than trying to explain because the chances are they’ll not have heard of it. It’s a quirky area and the brewery is a funky little place where you can sit outside if it’s nice and they have good music. They have a brewery on site and the drinks are really good in particularly the beer and cider. I went for a classic beef burger with avocado as I have it a lot at home, whether I was influenced by the fact I have been faced with chicken feet and unknown meat roulette for the past week or so but the food was fantastic and I would definitely recommend it! There are also bars and clubs in the area so be sure to check it out.


Underground shopping

The shopping in Shanghai is amazing from unique one off shops from local designers to the world wide well known luxury high end designers, theres something for everyone. However, those that know me know I do love a good market. Every time I travel somewhere be that London, Cambodia, Paris or Shanghai I suss out the market scene. Shanghai is renowned for its fake goods market at the Shanghai Science and Technology  Museum, it’s a big underground shopping centre with loads of stalls with fake designer clothing, bags sunglasses and pretty much anything you might want. The key is to barter hard, they drive a hard bargain but stick to your guns. We were with a Chinese colleague so she helped out with some but due to negotiating being part of our jobs we did really well, even the Chinese people we spoke to around the market couldn’t believe how cheap we got everything for! If you’re lucky and you show an interest they take you into their secret room in the back, it’s like a covert operation which involves knocking on doors and waiting for the coast to be clear because if the police come they get in to trouble.  They don’t usually let Chinese people into the back rooms due to the fear they will tell the police so it’s only for westerners, however because she was with us our Chinese colleague loved coming in the back and seeing all the best of the best bags! It was definitely worth going in for the best quality and newest styles so maybe if you’re in the elite like us you’ll get chosen too! Oh, one to bare in mind though, don’t do what I did and get carried away and forget that you’ve actually got to transport everything around China with you for the next week, massive FML!


Coffee and the safety of Starbucks

If you’re like me and in any doubt of where to go for coffee in England I head for Starbucks. You know what you’re getting and you know what you’ll pay. So why should China be any different. Like me you might also be surprised that China have Starbucks, and lots of them for that matter, they also have telephones and the internet! (Sarcasm aside though they don’t have Facebook or You Tube). With regards to the food in China, don’t worry about it. There’s so many different options and I tried some really tasty dishes that I’d never tried before. Obviously there’s the weird and wonderful like pig knuckles and fried baby bird but even the locals don’t eat some of the strange dishes and turn their noses up at it, I think they just do it to us foreigners for novelty purposes.

(Strangely enough I don’t go round taking photos of Starbucks as I didn’t think it would be relevant, silly me. So instead I took a photo of me judging every hotel by the coffee selection it had to offer. The photo on the right is some strange shelled creature, I was offered a Starbucks scone in a bet that I wouldn’t try one…. Obviously I had been craving the scone for some time and not being one to back out of a bet tried one. I won, and yes, yes the slimy peculiar beings do taste as horrible if not worse than they look and including the Chinese people at the table I was the only one that tried them.)


The great firewall of China

So as I mentioned above China is on lockdown and sites such as Facebook, You Tube and Snapchat are all blocked, I think they’ve just recently got access to Instagram, correct me if I’m wrong. One reason is amid fears it could be used to organise political protests, following the 2009 rallies the government now aggressively control the internet, it is a dictatorship after all so what they say, goes! I’m not saying that not having Facebook is a bad thing; I personally don’t like it and think that people are far too interested in living their perceived social media life rather than actually just enjoying themselves. However, that being said it is annoying when you try to Google or research things (not at all to check my Facebook/ Instagram/ post some sick sightseeing selfie in Shanghai on Snapchat) so we found a way around it. All you need to do is to download the app called Onova Protect, it’s a free VPN app that gets around the server somehow and allows you access to any of the sites which you would be able to access in England. It’s a pretty amazing tool to have so I would highly recommend it, maybe just log out of Facebook though and have a detox while you’re away.


