Friday, 29 December 2017

OUTFIT // Sparkly as

My wardrobe lately has been a magpie's dream. I wore this gold polka dot sparkly number of a dress on Christmas day and since then the mermaid vibes have been strong with this green sparkly top which shimmers like scales.

Top* here

Online it is described as a 'green and black lace top' but to me, this doesn't do the colour justice. Yes it is predominantly green in colour, however it also catches the light for an incredible rainbow-like sheen. Which is remarkably hard to capture in a photo. In person it is a beautiful, beautiful thing and I was pleasantly surprised when I first unwrapped it.


The top itself actually has a peplum hem (as seen here) which looks great paired with slim cut black trousers and is excellent for masking a tum that has consumed all the cheese over the holidays (guilty). My favourite way of wearing is tucked into a little skirt or on this occasion, shorts. Also let's address the incredible double frill cuff sleeves which make me feel like I'm in an ABBA tribute band. Frilled cuffs have been such a fashion statement this year - I love how they transform a simple dress or pair of trousers into something extra special.


Admittedly, I don't wear with the long cuffs out all the time. When I'm leaning over the bath tub washing my hair or doing the washing up, these are instances where a shorter sleeve length is more practical. The sleeves on this top easily roll up and the frills don't create any bulk when doing so. I'm quite partial to a three quarter length sleeve, so this works for me!


So there you have it. Another day, another sparkly garment. This top comes in a range of sizes (up to UK size 32) which I really admire (I'm full of respect when fashion is accessible to all). There is currently an amazing range of shirts and blouses on the website here and I'm very excited to share another outfit with you next week. But until then, I'll remain here, feeling very much like a mermaid.

* Dress very kindly provided by Simply Be but love of versatile, sparkly tops all my own!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

3 ways to get the best use of your favourite dress this season

You know the story. You have a special event looming in the not so distant future and you decide you need a new dress. I don't know about you, but at one point in my life, it was all too easy to pick up a new dress suitable for said event and then have zero use for it afterwards. So there it would remain in the wardrobe, taking up wardrobe real estate, and gathering dust. The full time employment version of me is a lot less frivolous and a lot more considered. Whilst I can still be easily tempted by a sparkly party dress, I ask myself a few questions before I whip out my credit card:

  1. Is the style currently on trend? Or is it timeless and something that will last the test of time?  
  2. Is the dress seasonal? (if a glitzy number, is it Christmas / party appropriate only?)
  3. Will you wear it enough for best cost per wear?
  4. Is the quality of the dress worth the price? 
  5. Is the dress versatile? Can it be worn or accessorized in multiple ways?
  6. Again on versatility, is this a dress that you would be happy wearing to work / going shopping in / wearing around the grandparents / etc etc?

It is easier said than done to find a dress that encompasses all of the above. For instance, I wouldn't exactly wear a long ballgown for a grocery shop, or wear a short body con dress in the presence of my grandparents (I learnt the latter the hard way with many a disapproving look and hearing the word 'pelmet' more times than I cared to. NEVER AGAIN).

But I have done it. I have found the ultimate all-rounder dress. And it is a thing of beauty.

Dress* - currently on sale here

Tea dress meets skater dress in style, with beautiful floaty angel sleeves and gold polka dots - this is a timeless dress that I will treasure for years to come. With an element of glitz coming from the gold polka dots, but not so much so that it is designated to party attire only thanks to the every day feel and cut to the dress. This is a LBD with a difference. The perfect length, I would happily wear this when out shopping with the girls, for 9-5 in the office and for drinks after work. I also adore how versatile it is and how it can be worn in different ways.

And with that, here are my 3 top tips to get the best use of your favourite dress this season:

1. Turn it around

Admittedly this method doesn't work on all dresses, but on this sparkly number it did. Wearing it backwards adds the flexibility of an adjustable neckline thanks to the zip. How low dare you go? I love lower necklines, but I did find that this dress looked great zipped higher too. Wearing it backwards gave it more of a shirt dress feel.


2. Keeping it simple

Appreciate the dress for what it is. It was an easy ask with this dress - just look at those pretty angel sleeves!


3. Is it skirt? Is it a dress?

Just because something is labelled as a dress, doesn't mean you have to wear it as a dress. I like mixing up my dresses by wearing them as skirts to give them a new lease of life. At this time of the year, I love wearing cosy knitwear on top - it's a great way of dressing down a dressier outfit. But blazers and cardigans work equally well.


