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Stylist Live 2015

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Months ago, one of my best friends Lucie messaged me asking if I fancied going to Stylist Live. I’m always up for a weekend in London with my girls so said yes and last weekend we took ourselves off to the Business Design Centre in Islington for the day.

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Upon arrival, we were handed our free tote bags by none other than Dawn O Porter and Edith Bowman (!) before grabbing a glass of free champers and exploring. The venue looked great with iconic Stylist covers hung from the ceiling. I have to admit that I’m not an avid reader of Stylist but I love the fact that their magazine incorporates so much more than just beauty and fashion such as food, art, travel, interior design and all this was reflected by the stalls and talks on offer.

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There were so many wonderful speakers over the four days that this event was on and in an ideal world, I would have liked to come every day! My friend Amy went before me and saw Caitlin Moran speak which I am very jealous about. (She wrote a great review on her blog too!)

We had tickets to see Nigella speak so headed straight there and enjoyed a talk on what food means to her, her take on the latest clean eating trends (just don’t mention juicing!) and there was  also a Q&A session.

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Afterwards, we decided to scope out the venue and stalls. There were beauty treatments and hair styling on offer, book signings, food stalls, make-up stands, gin tasting, candles, stationary, homeware…I was in heaven!

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I didn’t go too crazy but did try my very first Crosstown Doughnut (pumpkin and lemon – bloody delicious!), bought some beautiful Rituals foaming shower gel as well as this amazing goodie bag from Clarins.

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Priced at £20 for the event, I picked up a pretty coral leather make-up bag which contained some Pure Melt Cleansing Gel, a little pot of Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch, some Skin Perfecting BB Cream in 01 Light, a beautiful Blush Prodige in Soft Peach, a tube of Be Long Mascara in Intense Black and a tube of Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector in 01 Rose Shimmer. Along with this bag, I received lots of samples too.

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I am also considering signing up for this monthly postal service from Katie Leamon. This stall had the most beautiful cards, prints and stationary and it would be such a treat to get a monthly delivery full of goodies to use. It’s not that cheap but I love the idea of supporting a new designer so I may give the Christmas edition trial run.

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Around lunchtime the queues were huge for the food places in the venue so we decided to get some fresh air and head down the road to a lovely Spanish restaurant for some grub.

When we returned, we attended the fashion show which showed 5 autumnal fashion trends and was fascinating to watch. We had planned on attending a few more talks but these were in very small rooms and sadly filled up very quickly.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this event. There was a great mix on offer and I loved that there were talks and shows as well as the shopping aspect. As with all first-time events, there are improvements to be made – I would have more selection of places to eat and drink and also ensure the talks were hosted in larger rooms as they filled up too quickly. Would I go again? Yes – it was a lovely girly day out and I came away feeling very inspired and discovered some great new brands.

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Review – Holland House Spa, Bristol

This weekend, my two best friends and I headed to the Mercure Hotel in Bristol for a spa day. We all turn 30 this year (some sooner than others! Haha) so decided we deserved some pampering and a good girly day out free from husbands, babies and work!

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I found us a pretty good deal through Wahanda.com which I would definitely use again as it knocked about a third off the price! I bought the ‘Rejuvanate Spa Day’ package which included three treatments, lunch and use of the pool and gym within the hotel.

We arrived about midday and had a quick dip and gossip in the pool before enjoying a light lunch of wraps and fries. Then it was time to get our robes and slippers on!

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I really liked the atmosphere in this spa. There was unlimited tea and coffee and a really comfortable relaxation room so whilst we were waiting for our treatments we could enjoy a brew and chat on the sofas.

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Soon after, we were called upstairs for our treatments which included a back scrub and full massage, a facial and an Indian head, neck and shoulder massage. In total, this took about an hour and a half and was so indulgent and relaxing I almost fell asleep at several points!

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The products used were all Decleor and my skin was glowing when we left. It was lovely to be able to chat to a therapist too and pick up some tips for my skin.

