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Sunday Catch-up #40

It has been a great week and an even better weekend. I only have three days left of term and I always feel a bit more positive knowing half term is in sight.

On Friday night, Ian and I met up with friends for a night at the theatre to watch Avenue Q. It was the most bizarre and random show I have ever seen but also one of the funniest!

On Saturday, after a 5:30 alarm call (ouch!), I was on the train to London to attend Stylist Live with my besties. It was an amazing day – I bought loads and there was a lot of tea and cake involved.

Today has been very relaxed but we did pop into Bath for lunch to try out the new Burger and Lobster restaurant which was so delicious and filling I am skipping dinner tonight!

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This week I have been…

Making: bagels for breakfast every morning

Going: to Stylist Live and seeing Queen Nigella!

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Wearing: layers!

Eating: a burger and half a lobster…and a pudding!

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Drinking: pink champagne

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Reading: Escape from Camp 14 on my kindle (for the second time)

Watching: Narcos – each episode is like a mini film and it’s refreshing my Spanish too!

Buying: a Clarins goodie bag

Planning: a new haircut

Cooking: lamb and cauliflower rice

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Baking: nothing this week although I did buy a tin of pumpkin ready to make a pie!

Writing: not enough on my blog this week

Favouriting: capes on various websites – I have my ideal one in mind but I just need to find it!

Working on: my final essay

Trying to decide: where to go on holiday next year

Wishing: there was a Crosstown Doughnut shop near me after sampling their goods this weekend

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Enjoying: time with friends

Needing: to get back into yoga after a few weeks off

Feeling: very ready for half term

Giggling at: Avenue Q

Kilver Court

Last week, my parents and I fancied a little day out and there was somewhere I had been wanting to go for a while. Kilver Court is about 40 minutes away from us, nestled right next to Shepton Mallet , and is an outlet centre specialising in luxe brands. It’s not huge, located in an old factory, but has a cool ranger of brands, including LK Bennet, REN skincare, Toast, Joseph, French Sole and Jack Wills – the Mulberry shop is also a next door.

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It was lovely to browse and pick up a few items. I am trying to save before our trip to the States so just treated myself (and my Mum) to a mini Ren facial kit as I love their stuff.

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There is also a lovely homeware store and café where we spent some time. I love a good kitchen shop and this one was gorgeous. I picked up these ‘tap water’ glasses:

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There was amazing selection of local produce from Bath Gin and local beers to chocolates, jams and crackers. I bought some flavoured oil and balsamic, both of which were delicious with some crusty French stick dipped in!

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Finally, we finished our visits with flat whites and a slice of Victoria Sponge from the café…all in all, a great little day out if you find yourself nearby.

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Afternoon Tea in London

Anyone else a big Timehop fan?! I am really enjoying this app which gives you little snapshots of what you were up to years ago. I have linked my blog to it and it is lovely rereading recipes, nail art and weekends away that we enjoyed and to see how my styles and tastes have changed over time. It is also for this reason that I like to document my mini-breaks, especially when they are to celebrate best friends’ 30th birthdays!

This weekend, Ian and I headed up to London to enjoy some time with our besties. We decided to catch a slightly later train up from Bath on Friday evening which gave us enough time to grab a quick bite at Grillstock. I opted for ribs and a root beer which truly hit the spot whilst Ian had a chilli dog.

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Our train journey was pretty uneventful; chai tea, a bit of reading, a quick podcast then before we knew it we were at our friend Lucie’s flat with a cup of tea in hand. I gave Lucie one of her birthday presents which I handmade and which, quite literally, took me weeks. It may seem a slightly strange option but I cross-stitched my friend a map of Serbia! It was my neatest ever cross-stitching effort and that surely wins some good friendship points?!

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The next morning was glorious sunshine so after a lovely lazy breakfast at Owen’s and a browse around their deli, we headed up to Alexandra Park for views of the city and a fresh brew.

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That afternoon we met the rest of our party at The Mandeville Hotel for afternoon tea. We started with white peach bellinis before deciding between the ‘Vintage’ and ‘Gentlemen’s’ afternoon tea.

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I opted for the Vintage as I just love posh finger sandwiches with no crusts! A couple of people in our party ordered the Gentlemen’s and I have to admit to having a bit of food envy when I saw their steak and snails, fish fingers and sausage rolls arrive!

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I would recommend this place for a group booking as the service was excellent. Several people at our table had booked the unlimited champagne option and the waiters kept their glasses topped up throughout the afternoon.

