Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Theatre: Viva Forever

On Wednesday, I went to see Viva Forever with Vicky (whose blog you can find here) in Piccadilly.
It’s had mixed reviews so far and to be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect, but knew it would have a fun vibe because of all the songs. On arrival, we needed to collect our tickets from reception and ended up being five minutes late. Unfortunately we were met with: “latecomers’ policy, you won’t be allowed to your seats until the opening 15 minutes are up” – something I have never experienced when going to a show, either locally or in London. We had to wait in the bar, watching the show from a screen, before being ushered to our seats by the attendant. Not the greatest of starts!
We got our tickets from ‘Show pairs’ on a 2-for-1 basis, which was a bargain really – there’s no way I’d have paid full price (£67.50), it seems totally unjustifiable. We had very good seats in the stalls, pretty much in the middle.
The story basically follows the central character Viva, who is propelled into stardom following ‘Starmaker’ a reality show similar to The X Factor. Following her journey, as she becomes separated from family and friends, it appears life in the spotlight isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. The repercussions don’t only affect her, but family, friends and the show’s staff.
Some of the songs fitted in nicely at the best couple were towards the end. At other times, it was difficult to even recognise the songs because they had been changed so much from the original. My favourites were the final couple: Viva Forever with Angel (played by Ben Cura) serenading Viva with an acoustic guitar and Headlines with Viva and her mum on their boat. ‘Two Becomes One’ also deserves a mention because of its comic value, although it was obvious where the song was going, in regards to the acting in that scene – predictable, if you will.
Angel was a personal highlight, as well as the male topless dancers in the ensemble – a bit of much needed eye candy for us girls! As you’d expect, the audience was predominantly female, although I was surprised to see as many men as I did – a lot of them had clearly been dragged along by their girlfriends.
All in all, it was pretty good, although not what I was expecting. The storyline in places dragged a bit and sometimes didn’t make much sense but it really delivered on the feel-good factor and had me laughing as well. I can see why it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it wasn’t totally awful!
Oh, and as a side note, I had a lovely pot of strawberry ice cream in the interval, which kept me amused as I tried not to laugh at the people in front. One of the girls was a little over-zealous with her clapping and dancing and suffered an unfortunate incident, where her top ripped down one side!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Sunday Snapshots #7

A week of interning ~ View from the office ~ Viva Forever in Piccadilly ~ Engagement party fun ~ Working on a Sunday
So this week I started my internship in North London. I’m working at a travel company and working in copywriting and marketing. So far it’s been loads of fun and I’ve been given sub-editing tasks as well as working on the website’s CMS filling in data and playing about with images on Photoshop! I’m hoping when I’m done, some of the bits I’ve done could help me find something full-time and working in a new sector has also been really useful. The company’s only small, which has been handy when receiving feedback. Even better is the informal dress code!
There’s nothing better than the sun shining and I took this on my way back to the station after a day at work. The area isn’t very lively, although there’s a park nearby. I’m just hoping the good weather continues so I can go there for lunch and just chill in the rays!
On Wednesday I went to Piccadilly Theatre to see Viva Forever, with my friend Vicky. I should be blogging about it later in the week. It was quite stressful getting across London after work during rush hour, as well as going for food and heading to the theatre. It was a lovely evening and the show wasn’t as bad as some people are making out!
Friday night was an event I’d been looking forward to for a while – my friend’s engagement party in Kent. I went up with a couple of girls (and a guy!) from Uni and we were staying in a local Premier Inn overnight. Nat, whose party it was, lived with me in the final year and it was lovely seeing her again, as it’d be a while. I had a really good night and drinks were really cheap – I bought a round of five drinks (including two glasses of wine) for £14!
There was no rest for the wicked on Sunday as I was working at Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea. It was my first time up there and surprisingly I didn’t get lost, although I was adamant I would be. It took over an hour on the District Line but the time went pretty quick.

