Monday, 29 September 2014

Graze | 27.05.14

In this box, I got:
  • My Thai
  • Slightly Sweet Popcorn
  • Chai Latte
  • Fruit & Seed Flapjack
Because my last box arrived late, Graze sent me this box half price and it contained all the snacks I should have received with new Chai Latte also making an appearance – it’s one I had been looking forward to the release of. You can read my thoughts on the Slightly Sweet Popcorn in my previous post, while My Thai was in my 03.03 box.
After the far too sweet Summer Berry Flapjack in my last box, I was quite grateful to sample another variety again – in the form of the Fruit & Seed Flapjack. It’s packed full of chewy oats, crunchy seeds and soft dried fruits. Every time I receive it in my box, I can taste something new – this time round I could definitely taste dates! It’s not my favourite from the range by any means, but I LIKE it.
I have been loving Chai Lattes from Costa for ages and having followed the progress of the design of this product via the company’s Insta feed, it was only right I got to sample it straight away. The Chai Latte punnet combines chia seeds, macadamia nuts, yogurt coated sunflower seeds and dried coconut flakes. It’s a really interesting combination of flavours: slightly sweet, slightly fragrant, almost spicy and one I immediately fell in LOVE with. The yogurt seeds are definitely my favourite; they’re so tasty. It’s quite a dry mix so I’m considering mixing it with natural yogurt next time for a unique breakfast.
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!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

DKNY Fresh Blossom + Goodies

All Beauty is often my one stop shop for all things fragrance, so imagine my delight when they were giving away goodie bags on orders over £30. It’s not only perfume they stock, but skincare, haircare, cosmetics and accessories – all at affordable prices.
I’m always buying perfume and it seemed an easy way to rack up £30 or more, so I opted for one of my favourite brands: DKNY. I don’t think I’ve ever found someone who doesn’t like Be Delicious, but I decided to try a new scent and chose Fresh Blossom – a lovely light fragrance in a dusky pink hue.  Of course, being fruity, it was perfect for summer, but I’m still wearing it in autumn (albeit, thinking about long summer nights...). I’ll probably store it away in preparation for spring soon.
Unlike Be Delicious, Fresh Blossom isn’t predominantly appley. It’s a lovely fresh mix of grapefruit, cassis and apricot, with floral notes of rose and jasmine. You can still smell that iconic apple, but it’s a lot lighter, making it a good all-round scent.
I love the way it spritzes from the bottle – it’s so gentle and almost aerated, unlike other perfumes, it doesn’t feel harsh on the skin. It covers a much larger area, so it almost doubles up as a body/hair spray. It’s like an ultra-fine mist of loveliness. This is probably why DKNY market it as a ‘fragrance with benefits’ – they also claim instant moisturisation, radiant and smoother looking skin.
So what did I get in my goodie bag? Well my cute white drawstring bag (now full of my travel shower bits and pieces) contained a Kerastase notebook, a Kerastase Nutrisive shampoo (for normal/dry hair), a Label M leave-in conditioner and a Glam Glow Supermud clearing treatment.
The shampoo and conditioner came in handy whilst I was in Portugal, as the sun dried my hair out so much – I really need my ends trimmed as they’re still so brittle! I love Kerastase products and the mini shampoo didn’t disappoint. Like other products from the brand, it smells gorgeous too. When I’m on holiday, I much prefer leave-in treatments so I used the conditioner after every wash, before blowdrying (when I actually dried my hair!) and you only need the smallest amount.
The Glam Glow mask I’ve been using since I returned and have been trialling it once a week as well as using other face masks. The consistency is odd, because there’s a lot of excess liquid in the tube and there’s so many lumps – I feel like I apply it unevenly to my face. But on the plus side, it dries quickly and leaves skin radiant, softer and cleansed. I definitely want to find out more about the brand and test out other similar products.
And the notebook is great because I love making lists, being organised and generally love to have some kind of paper or pad on me at all times. It’ll probably become my blogging calendar and the place I go to, to plan posts. The page marker is so cute with the K charm.
Have you heard of All Beauty? Will you be checking them out?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Restaurant review | Wagamama

