Monday, 24 February 2014

Little Mistress: Competition entry

EtailPR have teamed up with Little Mistress to promote this incredible competition. One lucky winner will get £500 to spend on the Little Mistress website (that’s pretty much an entire Spring/Summer wardrobe sorted!) and all you have to do is write a wish list post. Create an outfit for any occasion and who knows, you could be wearing it, rather than just wish.
As I am going to Barcelona next month for a couple of days, I’ve decided  to go for a daytime outfit, as well as something I’d love to wear on an evening too. Here’s what I’ve gone for:
I’m loving the whole monochrome thing at the mo, so was immediately drawn to this top. I love the Peter Pan-esque collar and peplum is so flattering, it’s something I’m buying more and more of – and it’s a trend which hasn’t seemed to die down!
I’m forever wearing dresses for work and when I’m at home, stick to leggings. I never buy trousers, which is why I love these; they’re so out of my comfort zone! They go so well with the top as well and so flexible – I could even wear them in the office.
In term of evening attire, it could only be Paper Dolls black gold bar belted asymmetric hem bodycon dress (£62)
A girl can never have too many LBDs, right? Again, it’s peplum. I love the asymmetric hem and it’s just beautiful, so simple, yet sophisticated. I can imagine sitting at a bar, sipping a cocktail, wearing this with my hair in a posh up-do, teamed with my favourite red lipstick.
Of course I’d need to keep warm when walking from restaurant to bar, so I’d have to also have the Paper Dolls black textured long sleeve casual blazer (£59)
All I need now are some shoes and a bag...

What items are you currently lusting over? Leave your links in my comment box

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sunday Snapshots #23

It’s been a busy week, both at work and home. I hope you’re loving the new-look blog – I fancied a change. Here’s my week in photos:
A proper winter warmer, dad cooked sausage casserole at the beginning of the week – just what I wanted as soon as I got home from work! Nothing beats a home-cooked meal and my dad makes the best dishes. The fresh chilli definitely warmed me up!
My brother brought these two nail varnishes home for me – Ben received them in a goody bag and I’m so pleased he let me have them. I’ve never bought from the Essie brand before, although have read so many good reviews on blogs. I’m really looking forward to trying them out – especially as pastel colours are in at the moment. The gorgeous pink shade is so me as well. Expect a review soon...
I don’t want to say too much about this as I have already scheduled a post, but I was one of 100 winners to receive their Feel Unique tee design. I was so pleased to have found this waiting on the doorstep midweek when I’d had a bad day, it cheered me up no end. It wasn’t the only parcel I received this week...
...I got this gorgeous bouquet from my insurance company, following when I had a cracked windscreen a few months ago. The company didn’t deal with my claim very well and it took several letters of complaint to get reimbursed for having to pay up front. What a lovely surprise then, to receive these flowers! It wasn’t even the windscreen cover company I complained about, so that’s excellent customer service!
On Saturday night, I went to Catch at Buckhurst Hill with my friend Kim. We hadn’t been for a while and after rescheduling a number of times, finally got a date and time sorted. It was great to catch up and have some lovely food. I got the train as I fancied a glass of wine, so this was a cheeky train selfie on my way. The necklace is from Primark – I originally bought it for a cave girl night at uni, but have found myself wearing it several times recently.
How was your weekend? Did you do anything of note?

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Skinny dinners: salmon

I haven’t written any recipe posts for ages, but I thought I’d share one of my favourite recipes – I try and have it once a week. It’s reasonably healthy as well and can be served in a number of ways. If you don’t like salmon, keep your eyes peeled for my next post.
You will need (per person):
  • A fillet of salmon
  • 3 tsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp of fresh grated ginger
  • ½ tsp of chilli flakes
Baked salmon
One of my favourite dinners, it’s best to leave the top of the parcel uncovered, so the edges caramelise.
  • Combine the ingredients of the marinade in a ramekin
  • Place the salmon in a foil parcel and pour over the marinade
  • Cook on gas mark 6 for 20 minutes
I normally serve this with vegetables, green works best (Sainsbury’s do an amazing combination of broccoli/sugar snaps/asparagus) or stir-fried vegetables. Salad would work equally as well.