I hope you all had a good week! x

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Sunday Snapshots #6

Next door’s cat ~ Another interview ~ Wednesday baking ~ Daddy and Daughter time
Our next-door neighbours haven’t been living there for that long, but when they moved in they told us about this cat. It turns out it was stray that always went to their old house and over time, it just latched on to the family. It always turned up on Sunday, so that’s its name. It’s a really cute cat and my dad absolutely loves it – and even talks to it (we’ve told him he’s lost the plot!) during the day.
On Wednesday I had another interview. This one was in Finchley for a junior copywriter role. Because it was in the middle of the day, I missed all the commuters and the tubes weren’t that bad – normally I’m surrounded by crazy tourists that don’t know where they’re going or what they’re doing! I wore this cute blouse my friend Sarah bought for my birthday, with my high-waisted skirt.
When I got home on Wednesday I did a spot of baking. You can find the recipe here, and I made chocolate & coconut biscuits. I still have so much chocolate leftover from Easter and I don’t really eat it, so may need to think of some ideas – suggestions are welcomed!
On Saturday I went to Barnet for the final time with my dad and it was a really emotional but good day. You know the feeling where you get attached to somewhere you go to a lot and finally have to say goodbye, that’s what it was like when we went to Underhill. After 19 years, friendships, memories and the like, it was very surreal and I don’t think it’s sunk in that we won’t be going back. This is us by the pitch – I took about 40 photos!

How was your week? Get up to anything exciting over the weekend? x

Friday, 19 April 2013

Product test: Doll’d up mascara (Seventeen)

In my last beauty post, I blogged about the current contents of my makeup bag and mentioned this mascara, that I hadn’t yet used. Well I’ve tried it out for your viewing pleasure, so here are my thoughts.
I’m a Boots advantage card holder, so got a voucher to purchase this mascara for £2 (the voucher lasts until June 2013, I do believe), but it currently sells in Boots for £6.29. To be honest, that’s the usual amount I would spend and swear by Maybelline mascaras from the falsies range.
Seventeen has recently been rebranded and I don’t normally buy products from the brand, especially eye makeup. But for £2 I could not resist and the bottle, as you can see is simple and cute – there’s no need for lots of text and the colours are plain but bold. The bow detail is really adorable and gives the product that Betty Boop feel, which I love! It’s just really girly!

What Seventeen say:
Create show stopping eye drama this season with seventeen’s new ‘doll’d up’ mascara. With special lash lifting 24-hour curl & volume benefits and an anti-clump brush, you can make sure that your lashes stay firmly in the limelight.Seventeen’s ‘doll’d up’ mascara uses a curved brush specially designed to give you a fabulous set of doll like lashes to super-charge your cheeky side this winter for amazing volume and curl without clumping. Create a beautiful overstated wide-eyed look, by applying to your top and bottom lashes. With up to 24 hours of staying power you can flutter your lashes all day and night.
What I say:
I love the shape of the bottle and it’s easy to hold without smudging or spoiling your makeup. I’m also a fan of the brush: it’s a good size, the curve works well for both top and bottom lashes, and I love that fact it’s plastic/rubber as I don’t generally get on well with bristle brushes. While it didn’t make my lashes thicker, they were longer and definitely held their curl (I don’t use eyelash curlers!) – it didn’t last 24 hours though. That said, I didn’t feel thick or clumpy and my lashes weren’t left looking spidery either, so in that respect it was a success! I don’t think I’d pay full-price for this mascara when there are so many on the market for a similar price, or what I’d personally call ‘better’. But for a one-off and for the discount I got, I’m reasonably happy. I’ve heard good things about their new eyeliner as well, so I may have to give that a try – and if you’re a Boots advantage card holder, I’d certainly recommend giving this a try!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Sweet Treats: Chocolate and coconut biscuits

It’s been ages since I’ve baked on a Wednesday and I’d been meaning to bake biscuits since I bought these gorgeous star cutters from John Lewis around Christmastime.
I got the basic biscuit recipe from one of my favourite childhood cookbooks: Jane Asher’s Eats for Treats.