Suffice to say we all left feeling wonderful and I am already searching for my next pamper day!

Restaurant Review – Boopshi’s, London

I am forcing myself to have a ‘laptop-day’ today and plough on with my mountain of work. I spent yesterday in Bath having a haircut then went back in to town in the evening for burgers meaning very little work was done.

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I have my class reports to write this holiday and I remember at the start of the Easter break telling myself that if I wrote 2 reports per day then I would get them all done within the 2 weeks. After a few days, this number had moved up to 3 a day, then 4 and I am now left with trying to get them all done by the weekend…I feel lots of tea will be needed today!

But first, a restaurant review. I love going to stay with my friend Cat as she will always pick somewhere a bit different for us to go for dinner. Boopshi’s is a ‘schnitzel and spritz’ restaurant doing that thing where they don’t serve a huge menu but what they do serve, they do damn well!

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It’s an Austrian restaurant which immediately made me think of grandiose Viennese glamour but I was surprised to see a very modest restaurant – think minimal skandi style with rows of shared tables.

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We started off with a selection of cocktails – I had a cherry sherbet, Cat had a pear and elderflower concoction and Ian ordered a bourbon sour, all of which were delicious.

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For our mains, we all opted for schnitzel. I had pork, topped with a duck egg and capers, Cat had chicken and Ian had rose veal topped with anchovies and capers. We also shared a bowl of gooey, cheesy spatzle and a potato salad.

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The schnitzels were a generous size and went beautifully with the various toppings and gravy that was served. I loved the spatzle too – like an Austrian mac ‘n’ cheese and so filling.

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Unfortunately we didn’t leave ourselves room for pudding but left thoroughly satisfied and I would definitely recommend Boopshi’s to friends. It was a really good meal but it’s difficult to say whether I would return again. If I find somewhere I like, I tend to want to work my way through the menu and try different things whereas I think we had Boopshi’s best offerings on our visit. I’d say that’s the only downside of these places that become famous for just serving one thing – although it was pretty perfect schnitzel! x

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Spring Fest 2015 – German Bier Festival, Alexandra Palace

Marriage is all about compromise and when Ian and I go away together, we put this to the test. Whilst we obviously love spending time together, our ideal plans are sometimes a little different so I usually drag Ian around countless bakeries and shops and he takes me to drink beer…simple!

When we first heard about the German Bier Festival at Alexandra Palace I have to admit I was slightly hesitant whereas Ian was already online sorting out tickets! I wasn’t sure if it would be a bit ‘laddy’ with only beer-drinking on the to-do list but I was very pleasantly surprised at what a brilliant atmosphere there was.

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Luckily, our friend Lucie lives a ten minute stroll from the venue so we headed there on a rather drizzly Good Friday afternoon.

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This beer festival is the largest in the UK and is much more than a glorified pub. Set in the beautiful Alexandra Palace, the main hall was decked out with rows of wooden benches for groups to sit down together and enjoy the evening, with waitresses on hand for warm pretzels and jugs of cold beer.

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On the main stage, there were several performers – including a traditional oompah band and a Queen tribute act at the end of the night – which really got the crowd singing and dancing.

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In the main entrance there were a variety of food stalls, all in keeping with the German theme, selling schnitzel, sausages, chips and a selection of speciality beers with more musicians playing to keep you entertained.

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We stuck to the Pilsner on tap for most of the night although it was hard to keep up with how much you had drunk when you were constantly topping up your glass from the pitcher!

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We were definitely merry when we walked home at the end of the night but I think the 11pm finish stopped things from getting too messy…and a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie in the morning did wonders for our heads too! x

Latest Purchases #56 – Holiday Buys

Happy Bank Holiday Weekend! Back in my college and uni days that would automatically equal Reading Festival but this year it looks to be a washout so we are just going to chill at home with a new box set and I will no doubt potter about in the kitchen too…how times have changed!

