Reaching 100 | & A Giveaway To Say Thank You

So, here I am just casually talking about how there's just over 100 of you, who will be reading this and all my other ramblings on a regular basis. Not reaching 100 years old as the title might suggest.

Well this is kind of a celebration, and by kind of, I mean definitely. Yesterday I hit 100 followers, with the help of Rosie, as I'm sure you all know from Cider With Rosie - ultimate super babe. Without sounding like a broken blogger record, I actually felt quite overwhelmed and humbled yesterday when it happened, and to be honest, even a little queasy. But that may have been the bumpy bus ride home from work.

To think that there is just over 100 of all you lovely lot, reading my regular ramblings and other such things I decide to write down makes me feel really wonderful and for that I truly want to say thank you. Blogging has become ingrained in my day to day life and I absolutely love it; it is without doubt one of my favourite things to do and take part in.

The posts on this blog are often centred around things I enjoy, favourite past times and other occurrences of the like, so in light of this, I'm going to do a giveaway based around my *favourite* things. I'm going to give a package to one of you lot, filled with a load of items that I enjoy the most in life. I have a good idea of what I'm going to include but I'll confirm what the package will contain in a few days/a week or so.

Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut, my favourite novel
Suck It & See - Arctic Monkeys, one of my favourite albums
Revolutionary Road DVD, one of my favourite films
The Basics Basic Baking Handbook, my go to baking book for basic techniques
Essie Nail Polish in Pink Daiquiri, one of my favourite nail colours
A Revlon/Rimmel lipstick, I haven't decided which shade yet
Various eaty and drinky bits in the form of my favourite teas, sweets and choccies

Obviously all of the copies of everything will be brand new, not my ragged old hand-me-downs :)

All you have to do is;
1. Tell me in the comments, your favourite blog of any genre, and what you love most about that blog
2. Just make sure you're following This Particular on Bloglovin

And if you would like you can send a tweet by clicking this link to help spread the word!


I will pick a winner in a month's time. Due to postage costs, I'm only opening this giveaway to UK residents. Please make sure you're in a position to give your address to me to be able to send the winning package, i.e. over 18 years old or at least have permission from an adult if you're under that age. Just in case, y'know?!

The Waterloo Bar & Kitchen

We're going a bit backwards over here today, but nevertheless, I'll carry on.

Before the trip to the theatre on Saturday, the boy had booked for us to eat at the Waterloo Bar & Kitchen, as part of my birthday prezzie. 

If you know The Old Vic, you'll probably know that this restaurant is just around the corner and in the same building as the theatre, and they do cater for pre-theatre meals, which is nice. I think if you let them know they'll wrap the meal up for you in time for the curtain call - convenient.

I have actually eaten at this restaurant twice before - I loves it. The food is fab; uncompromising, stylish and comforting. You won't find a main for under a tenner though, which although I think is justified, some of the prices I can't really stomach. No pun intended.

Anyhow, we sat down at 4:30pm, I know, early for a dinner but I'm glad we did it that way because I have *always* come out of that restaurant feeling super full, because the food is just too good to leave and we didn't want to be uncomfortable throughout the show. Forward planning at it's best. I must say though, it's quite an odd experience sitting in a completely empty restaurant, but quite fun as you can talk as loud as you want and not disturb any of the other diners. Not that we're really rowdy, just y'know sometimes it's nice to let loose a little.

So anyway, we ordered our food whilst sipping on cool pints of Peroni (my favourite lager). I went for the Squid & Chorizo Salad, the boy went for a Goat's Cheese Tartlet. The starters were actually really big, I'd forgotten how big they are. I have to say, the squid was cooked to perfection, and not in the slightest bit rubbery which was so refreshing. It was actually the perfect choice for a starter because it was SO hot on Saturday, a bit of greenery on my plate was welcome. Overall the dish was fab and I ate every last morsel. I would have liked a spicier (or even spicy) chorizo but I guess you can't have it all eh? And we get a big thumbs up from the boy for his tartlet starter - thoroughly enjoyed on all accounts.

Shortly after, we received our mains - there wasn't exactly a rush in the kitchen, but we knew that would be the case so not bothered in the slightest. I went for the Brie-filled Chicken Breast & Mash with a Creamy Taragon Sauce, which I've had before, and I always like to think if I'm going back to a place I've been before, I will choose something different, but I never do. Wishful thinking. You only live once right? And if you like it, you like it, there ain't no hiding it. 

But anyway, I LOVE this dish. It is comforting but a bit more fancy that your typical comfort food obviously and they give you a huge portion. The sauce is divine and the brie, the melty, gooey brie. Just yum.

The boy went for Confit of Duck with Mash, Red Cabbage and a Red Wine Jus. He said he enjoyed it, but just thought he made the wrong choice for that day and that the flavours didn't *really* go together, which is a shame. But he said he still thought it was nice. So there's a silver lining to every cloud eh?

We didn't end up getting dessert because we were stuffed and needed to go for a walk wanted to make sure we had enough time to get a few more drinks before the play. Which actually resulted in us going for a brisk walk to the South Bank and back, then to the theatre where we ordered a bottle of wine to have half before the show, half in the interval. But we ended up polishing it off and had to buy more drinks for the interval whoops. What was I saying about only living once? Yeah that.