Shanghai fashion is on point it puts us to shame, they make such an effort and have such good style, I say ‘they’ I am obviously generalising but the majority of people I saw were well dressed on the whole. I would definitely recommend visiting Shanghai, they’re currently building a Disney land which will also be open later this year so even more reason to visit! China as a whole is a must see, the food and people are fantastic and I found them to be very welcoming which I didn’t expect. China has many faces from mountains, beaches and islands in Xiamen, shopping in Shanghai and so many different local cultures. Next stop, Hong Kong techno style!


Much love OTA xx

Short hair don’t care


(This is me and my new short hair… pulling my not caring face)

So we all have our up and down days and I can often relate to Bridget Jones tragic spinster-esque attitude and feel like I could be eaten by alsations and nobody would even know or care. Obviously I know this is not the case, I see myself as quite a happy positive person on the whole but sometimes we all need a helping hand to bring us back to happiness. I just thought I would share some of the ways I stay positive and shake off the mood!

Some of the more obvious ones are:

  • Exercise to release endorphins
  • Make a list of everything that is on your mind
  • Reduce your caffeine intake
  • Go Outdoors and get some sun light
  • Yoga
  • Eat well
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Listen to your favourite music

Here’s some of the less obvious and my favourite methods to combat stress or a negative attitude….


(This is Anglesey in Wales… visiting this hidden gem will perk you up)


Get a new hair cut…

Sounds simple… that’s because it is simple. I’ve been toying with the idea of having my haircut short for a very long time and recently felt a bit crappy about myself so needed a change. I think that’s enough said on this matter, just do it, I love my new hair and instantly felt like a babe again… When you look good you feel good and I find it instantly lifts my mood. Hair gone, mood gone….Short hair don’t care!


(Also me but pulling my slightly more sinister not caring face)


Bridget Jones…

It would be wrong to write this post without mentioning my love for Bridget Jones, so whether you read the book or watch the film I highly recommend you give it a go. If the third book was anything to go by then the film will be amazing and lucky for us its coming out this year! Her life is far from perfect and I can relate to her somewhat tragic yet eventful love life, it’s all about one woman’s diary and following her on her quest for love. While I might not be currently on the quest for love I do enjoy the occasional date and meeting new people so have like Bridget started to keep a diary…. Although due to my date terrets my love life seems to be publicly aired around the office so a diary may not be necessary!

I can also relate to the binge eating Ben and Jerrys, but this is often a choice to be alone or with a friend nursing a hangover on a sunday. Lets be honest no man need see such a sight and what normal person can be bothered to shower after a heavy night! #showershy

“Am enjoying a relationship with two men simultaneously. The first is called Ben, the other, Jerry”



If in doubt, let it all out…

I hate to be the guy that maons and complains so I try to be happy around my friends (sorry family you get the maony, complainy guy) although the chances are I’m happy when I’m seeing friends anyway. However there’s nothing better than letting it all out over a coffee to a good girlfriend. I always find that they lift my mood and whatever the problem was big or small seems insignificant or at least so much easier to deal with. It’s right what they say a problem shared is a problem halved. So remember no one wants to be around that negative Norris friend that moans and brings your mood down because lets be honest we all have them, but its fundamental to your happiness to talk to your friends. Sometimes when you’re down the last thing you want to do is socialise but I assure you if you consciously make yourself see a friend you will feel much better for doing so.I have some amazing friends that make me laugh and cheer me up and I don’t know what I would do without them all!




