Monday, 31 December 2018

47 things I was thankful for in 2018

What a great year for Curiouser and Curiouser! I said in last year's review here how I wanted to do more this year and more is an understatement! The start of the year is usually a pretty quiet time for campaigns and collaborations as some companies' new financial year doesn't start until a few months in so I didn't expect anything much to happen. However right from the offset of 2018 I was kept busy. Not too much, but certainly enough to sink my teeth into. Curiouser and Curiouser had an incredible journey in 2018 and with that, a review of 2018 and 47 things I was thankful for.

January
  • I attended Fast and Furious Live at the London premiere opening night where it was opened by none other than Vin Diesel himself! (car videos on my Instagram here and here)
  • Wrote a style guide here about how to take your outfit from day to night with an item kindly gifted from Simply Be.
  • Had a bit of a shambles with my first ever Deliveroo order which I wrote about here. It's safe to say that I haven't ordered from Deliveroo since!
February
  • Went through my Gran Canaria photos and wrote this Gran Canaria travel guide in collaboration with Holiday Gems.
  • 2018 was the year I geared my content more towards my passion for interiors and dipped my toe in the water with this interiors post which Prestige Flowers very kindly supplied me with beautiful flowers for.


March
  • I attended the Ideal Home Show and swooned over this bathroom and this pink kitchen 
  • For the first couple of months of the year I was trialing a new evening routine which worked wonders. I wrote a guide on it here and reading before bed instead of watching TV was a big part of it. 
  • I re-ignited my love of reading and started reading every night. In the first few months I got through more books than I ever imagined and discovered so many new authors. I wrote my first book review for Driven by Dane Cobain which can be found here
  • I embarrassingly only got around to publishing my "what I got for Christmas" post in March here. You know what it's like. You write something. It sits in your drafts for a hot minute (in my case, months) and you're left wondering whether to publish or not. 
April
  • I visited a restaurant I'd been wanting to try for ages - Granary Square Brasserie -  and fell in love with the interiors which I wrote about here
  • April was colder and wetter than hoped (those April showers though) and I lived in boots. I wrote a style guide here on five ways how to style knee high boots for which XYLONDON very kindly provided boots for

May
  • May was my one of my busiest months and also my birthday month!
  • I attended Rose Festival with Cyprus Tourism which you can read about here
  • I reviewed the prettiest rose gold headphones (head here for my review and a 15% discount!)
  • Hello sunny May Bank Holiday! I wrote a no nonsense picnic guide here which Mateus Rose and Altruist very provided wine and sunscreen for.
  • For the second May Bank Holiday, we had rain and mesmerising lighting storms. The rubbish weather gave me a serious case of wanderlust and whilst planning where to travel to next, I wrote a holiday outfit guide here
  • I went back to the Gilbert Scott which I wrote about previously here. This time I had the dreamiest of desserts as seen here
  • I went to a Madeira Tourism event hosted by Pestana Hotels and fell in love with Madeira even more (my urge to visit intensified after seeing Madeira featured on Travel Man). 


June
  • June I dubbed as interiors month as it was the busiest month for interiors events and campaigns!
  • I attended a Sweetpea and Willow event which I wrote about here and was BLOWN AWAY. So many beautiful homeware pieces 
  • I won tickets to the launch night of Emily @ The Pink House's collab with Sofas & Stuff. I went with one of my besties Chiara and we swooned over this chair and this chair. Apparently there was a lipstick goodie bag which I only found out about when I got home. Sad times. 
  • I attended a Life Kitchens event where I met the lovely Tanya for the first time. It was an evening of swoon-worthy kitchens and wonderful food which I wrote about here
  • I wrote about how to transform a room from bland and boring to bold and beautiful here in collaboration with Wallsauce
  • I tried my first ever escape room at Lock'd with Tanya who I met at the Life Kitchens event
  • I was spoilt rotten by the lovely Adagio Teas team and wrote about their amazing range of teas here