Where I ate:
Wagamama, Westfield Stratford, London
I think everyone is aware of my love for Wagamama, I’m forever craving ramen or katsu or soba – so when I was on the way back from Barnet and passing through Stratford, it was a no-brainer. Jake had never been before (I still can’t get my head around it when people say they’ve never eaten there before – err, why not?), so I was really hoping it was worth the long wait, especially as I’m always talking it up.
I love how informal it is – it’s so cosy inside and often you’ll find yourself sharing a bench with other diners. The food is so simple and quick, but despite the speed, you’re never in any rush to leave and you’re not being made to either.
There was a queue outside the restaurant, what with it being a Saturday evening and after being handed the menu, I soon knew what I was going to order. After a five minute wait, we were taken to our table.
What I ate:
Seafood coconut broth, followed by mix it up mocha
I always have the beef teriyaki soba as it’s quite frankly the best thing on the menu, by a country mile. Having browsed the website earlier in the week, I noticed a number of summer specials (which are still on the menu btw, marked ‘new’) and the seafood coconut broth really stood out above the rest. It’s a mixture of all my favourite things – broth-based, noodles, seafood, heaps of coriander... it’s making me hungry just thinking about it. When it arrived, it looked exactly like the picture – beautifully presented, with a lovely fragrant smell. I ate the mussels first as they’re so fiddly but the soup was packed full of prawns, squid and scallops, with tenderstem broccoli, flat noodles, coriander cress and fresh red chilli. There was just enough heat, balanced out by the sweet coconut and portion-wise, I don’t think I could have eaten any more. Hopefully it’s become a permanent fixture on the menu, I could well be my new favourite.
I followed the main course up with another new dish and a dessert first introduced to me at Yo! Sushi – mochi. I couldn’t decide which flavour to try so I thought what the hell and chose the mix it up, a combination of raspberry, coconut and sesame – all filled with ice cream. The bite-size blobs were a real delight, not at all sickly or stodgy and I could probably have eaten two portions quite easily. I couldn’t decide on my favourite – either the coconut or sesame. I really wanted to take a picture of it, but I couldn’t help but demolish the plate as soon as it arrived... the placemats don’t do it justice at all!
I finished with a cup of green tea (which is free at Wagas – winning!), before getting the bill and training it back to Shenfield. I’d love to know which leaves they use as the tea is so much nicer than any I’ve ever bought and made at home.
The service started well but slowly deteriorated – everything was brought to our table in a funny order: my main meal, followed by Jake’s 10 minutes later and then the starter five minutes after that. It just made the whole meal feel disjointed. The same happened with dessert – I finished mine before his arrived. It was a shame because on previous visits, at other branches, there’s never been a problem with the food coming out together and in a structured order. I suppose the food court was heaving and people were queuing outside so they wanted to get people in and out – that said, I found our dinner to be leisurely and as always, very enjoyable.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Haul | Lush