All in all, another fantastic experience at The Waterloo Bar & Kitchen. If you ever go passed there around 7-9pm you'll see the place is jam packed, but still has a laid-back atmosphere, which I love. I'd thoroughly recommend a visit.

The Crucible | The Old Vic Theatre

Hey look at me getting all cultured over here.

When my boyfriend asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I wasn't really sure what to say until I passed The Old Vic on the bus a few days later and saw the building plastered in posters for The Crucible, starring Richard Armitage.

I'm well aware of The Crucible by Arthur Miller as an American Studies grad, and although I never actually studied any of Arthur Miller's works whilst at university, I just knew this play would be right up my street. And it was.

My lovely boy, booked tickets as soon as I mentioned it and spent the rest of the time running up to my birthday trying to throw me off saying that 'it would be good, but we probably won't see it', the cheeky beggar. So when I opened my card on the day and saw he'd booked for a meal and then a trip to the theatre I was overjoyed. And then even more so when I saw he'd splashed on tickets in the stalls. What a good egg he is.

The play is performed 'on the round' meaning, the audience is 360, and the play is directed to cater for people sitting at all angles. We had absolutely superb seats, sat technically at the back of the stage in a normal set up. The actors came on from all angles and it truly was an experience.

Right from the moment the lights dimmed there was an intense atmosphere in the theatre, everyone in the audience stunned to silence and captured by every word and action. I'm not going to give it all away because I think that if you're interested you MUST go and see it. Really, truly, you have to, and it's not for me to give the game away.

But if you haven't heard of the play, it's based around the witch hunts that plagued Salem Village in the late 1600s, a story that was written as an allegory to the 'witch hunts' that were experienced with McCarthyism in the mid-20th Century in North America. And to me, it is utterly fascinating.

Needless to say the acting was absolutely seamless, and there was a standing ovation for the cast at the end, which I'm sure they experience every night. Armitage held the stage with such power and conviction, I found myself completely immersed in his performance, as well as the rest of the cast.

The Crucible at The Old Vic Theatre (right by Waterloo station in case you didn't know) is running until the 13th September, and I would HIGHLY recommend you go and see it if you can. I came out of the theatre completely astounded at what I had seen and how involved I felt throughout the entirety of the play, and thinking about it now, if I had the money I'd easily go and see it again because it's probably the best piece of theatre I've ever seen, for all of the reasons above and more.

Triple Birthday Celebration in Richmond

I don't know about you, but in my family the majority birthdays are grouped in the same two times of the year, seemingly the points in the year when anyone is most skint; July and December.

In July we celebrate my dearest mum and auntie's birthdays as well as my own, convenient. So this year as we're all spread out a bit more location-wise, I thought it would be nice to gather all the forces together for a lunch in a middle meeting ground, one of which happened to be Richmond.

After searching and searching, and then my mum receiving a recommendation for Chez Lindsay, we booked a table. The restaurant specialises in french cuisine from the Brittany region, and has a wide selection of buckwheat pancakes, which are gluten free. Some of us had a starter and between my sister, the boy and myself we shared a big pot of mussels in a creamy white wine sauce which was absolutely divine. I probably *could* have eaten a whole portion to myself but I think splitting it three ways was the sensible thing to do, because the pancakes were insanely filling. And that picture is post-mussel eating, just because they were too yum to faff around with a camera beforehand for.

Pretty much all of us at the table went for the super complete buckwheat pancake, because it sounded amazing. I have to admit, I've never really liked buckwheat before, to me it has a very smokey almost burnt flavour. It's quite a prominent ingredient in 'kasza' a Polish wheat grain type cereal, that we've often had for dinner, amongst other things. And despite my existing opinion, I *actually* quite enjoyed the pancake, the flavour I've previously associated with buckwheat was there but I guess not as strong, and hey, perhaps I've grown up a bit?! (Not likely...) Anyway the super complete pancakes were almost like a breakfast pancake and absolutely delicious. I'd definitely consider using buckwheat in my own home cooking now.

Now that we were absolutely stuffed, we made our way along the river for a little stroll to find somewhere to do what my family does best... drinking tea and eating cake. 

The weather was hot and humid and slightly overcast but we carried on nonetheless. We walked along to the Terrace Gardens and just as we walked through the gates it started raining, so we ran for cover at the Hollyhock Cafe and managed to grab some seats under the shelter outside. We were all laughing because although it was hot and humid, as well as raining quite heavily, we stuck to our guns and had tea and cake - how quintessentially British. Nothing dampens our spirits.

So we drank, and ate, and chatted for a good while whilst the rain cleared and a little while longer until it was time to say goodbye. It was such a lovely and relaxed afternoon, the type that makes you really appreciate all the little things, family included.

After we said our goodbyes my sister, the boy and I strolled back through Richmond to grab the train back to London, and I have to say, despite the low flying planes, I kinda fell in love with Richmond... just a little. It's a lovely place, but I imagine very expensive to live there. Obviously feeling quite practical whilst I write this.

Nonetheless we had a fab time.

What's For Lunch Today? Savage Salads | Berwick St Market

Ok so this is actually a lunch from last week but due to MacBook absence I've had to save this post for a dire blogging situation #melodramatic !

