Thursday, 30 January 2014

Pub review: The Fox & Raven

OOTD: Top - Boohoo, Leggings - New Look,
Shoes - Forever21, Bag - Ted Baker
Where I ate:
The Fox & Raven, Barnes Mill Road, Chelmsford
The Fox & Raven is a gorgeous little country pub near Chelmer Village, away from the hustle and bustle of Chelmsford high street. Part of the Vintage Inns chain, the interior is beautifully homely and cosy, as so many of their pubs are. The pub has a rustic charm, from the outside, which is emphasised once you’re inside: low ceilings, beams, a nice woody smell. The surroundings are also picturesque – it’s within a stone’s throw of the River Chelmer. So what better way to shelter from the winter freeze than with a lovely pub lunch somewhere with a roaring open fire?
What I ate: 
Grilled rib eye ciabatta (with mustard mayo and onion rings) and chips, followed by rhubarb crème brûlée
I knew I was going out that evening, so didn’t want anything to heavy and there was no way I was going to be able to manage three courses from the fixed price menu. Nothing really jumped out at me and after umming and ahhing for ages, I settled for the sandwich menu. The last time I went to The Hawk with family, I remember brother having the steak ciabatta and saying how good it was. It did look nice.
There’s no scrimping on the portion sizes and I struggled to eat over half the chips – the sandwich was a meal in itself! I usually have my steak very rare; it arrived medium, but it was still very good – and not at all tough. The onion rings were also a welcome addition, but it was just missing a bit of rocket, or something.
Ordering from the light bites or fixed price menu allows you to choose from a selection of desserts priced at £2. I normally opt for the churros sundae, but knew that would be far too filling – particularly as I was also having birthday cake when I got home – and I wanted something different. Crème brûlée is one of my favourite desserts, but I’d never had it with actual fruit in it (I once had a passion fruit flavoured brûlée which was amazing). I was actually quite disappointed: the rhubarb at the bottom ruined the usual texture of the custard, although the sharpness of the fruit worked well with the sugary sweet brûlée topping. My friend went for the chocolate brownie – definitely a good choice!
If you’re after a good value meal in a lovely countryside location, then look no further. The food may not be spectacular but you always know what you’re getting. I had a lovely afternoon, celebrating my post-birthday and it was so nice to catch up outside of working hours with LJ.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Little Mistress: Competition winner

Recently I saw on Twitter that Little Mistress were running a Facebook competition. The prize: an item of clothing from their new-in range, inspired by all things Oriental.
Basically, you had to go to their Facebook page, where there was a Rafflecopter box with loads of things to do – simple things like following on Twitter and Instagram (which I’d already done). For each item on the list you completed, you were awarded a number of entries to the competition; obviously the more you did, the higher your chance of winning. I’m pretty sure I did them all.
I was on lunch at work at the beginning of last week, when I checked my phone and saw the following tweet:
And the winner of the oriental collection #competition is...@Luuuce_x Congratulations!! Look out for an e-mail from us x
As you can imagine, it certainly made my day – particularly as that day was a typical Monday! I went straight on the website, to have a look at what ‘prize’ I wanted – I was allowed to choose anything.
In the end, I went for this cream and black lace detail panel dress (usually £45) and it arrived 24 hours later (kudos to you, LM) – how efficient.
I went for dinner with the girls on Friday night, as a late birthday/catch-up meal and wore it then.
I love the panel style because it’s so slimming – particularly after three courses and copious glasses of wine and prosecco. The lace detailing on the shoulder is also very cute and the shoulder pads are barely there, so it doesn’t make me feel bulky or anything. You can’t go wrong with black and cream either, classic colours.
Thank you so much, LM.
Have you ever won a competition online? I’d love to hear what you’ve won.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Graze: 14.10.13