Cut-out biscuits
·         150g self-raising flour
·         75g butter
·         50g caster sugar
·         1 egg
·         Few drops of vanilla essence
·         Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 and grease two baking trays (or line with greaseproof paper!)
·         Pour the flour into a bowl and cut the butter in small pieces before adding to the flour. Rub together to form fine breadcrumbs
·         Add the sugar and mix with a spoon
·         Break the egg into a small cup and whisk. Add two tablespoons of egg to the mixture and add the vanilla essence
·         Mix using a spoon/fork, or hands if easier. This may take a while to form a ball
·         Knead the dough until smooth on a well-floured surface
·         Wrap the dough in Clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes
·         Take out of the fridge and roll out until ¼ inch thick. Cut out shapes
·         Place on baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
·         Leave to cool
For the chocolate and coconut:
I had Christmas and Easter chocolate leftover so I just melted a giant chocolate coin and egg in a bain-marie. I’d hazard a guess it was about 170g of chocolate. After dipping or spreading chocolate on the biscuits, I dipped some of them in desiccated coconut, which I poured in another bowl.
Obviously you could use chopped almonds, or dried cranberries, or whatever you want.
The recipe made 30 biscuits and I used three different size cutters – obviously if you use larger cutters, you’ll make less (!)

Happy baking! x

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Graze: 06.03.13

In this box, I got:

·         Coffee & walnut cake
·         Salt & vinegar nut selection
·         Fruity mango chutney (mango chutney with black pepper dipper)
·         Toffee apple

Coffee & walnut cake
After having this with ‘send soon’ last time, I was glad to try it again because it was so yummy. At 149 calories per punnet as well, it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, I was in such a hurry to consume the coffee and walnut cake, you’ll have to wait until next time to see what it looks like! I always try each element on its own, before mixing together to enjoy the overall taste. My favourite bit was the chocolate coated coffee beans, which was, as you’d expect, the strongest flavour. Mixing those with the sponge pieces and walnuts, it really did taste like a piece of coffee and walnut cake – if I closed my eyes, obviously. The raisins were a lovely addition and added a different texture. Hot Cross Yum has always been one of my favourites, so in comparison, this had a lot to live up to – but I think I may have found my new favourite.
Salt & vinegar nut selection
As soon as I opened the punnet, the smell was really overpowering – like the smell of a fish & chip shop, or strong smell you’d get when on a seafront. With that in mind, I was expecting the flavour to be as big, but it wasn’t. I love a really salty and sharp vinegar taste like your average packet of crisps. I’m also a big fan of flavoured nuts – whether it be chilli, honey or salt and vinegar – so I guess I was expecting big things. The portion size was spot-on though and was just enough to keep my snack cravings at bay for a little while – usually if a bag of nuts (or any other snack for that matter) is open, I could easily wolf my way through the lot.
Fruity mango chutney
Another of the snacks I was yet to try and being a fan of the dippers, I was looking forward to it. I don’t like Indian as I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, but I love mango chutney, I think because it’s so sweet. The black pepper dippers were good, but the dip was too spicy for my liking. When I looked at the ingredients, there were a number of seeds I’d never heard of, so I assume they were what flavoured the chutney and made it taste more like curry. If you like Indian food, you’d love this and it’d make a great starter or pre-meal nibble, but I didn’t like it at all.
Toffee apple
One of my downfalls is sweet snacks; I could honestly eat an entire packet of biscuits in one sitting if push came to shove. And I have always loved sweets. Toffee apple has become the perfect substitute for when I’m craving something sugary and at 68 calories a punnet, it doesn’t seem so bad. Toffee apple is slices of dried granny smith with a toffee sauce dip and is just amazing. The annoying thing about it is, once it’s gone, it’s gone – I could totally demolish another couple of punnets, but then I have no self control. I’ve had toffee apple so many times now, and I’ve loved it since the first one.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Restaurant review: The Hawk

