Saturday, 29 June 2013

June’s book: Mini Shopaholic

Mini Shopaholic is the sixth and final book in Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series. Becky Bloomwood (now Brandon, of course), heroine of the collection returns, with toddler in tow and the phrase ‘like mother, like daughter’ couldn’t be more apt. Two-year-old Minnie appears to be quite a handful, with an early addiction to shopping and behavioural problems – including being banned from four Santa’s grottos. Her favourite word is “mine” but Becky doesn’t believe she is spoilt, just spirited.
While Becky thought having a ‘mini me’ would be a dream come true, Minnie isn’t her only worry – the family still live at Becky’s parents (the deal with house four fell through!) and disaster strikes when there’s a huge financial crisis (meaning cutbacks, a word that isn’t familiar to her vocabulary).
Her decision to throw Luke a surprise party comes completely at the wrong time and as always things spiral out of control, because of money – when has economising being Becky’s forte? There’s also the matter of keeping the party a secret and of course, word soon gets out, she was never one for keeping quiet! But when an unexpected source arrives on the scene, help is at hand. Keen to prove friends and family wrong, she ends up alienating them. Becky is given a huge dilemma, admit defeat and expect some help or risk hurting the one person closes to her: Luke? Will she be able to pull off the most amazing celebration of the year? Will she finally be able to move out? And will her Christmas wish come true?
A fan of the Shopaholic series (although I should probably have read at least book five before this one), I loved this and the storyline was a great way to end the series, still leaving a cliff hanger. A lot of people complain that the plots are very samey, but when there’s really only one central character, it is difficult to make them that much more different. To me, each book is slightly different and each story is still funny – because Becky never learns her lessons! Like the others, it’s an easy-read and I find Sophie Kinsella a perfect holiday read – they have the feel-good factor! Now I’ve just got to purchase the others I haven’t already got...

Next month’s book: LA Candy by Lauren Conrad (eeek! I love LC and have just purchased the trilogy!)


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Graze: 01.05.13

In this box, I got:
·         Nacho libre (salsa almonds, cheesy sombreros and jumbo chilli corn)
·         Cracking black peppercorn
·         Apple and cinnamon flapjack
·         Twist of black pepper popcorn

I requested nacho libre with ‘send soon’ after wanting to try some new nibbles. Mexican with a twist, nacho libre is a crunchy mix with plenty of flavour, not too much heat and a little tang. The salsa almonds make this and are a combination of herby and sweet tomato seasoning.
Having had Tyrell’s chilli rice crackers before, I knew I’d just love Graze’s black pepper equivalent. And I do – they are just so moreish! To some it may be overly peppery, but I love pepper so don’t mind that. In fact, I want some of these yummy snacks – now!
The apple and cinnamon flapjack is definitely my favourite of all the flapjacks Graze makes. Apple and cinnamon is such a classic and winning combination. The dried apple pieces are almost indistinguishable because of the softness and chewiness of the oats. Three finger slices just isn’t enough and I imagine if I had a box with four punnets of this in, my tea times would be amazing for a week!
Being a fan of the black pepper rice crackers and pistachios, I knew the popcorn would be a similar hit with me. You get so much in that tiny pouch and there’s definitely more than enough for two (although you won’t catch me sharing!). This makes it an ideal treat when watching a film or cuddling up in front of the tele. Not as good as the sweet, but tastier than the salted, it was enjoyable but not one I’d love every fortnight!

And if you want to try these (or anything else for that matter) for free, you can by checking out the website and entering B1MFKZN

Friday, 21 June 2013

Currently loving: ClaireaBella

Firstly I apologise that this post is so picture heavy, but I could not resist but get snap happy when showing off this little beauty!
I blogged before about my ClairaBella hoodie and thought I’d share my most recent purchase – my personalised jute bag. If you follow me on Twitter, you will have already seen me show it off!
I got mine in medium, which proved to be the perfect size for hand luggage when holidaying. That said, I’m also desperate for a large one, although I don’t know when specifically I’d use it. I think I’m addicted!
The best thing about the ClaireaBella brand is that each aBella is individual and relates to you and your look, meaning no two aBellas are the same! I chose mine with the following characteristics:
Personal text: Luce
Hair style: long
Hair colour: brown with highlights
Outfit: glitz
Eye colour: blue
Skin tone: fair

