Sunday, 27 April 2014

Sunday Snapshots #27

On Easter Monday, I took dad to The Hive for Barnet’s final home game of the season. As we were getting the train and the tube, we stopped off at Hamilton Hall, Liverpool Street for a quick drink. The afternoon was lovely and sunny so I had a glass of Pimm’s – although by the time we went home, it was pouring with rain. The game was televised and didn’t kick off until 5:30pm, so weren’t home ‘til gone 9. We did have a lovely dinner from Thai Box, which we collected on arrival in Shenfield; they do the most incredible curries and noodles.
Back to work on Tuesday meant back to healthy eating and I’ve done so well this week, having Slimfast shakes and bananas for breakfast and salads for lunch. To stop myself snacking on rubbish at work, I’ve been quite strict and sticking to two snacks a day – a bag of Jacob’s oddities and massive fruit salads. Now the weather is starting to get better (barring today, of course), I want to start running again – all I need now is a buddy...
I loved my outfit for work on Thursday – and it was all AX Paris. Their collar/cuff dresses are just too cute and I definitely need a couple more for my spring/summer wardrobe. The quilted jacket is by far one of my favourite purchases of the year and it’s perfect for wearing from the car to work, but also light enough to wear when going out during the daytime at weekends. You can read more about this outfit, here.
After some great reviews and comments from the BBloggers on Twitter, I decided to buy a new fake tan and chose Palmers natural bronze. At the time of blogging, I’ve only used it once and within 24 hours, I already had a sun-kissed glow. I used to swear by the cocoa butter so I’m surprised I’ve only just found out about this. It’s currently £1 off at Superdrug, so I wish I had stocked up.
I spent the majority of Saturday in the car, as I travelled up north to Lincoln for Barnet’s final game of the season. As all the matches kicked off at 5:30pm, it was a really long day – I left home just after midday and arrived back just before 11pm. As you can see, I slept in my rollers so my hair had a bit of volume and I wore my oversize AX Paris jumper, also painting my nails to match (Ciaté’s Sugared Almonds shade, if you’re interested). I had a good day, although I was shattered when I got home and been glad of a lazy Sunday today!
I hope you all had a lovely weekend.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Restaurant reviews: Barcelona

After spending a lovely long weekend in the beautiful city of Barcelona, I ate and drank far too much. Here’s the places I checked out.
Bosco, Carrer dels Capellans, 9, 08002
Staying in the Gothic Quarter and just around the corner from the hotel was Bosco bar and restaurant. We sat outside in the courtyard, soaking up the atmosphere with a drink. While the food was really good, the service wasn’t. It took a while to get to see the menu, as Castilian or English didn’t seem to go down well with the staff. I ordered the sirloin burger and chips and to be honest, by this stage I was so hungry, I’d have eaten anything. It was incredible, mind – really fresh and not at all greasy. The chips were served in mini fat-fryer pans and I could have done with more. It’s a shame I felt so uncomfortable throughout the meal as the bar was always busy in the evenings and I’d have loved to relax with a cocktail.
Trobador, Rambla Catalunya, 2, 08007
After finding this place of Trip Advisor with its number of good reviews, we decided to check it out – it was only a 10 minute walk from the hotel through town. The brasserie served up Mediterranean cuisine; the interior was modern and airy, while the service throughout was brilliant. After beginning with a ration of chicken croquetas, I chose the monkfish and langoustine brochette: fresh, light and flavoursome. Served with grilled Mediterranean vegetables, it was a lovely meal. I was slightly disappointed with the dessert – it was only right to have a crèma catalana while in its birthplace – I’d had better in other regions of Spain.  A three course meal and jug of sangria at around £50 isn’t too bad in the city, though.

Bun Bo Vietnam, Carrer Sagristans, Barcelona
This little gem was opposite the hotel and every time I walked past, looked busy – both inside and out. As a lover of Thai food and having enjoyed an Indonesian meal last summer, I thought this place would be worth a try – and it was, by far, the meal of the break! I’m still getting over the fact a meal for two came in at under £20. I even dressed for the occasion, wearing my Oriental-inspired winners dress from Little Mistress (more about that here). The decor inside was befitting – Asian lanterns hanging from the ceiling, boothed seating and small tables, reflective of an oriental cafe. To drink I had a mojito – one of the best I’ve ever had – unfortunately I only had the one. To start we shared pork spring rolls, before following with pho (a noodle  broth). I’m still astounded by the portion size and unsurprisingly, struggled to eat it all. The waiter even brought a plate of lime, coriander, mint, chilli and beansprouts over, allowing us to adapt our meals to our personal tastes. I don’t think I could explain how good the food was and it just goes to show, it doesn’t have to be complicated or pretentious.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Afternoon tea: Threadneedles Hotel