But here we are, back on the streets of soho (for a change) and I thought I'd enlighten you all about Savage Salads, which can be found at the Berwick St Market Tuesday-Friday. I don't know much else about them other than I stumbled across them with a colleague (who has begged me to mention his name, Reuben, are you happy now?!). The line was insanely long... we walked up and down the queue umming and aahing, until Reuben finally said 'well if there's this many people... it must be good'. True say.

So we waited, and we waited... and we finally drew closer to the stall where we shouted across our orders.

It works like this: you can choose either halloumi or chicken or both to have in your salad which consists of four salad bases, of which I can't exactly remember but there was cabbage (typical Pole) and roasted peppers with couscous, as well as choosing either balsamic vinegar or garlic dressing or both. The salad is placed on top of a bed of salad leaves and you also get half a toasted pitta for the craic. The price is £5 standard, no matter which combination you opt for.

Both Reuben and I went for just halloumi, but I immediately regretted as soon as we walked passed the food preparation as the chicken smelled phenomenal. I also went for balsamic no garlic, sensible option, Reuben went for garlic no balsamic.

To be honest, next time, because there *will* be a next time, I'm just going to go for everything, because, well, why the hell not?! I have to say, the salads were amazingly delicious, and the size of the queue was absolutely justified. We also heard people debating the same way we did, on whether or not to join the queue. 

As always, I struggle to handover a fiver for lunch in these situations, and although the tight-fisted me still feels that way, actually, the quality of the food probably just about represents the price. I've paid more in whole foods for a not as filling and not as exciting salad before so I think that's a good indicator.

If you get a chance to find them somewhere, I believe they're at the Dalston Yard Street Feast today, then go for it, especially if the queue isn't too long a wait, your belly will love you.

Also, apologies for the crappy photos, I still feel self-conscious getting any kind of camera out to snap away. Must get over myself.

My Birthday | According to Instagram

It's no secret that I revert back to the age of 5 when my birthday comes round. I get butterflies in my tummy, and generally just really excited about the whole ordeal.

This year was no exception and I think it was probably the best year so far - and that's saying something, I've had some wicked birthdays. Benicassim, being in L.A., barbecues in the sun, pub crawls, my 7th birthday in the local village hall and my mum teaching all of me and my friends how to do Grease Lightening... the list is endless. I guess it's just one of the perks of having a summer birthday.

But this year, being around loads of good friends, at Frank's Cafe and Campari Bar in Peckham with the sun beating down really just made it for me. It was fab. So here's just a few instagram photos that documented my 23rd birthday on Friday.



Tea in bed and presents in the morning, a lovely meal then a trip to the theatre booked for Saturday from my lovely boyfriend

The gorgeous Charlotte Sponge cake work got for me from Patisserie Valerie

Me with said cake

Me and one of my best friends at Frank's in Peckham - note it looks like the middle of the day but was actually around 7pm - gorgeous day!

The Leftover Brownie

There's only one thing you can really do, when you're skint, it's the weekend before payday and you've got a number of leftover ingredients lying about the kitchen. 

Not the weekend just gone but the one before, it was a very chilled affair, no money, lots of Netflix and plenty of snacks. By the time it got to Sunday, we had a little time on our hands in the afternoon so I took it upon myself to whip up some brownies using whatever I could find leftover in my baking cupboard and the fridge.

I had some dark chocolate, some cocoa, eggs, light brown sugar and some marshmallow fluff. So marshmallow fluff brownies it was. But I feel that the title of this post *really* reflects the situation because it really was odds and sods, trying to pull something together; the leftovers.

I've never made brownies before, shockingly, but they turned out pretty alright even if I say so myself. They were fudgey and dense and the marshmallow fluff added a gooey sweetness. But I think next time I'll definitely mix the marshmallow fluff into the mixture instead of just dolloping on the top. Marshmallow fluff is pretty much just egg white and sugar so the dollops rose like a meringue on the top of the brownie, which looked a little odd to say the least. 

ANYWAY, that's enough rambling from me, the recipe is below as usual :)

What you will need:

300g Light Brown Sugar
4 Medium Eggs
130g Plain Flour
40g Cocoa
150g Cooking Chocolate
250g Butter/Soft Margarine
1/2 a Jar of Marshmallow Fluff

What you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 160c (fan)
Break up the chocolate and melt with the butter in a bowl over a bain marie, on a low heat (no tempering of chocolate here) until all melted together in one chocolatey buttery liquid
Leave to cool
Sieve the sugar, cocoa and the flour and mix together in a bowl
Add the melted chocolate and butter and mix well
Then add the eggs one at a time or if whisked, add a little at a time, constantly mixing
When you're satisfied the batter is mixed completely you can add the marshmallow fluff here if you would like
Line a deep baking tray or brownie tin with some baking parchment
Pour in the brownie mixture and if you didn't already add the marshmallow fluff on the top of the mixture
Place the tray in the oven and bake for 30 mins
When satisfied that the brownie is cooked through, remove from the oven and leave to cool then cut into slices or triangles or however the hell you want!

And there we have it, my 'leftover' brownies. I kind of made the recipe up as I went along, taking inspiration from numerous recipes online. I don't really know if the proportions are right but as I said, they tasted fab, so who's complaining? Not me :)

Technical Update | A Few Lessons Learnt

After running some (unsuccessful) tests via the apple support chat the day after my MacBook Pro died, I was booked in for an appointment at the apple store the following Saturday. The day after my birthday. The day after my birthday night out. But I wasn't going to prolong the situation so off I popped Saturday lunchtime into central, prepared for the worst news; a huge repair bill that I wouldn't be able to afford.

