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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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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

A Belated Sunday Catch-up #29

Oooops – I completely forgot about this week’s Sunday post! We went to London this weekend to stay with friends and after a delicious BBQ and sunny afternoon in the garden on Sunday, we didn’t end up getting home until late that night.

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The end (also known as the summer holidays!) are in sight now. I said farewell to my class today and just have a planning day tomorrow followed by our staff party then we are off to America on Monday!

This week I have been…

Making: a 200 page Power Point – I am an expert on those transitions and timings!

Going: to Borough Market, one of my London happy places

Wearing: my new ear cuff

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Eating: a sneaky Wahaca burrito

Drinking: this

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Reading: I’ve just finished Girl on the Train and am trying to decide what holiday reads to buy for my Kindle

Watching: Sons of Anarchy

Buying: $$$ dollars $$$

Planning: the next 6 weeks off

Cooking: with chick peas

Baking: a tomato and parmesan tart using some pretty  heirloom tomatoes from the farm shop

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Writing: in my new diary

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Favouriting: tripadvisor…my travel guru!

Working on: packing light

Trying to decide: how many pairs of shoes I need for two weeks away

Wishing: for sunny but not too hot weather in New York!

Enjoying: these refreshing ice lollies

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Needing: a good lie-in!

Feeling: tired (see above)

Giggling at: the funny things children come out with!

Restaurant Review – Wahaca, Islington

I have eaten in a couple of Wahaca restaurants now (and bought the cookbooks!) but I don’t think I have ever done a proper blog review so here is an ode to my favourite Mexican restaurant. It’s not a cuisine that we have very easy access to (the nearest decent Mexican restaurant to us is in Bristol) but one that I love…tacos, nachos, guacamole, pulled pork, margaritas – I love it all!

When I was in London recently with friends, we were going to try out Five Guys but when we saw a Wahaca next door, we quickly changed our minds!

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The brainchild of Thomasina Miers, Wahaca serves Mexican market food with the option of small plates to share or something a bit heartier. The thing that always impresses me is how fresh and vibrant everything tastes and the specials are constantly changing with the seasons.

We started off with cocktails and guacamole – my hibiscus margarita was great!

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Unable to choose just one dish, I went for some sharing options with Ian and my friend Hannah.  My highlights included:

Crisp quesadillas

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The most delicious fish tacos

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Sweet potato and feta taquitos

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Pork pibil tacos

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All utterly delicious and a great selection for vegetarians too…I can’t wait for my next visit! x

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

Sunday Catch-up #14

I am writing this from our beautiful hotel room where we have just checked in and are killing some time before our friends’ wedding. Ian is practising his wedding reading and feeling a bit nervous whereas I am enjoying a cuppa with some Easter egg chocolate.

It has been a really great week! With the help of my parents, the guest bedroom is almost finished and lots more jobs around the house have been ticked off the to-do list. Ian and I had the most amazing few days in London squeezing in lots of good food, catch-ups with best friends and the most fun evening drinking German beer!

This week I have been…

Making: a start on my next cross stitch project

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Going: to an excellent German Beer Festival at Alexandra Palace

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Wearing: my new espadrilles…my anchor obsession shows no signs of fading

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Eating: Schnitzel with one of my best friends

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Drinking: Hibiscus margaritas

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Reading: research papers for a qualification I’m doing for work…interesting but so time-consuming!

Watching: The debate and loving the fact that there were three women on the panel

Buying: beautiful lighting for our almost – finished guest bedroom (the fun part of decorating!)

Planning: a spa-day with my besties

Cooking: these quiches (chorizo, courgette and Parmesan and a caramelised onion and goat cheese)

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Baking: these Yorkshire puddings which got my brother’s seal of approval

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Writing: blog posts as we zoom along the M5!

Favouriting: Khila’s vlogs about her  trip to Vegas…take me back!

Working on: mastering the perfect Pilates plank

Trying to decide: whether to go short again at the hairdressers

Wishing: Chester and Louise a wonderful wedding day!

Enjoying: the lighter evenings and mornings now that the clocks have changed

Needing: a good night’s sleep!

Feeling: like I have squeezed so much into the last week

Giggling at: Ian catching my Dad out with an April Fool joke!

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…

Sunday Catch-up #10

If I’m being honest, it hasn’t really been the best week. I’ve been stressed and busy and to top it all off I’m feeling really run down and knackered. However, these weekly posts encourage me to look for the positives in weeks like this (we all have them!) and it has had its highlights, namely some beautiful sunny days and a great weekend in London with my nearest and dearest. Every cloud and all that!

This week I have been…

Making: Ian come to Pilates with me for a good old post-marathon stretch

Going: for afternoon tea in posh London hotels

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Wearing: stripes…in fact, we all did!

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Eating: ribs (I needed my fix!)

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Drinking: root beer

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Reading: this amazing series of books (for the second time)

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Watching: Fortitude – I love my bleak, Scandi dramas!

Buying: more Breton tops

Planning: which TV drama to start on next – House of Cards please!

Cooking: ham and cheese toasties (my comfort food when I’m not feeling 100%)

Baking: nothing this week although lots of staff room cakes have been consumed!

Writing: birthday cards

Favouriting: more home décor websites as I’m now after a new rug for our living room

Working on: feeling better – lots of OJ, early nights and zinc tablets

Trying to decide: whether I need a duvet day or not tomorrow!

Wishing: this beautiful weather lasts so we can spend more time outside without layers upon layers on

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Enjoying: ALL THE CAKES

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Needing: to go back to making to-do lists as it’s the only way I can function properly

Feeling: so happy when I have all my family sat around the table enjoying a meal together

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Giggling at: this tube stop (Londoners will roll their eyes I’m sure!)

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Restaurant Review – The Diner, Dalston

Just as everyone is turning to a diet of kale and quinoa , I am going to tempt you back to the dark side with a very tempting restaurant review!

Ian and I visited The Diner in Dalston for a late breakfast when we were there for a weekend recently. As a lover of all things American, I found this place online and when I saw it was right next to Dalston tube station, I knew we had to go.

It was mid-week so pretty quiet but absolutely up my street in terms of the menu and décor. It has a typical American diner look and feel to it from the red leather booths to the neon signs and the menu was actually quite authentic with a good selection of Mexican influences too.

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We started with milkshakes (they also do alcoholic ‘hard shakes’ but it was only 11am when we went!) which were served in traditional milkshake glasses with the leftover shake brought out in the tall metal cups…a nice touch. Ian opted for pistachio and I had peanut butter – both were delicious and really filling!

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For our breakfast/ brunch option, we were really torn about what to order. I went for eggs and bacon on corn bread with smashed avocados whilst Ian had the Mexican Breakfast Pan with some hash browns on the side.

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Mine was delicious and what I would call ‘proper food porn’…just look at that yolk! Mmmmmmmm

For me, it was a perfect brunch dish with a lovely balance of flavours and textures. We don’t often get corn bread over here but I for one am a fan of this sweet bread.

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Ian’s dish had a little bit of everything: spicy chorizo, crispy potatoes, eggs, onions, black beans, guacamole, salsa, jalapenos, cheese and some tortillas on the side.

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We both kind of knew we didn’t really need the hash browns but they were so crispy and tasty that I’m glad we did order a portion!

I absolutely loved our meal here and would definitely recommend it if you are in the area. It does have a certain amount of kitsch-factor but the food was good enough to merit a return visit.

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