We have had a lovely weekend so far. One of my best friends Lucie arrived on Friday afternoon and we spent our evening up the pub, cooking and devouring a big bowl of spag bol followed by a hilarious game of Cards Against Humanity!

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Yesterday, we headed out to meet the newest member of our friendship gang, beautiful baby Ivy. Ian was a natural and it was enough to make any girl broody! Haha

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Today I wanted to share a few things I picked up when we were on holiday last week…it already feels like ages ago!

My weakness is duty free shopping. Another blogger summed up airport shopping perfectly when she said that it’s like spending Monopoly money…I thought that was quite funny as all of my airport purchases were things that I probably wouldn’t have bought had I just popped in to Boots one weekend.

Anyway, I’ll start with the booze which makes you realise just how expensive spirits are to buy in the UK. We got some vodka (for Bloody Marys) and a bottle of brandy which I may have to hide from my Dad as it’s his favourite tipple!shop16

On the way there, I treated myself to a new perfume; Eau des Jardins by Clarins. I know most people associate this brand with skincare but I have another perfume by Clarins (Eau Dynamisante) which is lovely and lasts well.shop15 shop14

I think this perfume is a summer release but I will definitely wear it all year round as it has fresh and uplifting citrus notes with a slightly musky rose base.

When we went to Palma for a day trip, I hunted down a trusty Sephora. I managed to find a nice little haul there although I didn’t have too much time as Ian was doing that man-thing where I could tell he just really didn’t want to shop!

I picked up a new nail file which kind of looks metallic but is similar to a glass nail file – always handy.shop8 shop7

Also on the subject of nails, I remember buying some nail wraps from Sephora when we were in the States last summer and they were the best I had ever used so I was keen to try a few more from here. I picked up two sets; a bright pink design with some arty squiggles on and a dogtooth print which I am dying to try out!

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Finally, I wanted to try and keep my tan for as long as possible once we returned home. I use St. Tropez on my body but had just run out of a Champneys facial tanner so decided to try out Sephora’s Tinted Self-tanning Face Gel. It said on the box that it came with a brush which I was expecting to find separately but I was intrigued when I opened up the packaging and found the brush to be attached to the tube. I think this will make application easy and hopefully nice and even too. It also has a handy ‘on/ off’ click cap to avoid any make-up bag disasters.

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On the way home, we happened to have a Duty Free right next to our flight gate so I was wandering through and found a little bargain in the form of these Clinique Chubby Sticks.

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These are the Moisturising Lip Colour Balms and I bought a box that contains three of their most popular shades; Super Strawberry (07), Two Ton Tomato (11) and Mighty Mimosa (13).These lovely pencils are super moisturising with a sheer colour and being a chunky lip pencil, are really easy to apply on the go.

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I have had a quick swatch of each one and they feel amazing on the lips and I like the subtle wash of colour too – I think the red shade is probably my favourite at the moment.

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So, a few nice treats which will remind me of our lovely week away! x

Restaurant Review – The Seven Stars at Winsley

We had another fun-filled weekend, starting with Friday drinks at our local pub and a few bar snacks for dinner…those tall pork scratchings are to die for!

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It was our friend’s 30th birthday (the first of our group to reach the dirty 30…I still have a year to go!) so we gathered for a slice of the most delicious peanut butter cake, a trip into Bristol and dinner and drinks on The Grain Barge. This floating bar and restaurant is a bit of a hidden gem. We had great food but the constant swaying definitely makes you feel tipsier than you really are!

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Last week, Ian and I headed over to a nearby village, Winsley, for dinner at The Seven Stars. Despite it being a rather drizzly and grey Thursday night, we were lucky to get a table which is testament to how popular this place is, and for good reason too!

This place ticks all my boxes for a good village pub…beautiful building, good beer garden, a nice selection of local ales and all the food on the menu is both local and seasonal. (Sneaky fact for locals – I overheard a waiter saying they bought their steaks from the same supplier as Hudson’s Steakhouse in Bath but they are on the menu here for about half the price!)