When I was in there I was *very* clear about the fact the MacBook was less than two years old, the lovely lady asked me where I purchased it from and if I could provide a receipt; apple store and yes, and I think at the next sentence my jaw dropped to the floor.

She said they would cover the repair, because it's less than two years old, out of the apple warranty but still protected by legislation introduced by the EU to cover consumers for up to two years, should a product end up being faulty. So I'll have my pride and joy back in 7-10 days.

A few lessons have been learnt here:

1. Take back ups - something I already knew but still don't do
2. Know your rights as a consumer
3. Get contents insurance

Having done all of these things, I probably wouldn't have stressed as much but at least it worked out ok this time.

And let me be the first to say, the EU ain't so bad after all - if we leave the EU, it's little gem bits of legislation like this that we'll be missing out on. I know a lot of people think the EU dictates the UK government and how it operates, and in *some* ways I agree. This just goes to show how little we know about the good the EU does for us.

Oh yeah, and had this have happened just a few weeks later when my MacBook turns 2 years old, I would have had to pay over £400 for the pleasure. I KNOW.

Spicy Vegetable Pasta Bake

I know, this is another non-innovative or boundary pushing dish, but it's one I really love.

I started making this when I was a student, hence no meat, but it's still super filling and probably one of my most comfiest, most heart-warming dishes in my repertoire. It's simple but damn delicious. As a student it was also a really great way of ensuring I was getting all the vitamins and goodness from loads of vegetables. I always used to choose eating well over going out so it wasn't a huge concern but I had zilcho monies and had to make everything stretch further, and I'm sure most of you will know how that feels.

It's a bit labour intensive, I always find pasta bakes are, but it's all worth it in the end, just for those really crispy bits of pasta on the top of the bake and the melted and browned mozzarella, just divine. I recently added in olives to this dish and they make a fab addition, even the boy, who isn't a great fan of olives absolutely loves them in this.

And if you're wondering why I use two green peppers and only one red (obviously you're wondering that) then I'll tell you now, it's because I *LOVE* green peppers the most. They're the best, I love their bitterness and just everything about them. Sorry yellow and orange pepper, you just don't fit the bill for this one.

Anyway, I've written out the recipe, you'll find it at the bottom of the post. And if anyone was wondering, a portion of this will cost you 8 Weight Watchers Pro Points, by my count. Not too shabby at all.

Spicy Vegetable Pasta Bake - Serves 4

What you will need:

250g Pasta, I've used rigatoni here but farfalle or penne or any other tube pasta would be perfect
1 ball of Mozzarella
1 Onion
3-4 Garlic Cloves
1 Chilli (red or green)
500g Passata
Tomato Purée
2 Green Peppers
1 Red Pepper
2 Medium Sized Courgettes
Mushrooms 300g or Whole Packet
Black Olives (however many you like, we use a whole jar (I also think de-stoned kalamata olives would be really well suited here too)
Chilli Flakes & Powder
Tobasco Sauce
Worcestershire Sauce
Red Wine

What you need to do:

Dice the onions and grate the garlic cloves, chop up your chilli (de-seed if you will but I leave the seeds in)
Quickly chop up the peppers, I like nice big chunks so I don't chop too small as well as the courgette
Half your mushrooms or quarter them, whatever, again, big is good
Drain your olives
Heat a pan with an oil of your choosing, I use coconut, and sweat the onions with the garlic and chilli, make sure the heat isn't too high, we don't want to brown the onions
When the onions start turning translucent, chuck in the peppers and the courgette, mix together until slightly softened
Add the mushrooms, keep mixing
Pour in your passata, I always swirl some water in the empty carton to get the last bits of tomato and add it in too
Add your purée and season
Go to town on the seasoning, salt, pepper, mixed herbs (or fresh basil if you've got it), chilli flakes, chilli powder
Add a splash, glug or whatever of red wine, sprinkle in some worcestershire sauce, a little sprinkling of tobacco and stir stir stir
Add in the olives, mix them in, turn the heat down, place the lid on the saucepan and let simmer for about 20 mins
At the end of the 20 mins start pre-heating the oven to about 160c (fan) turn the heat up a little on the sauce pan and take off the lid, we want to start reducing the sauce now
Boil the kettle and get the pasta on the go
Just before the pasta is completely done, drain it - it should still have some crunch to it and will finish cooking in the oven
Get an oven proof dish, I use a rectangular pyrex dish - perfect for the job
It's up to you how you do this but I pour the pasta into the dish, then take the veggies off the heat and pour them in and mix in the dish - not the easiest way to do it but ho hum, saves on extra washing up I think
Slice up your mozzarella in to as many slices as you can, I normally end up with nine so I use eight and eat the smallest one :)
Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 mins
After 20 mins, take off the tin foil and bake for another 20 mins

Bish, bash, bosh, done.

Baked Egg Avocados

This post is 100 per cent, without doubt, inspired by the wonderful Loriley from LorileySesh who, last week posted a magnificently named recipe for 'Eggcellent Avocados'.

As soon as I saw what she had created, I *knew* I had to try it out, so I did for Saturday lunch. I'm not going to say the recipe, because you can head over there to see it. But I did make a few alterations for my own taste buds.

