Monday, 29 July 2013

Restaurant review: Catch

Where we ate:
Catch, Queens Road, Buckhurst Hill
Catch is the place my friend Kim and I always go to for a catch-up. It’s always really chilled out in there, despite being busy – but it’s a perfect place to eat, drink and chat. We went on a Thursday night and considering it wasn’t a Friday or the weekend, it was pretty packed and we sat in our usual place in the far side of the restaurant. The booth area was also occupied by a group celebrating a birthday which made the atmosphere a bit better – there always seems to be a birthday at Catch, but where else would you want to go? I hadn’t been for a few months so was really looking forward to the meal all week!
What we drank:
Kim – cokes
Me – a couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio
What we ate:
Kim – garlic and chilli prawns, followed by chocolate mousse
Me – tempura prawns, followed by vanilla cheesecake
We both shared a couple of sides: skinny fries and a house salad
I seem to be working my way through the menu at Catch and every time I’ve been, I’ve tried something new. I was really tempted to have the squid, like I had last time, but decided on the tempura prawns after seeing this picture on Instagram that Nicky uploaded. They are on the starter menu but I asked for a main size portion (something you can do with all the starters, if you ask!), but there were way too many for one person. I reckon there must have been 18 prawns on my plate, needless to say I did eat them all – some with sweet chilli dipping sauce and the others with mayo! They were really light considering the batter and the nicest tempura I’ve ever eaten.
We always share sides and often choose the salad because it’s lovely and goes so well with the fish/seafood. It contains green beans which is quite unusual for a salad but it also complements the garnish with the prawns well (I’m still wondering what is in it, but whatever it is, it’s amazing).
Kim always has the garlic and chilli prawns, which are always on the specials’ board – you can also have them in spaghetti.
Talking of specials, I went for the cheesecake for dessert and despite the size and richness, it was the yummiest vanilla cheesecake! It was almost a meal in itself and as soon as it arrived to the table, I could feel the pounds being added to my waist. Served with frozen berries and fruit compote, it was delicious and something I would thoroughly recommend.

Another excellent meal and evening at Catch – great food, service and company! I’m so desperate to go on a Wednesday, where ‘Paella Wednesday’ takes place – I do love a paella and I’d be interested to see how it matches up to a traditional Spanish one, cooked on a fire. Once again, if you’ve not been to Catch before – go! You won’t be disappointed!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Sunday Snapshots #16

Things are looking up!
Honestly, no one makes a better salad than me – but it’s no surprise, the amount I eat in a week. This one combined the flavours of Italy and Spain, possibly my two favourite cuisines. An Italian salad base with tomatoes, red pepper and a homemade basil oil vinaigrette, slices of chorizo and pickles. Yummy!
I had an interview on Monday and after two the previous couple of weeks, I’m running out of things to wear (can’t wear trousers in this weather!). I went for my AX Paris dress – a definite favourite.
And the results of said interview. On Wednesday we celebrated the fact I’ve got myself a full-time job. You have no idea how excited I am to get started and I still can’t believe it – the last couple of years have been such a struggle. My dad is over the moon and the ‘congratulations’ and ‘well done’ messages were quite overwhelming. Here’s to the future!
How cute are these?! I saw someone put the link on Twitter and instantly fell in love. It’s the little girl in me that still loves Disney Princesses that was wowed by these designs for engagement. I think the Cinderella one is my fave, but then again, I could have a different one for every day of the week. Yup, there’s six – I still want a Tiffany ring, so that makes seven! Which is your favourite?
This recipe was in Saturday’s Guardian and I had to share it. I love fro-yo and strawberries, so this is an absolute winner. There’s nothing more refreshing than an ice lolly on a hot day, even better if you’ve made it yourself. I’m definitely going to be giving them a try – are you?

