Friday, 23 August 2019

Money diary // the savvy saving of a London based blogger

Another week, another money diary. And you know? Writing it all down has really helped me be a lot more mindful of what I spend and a huge part of it is recognising the difference between "want" and "need".


MONDAY

There is an element of routine to Mondays. It's the start of another working week and I pop into Waitrose to pick up my weekly chocolate stash. I pick up two bars this week. NAUGHTY

At lunch I eat leftover lentil ragu that I bulk made at the weekend. It's an amazingly cheap meal with a low cost per head. I ordered all the ingredients in the last food shop and all in all it came to less than £5. It makes loads (I get 10 portions out of it this time!) which works out at less than 50p per serving. They make great lunches because they're nutritious, low fat AND filling.


For dinner I finish up the remaining spaghetti we didn't need for the lentil ragu, and cook vegan meatballs which I've had stashed in the freezer for a while after finding them reduced for just £1.80(!) at Waitrose one day. The base sauce is made from simple larder ingredients I already have, so no extra costs here.
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Waitrose chocolate - £3.40
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TOTAL
£3.40
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TUESDAY

Thanks to my mammoth Tesco shop and voucher last week (here), I don't need a food shop this week #EveryLittleHelps 

I do however pop to the shops to get cards for a friend (new baby) and my husband (up-and-coming wedding anniversary).

____________________

Cards - £4.00
____________________

TOTAL
£4.00
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WEDNESDAY

It is chucking it down outside so I don't really fancy a lunch time walk. This in itself is a huge help as I avoid the usual distractions (also known as shops). I'm also relieved that I have my 50p lentil lunch and don't have to venture out into the rain to buy food!
____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
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THURSDAY

That Oliver Bonas dress I spoke of last time? So like I said, I bought mine in the sale (reduced from £70 to £35) but THEN discovered it had been reduced further to just £18. The lovely Oliver Bonas team helped me track one down in my size and held one back for me.

On Thursday I prepare to go and collect said dress, but stop and think about it. I come to the realisation that going to Islington during my lunch hour would involve getting (and paying extra for) the tube. There had to be an easier way.

Instead I take my previously bought dress, go to my local Oliver Bonas store and am completely honest with them. That I bought this dress. That it's still within the returns deadline. That I've learned it's been reduced further and I just want to return it and re-buy it again at the reduced cost.

I wasn't immediately told to f*** off (always a good start). But they did highlight that sales items have a 14 days returns period instead of the usual 30 days. Ah.

Saying that, I have to point out that my online receipt didn't specify this, but did contain a link which directed to the OB website (which again didn't mention about a reduced sales return period.) The Oliver Bonas team didn't have to honour my request but did as a goodwill gesture (something I remain very grateful for). They processed my dress and refunded me the £17 difference. So technically I'm not really spending any more money here... instead I'm clawing £17.00 of last week's spend back.

It wasn't a completely spend-free day though. I have some how lost all my hair ties (where do they all go?!) so I pick up some from Boots. I get a slight discount on Boots own items thanks to being on the Contact Lens scheme. It's not a lot of money off, but every penny helps!
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Hair ties - £3.15
____________________

TOTAL
£3.15
____________________

FRIDAY

On Friday I am due to go on a blogger's night out to celebrate Tanya's birthday, but I have been feeling a bit iffy so don't want to risk having alcohol. I finish work at 4.30pm and head straight home. I have a busy weekend ahead of me (plus Monday - Wednesday off work) so need to recover and be fighting fit!
___________________

TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

SATURDAY

It's my Granddad's 80th so we head to Suffolk where he's having a big ol' knees-up. I never like to turn up to a party empty handed so bring along a decent bottle of red (£14.40) which I know he'll love. It's a pretty fancy looking bottle but I also pick up a bottle bag (£1.00) as there is a threat of rain that day.

Wine - £14.40
Card - £1.50
Gift bag - £1.00
____________________

TOTAL
£16.90
____________________

SUNDAY

We have a slow start but later in the morning we pop out to Aldi to buy some bread for the week ahead. We end up buying more than we bargained for as we discover lots of items from our Tesco shop for half the price at Aldi (cue a massive edit of our online shop later that day!).

My bargain find of the day was a body spray, not too dissimilar from Impulse. As much as I love Jo Malone, if I use the cologne every day during the working week, the small bottles don't last long and at £48 a pop, replacing them isn't exactly cheap. I've recently starting reserving my nicer perfumes for the weekend and going out out after work. Instead I use body sprays during the working week which does the job. I was using Impulse for throwback feels, but the Aldi version is such a fantastic dupe and at only 49p, who can argue?