In this box, I got:
  • Lemon and poppy cake with an afternoon infusion
  • Super berry detox (blueberries, green raisins, goji berries and cranberries)
  • White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake (raspberry infused cranberries, white chocolate buttons and hazelnuts)
  • Cracking black peppercorn
I LOVE the cracking black peppercorn rice crackers, so when I got this box with three new snacks to try – and ones I’d wanted for ages – I was really pleased.
The high-tea tea and cakes are perfect for work and are so much healthier than the usual cakes, sausage rolls and chocolates that are dumped on the snack desk. This lemon and poppy seed cake is lovely and light and the lemon flavour is so subtle. Slightly citric, it works so well with the tea (which blends Assam, Kenyan and Earl Grey leaves). At little over 80 calories, it’s also a lot better for you than many other ‘diet brand’ cakes. If only boxes of five were possible – I’d be sorted for afternoon tea every working day. LIKE
Super berry detox is exactly that, containing all the vitamins you need – as well as boasting a ‘one of your five-a-day’ stars. This booster box contains blueberries, raisins, goji berries and cranberries and while it’s nice to snack on when you’re in need of a sugar fix, I mixed mine with natural yogurt for a healthy breakfast. LIKE
I really thought I would like the Graze take on white chocolate cheesecake – I mean, it contains chocolate: what’s not to like?! It was just far too sweet for me and the hazelnuts were so dry and bland, they spoilt the taste of everything else. Give me an actual slice of cheesecake any day – a low fat version, of course! BIN

Follow this link to receive three complimentary boxes – remember you can pick any snacks you like and can also cancel at any time. What better way to keep to that ‘eat healthy’ resolution than with some guilt-free treats?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Sunday Snapshots #21

I hope you’ve all had a good week – here’s what I’ve got up to.
My healthy regime has been given a boost with the arrival of this DVD. I attempted the full work out on day one, only to find I was awful – it was far too quick and complicated. The toning section is my fave though and the pain from squatting the next day is definitely worth it. To be honest, I’ve been meaning to tone up for ages but buying this has certainly got my bum in gear.
I treated myself to a couple of bits from Candy Hero, perfect for when I go off plan at the weekend. I’ve wanted the gingerbread Flipz for ages, but Tesco didn’t have them in their American section. I don’t care that the festive season is over, they sound amazing! You can’t go wrong with Jelly Belly beans either – I use the excuse they’re good for strengthening nails and are fat free. Not bad after all.
On Friday night, I went out for dinner and drinks with friends. It was a late birthday meal and also nice to catch up – I hadn’t seen Janine since an engagement party last year! I wore the dress I won on Little Mistress’ Facebook competition. The style is so flattering, with the panelling and the Oriental-inspired detailing is also cute. Fine food, lovely wine (and prosecco) and good company; what a perfect evening I had.
Work has been fairly busy this week, but there’s no greater satisfaction seeing your hard work pay off. I was so excited when The Guardian was delivered on Saturday, as I couldn’t wait to show my parents the product I launched this week. I felt so proud seeing the final product in the press.
I also had to pick up my glasses this weekend. I need them for driving at night, but also for long distances if my eyes feel tired. I chose these Ralph Lauren frames as I couldn’t find a style to suit my face – plus tortoise-shell never goes out of fashion. It sounds weird, but I like them.
Did you have a good weekend?

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Restaurant review: Loch Fyne