When I got an email from Emerald Street well over two months ago, advertising 2-for-1 afternoon teas in various locations across the country, I snapped up the opportunity. It’s not something I have the time to do very often, making it a nice change from my usual weekends. A day to get dressed up and participate in something very British – and let’s be honest, I don’t think it gets more British than afternoon tea at my chosen venue: Threadneedles Hotel in London.
Named the ‘Great Britons’ afternoon tea, I almost felt a part of history as a I tucked in to treats created specifically for six named Great Britons, figures from the past. My surroundings for the afternoon were incredible – sitting underneath a beautiful centrepiece: a 19th century glass dome. As we took our place in the lobby, the architecture was amazing and made me for a lovely afternoon. The over-sized grandiose chairs added a masculine touch to proceedings (I felt tiny in comparison), while everything else was feminine and elegant. Although I felt quite far away from the table and couldn’t sit back properly in the chair, that would be my only complaint from the whole afternoon.

There was an option to begin with a flute of champagne (£5 per person), but as I was driving home and very hungry, we decided to go straight into the tea itself. Unfortunately we weren’t given the tea and coffee menu, so just panicked and went for the straight-forward breakfast tea. As two pots of tea arrived, with milk and sugar, a three-tier cake stand followed with all the afternoon’s goodies on, before another server brought out a plate of condiments: herb butter, clotted cream and strawberry jam.
We began with the finger sandwiches, cut perfectly with crusts off, consistent in size – very dainty. These ranged from honey roast Norfolk ham with English mustard to Scottish smoked salmon with herb crème fraîche. My favourite was the roast beef with horseradish cream and watercress, while the simple cucumber with chive cream cheese was refreshing and a great palate cleanser.
Carrying on with the savoury selection, there was a mini tart: goats cheese with caramelised balsamic onion relish and a savoury scone, which was served with a herb butter (rock hard and impossible to spread). I’ve never been a fan of savoury scones and I found this one a little dry. One pot of tea down, I ordered another, just in time to accompany the sweet treats and it’s fair to say at this point, I was already full.
The sweet scone was a lot nicer, moist and neither dry, nor heavy. The clotted cream and strawberry jam were lovely and I piled each half with mountains of each. Which do you add first? Is there even a correct way?
The main event were the six Great Briton cakes and pastries which we left until last. The menu explained each of them as well as a brief description to each historical figure they were named after – a nice touch, I thought. We were given one of each, meaning we could sample a bit of everything – and half was more than enough, there’s no way I could have managed all six!
And so, we had:

Sir Winston Churchill
Dundee cake – fruit cake made with whisky, topped with marzipan and fondant icing          
Diana, Princess of Wales
Victoria Sponge filled with homemade raspberry jam and topped with rosewater cream and a sugar rose
Queen Elizabeth I
Lavender cupcake, topped with lavender cream and a silver and lilac sugar crown
Sir Isaac Newton
Caramelised apple and lemon thyme tart using Cox's apples from Buckinghamshire, encased in a sweet vanilla pastry
John Lennon
A layered coffee and chocolate gateau with a cornflake base
Admiral Lord Nelson
A rich spice cake soaked in Navy Rum and topped with a chocolate barrel
At £29 per person normally (plus the mandatory 12.5% service charge), it’s definitely worth experiencing – it’s not your standard afternoon tea by any means and it wasn’t just the menu that was unique! Considering it was a Saturday, I couldn’t believe how quiet the city was – shops were closed, there were no pedestrians and I didn’t even clock that many red buses. I loved walking through the unusually serene streets back to Liverpool Street.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Lucy Loves... Latest in Beauty