For lunch, Mr Curiouser and Curiouser has leftover gnocchi and I find leftover pasta sauce which I cook up a batch of wholewheat pasta for (already in the larder, so no extra spend required). I cook the pasta in bulk so it gives us lunches for our days off next week.
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Aldi - £16.53
____________________

TOTAL
£16.53
____________________

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£43.98
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So much better than last week

The MVPs this week were the following:

  • clever advance meal planning (one large shop last week saved us from excessive spending this week)
  • having a well stocked larder so it's easy to cobble up meals with existing ingredients
  • making meals in bulk for cheap lunches for the week and / or freezing for future meals
  • scouting the best deals and not paying more than necessary (the dress!)
  • finding treasures in the reduced section and freezing for future meals

If you decide to give this money diary a go yourself - or have any money saving tips  - do let me know in the comments below, I'd love to know!

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Money diary // What I spent last week (ouch)

Working in Central London, I startle myself with how the little things add up. Like a hot drink here and a McDonald's breakfast there. A few pounds / dollars may seem like nothing, but add it up over the course of a week / a month /  a year and it can be a real wake up call. I did the £2 challenge a while back (here) to raise money for charity and it really made me think about how much I spend. I want to be better, I really do.

I'm not sure I'll be posting these every week (it largely depends on how interesting they are and how much you guys like them!) but the ultimate aim is to re-think my attitude towards money and save more. After all, just because you have the money in your account, doesn't mean you have to spend it!


MONDAY

Another typical work day. Whilst I don't drink coffee, I am rather partial to a hot chocolate. As hot drinks aren't exactly cheap in London city, I buy a bar of chocolate at the start of each week. Why? So instead of guzzling an over priced, high calorie drink packed full of sugar, I can suck (oh er) on a square or two of chocolate each day. I always go for a high percentage dark chocolate to make it a little less guilty (my current MVP is Waitrose's own brand Fairtrade dark chocolate).

I accidentally (who am I kidding?) fall into Oliver Bonas and discover that a dress I have had my eye on for ages but didn't buy because it was £70 (ouch) is now reduced to just £35 in the sale #serendipity
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Waitrose chocolate - £1.70 
Oliver Bonas dress - £35.00
____________________

TOTAL
£36.70
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TUESDAY

One of my constant Tuesday outgoings used to be my weekly Tesco home delivery, however I've started NOT shopping at Tesco every single week as I like to shop around for the best deals. When I DO shop at Tesco, I spend a minimum of £40 (the minimum allowed without hiking up delivery costs) but I struggle some weeks to spend that much for just the two of us.

Occasionally Tesco send money saving vouchers which often aren't much good when I already struggle to fill up a £40 basket, but I will use them once in a while to stock up on pricier items like cat litter, cat food, washing power, dishwasher tablets and bumper packs of loo roll. This week I used a £9 off £60 spend voucher I was sent. Whilst £51 still feels like a lot of money to me, I won't need an online shop for a while and with their £40 minimum spend for each online shop, that's £80 I won't need to spend for the next couple of weeks. RESULT.
____________________

Tesco shop - £51.00
____________________

TOTAL
£51.00
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WEDNESDAY

On Wednesday I succumb to a hot chocolate from Caffé Nero as I know that I have a stressful busy morning ahead of me at work and that the bar of chocolate I bought isn't going to cut it. Plus it's bloody cold in our office. It's by no means cheap, but it's by far the best hot chocolate in London. On the plus side, as it's so luxuriously thick and filling, it keeps me going the whole morning without the need to snack (a miracle in itself).

Over lunch I order a personalised birthday card from Moonpig for a blogger pal of mine (hey Tanya!). Sure there are cheaper cards out there, but when I saw this card it was so her I couldn't resist!
____________________

Hot chocolate - £3.20
Card (plus P&P) - £4.19
____________________

TOTAL
£7.39
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THURSDAY

I go for a work lunch where it's all too easy to go mad on the booze and for spending to escalate. Instead I try a different tact and opt for a single glass of wine (£6-something) and some chips (£3.50) which brings me to a total spend of £10. Admittedly I'm 50% chuffed I spent so little and 50% irritated that I spent more on booze than food.

I meet a friend after work and we go to Wetherspoons. My friend doesn't drink and it's humid AF outside, so I'm more than happy with a soft drink (£2.15). My scampi comes in a choice of two sizes but I opt for the smaller size which has half the calories (always a bonus) but also comes in under £5 (£4.70). Not bad for a night out in Central London!
____________________

Lunch - £10.00
Dinner - £6.85
____________________

TOTAL
£16.85
____________________

FRIDAY

A bunch of us from work decide to walk to Oxford Street and back at lunch which is about a 40-something minute return trip, but the exercise feels great. A couple of us stop at Primark where I purchase x3 of the softest cardigans known to man/woman which I just HAVE to pick up since Primark policy means you can't guarantee anything will still be there another time. I also buy a top for a friend, just because (it's not her birthday or anything). My total spend comes to £44 which is remarkable considering cardigans are often £30+ EACH these days (I'm looking at you Toppers).