The Vintage came with roast chicken and stuffing, smoked salmon and cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches, a beautiful scone with jam and cream and a selection of mini cakes. My favourites were the apple and custard pots with crumble topping, the Battenberg and the coffee and walnut slice.

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There was also a good selection of loose tea; I had the pear caramel tea which was delicious.

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After all those cakes, we headed out for a few drinks then back home for a takeaway and Cards Against Humanity (so wrong, but so funny!)

I think I am a well-established country girl now but I do love a city break and time with good friends is pretty much priceless. Right, onto the next cross-stitch…

Latest Purchases #67 – A Space.NK Haul

Well I don’t know about you but I’ve had a pretty lovely Saturday. Despite it being freezing, we headed into Bath bright and early where I had my roots done, bought some new foundation, a lipstick and cookbook, went for burgers with Ian then went to the cinema to drink coffees, eat sweets and enjoy American Sniper…all in all a great start to the weekend, especially as tomorrow will mainly be spent finishing my marking for school!

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This evening, we are too stuffed for a big dinner so plan on just chilling on the sofa with some cheese and biscuits to nibble on.

For today’s post I wanted to share my recent treats from Space.NK. This is a store that I browse frequently but it definitely isn’t the cheapest place to go on a spree so it is in ‘treat’ territory for me. However, they have some great sales so when I spotted some goodies in their January sale, my online basket soon began to fill up!

Here is what I picked up:

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Firstly, a large and small bottle of their Milk Soak. I love a heavily scented bath but I’m not a huge fan of bubbles, I don’t like the film that oils leave behind and although they look and smell amazing some of Lush’s bath bombs leave so much residue in the bath that they can be more hassle than they are worth! Enter these milk soaks…

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They leave your skin feeling so soft afterwards and have a lovely, fresh, almost powdery scent to them. I bought a large one for myself and smaller one as a present for my Mum.

One of my favourite skincare brands next, REN. These particular products were in the sale simple because they are rebranding and changing the word ‘Mayblossom’ to ‘Clarimatte’. Personally, I think the previous title sounds better but it’s the formula that really matters and this looks to be a great purifying cleanser.

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As well as the full-size cleanser, I also bought a travel set which included the same cleanser alongside a day cream and a detox mask which I will be packing the next time I go away.

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A little present for Ian next from super-cool New York brand Kiehl’s. This included a moisturiser, exfoliating face scrub and a toning spray (which I keep telling him is not too girly to use!)

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I may have saved the best for last here with this beautiful new palette from Laura Mercier. It is their Artist’s Palette for Eyes and Cheeks and it is lovely! Encased in a black and brown zebra-print case with a satisfying metallic lock, this palette contains a blusher and 8 eyeshadows.

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In the centre the blusher in shade Rosegold Shimmer is a lovely golden peach which I will use as both blusher and highlighter, although I am loathe to use it too much as I love the embossed signature on it!

The eyeshadows are a great variety and very different to the other eyeshadow palette I use all the time, the Urban Decay Naked 3. These eight shades have 5 mattes and 3 shimmers which can be mixed and matched to create different looks. Whilst I am getting into matte eyeshadows more recently, my early favourites are Topaz and Crystal Beige and I can’t wait to have a play around with them all, especially the navy shade Deep Night.

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I think all of these products combined took me just over the £60 I needed to qualify for free delivery which is a real bargain for such high-end brands and makes me feel slightly less guilty too! x

Restaurant Review – The Northey Arms, Box

A couple of weeks ago, Ian and I headed down the road to revisit the Northey Arms, a country pub that we’ve enjoyed some good meals at before.

After a quick G&T at the bar, we were seated in the restaurant area to have a good nose through the menu.

For my starter, I ordered chicken liver parfait which was served with a brioche roll, some chutney and rocket, which I think is the devil’s food! I really enjoyed this starter (once I had tipped the rocket onto Ian’s plate!); the pate was beautifully rich and creamy, the chutney had a good amount of spiced fruitiness and the brioche roll was tasty too. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough brioche for the amount of parfait. A second roll or some additional crackers would have been nice.

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Ian had deep fried crab served with a mango salsa and avocado sorbet. I only had a bit of the sorbet, which was beautifully creamy, but I got a thumbs up from him for the starter!

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For our mains, I opted for lamb and Ian had a steak.

My lamb was served perfectly medium-rare on ratatouille, potatoes, more rocket and a lovely sauce. The lamb was gorgeous but I just wish there was more of it as I didn’t really enjoy the ratatouille. It was a bit bland although I’m not the biggest fan of aubergine.