Yes, smile. Smiling is like totes one of my favourite things to do and research shows that your brain responds to the movement of certain facial muscles (smiling) and thinks oh I must be happy because I am smiling, so if you smile you can trick your brain into thinking you are happy. So try it now, you may look like a weirdo but you’ll be a happy weirdo. I am sat in Starbucks writing this smiling so yes I am aware I probably look slightly mental. Smiling is also highly contagious and I just love it when a stranger smiles at me passing in the street when our eyes meet. It costs nothing to smile and it can make such a difference to someone’s day. People look friendlier, approachable and to me more attractive, I for one am ugly when I don’t smile. There is only one down side to smiling….I am a very smiley person and am aware that I have smile lines, however I will embrace my smile lines and continue to spread the love. There is actually a world smile day in October but why not make everyday smile day:)

“Smile and the whole world smiles with you”


…I also subconsciously look for objects that look like they’re smiling in everyday life, for instance this dial on the spinning bike… I still swear it was smiling at me though!



Last but not least meditate. If you only try one new activity to de-stress you this year make it meditation. You’re probably thinking oh no she’s one of them hippy types and it’ll be full of tree huggers and dread lock donning spiritualists but I assure you it is not. And I am not, as much as I would love to live on a beach playing a guitar getting high I actually have to hold down a serious job (very stereotypical comment I know hippies are far too busy protesting about making peace not war to be wasting time sat on a beach!). It’s actually really popular now and I found it’s really good for lightening my mood and de-stressing me. I joined a meditation class at the Buddhist Meditation centre but they’re getting more common and if you Google it you’ll find one in your area. I have always been interested in Buddhism and was intrigued by the monks when I visited South East Asia a few years ago. Most meditation classes I found work on a goodwill gesture fee, that’s either per session or for the whole course so it’s very reasonable. Whilst writing this I discovered I could go on for ages abut meditation, so Ill keep this one short and write a whole post about it soon. In the meantime if you’re interested in meditation but don’t have the time to attend a class, there’s a great app called Head space you can download. It’s free and each session only takes 10 minutes, so its great first thing in a morning or last thing at night to relax you before bed.




(I can’t play the guitar unfortunately and I am massively failing at being a hippie by having a bottle of coke in the photo, damn it)


Thats it from me thanks for reading. Namaste….


P.S please can someone decide if its spelt hippie or hippy!! Google you are not being very helpful on this pressing matter!

Much love OTA xx




Keep fitness interesting




Its not until I got ill with the flu this year that I realised how much fitness is my life. I still love to party and have treats but like a lot of people I know, exercise is a massive part of my life. I think the key is to keep it interesting and remember that it can be fun. It’s easier to loose the weight and when people comment on how well you’ve done and how good you look it spurs you on to keep going. Then after a while when you reach a certain point its about maintaining your weight and improving your fitness. You have to remember to keep pushing yourself and not getting complacent in your routines. That’s why I’ve decided to run a half marathon and here are some of my fitness tips to keep you motivated and get you out of that rut:


  1. Sign up to a charity race or fitness event


I am a firm believer in setting yourself a goal and target to work towards whether that be a bikini body for a holiday, an event or race or simply because you’re newly single and you’re giving yourself 8 weeks to get over him and get that hot body ready for tinder! Anyway, I’ve signed up to do a half marathon in May, I’ve only ever done a 10k once before on a treadmill and it was a killer so its going to be tough for me. It doesn’t matter how far whether its an iron man, tough mudder type obstacle course or a 5k night walk its about taking part, working towards getting fitter and enjoying yourself in the process. It’s also a great way to raise money for charity, I’m doing it for the Alzheimer’s society and once you’ve started raising money it becomes real and you know you have to train because people have paid good money to sponsor you…. Eeeek no pressure!

Check out my just giving page



  1. Join a running club

As I mentioned before I never had myself down as a runner up until a couple of years ago and even now I am still the 5k King and struggle to push myself further. I decided to join a running club at the end of last year and it was one of the best things fitness wise I’ve ever done. The people were so welcoming from day one and everyone spurs each other on. It really makes you feel like part of a team and being around like-minded people makes me more enthusiastic and keen to get fit. They offer different level classes and everyone runs at different paces so whether you’re a beginner and have to walk for a while or a Mo Farah wannabe you’ll fit right in and meet so many new people and get training tips and ideas. There’s pretty much one in every area so just Google it to find your closest one, I went on my own but don’t worry there lots of people in the same boat so don’t let that put you off.