For something so different, but so tasty I have to say it was extremely easy. The hardest part was finding a way of balancing the avocados on an oven tray without the eggwhite spilling everywhere. I managed it in the end by leaning them against the raised edge of the tray.

My only alterations to this recipe was to add some chilli flakes on top of the eggs before baking and also chopping up a small red onion and about six mushrooms and frying off with coconut oil, and then adding some hot pepper sauce. I think it made a lovely accompaniment to the eggs.

I didn't really know what to expect with the flavours, as I've only ever eaten avocado raw but it had a wonderful smokey flavour and was *so* easily scooped out of the skin. It was so easy to make but felt like a real treat. My only pointers would be to use as bigger avocados as you can find, the bigger the better, and use MEDIUM eggs, in order to get the maximum amount of egg without compromising on the avocado.

This is now a firm favourite in our household and I can't wait to have it again - thank you Loriley!

Technical Difficulties

I am sadly having technical difficulties at the moment. And by that I mean it's looking like my less-than-two year old MacBook Pro died on the weekend - furious doesn't even explain how I am feeling at this present moment in time.

I will be attempting to try and carry on as normal but if not, that's the reason why.

Love from,
A very disgruntled, MacBook Pro-less blogger.

This Last Week #1

I've experienced alotta lotta love in the blogging world in recent weeks, which is just fan-dabby-dosy. So I thought what better way to end the week than to include not only some of the things I've enjoyed this week IN REAL LIFE (because, you know, I do have one... sometimes) but also on the inter-web. Plus I always think these kinds of posts are a good way to remind yourself of what a great week you've had, even if it doesn't feel like it. 

Appreciating the little things.

The most amazingly doughy cinnamon bun I had for breakfast last Friday from the Nordic Bakery on Golden Square in Soho. It was huge and kept me full up right into the afternoon. I cannot wait to have another.

- Watching Germany spank Brazil - not that I have anything against Brazil - but I was with my friends, watching my boyfriend's band play, and the atmosphere in that place was just brilliant. Also I put a fiver on Germany to win the world cup at the beginning of the tournament, and now it's looking like a really good bet. Well done me.

- Watching my boyfriend's band play on the same night. They're gearing up for their EP launch on 19th July at Cherry Cola, at the Purple Turtle in Camden and they just sounded *so* good, even if I am biased. I love live music and they are just brill at it.

- Making some good headway and loosing a couple of pounds, I'm just really proud of myself of sticking to it this week and seeing the results is very satisfying. There's a certain pair of jeans I can't wait to wiggle myself back into and it's looming ever closer.

- Feeling super proud of my best friend who stepped on a plane on Wednesday morning to head off on an adventure Down Under. I'm going to miss her *a lot* but I know she's just going to have the most ridiculously fun time! Good luck Fo Fel!

Blog Posts That Have Tickled My Fancy

Aside from the pun (it's a great one) I haven't been able to stop thinking about creating this myself. Saturday brunch here I come.

Another food post but another great one. I'm all about the veg right now and Cate's spicy veggie dish just looks divine.

Charlotte's posts are always on point and I always find myself nodding along in agreement, a very inspiring post.

I never knew such a gorgeous place existed in South East London, and certainly puts a lot of South East sceptics to shame. I can't wait to drag my boy along to this place, so thank you for the inspiration Amanda.

I have to say, I wouldn't choose a milkshake over anything else but the love and devotion in the post, as well as the *amazing* photos is just too much for my little brain! And now I just want to drink everything out of a milk bottle with a paper straw. What is my life?!

Payday & Birthday Wishlist July 2014

Welcome to this month's special addition of the payday wish list, a joint venture with my birthday wish list - hooray for July!

1. Don't worry I'm not asking for a new DSLR, I'm looking to the attachment on the front of the lens. My kitchen gets little to no natural light and seeing as that's where I take the majority of my photos for my blog, I need something small but effective in creating some decent light, I've had my eye on this led ring light for a while so here's to some better lit pictures in the kitchen environment. 

2. I'm a bag obsessive, what can I say? I've been looking at some nice bags for an upcoming wedding and then another later in the year and I just think this clutch bag from New Look is so lovely, plus it's got a splash of coral - my fave. 

3. Slowly realising that Forever 21 is full of bargains, this chain link bracelet is a steal at £3, with a little bit of faux tortoise shell, this is right up my street and potential for wedding attire. 

4. I actually received this Rituals candle in 'Spring Garden' from my boy's lovely mum last year for my burp day. I saved it until we moved into our new flat and it has the most gorgeous scent. It's almost burnt out now but I will be purchasing another because the amazing fresh smell fills the house and I love it. 

5. A few weeks ago we ended up at my friend's house after a night out in Camden, and by that point in the night early morning, all I want to do is get the makeup off my face. I was handed this bottle of Bioderma to use, and I loved it. Despite reading a lot of blogs, I had never come across it, how? I know. But it really is so nice and gentle and got rid of every last morsel of makeup on my face. Well done Bioderma. 

6. I've been looking at a lot of dresses for said upcoming wedding and whilst searching I came across this beauty from Miss Selfridge. It's in the petite range, which I certainly am not but I just really love it. The style of the dress, the pattern, the fact it's covered in sequins but isn't gaudy. Come to mama.