Where I ate:
Loch Fyne, Duke Street, Ipswich
I’ve been to Loch Fyne a few times and it is yet to disappoint. The atmosphere is always really good and even when it’s really busy, the service doesn’t suffer. The menu is extensive and I’m forever changing my mind – there’s just too much to choose from. I wish I could go more regularly, as by the next time I go, the menu changes. Last time I had the most Thai green curry and while I wouldn’t have had it this time round, I was disappointed to see it had been replaced by something else. Inside is always really cosy, with candlelit tables and the tables aren’t too close together – which is where so many places go wrong; there’s nothing worse than sitting on top of the couple next to you.
On this occasion, I was driving, so missed out on a glass (or two) of vino. It was strictly sparkling water.
What I ate:
Yellow fin tuna with king prawns, clams, egg noodles, pak choi, red chilli & chilli marmalade
There were a number of dishes I couldn’t choose between (including a couple of starters I’d have order with a side salad) and in the end I opted for the tuna – which was the first thing I spotted; isn’t it funny we always go back to the first thing we see?
The waitress advised me the tuna would be served pink, as though I didn’t know – I get the feeling looking back, she probably thought I thought it’d be yellow (!); oh dear. When it arrived, it didn’t disappoint: beautifully presented, the array of inviting colours and ample seafood.
Not being a fan of spicy food, I was hoping the chilli would be sweet, but how wrong I was. The chopped chilli on its own would have been more than enough, but the chilli marmalade was fierier – with a very bitter citrus aftertaste. While I still think I made a good choice, there were so many other dishes I wanted to try and I wonder how they’d have compared.
One thing that irked me somewhat (sidenote here) was the spelling on the specials chalkboards. I have never seen ‘mussles’ spelt that was before – surely somebody must know how to spell, or at least acknowledge the fact it’s incorrect. Other than that, I had another fab evening at Loch Fyne, with excellent service and wonderful food. I’m already anticipating my next meal!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Lucy Loves... Yankee Candles

After reading this post on Bows & Belles last month, I realised I had been missing out all this time – I had never bought a Yankee candle. I love candles in my room, as it makes it cosy in the evenings and when it comes to scent, the sweeter the better; I love vanilla, anything sugary and smells that remind me of my favourite sweet treats. In fact, my favourite thing about going to Clintons Cards is the selection of Yankee products they have and the way they transform the shop – smells of Christmas, fresh laundry etc. I don’t think I could ever commit to a large house warmer jar, because I’d get bored halfway through burning and they are a little on the pricy side. So when I saw that the Scented Candle Shop had a sale on, I could not resist and have since been converted!
Being a newbie, I opted for the Votives – these little samplers have approximately 15 hours burning time and are a great way of finding out your favourite smells. Ranging in price from £1.35 to £1.80, I chose 10. Once I’ve lit them all, I’ll either try out some others or buy larger versions, depending on which are my favourites.
As I bought these in the back end of last year, I chose a couple from the Christmas range, including Snowflake Cookie, which Kirsty recommended and Merry Marshmallow, which I’ve only just lit. I know I’ll love Snowflake Cookie: it’s girlie pink colour, the sickly sweet smell which is a cross between icing and candy floss – I may save it ‘til last. Merry Marshmallow is lovely too, very sweet, like toasted marshmallow, with a hint of vanilla. I wouldn’t even say it was Christmassy – but for the snowmen on the wrapper!
Through the plastic, the Salted Caramel votive smells incredible, almost good enough to eat – I can’t wait to light that one. And Cherries on Snow also looks like being a hit – a mix of cherry and almond with an icy freshness, it almost sounds like a Disaronno; perfect! Lovely for spring, I think.
Are you a Yankee addict? Which is your favourite?

