Christmas at Jackson and Rye

Monday, 15 December 2014

Finding a suitable Christmas lunch spot for seven fussy discerning diners is no easy feat. We discussed ideas in a Christmas dining version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears "too far away" "too expensive" "too chain restaurant-y" "too Christmassy" "too un-Christmassy". Luckily, the Christmas menu at Jackson and Rye looked pretty good and at a time of year where our wallets are being a bit mis-treated isn't extortionately expensive. I love how the menu caters for Christmas loves, non-Christmas lovers and veggies too.

We were booked in for 3.30pm so half of the team distracted ourselves from hunger with a visit to the Chris Stein / Negative: Me, Blondie and The Advent of Punk exhibition at Somerset House. The exhibition is a free one with some great photographs - Debbie Harry was (and still is) a bit of a babe. The Somerset House Christmas market was visited too, great for last minute gifts and the ice rink is always beautiful.

These girls <3 br="">
It's Christmas - Deuce Royale for me
We exchanged Secret Santa presents and Sarah got me this lovely marathon-themed gift - so thoughtful and I will actually use everything (I thought, taking a large sip of my cocktail to push away any more thoughts about running 26 miles in FOUR MONTHS TIME)
After present opening and Christmas card giving the food arrived! I had the Market Soup to start - not the most exciting sounding on paper (but I am fussy and knew I'd like this regardless) but it was so well presented.
Table talk.
The rest of the Dream Team had the Mac n Cheese (topped with kale - the veg of 2014) which was approved of by all.
Soup Porn.
Buttermilk turkey won the main course vote for the rest of the team.
I had crab cakes because I'm a rebel. Both came with a crunchy slaw. I pinched a couple of Aisling's chips and they were crisp and perfect.
Peanut butter cookies and milk ice cream - sorry for the poor dessert photos, the restaurant turned the lights down to lull as into a post lunch slumber just before they were served.
I had Christmas pudding because there is one traditional Christmas food that I do like! I secretly love dried fruit (probably the most uncool food item ever) and this was so fruity and good.
After post lunch chats (mainly about how we all wanted a nice nap) we headed out into the dark, full of lovely food, Christmas cheer and another-year-over-already-?-panic at saying "see you in 2015!".

Favourite Christmas food?

Christmas Survival Kit with Alibi and Balance Me

Friday, 12 December 2014

No, I can't believe it's nearly Christmas either.

This is always a crazy time of year with shopping to do (haven't done half of it), Christmas parties to attend (successfully survived work Christmas party sans embarrassment), Christmas food to eat (I had Quality Street for lunch last week, does that count) and Christmas jumpers to be worn (bought one in Primark, guilty as charged).

It's no wonder that this time of year can leave us feeling a bit frazzled. I've forgotten to buy wrapping paper, have already worn my one "party dress" to two parties and still haven't quite come to terms with adult life not consisting of a three week "break" where I can go home and revert to my teenage self.

With the silly season in full swing these deliveries from Alibi and Balance Me couldn't have come at a better time:

Alibi is a "healthy fizzy drink" which comes in three fruity flavours. I loved the sparkling citrus flavour the best - so refreshing! The drinks contain vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts to add to their healthy credentials and only 99 calories per can and no refined sugar or nasty artificial sweeteners. For an additional party season boost the drinks contain Milk Thistle, a natural remedy thought to help with hangovers and are super hydrating to help offset the effects of too many cocktails.

I had these to try to combat the dreaded 4pm slump and did feel more virtuous than reaching for a coffee or something sweet to perk me up. There are so many colds going around at the moment and so far (*touches wood*) I've managed to avoid them despite my diet being less than ideal (barely remembering the last meal you didn't eat at your desk isn't really a recipe for getting your 5-a-day) so I'd like to think the vitamins have done me some good!