7. My quest to learn to bake bread has not dampened just yet and this book 'Flour Water Salt Yeast' has great reviews. I needs it.

8. These Ray Ban Clubmasters will forever be on my wish list until I actually manage to get a pair. I love them, particularly in the tortoise shell style. They truly are classic and will never date.

9. So this week I ran out of two, yes two perfumes, cryyyyyy. Chanel Chance and Daisy by Marc Jacobs, I'll be looking to repurchase both as they're beautiful scents, but I reckon I'd like to get Daisy first, probably just because it's slightly cheaper than Chanel. 

10. These pastel sling backs from New Look are apart of my potential wedding attendance outfit. They'll go perfectly with the dress that I've chosen, if I like it when I try it on but hey, I'm tempted to just get them anyway as they're under £20 and classy looking and stuff!

So there's my special extra long edition of payday and birthday wish list goodies for July. Sorry, did I mention it's my birthday in July? He he he :)

Guest Posting | Top 5 Festival Tips

Alright my lovelies.

Today you will find my ramblings over at Lots of Love, Me. a beauty, fashion and lifestyle blog written by the wonderful Vicky. She very kindly asked me to write a post whilst she bathes in the sun somewhere much less overcast than this fair isle. 

Vicky went to Glastonbury, came back for a couple of days and shot off on holiday so I thought I'd type up some of my top tips for successful festival attendance. I've been to a good few festivals, so I thought I'd impart some of my wisdom as a fairly seasoned festival goer. 

If you would like to, you can read the post by following this link. Go and give Vicky some love, she's got a good thing going on at her blog.

And hey, there's some pretty atrocious pictures included too for your enjoyment!

I'll be back tomorrow with my payday/birthday wish list :) x

The Giant Cupcake

And it really was giant. 

I was asked to bake a cake for my best friend's surprise leaving party on the weekend, and I knew there was only one type of cake I could do for such an occasion. A giant cupcake, for someone who loves baking and making cakes - perfect.

The cake consisted of a vanilla sponge for the base and top, with a chocolate buttercream icing in between the two. The base was covered in melted chocolate and I 'piped' (if you can call it that) some  chantilly cream around the top of the cake. If you saw my Pavlova post, you will know that I prefer to use Elmlea double to double cream, because it doesn't really make a difference in the taste or the way it whips, it's just lower in fat. Oh and then I covered the top in brightly coloured sprinkles :)

I bought a silicon mould off ebay for a fiver and did a practice run the week before, by doubling up my standard cupcake ingredients. It did the job but needed a *little* more mixture to really fill the moulds after the cake had risen, so I added 50g sugar, fat and flour and one extra egg. It was very much a guessing game but I did some research and knew that the cake would take about an hour in the oven.

I've never used a cake mould like this before so it was all new to me but it turned out pretty well. It was also my first time using a silicon cake mould, and I have to say I was very impressed. I'm glad I did a practice run because I learnt I still needed to grease the mould to minimise the cake 'crust' - if you will - coming away from the rest of the cake.

The cake went down a treat and despite my shoddy piping work (the sudden realisation that I didn't have the correct piping nozzle for what I wanted and decided to go without altogether, don't shoot me). I got the brightly coloured sprinkles from Home Sense in their food section, I've been after some really bright ones for ages and when I spotted these I *had* to get them. I think they add a sense of fun to the cake without looking too gaudy.

Giant Cupcake

What you will need:

Vanilla Sponge
350g Soft Margarine or Unsalted Butter (softened)
350g Caster Sugar
7 medium eggs - I know, you could *probably* get away with 6 though
350g Self-Raising Flour
3 tsp of Vanilla Essence
4 tbsp Semi-Skimmed Milk

Chocolate 'Case'
150g Plain Cooking Chocolate

Chocolate Buttercream Icing Filling
150g softened butter
300g Icing sugar
50g Cocoa Powder
2 tbsp Semi-Skimmed Milk

Chantilly Cream Topping
284ml Double Elmlea/Cream
50g Icing Sugar
1 tbsp Vanilla Essence
Sprinkles (optional)

What you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 160c (fan oven)
Grease the two parts of the cake mould
Cream the butter/marg together with the sugar until pale and fluffy
Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl/jug
Weigh and sieve the flour
Add the egg and flour to the mixture, alternating between the two, mixing in between each bit added
When all of the egg and flour has been mixed in thoroughly, add in the vanilla and the milk
Place the moulds on a baking tray
Split the cake mixture between the two parts of the mould, the base will obviously need more
Put in the oven and let bake for 45 mins
After 45 mins turn the heat down to 140c (fan oven)
After 10 mins, use a wooden skewer to check if the top part of the cake is baked, if not leave for another 10 mins and check again but it should be ready to take out
Leave the base in for another 15 mins and do the same with the skewer and remove from the oven when baked
When you are satisfied that both parts of the cake are cooled, slowly peel away the silicon mould so as not to damage the cake in anyway
Leave to cool

When full cool, level the cakes out by slicing off the rounded ends with a bread knife, this will ensure the cakes sit straight on one another

Turn the base of the cake upside down on the cooling rack, place a plate underneath
Melt the plain chocolate in a bain marie, slowly so as not to expose the chocolate to extreme heats
Cover the base of the cake with the chocolate by letting the chocolate run down the sides, making sure the cake is fully covered
Leave to set, do not put it in the fridge, we want to avoid extreme temperatures