Monday, 20 January 2014

Restaurant review: Yo! Sushi

Where I ate:
Yo! Sushi, Rupert Street, London
As part of this year’s family theatre trip (a little later than our usual post-Christmas/Pre-New Year evening out), we went to the Garrick by Leicester Square. Last year we went to Wagamama, so this time round dad chose Yo! Sushi.
We eventually found the restaurant after a short diversion to the Trocadero Centre (quite frankly the worst place I’ve ever been to in my life!) and surprisingly, despite the size, wasn’t busy at all. There were plenty of seats around the conveyer belt and we were positioned at the back of the restaurant with a lovely view of the food being prepared in the centre, as well as everything going round on the belt.
Love watching the food go round
That’s my favourite thing about Yo! – the freedom to pick up whatever you fancy and the fact you can have as much or as little as you want. The menu also boasts a number of hot dishes which can be ordered and then prepared and cook fresh in front of you. Again, you can order as much as you want, whenever you like, by simply pressing a button and getting the staff’s attention. I often pick a lot of the same dishes, but once in a while go for something different – that’s the beauty of the belt, spotting something that looks different and you’ve not had before. There’s just so much to choose from.
Because so many of the plates contain two, three or even six, it’s even worth sharing so you get a little taster of everything as opposed to a whole dish. My brother and I shared a number of plates this time round – again, it was nice having something different as we both chose an array of varying plates. You don’t leave feeling overly full or bloated either and despite the majority of dishes containing rice, everything tastes so light, because it’s fresh.
What I ate:
  • Spicy seafood udon (316 kcal)
I hadn’t tried this before, but a fan of other seafood udon broths, I thought I’d try it. Spicy is an understatement – this toxic orange coloured broth absolutely blew my head off; even dad said it was too hot, as he sat sweating! The salmon and squid were lovely, although I was disappointed to find no prawns in my bowl. I ate everything but had to leave the broth. I’ll still with Waga’s ramen, I think!
  • Spicy pepper squid (145 kcal)
California roll
I love squid and this is something I always order from Yo! As soon as it arrives, it’s so hot and the batter tastes fresh and well-seasoned. There isn’t too much chilli, so it’s not as spicy as the broth, but the pepper adds a nice heat, without being too much. I could easy eat more than one portion of this, it’s possibly my favourite dish.
  • Spicy chicken ISO (130 kcal)
This portion contains two rolls, so I shared this one with my brother – another new dish for me. I love katsu chicken and the sauce in this wasn’t too hot, more fruity and delicately spiced. I’d definitely have this again.
  • California roll (118kcal)
Another of my favourites, I think I just love all of the ISO rolls. The California roll contains crabmeat and avocado (what a great combination!) with a slight touch of mayo so it isn’t too dry. I often dip mine in soy though. I could eat plate after plate of these and not get bored.
Spicy chicken ISO and
Crunchy prawn ISO
  • Crunchy prawn ISO (126 kcal)
I hadn’t tried this roll before and I still can’t work out whether I like it, or not. The prawn was in a tempura style batter with katsu sauce – it was a bit strange, katsu doesn’t work with seafood. I think it had been doing the rounds on the conveyer as well, it didn’t taste as fresh as everything else I selected.
  • Cucumber maki (140kcal)
Okay, no trip to Yo! is complete without a serving of cucumber maki! This may be my all-time favourite dish. It’s so light and refreshing and perfect for picking out, while decided what to take next. Soy with these are a necessity and even though you get six rolls on a plate, you’ll be lucky if I share these with you!
  • Chicken gyoza (119kcal)
My brother chose these from the belt, so I tried one. I’m not usually a fan of dumplings as I find them too dry and the texture of the case is a bit weird. There were surprisingly nice, although too spicy for my liking – for that reason, I wouldn’t order these for myself.
  • Strawberry cheesecake mochi (185kcal)
Wow, wow, WOW! A new edition to the dessert menu are these delightful balls of yummy, sweet goodness! I wasn’t a fan of the original mochi (too gelatinous) or the chocolate version (too rich), but these are perfect – can I just have a bowl full next time? The tiny bit of strawberry in the middle is just enough, while the custardy cheesecake filling is amazing! It is like eating a mini cheesecake – for a fraction of the calories and is actually a lot nicer!

Strawberry cheesecake mochi
So I actually managed to eat 810kcal and wasn’t full. I can’t wait for my next visit to Yo!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sunday Snapshots: My 24th birthday

So it was my 24th birthday on Thursday and because I was working, I decided to prolong it for the rest of the week!