  1. Shopping spree!

It might sound simple having the right attire and although yes sometimes it’s an excuse to buy some shiny new trainers, I am a firm believer in having plenty of decent running kit. There’s nothing worse than getting your kit ready late at night or rushing about before work and you can’t find your sports bra! So make sure you have several outfits, I have about 4 that I love and multiple back ups. They need to fit you well and feel comfortable so you actually feel good going into the gym, its amazing how much of a difference having gear that you like to wear makes. I’m not talking about your hair and make up because I usually look like a 16 year old boy at the gym but if your kit looks and feels good it will show and you’ll be more motivated to work out. Without a doubt my favourite sportswear brand has got to be Nike, I find it reliable and washes really well. Most retailers and supermarkets have jumped on the fitness gear bandwagon and a lot of it is decent stuff at an affordable price. Just be careful because some things don’t wash very well. The main thing to think about is the type of trainers you need, make sure they have enough support for the amount of running you’ll be doing as its so important to look after your feet and legs as not to sustain an injury. I have plenty of trainers in different colours for different purposes but they’re all necessary, honest! Finally, you’ll be pleased to hear athleisure or casual fitness clothing was the key focus of New York Fashion week this year so its now acceptable to be seen out and about in your gym kit…Hallelujah, we can wear our trainers to work so we don’t have to carry 2 pairs of shoes around after that early morning gym session!


  1. Try a new class and get outdoors

I am fickle to say the least and I’m always looking to try new things, whether that’s the latest diet fad or a new class that’s all the rage that month. I am aware that running on a treadmill for 30 minutes can seem quite laborious to some people or if you’re like me and learning a routine in Zumba is hellish then don’t be disheartened, as there’s so many things out there to try. I love any kind of Yoga but if you want something new try hot yoga. It’s more strenuous due to the heat but its still relaxing at the same time. If you’re looking for something more upbeat spinning classes are great, its indoor cycling on stationary bikes with an instructor and they claim to burn anything up to 600 calories per 45 minute session. They have the music blaring and it’s a great atmosphere and the time goes really fast. However, my faves have got to be cross fit or HIT (high intensity training) classes. There’s an amazing boutique HIT place opened in Sheffield called Trib3 which offer 45 minute sessions of none stop hardcore workouts with dimmed lights and upbeat music and a great instructor that pushes you to your max. Don’t get me wrong its hard work and whilst I’m doing it I think why the hell am I putting myself through this…. But I’m a sucker for punishment and if you need that boot camp style push to help you get fit then this if or you! They have them in all major cities now and everyone I know that has been to them love them, they’re more expensive than normal classes but still cheaper than a personal trainer, better in my eyes and you sweat together! The last major point is to Go Outdoors! I am from the UK and we often forget how amazing it is and how much there is to do and see outdoors. So whether its a walk on the Yorkshire Moors, a bike ride around the peak district or an intense climb up Snowdon mountain in Wales I recommend you get outside and it’ll instantly lift your mood and half the time you won’t even know you’re exercising.


  1. Kayla Itsines

So I’m not sure whether it’s PC to write about specific people but it’s my blog and I’m writing about the things I love and inspire me. So I would like to declare my love for Kayla Itsines. Kayla I salute you for what you’ve done, how you’ve inspired, motivated and changed the lives of women (and men I imagine) from around the world. If you don’t know her, you should, she’s an Australian woman that devised workout plans to specifically target the main areas women are conscious of and wanted to help with body confidence and inspire others, boy has she done just that. She offers a variety of both workout and meal plans and posts lots of food ideas and workout routines on her blog. It’s a great way to check her out or download the free trial app before you buy a plan. I was stuck in a workout rut like a lot of others who follow it have agreed, it gives you the focus and motivation you need and I find I stick to it more than any fitness plan I’ve ever done. I did it with my friend in the studio at the gym but I’ve also done it at home in the spare room or in the garden, after 6 weeks I saw results and my fitness improved drastically. Unfortunately I had a couple of holidays and illness but for me it’s the best way to see results and its only 20 minute workouts so no lengthy gym sessions. I would definitely recommend it, it’s a bold statement but I’d say it’s changed my life a tad! I don’t follow the food plan for various reasons one being she pretty much bans alcohol and lets be honest if I’m training hard I deserve to let my hair down at the weekend! Its great to have and you don’t have t follow it religiously. I love her motto and very much agree with it “I don’t know what I want to be. I just want to help people.” Much love for this woman!