Have a good week everyone!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sweet Treats: Malibu chocolate cookies

I’ve not baked in a while (it’s definitely a winter thing!) but I got these Malibu chocolates for Christmas, which needed eating up. I never really eat chocolate anyway, let along during the summer, so I thought what better way to use them up than to bake. After all I love Malibu and I love cookies!
I took this recipe from one of my favourite childhood recipe books – Usborne Farmyard Tales Children’s Cookbook – obviously adapting it slightly.
This recipe makes 12, although I made 13 and you will need:
·         100g caster sugar
·         100g butter (at room temperature)
·         1 egg
·         ½ tsp vanilla essence
·         175g plain flour
I added 10 Malibu chocolates, which I based with a rolling pin in a sandwich bag.
Alternatively, use 150g milk chocolate drops and 100ml Malibu.
To bake:
·         Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl
·         In a small bowl, break and beat the egg and add the vanilla essence
·         Add to the mixture and sift in the flour, stirring until soft
·         Add the Malibu chocolates (or Malibu and chocolate chips) and stir in
·         Put a tablespoon of mixture on a baking tray, flattening each with the back of  spoon/fork
·         Sprinkle a teaspoon of desiccated coconut on each and push into the mixture
·         Bake in the oven (gas mark 4) for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown
·         Leave to cool on a wire rack and store in an air-tight container – eat within five days

Even for a first attempt, I wasn’t really happy with how these turned out. The texture resembled cut-out biscuits, as opposed to cookies. However, they were a hit with my family so I’ll definitely be trying them out again!

Will you be trying these out? What’s your favourite combination?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Pub review: The Viper

Where we ate:
The Viper, Mill Green, Ingatestone

The only pub with its name in Britain, The Viper is a traditional real ale pub in idyllic, peaceful surroundings. Totally unspoilt by local woodland – the car park is sheltered by trees – the pub offers indoor seating and a plentiful beer garden, perfect in this weather! In fact, I’ve only ever sat outside; although it does get busy – often attracting cyclists and dog walkers (everyone is welcome!). You could certainly call it a little gem and it’s on the outskirts of Ingatestone. The only thing is, they don’t accept credit or debit cards, so make sure you have cash on you – you won’t be disappointed. The Viper is perfect.
What we drank:
Dad – a pint of Jake the Snake, followed by V.I.P.A
Me – apple and mango J2Os
What we ate:
Dad – the ‘famous’ jumbo sausage (baguette with fried onions)
Me – BLT sandwich on granary bread (served with crisps and salad)

Other than the natural beauty of the surroundings and general quietness of the area, the food is another reason people come back to The Viper. To sum up, it’s simple but very good. So many pubs now are chains or try too hard with their food but at The Viper, enjoy a sandwich or jacket potato, or even push the boat out with a Ploughman’s.
I opted for a BLT (probably one of my favourite sandwich fillings) on granary bread (a doorstep wedge), served with crisps and salad. The salad wasn’t anything too fussy either, which was lovely, and how a salad should be. A classic combination of lettuce, cucumber, tomato and onion with cress – with no fancy salad dressing.
Pricewise, you’re looking at around £4-5 per person – but the sandwiches are well worth the money, proper pub lunches! If you can sit outside, even better! Plus everything is homemade and fresh, even the guest beers are their own. We paid under £20 for the two of us, which also included a couple of drinks each, not bad going I thought.
I don’t think I could say anymore to persuade you to visit The Viper and it’s possibly one of the nicest pubs in Essex. Failing that, The Cricketers is a couple of minutes down the road and is equally as good, we visit the two in equal measure. If you’re after a real homely country pub, they are for you.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Sunday Snapshots #15