Salmon & broccoli tagliatelle
I cooked this the other week as a first attempt, making it up as I went along. It surprisingly turned out really well.
  • Cook the salmon for 20 minutes under the grill on in the oven (gas mark 6)
  • Boil a pan of water and add the tagliatelle (I used 40g)
  • Five minutes from the end of cooking, steam 100g of tenderstem broccoli
  • In a bowl, create the marinade and then add the salmon, flaked
  • Drain the pasta and cut the broccoli stems into thirds
  • Add the salmon and add more soy if necessary
Will you be giving this a go?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Beauty: Skin Care

It’s only recently that I’ve got myself into a routine, when it comes to skin care. I think the winter months and mix of heating in the car and air-con at work have taken their toll on my face. Only now have I realised the importance of keeping skin hydrated and looking fresh. For the last couple of months I’ve been religiously applying products daily and I’ve definitely reaped the benefits – hopefully I can keep it up.
Simple Kind to Skin purifying cleansing lotion - £2.99
Simple Kind to Skin soothing facial toner - £2.99
Simple Kind to Skin hydrating light moisturiser - £3.99
Cleanse, tone & moisturise
These products were two for £4 in Sainsbury’s, so I stocked up – also buying the eye makeup remover (but more about that later!). I never realised before how little of each product you actually need, so they do last ages. Plus it’s so easy to get into a routine of applying each every morning – I always do mine as soon as I wash my face. Had these not been on offer, I don’t think I’d have known where to start, but I’ve heard good things about Simple and now definitely recommend these.
Simple Kind to Eyes eye makeup remover - £3.25
Nivea Daily Essentials refreshing cleansing wipes - £2.99
Removing makeup
The Simple eye makeup remover is my go-to product. I wear quite a lot of dark eye makeup for work and tonnes of mascara – it removes it all with ease. Unlike other products, it doesn’t irritate or sting the eyes. I use this every night before bed, or sometimes if I’ve forgotten to take my makeup off properly after a bath or shower.
Now I’m not a fan of face wipes as I often find they don’t actually remove my makeup and instead, leave my face dirty, spreading foundation everywhere (yuk!). This is why I love Nivea wipes so much – their bumpy surface is just perfect for removing makeup and cleansing skin. They leave my skin feeling soft and looking clean and for that reason, they’re a winner.
Soap & Glory Peaches & Clean 3-in-1 wash off deep purifying cleanser - £8.00
Body Shop warming mineral mask - £10.00
Weekly treats
I love to treat myself to a face mask once a week and after trying the Montagne Jeunesse masque sauna my mum let me have her bottle of this warming mask by The Body Shop. You only need to leave it on for five minutes so it’s perfect to leave on while running a bath, and the warming effect works straight away. Once rinsed, my skin feels so soft and looks revitalised – it’s a miracle product and definitely worth pampering yourself weekly with.
Body Shop body scrub - £12.50 for 200ml (pictured is 100ml from a gift set)
Dove Purely Pampering body cream - £4.99
I try and exfoliate three times a week and swear by The Body Shop’s range of scrubs. Pictured is the coconut one, which I’m yet to try and I previously tried the chocomania variety. I swear by the cocoa butter one though and often use the moisturiser as well. However, I think I may have found my new favourite.
My new love is this moisturiser by Dove and it’s now part of my daily routine, after showering. When I first saw this in Superdrug for half price (RRP £4.99), I could not resist – and I’ve been buying it ever since. The combination of shea butter and sweet vanilla is just gorgeous and it leaves my skin feeling super soft – I definitely recommend it!
Which products do you use as part of a daily routine? And do you have any recommendations for me?

Monday, 17 February 2014

Restaurant review: Aurora

Where I ate:
Aurora, Helena Road, Ipswich
I’d not been to Aurora since Easter Sunday last year, so it’s fair to say, I was thoroughly looking forward to it – particularly given how lovely my meal was last time.
Once again, the only downside to the whole afternoon was how quiet the restaurant was. Obviously both times have been quite early in the year and I imagine in the summer (or at least when it’s sunny), the place thrives, but it’s just a shame it’s so quiet when we go. There were two other couples and then a party of eight or so, but it’s such a lovely restaurant in a picturesque location, it should be a lot busier than it was. There can’t be many better places to go for Sunday lunch in Ipswich, either.
Both times I’ve gone on a Sunday and both times opted for roasts (first time I had pork and this time I had the lamb) and both times I’ve left full and happy. The staff are always friendly and helpful, the view of the docks (even with grey skies) is beautiful, the atmosphere inside is relaxing – what more could you want?
Again, like so many of my reviews of late, I was driving – so it was my new favourite drink of choice: sparkling water.
What I ate:
To start – chicken liver parfait with fruit chutney and sourdough toast
To follow – woodview farm lamb with mint sauce, served with roast potatoes, cauliflower cheese, carrots and sprouting broccoli
To finish – pear & almond tart with Chantilly cream
The last time I went to Aurora, I could barely manage one course, let alone three; at £21.50, a three course meal is very reasonable, particularly given the size of the main courses. The chicken liver parfait was excellent, although I don’t often go for pâté to start as there’s never enough bread/toast. The fruit chutney was beautiful: sharp and sweet, but I feel it could have done with a leafy or rocket garnish.
I opted for lamb for my main course – the roast meats were that or beef, with two fish options and a veggie alternative – and I made an excellent choice. The last time I had lamb, it was a bit fatty, but this was cooked perfectly – and with barely any fat on it at all. It was also National Yorkshire Pudding day: what a bonus!
Dessert was never in any doubt, I had my eye on the pear & almond tart the moment I looked at the menu. It certainly lived up to my expectations, fresh and hot from the oven and incredibly moreish; the pastry just melted in the mouth, lovely and buttery.
All in all, another fabulous afternoon at Aurora – if you’ve not been yet, why not?