Each bag arrives with a cute charm tag saying ‘handmade with love’ as well as having the ClaireaBella classics tag, proving it’s an authentic product. Believe it or not, there are so many copies out there and having seen some of them on Twitter, there’s no way they match up to Claire’s brand! The quality is very high, but you’d expect that from the price and length of delivery.
In your little package, you also receive this really cute thank you note – I love it, and mine has pride of place on my bedroom wall! It’s a really nice touch, I think.
I thought I’d also use this opportunity to mention my new wish list, particularly as Claire has a couple of new products/designs out. I’m seriously in love with the leather satchels and should probably start saving for one – how cute would it look walking to the office!? There are so many colours to choose from, but I think I would go for tan or black, just classic and not quite as ‘out there’ as the hot pink or teal. The jute bags have a couple of new designs and I know if I was a gym bunny, I’d get a jute with the gymaBella design (but I’m not soo...)! I would still love a canvas as well – maybe when I finally get a flat!

What are your favourites from the ClaireaBella range, and like me do you have a never-ending wish list?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Restaurant review: The White Hart

Where I ate:
The White Hart, Swan Lane, Margaretting Tye
On Saturday evening I went to The White Hart as part of a friend’s surprise hen do. I’d never been before, but after having a quick swot up on Google, I was really looking forward to it – even more so, after a browse at the sample menus.
The pub is situated in Margaretting Tye and is set in beautiful countryside, off the beaten track. The grounds themselves are idyllic, with a garden and pond out the back. The pub has real rural charm and the interior is split into two seating areas, with the bar connecting them in the middle. We were sat in the front of the pub, in the more old-fashioned area, while the second part of the restaurant is a lot more modernised, in a conservatory extension. The back was a lot lighter.
Obviously being a table of 14, we needed to book to reserve a table; judging by the number of reservation slates occupying tables, I would recommend ringing up to ensure you’ll be seated – it would appear The White Hart is a very popular spot.
What I drank:
Our waitress was excellent and made us up some pitchers of woo woo, after we had explained the ingredients (vodka, archers, cranberry juice and lime, if you were asking!) and even sent someone to a local shop to buy some cheaper cartons of cranberry, as the Britvic bottles were £1.85 each! Each pitcher came to £26 though, which wasn’t bad between five of us and we had two/three glasses each, but it’s obviously a lot more expensive in comparison to pubs and cocktail bars. The fact they were able to cater to our needs was excellent though, so I can’t have too many complaints.
I had a brief look at the wine list as well, which was impressive and there was plenty of choice. Again, the prices were quite dear – small glasses (175ml) ranged from £4.30 to £5.40 and a bottle of wine averaged out at £20, with Chablis being the most expensive.
What I ate:
Italian cured meat platters (salami, bressola and parma ham) with olives, sun-blushed tomatoes and rustic bread. Side mixed leaf salad
Having previously looked at the menu online (an awful habit I know, I should really stop it), I knew I was going to opt for the platter. Although it was on the starter menu, it was the perfect size and went really well with the side salad as well – I wasn’t hungry afterwards. I wish I had gone for the chunky chips though, as they looked amazing, proper chips!
There were three slices of each meat and the bread was served with a pot of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which made it perfect for dunking. In all, it was delicious and would probably make an ideal lunch on a summer’s day – or even shared with a couple of other starters if there is a group of you.
Within our group the hunters chicken and ratatouille proved equally as popular and the latter was served with grilled halloumi and garlic bread. The specials board boasted a number of steaks, as well as a Thai green curry, amongst other options. Unfortunately the board wasn’t visible from where we were sat around the corner and we weren’t properly notified about it or the dishes on offer – a shame as I’d have definitely gone for the Thai curry had I known about it.
The evening menu has plenty of choice though and you’re bound to find something you like; whether it’s homemade pie, something from the grill, fish or even a vegetarian option. We didn’t have a dessert but they looked particularly scrummy too.
If you’re ever in Ingatestone, Stock or even on the way to/from Chelmsford, I would recommend visiting The White Hart, if only for a drink. The atmosphere inside is really homely and the staff are helpful and friendly. On a sunny day, I’d imagine sitting outside would be perfect and similarly in winter, cosying up in front of the log fire would be ideal. Food is served everyday (barring Monday evenings).