Balance Me is a brand I've blogged about my love for before - all the products I've tried from them so far are lovely, the price points are great for natural beauty products and my local Waitrose sells them so I can sneak a couple of bits into my basket and claim I am "food shopping". The Radiance Face Mask is perfect for this time of year - whether you're looking for a pre-party boost or a wind down after a long day in the office. The clay-based mask is suitable for all skin types and promises to cleanse, exfoliate and brighten skin.

After using this mask my skin felt smooth and soft and it only needs five minutes to work its magic. This time of year is hard on our skin with the drying effects of the cold and central heating, complexion dulling late nights and the fact that booze and Quality Street are hardly known for creating a glowing complexion but this face mask must just be a skin savior and I'm definitely adding it to my winter skincare routine.

What's in your Christmas survival kit?

Edible Christmas Gifts - Rocky Road Cupcakes

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Now, you all know that I'm not much of a domestic goddess but I fancied making some edible Christmas gifts as it's always nice to give something homemade and everyone I know has far too much stuff already and edible gifts do not usually last for very long! (Well, that's my hope with these).

I made some rocky road cupcakes - they are so easy and can be made vegan and gluten free if you so choose, just check the packaging of what you buy. Mine are vegan but are definitely not healthy!

I adapted a recipe I found online but the beauty of these cakes is that you don't really need to be too precise with the measurements, I don't own a scale so just guessed and they turned out fine.

Gather ingredients. I used half the chocolate, half the biscuits, a small handful each of the dates and cherries, one spoon of Golden Syrup and a splash of unpictured almond milk. The chocolate, biscuits and fruit can be switched for your favourites - you could even add mini marshmallows or nuts or experiment with different biscuits. Post not affiliated with Waitrose, its just my nearest food shop, sorry wallet!
Melt the chocolate with the syrup and almond milk. in the microwave, as it gets more melty do it in short bursts to avoid burning the chocolate.
Chop fruits. Lazy tip - use scissors rather than a knife.
Put biscuits in a zip lock bag. Crush with rolling pin or bottle of gin if you don't own a rolling pin.
Add biscuits to melted chocolate.
Mix in fruits.
Spoon mixture into cupcake cakes, sprinkle with edible bronze and leave to set in the fridge.
Are you making any homemade gifts this year?

Christmas Foodies Festival

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Kicking off the festivities last weekend with the Foodies Festival at the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. I had a great day sampling different foods, getting into the Christmas spirit and spending time with Internet and "real life" friends - now they know that one another really exists! The festival was crazily busy but I got some snaps:


The retro-style band.

Pink gin is a thing.
Balancing out the naughtiness.
Vintage afternoon tea.
Kooky Bakes' whoppie pies (best name for a food ever!)
Glenn from GBBO!
A gift from Wild at Heart - super fruity jam.
It was great to see some of my favourite street food sellers like Kooky Bakes, balance out some of the naughtiness with a Sweetly Simple green smoothie and try Candy Kittens (Jamie from MIC's brand). My parents and I are enjoying working our way through the Wild at Heart jam, too!

I'll definitely be back next year for more foodie fun!

Christmas Wreath Making

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Ok, so it's December now so the expect a lot of Christmas over the next few weeks. I kicked off the festive good cheer last week with an evening of wreath making at Flor Unikon in Angel - as well as a crafty task I also borrowed the Samsung Galaxy Alpha to test out it's photo-taking abilities. Let's enter the flower shop and let the Christmas magic begin...

After settling in to the tiny but beautiful flower shop it was time for "wreath making 101" - the wreaths are made on a straw frame which comes from Norway with pieces of "Christmas tree" wired on. It's harder than it looks and requires concentration and two hands (breaking only for a sip of mulled wine and a nibble of a ginger cookie). Here is my finished wreath - I went for the natural look, the professionally made wreaths are a little less "bushy" looking...

Once the wreath is finished (the wire is cleverly fashioned into a hook so that it can be displayed) it's time for the (slightly) easier part - decoration. Paul the florist showed us how this can be done with either wire or a glue gun. I opted for a simple natural look using fruit and nuts and tried to create a "corsage" on the wreath rather than decorating it all over but you can go all-out with ribbons, bows and sparkles.