I can’t remember how I found out about Latest in Beauty, but I’m so glad I did; it’s such a clever concept which already has me addicted. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s basically a member’s only club which operates on a ‘try before you buy’ system, with hundreds of products in sample/travel size. This allows you to road-test them before taking that big step to buy the full-size product – particularly handy if said product is expensive and had mixed reviews.
You can create your own box, by choosing items you want to try; alternatively, buy a pre-made box – which is exactly what I did. I bought my mum the Mother’s Day Pamper Box, while opting for this treat for myself: the Glamour Beauty Edit Box (RRP £45) for £14.95, with free delivery. It contained:
If you love wearing a pony, but hate the mark it leaves on your hair, these kink-free, super-stretchy hair ties are your new best friends
I don’t wear my hair up often, but when I do, I hate the way it looks the next day! These are an absolute godsend – fuss-free and perfect for blow-dry-friendly hair. If I haven’t got one on my wrist, there’s sure to be one in my hand bag – and the end of my hairbrush
A good lip balm is worth its weight in gold and this one is simply brilliant at keeping lips nicely soft
I always have a number of lip balms on the go – there’s one in my car, one in my work bag, one in my hand bag and a number in my room. This one’s definitely up there – the coconut and sunflowers oils leave my lips feeling nourished without being greasy, while the peppermint extract is refreshing
Introducing the new cool nail brand on the block that will definitely brighten your fingers and toes. Gorgeous coral pink, which has a handy wide brush for easy, pretty nails in seconds
When you fancy a change from pastels, this colour is perfect for spring/summer. I was hoping to wear it this weekend, but it clashed too much with my dress. I’ll definitely apply on Monday in time for work though
This pretty turquoise is a fun way to wear colour to enhance blue and green eyes, while beautifully contrasting hazel and brown eyes
You want sexy, bodacious hair? Then you need this über-mousse! It delivers soft, non-crunchy natural volume, with great hold too – and it makes your hair smell so good
The non-gloopy foam formula means it’s easy to apply and spill-free
Why, hello super-lashes! Get eyes that wow, with this new mascara that builds natural lashes to their plumpest, lushest, maximum thickness. This do-it-all wonder-wand promises plush, full lashes with one swipe of its busy brush
I’ve heard nothing but good things about this mascara and am always out on the hunt for a new one; I can’t wait to try this
What’s more is if you create your own beauty box, you could be one of 20 golden ticket lucky winners, with the prize being a full-size product plus a Lindt Lindor Maxi Ball – Happy Easter indeed!
Have you heard of Latest In Beauty? Will you be ordering your own box? I’d love to hear your must-have items.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Graze: 06.01.14

In this box, I got:
  • Scrumptious blueberry swirl
  • The British barbecue
  • Omega booster seeds
  • Hot cross yum
Only one new snack in this box – the Omega Booster Seeds; a mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds with golden linseed. I didn’t ask for this through the ‘send soon’ option but as it was still something yet to try and my settings are fixed so I get new snacks over ‘likes’ and ‘loves’, it arrived in my box. From here it went straight into my virtual bin. I didn’t enjoy it at all, it was just too boring and there was no real flavour, other than the taste of toasted seeds. It was definitely missing something and I’d have preferred if it had a flavour (chilli, or barbecue, for example).
Hot Cross Yum is one of my favourite Graze creations of all-time; while I recently downgraded the Scrumptious Blueberry Swirl from ‘love’ to ‘like’ – the yogurt coated raisins are incredible! The British Barbecue is another punnet I like to receive occasionally.
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!

Monday, 14 April 2014

OOTD: Cambridge all-dayer

I haven’t bought new clothes in ages, but after seeing a pair of leggings on New Look, I ended up buying a lot more than I planned – luckily the majority of it was in the sale. I planned on wearing a lot of the new bits when I went to Cambridge a fortnight ago and decided on my outfit the night before.  I wasn’t too sure what the weather was going to be like and thankfully I wasn’t too hot, but also glad for the light jacket in the evening when the temperature dropped. This is what I went for:
Top, leggings, boot, ring – New Look *** Jacket – AX Paris *** Bag – Ted Baker
I can’t stop buying peplum at the moment and find it so flattering for my body type. Although this colour will be perfect for autumn, it’s not too bad for spring either – and was an absolute steal at £5. I also bought a long-sleeved top in the same colour for work, which I’ve already paired with both my high-waisted leather look skirt and my cream lace skater style skirt.
My boots were definitely the pick of the haul – and I still cannot believe they were only £10; what a bargain! I’m terrible with shoes in between seasons, I still with pumps for work but outside of that, I’m useless. I mean it’s far too hot for chunky boots but too cold for sandals. These were comfy enough to wear all day, particularly when a lot of walking was involved and my feet weren’t too hot in them either.
When I was at Uni, costume jewellery was a must when accessorising, but these days I normally just stick to my charm bracelet and a pair of earrings. I’ve been wanting a statement necklace for ages, but I’m yet to take the plunge and buy one. As soon as I saw this ring online, I knew I had to have it. It definitely made this outfit. Unfortunately, I’m a total novice with ring sizes and despite buying it in medium, it only fits two of my fingers. Luckily it was only cheap, so I’m not too fussed.
I’m now on the hunt for a two-piece, a jumpsuit and some floral bits and pieces.
What are you loving this spring?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sunday Snapshots #26