Where we ate:
The Hawk, Hawk Hill, Battlesbridge
On Monday, my nan and grandad treated us to lunch and we went to one of their favourite pubs: The Hawk at Battlesbridge. We’d gone quite recently but since our last meal, there have been a couple of changes.
Arriving at 2pm, we luckily missed the lunchtime peak, although the car park was completely full and there were few tables. It turned out half of the restaurant was closed due to refurbishment, but despite having to wait 10 minutes for a table, we enjoyed a drink in the bar before moving to our seats in the ‘west wing’ by the window.
We sat in the opposite section to where we ate the last time and it was a lot brighter – largely thanks to the beautiful weather on Monday, but regardless, there was less need for artificial lighting. Being right in the corner, it was cosy without being overly claustrophobic, but once other diners left, it felt like we were out of the way.
What we drank:
Mum – lime & soda
Dad – pint of Broadside
Robert – pepsi
Me – diet pepsi
Nan – Aspall’s blush
Granddad – pint of Stella
When we were at the bar, we found out a number of drinks were out of stock, which of course, was a bit of a nuisance. My nan normally drinks Aspall when it’s on draught, but unfortunately that was one of the drinks unavailable (along with all Sauvignon Blanc wines, pepsi max and pressed apple juice!), so she had to make do with the blush version.
Chicken & bacon sandwich
What we ate:
Mum – warm chicken & stuffing ciabatton with cranberry sauce and gourmet chips
Dad – Forestiere Chicken Breast (stuffed with asparagus and mushroom mousse, served on mash with roasted flat mushroom and buttered pea, broad and green bean medley)
Robert – grilled ribeye ciabatton with mustard mayonnaise and onion rings, and chips followed by toffee apple granny (pastry case filled with apple slices in a vanilla custard, topped with apple toffee sauce and oaty crumble, served with custard)
Toffee apple granny

Me – chicken and bacon sandwich with chips followed by peanut butter & chocolate cheesecake (smooth cream cheese topped with toffee, peanut butter and chocolate, served with crème fraîche)
Nan and grandad – gammon steak (served with a fried egg, fresh pineapple, seasoned chips and garden peas) followed by Bailey’s coffee
The menu was different to our previous meal and reflected the change in season – there were a lot more salads on offer and light bites in the form of starters: calamari, sharing platters, that kinda thing. The set menu was still available at £6.50 for a main meal and an extra course (starter and/or dessert) at an extra £2. Nothing on there really caught my eye and while initially it was a toss-up between the lemon & garlic half roast chicken and seasonal salad with chicken & chorizo, I eventually went for the sandwich. Although it was very good, I wish I’d gone for a ciabatta, because what both my mum and brother had, looked lovely.
Peanut butter cheesecake

As far as desserts were concerned, I’d had my eye on the cheesecake as soon as I saw the board. I love cheesecake, and after having the urge to make one last week, it was about time I’d put those cravings at bay for at least a little while longer. It was probably the nicest cheesecake I’ve ever had, although peanut butter in the cream cheese would’ve made it better! I think I could’ve eaten the entire dessert menu, look at the choice:

As always the service was very good, especially considering how busy it was on our arrival (although by the time we left, there were few diners remaining and most people were just having drinks). I’m hoping next time it will be nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the surroundings, as Battlesbridge is a beautiful place.

Monday, 8 April 2013

March’s book: I Capture the Castle

My mum bought me this book years ago and I always thought I wasn’t grown up enough to read it, but I finally got round to it last month, having heard rave reviews on both the book and film. It’s not usually the kind of book I’d go for and the blurb wasn’t really that inviting, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway.
Narrated by 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain, I Capture the Castle is the story of an impoverished family living in a dilapidated castle in the middle of nowhere. Cassandra lives with her father: a writer suffering a mental block since publishing his first novel, her step-mother Topaz, brother Thomas and sister Rose: often found moping about the castle and yearning for a rich man to sweep her off her feet.
Struggling to live in 1930s poverty, the arrival of American family the Cottons soon shakes things up. A rich family that own the nearby property Scoatney Hall, the Cottons become the Mortmain’s landlords. Simon and Neil are the two sons, unmarried, and both characters intrigue the Mortmain daughters greatly.
The narrative is written in the form of Cassandra’s journal and she writes every day, marking every event from family life in the castle, relationships and more.
It’s a really well-written story and you are instantly met with Cassandra’s unusual character – the opening line begins: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink” – and, in fact, the entire family is eccentric. Although throughout you’re made to use your imagination, by the time I’d read the first couple of chapters, I found the storyline a little on the dull side and it didn’t exactly have me gripped; there was no real sense of excitement or tension.
I’d describe it as one of those books were I have no relation with the central character and at no stage could I empathise with her. It also wasn’t a ‘can’t put down’ book, because I could, and when it came to continuing with the storyline, I was confused and struggled to get back into it.
Written in the 1940s, the language is a little old-fashioned, especially compared with modern-day lexis, but I think that is adds to the quirkiness of the Mortmain family. It’s not your typical love story either, but because it’s not your run-of-the-mill modern romance, I quite enjoyed it. I think the problem with it was, I was waiting for something to happen – and it never did. The ending was pretty weak as well and was abrupt.
That said, I found I Capture the Castle a moderately easy read and the descriptions of characters and scenery alike are sure to draw you in – it just wasn’t to my personal taste.
I do want to see the film now to see how it compares and to judge how they’ve managed to adapt it into a small time-frame. Maybe I’ll give it another go in a couple of years?