On the way back to the office, we are positively sweating as it's so humid out, so we stop by a Costa and pick up drinks with copious amounts of ice. I super size my mango and passion fruit cooler and regret it as soon as I head back to the office because the damn drink seems to go FOREVER.
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Primark shop - £44.00
Costa drink - £3.25 
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TOTAL
£47.25
____________________

SATURDAY

A spot of DIY is needed at home and it's that age old question of do you get someone in or do you do-it-yourself? We opt for the latter (cheaper). On Saturday morning Mr Curiouser and Curiouser and I head out to B&Q and pick up MDF, fixing blocks, screws and etc. We spend more than I expected which hurts A LOT but for a carpenter to come in and do something this bespoke, it would have cost hundreds. As luck may have it, we only need x4 pieces of MDF not x5, and we also don't need the No More Nails - so this will be £15 in returns to claw back on our next visit (little victories!).

That afternoon we discover we have no more food in the house (I don't know how either) so we nip out to Aldi for a couple of bits and pieces. This some how turns into a £14 shop, but as luck may have it, our savvy purchases mean we no longer need our Tesco delivery next week (which has a minimum £40 spend) resulting in an overall saving of £26. SUCCESS.

In our haste we forget to pick up something for lunch (doh) so we treat ourselves to a cheeky McDonald's on the way back. We are IN LOVE with McDonald's chicken wraps and usually opt for the Wrap of the Day which means lunch for just £1.99 - bargain!
____________________

B&Q - £86.41
Aldi - £14.15
McDonald's - £3.98
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TOTAL
£104.54
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SUNDAY

We build our MDF construction and are really chuffed with the outcome. All it needs now is a paint, but I plan on using leftover white paint to save us having to buy any more. Later I order my Mum's birthday present - climbing roses from David Austin - which she has asked for specifically.
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David Austin rose (plus P&P) - £28.45 
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TOTAL
£28.45
____________________

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£292.18
____________________

OUCH.

This week was an especially bad week to start this series on because in actual fact, most weekdays I don't spend anything! Notably there were some one offs like the B&Q shop and birthdays are only once a year. Also I rarely go out these days (I prefer to host at mine) so this spend was an unusual one. Saying that, a £10 spend for a night out is quite an achievement these days!

Did I really need new clothes? Not really. However I'm a serial returner so what I've bought this week won't necessarily stay. Like the Oliver Bonas dress which has since been reduced further to just £18 :( Naturally I don't want to hang onto my one knowing I've paid more than I need to!

Writing it all out like this does make the little things hit home. If you decide to give this money diary a go yourself - or have any money saving tips - do let me know in the comments below! 

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Interiors trends I don't get // crushed velvet

Like fashion, homeware and interiors are subjective. Some people like stark white interiors with white walls and white-washed floor boards (not my bag), whereas others have gone to the dark side, quite literally. What I'm getting at, is that one person's trash is another's person's treasure. For me, one of the things I will never, ever get is...

CRUSHED VELVET

"But Lucy, velvet is amazing"

I too love velvet - but have you ever compared velvet velvet to crushed velvet?

Velvet velvet is crushed velvet's upmarket sibling. It looks and feels luxurious and in the guise of a sofa or a cushion, can make the blandest and most basic of decoration schemes look expensive.

Crushed velvet on the other hand is not as smooth to the touch and looks old, cheap - and for a lack of better words - moth eaten. I just hate the feel of it. Something about it sends shivers down my spine. 

Give me velvet velvet any day!

All images Pinterest 
[linked below]
1 / 2 / 34 / 5 
What's your stance on crushed velvet?

Thursday, 18 July 2019

How do I balance blogging and working full time? I don't.

How do I balance blogging and working full time? I don't.

People sometimes ask me why I only post once or twice a week. Don't get me wrong, I would love to write more, but when you work full time, there are only small pockets of time to get any writing done. Realistically the options are: in the morning before work (I'm not a morning person), over lunch (doable) and after work (I've had more than enough screen time by this point). I think the daily work / life balance is best explained in diary format so here goes...


6:00am

Alarm goes. Come to and find one cat under my armpit, 
one on my chest, and one on my feet. Classic.

6:20am

The time I actually get up. Some how I have 
managed to doze through not only the alarm, 
but also multiple feline wake up calls (thanks guys)

6:35 - 6:45am 

I exit the bathroom feeling clean as, but also
 excited that the hairs in the eczema ravaged 
parts of my eyebrows are finally growing back. 
This excitement subsides temporarily whilst I 
have a 'mare deciding what to wear (standard)

6:50 ish

Quick taming of the hair, though I do tend 
towards the bedhead look most days because cba.

7 - 7:30am

Breakfast is something I like to take time with 
and enjoy. It gives me time to sit and do ad hoc 
computery bits I should have done at the weekend 
/ the night before, have a quick snoop at properties 
on RightMove and OnTheMarket, and check the 
trains (only to discoverer they're screwed. AGAIN).