Already chosen for my Christmas day outfit, it fits like a glove, creates a great silhouette, and has just the right amount of sparkle without being too over the top. It's also nice and floaty so I can eat all the turkey and all the cheese, and the skater style skirt will skim over any lumps and bumps. Which is a win in my eyes. It's never too late to pick up a dress for party season and New Years. There is an amazing range of party dresses on the Simply Be website and I've already been eyeing up this dreamy bardot dress with metallic pleated skirt.

Have you found your perfect sparkly party dress yet?

* Dress very kindly provided by Simply Be, but love of sparkly, versatile dresses all my own!

Friday, 22 December 2017

Gift idea // illusion chocolate from The Amazing Chocolate Workshop

If you watched this year's Bake Off, you will know all about illusion cakes. But have you ever seen illusion chocolate? I hadn't either until this year. It was at King's Cross station that I first saw The Amazing Chocolate Workshop - a company specialising in made-you-look marvelous chocolate creations. From tools and household items to flowers and makeup, no stone goes unturned. I remember being in awe that the things in front of me were chocolate.

Whilst they looked incredible, there's always that thought in the back of your mind. Will the chocolate taste as good as it looks? And how long does it keep for? And the answer to this... 6 months. So a pretty long time. I tried some samples and oh my. I can imagine it being incredibly hard eating such beautiful creations. But trust me, as soon as you bite into that chocolate... zero regrets.

I picked up some pieces for Christmas but didn't go too mad because as you can imagine, artisan chocolate like this rarely comes cheap. Here's a little sneak peak of what I picked up:

Pasta

They also had a cute pasta wheel / cutter, but it would have taken me over budget. Or I may have had to sacrifice some pasta. And I actually like the amount of pasta here - it makes for a nicely packaged gift box. I had some spare dollar left over from my sister's Christmas present and seeing as she loves pasta, I thought these would be perfect for her!


Tool kit

I picked these up for my father-in-law who loves chocolate. 
How incredible is the detailing on the Stanley knife??!


Flowers / garden

I picked up a couple of boxes of these for my Mum's side of the family as they love gardening. A shortage in flowers (one of their more popular items!) meant I grabbed the last two that day. I was after a few of the smaller flowers rather than these big 'uns... but I actually think the larger design fills the box quite nicely, so it worked out well.


The cellophane makes it difficult to photograph how extraordinary the detailing on these are (those flower petals though) but on the plus side, they are beautifully packaged and should keep well.

The Amazing Chocolate Workshop have been making the rounds for the last few weeks across most London mainline stations. The best way to track them down is via their Twitter account (I Tweeted them this week and they got back to me fairly quickly). They should be in town a few more days, but alternatively they also take orders online.

A great idea for a last minute gift. Tasty as, sure to raise a smile, and who doesn't like chocolate??!

This is not a sponsored post, I wrote this of my own accord and wanted to share what I think is an incredible product line!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Gift guide // for newlyweds & the recently engaged

Having married my best friend and soul mate this year (4 months ago to be exact!) and having had the excitement of lots of my friends announcing their engagements this year, I thought I'd do a different sort of gift guide this time around.

For someone's first Christmas together as husband and wife, it's the best time to embrace the wedding and find everything Mr & Mrs under the sun (or Mr Right & Mrs Always Right if you wish to be a bit more tongue in cheek!) Personalised gifts work well too with Mr & Mrs [...] out there loud and proud in the form of personalised bath robes, towels, stationary and so on. I never thought I could get so excited about towels, but I love our fluffy white personalised ones! Hampers are also a lovely idea for a couple celebrating their first Christmas together as man and wife. My word of advice would be to avoid any photo frames or photo albums - I learnt that this is one of the most commonly received wedding gifts!

Being engaged is a wonderful, warm, fuzzy feeling and whilst researching wedding ideas on Pinterest is great fun, organising a wedding is stressful and a lot of work. Particularly when you only give yourself 6 months to plan the wedding.. (it seemed like a good idea at the time...). Some of the most useful gifts we were given were books and planners which break the planning process down into manageable chunks and help with all the boring stuff like budget and finances (yawn). Pampering goodies are a life saver for those sleepless nights where your mind is excitable and unwilling to switch off!