July
  • I originally hoped to say "went to a dreamy bloggers supper club" but the truth and harsh reality of it I wrote about here
  • I experienced a serious case of wanderlust after writing this piece about dreamy travel destinations in association with Destination2
  • I discovered a great life hack and went to the zoo for a mere 90p which I wrote about here


August
  • Mr Curiouser & Curiouser turned male model for Jacamo and graced his face for the first time here
  • Mr Curiouser & Curiouser and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary which I wrote about here
  • In the height of summer I received an incredible parcel packaged in ice and filled with pies, sausages and pastries from Wild & Game. I used some of the sausages in an incredible stew which I wrote a recipe for here and then a salad type thing which I wrote a recipe for here
September
  • I took a cheeky trip to York at the end of August and wrote about the hotel here and food here (York travel guide to follow!)
  • I discovered that the charity Sue Ryder 1) has an online shop here and 2) has an amazing homeware collection which I wrote about here 


October
  • I saw Enrique Iglesias perform and still can't believe how close we were! (video evidence here)
  • I wrote a couples gift guide here with some items very kindly gifted from Find Me A Gift 
  • I wrote about the homeware pieces making me happy here
  • I went for wine and food pairing with a difference and wrote about it here


November
  • I reviewed a lovely Japanese and Peruvian fusion restaurant and also a fish restaurant (reviews for both coming soon!)
  • I was invited to a special media-only Jack the Ripper walking tour which I wrote about here
  • I reminisced about The Circle here, still swooning about the interior decor
  • I discovered the beauty that is Friuli Venezia Giulia which I wrote about here
  • Booked my honeymoon FINALLY
  • I attended the Vuelio Blog Awards and donned my glad rags as seen here

December
  • December was a busy month of events. Fully burnt out, I fell ill meaning that the latter side of December was an enforced quieter one (boo). Luckily I recovered in time for Christmas!
  • Being ill, I didn't have time to compile my usual Christmas gift guides so solely focused on Nightire pyjamas this year here.
  • Before I fell ill I participated in a really fun cookery event held at L'Atelier des Chefs in association with NEFF and Currys PCWorld. I wrote a guide on the event and how not to make a gingerbread house here
  • Other than that, December involved festive shirts (as seen here) and eating my weight in cheese (because Christmas isn't Christmas without a cheese board!)

SUMMARY

One thing I was proud of in 2018 is how I managed to grow both my Twitter and Instagram channels. I did this through just being myself. No giveaways. No buying of followers. No follow unfollow nonsense. Don't get me wrong, I still don't have a particularly high following on Instagram and get ignored for all the exciting campaigns requiring 10k+ followers (lol), but that's fine by me. These days it's so difficult to know whose Instagram following and engagement is legit, and you know what? Brands and PRs are starting to wise up to the fact. I am truly grateful for every opportunity that comes my way and for all the brands and PR companies that see past the numbers and approach me because they like me for me / my photography / my writing style.

In 2019 I hope to:

  • get back into vlogging. I started earlier this year, lost my camera (doh!) and have only recently re-found said camera
  • FINALLY get some wedding posts up for you and share my incredible engagement story with you all
  • and last but not least... I am beyond excited to be heading to the Maldives in 2019 so should have some exciting travel content coming your way!

A huge thank you to everyone who reads this little space of mine and for your continued support. Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year! 

Thursday, 20 December 2018

How NOT to make a gingerbread house // cookery class at L'Atelier des Chefs with NEFF and Currys PCWorld

What is more festive than an evening of mulled wine, gingerbread house construction and Christmas canapés? This is no Christmas cracker joke or riddle.

TELL ME MORE

Earlier this month I was invited to L'Atelier des Chefs in St Pauls for a gingerbread house masterclass with NEFF and Currys PCWorld, choosing to embrace the festive feels with my mistletoe print shirt. And what a welcome. There were Christmas tunes playing in the background. There was a cheese board (always a winner!). We drank bubbly and mulled wine. And then there were the gingerbread houses we created that evening (some more festive than others).