For some reason, I was craving fish and we both ended up having fishy options for both our starters and main courses.

I began with the fish platter which was served on a trendy slate plate piled high with smoked mackerel pate, stuffed smoked salmon, crayfish, a huge king prawn, roasted red peppers and some homemade bread and butter. All elements were delicious and I could have eaten this again! The crayfish in a light marie-rose style sauce was divine and the pate was really good too.

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Ian opted for whitebait with a lemony tartare sauce and salad. I love this little fishies as they always remind me of our holidays in Spain where we would order a huge bowl of these sardinitas and eat them on the beachfront with a cold beer.

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For my main course, I had a grilled fillet of hake served on a pea, mint, lemon and parmesan risotto and some tempura calamari on top. The piece of fish was huge and perfectly cooked. I love risotto so this was the perfect combination for me – one of the best meals I’ve had for a little while.

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Ian ordered from the specials board and had halibut with asparagus, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. This was also really tasty and when they forgot the poached egg, they were great at rectifying this mistake quickly and without any fuss.

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Being very greedy, we decided to share a pudding platter for dessert and in retrospect it was a little rich following our previous two courses! Nevertheless, we had sticky toffee pudding, fruity pavlova, chocolate brownie, vanilla ice-cream and some fruit to enjoy. The brownie was delicious, topped with a Stracciatella cream and the toffee sauce with the pudding was moreish too.

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As well as the food being amazing, the service here was so welcoming and friendly that we had a really great evening. This place is just down the road from us so I can’t wait to head back although given the number of people waiting for a table, I would definitely book to avoid disappointment!

Recipe – Spicy Red Cabbage

I have had one of the best weekends in a long time, full of food, friends and laughter!

Our friends arrived on Friday night carrying Krispy Kreme doughnuts and flowers (the best houseguests!) and I cooked us a huge toad in the hole, complete with extra sausages, potatoes, asparagus and my delicious red cabbage…recipe below…followed by huge slices of chocolate brownie!

After a lazy Saturday morning of croissants and tortilla, Ian and I decided to show our guests a few of our local hotspots in Bradford on Avon. We started off with a wander around the Tithe Barn then the boys went to the pub and us girls hit the independent shops. Sometimes, it is only when you are playing ‘tour guide’ that you remember and appreciate the cool places that you live near!

After a long lunch back home, we braved the afternoon chill for a walk around the village and a quick half at the local pub before heading into Bath for dinner at The Bath Brew House.

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I love this place and couldn’t resist ordering the BBQ ribs again and yes, they were just as amazing as I remembered! I even found room for a huge slab of Dr Pepper chocolate cake afterwards.

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Whilst there, we also booked tickets for a special ‘pork and beer night’ later this week so expect another review of this restaurant soon!

Today’s recipe is only a side dish but it is one I have made several times recently and is a real winner! At first, I thought it was a bit too Christmassy but this side dish is lovely to have at any time of the year. Not only does it add a lovely deep purple colour to your plate, it tastes delicious and seems to make loads too!

Ingredients

Butter

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 cinnamon stick

A quarter of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

A quarter of a teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg

A quarter of a teaspoon of allspice/ sweet mixed spice

1 red cabbage, cored and sliced

1 apple, finely chopped

3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar

100-150ml of balsamic vinegar

50ml of red wine

2 tablespoons of jam or cranberry sauce (I used sour cherry jam)

How to make it

  • Melt a tablespoon of butter in a deep saucepan and add the chopped onion to soften for a few minutes on a low heat
  • Add the cinnamon stick, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and mixed spice and mix wellcab3
  • Add the red cabbage and sauté for a few minutes with another knob of butter thrown incab4
  • Add the apple, sugar, balsamic vinegar and winecab5
  • Cover and continue to cook on a low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Stir through the jam and cook for another 15 minutescab9
  • Season well and serve warm, with another knob of butter on top

Finally, I had to post this weird picture I noticed when cutting my red cabbage…can you see the lobster?!cab7