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sunday Snapshots #12

New daily necessity ~ Much needed sugar rush ~ Surprise hen do shenanigans ~ Happy Father’s Day!
I don’t know about you, but the week has really dragged and despite this, I feel like I’ve done absolutely nothing, epitomised by the lack of photos! My weekend was pretty good though, despite the weather (and more about that later) so I can’t have too many complaints!
First of all, meet my new love. It’s this moisturiser by Dove and it’s now part of my daily routine, after showering. I’ve always sworn by Palmer’s cocoa butter, but when I saw this in Superdrug for half price (RRP £4.99), I could not resist. The combination of shea butter and sweet vanilla is just gorgeous and it leaves my skin feeling super soft – I definitely recommend it!
If anyone knows me well, you’ll know I’m constantly craving pick n mix (I have such a sweet tooth!). So when I had to buy a couple of bits for Saturday’s picnic, I just had to give in to temptation. Candy King always has all my favourites: bubblegum bottles, strawberry milkshake bottles, cherries and those yummy chewy, chocolatey, crispy bites (whatever they are!). I’ve been healthy all week, so we all deserve a treat every now and then!
Saturday was my friend’s hen party – and she gets married in September! It was organised by a couple of others so was a complete surprise, she didn’t even know who was invited. We had a picnic in Saffron Walden and had planned to go on to Cambridge for an afternoon of punting, but unfortunately the weather got in the way. We went for a meal (and several jugs of Woo Woo!) in the evening as well, which was lovely (and I’ll be blogging about that at some point). As you can see, I wasn’t really dressed for the weather, but it was a good day – and I can’t wait for the big one!
A throwback shot of me and my daddy, as Sunday was Father’s Day. We never really do anything to celebrate and my dad doesn’t like us making a fuss with cards and gifts, so it was pretty much a normal Sunday in our house. I did get him a card though, and a bottle of Fentiman’s gin & tonic (one of his favourites). I’ve always been a daddy’s girl. Mum made dinner in the evening and we had roast duck with hedgehog potatoes and veg. I watched the tennis and dad spent the day gardening – exciting I know!

I hope you all had a good week. Did you do anything special for Father’s Day?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Graze: 17.04.13

In this box, I got:
·         El Picante (jumbo salted corn, spicy chilli peanuts and mini paprika breadsticks)
·         Sticky chocolate pudding (milk chocolate drops, jumbo raisins and green raisins)
·         Very nori-sh
·         Pomodoro rustichella (cheese croutons, basil and oregano almonds and mini tomato breadsticks)

I still can’t work out whether or not I like El Picante. I’m not a fan of the corn because it’s too salty for my liking, but I am in love with the mini breadsticks and chilli peanuts aren’t too hot and very moreish as well. It got me through a morning in the office (when I was interning) – there’s only one way to decide what I think and that’s to try it again!
Think Dairy Milk fruit and nut bar, minus the nuts, with added fruit and you’ll have sticky chocolate pudding. Because it’s also one of your five-a-day, you won’t feel guilty about eating the chocolate and will still get a sugar fix. There is no reason to dislike this!
I love the Graze rice crackers and very nori-sh (geddit?) is no different. The soy is sweet yet sticky and the seaweed doesn’t actually taste of anything. At only 59 calories, these are so much healthier than crisps and taste just as good! I just wish there were a couple more in the punnet.
The taste of Italy in a little box, pomodoro rustichella is like minestrone soup but in the form of these yummy crunchy snacks. The mix of cheese, tomato and herb nibbles is just divine – and again, I love the mini breadsticks! I ordered this with ‘send soon’ and now I can’t work out why I didn’t try it sooner!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Holiday buys (3)