Next book... Cocktails for Three by Sophie Kinsella (writing as Madeleine Wickham)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Sunday Snapshots #5

Easter treats courtesy of mummy Walds ~ Carb-free is the way to be ~ Friday night chill-out ~ Spring is here ~ Saturday afternoon entertainment
On Monday I came home from a weekend at Jake’s to find my mum had made me up a little bundle of Easter goodies. She knows I prefer sweets to chocolate, so I got one main Easter egg (the far left one, from Waitrose, with gummy eggs inside it). I imagine this little stash will last me until at least June. It’s a shame I wasn’t at home over the Easter weekend, as she’d have done an Easter egg hunt for us!
With mum off work with half term, she’s been making dinners in the week for everyone. I’m back on the healthy eating wagon (impossible with so much sweet stuff lying around) and have decided to do that squat challenge that’s doing the rounds at the minute. I’m only eating carbs twice a week, so on Wednesday I went for chicken and asparagus, one of my favourites. All the other vegetables needed eating so I go lumbered with them too.
Friday night I stayed in with mum and dad, they ordered an Indian and I had a salad. A glass of wine was definitely in order, so I had a glass of rose, before having a bath and putting my rollers in. Rock n roll.
I went to Barnet with dad on Saturday afternoon like usual. It was the penultimate game at our ground and it was a really beautiful day. While we may have lost 2-0 to Chesterfield, the sun was shining – although I think I was the only one in sunglasses and with no coat. My Jimmy Choo shades are such an investment, I’ve had them four years and they’re still in perfect condition. Even on the way home, it was still warm – so hopefully it will remain nice now. We even went to ShakeTown, where I went for one of my favourite combinations: Milkybar and Skittles! Mmmm.
I hope you all enjoyed the weekend and a had a good week, this week. Did you get up to much over the weekend? x

Friday, 5 April 2013

Graze: 20.02.13

In this box, I got:

·         Summer pudding
·         Habas tapas (roasted corn, chilli broad beans and jumbo chilli corn)
·         After dinner mint (mint infused raisins, almonds and dark chocolate buttons)
·         Tropical dacquiri (pineapple, lime infused raisins and green mango)
Summer pudding
I wrote about the summer pudding in one of my earlier posts, when I requested it with send soon. I loved it then and I still do. The fruits are soft, yet sour and the other elements add a crunch. It would make a perfect summer day treat, but in the meantime, will remind me of sunny days that are yet to come.
Habas tapas
A sure-fire way to keep cravings for salty snacks like crisps and nuts at bay. I absolutely love it. At only 131 calories a punnet, it’s part of the Graze Light range and is a lot healthier than many savoury snack products on the market. The chilli isn’t overpowering or too hot, which is great for me, as I don’t like spicy food. The broad beans are my  favourite – I’d had them in Spain before, fried in a garlicy coating, but the chilli is much better!
After dinner mint
One of the products I was yet to try, I pressed send soon with this to sample something new. I’m not a fan of the dark chocolate buttons as they’re too rich because of their size. Having already had various punnets with different flavoured raisins in, I wasn’t sure what to expect from ones infused with mint – to me, they were weird. All in all, it was too dry as well – and give me an after eight chocolate any day!
Tropical dacquiri
I’ve said before how much I enjoy the punnets of dried fruit and with this expectation, tropical dacquiri didn’t disappoint. It wasn’t too sweet, with only the natural sugars of the fruit and was a portion of your five-a-day (can’t go wrong!). It’s the perfect mid-morning snack, at only 105 calories. The lime infused raisins pack a punch and the pineapple has that exotic tang; the mango is squishy and sweet. Even better is that it would make the perfect topping to frozen yogurt and I’ll definitely be giving that a go next time!