AN INTRODUCTION

We received a warm welcome from the team and an introduction to the NEFF ovens we'd be using. Did you know that NEFF have those fancy ovens with the slide away doors that you see on the Bake Off? The NEFF Slide & Hide® oven is the only oven with a door that slides away underneath, allowing you to get RIGHT IN THERE so you can inspect your food more closely. Further more, NEFF’s patented fan technology. CircoTherm® is designed to heat up food quicker (allegedly no pre-heating required!) and distribute the heat more evenly for a good even bake. The lovely Home Economist lady who spoke to us explained how the NEFF Slide & Hide® can cook things at a lower temperature in the same amount of time as other ovens out there and yet still produce the same good result thanks to its CircoTherm® technology. The NEFF Slide & Hide® also allows you to use all four levels of your oven without fear of the flavours mixing - so you can cook a savory dish AND dessert simultaneously - and reportedly it's easier to keep clean (hooray!).

At the end of the presentation I was left thinking about the bigger question: What does this oven not do?! It was all very interesting insight. Particularly as the door to my current oven no longer closes. Maybe it wishes it was a NEFF Slide & Hide®

TIME TO GET OUR BAKE ON

We were split into teams of three where we were tasked with making and decorating a gingerbread house, as well as making some festive canapés. All with the aid of mulled wine, of course.


When cutting out the walls of our house, we'd already decided that we would be going for the "rustic" look, telling ourselves this to justify our jagged and crumbling walls. In other words, an older and dated "pre-loved" house with years of history. Sure, the walls were in need of a good plastering, but what house isn't?



We were essentially baking flat pack furniture to put together. Miraculously our flat pack house came out of the oven perfectly golden thanks to our wonderful NEFF oven which prides itself in distributing its heat evenly for a good even bake. The trick was to wait for it to cool a little before decorating it as otherwise the icing would slip clean off. But that was easier said than done in a baking hot kitchen with lots of warm bodies! The good news was that a still-warm base meant that the chocolate button roof tiles melted on, eliminating the need for any icing.


Some people ice their gingerbread houses with white icing for the illusion of snowy roof tiles and icicles dripping overhead. Not us. We had neon green and pink icing so you could see our house from space. By the end of the evening I had so much green on my hands, I felt like I'd began my transition into the Hulk.


We gingerly (ha!) constructed the house and although some of the pictures say otherwise, it was in fact standing and a complete entity at one point. Although admittedly the house did look like it was clinically depressed - perhaps a sign of its imminent collapse.


Then the roof cracked. Then the roof caved in. Then the supporting wall buckled under the weight of the roof collapsing. You get the gist.

We came to the conclusion that it was hurricane season and whilst it was unfortunate and a real shame, it's not like we can control the weather. So our gingerbread house sat there rather dejectedly, it's remaining walls supported by a plastic tub, which was in fact the punnet of tomatoes used for the bruschetta. I still maintain we were going for a more Grand Designs look with floor to ceiling glass for a panorama view of the other houses on Gingerbread Lane.


Oddly none of the other houses on Gingerbread Lane were hit by the hurricane and were all still standing.


I think we nailed it with the canapés, but not so much with the gingerbread house. As the majority of our table were vegetarian - or not huge fans of fish - we opted for vegetarian canapés and made bruscettta using the fresh tomatoes and pesto for extra flavour. I like to think they looked pretty decent. It's all in the garnish. Because artistically placed chives can make anything look fancy.


THE RESULTS

Surprisingly we came second place that evening as judging was thankfully based on team work and team spirit rather than baking and decorating aptitude (phew!). It was a right laugh and in the below picture you can see actually see me on the far left wiping the tears from my eyes.