And whether engaged or married, champagne and flowers always go down well. Flower letterbox subscriptions are a lovely idea. How wonderful would it be to receive fresh flowers every month in the post?   



I can personally vouch for the gold typeface stationary set from Kikki K (what I used for wedding planning!), the Rock My Wedding book (contains the dreamiest of pictures!) and the This Works pillow mist. The latter one of my bridesmaids bought for me right before my wedding and it worked MIRACLES. Hope this gift guide comes in useful! 

Friday, 8 December 2017

Good to see YUU again! // Yuu Kitchen restaurant review

If you like pretty plates of food, you have come to the right place! October marked the first birthday of Yuu Kitchen, a pan-Asian restaurant in London's Aldgate which I had the pleasure of attending the launch and opening of last year. When the Yuu Kitchen team invited me back to try some things from their new season menu, excited was an understatement!

On arrival we were presented with two of the most exquisitely presented cocktails. I don't normally drink cocktails with a meal (usually I would drink them beforehand / after / or before AND after if I'm feeling particularly fancy!) but both cocktails were beautifully light and pleasant to drink, not clashing with any aspects of the meal.

The first was a sharing cocktail called the Blushing Geisha which was presented as the cutest little tea set on a board with edible flowers. Said to contain cold infused jasmine tea, umeshu liqueur, vodka and sugar syrup, I couldn't initially detect any tea and only got hit with the liquor in a massive way. But over time, you could taste the tea. This was a light and fresh offering, which didn't detract away from the food.


The second was a one person cocktail named the Junk Boat, and contained gin, lemon juice, crème de apricot, vanilla syrup, and egg whites. I have never before had a cocktail that was so wonderfully multi layered like this one was. On the initial sip there was a lovely fresh and light citrus aspect to the drink, then a peach element as you caught a bit of the peach foam. This cocktail reminded me a little of a pina colada and brought a bit of sunshine to a dark winter's evening.


After such a impressive start, we sat hotly in anticipation of what was to follow.

Okra fries

Coated in a perfectly light batter - I don't like too heavy a batter on things - these were a delight to dip into the chilli mayo which had a little kick of heat, but not too much. The contrast of the crispy batter against the smooth puréed dip was a marriage made in heaven. These were deliciously moreish and I discovered the okra were especially delicious when dipped into the dipping sauce which accompanied the mushroom dumplings (below)


Salted edamame

Edamame is something that I usually order when I am out, so I was really pleased to see these on the menu. These were salted to perfection with a great crunch. Yuu also offer a chilli edamame alternative if you prefer - but I personally find you can't beat thick grains of sea salt!


Mushroom dumplings

There were unlike any mushroom dumplings I have ever had before. Ones I have tried elsewhere have either been slimy or greasy, with some water leakage (unfortunate), overly thick casings which feel heavy, and a distinct lack of mushroom filling. These were hands down the best mushroom dumplings I have ever had. Generously filled, these really celebrated the humble mushroom and had a beautiful earthy flavour. The casings were perfectly thin and the sides were seared on the grill, giving them crunchy edges (something you don't usually see!). The dipping sauce was sweet and subtle enough not to overpower the earthiness of the mushrooms. I adored the dipping sauce and used it for other things too (my okra comment above!).


Thai chicken larb

This was one of my favourite dishes of the night. It was a very generously sized portion and was a little like a Pad Thai, but with a twist. This dish consisted of minced chicken, peanuts and lime, topped with red chilli and accompanied by a giant rice crisp. Admittedly it was quite a difficult dish to eat with chopsticks. I used the rice crisps as a sort of scoop but occasionally they would crumble if you stacked them too heavily with chicken larb (guilty!). But I adored the flavours and there was a good combination of textures thanks to the addition of the rice crisp. 



Grilled duck hearts

Yes you are reading this correctly. The hearts of a duck. I was fascinated when I saw these on the menu but wasn't sure if I was brave enough to try them. I eat most things, but I actively try and avoid any organs. But you know what? These were actually really, really tasty. You had to put the fact they were actual hearts to one side, and try and concentrate on the taste. I expected them to be quite chewy, but they weren't tough at all. Admittedly they weren't as soft as say liver, but they tasted more like beef than duck, and weren't too irony like I thought they would be. They were topped with the most beautiful BBQ sauce. When I say that the BBQ sauce was smokey... it was a lot more intense than that... like it had been smoked in a wood chipper or something. I have never before had such a wonderfully smokey, woody flavour. To counter balance the savory element to the dish, the clever Yuu chefs added onions to add some sweetness and colour, and garlic crisps for added crunch. Don't be scared to try this dish - it is beautifully done and worth being brave for!