Whilst the chocolate is setting on the cake - it will cake a while, you can get started on your butter cream
Make sure your icing sugar and cocoa is sieved to avoid any lumps, add all the ingredients and mix together
Once the chocolate on the base as set, carefully turn it the right way round onto a cake board
Using a palette knife, cover the top of the base (confusing) with the buttercream and make sure it's level
Place the top of the cake on top and make sure it's sitting straight
Feel free to place in the fridge to set the buttercream so it doesn't slip and slide around everywhere

Here is where having a KitchenAid or stand mixer is so handy
Pour your cream into a bowl and whisk, until it starts thickening
Add the icing sugar and vanilla and carry on whisking
Be careful you want it to be just stiff enough to pipe without it making an utter mess and dribbling down the cake (sorry that's the only way I could think of to describe)
Use a wide round tip piping nozzle, or whatever you like and pipe, pipe, pipe away
A cake turntable would be really handy here or a glamorous assistant to help turn the cake whilst you pipe
Finish with sprinkles or cover with melted chocolate or just do whatever you wish

And there you have it, this cake takes some time to create but it's worth it in the end and you get to practice a number of skills to put it together.

I think this is now my favourite type of celebration cake :)

Low-Fat Creamy Mushrom & Bacon Pasta

Ok, so a creamy mushroom and bacon pasta dish, I know it's not exactly ground breaking but I was just so impressed with my skills I had to take some pictures for this here blog.

I actually found the original recipe on the Weight Watchers website after searching for recipes with spinach, knowing we had nearly a whole bag of the stuff at home and wanting to use it before it went off. I made quite a few adaptations to the recipe so I'm taking it as my own. The original recipe had dried porcini mushrooms (ain't nobody got time for that after work), closed cup mushrooms and parmesan (unfortunately we forgot to get parmesan, but it tasted fab anyway). Instead I used chestnut mushrooms and bacon with half fat creme fraiche. The juice from the mushrooms and bacon gave the creme fraiche a lovely smokey and salty flavour; bursting with flavour but not too rich as some creamy pastas often are.

This dish came to 10 pro points, which was less than the Weight Watcher's original recipe, and it was a huge hit with both me and the boy. A dish I'll definitely be doing again in the near future.

Low Fat Creamy Mushroom & Bacon Pasta - serves 4

What you will need:

Calorie Control Olive Oil Spray
250g Pasta, any kind you like, I used fusilli but I think tagliatelle would be even better
250g Chestnut Mushrooms, or however many you like
4 rashers of Smoked Streaky Bacon
2-3 good sized Garlic Cloves
3 huge handfuls of Spinach
3 big dollopy tablespoons of Half-Fat Creme Fraiche
2 tablespoons of Pinenuts
Salt & Black Pepper for Seasoning

What you need to do:

Grate the garlic, slice the mushrooms, and chop the bacon
Heat a large frying pan and spray 4-5 sprays of calorie control olive oil
Chuck the garlic, mushrooms and bacon into the large frying pan and cook on a medium heat, tossing and stirring until the mushrooms start to release their juices
Meanwhile, get the pasta on to boil
Whilst the pasta is boiling, add a big handful of spinach and leave on top to let it wilt
Stir in the wilted spinach and add another handful and repeat, do this once more with the remaining handful
When all of the spinach is mixed in add the creme fraiche and mix it all together
Make sure to turn the heat on the pan down, you don't want to thicken the creme fraiche at all as there isn't much of it
Season with salt and black pepper to your taste, although I didn't actually use any extra salt because of the bacon
Drain the pasta when it's cooked
Toss together and/or serve

Et Voila! Not only is it delicious, it's criminally easy for a good meal to whip up straight after work.

What's your favourite creamy pasta dish?

Reasons I Love Summer

I have no qualms in saying that summer is my favourite season. And I certainly won't change my mind at any other point in the year. I'm a summer baby through and through, and seeing as it's just so warm today, I thought it would be appropriate to remind myself of all the reasons I love summer.

Sunshine and warm weather - I love the feeling of the sun on my skin and the brightness of sunshine, there's not much than can make me happier

Early mornings and late evenings - The days are longer, which means optimum fun-having times

Pub gardens - I love sitting out in the sun, at a pub, drinking a pint of cider with my friends around me

Parks - There is no better time to appreciate and utilise the local, or further afield, green spaces

Picnics - Alfresco dining, little sandwiches, mini sausage rolls, fun-sized scotch eggs, basically everything but smaller

Barbecues - My dad does the best barbecues, hands down, and has perfected his technique to a fine art

Eating outside - Not just at home, but at restaurants and cafes

Festivals - One of my favourite past times, I haven't got any booked in this year but I really enjoyed watching the Glastonbury coverage and can't wait to buy our tickets for next year

Less clothes - In a non-peverse way, I used to get really het up about what to wear in summer but I fully embrace the opportunity to go bare-armed and even legged throughout the warmer months

Dresses - I know they're totally a year-round thing but dresses in summer just feel right

Less makeup - I love makeup as much as the next girl but most of the time I hate wearing it so giving my face a breather and some vitamin D is a welcome change

Lighter food - Something about the sun makes me want to eat less and certainly not as stodgy foods, fruit for breakfast, salad and loads of vegetables for dinner (not necessarily at the same time) makes for a happy Ala

Summer fruit - Strawberries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Black Currants, Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, Plums, just yes

What are your favourite things about summer?