We all received NEFF aprons and oven gloves to take home with us, which I was really chuffed about as the NEFF oven gloves were really thick and a delight to work with, compared to my ones at home which have holes in them and are as much use as a chocolate fireguard.


Although our team are unlikely to appear on The Bake Off any time soon, we had an incredible time. Cookery classes like this are for people from all walks of life - not just baking experts! - so if you are a baking numpty like me, fear not! It's still good fun and a great way of meeting new people. L'Atelier des Chefs have cookery classes ranging from 30 minutes long to 3 hour masterclasses where you can learn skills such as pasta making, pastry, sushi making and specific types of cuisine such as Scandinavian, Brazilian, French, Thai and so on. Cookery classes start from just £15 and a full list of courses and prices can be found here. Alternatively why not treat someone? Vouchers are available here and make for a unique and unforgettable gift.

If this piece has inspired you to make your own gingerbread house (trust me, it's not physically possible for you to produce something worse than ours!), please find the link to the recipe and template here along with the full nitty gritty on the event.

A huge thank you to NEFF, Currys PCWorld and L'Atelier des Chefs for a fabulously festive evening. As for me? I'll be leaving gingerbread house making to the professionals!

#NEFFchristmas

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Gift guide // something special for the girl boss in your life

Everyone has that scruffy but highly comfortable pair of tracksuit bottoms and / or hoody that you wear for lounging around the house in. The ones you'd rather the postman didn't see you in but they do because a little thing called Life loves to embarrass you. The sorts of things you should throw out but you can't bring yourself to because OH SO COMFORTABLE. In today's gift guide, I am proposing the gift of all the gifts for your favourite girls: the SAVE YO' ASS PYJAMAS.

They're sleek. They're luxurious. They're presentable. They are not greying, bunching in an unflattering way on your person, or falling apart. So throw out your pair of past it lounge pants / trousers, and get yourself a pair of these bad boys!

Night dress here // image source: Nightire

Muted yellow set available as shorts, a trouser set or dress // image source: Nightire

WHY THESE PYJAMAS?  

Because they're perfect for:

  • answering the door to the postman / courier with YET ANOTHER ASOS PARCEL
  • girly sleepovers
  • sleepovers of the adult variety
  • at home yoga and meditation because THEY LOOSE AND COMFY AS
  • Trips away
  • Hen party over-nighters
  • Your wedding day (I wish I had ordered these for my bridesmaids!)
  • Christmas morning / other family gatherings where you want to look put together
  • Nipping to the shops
  • Working from home
  • New Year, New you
  • Answering the door to Just Eat / Deliveroo / Uber Eats

The possibilities are endless. I'd even leave the house in one of the tops over a pair of jeans as the prints really are that pretty. And they're not too "pyjama" if you catch my drift.

TELL ME MORE

The brand in question is Nightire - which I'm guessing is a play on words between "night" and "attire" (clever).  Launched about a year ago, all designs are the genius of founder Nina Clark and aren't they beautiful? Nightire is all about striving towards a good night's sleep. The pyjamas are made of 100% organic bamboo so they're soft to the touch and temperature regulating, all to help encourage a great night's sleep. All sets allegedly have a loose, comfortable fit without any pesky straps, buttons or elastics to dig into you whilst you're sleeping / lounging around eating pizza under blankets on the sofa.

The collection is perfect for all tastes with a trio of designs to choose from. Candy pink stripes for girly girls, muted yellows for those who like to be different, and a stand out bold blue print. All three designs are available as shorts, trouser sets or night dresses.

Yellow set / pink set / blue set // image source: Nightire

Night dress here // image source: Nightire

If you need a last minute gift idea for the girl boss (or girl bosses!) in your life, you know where to go. Nightire makes for the perfect Christmas or birthday gift as I've heard that the boxes are bespoke and really cute (reportedly there is a sneak peak window so your favourite ladies can catch a glimpse of what you've treated them to!). Nightire also offer a monogramming service - great for hen parties, weddings or simply creating a personalised touch for a loved one.