Before going away, I kept you up to date with my holiday haul and the final bits and pieces are all from Forever 21, which I’ll be blogging about in this post. I’ve never actually been inside Forever 21, despite walking past it countless times at Westfield, Stratford, but having browsed the website in search of a couple of necessities (!), I’ll definitely be sure to check it out again. Everything is so well-priced and the quality of the items I bought is very good, it’s win-win.
I never wear hats because I find they don’t suit me, but my boyfriend suggested I bought a summer hat for holiday (I think he had envisaged what he wanted me to wear!). After seeing a couple of Asos and Accessorize, I came across this at a fraction of the price – it’s definitely my summer bargain! It retained its shape when packed in my suitcase and the brim isn’t overly floppy, so it remains in a nice position when worn – plus the colour means it’d go with most things and is a great way of accessorising. A couple of people on Twitter (@Luuuce_x) and Instagram (lucylocket_x) have complimented me on it as well, so that’s a huge bonus and I’ll definitely be wearing it more when the weather gets better here.
I chose this skirt because I don’t think you can ever have too many skirts and they make a nice change from dresses. The midi length is suitable for any occasion or time of day, depending on what you team it up with, so it’s really practical. This was available in two colours: coral and mint. I have so much coral in my wardrobe, the mint made a nice change and it isn’t a colour I’d normally wear, but it’s such a summer colour, even though it looks a lot darker in the picture. Because the material is so stretchy, you can either wear it as a midi or even have it high-waisted so the hem sits above the knee.
Lastly I bought this pink peplum top – I’m still loving the peplum trend and the style definitely suits my figure. I wore this out in the evening for a meal, wearing it with wet-look leggings and a denim jacket, as well as gladiator sandals. My favourite thing is the back – it’s almost backless, but with a twist: it’s got a heart cut-out, which is very cute! The girly pink and overall design (including capped sleeves) is very feminine and although I had a Marilyn moment when stepping outside the hotel, it’s comfy and looks good!

Have you shopped at Forever 21 recently? What are your favourite pieces from their holiday collection?

Monday, 10 June 2013

Restaurant reviews: Madrid & Segovia

Having just come back from Spain, I thought I’d write about a few of the places we ate at and here are my three favourites.
Friday lunch
Restaurante Brios (website) – Concha Espina, 4, 28036, Madrid
We ate here, having just done the tour of Real Madrid’s football ground, the Bernabeu. There are so many eateries in the surrounding streets but unless you know where you’re going, or what you’re after, it can be difficult. Restaurante Brios is practically opposite, with a cerveceria (a bar serving more lunch-based snacks) as well as main restaurant. We ended up in the restaurant thanks to my limited Spanish and I wasn’t sure how to ask for the other menu, or if we were even allowed to order from it as well.
The restaurant is typically Spanish, from its decor to the food itself, although there are other offerings I’ve accustomed to expect for tourists i.e. spaghetti bolognaise. When I say the decor is typically Spanish, I mean old-fashioned but homely: drinks cupboard, dessert table, as well as cabinets full of china and outdated pictures plastered over the walls. Not too over-the-top in any sense, but by no means modernised.
I ate the habitas fritas salteados con jamon (stir-fried broad beans with ham, in an olive oil dressing) – lovely but very filling and maybe more suited for sharing with a number of other dishes! I knew we were having a bigger meal later, hence why I was hoping for the bar menu, with a lot of snacky options including tostas (open sandwiches: a piece of baguette topped with various fillings). Jake went for the albondigas de ternera a la casera (homemade veal meatballs), which are a Spanish classic. Served in a gravy with peas and carrots as well as a portion of chips, they looked very good.
Considering my limited Spanish, the staff were friendly and patient and while we were unable to strike up a conversation with them, we were able to get by and everything was to our liking. The meal was well priced, coming in at £28, which also included the standard bread supplement and 10% service charge. The ambience was very homely as well and I immediately felt comfortable, even though I was unable to speak the language fluently; being in a traditional restaurant is so much better than going to a chain – the easy option!
8/10 – Ranked #2,983 of 4,556 on Trip Advisor

Friday dinner
Restaurante Hylogui (website) – Calle Ventura de la Vega, 3, 28014, Madrid
I’d been here before when holidaying in Madrid and although I couldn’t remember it, what a restaurant it is! My auntie and uncle come here a fair bit when in the city and who can blame them? Everything was superb.
To eat, we shared a couple of starters: jamon iberico de bellota (a plate of cured ham) and veduras a la plancha (a selection of grilled vegetables). The ham was to die for and you could tell from the taste that it had been freshly carved. The wafer thin slices were great to pick at and you didn’t even need to eat them with bread. The vegetables are one of my favourite Spanish starters and although can be quite salty, are just lovely and colourful. We had a mixture of onion, mushroom, tomato, courgette and aubergine – of course it varies from restaurant and the artichoke is recommended (I don’t even like artichoke!).
For the main course I went for the sirloin steak (or solomillo) and had it cooked poco hecho (medium rare – in England, this would have been a rare steak as the Spanish cook theirs for less). It was easily the nicest steak I’ve ever had, cooked to perfection for my taste. Although it was served with chips, I didn’t have room for those as the steak itself was enough and deserved to be savoured.
I had flan for dessert, a must-have when visiting Spain, and the meal was followed by chupitos (shots) with a selection of four liquors. I went for the acorn (which is my mum’s favourite) and it was sweet, with hints of honey and hazelnut. Just divine!
If you’re up for a more upmarket meal and happy to pay top-range prices for quality, I’d thoroughly recommend Hylogui – I know next time I’m back in Madrid, I’m bound to go! Everything about the meal and overall experience was just excellent – the wine was a local full-bodied red and complemented the steak perfectly. The staff were very friendly and even remembered my auntie and uncle – they went out of their way to ensure everything met our standards. Waiting staff need to be like this in England!
10/10 – Ranked #519 of 4,556 on Trip Advisor