Twenty-Fourteen So Far

It's July!!! My favourite month of the year, for many reasons. Initially because it's the month of my birthday but also because it's the height of summer and that brings back childhood memories of a six week break from school, family holidays, barbecues and as much time spent outside as humanly possible. Three cheers for July.

And as we're officially half way through the year I wanted to take a look back at the year so far and remind myself of all the excellent things that have happened.

It feels like 2014 has been a really good one. My new year really started at the tail-end of 2013 as I accepted the offer of a new job and prepared myself to move on to my second job out of university. How time flies eh? I spent the first three months of the year living in Kingston with my Aunt & Uncle whilst I waited to move in with my boy. I had such a good time living with them, so chilled and relaxed and just lovely.

Half way through living in Kingston came along the opportunity to go on a road trip with a bunch of friends to Holland. My boy's band had booked two gigs out there, one in Venlo on the German border and one in The Hague. We set off on Friday 7th March early in the morning in a 17 seater mini bus, crammed full of amps, guitars and a group of people ready to have a good time, and we did. We stopped in Dunkerque for lunch and over took a pub for an hour or so, then made our way to Bruges to stop for a beer (bar our amazing driver), then arrived on the East cost of Holland around 9pm after an insane amount of wee breaks.

After a fairly rowdy first night we started to make our way across to The Hague. We arrived late, obviously but still with enough time for us three girls to find a hostel for the night and get some beers in before the gig. The band, Hang Fire, played at a venue called SuperMarkt, and it was amazing. Not just the way they played but the venue itself. It opened my eyes to how shoddy the live music scene can be in London, and gave me food for thought, but that's a story for another day. We had a really great time in that city and finished the last day off by buying three crates of 24 beers and drinking in the back of the bus until we reached Antwerp for a quick bite to eat then raced across the continent to make our Eurostar train. Hectic and stressful to say the least.

Not long after we got back from Holland, it was finally time for myself and the boy and his sister, Louise and her fiancé, Faisal, to go to The Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield to use the voucher my boy's mum got us for Christmas. The night before, we stayed over at Louise and Faisal's flat in Surrey watching films and spending some good quality time together. Then in the morning we woke up and went for a long walk round Richmond Park to work up an appetite. Louise and Faisal took us to Pembroke Lodge to show us the room in which they'll be getting married later on this summer. It is stunning and many squeals of excitement were had.

The voucher for The Crazy Bear was for a three course meal (roast dinner yes) as well as a starter and a dessert. The food was glorious. Needless to say, all four of us had the roast beef option - it would be rude not to, and came out feeling absolutely STUFFED! I think I actually went into a food coma. 

Beautiful Spring scenes in Richmond park - we saw *so* many deer that day, but I was too scared to get anywhere close enough to get a decent picture.

A picture of me, taken by my boy. Even though it was only a couple of months ago, I'm looking back at this and smiling because I've lost a little weight since then. Sitting down all day in an office is not conducive to keeping off weight, especially for someone who hates exercise. However, I've made some small waves since then, and realised that in order to feel comfortable in myself I just need to move a bit more, and lay off some of the cakes. Sigh.

April saw the second charity fundraiser day that my friend Gen put on in a pub in Whitechapel - All Day Sunday Funday. It was on the day of the London Marathon and the weather was glorious. I accepted the challenge of baking some cakes to sell for the event, I think there were over 70 in total, and every single last one was sold - with the help of my best friend Shelley, pictured chewing Tashy's ear off :)

A couple of weeks after that and it was goodbye Kingston, hello New Cross... again! We'd found our flat, paid the deposit, waited a bit and moved in on the 2nd May. Our first ever home together and it really did feel like home the moment we set foot in the door.

When we moved in together I immediately thought I'd have more spare time because we wouldn't need to make time to see each other on the weekends, leaving more time to do other things and spread our wings. Wrong. Sitting at home together is one thing, but going out and doing things together is something completely different. So I still need to find a proper balance of how best to spread my time and see all the people I love effectively, but I'm getting there, slowly. At least the intention is there.

Just a little picture of my gorgeous mum and dad in Oxford, from when we went to the Ashmoleon in May. Yes my dad is wearing a Team GB top, no he doesn't like any sport. Contradiction much? 
Oh and Happy Birthday Mum - you da best!!

So that's kind of a round up of the more spectacular things that have happened so far this year. My highlight so far as got to be the trip to Holland. I don't think at any point I stopped smiling and laughing, and had such a good time with every single person on that trip.

I have absolutely loved 2014 so far and can't wait for the second half of the year to kick in. My birthday, two weddings, our five year anniversary, our first holiday away together ever, booking glastonbury tickets and potentially a little weekend break away somewhere fun. As well as all the weekends spent with friends and family, and spontaneous adventures we might have along the way.

Now I'll be sitting at my desk for the rest of the day smiling thinking about all the great things that 2014 has brought with it. Except, writing this post and looking for photos to include has really made me realise I need to take more photos and be less self-conscious of getting my camera out in social situations. Half year resolution? Yeah ok.