It had been a while since I bought some Lush goodies – I always try and ensure everything’s used up before I buy anymore – so when I was passing through Stratford, I couldn’t help but quickly walk around Westfield and a grab a few bits. I have since been to a Lush store on consecutive weekends, I’m an addict.
I bought:
The Comforter
Charity pot
I absolutely love the bubble bars – they turn the water a really bright, uplifting colour, smell absolutely gorgeous, produce loads of bubbles and leave my skin super soft.  At £4.50 each, they’re a total bargain in comparison to the bath bombs, as you can use them multiple times – my Brightside bar lasted seven baths (that’s 64p per use)! I bought the comforter on the basis that I loved Brightside, plus this one is pink: bonus.
Lush say: Berry yourself under a fruity blanket... Cassis absolute gives a distinctive blackcurrant fragrance, while bergamot adds an uplifting note.
The Mr Bumble knotwraps were one of my fave gifts, so I was disappointed to see that within the Lush gift overhaul, they’ve since been discontinued. Instead I bought the Buttercup gift box, which contains the Honey I Washed the Kids soap, as well as the Butterball bath bomb. Honey I Washed the Kids is my favourite Lush soap – I just love its sweet toffee goodness. I’ve never used the Butterball so I’m looking forward to giving that a go.
Lush say: If you have dry, sensitive or irritated skin, this is the bath bomb to replenish it. Once the cocoa butter pieces have melted, your skin will be coated by a light buttery film that smells good enough to eat.
As I went to pay, I was asked if I’d like to pay £1 to buy the Charity Pot – a 10g sample of Lush’s hand and body cream, with proceeds going to charity. I always carry a hand cream in my bag and this one’s perfect for on the go, so I decided to try it out. It can also be purchased in 95g (£6.95) and 240g (£12.95). It has a rich formula, meaning it soaks in to the skin, leaving you soft. The little pot goes a long way too – I’ve had mine for two months!
Better still, when I was paying, the cashier said I had a ‘friendly face’ and gave me a generous sample of Rockstar soap – another product I’m yet to try.  It’s a beautiful shimmery pink and smells sickly sweet: a cross between vanilla, rock and candy floss. It’s definitely up my street! Thank you Olly @ Westfield Stratford for letting me sample one of your fave products, I’m sure it’ll be mine, too!
Have you bought anything in Lush recently? Please leave your links below so I can have a nose.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Relaxing Retreat | Parchal

We stayed at The Riverside Hotel, aptly named as it’s situated alongside the River Arade. We were lucky enough to have a suite, which was well-appointed with a double balcony, as well as kitchen and dining area. We didn’t take advantage of this too much, as we were in all-inclusive. We had the loveliest view of the river, which looked even better at night, when the sun was setting.
We spent a morning in Portimão and even though I’d been before, it was lovely to return and walk around the port. We didn’t have time to go to the Museum of Portimão, which was a shame as I really enjoyed it the last time. We just sauntered up and down the quayside, before going to get a drink, some lunch and watch the football *hands over eyes*. The weather really wasn’t as bad as it looked.
The following day we went to Ferragudo, another fishing town. It was market day, being Sunday and so, was incredibly busy. We walked through the town, to the quayside, before walking back and stopping for a drink – I had a weird mojito. We also went for a lovely leisurely lunch at a restaurant I’d been to with family before and some gorgeous fresh fish. We were also hoping to ride the boat taxi, which looked loads of fun – unfortunately it was no longer running to Riverside.
On Monday, we took a taxi to Lagoa and went to Slide & Splash aqua park. It was so much fun and one of the excursions I had previously looked in to doing. We received a leaflet at the airport about it and so, got a 5€ discount which was pretty good. I’m so glad we managed to go and it made for a good day – I think we went down every slide! My favourite was the Blue Hole (a blue tube you went down on a rubber ring), or Tornado (the chutes led to a whirlpool which sucked you in before going down another chute into the pool). I also loved Banzai, where you went down on a body board head first. Even though it was busy, we never had to queue long – and I had the lushest Carte D’Or ice cream (marshmallow but it tasted like bubblegum).