Tuna tartare

Beautifully presented on individual spoons, the tuna tartare was accompanied by avocado, a spicy coconut miso and topped with onion rice straws. The straws were a nice addition and added a crunch to a softly textured dish. I was a little nervous about this dish as coconut isn't one of my favourite things... however in this context it was more of a coconut milk instead of shredded coconut, and coconut milk I am fine with. This was a lovely light and fresh plate, and was a great palette cleanser. There was a hint of spice which was perfect for me, but the real MVP had to be that tuna which was beautifully soft and melted in your mouth.


Bubble tea

Midway through the meal, we were asked if we wanted to try any of the house bubble teas. Having heard that bubble tea was a bit of marmite drink and having heard more bad things than good, I declined. But the attentive staff at Yuu Kitchen brought two over regardless, and you know what? Like with the duck hearts, I'm glad I gave it a go. With the choice of a black tea or green tea base, and not the tapioca pearls like in a traditional bubble tea, there was a variety of flavours to choose from, including peach, lychee, apple and lemon. The lychee bubble tea was deliciously light and fresh. I couldn't initially taste any tea - just lychees - but I did detect the tea later on when I worked my way further down the glass. My first experience of bubble tea was a peculiar one. Sipped through a suitably girthy straw, every so often you would encounter a bubble not unlike a small grape which would burst in your mouth. That splendor of what-is-in-my-mouth-right-now was much like my first dabblings in popping candy where you can't quite believe the firework display happening in your mouth. The peach bubble tea wasn't as fruity, but the tea flavour was stronger in this one. Whilst I can't guarantee that bubble tea is this nice outside of Yuu Kitchen, I highly recommend the lychee bubble tea if you ever visit!


Grilled broccoli

What a breath of fresh air. I love broccoli and I often order it as a side. However usually I find that a broccoli side dish is steamed and fairly plain and boring. Yuu Kitchen's offering was a far fancier and tastier affair. With sweetness coming from an apple oil dressing and heat coming from the chilli sprinkled on top, there was also a great crunch -  the result of crispy onions and the broccoli having been grilled. Wow.


Crispy rice and salmon

With a crunchy-meets-chewy rice base topped with salmon and a jalapeno dressing, these were pretty as a picture. Unfortunately I couldn't eat very many of these as I was defeated by the heat of the jalapenos. But from what I tried, the salmon was beautifully soft. I found these quite big, so there was no dainty way of eating these. I do think the salmon and jalapeno topping would be better suited to a tostada chip - like the ones I had at their launch night - to make these a little easier to eat. To me, these were like an elevated version of avocado toast and I don't mind that one little bit (I could eat avo toast for breakfast, lunch AND dinner quite happily). However the addition of salmon, chives and the rice base made it extra special.


Baby back ribs

One of my highlights of the menu - I just wish these came out earlier when I was less full! But having said that, I did manage to polish them off despite being so full ;) ...a testament to really good plate of ribs! These were the smallest, daintiest ribs I ever did eat and the meat literally fell off of the bone in the most satisfying of ways. Flavoured with an Asian BBQ sauce, these weren't smoky like I am used with traditional ribs, but instead had more of a sticky sweet quality to them, without being too sweet. The spring onions and sesame seeds gave a lovely added crunch, and the chilli, an added fiery kick. Unlike ribs I have ever had before, I was blown away by this dish.


Coconut cake with ginger

I'll be honest, at this point I was far too full for dessert. But smelling this when it came out, soon changed my mind! I will never forget that beautiful buttery, vanilla smell. Very generously sized, it was quite an intimidating sight to see a portion that big when you feel that full, however the cake was nicely textured and light as a feather. I clearly loved it as I cleared the whole plate! The cake came out warm - a nice little surprise! - and was vanilla based containing desiccated coconut. I'm not really a fan of coconut, but it was so subtlety used here, the balance was perfect and it wasn't too sweet. The cake was accompanied by a ginger biscuit ice cream which gave a little heat and was a nice touch. The MVP of the plate was the cake though - never before have I had such a beautifully soft and light sponge.