8:00am

FINALLY leave the house after sorting the cats /  myself 
/ the dishwasher / washing machine / anything else ad hoc 
that needs doing. We have this song and dance every morning 
where Mr Curiouser and Curiouser is like "stay home with me today
and I'm tempted, but work is old school and not very
accommodating with the whole WFH concept (sigh)

8:??am 

Due to the new rail timetable fails, there is no set guarantee 
of what train I can get on, or how long I'll be. I take this time 
on the commute to reply to Instagram comments and Tweets, 
check my emails, look for the latest blogging assignments and 
apply to any that are a good fit. Occasionally (read: when I'm 
actually organised) I'll remember to bring a notebook so I can 
jot down ideas for my novel or blog. I also post most of my 
Instagram content during commuter hours as its prime time 
for when lots of people are scrolling on their phones.

8:50 - 9:20am 

I'll arrive at work at some point within this window, 
depending on trains. Work starts at 9.30 and if I'm super early 
in and nothing urgent has come up, I will grab a hot chocolate and 
dash off some responses to emails from PRs and / or write a little.

9.30am - 1:00pm 

W-O-R-K. 
Sometimes I cast my eye over my blog email
 in case something time sensitive comes in that I 
need to jump on. But to be honest, work keeps me busy 
and this is a time where blogging has to take a back seat.

1:00 - 2:00pm

Over lunch - when I'm not at the pub or shopping - 
I reply to emails and blog comments, read other blogs, 
and edit pictures for up-and-coming blog posts. I try and 
write a lot of my own blog posts over lunch too because I like
 to go out out after work and / or head home and give my full 
attention to Mr Curiouser and Curiouser. Plus it sucks to be 
hunched over a computer screen all day and then come 
home to be... hunched over a screen YET AGAIN.

2:00 - 5:30pm

W-O-R-K. 
I do keep an eye on my personal email and blog email 
every so often, but rarely as I'm kept busy enough!

5:30 - 6:30pm

HOME TIME! On the train back (provided I'm not going 
out out), I again check social media, reply to comments 
and post something new on Insta (again, to target the 
commuter hours). However I try and keep all of the above 
to a minimum on the commute home, preferring to focus 
on offline tasks. Like reading. Or scribbling any new ideas 
into my notebook and brainstorming ideas for any 
collaborations I'm working on.

7:00 - 10:00pm

I tend to get quite fidgety and can't sit still for long,
 so try and go out for a run (weather dependent). I try 
not to blog on weekday evenings because I don't get a 
whole lot of evening as it is (less than 3 hours when you 
throw commuting and the lonnnng walk from the station
 into the mix). Occasionally for bigger jobs with a more 
sizable budget or stricter deadlines, I will get some 
photography and / or writing done. But it has to be a 
special circumstance. On weekday evenings, besides 
cooking, eating, and showering, I will be playing video 
games / watching YouTube videos / watching episodes 
with Mr Curiouser and Curiouser. We try not to use our 
phones when we are together (which I actually quite like). 
No matter what we're doing, tea and biscuits are a given. 
And at some point a cat will appear and be a wonderful hot 
water bottle until a passing car or motorbike freaks 
them out and they NEED to go and investigate.

10:00pm

As touched upon about before in my evening 
routine post here, this is the time where things 
start to get tidied away and the dishwasher goes on. 
I'm also rather partial to a glass of milk before bed.

10:30pm

By this time we're usually finished with the 
bathroom and all the pre-bed time faff, and 
we'll head up to bed. We'll read for a bit and 
then have a little time together, just us two. The 
bedroom door is closed at this point, but this 
doesn't last long. Bailey will literally cry at the 
door ALL NIGHT if we leave it closed. The lights 
go out and the cats understand that its bed time and 
will assume their positions (one or two on the bed 
with us, and the third on the floor next to me). Usually 
we fall sleep round about 11 or 11.15 so we don't 
get a proper 8 hours sleep, but it's enough for us!

If you are a blogger too, how does this compare to your daily routine? 
And are you a full time blogger or part time like myself?

Thursday, 11 July 2019

VOGUE PARODY // 73 questions with Curiouser and Curiouser

I was tagged by the lovely Tanya to take part in the Vogue 73 Questions Parody that you may have seen floating around the blogosphere lately. I haven't done a Q&A in a while so here goes...


1.What’s your usual Starbucks drink?

I don't like coffee so my Starbucks go to is the Signature Hot Chocolate (easily one of the best hot chocolates in London). Saying that, many Starbucks seem to have stopped selling it which sucks :(

2. What does your work station look like?

Work station as in choo choo? Or desk? If the former, CRAZY AF. My station is full of tourists and ALL the suitcases. I used to quite like the Starbucks... until it stopped selling the Signature Hot Chocolate. So naturally, they are now dead to me. My work desk is littered with post-it notes and often covered in biscuit crumbs #sorrynotsorry

3. All-time favourite food?

Too many to list! I am a huge foodie and especially love Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. I also wholeheartedly believe that cheese or chorizo improves any meal.