HOW DO I GET MY MITTS ON ONE?

If you fancy having a browse for either yourself or your favourite ladies, head on over to the website here or head over to their Instagram here for non model pics and a true sense of fit.

HOW MUCH IS SHIPPING?

There is free standard UK shipping which takes roughly 3-5 working days (just about enough time for Christmas if you hurry!) but if you need your items quicker, there is an express delivery option. Nightire also ship to the US, Europe and several other destinations (full list and costs can be found here).

DISCOUNT CODE

'Tis the season of goodwill so I couldn't end this piece without a discount code could I? There is currently 20% off all nightdresses so enter promo code HOLIDAZE here for 20% off . But hurry, offer only available until Boxing Day!

#HumansInPyjamas

Please note this feature is not sponsored or compensated in any shape or form - I am just a long time admirer of Nightire and wanted to share the love!

Friday, 14 December 2018

An evening with Friuli Venezia Giulia tourism

Who, you ask? I wasn't sure myself until recently! Friuli Venezia Giulia is an Italian region in the North East of Italy which borders Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea. And isn't she a beauty?

Image credit for both of the above: Luciano Gaudenzio

How was I introduced to Friuli Venezia Giulia, you ask? Well I was invited back to the Crystal in London where I was with Rome Tourism last year (all the gossip can be found here), but this time it was with Friuli Venezia Giulia tourism.  

Speaking to us was Tatjana Familio from the Friuli Venezia Giulia press office. She spoke of the region being somewhat of a mysterious one as not many people have heard of it, let alone been there (a minimal shower of hands at the press evening confirmed this fact). And from the presentation, Friuli Venezia Giulia seems to have it it all. Palatial buildings. UNESCO heritage sites aplenty. Scenic cycling and walking routes. Beaches. Skiing and a wealth of other winter sports. Celebrated food and wine tours. Mountains. Mirror shine lakes and waters. I've never been to Austria or Slovenia before, but the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia definitely has that sort of air about it. In the video footage shared with us, there was an incredible sense of peace and I'm not surprised that many renowned writers found their inspiration in this beautiful region.

 Image credit: Marco Milani

Image credit: Gianluca Baronchelli 

At the front of the room was a cooking station which looked very promising indeed. A cooking demonstration of a celebrated local dish sounded great. But getting to taste it afterwards? Even better!


The dish cooked for us was Frico Friulano - a dish containing cheese, onions and potato. It's hard to compare it to anything else, but it was a deliciously flavorsome dish and what can only be described as soul food. Eating this dish made me ridiculously happy and I could have easily polished off several more plates of it (I have no shame). Apparently the key to a great Frico Friulano is the cheese used. You can't use any old cheese. You need Montasio sourced from - you've guessed it - Friuli Venezia Giulia - something that I'm currently trying to track down so I can make this dish at home. If you ever go to Friuli Venezia Giulia, make sure you seek out Frico Friulano!


It was beautifully paired with white and sparkling wines from the region, which were sweet without being too sweet. Lovely light wines like these would lend themselves well to salads and light pasta dishes.


Our appetite well and truly whet, we were invited downstairs and sat down to dinner, our plates laden with pasta, meats, smoked fish, gnocchi, cheese and salads. The Italians certainly know how to do food well.


The pork belly was a particularly popular choice that evening and understandably so. It was beautifully soft and melted in the mouth. And the pumpkin and sage salad was something that I could eat all day every day.


Thank you to Friuli Venezia Giulia tourism and WTM for the invite and for a lovely evening. I loved the cooking demonstration aspect of the evening as this was something new that we didn't experience at last year's event. I'm so happy that Friuli Venezia Giulia is on my radar now, and I'm already planning a visit (mostly for another plate of that delicious Frico Friulano!). If you have ever been to Friuli Venezia Giulia, please do recommend hotels to me in the comments below!