What a busy week it’s been!
Wednesday yet again was massively hectic – I had another interview, this time in Colchester. I was hoping to drive, but in the end dad took me – which was good as it meant I could remain focused on the interview and not worry about getting lost or arriving late! There’s no way of getting there by public transport from where I live, it’s really out in the sticks! I’ve been called back for round two this week, so fingers crossed all goes well.
As a thank you to my dad for driving me to and from the interview, I offered to pay for lunch. He chose to go to The Viper, a gorgeous pub on the outskirts of Ingatestone (pretty much on the way home). I’m going to be blogging about it soon – I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough: excellent food, drink and surroundings; the beer garden is perfect in this weather!
I also baked this week – I know, long overdue! I had some Malibu chocolates leftover and didn’t really want to eat them, so decided to make chocolate and coconut cookies. They didn’t really end up looking like cookies though, more the texture of cut-out biscuits. Again, I’ll be blogging the recipe later this week. Despite not turning out how I’d initially planned, they were a great success with the family so I’ll be giving them a go again (adapting the recipe by using chocolate chips and shots of Malibu).
At the weekend my boyfriend came down. I’d not seen him for a month so it was great to spend some time with him and chill. I always make him a sausage or bacon sandwich for breakfast (girlfriend points, much?) and so I made myself this stack of pancakes. Topped with honeydew melon and strawberries, drizzled with honey... yummy!
We had a barbecue on Friday night but on Saturday went to North London to Barnet’s new ground, The Hive. They were playing Ipswich in a pre-season friendly (Jake’s team) and it was the first time I’d headed down there. With the Jubilee line down, it was a mission to get there (and back) but it was fairly impressive. It was weird visiting the new place, not being there with dad and with it being empty. I think it’ll take some getting used to!
Out in the garden, once again enjoying the sunshine. I try and get out there for at least an hour a day, but for some horrible reason, I still resemble Casper (note to self: hit the bottle again). I’m currently reading the second book from Lauren Conrad’s LA Candy trilogy and loving it! You can read my review of book one here.

I hope you all had a good week – did you do anything exciting this weekend?
Until next Sunday...

Friday, 19 July 2013

Lucy Loves... Stylefruits

I came across Stylefruits via Facebook – it kept appearing in my side bar as a sponsor, and couple of my friends had ‘liked’ it. After signing up to the website earlier, I’m already addicted and I’m sure you will be too!
If you aren’t familiar with the concept, Stylefruits is basically your one stop shop for all things fashion. Trail their database for clothes, shoes and accessories, with over 100 brands to choose from, and create your ultimate outfit. Creating a picboard allows you to show off your ideas to friends and the Stylefruits community – whether you’re looking for inspiration, copying a current trend or resembling your individual style. The website also acts as a springboard and once your pinboard is created, you can be linked to the shops/brands so you can purchase the items online.
You can even create your own profile, saving each board as you go. Entering information such as favourite brands, favourite colours and favourite blog (I chose Beauty Blogging Brunette!), the Stylefruits community gets to learn more about you.
Stylefruits are currently running a competition with three winners receiving shopping vouchers – £100 for 1st, £50 for 2nd and £20 for 3rd place – which can be spent at a number of outlets, including: House of Fraser, Boohoo and Miss Selfridge.
Here’s my pinboard:
Click to view online and see where everything is from!
What do you think?
The site also lets you rate and comment on other users’ outfits – there’s even a question and answer section for all of your fashion concerns and queries. If you’re struggling for inspiration or don’t know what to wear to that family party, there will be someone out there to help you!
Will you be checking out Stylefruits?

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Graze: 29.05.13

In this box, I got:
Hot Cross Yum
Olive and Rosemary Bruschetta (mini tomato breadsticks, rosemary & garlic cashews and kalamata olive croutons)
Fruit and Seed Flapjack
Toffee Apple

Only one new nibble in this box, as I’d never had the Olive and Rosemary Bruschetta before. Two of my favourites arrived in the form of Hot Cross Yum and Toffee Apple. If I were to list my top 10 Graze snacks, both of those would definitely be up there, maybe even a top five! I’m also a huge fan of the flapjacks, which are a great size for sharing – the fruit and seed is a yummy and healthy combo! To see what I thought of my already-tried snacks, click the names.
Olive and Rosemary Bruschetta went straight into my virtual bin – although the only bit I really wasn’t keen on was the croutons, but then again I don’t like olives. They had a really strong olivey flavour, which is an acquired taste. It’s a shame because I love the mini breadsticks – whether they’re tomato or paprika – and even the cashews were nicer than I was expecting. I like a lot of the savoury snacks, despite my sweet tooth; unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them.
Remember, if you want to choose some punnets to try (and I definitely recommend Hot Cross Yum – those honeyed almonds are just dee-vine!) enter the following code on the website and get your first box FREE!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