I’ve missed it off here but probably the reason I enjoy working out so much is music, I could talk about how much it inspires me and keeps me going and how you should make sure you have new music and something that you love to workout to…but thats a whole other blog post for another time! So that’s my top fitness tips, I hope you found it useful. If you have any tips or something has motivated you when you really needed it I’d love to hear from you.


Much love OTA xx


5 reasons to go veggie for a week…

5 reasons to go veggie for a week…


I’ve wanted to try being a veggie for a while now or at least cut down on my meat intake but I just haven’t got round to it, that was until this week. There are so many health benefits and positive factors related to being a veggie, although I know I couldn’t do it full time I salute people that are! I love a new challenge and I feel I owe it to them to try it for a week and see what the crack is. Here are a few of the main points that have struck me when I researched the reasons behind being vegetarian:

  1. Love your heart


Saturated fats are found in meat and dairy and consuming a high amount raises the cholesterol level in your blood. This then increases your risk of heart disease; which is why there has been massive media coverage recently about cutting down on red meats and it being linked to heart disease and bowel cancer. I don’t eat much red meat anyway but I think it’s really important to educate yourself on the benefits and risks and having it in moderation. Therefore by cutting down or cutting out red meat from your diet you instantly reduce the risk of heart disease, and remember we only get one heart so you need to look after it!

2. Trying new foods


This might sound like a simple remark and it’s not something you can only do when you’re a veggie but it’s forced me to cook more and try new things. I think we become lazy and meals can get mundane and boring so it’s a great way to get creative and make meals exciting with spices and flavours. I’ve found that I look forward to my meals a lot more and have already tried Frittata, veggie burgers and creamy avocado pasta which I’ve never tried before but now love! If you pinterest veggie recipes there’s so many quick and easy options (I did try to take a photo of my food but although it tasted really nice it wouldn’t inspire your dog!) I also know I’ve learnt that meat doesn’t have to be the basis of all meals and that we don’t realise how much meat rules our lives until you try and cut it out.

3. Good old weight loss


I’m on a health kick at the moment and my goal is to take a progress photo in 2 weeks’ time to show how my body has changed since I started training harder. I’m not necessarily looking to lose weight maybe a couple of pounds I’ve acquired when I was ill but it’s good to know and it’s a good way to maintain your weight. Vegetarians are renowned for being thin, whether it’s down to a healthy, leaner lifestyle or just because they don’t know what to eat if they can’t have meat (joking… kind of) but funnily enough when I thought about all the vegetarians that I know they are all amazingly thin!

4. Doing your bit for the environment


Eating less meat has been hailed as one of the ways to help combat climate change, this has been set out by the United Nations not just by some hippy types. I wont bore you with it but apparently we could cut our greenhouse gas footprint by 25 percent if every Briton went vegetarian. Now obviously that’s not practical but the more that people know the benefits of cutting down on meat the better. So even if it’s just meat free Mondays which I will be doing from now on, every little helps!



5. Being kind to animals


Now I’m not a massive animal lover per se but I just thought the other day for the first time, why just because we are the dominant species should we be able to take animals lives into our own hands, surely this is an act determined from above and we shouldn’t be able to manufacture animals and breed them purely for our personal gain, its inhumane and cruel. We clearly don’t need meat to survive as many people live healthily without it and it can be damaging to us rather than life enhancing. (Apologies if it’s a bit hypocritical as I will continue to eat meat after this week but it’s just something to consider!)