Thank you so much to Yuu Kitchen and sous chef William for having me and making me feel so welcome. Every visit to Yuu is a delight and I will be returning soon for a bowl of the Thai chicken larb and your fluffy bao buns (both of which I have heavily craving lately!). See Yuu soon!


* my meal at Yuu Kitchen was complimentary in exchange for a review, however as ever, all thoughts and opinions are my own!

Monday, 13 November 2017

An evening with Rome Tourism

The other night I was invited to a Rome tourism press event at the Crystal London by Comitel & Partners. Travelling is one of my favourite things to write about on this little space of mine, and having never been to Rome (or Italy in fact!), I was intrigued to learn more about what this beautiful city had to offer.

I arrived at the Crystal in London - a beautiful building that I never knew existed in London until the other night! - to warm welcomes and a journalist pass pressed into my hand. With my press pass around my neck, and my camera and notebook in hand, I made my way to the press room filled with a mix of journalists, travel writers and bloggers.

Speaking to us that evening was Leonardo Maria Costanzo, the head of Rome Tourism. He was a passionate speaker and clearly very proud of his city. He invited us to watch a couple of videos which combined panning shots of a city so palatial in its architecture and so full of history, with the now in the form of couples dancing the Charleston on Rome's streets. He said that seeing the videos always filled him with pride and emotion. And it was not difficult to see why. Seeing this video footage gave me a further urge to hop on a plane to this city that I have yearned to visit for the longest time.

Did you know that the average visitor to Rome only spends 2 days there? Leonardo said such a length of time was an insult to the city, as that was not nearly enough time to enjoy the very best of Rome. A lot of people associate Rome with the key tourist hot spots like the Trevi fountain and the Colosseum, but Leonardo stressed how Rome is so much more. I had never heard of Cinecitta Studios or Cinecitta world theme park before (located just outside of Rome), but I have since googled it and the attractions sound amazing!

What I found most fascinating was that I didn't realise that Rome was such a great hub for visiting other places in Italy. Did you know that Milan is only three hours away by train or one hour away by air from Rome? And that Naples is only one hour away by train, and from Naples, Capri is within reach by ferry? The possibilities are endless.

Interestingly enough, the previous mindset of the city was that Rome didn't need to be promoted, that reputation alone would be enough. Leonardo explained how tourism spend had gone from thousands of euros to millions of euros, as they want to drive a high quality, more luxe visitor experience going forward. Part of this being the rather exciting opening of new luxe hotels in Rome. For instance Rocco Forte Hotel in 2019 and  W by Marriott in 2021

One thing that struck me (and several others it seems!) was the lack of Italian cuisine in Leonardo's presentation. But fair enough, he simply didn't want to adhere to stereotypes and said he couldn't deny that food is still very much a key element to their city!

And with that, the press conference ended and we were invited for food. We were offered a selection of Italian salads, breads, cheeses and cured meats. Chefs wheeled out cauldrons of pasta amatraciana to applause. This was not something that I have had before, but I was told it was a local specialty consisting of a tomato based sauce containing some form of ham, be it sliced ham, pancetta or pork cheek. It was absolutely beautiful - especially when paired with a glass of Italian red wine - and to this day I am still so inspired, I will be recreating myself at home next week!


Seafood salad with smoked paprika and peppers



Lemon chicken with tomato and olive dressing




 Mozzarella and freshly made pesto



The whole meal was a blessed celebration of Italian cuisine, accompanied by wonderful music. Another first for me was the orzo and pesto salad. Fret not dear readers, I have OF COURSE had pesto before (life would be really sad without pesto!), but it was the orzo I had not tried before. And you know what? I would again. Orzo with pesto is a tasty, tasty thing.


I miraculously managed to avoid any penne amatraciana or pesto spillages on my white blouse. And I was secretly quite chuffed that my bag - a new purchase from Accessorize the other day -  matched the wine I was drinking. The bags I carry are usually linear with their straight lines and corners, so going from this to round with zero corners was quite the adjustment. I love the autumnal berry shade and the way it swings when you walk.



Dessert was delicate little pots of tiramisu. I would have smuggled some home if humanly possible #SmallBagProblems



And with that, the evening took an even sweeter turn when I was offered a stay in Italy, this country I have always yearned to visit. Excited is an understatement.

Thank you to Comitel & Partners and Rome Tourism for inviting me and I look forward to visiting your beautiful country soon!

#EnjoyRespectRome