4. Favourite author?

I adore the Peter James 'Dead' collection (and by that I mean all his books that have the word 'dead' in the title somewhere!). My favourite book I've read this year has been Our House by Louise Candlish and I'm currently reading You by Caroline Kepnes which is amazingly written (also a great series on Netflix!)

5. What do you think of open relationships?

Personally not for me, but each to their own

6. What’s your favourite video game?

As much as I love the video games of now, the classics I grew up with were simple and I liked that. I used to spend hours on end on the MegaDrive, and on my PC I loved Theme Hospital, Theme Park, the original Sims, The Settlers and Anno 1602.

7. What’s your guilty pleasure treat?

Love Island. It's truly awful. I first started watching it last year because everyone at work was talking about it and I got an awful case of FOMO. I hate myself for getting hooked.

8. Your favourite movie?

I'm really into thrillers and horrors at the moment and try and watch a new one every weekend. Stuff like Get Out, Saw, The Ward, Hostel, anything to do with Escape Rooms. Other than that, personal favourites include: Fight Club, Forrest Gump, Amélie and all the Jurassic Park / Jurassic World films.

9. Favourite book?

My favourite books I've read this year? A toss up between Our House by Louise Candlish and You by Caroline Kepnes

10. Best advice you’ve ever received?

[insert name here] is not worth it. If someone f**ks you over - whether it's a guy or a so-called friend - don't waste your time or energy on them.

11. Twitter or Instagram?

Twitter hands down. I don't like to invest too much time in Instagram because one day it will be just another MySpace or Bebo and disappear off the radar completely. And when that day comes, you having 10,000+ followers will mean fuck all (sorry). I like to focus on blogging more because it's mine and will (hopefully) be around longer.

12. Are you a desktop or a laptop person?

Laptop - desktops are a bit heavy to lug to the nearest coffee shop ;)

13. What projects are you working on right now?

I'm really excited to be working on a few home and interiors projects at the moment

14. What’s your favourite colour?

Blue. I love dramatic dark inky blues in interiors and also softer, muted shades like mint.

15. Did you get good grades in school?

I oddly loved school. For my GCSEs I got 1 C, 2 Bs, and then As and A*s for the rest of my subjects. I loved graphics but annoyingly our school didn't offer it at A-Level which always confused me, because why even offer it at GCSE if you can't take it further?

16. Dream job?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I'd love to write full time.

17. Played any sports?

I'm not the sportiest of people, but I did used to play badminton, both in my spare time and on the uni team.

18. Do you have a degree?

Yep, joint honors in Advanced Computing and French.

19. Nationality?

British with Polish and French roots

20. What’s your favourite type of blog post to write?

I especially love writing about food, interiors and travel, and I believe you can really tell someone's passion in their writing (example travel guide here and example food post here).

21. What do you like to collect?

EVERYTHING. I'm a terrible hoarder

22. Describe yourself in 3 words?

Friendly, sarcastic, weird

23. If you were a rapper, what would your rapper name be?

Mr Curiouser and Curiouser occasionally calls me LAROOS (parts of my name lumped together) which is a little like La Roux I guess

24. Who was the last person you DM’d?

One of my friends who recently announced her pregnancy, to see how she is

25. What’s on top of your wish list right now?

I'm in a bit of a funk at the moment to be honest. The proposed extension has gone in for planning, but I'm more than aware this isn't our forever home, and I just wish that something in the right location for the right price would crop up. Also, a lottery win wouldn't hurt

26. Sorting House?

I've never really given this much thought to be honest. I'm the loyal, geeky one - is there a house for that?

27. How many tattoos do you have?

I can't ever get a tattoo because I change my mind far too much!

28. What are you most grateful for this year?

Remember my kittens Tia and Bailey? What I haven't divulged is that Tia went missing as a kitten. Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. On the evening of May 20th there was a knock on the door, and a lovely lady from Cats Protection said "we have Tia!". She'd been missing for TWO YEARS. And for that reason, 2019 will remain a very special year for me.

29. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month?

My hair that was BUTCHERED and RUINED by Rush back in March has finally started to grow back. Never again.

30. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?

That there wasn't a queue out the door when I went to post returns this morning. I only had three people in front of me and I was in and out of the post office in less than 10 minutes #winning

31. What’s the best thing ever?

Terribly clichéd, but being in love is the best feeling

32. Favourite season?

It's a close call between autumn and summer. I love autumnal fashion and the colours the leaves turn. But summer has the better weather

33. Favourite holiday?

Definitely Christmas. It's a very family orientated time and I love having everyone altogether again. Favourite travel destination? The Maldives is every bit as special as it looks

34. What fictional character do you relate to the most?

Alice in Wonderland (obviously) or Belle from Beauty and the Beast (like me, her head is always in a book!)

35. Do you like surprises?

Surprises for me are the unknown which I hate

36. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever had?

The proposal - I didn't see it coming! 

37. What’s the surprise that made you cry?

Point 28 about Tia coming home after being missing 2 years. I was a mess!