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Ian had a whopping steak (I can’t remember if it was a T-bone or rib-eye) served with green beans, grilled mushrooms and roasted vine tomatoes. He also ordered some chips and a delicious Roquefort and parsley butter.

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Honestly, one of those crispy chips dipped in the rich, cheesy sauce was a little taste of heaven!

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As always, I had saved room for a pudding but after trying to catch the eye of a waitress for over 10 minutes, I soon got bored of waiting and we left. This was such a shame and left a bit of a sour taste after a really nice meal. I am quite ruthless when it comes to poor service as I think there are just so many good places to eat near us that I don’t feel we need to waste our time and money at a place that doesn’t offer decent service. Too harsh?!

It may have been a one off with the poor service as previously I had liked the atmosphere and there’s no denying the food is really good here. And I may have to go back for that cheesy chip combination soon!

 

Latest Purchases #61 – An Autumnal Haul

There is a little bit of everything in this post – some of the pieces are not particularly autumnal but I was struggling for a title! These are basically the bits and pieces I have bought over the past few weeks along with some Christmas gifts too.

First up an ASOS order. Yes, I was tempted by their 70% off email and managed to get some end of summer bargains to put away for next year.

First up, a flower-print dress because lord knows I need another one! I like these ASOS skater dresses and have a few different prints. I really like the fact that the arms on this are a little longer than a normal short-sleeved dress. I plan on wearing this with tights and boots this winter (it’s November so I am officially using the ‘w’ word)

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Next, a rather painful entry as I had to send this one back for being too big and they don’t have a smaller size! I really like the brand Pull&Bear and this pretty lace dress was reduced to £6.50 from almost £25. Although it is lace, it isn’t a light, floaty summery dress but rather a thick, brocade-style lace detail which would have been lovely to wear over the festive period. I’m keeping my eyes peeled just in case they restock my size!

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A new brand for me now and a total bargain. This beautiful pale pink scarf adorned with peace symbols is from cool Danish label Becksondergaard and was reduced from £33 to £4. It’s a gorgeous soft, lightweight cotton material and is the perfect length and size.

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Something I plan to put away for next summer is this straw hat, reduced to a fiver. My current straw hat is looking a bit battered so I have upgraded. This is simple, has a pretty plaited tie around the base of the hat and is perfect for keeping the sun off my head.

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A bit of bling next. Las Vegas will always hold a place in my heart and what better way to remember our wedding there than a Vegas necklace?! I love charm necklaces and I will get a lot of wear out of this.

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Finally, I always have a quick look at the Beauty pages on ASOS and I was pleased to see several Apocalips lip glosses reduced. I love this release from Rimmel and opted for Across the Universe, a deep red which is very wearable at this time of year.

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I also nipped into Primark when I was in Bath recently with the sole aim of picking up a few more tops. First of all, I found this floral and striped number. It is made from a sheer material but looks great layered up and is a bit different from my usual Breton-style tops.

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Next, I picked up another colour of their ‘distressed’ t-shirt. I have a few shades of this style and they are the perfect length – I love wearing mine for my Pilates class. I’m not usually a pink girl but I think the bleached, distressed look hardens it slightly.

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Finally, some more colour in the form of this mint green lace t-shirt. I also have this in white (are you sensing a theme here?!) and wear it a lot so this green one will be a nice alternative.

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Last up, I bought some beauty bits from Marks and Spencer. Have you perused this section of Marks ‘n’ Sparks lately?! They have some pretty awesome stuff in there and a great selection of brands. This time however I stuck to their own brands and picked up a blusher and two eyeshadows.

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The blusher is from Limited Collection in the shade Apricot. This is a pinky matte blusher in some very pretty animal print packaging. If I was being really picky then I would say that the formula is ever so slightly chalky but as long as you don’t get too much product on your blush and blend it in well then you’d never know.

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From the Autograph range, I bought two eyeshadows in Peach and Olive. These two satin shades have a lovely shimmer and are very blendable. I am so used to using eyeshadow palettes that it feels a real treat to buy individual shades!

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The pinky shade is a perfect everyday nude for me that I would tend to wear as a base colour. The golden shade is beautiful once applied to the eyes; a real antique gold.

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Both single shadows come with a mirror and applicator although I prefer to apply these with brushes so I can blend them in easier.

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I don’t have much from M&S but after seeing the range in their beauty hall, I will definitely be back for more.

Our London Break (Warning: lots of food photos!)