Saturday dinner
Meson de Candido (website) – Plaza del Azoguejo, 5, 40001, Segovia
We drove an hour to the beautiful town of Segovia on Saturday evening. Its history and heritage make it a popular location with tourists and locals alike and there is so much to see, we couldn’t do it all in a few hours! On arrival, you’re met by the aquaduct, very impressive particularly given the bricks aren’t held together by cement or any other fixant. The plaza mayor is great and there are plenty of places to grab a drink or something to eat. There’s also the cathedral and the Alcazar – the castle which was one of the inspirations for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle. We ate at one of the best restaurants in Segovia.
The restaurant is family-run and named after Candido, a well-known and respected man in the area. Consequently traditions are important and have managed to be upkept. Suckling pig (cochinillo) is one of the most popular and famous dishes and reason why people eat at the Meson – it’s even served in the old-fashioned way.
We ate the suckling pig, which serves two and after it had been presented to the table the waiter cut it using the edge of a plate before later hurling the plate to the floor (similar to the Greeks). This created quite a reaction from other diners with excellent photo opportunities and a lot of people left their seat to crowd and watch with anticipation. The pork itself was very succulent and just fell off the bone with ease. Although the pig is cooked whole in a special oven for about an hour, it’s constantly basted to ensure it doesn’t dry out. I don’t think I’ll ever see roast pork in the same way!
The restaurant was on a number of floors and there’s the option to sit outside underneath the aquaduct, which sounds amazing! Unfortunately it was about 12C so we settled for inside which was cosy and very rustic. The decor was keeping with the medieval themes – a lot of carved wood and carefully designed architecture. I’m still in awe of the whole experience.
10/10 – Ranked #9 of 129 on Trip Advisor

Monday, 3 June 2013

Sunday Snapshots #11

Favourite way to start the day ~ Last minute brushing up ~ ClaireaBella love ~ Standard selfie ~ Happy Birthday Rob
So I’ve continued with the (fairly!) clean eating and pilates work-outs this week and stumbled across this little gem in Sainsburys – Ryvita fruit crunch. I don’t even think they’re made for breakfast, but I love them with nutella and raspberries (although strawberries and blueberries are just as good!). Or you can make a breakfast sundae by smashing them up and lining a glass before topping with natural yogurt and fruit/nuts/whatever you like! Yummy!
My holiday has come round so quick and this quick I decided to get the Spanish dvds out. They claim you can learn the language within three months but I started with the introductory disc to practise my pronunciation of words – I think I’ll be able to get by alright, ordering etc. Mi español es limitado...
My ClaireaBella bag finally arrived at the weekend and I am already in love! Now I’ve had my hair done, I may have probably been better off choosing blonde hair (even though the blonde Bella is too yellow for my liking). I bought the jute in medium which is just the perfect size for hand luggage, but I’m desperate for a larger one, particularly as there are some new designs. I can’t wait to show it off!
I went shopping with mum over the weekend to get all my last minute bits (even though the majority were toiletries!) so it was a chance to try on my new denim jacket (which I bought for when I’m in Madrid). It’s only from H&M so it was fairly cheap, but it will be good to wear in the evenings when the temperatures drop!
Sunday was my brother’s 20th birthday and as the weather was so gorgeous, we had a barbecue in the garden. The healthy eating went out of the window and I ate my body weight in onion rings (there are no better crisp for a barbecue) and glugged glass after glass of pink fizz! There was also a dessert and birthday cake – of course, I had both! I just cannot believe next year he’ll be 21..!

Hope you’ve all had a good week and enjoyed the weekend. Did anyone else have a barbecue?