On Monday I came back from a long weekend in Barcelona and I had such a great time. The weather was so hot and although I didn’t pack for summer, still managed to get sunburnt. I got to see and do so much in three days – largely thanks to tickets for the open top bus, which I dedicated Sunday to. I won the trip through a competition at work and had been looking forward to it for months. I couldn’t believe how much was included though (flights, accommodation with breakfast, tickets for the open top bus, two Barcelona shirts and a tourist pack of information including travel guide). This picture was taken after we’d walked through Las Ramblas and were by the port.
The flight coming home was delayed by two hours and once I’d landed, got the car and driven home, it was 4am by the time I was in bed – so I was really glad I’d book Tuesday off work. With my parents at a funeral, I decided to go to one of the village pubs for lunch and had a really yummy sausage and onion jam baguette. I used to work at the pub and the food has been a bit hit and miss for ages, so I was pleased to have a proper pub lunch and on that basis, I’ll definitely  be returning soon.
At least when I returned to work, the weather’s been lush – and nice enough to sit outside at lunchtime. Being stuck in an office all day, there’s nothing better than nipping out for a bit of fresh air, and the eating area at work is just beautiful. Despite being next to a main road, there wasn’t too much traffic noise and it was good to just soak up the sun for an hour, in a really serene setting. Even better, I was the only one out there! There are even rabbits amongst the woodland and seeing them hopping around in daffodil beds, epitomises spring!
At the weekend I went to the Threadneedles Hotel, just off Bank Station in London. I don’t want to give away too much as I’ve scheduled a post already (keep your eyes peeled!) but it was really good, even if I did have to be posh for a couple of hours. I went with my brother and it was nice to catch up with him, as I don’t see him often (he’s about to finish Uni and obviously I’m always busy with work). It’s amazing how food in such small quantities can make you full up so quickly – needless to say, I managed to eat everything, of course.
I hope you all had a lovely weekend.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Urban Retreat Beautique: Samples

You may have seen one of my recent posts Spring splurge: Guam seaweed algae bath salts, in which I mentioned the samples I received from The Urban Retreat Beautique. I also received an extra one, via Emerald Street, as they were offering the first 100 people an exfoliator or moisturiser sample. I was thrilled to find I was a winner of the moisturiser, particularly as it’s something I use on a daily basis so always have a need for it.
THE Mask
Formulated to provide the skin with instant radiance and a refined skin tone, the Australian Kaolin infused within THE Mask is a naturally occurring soft clay to mildly cleanse the skin and draw out impurities for a clearer complexion free from excess sebum. Glycerine, a well known humectant, retains moisture within the skin for deep nourishment while Vitamin E provides anti-oxidant protection against free radical and UV damage
I loved the mask, from the ease of application to the cooling effect once on the skin. My face felt soft and cleansed afterwards too. The only downside was the amount in the sample tube – only 7ml, well under half the size of a usual face mask. There wasn’t nearly enough product to cover my whole face evenly, so it was patchy in places. This also meant it dried almost instantly, so I wasn’t too sure how long to leave it on (recommended time is five minutes, or until it dries). I think I’ll just have to purchase this when payday comes around! £35 for 75ml
THE Moisturiser
Rich in Vitamins E, B and essential fatty acids, THE Moisturiser rejuvenates skin improving overall elasticity, tone and firmness too. Rosehip Seed Oil and Jojoba Oil nourish dry skin to leave it deeply nourished and supple. THE Moisturiser also includes Sodium Hyaluronate to draw in and retain moisture for added hydration whilst Oat Oil and Shea Butter create a protective veil over the complexion to lock in moisture. THE Moisturiser has an almost gel like consistency for deeper penetration into the skin without any greasy residue
I’m a sucker for face creams at the minute and since I’ve started to get into a routine, I’ve definitely noticed the benefits. I have a couple of different brands on the go, so another isn’t going to hurt, is it? A similar scent to the mask, the moisturiser wasn’t at all greasy and you only need a small amount – it’s lasted me a couple of weeks so far; winner! The first time I tried it out, I used it before bed and when I woke up, my skin felt revitalised. Again, this is on top of my wish-list. £35 for 50ml
THE Exfoliator
For congested, dry or flaky skin utilising the benefits of biodegradable Eco-scrub beads for a natural approach to softer skin. Rich in Vitamins A, D and E, the coconut, wheatgerm, avocado and sweet almond oils deeply moisturise skin to nourish and protect it for a more supple touch; while cocoa butter and aloe vera extract soothe and soften the complexion for a fresh and radiant result
Completing the set is the exfoliator, which again smells similar to the other products within the Urban Retreat Beautique range. I like my exfoliators to feel like a proper scrub, if abrasive is the right word to use; this certainly fits the bill. So many have a higher ratio of product to beads, but this scrub was incredible. My skin felt soft immediately, without feeling scratched or damaged. I would definitely use this again, but it doesn’t feature as highly on products I must have. £30 for 75ml
I also received an Estelle & Thild fragrance-free face cream with my order, which I’m really looking forward to trying out.
Get 15% off Urban Retreat products, by entering code: URBANES15 at the checkout. You’ll have to be quick though, as the offer ends 30th April.
Have you ever bought anything from The Urban Retreat Beautique?