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Holiday | Where I ate

Even though we were all-inclusive at the hotel, we decided to venture out for a couple of meals and found two lovely places – one of which I had been to before, with family. The food at the hotel was surprisingly good, with loads of choice and some nights featured some more traditional and Portuguese food (one evening I had the most yummy octopus rice and had lots of natillas/arroz com leite! Mmm). I always knew we’d go somewhere else for a change and was lucky to find some good restaurants – unfortunately, I won’t be mentioning one of the places we went to, it was SO bad, but it was the only place to show English football at lunchtime, so we weren’t left with much choice.
Lunch at Sueste, Ferragudo
I ate at Sueste when holidaying with family in Carvoeiro several years ago and the restaurant is pretty much unchanged since then – the decor is the same, the menu is the same and it’s still increasingly popular. I’m sure I even recognised some of the staff. Situated at the end of the quayside, the menu and views are unrivalled and if you want fish, there’s no place better. I hasten to add the restaurant only serves fish – no meat and no veggie option. Food doesn’t get much fresher either – sometimes you even see men fishing.
To start I had squid and the smallest one they had was 280g – which was more than enough for one. It was simply cooked on the grill (like everything else at the restaurant) and then served in garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon – simple but incredibly tasty. The photo doesn’t do it justice at all. We then shared a seabass and side salad. All the main dishes are served with herby garlic new potatoes. Each fish is priced by weight and the staff weigh the fish before bringing it over to you. You have to be savvy though, as obviously they try and make you buy more than you want. We had 650g between us, which was just enough – I don’t think we could have eaten more – and was half a fish. Although I managed to serve up the bass, the staff are also on hand to remove the bones if you struggle.
There’s indoor and outdoor seating; we sat outside with a beautiful view of the port. The atmosphere is also always very good. It’s always packed which means the service suffers a bit, but then there’s no hurry and the setting is lovely, you don’t want to leave! For lunch it was a little on the pricy side ( £50) but considering what we ordered, it was good value – and after all, you’re paying for quality and location.
Dinner at The Village Inn, Mexilhoeira da Carregação
The menu for The Village Inn was in the lobby of our hotel and we were quick to book a table for the Friday night. The restaurant mixes traditional Portuguese decor with olde-worlde touches to create something totally unique and quaint. You can’t miss the bright yellow exterior as you enter the small town and the inside is so cosy. We sat out in the courtyard, which has space for 12 diners and each table is decorated differently.
The host and owner Kathie was incredibly friendly, passionate and her hospitality was spot-on. It was hard to believe she was pretty much single-handedly running the place and the service throughout was very good – she was definitely a character. I think it best now to mention she even dropped us back at our hotel after the meal, on the basis that the taxis in the are unreliable. Where else would you get that kind of treatment? It was such a kind gesture.
The menu is a random affair with the dishes varying from Portuguese to British – and even oriental! To start I had baby squid, sautéed in garlic which was lovely – a clean and simple starter. I followed this with the Persian lamb, which wasn’t what I was expecting – it was more like a curry, with fragrant rice and a number of interesting accompaniments (which included bananas dipped in coconut). The portion size was huge and there was definitely enough for two, but the dish was packed full of flavour and incredibly tasty. It’s made me keen to visit a Persian or Iranian restaurant.
I couldn’t believe it when the bill arrived - £30 for two courses, two drinks and coffee was far too cheap! The glass of wine alone was £1.20, with bottles of beer at a similar price. Although we were the youngest by far in the courtyard, I never felt uncomfortable and it was lovely to be able to converse with the other diners in an informal setting – one of the couples had been visiting the restaurant for about 20 years and had become quite food friends with Kathie. The decor definitely appeals more to an older clientele and I could see it being somewhere members of my family would enjoy. I just wish I had taken more pictures as the setting was truly magical – and so different from anything I’d seen before.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Holiday | What I wore

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, but I’ve just come back from a week in Portugal. I’ve got so much catching up to do (not only on the blogger front, but at home and work too) but first I thought I’d do a collection of holiday posts, while it’s on my mind – hopefully I won’t get the blues too much!
I’ve never been on holiday for a week in September before: our family holidays always took place in August and although I’ve been away slightly earlier and later in the year, I didn’t really know how to pack. It rained on our first full day which didn’t bode well but luckily it stayed nice and hot for most of the week. It was all about playsuits and maxis, or wearing bandeau dresses over my bikini. Here are some of my favourites.
Maxi Dress – In Love with Fashion £45 (sold out but other colours available here) // Necklace – New Look £6 (I bought for £14.99 – available here)
Midi Dress – Unique Avenue £10 (available here) // Necklace – as before
Playsuit with overlay shorts – In Love with Fashion £38 (available here)
Although I didn’t get any shots, other than the below, my bikinis were from Fig Leaves and are both still available online. I chose to get the Midnight Grace set (top // bottoms) for a better fit, plus the removable straps were a bonus – I love that the set was nautical inspired, with the cute button detail as well as red piping. For something a bit more basic, I opted for Just Peachy (top // bottoms) and you can’t beat a bit of floral, can you? I’d definitely recommend Fig Leaves, whatever your size – I prefer to buy my bikinis in my bra size and they had so much choice and cute designs!
What are your favourite holiday looks?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Restaurant review | Mister Wing