38. What’s the best surprise you’ve ever given someone?

Certain tickets I booked for Mr Curiouser and Curiouser and one of my best friends for their respective birthdays. They cost an arm and a leg but were worth every penny

39. Do you like muffins?

Strictly chocolate only (I can't be doing with that healthy or savory muffin nonsense!). I made raspberry and white chocolate muffins recently for a charity bake sale at work.

40. Do you cook often?

I love to cook and am always ripping recipes out of magazines and testing things out on Mr Curiouser and Curiouser (much to his despair)

41. What’s your favourite dessert?

Anything chocolate, but especially chocolate melt-in-the-middle puds and souffles. Best chocolate dessert I've ever eaten? It has to be this warm chocolate mousse I had in York.

42. Is there a dessert you dislike?

Anything with meringue, marzipan or rhubarb. Oh and I hate chocolate when it's paired with mint or orange. WHY RUIN A GOOD THING

43. Cake or pie?

It depends on the season. Autumn / winter I'd have to say pie, whereas cake is good all year long

44. What’s your least favourite food?

I went to a fancy restaurant for my 30th and bone marrow was served with the beef and that was pretty awful. Other than that, I won't touch things like snails or oysters.

45. What’s your favourite condiment?

Ketchup is up there, but I'm currently OBSESSED with garlic and herb sauce.

46. It’s 4am on a Saturday night, what would you eat?

Chicken nuggets / chicken dippers / chicken goujons make the perfect late night snack. With plenty of ketchup of course.

47. If you could teach a college class, what would it be called?

Things Get Better

48. Best animated film?

Wreck it Ralph (love all the #tbt gaming references), Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (the second one is better) and the Lego Movies are always good for a giggle

49. What has a guy done or said to impress you?

Mr Curiouser and Curiouser constantly impresses me ;)

50. The best thing to do on a first date?

I'm usually too nervous to eat, so grabbing drinks is a great way to break the ice

51. The worst thing to do on a first date?

Having your date lecture you on the calorific content of what you are eating, him advising you order something else, and him ordering a drink for you despite you saying you don't even like said drink (this actually happened to me once)

52. What’s the funniest pick-up line a guy could use on a girl?

Anything French works on me - are you French? Because Eiffel for you

53. Best comic book character?

Has to be Deadpool

54. What are three things that are always in your purse?

Apart from the obvious, I always carry around an umbrella, mints and hand sanitizer because London is FILTHY

55. Favourite drink?

Alcohol: (dark) rum & coke, whisky & ginger beer, chocolate martini (when done right)
Hot drinks: hot chocolate, Pukka turmeric tea

56. If you could play a historical figure in a movie who would it be?

I can't act for s**t so I'm not even going to entertain the idea

57. Kittens or puppies?

Kittens

58. Tell me your favourite sushi roll?

Before my favourite North London sushi restaurant closed down, it was their crispy salmon skin rolls

59. What kind of lipstick do you use?

It always makes me laugh when I watch beauty vlogs and see influencers with a huge drawer of lipsticks. I literally don't own any lipstick because of the fear of spending £4567 on one and later discovering that it's an ugly ass colour that doesn't suit me.

60. What kind of foundation do you use?

My current MVP is a 3 in 1 (primer, moisturiser AND foundation) which saves so much time in the mornings!

61. Blow dry or air dry?

I don't own a hair drier which says it all!

62. Who is your fashion icon?

I love Elizabeth Olsen's and Gabrielle Wilde's style.

63. Favourite Disney Character?

Shock horror, Alice isn't my favourite. It's a toss up between Pocahontas and Mulan

64. What are you doing tomorrow?

The same ol' s***t

65. A movie you laughed the hardest through?

Anything with Rebel Wilson or Melissa McCarthy usually has me howling. I love sarcasm, bluntless and hilarious uses of swearing.

66. A movie that made you cry?

I'm not really a crier, but these films got me: Me Before You, The Theory of Everything, One Day, Up, Coco.

67. If you could sing a duet with someone, who would it be?

I can't sing for s**t so I'm not even going to entertain the idea

68. If your life was a song, what would the title be?

Making It Up As I Go

69. What’s your favourite animal?

Do you even have to ask? ;)

70. Favourite illustrator?

Is this a thing?

71. A person you want to have coffee with?

There would never be a dull moment with Ellie Taylor and Angela Scanlon

72. What country do you wish to visit?

Italy. Croatia. Iceland. Canada. Australia. Portugal. China. Japan.

73. Best way to decompress?

A good bottle of red wine

Bloggers I’m Tagging

Below are the bloggers I’m tagging to take part in the challenge next and I can’t wait to read your replies (tag me on Twitter and Insta if you do!)

Friday, 5 July 2019

A n-ICE introduction to Yuu kitchen's new residency at ICEBAR London

On what felt like one of the hottest days of the year so far, and after sweltering at our company's sports day in Regent's park, my invite to ICEBAR couldn't have come at a better time. The event in question was the launch of Yuu Kitchen's new residency in swanky Mayfair at ICEBAR London.