Ian and I have just got home after a wonderful few days away in the big smoke. He has gone off for a run whereas I have chosen a cuppa, a catch-up of this week’s Apprentice and sorting through my photos instead! I decided to take my ‘proper’ camera up to London with me in order to practise using it for a variety of shots rather than just reaching for my iPhone. I did look like a complete tourist with it around my neck but hopefully I managed to take some better photos and I definitely feel like I have gotten to ‘know’ this camera better after shooting a variety of inside, outside and (of course!) foodie pictures!

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As you have probably guessed by now, I am one of those weirdos who wants to drag out a mini-break for as long as possible and thinks a holiday starts at the airport (or even at the hotel the night before a flight!). This trip was no different and before we even got on the train we had treated ourselves to a Bertinet Bakery (the best in Bath!) brunch and I had a new book ready to get stuck into on my Kindle.

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Upon arrival, we headed straight to our hotel in trendy Dalston, Avo Hotel. We have a good variety of friends we usually stay with in London, but for this trip we decided to treat ourselves to a hotel and I found this little boutique hotel which turned out to be cheaper than your bog-standard Travelodge and it always feels good to help the independents. We stayed in the King Top-floor Suite which we loved. It had a huge and comfortable king bed, a double sofa with good tea and coffee facilities and a fabulous bathroom with sparkly black tiles, a rainfall shower and nice Elemis products. Oh, and a view of the Gherkin! It is a family-run business and really friendly. There was always someone behind the front desk and they offered a simple but tasty breakfast too.

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After we had settled in, we hopped back on the tube and went to see the poppies at the Tower of London. I thought this was stunning and a very moving installation although be prepared for the crowds!

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Seeing as it was such a gorgeous autumnal afternoon, we decided to have a wander along the river via Borough Market and a drink with a view as the sun set.

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We also noticed several decorated buses dotted about. I hadn’t heard of this project but I do love these city-wide art installations and it was great to see the different varieties.

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That evening we were meeting our friends, Cat and Lucie, to try out a new restaurant; DF Mexico in Shoreditch. I will be writing a separate restaurant review of this soon but it was a great night with good friends and margaritas…need I say more?!

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The next morning, after a quick bite to eat at our hotel, we paid a visit to the Saatchi Gallery. There were a couple of installations I wanted to see (the ants and the oil room) which we both loved and then we wandered around the remaining rooms. I really like this gallery – there are bold and daring installations which can invoke a love/ hate reaction and you don’t feel like you need to be an ‘art expert’ to enjoy yourself. I think this may be my new favourite art gallery in London.

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Next, it was time for lunch and I had heard amazing things about Comptoir Libanais which was just around the corner from the Saatchi. Again, I will do a restaurant review soon but I really enjoyed our lunch here, from the décor to the sharing platter to the wonderful rose-mint tea and baklava.

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Unfortunately, it was a bit of a grey and drizzly afternoon so we decided to head over to the Tate Modern to shelter and soak up a bit more culture. I’m not sure if it was due to the half-term crowds but I wasn’t really feeling this visit compared to how much I loved the Saatchi Gallery. We didn’t stay too long here and instead popped back to the hotel for a warming hot chocolate and to get glammed up for our evening out.

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For an early dinner, we had booked an afternoon tea with a twist…burgers! We ate at BRGR where we had a delicious selection of mini sliders, drinks and puddings – my review is coming soon!

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Then, we walked over to the Noel Coward theatre to watch Shakespeare in Love (via Leicester Square where we tried to grab a glimpse of Matthew McConaughey at his latest premiere!). For our first wedding anniversary, where it is traditional to give a ‘paper’ gift, Ian bought me these tickets and being fans of the film, both had high hopes for the play. It did not disappoint and was actually better than I thought it would be. It had some really funny moments followed by some very poignant ones and there was a dog which easily makes it deserve its five star reviews!

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I also discovered Crème Brûlée flavour Häagen-Dazs during the interval which was a highlight for me!

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On our way home, we both had the munchies and noticed a Jamie Oliver pop-up diner selling burgers and hotdogs – perfect midnight snacks!

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Today we were pretty knackered so just enjoyed a late-morning brunch at an amazing American-style diner near our hotel, aptly named The Diner, a quick photo opportunity in front of Big Ben and my first pumpkin-spiced latte of the season before catching the train back to Bath.

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Suffice to say, after such an indulgent foodie few days, my shopping basket was full of fruit and veg this afternoon to restore some much needed balance!