Me with the finished wreath. It's so satisfying to make something yourself from start to finish. The two hours flew by with all the concentration of making these. As someone who sits at a desk all day doing something hands on and creative is the best "brain break" there is (note to self: more creativity and less Netflix). Flor Unikon offer workshops all year round - perfect for a classy hen do or work team-building event.

Some close-ups of the decor - the Samsung camera is great at picking up detail in pictures. I thought I was a committed iPhone girl but the shiny new Samsung makes my rather beaten up iPhone look a little sad. The screen quality of the Alpha is amazing, pictures taken on it look real and there are loads of camera modes and options that you definitely don't need to carry a separate camera. The battery life is great, too, even with the huge screen and it's super easy to use (I love the weather report on the home screen - so British!).

Wreath making is hungry work so afterwards we headed to Moro for dinner, a middle-eastern inspired eatery in Exmouth Market (one of London's best foodie enclaves). I had seabass cerviche to start and vegetarian mezze for my main but couldn't resist snapping Rebecca's food too (blue cheese salad and pheasant - I'll be back!). The food was delicious and the Alpha's camera coped well with the candlelit restaurant - it detects low light and slows the shutter speed accordingly.

Have you got crafty for Christmas yet? And what phone tribe are you in?

I Am My Hair: Long Bob Styling Tips

Monday, 1 December 2014

A few weeks ago I got quite a bit of my hair cut off. It was half planned, half on impulse - I'd wanted a change for a while after having the same long straight hair since starting university seven (!!) years ago but didn't want anything too drastic. An undercut or green dye might not go down too well at work.

I popped into Taylor Taylor on Commercial Street - a colleague with lovely hair recommended them so I felt in safe hands and at minimal risk of leaving in tears. I sipped on an espresso martini while my hairdresser got to work - I asked for a long bob, with no layers (my fine hair just ends up looking like a mess) and absolutely no "shaping" around my face (too "Rachel from Friends" and I need to be able to tie it up on lazy days).

3pm. Hellooooo alcohol.
Bye bye blonde ends!
When I saw all the sun-bleached ends on the floor I did have a brief moment of panic but after a bouncy blow dry I loved it - it instantly looked healthier and made me feel a little bit Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl and a little bit Taylor Swift. The espresso martini was maybe stronger than it tasted but there's something about shaking things up a bit that just makes you feel like a new person. I took my new hair off to a ball and danced the night away, not missing long hair at all.

In the real world where I don't have daily professional blowdries, a long bob is super easy and had made me do far more with my hair than when it was long but without spending hours faffing. For work I either blowdry it straight or tie it in a low bun but on the weekends I get a bit more creative - here are my favourite ways to style it:

Beachy Waves: super easy for casual weekends - I use the Babyliss Deep Wave styling tool (which I reviewed a while ago here) to create a messy wave effect, prepping my hair with Bumble and Bumble Thickening Hairspray first to hold the waves (ultimate lazy girl tip - do the waves on Saturday morning and you're set for the weekend). For an evening look, taking a bit more time to make the waves neater and finishing with a lot of hairspray makes a long bob look part season ready.

Backcombed bouffant: my go-to "third day hair" style and it's so easy. I just spray on liberal amounts of Batiste Tropical, backcomb the roots like crazy, smooth over the top layer and spray with hairspray. Pop the comb in your bag for touch-ups when it gets a bit flat throughout the day and hope that you don't end up in any situations when someone might touch your hair as it will feel like a matted mess! (I live by Blair Waldorf's "only boyfriends touch the hair" rule)

GHD Waves: Perfect for making freshly washed hair look less "done" - I rough dry upside down until my hair is completely dry and then use GHDs to create loose curls. Either hold the straighteners vertically and curl the hair like you are curling ribbon with scissors or hold the straighteners horizontally and twist 180 degrees in alternate directions (there are a lot of YouTube videos on this out there if that makes no sense). Finish by spraying a tiny bit of hairspray on your hands and ruffling them through.

What are your best styling tips for lazy girls?