Stupidly my first thought was "isn't the food going to be a little on the cold side?"...however I can confirm that the food itself is NOT ice cold, nor is it served in the actual ICEBAR (you eat downstairs in a separate section of the venue). When you book on the website here, you have the option to book just a dinner reservation, or dinner combined with the ICEBAR experience (I personally recommend the latter because when in Rome!).

First on the agenda that evening: seek out the nearest bar.

There are three bars located on site. One on the ground floor as you enter. I loved the reclaimed wood around the bar and the sultry dim lighting with the occasional lantern here and there. Here we enjoyed an initial beer and glass of wine.


ICEBAR is located upstairs as well as another bar which I hadn't heard of before: FIREBAR (more on both of these later). We started out at the ground floor bar (conveniently where most of the food was!). On entry we were given colour-coded wristbands which indicated which time slot you had for the ICEBAR.


We didn't have too long a wait, but there was just enough time to work our way through a few items from Yuu Kitchen's latest menu. Here's what we ate:

BAO BUNS


All hail the fluffiest of bao buns with crispy tofu, kimchi and kimchi mayo. I usually find tofu a little plain and underwhelming, but this was actually one of my favourite dishes of the night. Having the tofu crispy gave it a far nicer texture and with kimchi and kimchi mayo, it packed a punch and was far from boring.

SPICY SALMON (?)


I'm still not 100% sure what I ate, but I feel like it was the salmon with crispy rice, avocado and spicy jalapeno dressing. This is something I have had before and admittedly it's never been one of my favourites. Saying that, I enjoyed it much more this time around. My complaint with it before was the texture of the rice cake that the fish sits on, but this is much nicer now (much crispier!). The base is now more of a hash brown / tater tot consistency and paired against the freshness of the fish, it's a marriage made in heaven.

BISTEK


Sirloin steak, again sitting atop crispy rice not too dissimilar in texture to a hash brown / tater tot, with a trio of onions. Bit of a blurred shot I'm afraid (you have to get in there quickly when everything is being snatched up before your eyes!). This was one item from the Filipino section of their menu, which is based on traditional dishes and ingredients from the Philippines. SO SO GOOD.

CHEESE BURGER SPRING ROLLS


One of the items I was most intrigued by on the night was a Yuu kitchen classic: East meets West fusion. Behold these cheeseburger spring rolls. They were being grabbed like hotcakes so I didn't get a great shot of them (sorry), but these contained wagyu mince with american cheese and were presented with all your burger classics like lettuce, mustard, ketchup and onions, but also a touch of the orient with the sesame seeds. Not something I ever thought I'd be eating in my lifetime(!) but I applaud the team for thinking outside the box. AMAZING.

ICEBAR TIME

In no time at all, our time slot was called and we were led up the stairs, illuminated by my all-time favourites, Tom Dixon pendants


Before we were granted entry, we had to don rather fetching hooded capes and gloves. At the time of my visit, ICEBAR was home to the exhibition "Valhalla Calling", containing ice sculptures inspired by Norse mythology (if you've watched the Thor films, you're half way there!). What is Valhalla you ask? Valhalla is basically a grand, palatial hall located in Asgard, which is ruled over by the Norse god Odin.


Admittedly ICEBAR wasn't as cold as I thought it was going to be (the Magical Ice Kingdom at Winter Wonderland is much colder), but after the heat of the day, having some time to cool down was well received.


The cocktail of the night was THE GOD OF THUNDER, a blend of Absolut Blue vodka, apple purée, apple juice and lemon juice. These were amazingly served in ICE glasses which reportedly some people try to nab from the bar, however being ice, they never last long! I sadly didn't get to finish my drink as I was so in awe of the sculptures and my surroundings that someone took my drink away when I was only part-way through. Sad times.


We finished up our visit in FIREBAR (also upstairs) which was my favourite of the three bars. As the name would suggest, the bar did appear to be on fire (the back portion, not the bar top nearest to guests). Whether this was real or not, I couldn't say, but the flames were every bit as hypnotic.


The FIREBAR lounge area had a very nice feel about it. Again, dimmed lights, Birds of Paradise flowers in vases, and additional flowers presented in lookalike blocks of ice on the tables.


I still to this day have no idea what we were drinking, but whatever cocktails they were, they were incredibly moreish. So staying for a few was easily done ;)


If you are looking for a night out with a difference - or to escape from the heat this summer - you know where to go!

 I was a guest of Yuu Kitchen and ICEBAR for the launch night of Yuu Kitchen's new residency, but as ever, all words and opinions are my own

Friday, 21 June 2019

The plant based afternoon tea with a difference at Farmacy

What difference you ask? This being that Farmacy is reportedly the first London restaurant to serve CBD; the non psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant, famed for its feel good and health benefits (reportedly good for inflammation, pain relief, and even helping enhance memory and cognitive function). CBD - otherwise known as Cannabidiol - is one of approximately 104 chemical compounds (cannabinoids) found in the cannabis plant. Some of these cannabinoids are intoxicating and reflect the aspect of the cannabis plant that you may be more familiar with(!), but CBD is completely non psychoactive, meaning it doesn't produce the same sort of effects.