July’s book: LA Candy

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Lauren Conrad, although I am very late in buying, reading and reviewing her first trilogy of books. Lauren – of Laguna Beach and The Hills fame – has been busy since those days, now a successful fashion designer and author, with an excellent website to boot.
The LA Candy trilogy surrounds four girls who move to Hollywood and soon get targeted by a producer who wants them to star in his new show – a reality series, like a ‘real life’ Sex and the City. After signing up to the show and having their lives well-documented, the girls realise that fame isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be and of course, dramas ensue. So let’s meet the girls:
Jane Roberts is the central character and main star of LA Candy. She’s best friends with Scarlett and works at Fiona Chen Events Management. Prior to moving to LA, she split up with long-term boyfriend Caleb and while she’s not really looking for love, it doesn’t mean to say a guy (or two) will come her way...
Scarlett Harp is Jane’s best friend who agrees to star in the show for her sake, she’s clearly reluctant otherwise. Currently studying Philosophy at USC, she feels the filming gets in the way of her study. A good looking girl, but with an abrasive personality, Scarlett quickly realises how fame can change people and thus, relationships are strained...
Madison Parker is a fame-hungry socialite dying to get noticed. Coming from a wealthy background and described as ‘in between jobs’, LA Candy is the perfect platform for her to spring into stardom, although she isn’t happy that Jane is the show’s star. Your typical American beauty, a glamorous blonde with a boob job, Madison’s true colours are soon revealed. One word: frenemy...
Gaby Garcia is best friends with Madison, but soon becomes close to the other two girls, despite Scarlett’s reluctance. She works for a PR firm but isn’t exactly the brightest tool in the box. She may be loyal, but she also has a bitchy side and loves nothing more than playing up to the cameras.
If you love The Hills or reality tv, you’ll love this book and you’re quickly absorbed by each personality and the girls’ lifestyles.
Lauren is adamant that the book isn’t based on The Hills: "I didn't take anything specifically that happened to me. I think everyone has certain people in their life.
Everyone has someone they really don't get along with. Everyone has a best friend. They have their parents. They have all these different people in their life and so does this character [Jane] and they all represent different people who change you."
I have to disagree with this though, because there are certain elements of each character that relate to The Hills girls. It’s obvious that Lauren is Jane, the everyday girl whose life is central to the show’s success. Even the minor characters have some similarities, for example Fiona Chen/Lisa Love.
It’s a great girly book and a really easy read. The storyline is really exciting, although a little predictable if you’re familiar with reality tv. The cover is really cute as well, with its little candy hearts. The book ended on a cliff-hanger, so I can’t wait to read book two and see what happens next.

Next up: Sweet Little Lies by Lauren Conrad.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Sunday Snapshots #14

What another gorgeous week it’s been; have you all been making the most of the sunshine?
Dad cooked dinner on Monday and this was almost a note to myself to blog the recipe at some point! It’s a teriyaki beef and udon noodle broth with pak choi and cashews, and the photo doesn’t do it justice at all! The first time he made it, I didn’t try it – and definitely missed out!
Tuesday was dad’s birthday and with everyone at work, we had to wait until the weekend to do something special. I did put a candle in his slice of cake at 4pm, but we waited until mum was home to do cards and presents. She even bought a chocolate fudge cake as well, which was delicious!
It seems Wednesdays are the days when something good happens. I had an interview this week, in Covent Garden. My dress is from Oasis and I bought it to wear for my graduation (nearly two years ago – eek!). The location was great, just opposite the station so in the middle of everything! It seems like the kinda place I’d like to work, I got a good vibe and loved the London buzz. I’ve not heard back yet, so we’ll see how it goes...
I bought yet more dvds this week, so my Thursday night was spent snuggled up in bed, with snacks, watching a film. I wanted to watch Gnomeo and Juliet when it was out at the cinema, but on reflection, I couldn’t work out whether I enjoyed it or not. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t really know what to expect. As always, I had a bowl of popcorn close to my side – Metcalfe’s sweet n salt topcorn; it’s amazing!
So like I said, we waited until the weekend to celebrate dad’s birthday. He chose The Raj in Brentwood, his favourite Indian restaurant. Obviously not being a curry fan, I had chicken tikka and salad, with a little bit of rice. I even drove to the restaurant, but my brother drove home – I still don’t feel very confident and need plenty of practise!  It was lovely for the four of us to go out, as we don’t often and we’re rarely all at home together!