5 interesting people that are/ were vegetarian at some point in their lives

  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Paul McCartney
  3. Mohandas Gandhi
  4. Leonardo da Vinci
  5. Bob Marley


5 Food saviours for the week

  1. Sweet potato
  2. Eggs
  3. Fruit
  4. Veg (mainly broccoli)
  5. Oats


I do feel a lot better for trying being a veggie and feel like I’ve accomplished something if only for a short period of time. I have learnt a couple of things, one being we can easily survive without meat and that our lives do not revolve around meat as one might think, and another point is that I take a vow to never ask a vegetarian where they get their protein from if they don’t eat meat. I assure you there are plenty of other sources and usually the person asking is not a very healthy meat eater (this is where you refrain from asking said person about their unhealthy diet choices and either smile politely and say I have my sources or spin them a line about how long it actually takes for your body to digest certain meat). Oh and just to add there is one small problem I have discovered though…. and that is I can’t stop being a veggie! I only set out to do it for a week but for some reason so far I can’t bring myself to eat meat again, oops. I will let you know when I get off my high horse and return to the dark side. Try it, you never know you might enjoy it like I did!


Much Love. OTA xx

Motivate the mind and the body will follow

Motivate the mind and the body will follow ….


It took me a long time to figure out that exercise is the key to my happiness but once I discovered it there was no stopping me. For years I struggled with my weight and sadly I have been on diets and conscious of my weight since I was about 12. It wasn’t until 2013 that fitness because an integral part of my life. I have tampered with the gym and different classes since 2008 but I never enjoyed it or went religiously. My one envy and goal in life had always been to run, in January 2013 I couldn’t run for more than 2 minutes on a treadmill without being completely out of breath so I decided I would do a Triathlon. Yes you’re right there is absolutely no logic in going from zero to triathlon in 6 months but I am a firm believer in doing something that scares you so true to my word 6 months later after gradually building up my fitness I completed a sprint triathlon for Cancer Research. This was a charity close to my heart as my Uncle had recently passed away from it which spurred me on to try even harder.



The 200m swim…. Although I am quite a strong swimmer due to only having 3 open water lessons I never mastered the front crawl therefore tried every stroke including a manic clutching at straws doggy paddle which saw me being second to last out of the water…. However I pulled it back with an epic transition (change of clothes from a wetsuit which is not easy whilst still wet) to be second out onto the bike, things were looking up!



The 10k bike ….. so my Dad owns a skip business and found a bike in a skip… in theory one would try it out before hand to check that the gears worked, hindsight or just basic common sense is a wonderful thing . To say my knees were going like bee’s wings would be an understatement! Needless to say I got overtaken drastically and I was one more ‘change your gears’ comment away from throwing my bike in the lake! However, focusing my frustration into pedaling at what felt like 70mph I persevered, albeit almost cycling backwards and eventually got to phase 3…



The 5k run… As I said I would have never have classed myself as a runner but boy am I competitive. At this stage I only had my legs to blame which as you can imagine were quite tired by now but when you can see your boss half way around the lake the bionic woman inside you comes out and I decided I would literally rather pass out than loose.


To sum it up I caught up with my boss, we smashed it and spurred each other on to the finish line to finish together and came joint 7th out of over 40 people. I know I could have done better if everything would have gone to plan but I was so proud of myself because I gave it my all and it made me realise that you are stronger than you think. Neither of us had ever done anything like that  before so if you’re unsure or don’t think you’re fit enough just go for it and give yourself something to train for. You should never give up and it’s all about motivating your mind and the body will follow. I can remember at the time it was the hardest thing I’d put my body through and after I ached in places I didn’t know were possible…. but now after 2 years Im ready to do it again with a new challenge. Which I will tell you all about soon!

Much love… OTA X