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sunday Snapshots #22

The rain has finally stopped and we even got some sunshine today – here’s what I’ve been up to this week:
I’ve been trying to continue with the healthy eating, which has proved difficult with this awful weather. Here’s what I cooked on Monday night – I’ll be blogging about it soon. We had a few bits hanging about in the fridge and cupboard and I totally improvised making this salmon and broccoli tagliatelle. I have to admit, for a first attempt and making it up as I went along, it was absolutely delicious!
On Wednesday I watched Arsenal on TV with dad in the evening. I’m absolutely in love with snacking on popcorn at the minute and although I do love the variety in Boots’ Shapers range, I think I’ve found a new favourite: Metcalfes. The sweet and salty is lush but this sweet cinnamon flavour is definitely a close second. I just need to stock up now!
FRIDAY SELFIE! I loved my hair, makeup and outfit for work on Friday so of course, had to a take a cheeky snap. My dress is from Oasis and I originally bought it for my graduation, and have worn it since for interviews, parties and to work. You can read here about the products currently in my makeup bag – but the Maybelline FitMe range is proving a lifesaver. I always feel better when my hair sits right (my fringe really needs cutting) and it was nice receiving a few compliments about my dress at work too!
Jake cooked for me on Valentine’s Day and it was lovely. It’s the first time anyone’s ever cooked a three course meal for me and while he slaved away in the kitchen, I sat and relaxed in the living room, with a glass of prosecco. To start, he cooked Thai chicken cakes, followed by fillet steak and thrice cooked chips. For dessert, he made lemon posset. Everything was really nice, although I was SO full – and tired – afterwards! We were hoping to watch Juno, but I practically fell asleep.
On Saturday, armed with these snacks, I went to the cinema to watch Her. I thoroughly recommend going to see it, if you haven’t already – it’s the best film I’ve seen for a long time. It was so well written, the soundtrack was beautiful and Joaquin Phoenix was just brilliant. I even found myself welling up in parts!
I hope you all had a good weekend,

Thursday, 13 February 2014

What’s in my makeup bag: February 2014

Maybelline Fit Me - £7.99
Maybelline Fit Me - £5.99
I now swear by the Maybelline Fit Me range, I honestly don’t think I’ve found a better foundation. There’s a section on the Maybelline website which helps you find your perfect shade, although I’ve found it a little misleading – maybe I answered the questions incorrectly. I do prefer to have a bit of colour and although the pale shades aren’t actually that pale, I do have to rely on bronzer, for that glow. Maybe I’ll eventually accept the natural look! The foundation leaves my skin looking flawless and I’m in love with the powder; so many others leave that horrible grainy residue on your face – not this one!
MUA bronzer - £1.00
MUA mosaic shade 2 sun-kissed glow - £1.50
I’m a bit of a bronzer addict, so there’s no way I’d ever spend loads on a single palette – it would just be a waste of money, the amount I piled on. When I saw MUA on the Superdrug website, I was a bit sceptical, questioning the quality, bearing in mind the price. I have to say, I’m really impressed with these budget bronzers. I’d even go as far as saying they’re as good (or better) than the more expensive ones out there! I love the mosaic palette and despite my numerous layers, it’s not orange at all and looks quite natural. What a steal!
Natural collection in pink cloud - £1.99
Eye Shadow
17 smoky eye kit – free
Maybelline great lash - £4.99
I rarely stray from Maybelline mascaras and have pretty much cleaned out their range. It was 3 for 2 in Boots on Maybelline products, so when I bought my foundation and powder, it was only right to buy a mascara. This one was free and one I’d not tried before. The wand is small so works really well, particularly at fanning out the corners of my lashes. It’s not blobby or thick, and really opens my eyes out. I think it’s probably my new favourite.
Not pictured, but as far as lips go, I’m loving:
Barry M gloss - £4.49
Mine’s a very aptly named Valentines shade. Not sticky like most glosses, this perfect for that red hot pout. I often wear this when I’m wearing black for work, or when I go out in leather leggings.
Soap & Glory extreme plump sexy mother pucker - £10.00
I love this for a night out! The bigger the pout, the better, as far as I’m concerned (how Essex of me!) and this gloss leaves my feeling and looking a lot fuller. I love that you can feel it working as well.
There are so many products I’m lusting over and with payday around the corner, I’m hoping to try out some new bits.
What’s currently in your makeup bag? 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Restaurant review: Masons