I came into the office on Thursday to these delightful photos, which were put up within the department. I was expecting there to be a lot worse, but luckily my colleagues were kind to me. My desk was also trashed with various photos, balloons and streamers – they really went all out. I received a lovely card, bottle of rosé and some vouchers for Debenhams (definitely going to be buying make up with those!), I am so lucky. We also went to the local pub for lunch, which wasn’t as good – they had a power cut and therefore, no hot food. It also transpires they’ve stopped selling sandwiches with chips, despite keeping the prices the same – and to have chips comes at a £3 supplement, so we’ll be giving that a miss from now! £13 for lunch is not right!
My manager’s mum made me this gorgeous birthday cake. It’s so me: pink, flowers, butterflies – I love it. I was so worried about getting it home, but it was fine and stayed in one piece. The cake had three layers of sponge with butter cream and jam and even chocolate chips. The base was white chocolate and the butter cream icing was studded with sugar paste flowers, butterflies and silver balls. There was so much and despite three pieces this weekend, I’ve still got loads to eat. I’m taking some into work tomorrow as I know it’ll go down well.
On Saturday, I went for lunch with LJ from work. We went to a lovely country pub on the outskirts of Chelmsford (which I’m sure I’ll blog about at some point – I’m so behind at the moment). I managed to get lost on the way so was a little bit late but it was good to see her outside of work and I had a really yummy lunch. My Aztec knitted jumper dress is from Boohoo, for those asking.
In the evening on Sunday I went for dinner with the family. We went to the Mandarin Palace in Hornchurch, a family favourite – we’ve been going there for years. I wore my Forever21 peplum top and new Lipsy leather skirt (definitely love that purchase!), with my old Linzi black heels. We had a really good meal, as we usually do there (again, I’ll be blogging that review soon) and it was nice to celebrate with those closest to me.

I’m also going to be going out with the girls next week – I haven’t seen them in a while so will be good to catch up over some good food and vino. To be honest, I don’t feel any older! 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

What I got for Christmas: Fashion edition

Following on from my beauty post the other day, here are some of my favourite fashion pieces from Christmas.
Ted Baker leather tote
I’ve wanted a ‘grown up’ bag ever since I got my job and there’s no way I can afford a Mulberry at the moment – plus everyone else on Facebook and Twitter seemed to get one, so maybe I’ll give that a swerve! This Ted Baker bag is absolutely gorgeous and I fell in love with it as soon as I unwrapped it (and removed it from the large purple dust protector!) – I take it pretty much everywhere with me. There’s so much space for all my work things and the pockets are just perfect for my keys, work pass and lip balms; there’s even a special space for my phone. Definitely an investment, it’s a classic colour and the bow detail is so cute too.
Forever21 shoes
Shoes were something else I needed for work, ideally black flats and ones suitable for driving in. My brother spotted these and instantly said he thought they’d suit me – they’re quite smart and a lot different from the usual ballet pumps I wear. I was drawn to these in store as well, in fact they were the first pair I spotted – you always go back to the first thing you see!
Minnie Mouse jumper
Cosy knit, check; Disney character emblazoned on the front, check; what more could I want to snuggle up in this winter? This oversized jumper is simply perfect and despite the polka dot, it’s by no means Christmas exclusive. My parents gave me some money to spend on Christmas presents when I went to Bluewater back in mid-December and I spotted this almost instantly. I’m such a big kid at heart and there’s nothing better than cuddling up in this jumper with a film and some snacks.
What were your favourite Christmas presents? I’d love to hear about what you’ve bought in the sales, too.  

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Graze: 30.09.13

In this box, I got:

  • Yaki Soba (soba peanuts, edamame beans, chilli & lemon chickpea noodles and chilli broad beans)
  • Apple & cinnamon flapjack
  • Twist of black pepper popcorn
  • Tropical daiquiri

Two loves, a like and a new nibble to try, courtesy of the ‘send soon’ button. I’m really desperate to try everything so that I can rate the entire range and then pay for all my favourite things to arrive. Yaki Soba was one of those and I knew I’d either love it or hate it. Unfortunately, it was the latter. It’s weird because I love edamame beans (especially at Yo! Sushi – yum!) and the chilli broad beans used to be one of my favourite elements of Graze savoury snacking. This reminded me of Bombay mix though and for that reason, I disliked it. It was far too dry and just a bit boring, so while it went to my virtual bin, I gave the rest of the punnet to my mum. BIN
I still LOVE Tropical Daiquiri and Apple & Cinnamon Flapjack, while the black pepper popcorn is still on my LIKE list, I just can’t seem to change that rating, although it is scrummy!
Follow this link to receive three complimentary boxes – remember you can pick any snacks you like and can also cancel at any time. What better way to keep to that ‘eat healthy’ resolution than with some guilt-free treats?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