Where I ate:
Mister Wing, St. Helens Street, Ipswich
Anyone that knows me will know that I love Chinese and I love eating, so a Chinese buffet is well up my street. I hate those all you can eat places though – the food is usually bad, cold and the spoons have been used for various dishes. This totally isn’t the case at Mister Wing though. You pay a set price (£18.50 a head) and can eat as much as you like, the only difference is, it’s all cooked to order. There’s no getting up and wandering about, the waiters bring you the menus, you choose what you’d like, they take the menus away, the chefs cook the food, the waiters bring it to your table and repeat! It’s basically a smaller version of their a la carte menu – with around 80 dishes to choose from!
What I ate:
Mixed hors d'oeuvres (vegetable spring rolls, barbecue spare ribs, chicken satay, prawn toasts and crispy seaweed) and pepper & chilli squid, followed by crispy aromatic duck (half), followed by sizzling beef in black bean sauce, chicken with pineapple and plain chow mein
Okay, so I made the big mistake of filling up on starters so by the time the main course arrived, I was totally stuffed and even looking at the dishes appear, made me feel a little sick. I love mixed hors d'oeuvres and it’s something I always order because it’s nice to get a selection of different things. The seaweed is my favourite. With this buffet concept, there’s no point choosing the traditional platter, as all the starters come on one plate – you could choose a variety of unusual and different things – all for the same price. The squid arrived on the same platter and was beautiful  - so well seasoned and crisp, I could have eaten a couple of portions of that alone.
We followed by a course of duck – ordering for two, we were met with a half and seven pancakes, definitely way too much. It was lovely watching the waiter shred the duck next to us, before serving and there was loads of left over. We could have done with more cucumber and onions really but it was lovely, nonetheless.
By this point I was totally stuffed, but I hoped I’d have room for a taster of the main dishes – so we chose one each, accompanied by a plain chow mein. Unfortunately all I managed was a piece of beef, a chunk of pineapple and a few beansprouts – despite piling my bowl full, of course. The food looked really nice – especially the sizzling beef on a hot plate, sauce spitting and all.
I really really wanted dessert but obviously had no room – so I’ll have to go back for banana fritters and ice cream.
It’s incredible value, like I said earlier at £18.50 each. I worked out we had about £43 worth of food between us, although I think it’d be better suited to larger parties where you can share more dishes between you. The service was excellent throughout and while the decor was slightly dated, it added to the charm of the restaurant. There was a lovely, relaxed ambience and it was nice we could order and eat at our leisure – there was no rushing around and certainly no trying to get rid of us. More buffet-style restaurants need to be more like Mister Wing.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