Where I ate:
Masons, Ingrave Road, Brentwood
I hadn’t been to Masons for years, in fact, I don’t think I’d been since the year it opened – I can’t even remember how long ago that was! I have to say it’s always been one of the better restaurants in Brentwood and being on the Ingrave Road you miss out on all the chaos of Wilsons Corner and the High Street.
I booked a table for three, meeting with Janine and Kim (my friends from Uni) for a post-birthday meal and long overdue catch-up. It was busy when we arrived (8:15) and I sat in the bar awaiting their arrival; we went straight to our table however, with no fuss. We sat next the pianist which was lovely and he definitely added to the overall ambience. Unfortunately, being so close, it was quite loud, which made conversing difficult.
What I drank:
Garganega Pinot Grigio - £16.95 a bottle
Prosecco - £21.95 a bottle
What I ate:
To start – smoked duck with rosemary parmentier sweet potato, crisp onion rings and red wine jus
To follow – honey roasted shoulder of lamb with mash, vegetables and gravy
To finish – maple and pecan crème brûlée
The Monday to Friday menu is priced at £19.95 for two courses or £23.90 for three. Everything was beautifully presented and not only looked good, but tasted amazing too. As you can see from the picture, my main course was absolutely huge too – well worth the money.
I opted for the duck to begin with and it was incredible – possibly the best starter I’ve ever had at a restaurant. The duck was thinly sliced and the smoky flavour was amazing. The mini onion rings were so cute and I loved the diced sweet potato; it’s definitely my new favourite vegetable.
I panicked when choosing my main course and went of the lamb, as I’d not had it for ages. I was, however, a little disappointed. While there was a lot there and the meat fell off the bone, it was far too fatty. I know lamb can be, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that much. We shared vegetables and there were plenty. I have to admit I struggled to eat it all, but saved room for dessert – there were so many things on the menu I had my eye on.
As everyone knows, crème brûlée is my favourite dessert and this variation worked a treat. The maple flavour wasn’t too overbearing, but I think the pecans should have been chopped. I don’t really like pecan nuts, but being whole, they ruined the texture of the texture of the dessert. They could have been mixed into the topping, more like a brittle. However, it was very nice – and a lot better than the previous brûlée I’d had out.
All in all, it was a lovely evening and once we’d eaten, we moved to the bar area, where we shared a bottle of prosecco. It was lovely to be away from the table and feel more relaxed. We settled up at that point and with the restaurant closing at 11:30, left. I definitely recommend going to Masons if you’re in the Brentwood area and have also heard good things about their roast dinners. There’s also a fixed price lunch menu.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Graze: 28.10.13

In this box, I got:
  • Carrot cake with an afternoon infusion
  • Banana split
  • Jalapeno hot chips
  • Apricotti biscotti
Four new snacks I requested with ‘send soon’ and the first I could not wait to try. I’d had a couple of punnets from the ‘high tea’ range before but I think the carrot cake is the best of them all! I love carrot cake anyway but the pumpkin seed topping and added spice (definitely some cinnamon in there) make it even better! The sponge is so light and it isn’t dry – the only downside is the portion size!
Banana split is perfect for sugar cravings and it gets bonus points for containing mini fudge cubes! The honey almond slivers are amazing and I love the banana coins because the texture is so different to banana chips – they’re not crunchy which I like. All in all, this is a good mix.
Salsa fresca is one of my favourite savoury/dipping punnets, but I think I may have now found its replacements. The salsa is a little hotter, as it contains jalapenos, but it’s not unbearable, just contains a light kick. The mini tortilla chips are cute as well.
I remember watching the development of Apricotti Biscotti via the Graze Instagram account and as soon I saw it, in its boxed glory, I knew I had to try it. Thank you ‘send soon’. The amaretti drops are just lush and work so well with the chocolate covered apricot pieces – it’s almost like a cross between apricot brandy and disaronno, in the form of a snack. With a Graze light feather (146kcal), this is indulgent snacking and I like it!
Follow this link to receive three complimentary boxes – remember you can pick any snacks you like and can also cancel at any time. There are so many new treats to try – and you can even search by ingredients you like!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Restaurant review: Mandarin Palace