Remember you can have a box for free, by entering code: B1MFKZN

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Restaurant review: Aurora

Where we ate:
Aurora, Helena Road, Ipswich
On Easter Sunday, Jake took me for lunch at Aurora, a fairly new restaurant on the docks. I love going quayside, because whatever the weather, it looks really lovely. In the summer, as you’d expect, it’s a lot better because it’s much busier and the sun glistening on the water is just beautiful.
With it being so cold on Sunday, everywhere looked deserted – including as we approached the restaurant. It actually turns out the bar is on the ground floor and the dining area, upstairs. We were the first couple for lunch, mind.
From the outside, Aurora looks ultra-modern: a large tented building at the far end of the docks, with a balcony on the top floor. The interior is even better: large windows displaying a lot of natural light, an open plan dining room with plenty of space, neutral colour scheme and sophisticated decor.
Despite booking, we were able to choose where we sat and opted for a window seat (there are plenty of them) which gave us a lovely view of the boats on the water. Like I said, we were the first to be served, but by the time we left, there were at least six other tables, including a party of eight.
What we drank:
Jake – Peroni
Me – glass of Pinot Grigio
Bottle of still water
Because Aurora is also a bar/lounge, there is a cocktail menu, making it an ideal place to relax and socialise with friends. When we arrived, we were greeted by one of the bar staff who offered us a drink downstairs, but we went straight up for lunch. I imagine, it’s quite a nice atmosphere in the bar, having a drink pre-meal. I didn’t check out the wine list, having just ordered by the glass, but having browsed the website, the list is extensive. With 67 varieties on offer including champagnes and sparkling wines, as well as dessert wines, prices range from £14 a bottle, to £145 for top-end champers!
What we ate:
Jake – carrot & coriander soup, followed by roast pork loin and sticky toffee pudding
Me – carrot & coriander soup, followed by roast pork loin
We ordered from the Easter weekend menu, which was running on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. The prices stood at £18.50 for two courses, or a three course meal at £22.50. The a la carte menu wasn’t available, but I have since had a little nose online.
Funnily enough, we both opted for the same first two courses. There were six options for starters and mains, and five choices for desserts.
The soup was really lovely and having consumed a lot of carrot & coriander soup over the winter months, I can safely say, this was the best. The portion sizes are really deceiving, mind – the bowl had a really large rim and the depth was a lot deeper than it appeared. I was almost full before even starting on my pork!
There were three meats on offer for the main course, as well as fish and vegetation options: pork loin with apple sauce and crackling, sirloin of beef with horseradish and Yorkshire pudding or leg of lamb with mint sauce. The pork was served with roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower cheese. Although the jus was really rich, as roast dinners go, this succeeded any I have ever eaten! As my favourite part of a roast dinner is the amount of vegetables, two pieces of pork were just enough for me. I couldn’t manage it all though.
I couldn’t even save space for dessert which is very unlike me and it was annoying because I’d had my eye on the white chocolate and macadamia brownie (served with peanut brittle ice cream) – one of our waiters even recommended it as the best dessert on the menu. Jake went for the sticky toffee pudding and I couldn’t even manage a little taste of that, either. It looked really dense and rich, but he said the sponge was actually really light, so not too sickly.
All in all, I had a really enjoyable afternoon and although it wouldn’t be the sort of place I’d go to for a regular Sunday lunch, it’s somewhere you can go with anyone, for any occasion. For just lunch, it may have been a little on the pricy side, but you’re paying for quality in a lovely location and none of that can really be faulted! I am already looking forward to returning – but hoping the weather is a little better next time.
Before we went. Yes, that's my AX Paris dress again!