August favourites

This month, I’ve been
WEARING  Illamasqua lipstick
I had never heard of Illamasqua before receiving one of their gorgeous lipsticks in a Latest in Beauty box. Mine came in the shade cherub and is a really lovely soft coral – I definitely got lucky there, I live for corals. The lipstick itself is highly pigmented and so long-lasting; I only usually need to re-apply it once during the day. Packaging always says so much as well – this says classy and sophisticated. This beaut has been a necessity in my work bag this month!
TESTING  It’s Potent eye cream
Another fab product – this freebie came courtesy of Emerald Street – I’ve been using this eye cream before bed every evening for the last month and not only have I noticed a difference, it doesn’t seem to have gone down either... I’ll definitely be investing in this Benefit beauty. It fades dark circles, reduces puffiness and makes eyes generally brighter and more refreshed. It smells lovely too.
SMELLING  Kerastase Elixir Ultime
I’m no stranger to Kerastase products and seem to have various products on the go, including numerous shampoos and two hair oils. I use the Elixir Ultime shampoo and masque once a week and often treat my ends to the oil. The products have that luxury smell, if that makes sense – and the Elixir Ultime ones smell like honey. They make my locks shiny and smooth and I often get told at work (and home!) that my hair smells good – and that’s all thanks to Kerastase.
EATING  blueberries
I LOVE blueberries, whether I’m adding them to porridge for breakfast, eating them with yogurt for dessert or simply snacking throughout the day. Considered a super food, they’re high in vitamins, rich in anti-oxidants and brilliant for boosting your immune system. From the cranberry family, I’d consider them a good all-year-round fruit and I’d definitely say they’re one of my faves – they’re so versatile!
LOVING  Magnifibres
Forget sitting in a salon for hours while the therapist applies individual lashes, or getting a mess with glue and worrying about your falsies not lasting the night, Magnifibres have come up with a solution. A coat of brush-on fibres sandwiched between a coat of your favourite mascara and you’re good to go. It’s quick, easy, hassle- and mess-free and I think I’d be lost without this must-have when I’m getting ready for a night out!
LUSTING  BaByliss Pro Perfect Curl
I’ve wanted this curling styler for probably two years now – ever since the salesman came to my salon and tested it out on my hair. I can’t believe I’ve not been lucky enough to get my hands on it, particularly as the link for it has been bookmarked. My hair is neither straight nor curly and I’m often yearning for bouncy curls. I’m done with sleep-in rollers and it was a fad I found so frustrating, largely because I couldn’t seem to put them in properly. This curler creates long-lasting curls and the vacuum technology makes it quick and simple – and very little effort. This would be an investment, right?
What were you loving in August?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Graze | 12.05.14

In this box, I got:
  • Rhubarb & pear compote
  • Summer berry flapjack
  • My Thai
  • Slightly sweet popcorn
Only one new punnet in this box, in the form of rhubarb & pear compote: an autumnal blend of cranberries, dried pear and rhubarb. I requested this with ‘send soon’ as I’d not had it before and it was a reasonably new product. I love the mini chunks of rhubarb, which weren’t too sweet nor sour; however I was disappointed with the pear – there wasn’t enough for my liking and the pieces I did have, were quite tough. I’d have this again though, so rated it ‘like’; overall the flavours and textures worked.
Two of my favourite types of product are the popcorn and the flapjacks and I was lucky to receive both in this box!  The summer berry flapjack contains cranberries infused with the flavours of summer fruits and is so moreish. I wasn’t impressed with the one in this box though, there was far too much sugar and it was all granulated on the base of the flapjack. I do love receiving the flapjacks generally though and it’s impossible not to eat all three slices at once!
The slightly sweet popcorn is just incredible and you get so much in each sachet – there’s easily enough for two, but I never share mine. It’s ready within two minutes of microwaving and while it’s hot, I add cinnamon to mine – it makes it taste so much better, and adds that lovely burnt orange colour. I wish Graze added to their popcorn range and it’s something I have suggested – there are so many flavour combinations to choose from and popcorn is such a popular snack atm.
I previously blogged about My Thai here.
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, 1 September 2014

Simple Eats: Italian-inspired salad

I love salad, no matter what the time of year – I could eat it for lunch every day. The trouble is, I get so bored of chicken salad (made with whatever I can find in the fridge) – and I find preparation so time consuming. So last week I went all Italian and made this simple and gorgeous salad.
Serves 1
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a mixed punnet, so red and yellow)
  • A quarter of a whole cucumber, diced
  • 70g mozzarella, chopped
  • Five basil leaves, washed and ripped
  • 2 slices of Parma ham (or equivalent), ripped (optional)
  • Mix the tomatoes and cucumbers in a salad bowl
  • Add the mozzarella
  • Top with the Parma ham
  • Garnish with basil
And that is all there is to it. You could even add some seasoning or some balsamic vinegar to dress, but I found the meat and cheese to be salty enough – and the strength of the basil (which I took from our garden) adds a lovely fresh flavour.