I hope you all had a good weekend. Until next Sunday...

Friday, 12 July 2013

Summer Wishlist

So we’re almost midway through July and summer is definitely here. I know I’ve already had a mini-break, but I’m now desperate for a proper holiday! I’ve spent a fair bit of time flicking through magazines and browsing the net, so this post is dedicated to some must-have bits and pieces I’ve got my eye on.

The Perfume Shop
Escada – Cherry in the Air

25ml – £24.50
50ml – £29.99
I love Escada’s summer fragrances: flirty, fruity, fun and really get me into the holiday spirit. The bottles are always really gorgeous and this is no different, with its cherry print and little charm. Because each year’s offering is limited edition, I feel like I must have it – and collect the bottles too. Cherry in the Air is a blend of sour cherries and raspberries, with notes of marshmallow and sandalwood. I tried the tester at the airport and it was just lovely – not a patch on my fave Rocking Rio though. Do you like Escada’s range of perfumes?

I never wear a swimming costume (I mean who wants massive tan lines?!) but when I saw this a few weeks back on Missguided’s Twitter feed I instantly loved its sweet cheekiness. It comes in blue as well, but I’m definitely a coral kinda girl. If you find this print a little too daring, there are plenty of others available – I loved the bubblegum bottle print (because I love the sweets), but it’s no longer available. Are you a party rings princess or a liquorice allsorts lover?

You cannot beat a pop of colour on your nails during the summer months. It’s almost as vital as highlighting your hair or buying a new bikini (or two). I love the vibrancy of the polishes in the Suncatcher collection and particularly love palm tree and mango martini. They’re both colours I never wear. There’s also a collection called Fairground, with pastel shades which are really cute. Which colours are you currently wearing?

Mari Tote

I am always after a new bag; I think when it comes to retail, bags are my obsession. This tote is not only practical, but the perfect size and can be used all year round. I can’t decide on a colour though: the tan is professional, the coral is fun and the mink is different. I can’t resist a sale either and Accessorize never disappoint. Despite never being able to make up my mind over a bag and using it constantly until I buy the next, this is the one.

Dungarees appear to have made a comeback, unfortunately it leaves me with flashbacks of wearing them as a kid, when my mum dressed me up. That said, when I saw these, they were different – largely because they aren’t denim like every other pair at every shop! AX Paris is my go-to shop for dresses, but I’d never checked out the jumpsuit/playsuit section of their website. When it comes to clothing, I never really go for print either, particularly something so old-fashioned looking – but the paisley is pretty. The lace top the model wears on the website is also really nice, but I’m sure a plain tee would go just as well. What do you reckon?

What currently catches your eye?

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Sunday Snapshots #13

I can’t believe it’s Sunday already – where does the time go?

I was ill last weekend and the beginning of the week, so apologies for no snapshots last Sunday. The worst thing about being ill was not having an appetite and spending large parts of the day inside, than enjoying the sunshine. I’d not had marmite on toast since I was about nine either, so this rekindled childhood memories.
On Wednesday I passed my driving test! It’s true what they say: third time lucky! I am so glad it’s out of the way now and look forward to going car shopping. I’m still insured on my brother’s car though, so can’t wait to go out in that as well. Hopefully it’ll open up a few more opportunities for me.
One of many parcels for me this week were this collection of gorgeous treats. I love Candy Hero and there’s way too much choice – I could have easily spent £30 or more! The Lifesavers are for my dad, who asks me to buy them every time I order. Surprisingly, I’ve not eaten everything yet, but that’s probably for the best, or I’d be straight back online!
Thursday nights are always boring, with nothing good ever on tv. I took matters into my own hands and decided on a film with popcorn in my mum’s bed. Having read Confessions of a Shopaholic not that long ago (you can read my review here), I decided to watch the film – and I was feeling something girly! You can’t watch a flick without a bowl of popcorn – mine was from my Graze box, (with a twist of black pepper, which is lovely!). I’ve bought about eight dvds this week so at least that should keep me occupied for a while.
How gorgeous has the weather been this weekend?! In between watching Wimbledon (I’ve always loved it – if only I was remotely sporty...) I’ve been out catching some rays. I also appear to have got more colour in this country than I did when I was in Madrid (lobster red is still colour, right? I’m sure it’ll soon go brown too!). I spent Saturday organising my recipe cards for my folder, having written a few up from tatty magazines. I’m currently reading LA Candy by Lauren Conrad and so far, I love it. Expect the review when I’m finished as well.