What I got for Christmas: Beauty edition

I’ve seen a couple of these posts, so thought I may as well join in and share a few of my beauty-based Christmas presents. I’ll try and write a fashion post in the next few days. Here are my favourites:
Umberto Giannini dazzle shine kit
This beautiful set contains a shampoo, conditioner and finishing spray, as well as hair bands and bungees. I’ve never used Umberto Giannini products before but I definitely will on the basis of this. The smell is gorgeous and it does exactly what it says on the bottle – my hair was so shiny and healthy looking from the first use. I’m going to use this once a week as treat to revitalise my locks.
Lush Father Christmas bath bomb
Christmas isn’t Christmas without Lush products and there’s no bath like a Lush one. I received this little fella in my stocking. The smell starts off a strong orange (forget satsumas in your stocking, this is much better!), before turning into that sweet and sherbet-y smell so familiar with the Lush brand. Once thrown into the bath, your Father Christmas explodes into a rainbow of colours before turning the water a very bizarre green – strange! It left my skin feeling soft and smelling lush though.
Snow Fairy gift box
Yep, more Lush products! Snow Fairy is the brand’s number one best-seller over the festive period and it’s obvious why; it’s my absolute favourite too! In this gift box I got a 100ml bottle of the Snow Fairy shower gel, an Angels Delight soap and Shimmy Shimmy shimmer bar.
Starting with the shower gel, if you’ve not tried it, why not?! This pink and glittery concoction may look sickly, but the scent is anything but, even though it is a cross between bubblegum and candy floss. It’s almost good enough to eat!
I’ve not used the Angels Delight soap yet, but like the Snow Fairy, is part of Lush’s Christmas range so is limited edition – I wish I had stocked up now! Again, this has an orangey smell, mixed with grapefruit and jelly babies. I find that Lush soaps don’t lather up well, so I’m hoping that this bucks that trend.
The Shimmy Shimmy bar was also new to me and I hate to admit that I’m not a fan! I used it after my bath, and while it left my skin almost baby-soft, I ended up looking like an Oscar – not a good look! The glitter gets absolutely everywhere too and doesn’t disappear: my bathroom’s covered, my towel, my bedroom floor, my bedding, clothes, hair and skin – even weeks on! Apparently you can cut bits of this up and put them in the bath, because of the heat, it melts and you’re left with glittery water. I might try that next time!
Yule Monty box
Anyone that knows me well will know I love Soap & Glory, so I was over the moon when I got this gorgeous carry bag with so many well-loved products. The bag is limited edition and now I have this, I’ve thrown my previous one out – this one’s definitely a keeper. There’s a few products I’ve not tried before which I’m looking forward to trying out – the ‘peaches and clean’ 3-in-1 face wash being the stand-out.
The ‘hand food’ is possibly my favourite hand cream and I’ve always got a tube of it in my bag. It makes my hands so soft, even in the winter when my skin dries out, the smell is just amazing and the consistency is good and not at all greasy.
I also love the smell of the ‘heel genius’ cream, but I can’t work out what it reminds me of! This product is such a lifesaver though, especially after a night out. There’s nothing better than kicking off heels and rubbing on a thick layer of this moisturiser, before adding bed socks. When you wake up in the morning, your tootsies will be revitalised!
The ‘sexy mother pucker’ lip plump is also one of my must-haves and this one tastes like candy floss. I love that you can feel it working, it’s really tingly, although it’s so hard to fight temptation to lick your lips when you have this on.
Desire Me perfume
[not pictured] This sophisticated scent is one of my all-time faves, although I’m a huge fan of Escada generally. When I was a teenager, I’d always buy their limited edition summer scents at the airport before my holiday. This fragrance is perfect for nights out, somewhere special. It’s definitely not one I’d wear on a daily basis, because it’s just too good. As with other Escada perfumes, I love the bottle, although this one is more classy than cute. I don’t think I could really describe the smell: it’s sweet, but spicy, so perfect for Christmas.
What products did you get over Christmas? I’m always interested in hearing your recommendations.