So no, I wasn't going to get stoned. But I liked the idea of going for a feel good, healthier take on an afternoon tea. Farmacy's plant-based High Tea is free from dairy, refined sugars, additives and chemicals and I was intrigued how it would shape out as for me personally, sugary cakes and biscuits are my vice

THE FOOD

The food was beautifully presented on a very Instagrammable three tier stand with a log slice base, copper framework and crown of foliage. LOOK HOW PRETTY


The middle plate contained all the savory offerings and at the time of my visit, these included smoked carrot and chickpea blinis, mushroom and spinach quiches (almond milk used as the dairy substitute here) x2 open sandwiches on charcoal bread (one cucumber and dill with a cream cheese substitute, the other roasted peppers with chilli). The open sandwiches were a clever twist on an afternoon tea classic and the smoked carrot ribbons on the blinis were much like smoked salmon, both in appearance and texture.


I will say however, to not pin too many hopes on the menu that you see on the Farmacy website because this is subject to availability and or / seasonality. For example, I was really excited by the prospect of pulled jackfruit tacos but we didn't have these on the day. As it turns out, the roasted peppers with chilli on charcoal bread was an excellent substitution and was in fact one of my favourite things from the day. So no harm done.

The top layer contained all manner of sweet treats. These being strawberry and rose jelly, apple pie, CBD truffles (supposedly tahini and dark chocolate) and raspberry pavlova. A lot of these constructions were especially impressive given that these were free from dairy and refined sugars.


I'm not usually a fan of pavlova (or meringue in general), but as the meringues were crafted differently (using aquafaba, or chickpea water), this was a pavlova I could get behind. I was dubious about how good the truffles would be given that these were dairy and sugar free, but they were good and chocolately and melted in the mouth. Again, the online menu is subject to variations and two of the things I was most looking forward to (the chocolate & praline ganache and the strawberry & cashew mousse) weren't available on the day. The apple pie was a worthy adversary though and it takes a lot for me to say my favourite dessert was the non chocolate one!

Finally the last layer housed an afternoon tea classic - scones. These were pretty sizable poppy seed scones served with dairy free coconut clotted cream and homemade jam. The jam was less jam more couli due to its runny nature, but we didn't mind this as it tasted every bit as good.


People often question how much flavour vegetarian and sugar free / dairy free / plant based foods can have, but I have to say, everything we had was flavoured really well and far from bland and boring. Also it was really refreshing to go to an afternoon tea and NOT feel like I was going to burst afterwards.

THE DRINKS

Upon arrival we were reportedly going to receive a CBD infused cocktail (this being Heart Chakra Rose Infusion & fresh raspberries shaken with vodka & lemon), but we never received this. However we were given free rein of the cocktail menu which I actually preferred as I'm not really a vodka drinker. Instead my sister and I opted for the "RUM ME UP THE RIGHT WAY" (rum, mango and lime) which contained a good and generous measure of rum.


Farmacy's High Tea differed from that of a standard afternoon tea in that you didn't receive tea until the END of the meal. I'm still not sure how I feel about this as one of the things I love most about afternoon teas is having the tea WITH the food and having your teapot refilled with hot water every so often. On the day we visted we did wonder if they had forgotten the tea as our table was cleared and we actively had to ask for the tea menu. My sister opted for the ginger and lemon tea whereas I had the hemp tea (not too dissimilar to a chamomile tea or green tea, it turns out).


THE VENUE

I feared it could be uncomfortably upmarket or hipster, however it was very relaxed and we couldn't fault the staff who were all incredibly friendly (and like genuinely friendly, not forced). My sister and I decided it felt like "sitting in a garden centre café" due to plants and ivy trailing the ceilings, window ledges and shelving at the bar. It all felt very natural (to match the food no doubt) with chipboard walls and jute rugs presented on the walls as art.


The toilets were another highlight with this dreamy animal print wallpaper


Obligatory toilet selfies to test the lighting

Shirt - Anthropologie (sold out) - similar here (which I have also purchased!)
Military button shorts - Morgan de Toi

The building's exterior did make me think of a re-purposed former pharmacy. Which got me thinking if the name "Farmacy" is inspired by the plant based menu (i.e farmed from the land) and if its a play on words for "pharmacy" whereby the food is good for the soul and remedies all life's ills... although admittedly, maybe I'm reading a little TOO much into it ;)


High Tea is priced at £42 per person

To view the menu and / or book a table click here

FARMACY
74 WESTBOURNE GROVE,
NOTTING HILL 
LONDON
W2 5SH


Disclaimer: this afternoon tea was entirely paid for ourselves. I'm sharing because both food and atmosphere were fab and thought they deserved a mention!