Where we ate:
Mandarin Palace, High Street, Hornchurch
A fortnight or so ago, I celebrated my birthday with those closest to me and we chose the Mandarin Palace in Hornchurch – a real family favourite; we’ve been going there years. Amidst the low entrances and dated decor, this former coaching inn is a real gem.  In all the years we have been dining there, I can’t recall a bad meal. Plus they serve a homemade chilli oil (which is more of a salad), which my dad absolutely loves; it’s well worth the £2.50 supplement. On arrival we snacked on complimentary prawn crackers and when we left, we took advantage of the traffic light lollypops.
What we ate:
  • To start:
Mixed hors d'oeuvre (chicken satay, spare ribs, spring rolls, tempura prawns and crispy seaweed)
  • To follow:
½ aromatic crispy duck
  • Main courses:
Fillet steak Cantonese style
Chicken in black bean sauce
Mixed seafood chow mein
Beef chow mein
Special fried rice
Although there were five of us, we got the mixed platter for four as a little taster before going on to the duck course. The best thing about sharing is that there’s something for everyone – even if you don’t like everything, there’s something to choose to sample more of. The ribs were probably my favourite – unlike typical Chinese ribs, these were mini and not at all fatty, with plenty of meat to be had. I absolutely love crispy seaweed as well, but there’s never enough! What is that powdery sugar-like substance on the top as well? It’s amazing!
Like I said, we followed the starters up with a course of crispy aromatic duck. We opted for the quarter, which worked out to two pancakes each (a couple of lucky people had three!) – which was plenty. The waiters bring the duck to the table, shredding it in front of you. Watching them is a real treat and it’s clear years of practice has helped them master the art. For me, the cucumber and onions have to go on first, before the duck and then a liberal drizzle of hoisin sauce – I’m definitely not a spreader; it’s not a pizza.
Surprisingly, I wasn’t even full when the main courses arrived. We always order seafood noodles as it’s something we can’t get from the local takeaway and it’s so different. I love the mixture of squid and scallops and the noodles are always so fresh. I always choose the same dish – fillet steak Cantonese style. It arrives sizzling on a hot place and is just divine – I’ve always wondered how they make the sauce, it’s quite rich and sweet; I love it!
For dessert (yep, more food!) I ordered the toffee apple, which unlike me, I struggled to eat. It was a tough call between that and the fritters.
The service slightly let the evening down somewhat. Some of the waiters seemed so miserable and were keen to get you out the door. But I had a lovely meal like usual and it was nice to finally celebrate with my loved ones.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Theatre: 12 Angry Men

Jumper: AX Paris, Coat: Missguided,
Leggings: New Look, Boots: Boohoo
Last month we went as a family to see 12 Angry Men at the Garrick Theatre. I’d never been there before, nor had I heard of the show in question, so I was really looking forward to it. The Garrick is near to Leicester Square and like so many of London’s theatres, looks in such good condition, despite its age. The exterior was old-fashioned and the interior matched, with dated carpets, but it adds to the whole experience – the place wasn’t falling down, by any means. With capacity of around 600, it definitely wasn’t full and we sat in the stalls, with a very good view of the stage. We were even served complimentary champagne on arrival from one of the bars (excellent tickets, dad!) – and I dread to think how much it would have cost. I drank mine at my seat, one of the many perks of theatre life.
Based on the 1957 film starring Henry Fonda, 12 Angry Men is a drama, starring 12 jurors (the angry men in title), who are known only by number, rather than name. The case in question is that of a young boy, who is believed to have stabbed his violent father. The fact he is black and from a slum background are salient facts in concluding whether or not he is guilty. The fact the jury panel is all-white also reflects the height of racism in the 1950s – which I’m sure wouldn’t be so much of an issue in modern day.
The jury are unable to come to a unanimous conclusion and the play is basically the 12 men determining the verdict. There’s a lot of initial prejudice but there are twists in the plot and drama ensues as soon as a couple of the panel change their mind, based on what they have heard. Eventually they are able to reach a decision.
I didn’t fully understand the story, failing to realise that the accused was from a minority. However, it was very well acted and the ending was particularly sentimental. It’s not the sort of play I’d choose to see personally, but it was very good – and if anything, I now want to see the film to make a comparison.
12 Angry Men is running at The Garrick until Saturday 1st March and tickets are available here for £37.50.
The highlight of any theatre trip!