Friday, 4 April 2014

Review: Superdrug Dead Sea Purifying Clay Mask

Superdrug’s witch hazel purifying mask has an uplifting fragrance of cool eucalyptus and zesty lemon that will revive and refresh your skin. Packed with hazel and willow bark extract, this mask will deeply cleanse pores. Dead sea minerals within the mud will help draw out impurities – leaving skin looking cleaner and more radiant.
This was the first time I’d tried a Superdrug mask, having bought four online (you can read my spring splurge post, here) as it was four-for-three. It definitely didn’t disappoint, despite being only 99p. I do prefer clay masks and I’d buy this particular variety again.
The sachet contained 15ml, which was more than enough to apply an even, but thick layer – there was even some leftover; not enough for another indulgent treat, mind. I loved the smell and cooling effect from the eucalyptus could be felt as soon as I applied it to my skin. It was almost a tingling sensation and even as it dried, I could feel it cleansing my skin from all dirt.
Although it’s recommended for oily/problematic skin, it’s perfect for someone like me, who needs a pick-me-up. If your skin has lost its radiance or if you’re feeling stressed and as like it’s taking its toll on your skin, this is the perfect mask for you. Once removed (it comes off easily with warm water), my face looked a lot brighter and refreshed, it felt so soft and clean. I even had a couple of little spots (too much snacking at work again!) and it cooled those down too.
Proof that you haven’t got to spend loads of money on expensive brands and that the high street do it just as good. Even though I’ve got another three masks to try, I reckon this will be my favourite so I’ll be stocking up next time I’m shopping online!
Have you ever bought a mask from Superdrug’s own brand? How did you find it?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Spring nails: Essie

I’d been meaning to test out my new Essie polishes for ages and the other weekend, dedicated my lazy Sunday afternoon to painting my nails. The two colours I used were It’s delicate (265) and Marshmallow (63). I was hoping to try them out on a colour wheel first, but I couldn’t find mine anywhere. I think had I tried them out, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed.
In the bottle, It’s delicate looks like a cute pastel shade, but I found it to be quite translucent and more of a natural shade, than a full-on girly pink. I used a couple of coats and although after a couple of hours it did appear a fuller colour, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all – and looked nothing like it did in the bottle. On the plus side, I find Essie polishes to have a subtle smell and it dried almost instantly – I managed to do coats on each hand in under 10 minutes!
I opted for an accent nail and chose my thumbs. I wanted to be really creative and go for little hearts or flowers, but in the end went with the simple option: polkadots. The second attempt went better than the first, but that’s always the way – the first was a bit splodgy and I found myself waiting for 20 minutes for it to dry.
I love the boldness of the Marshmallow shade and it really stood out against the pink. On reflection, the two shades are probably suited to home-done manicures, something I have no patience for at all.
I’m definitely an Essie convert though.
Do you love Essie? What are your favourite colours for spring?