I hope you’ve all had a good weekend and had plenty of pimms! Until next week...

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Graze: 15.05.13

In this box, I got:
·         Coffee and walnut cake
·         Keen bean (redskin peanuts, edamame beans and chilli broad beans)
·         Pina colada (pineapple, coconut flakes and mango)
·         Summer berry compote

Two new, never before tried nibbles awaited me in this box – and I hadn’t even requested them with send soon, so it was a lovely surprise. I’d previously sampled the coffee and walnut cake and summer berry compote, and still LOVE both! To see why, click on the names.

I wasn’t keen (get it?) on this savoury mix and for me, it was far too dry and boring. I loved the chilli broad beans and could’ve done with more (or maybe not wolfed them down so quickly!); there was just nothing to the other two elements. It could have been because I’d had edamame beans earlier in the day and just didn’t fancy them again, but the peanuts were a bit plain. Plenty of crunch but not exactly packed with flavour, I had to send this punnet to my BIN.
When I hear pina colada, I easily think about one of my favourite cocktails. So when I sneaked a peek and saw this in my box, I couldn’t wait to give it a try. Okay, so there may not be any alcohol involved, but it’s packed with vitamins and is awarded a Graze light feather (just over 100 calories)! It reminds me of holidays – the exotic coconut and pineapple with an added bonus of mango; soft, but slightly crispy. Beautiful – I LIKE it.

Remember, you can try these (or any other snacks that take your fancy) for FREE by logging on to the website and entering code: B1MKKZN

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Restaurant review: Pizza Express

Where we ate:
Pizza Express, The Strand, Charing Cross
The other week I went on a spa day with fellow blogger (and lover of pizza!), Vicky (you can read about our spa day, here). It was the perfect opportunity to wind down, well at least have an afternoon away from the everyday stresses. Having taken advantage of the facilities after our treatments, we had a very late lunch and Vicky suggested Pizza Express at The Strand.
Before I talk about our meal, I thoroughly recommend signing up to the Pizza Express emails/newsletters because some of the offers are just fab. Even if you don’t go regularly, how can you resist three courses for £12.95? I used mine, which allowed you to order a pizza for £2.50 when ordering another main course – bargain!
The restaurant must have been refurbished recently as it was the most modern-looking Pizza Express I’ve been in. Although the colour scheme and decor was not to my taste (definitely OTT!), there was plenty of space and the vibrancy made the overall experience a lot better. We sat on the ground floor, but I also read somewhere, there’s seating downstairs – obviously on a Thursday late afternoon it’s not very busy!
What we drank:
Vicky – San Pellegrino Aranciata
Me – San Pellegrino sparkling water
What we ate:
Vicky – Dough balls followed by Classic Margherita
Me – Romana Etna (hot soft n'duja sausage, roquito peppers, speck ham, grana padano)
You cannot go to Pizza Express without ordering the dough balls (honestly, I challenge you to it!). They’re so soft, yummy and incredibly moreish! Of course when Vicky ordered them, I couldn’t help but pinch one – if I ate a whole portion, there’s no way I’d eat my pizza after.
I always go for the Leggera Pollo ad Astra, but having skipped breakfast and burned negatives calories in the spa’s sauna and steam room, I was quite honestly starving! My brother had recommended the Etna a couple of days before, so I thought I’d go for it. I got quite a shock when it arrived – it was HUGE. It could quite easily feed two or three with a couple of side orders, but I managed just over two-thirds (good effort by me!) and picked all the topping off as well. Although it was a little spicy for my taste, it was delicious – I’m such a fan of the roquito peppers! The n’duja sausage was something I’d never heard of, and was almost like a paste, very fiery!
I don’t think I would order it again, but it made a nice change from my usual order and certainly filled me up.

What’s your favourite at Pizza Express? And have you taken advantage of their deals?